When Characters Are Snarky…

I had to set up another home office in my Nevada house. While we still haven’t decided just what to do with it, we know that we’ll be here off and on for the renovations at the minimum, add to that author things, family things and we have a very full agenda in Nevada.

Now this isn’t a surprise but what was is the fact I actually had to create my own space here. See, I have a lovely office that my husband built for me early in my career. It has a fabulous desk with a huge picture window that allows me to look out at the world. It was one of the things I really, really missed five years ago when I moved to Vienna.

Today it’s being occupied by my son and his significant other as they build their fledgling Amazon business. They are doing quite well but there isn’t a corner in the room anymore which is mine. Their stuff is spread out over two rooms of the house and right now, my old desk is their command center.

Again, I tried to use the dining room table and again, I couldn’t. It’s big enough but the chairs are old and this time, there was another problem. When I did start to write, I found my characters were not only belligerent but downright snarky at times.

Harry-#2---ResizedSnarky used to be a term I only applied to Pup Harry. I mean, can’t you see the snark in his eyes? His ne’er’do-well smirk. He even has a blog named Call Me Snarky Boy from when we first got him. And now, my characters are behaving in the same way?!?

At first, I couldn’t believe it but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if it wasn’t because of me not having a desk. The only really thing I’ve ever required when writing has been a desk in a quiet spot as I found out I was more productive that way. When I have no distractions, I can pound out the stories. Yet, here my characters were telling me they weren’t talking.

With two novellas due in the next month or so, an edit and another proposal to get to my agent’s desk, I understood I needed to do something and fast. Thank goodness for Amazon as I went shopping. After going through page after page of desks and not finding something I really wanted, I decided to look at the local consignment and antique stores.

I thought I wanted what is called a secretary desk with a pull down surface. Finding one immediate that I loved for the intricate detail, I excitedly talked to my husband who is currently in Vienna. He wanted the youngest to look at it to make sure we could do the repairs. Once the youngest saw it, he nixed it immediately because he thought if I put any weight on it at all, the whole thing would end up in my lap.

Not good. So we looked at two tables. One I really loved the wood but it had some damage too and while it didn’t matter to its purpose, it was more than I wanted to pay. Walking through the big pieces one last time, I spied a thin cherry table with two drawers. Calling my son over, I had him test it and we both liked it. I offered the owner a price I thought fair and was happy he took it.New-Desk-Picture-Resized

My son picked it up later that day and it took me about an hour to set up as it won’t hold much. Just a computer, some papers and it will be a charging station for all our phones and tablets. The drawers will hold pens, paper and the ever necessary post-its. I was ready to go but still I held back. Would my characters continue to be snarky? Or would they finally open up?

And I’m happy to report, they are singing like the birds! Thank goodness.

What about you? Do you ever have moments as a writer when the characters won’t talk to you? And readers, do you ever see characters that you wished were better written and more talkative?

I’d love to hear your thoughts…see you all next time!

About Lynn Crain

Award winning author Lynn Crain has done it all in her life. From nursing to geology, her life experiences have added to her detail rich stories. She loves writing full time as she weaves contemporary, fantasy, futuristic and paranormal tales, tame to erotic, for various publishers. Her home is in the desert southwest and she’s just returned from her latest adventure of living in Vienna, Austria while her husband worked his dream job. You can find her hanging out online at www.lynncrain.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/LynnCrainAuthor, and on Twitter, @oddlynn3. She loves hearing from her readers at lynncrain@cox.net.

Pay Yourself First

IS A HABITThe idea of “Paying yourself first” is one my father tried to instill in me when I got my first job…notice I said “tried.”

All those years ago I just didn’t get the concept…at 52, I wish I had paid more attention. LOL

As most of our loyal readers know…this has been a year of change for me, and some habits definitely were in need of an upgrade, or an overhaul, depending on your perception.

I’m now working a full time job…and yes, I do pay myself first with every paycheck, just in case you were wondering.

But, this post isn’t about money. It’s about YOU and what your priority is, each and every day. Turns out when your life is turned upside down and you end up in therapy for 8 months, you learn a few things. The first thing I learned was that it is OK to want to be happy in this life, it’s okay to do something for myself. Knowing what I want from the second chapter in my life and how to achieve it weren’t often on the same page.

