Dana Mentink

Three Ways Writers Can Annoy You

Don’t worry. I am totally qualified to write this because I’m a full time writer. I do “writerly” things regularly and often which no doubt irritate the beejeebers out of friends and loved ones all the time. I’m sure it’s not just writers that have this problem, right? Nutritionists no doubt bestow that “judgy” look on folks chowing down on bags of Doritos. Editors simply cannot help themselves when they see a note with poor grammar or spelling. Writers have certain characteristics that can drive you up the wall as well. Here are the top three, in my humble opinion:

  1. We’re stubborn about words. Yep, we’re gonna retype that email, text, or Post-it note because “effervescent” is just a better word choice than “sparkling.” You should see us struggle over thank you notes, let alone passages in our novels. It’s annoying, especially to those number oriented folks who see words as strictly utilitarian. To writers, words are the stuff of magic, so we are going to annoy the stuffing out of you trying to land on the perfect one. You might as well sit down because it’s going to take us a while to finish this letter to Grandma.
  2. We have ulterior motives. You think that fun day trip to the city is just a chance for some rest and relaxation? Uh, no. As it turns out, we’ve got the perfect scene brewing in chapter three of our current work in progress, but it’s going to occur in San Francisco’s business district so we need to go immerse ourselves in that location for a while. It’s not that we’re using our together time with you for other purposes exactly. It really is more fun having you to share the adventure, just don’t be surprised if that giant soft pretzel we’re eating near the Embarcadero doesn’t appear in chapter three. Don’t feel manipulated. We really can’t help ourselves.
  3. We are going to market our books…endlessly. Yep, you’re going to see mentions of our darling literary babies on our websites, our Facebook pages, our Twitter accounts, our blogs, perhaps on the back of our cars (Got books? Check out http://www.danamentink.com) and in our email signature lines. I know it’s SUPER ANNOYING and guess what? We find it annoying, too, but that’s the dark side of writing. Authors that don’t sell books aren’t authors for very long. Writing means promoting. Incessantly. We can’t stand it either, but there you go.

As I’ve banged away on my new Death Valley suspense series, I have annoyed my family with all three of these irritating behaviors. I have ignored conversations in pursuit of the perfect way to describe someone sweating. I’ve scheduled a second trip to Death Valley and made my husband analyze maps with me until his eyes crossed to remember exactly where that one deserted trail was that we went on the Tuesday of our first trip. And yes, since books one and two have launched, I have written blogs, posted on social media, hung out on Goodreads and written endless guest posts in that never ending marketing quest.

So what about your job or profession? Anything that gets on the nerves of your family peeps? Do tell!


Jennifer Pierce

What’s your name?

Jennifer is a form of the Welsh name Gwenhwyfer. Some say it means fair or white wave. I’ve always been fascinated with names. Whether it’s a classic, not so classic, or unique. I’m always curious to see what pregnant women are going to name their babies or what an author names a character.

That’s one of my favorite parts of writing. Sometimes the stories start with the character’s having names. Sometimes they start with no names and just a blank as a place holder until I come up with the name. And sometimes they start with one name and tell me during the story that there name really is a different one.

I try really hard not to name my characters after people I know or are related to. I don’t want them to think I’ve based a character off of them when I haven’t especially if it’s a bad guy. I tried the “I’ll name a character after you” once. My sister was super helpful and I decided to name a character after her. Well, after writing for ages I decided that particular character needed to die. So, yeah, I named a character after my sister and killed said character. Was it an outward projection of an inward fantasy growing up? NO! Just a coincidence.

As far as last names, I use a phone book or last name generator. The first and last names need to flow. Sometimes I’ll even throw in a middle name. I’ve also had to make some aliases. It all depends on the story and what’s needed.

So far, I’ve written a Cody and Maggie (baby Owen), Jake and Kate (baby Ian), Reid and Quinn (little JJ), Evan and Grace. I’m currently working on a book that features Nick a/k/a Nico and Alexis. Lately I’ve been tossing around character name for a book I plan to submit in a contest. I like to get ask for suggestions and get feedback. There are thousands of names and I want to give my characters the right one.

What’s a unique character name you’ve seen or a name you wish someone would use?


Kathleen J. Robison

Summer in the Sky?

Do you know the saying, “The Dog Days of Summer?” That’s how some people refer to the month of August. What does that even mean? I thought it referred to dogs lying around the street with their tongues hanging out due to the hot weather. Kind of like the film production of the musical play, Pirates of Penzance (a family favorite), where dogs are lazily waiting for their owners out on the streets in the summertime.

I also think of books that describe southerners wearing white, sitting on their porches. They’re perspiring profusely and fanning themselves, and all the while enjoying a quenching drink of sweet tea. At least that’s how I’d write it. In reality, they’re probably drinking Mint Juleps! Either way, it’s the perfect setting for suspenseful chaos. Hot, hot, hot. I think those stories must always take place in August.

It makes sense. The heat slows us down, and with it come the lazy days of summer. When I was a girl, my sisters and I danced to a song called, Those Crazy, Lazy Days of Summer, by Nat King Cole. A fun and upbeat tune, it went right along with us girls running through sprinklers, popsicles melting down our chins, and long rides home from the beach with the discomfort of sandy bathing suits and stinging sunburn.

Here it is almost fifty years later, and I smile at those recollections. I grew up a beach girl, and I still love the waves, the sand, and the sun. But I especially enjoy it nowadays through the sandy hands and faces of my grandchildren. I think I’ll have to write a summer novel!

But you know what I recently discovered? The Dog Days of Summer doesn’t mean what I envisioned at all. Come to find out; it refers to this time of year when the Sun shares the same location in the sky as Sirius. Also known as the Dog Star, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth. It’s part of the Canis Major, and the constellation is referred to as the Greater Dog.

I don’t pretend to be a stargazer, and I’m guilty of not going out to look at the blood moon or a meteor shower. Though the thought intrigues me, I can’t get my husband to jump in the car and go somewhere to get a better look. Still, I think it’s interesting how often stars and constellations are responsible for events and traditions in our culture.

Whether it’s here in the United States or another country, the moon, the sun, and the stars play a significant role in our lives. In literature, in movies, in celebrations, to name a few. When I lived in Singapore as a teenager, our neighbors invited us to a Burmese Water Festival. Burma is now known as Myanmar. Anyway, it was their New Year’s, celebrated in April, determined by the stars, of course. It was the craziest thing! Everyone was dressed nicely, mostly in traditional Burmese attire. People were throwing water on each other like a water balloon fight. Well, not really, but we were repeatedly doused head to toe. It was so fun! But that’s another story.

I don’t have to be an astronomer or a hobbyist who’s fascinated with constellations to appreciate the universe. Although I certainly admire those people. One of my good friends is my go-to for all things sparkling in the nighttime sky. I love hearing her explain it to me, and the neatest thing is how it all causes our hearts to worship the Creator of those stars and constellations.

He is an incredible God we serve. It’s unfathomable to think that He’s blessed us with this beautiful universe to enjoy. And not only for our pleasure but for the scientific role it plays in keeping our world in balance.  I almost can’t believe it. Just looking up and seeing the dazzling night skies confirms His existence to me, and I stand in awe of the love our sovereign, Almighty God, has for me. For all of us.

And now it seems, after discovering The Dog Days of Summer, I’ll be looking up this month and searching the heavens for The Greater Dog constellation… probably after a hot, sandy day at the beach. Enjoy your summer!