Posts Tagged ‘writer’s life’

Author throwdown…weird animals,and embarassing junk food choices.



Hey, all. So thrilled to be discussing the nutty world of fiction writing with fellow Harvest House author Virginia Smith! Take a look at our rockstar YouTube video. Like or comment on the  video for a chance to win one of our books. Subscribe to my YouTube channel to enter the August prize pack giveaway. God bless!


Research field trips? Who needs ’em?


Why bother going on a fiction writing research field trip anyway? In today’s techno world, you can sniff out any detail on the Internet, everything from facts to pictures to interviews, so why  venture out? For me, it’s the smell of a place, the pace of life and the  seemingly unimportant details that jump out to me that make the trip worthwhile. For instance, on the last research adventure to California’s Gold Country, we arrived at the end of summer and the rolling hills were covered by dry, golden grass. It has a certain smell, in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening as the ground cools down. That smell is important and it will help add descriptive dimension and give my novel an authentic feel, I hope. Below is a quick clip from a recent research trip. We’re doing a little August prize pack contest for those who subscribe to my YouTube channel. (A gift tote and books/or an Amazon ecard for those outside the U.S.) 

Have you read a book recently that made you feel like you were there in the fictional setting? Do share! 

Phrases that will make a writer hug you…



Yes, we’re fragile people, we writers. We secretly and not so secretly covet your approval. While we may not show it under our thick skins, we adore it when our readers shower us with the phrases below.

1. “I couldn’t put it down.” As a mystery/suspense writer, this is music to me.

2. “I always guess the ending, but I didn’t in your book.” It’s HARD to trick readers. They are very smart and savvy. If I can deliver a surprise….winner winner chicken dinner!

3. “Your book really resonated with me.” We connected. You, me, the printed page. That’s amazing and utterly priceless.

And my absolute favorite…

4. “Your book encouraged me.” To be braver, kinder, closer to God. There is no greater privilege that to be able to encourage another person.

So what phrases are music to your ears? Giving away a signed book and a IHOP gift card. 🙂

Information about Dana’s upcoming release


Throwback Thursday: the perils of writing about a planecrash.



It’s Throwback Thursday! Indulge me while I travel down memory lane for a moment. I wrote Turbulence in 2011. I know…ancient history!  Here is the blurb and the most unique problem I ran into while writing it.

Turbulence, blurb.
Someone wants to ensure that the flight bringing Maddie Lambert and a transplant organ to her father never reaches its destination. Someone who’s desperate enough to sabotage the plane. In the aftermath of the crash, Maddie finds herself stranded on an isolated mountain with the last man she’d ever trust again—her ex-fiancé, Dr. Paul Ford. He’s the man she blames for her family’s tragic loss, but now he’s the only one who can get her to her father in time. Yet what neither of them knows is that the danger has just begun.

The writer’s problem: The pilot I interviewed was very reluctant to tell me how to crash a plane. He was eager to share all about the safety mechanisms built into modern aircraft, and how they are extremely reliable in the hands of an experienced pilot. But Jim, I’d plead. I want to know how to CRASH the plane, not keep it in the air! Poor Jim. Went against his grain, don’t you know! In addition, my frequent flyer readers told me they  the subject matter kind of creeped them out.

Do you have a fear of flying? Or are there other modes of transportation that make you nervous? Giving away a triple prize this month. 🙂

Turbulence, cover

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.


Three best perks of being a writer

blog motivational


Yep, it’ s a hard job writing fiction books for a living but really, the perks just can’t be beat! Here are the three best things about my wacky job.

1.  It fosters curiosity.  As you’ve probably heard me say before, my other job is an elementary school teacher and you’d think that would be high on the “fosters curiosity” list too, but frankly, teaching 26 kids of varying levels and needs takes every bit of mental stamina I possess. In a word, I’m too busy to indulge my curiosity much while in the thick of things, but writing is lovely because it causes me to ask questions. What if a massive earthquake hit an old opera house? How would a man react to having his childhood disease return? What would it be like to be uncertain of your own identity?

2.  It can be done anywhere. My favorite location to write is sitting opposite my wild tangle of tomato plants, banging away on the keyboard while butterflies and finches do their thing. I’ve also written in coffee shops, the back seat of cars and composed tricky sections mentally while in the bathtub. (Do yourself a favor and don’t imagine that last one!)

3. I can provide justice in an unjust world. I only read the paper on Sunday and it’s INFURIATING. I know God’s justice will prevail ultimately, but I’m maddened to see how things are going along right now. I mean this I.S.I.S group? Violent crime in the U.S.? Children betrayed by the people who were supposed to protect them? I feel powerless to set anything right on planet earth, but in my books? Oh you’d better believe bad people will be punished! SEVERELY! I know it’s only fiction, but there’s some comfort in that, right?

So what are the perks of your current job or those you’ve held in the past? It’s a big prize month here at the blog. The September prize is a signed book, Starbuck’s card and a fun fall treat! I so value all of your comments!