Until now.

I’ve decided to truly take to heart the idea of paying myself first.

My goal is to be a successful author (and yes, the idea is subjective…so don’t go there with me right now! LOL) and to achieve that goal, I have to actually produce written work, on a frequent basis! That means I cannot find a host of excuses and reasons why the words didn’t get on the page EVERY SINGLE DAY. Sure, I work a long day, spend way too much time in traffic, am exhausted when I get home…yada, yada. Let’s face it, some nights the chocolate mint chip ice cream is the devil and lures me away from everything else (You’ve been there, right? Right?)

I’ve been setting the alarm a little earlier and earlier each day. Now the first thing I do everyday is take care of my dream…I sit my ass at my computer at 5am and write. This is job number 1! (And it feels really good to check it off my “tasks” list at 6am! BooYah…go me!)

So, I’m not paying myself in dollars, I’m paying myself in words on the page. Each word taking me that much closer to the end goal of a published book.

So, now it’s your turn. Evaluate your life, your dreams and goals…what can you do tomorrow, first thing, to set yourself on that path? How can you invest in your future before you do anything for somebody else?

Good luck and let me know!


About Debora Dennis

A believer in second chances and that time should never be an obstacle to finding love, Debora writes time travels with modern snark and spice! When she's not writing, she's spending time with her family, reading, or trying to figure out a way to get chocolate into every dish she serves.

Judging a Book by its Cover

“Why, it’s one o’ the books I bought at Partridge’s sale. They was all bound alike — it’s a good binding, you see — and I thought they’d be all good books. . . . but they’ve all got the same covers, and I thought they were all o’ one sample, as you may say. But it seems one musn’t judge by th’ outside. This is a puzzling world.”
–George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

perf5.000x8.000.inddMarin here, and today I’m thinking about the puzzling world of book covers. Recently I worked with a cover artist–the very talented Rae Monet–to create the cover for my third book.

A cover’s primary purpose, of course, is to convince the reader to buy the book behind it. A great cover not only entices the reader, but captures the story in some way.  Cover artist Peter Mendelsund says “his job is ‘finding that unique textual detail that…can support the metaphoric weight of the entire book.’”   But beyond that, a cover needs to represent the book. The mood of the cover should match that of the book–a couple in a clinch for a romance, something dark and eerie for a paranormal, an illustration for a children’s book. Even things like font matter–you see the font that was used on the Harry Potter books, and you recognize it immediately.  The cover, according to Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, should be a promise to the reader. A promise that the book is as professional as its cover, that it is of the genre depicted by the cover, and that you will enjoy reading it.

There are plenty of sites out there which discuss the elements that make a great cover, and I list a few of them below. But as one of them points out, what really makes a great cover is what makes you purchase the book. I tend to like covers that are more abstract, that hint at the character of the book without revealing too much. Here are some of my favorites (click on the covers to visit the book’s Goodreads entry):

Deanna Raybourn was new to me, and I picked up her book in the library almost entirely because of the cover. The others are authors I know and like and would have read anyway. All of these covers evoke their stories and the genre. I think Julia Quinn’s cover must have worked quite well, because she has used a variation of it at least twice since then…

I asked my fellow Passionate Critters what they like, and don’t like, in a cover:

“I tend to gravitate toward books with real people on the covers. I tend to like couples too. I like feet/legs too–or just bodies with no heads–so I can get the gist of the romance while leaving something to my imagination.”

“I like illustrated covers, too, if they’re well done and not drawn by the author themselves. Actually…it’s easier to say what DOESN’T work. Go here to see some samples: http://lousybookcovers.com/.”

“I like a simple cover which conveys the mood or feel of the story that I’m buying.”

“I’ve always liked Kristan Higgins’ covers. You see a couple but not too much of their faces.”

“I’m the opposite of the others, I love faces.  At least the guy’s face, I’m OK with the back of the girl’s head.  Clinch covers work for me as well.  I want a sense of the time period, what the characters look like, and the overall mood of the book.  From the cover I should easily be able to tell if it’s a romance, sci-fi, fantasy, etc, as well as what era it’s set in, and a decent idea of what the main character, or characters, look like.  I also like to get a sense of who the characters are, is it a brooding alpha male?  Throw him in a tux and make him look angry….or heated…or both.  Character looks are huge for me, especially for the male, and nothing irks me more than grabbing a good book and then having the guy be described as someone I don’t find even remotely attractive.  It kills the whole thing for me.”