Those scene stealing animal sidekicks.

Dog with suitcases

Harry has his Hedwig. Dorothy has Toto and there would be no Lone Ranger exploits without the faithful Silver. Animal sidekicks can sometimes emerge to be the unsung heroes of books or movies.

It’s funny how a character that can’t even speak can take over an entire novel. This happened in my latest book for Harlequin Heartwarming. The culprit? Baggy the dog. Sure his real life inspiration won an ugliest dog contest, but I get plenty of emails and messages from Baggy’s fans. Here’s a little snippet in which I explain where Baggy came from.

Hey! Let’s see if we can make a list of animal sidekicks from books or movies. Add a comment and you’re entered to win the drawing this month. Giving away an Amazon gift card and signed book! Hi-yo, Silver!

Why writers should ‘just say no!’

12808921_sI’m sure you’re aware that the role of an author has changed significantly. We don’t whack out a jolly good novel, hand it over to the publisher and let them do the heavy promotional lifting. It’d be swell if we could, but that just isn’t the way the world is. Authors have to market their work. Period. So which avenues should a hardworking writer gal pursue to this end? Here’s a brief list of platforms that have been recommended to me.

Facebook, Twitter, personal blog, website, Pinterest, Tumbler, Instagram, Linked in, Goodreads, SnapChat, publisher sponsored forums, You Tube, group author blogs, etc. etc.

Boy oh boy would all these things help get the word out about the wonder that is a Dana Mentink book. One eensy weensy problem. I don’t have the time to participate in all these things and still produce any meaningful writing. Fact is, I’ve just got to say no to many of these nifty opportunities. I choose a few from the list that feel the most authentic to me (Facebook, Twitter, various blogs, Goodreads) and I try my best to keep up with them. Is it going to make me a N.Y. Times bestseller? Nope. Will I keep my sanity? Hopefully!

Are there things in your life you’ve had to say no to in order to keep your sanity? Would love to hear your thoughts. Giving away an Amazon gift card and a signed book in August!

Uninvited guest, that pesky inner editor!

DaydreamingI’m happily lost in a wonderful story told from multiple perspectives and I’m there! Immersed! Until…..I notice that the writer’s dialogue is just not completely realistic. Hmmmm. None of my Hispanic friends say “dat” when they mean “that.” Awww, nuts. Now I’m peeved. My inner editor has hijacked the story and I’ve lost my reading mojo. Errrgh.

Writers are the most critical readers ever. It bleeds over into our writing life. I can be busily clacking away on the keys, deep in the bowels of a lost mine when that darn editor shows up again. “They couldn’t be down there for that long,” she says. “It’s 2014. They’d have left word of where they were going. The mine entrance would have been properly secured. And really, you’re not going to find bats that far down in the tunnels.” Blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I really can’t stand that inner editor! Oh sure, I know she helps me write more believable scenes, but sheesh. She can get on my very last nerve.

Nothing’s to be done but to keep pushing forward in the draft version and tell that inner editor to keep quiet until the revision stage. Likely she’s not going to obey, but if I let her hijack my story, I’m never going to get the manuscript done. There’s a proper time for that inner editor to do her thing, but not during the creative phase.

One final point, (and don’t tell my editor.) On occasion, my very best writing has happened when I banish my inner editor to the closet during the plotting stage, the initial phases of a project, and just sketch out some key ideas/scenes. Free and unfettered, those wild, fantastic scenes flow with reckless abandon. That is when the best, most ‘out of the box’ ideas happen. (Until I have to let her out of the closet again.)

Do you have that annoying inner voice that gives you a little too much guidance sometimes? Maybe that work critic or the housekeeping advisor? What advice do you usually hear?

Silicon Valley takes a risk…on TV.

moneyWe’re not quite in Silicon Valley, but you can see it from our backyard. Kidding!  In the great cerebral think tank that is our high tech Silicon Valley, we’ve got Stanford, we’ve got Hewlett Packard. There is Oracle and of course, we’ve got your Google and Pixar. This heady, high powered, profit driven culture, lends itself to an intense, soap opera style TV series, doesn’t it? I was surprised to hear that the HBO writers have decided on a different tact with their new series ‘Silicon Valley.’ They’ve banked their success on a comedy, a la The Big Bang Theory.

You’ve got your geeky software engineer, a dot com millionaire and a new music app that could be worth millions. The show will no doubt play on the stereotypes (engineers lacking social skills and greed driven titans) but will the series make Silicon Valley a place where viewers want to hang out? Time will tell, but one thing is certain. Producing a comedy is risky business. One person’s funny is another person’s idiocy. As HBO goes out on a limb and reaches for that elusive laugh, it’s just the kind of risky maneuver that Silicon Valley was built on. Kudos on that gusty move!

What did you think of the show? Are there any comedies on TV that you enjoy now or have in the past? What makes them funny in your view? Would love to hear your comments. Giving away an Amazon card this month.