“I don’t honestly know.  Some are clearly just bad or rather lousy, but they don’t count.
But of good, well-done covers, where there’s nothing actually wrong with them…hmmm. There’s no type that appeals to me – some just look…right.
I think it’s sort of subjective to a degree – flowers and a wedding dress would put me off, because it screams sweet and I don’t particularly like sweet.
My favorite sort of covers are UF [urban fantasy], which always seem to be very distinctive of the genre, usually a beautiful background, a strong character (all of them, they never seem to have their heads chopped off) often a woman, and a few swirly bits to pretty them up.
I think it’s an arty thing (which is why I struggle) just getting the proportions and colors right and pleasing to the eye.”

“I like real people, faces, and even a bit of setting. I like to see the story. I don’t like the drawn covers–like chick lit has. And don’t get me started on the computer graphics that….are just…not real looking. LOL  But that’s just me.
I don’t like chopped off heads or flowers or wedding dresses or babies.  I don’t know what that says about me.
Oh, I also don’t like floating heads…over cities and stuff.”

Clearly, we all like different things, which only goes to show that you’ll never please everyone, no matter how brilliant your cover may be. What stands out for you in a book cover? Share your favorite!

Some other takes on what makes a great book cover:




About Marin McGinnis

Marin McGinnis has been a voracious reader ever since she could make sense of words on the page, but she came fairly late to writing. She dabbled with a mystery in her 20s, but didn’t start writing in earnest until after she discovered historical romance a decade or so later. While her very first manuscript will forever languish under the bed, the next one, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next three books, Secret Promise, Tempting Mr. Jordan, and Treasure Her Heart, were also published by The Wild Rose Press. Check out her Bookshelf for more info. Marin lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio with her family. She is represented by Margaret Bail of Fuse Literary.

Maybe Next Year

My apologies for being a day late with this post. Yes, it’s the same day every month, but it snuck up on me worse than usual this time. I promised you a report on the RWA conference, and let’s just say it’s one I won’t forget for a while.

I arrived in San Diego late on Tuesday to a beautiful hotel. These photos are the view from my room which had a lovely balcony.

20160712_155544small20160713_074529_001small        20160712_200631small

On Wednesday I did attend a gathering with other contemporary romance writers and listened to a panel of speakers who gave some interesting advice. We’ve all been there when authors and editors are talking about which sub-genres in romance are getting hot and which ones are waning. The advice I’ve always heard is ‘Oh, don’t write that, it’s on its way out, editors have seen way too much of it lately.’ Here’s the short and sweet of it. Just because editors are tired of seeing it, doesn’t mean that readers are tired of reading it. There were multiple authors who said that once a lot of authors stopped writing in a sub-genre, yet they kept on writing what they loved, that’s when they made the most money. Big money, like six and seven figures. I realize we don’t do this just for the money, however, if we could make some serious dough, I can’t imagine any of us turning it down, what with kids in college and other bills to pay. I hadn’t heard this advice before so I thought it would be worth passing along. Do with it what you will.

As luck would have it, I became really ill on Thursday and ended up in the ER, where they told me I could stay and have surgery, or head directly home and have it. So I chose to check out, go home and have immediate surgery. The health issue has been taken care of and recovery is slowly under way.

There’s my conference report. Here’s hoping I’ll make it all the way through next year!

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Holidaying at Home

Thanks to a wonderful couple of house sitters, we had a great holiday back in July, but we decided last night, that we need one more holiday before the summer is over.

But we have a whole lot of animals and getting away takes a lot of planning, so we decided to have a holiday at home. Rob reckons we should start it with a trip to the airport, pretend our flight’s delayed, sit there for a few hours…just like a real holiday. I vetoed that one. But how do you make it feel like a holiday when you don’t leave home? Here’s a few ideas we’ve come up with:

  • Cocktail of the day – I think we’ll start with margaritas.
  • A beach day – we can actually see the Mediterranean from our house, so it’s not too far to go – about 8 miles as the crow flies (a lot further along the windy roads.) But a day on the beach is a must for a holiday. Add a nice long lunch of grilled sardines and a jug of sangria…perfection.
  • An activity day – we bought ourselves a Kayak for Christmas – so we need to find some water and have a go (work off those cocktails.)
Alhambra at sunset, Granada, Spain

Alhambra at sunset, Granada, Spain

  • Sightseeing – we live about two hours away from Granada and we have never been to the Alhambra. So that will be on the list for a daytrip.
  • A walk – there’s a circular route around our local village that we’ve never done. So we can pack up a few beers, load up the dogs and get some exercise (work off those beers.)
  • Stay up late – I admit it, most days we’re in bed by 10.30, especially in the summer when we get up with the sun. But when we’re on holiday, we stay up late. One of the reasons being a lot of Spanish restaurants don’t open until 9pm, which means we eat a lot later. So no going to bed until midnight.
  • All you can eat buffet breakfast – okay maybe this one’s a no for various reasons. But maybe all-you can-drink mimosas to start the day…
  • And my favourite – sit by the pool and read…all day (Rob says I will be charged for the sunbed though, otherwise it won’t feel like a holiday.)pool4

How about you? How would you make your stay at home vacation feel more like a holiday?

About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain. Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

Boo! I’m a ghooooost…writer.

It’s almost embarrassing to admit it, but yes–I write books for money.

Oh, the shame…

It’s like telling people you’ve decided to sell your children for cash.

Worse, you can’t even tell them what the title of the book is, or the name under which it’s been published, because–you don’t know. You make this little baby book, wrap it tenderly, place it in a basket (or inbox, I guess) and then turn and walk away without looking back.

Several days later, money is deposited into your account. And then, you never hear from your baby again.

You keep the draft, like a hospital photograph. It’s a secret. You’ve give up all rights to this baby, and you’re not supposed to even acknowledge its existence. If you ever showed it to anyone, you could be in violation of your contract. It makes you sad. Even though you knew that your ties to this child of your imagination would be severed, you still couldn’t help but think of how pieces of you were threading themselves through it, and that they’d still be there once the strings were cut.

You wonder how your baby is doing. Are people being kind to it? Are they heaping it with praise, or are they being harsh and cruel, giving it one or two stars? Is your baby reaching its full potential? Is it being nurtured through generous marketing? Or is it lying on the bottom of an Amazon list, unwanted, unread, and unappreciated?

You know you didn’t put too much into your baby. At times, you too were practically thoughtless as you sat, forcing a word count onto it even though you knew less could be more. You made your baby fat and even ugly in places, just because you knew you could make more money.

The guilt.

You think of your other books, the ones that have your name on them. You took so much care with them. Each word weighed and measured, tasted and tested. You played with those babies, poured your heart into them. You thought about them, planned for them. You shared them with others–happily, in fact–in the hopes of making them even better. They took months, even years, to write–instead of only days (and sometimes only hours) like your secret books.

Funny thing is, you know you’ll probably never make as much money on those books as you did on the ones you sold away.

It’s a conflict. You tell yourself you’re selling those babies to benefit your “real” children. But still…you can’t help but wonder. Have I done the right thing? Shouldn’t I try to keep all my book babies for myself? Why should I pour any time at all into this…this…prostitution of my words? You resolve not to write anything for anyone but yourself, ever again. You will keep all your books. And you will self-publish and build an empire!

And then…it happens. Something comes along. A request in your inbox. “Are you still ghostwriting? We’re looking for a 20K book about… And we’ll pay you…”

You try to ignore it.


You’ll make more money with this book in this single sale than you might make if you try to publish and market the book yourself. It’s a sure thing. Ca-ching!

It’s like selling my soul. My art!

Stop being so melodramatic. And besides…you don’t write art, you write romance.

But…it’s still from my heart, a part and piece of me.

So is this blog, you egocentric nutcase. Sign the contract. Write the book. Take the contract…


No buts. Bucks.

It’s so sleezy.

Boo-dy freaking hoo. It’s called making a living.

All right. Boo. I’m a ghostwriter.

About Marnie Blue

Cyn D. Blackburn is addicted to love. And caffeine. She lives with her husband (of 20+) years, three children, two dogs, two guinea pigs and one terribly outnumbered cat. She knows that nothing eases the difficulties of life--and falling into love--more than a little humor.

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