Friday, July 3, 2015

Bad to the Bone: How Bad Can Your MC Be?

Last night I watched HEAT for the first time. My husband had seen it multiple times before and at one point, about halfway through, I asked him, “So, who are we supposed to be rooting for, Robert De Niro or Al Pacino?”

He shrugged and said, “Which one hasn’t murdered anyone?” 

Well, I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler alert to say that Robert De Niro, the criminal to Al Pacino’s cop, was the one who had killed people. Still, I was kind of rooting for his character. He possessed intelligence, nobility, and a loyalty to his “coworkers.” He also seemed to be against killing people, unless, you know, he really really had to...or they were really annoying. Whereas Al Pacino’s character seemed kind of crazy, agitated, and unkind. (According to IMDB, in an earlier draft the character had a cocaine habit and, even though that was later removed, Al Pacino kept the erratic outbursts.) So, I still kind of rooted for De Niro’s character right up to the end. 

Currently, I am also in the middle of the THRONE OF GLASS series by Sarah J. Maas, which revolves around Celaena Sardothien, a vicious assassin who has brutally killed people for money and out of pure anger. Sure, she has always had “rules” for herself, but they are so minimal they are obvious (e.g., she won’t kill kids.) I won’t get into all the changes the character goes through, partly because I’m only in the middle of book two, but I will say that despite her past actions and her current fiery anger, I’m enjoying it enough to keep reading. Sure, some of her thoughts and actions bug me, but not enough that I can’t ultimately root for her. Her past was so awful, you can see her as a victim, and she has other qualities, like loyalty and even compassion, that come through.

I tend to like “good” main characters. Of course, they should be flawed, but I don’t usually like it when the “flaw” is that they mercilessly inflict excruciating pain before killing their enemies. But, obviously, I have my exceptions, which has me thinking, why do these characters work as protagonists when they are so well suited to being villains? 

Here are a few ways to have your bad character thrive as a protagonist.

  • Use a Bad/Good Scale (think Barney’s Hot/Crazy Scale). Your character can be as bad as you want, as long as he or she has an equal or more amount of good qualities and actions to balance it.
  • Make the actual antagonist worse than your bad character. If the bad character’s murderous rage is used against a group who would harm thousands of innocent people if they aren’t stopped, suddenly that murderous rage seems more like an asset.
  • Explain why the MC is the way she is. What has happened in her past that has sculpted her bad motivations and behavior? This doesn’t equal absolution, but it can help the reader understand that these negative actions don’t take place in a vacuum.
  • Have the MC strive for good. He is trying to be better, even in his own way. He is trying to help others, even if those others are also “bad” characters.
Now go have fun writing your bad boys and girls! :)

Sunday, June 28, 2015


    I met my hubs on the 4th of July a very long time ago and in what seems like a galaxy far, far away. Coming up on that anniversary romance has been on my mind. So I’m going to share my thoughts on what it is and isn’t.
    I feel very strongly romance in a book can’t be legislated by ANYONE but the author. Their world-view feeds the romance. Nourishes it until it blooms. What romance is to one may not be to another. Some romance books have no sex, others have it behind closed doors. Then there are those that go from hot to off the charts steamy. I can tell you right now I consider abuse of any kind and or cheating between an H&H not romance, not love and not an enjoyable read for me. That book will immediately be returned. Sure people can screw up their lives and relationships. If they’re lucky, they get a second chance to make it up. Haven’t we all been there? I love it when an author brings a couple through bad times to grow their love.
    Those who speak as authorities on the subject of romance in books say what I think of as romance is in fact a love story. Romance MUST follow a certain criteria says a deep voice from behind the curtain. Well, guess what? Plllaaaatttttttt! Raspberries to you all. Not saying it’s bad to meet that criteria but I don’t care if a book does or doesn’t. Do you think a reader cares? I think not.
    For me romance in books is like this line from the song Thinking Out Loud, “I’m thinking ‘bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways.  Some couples can take years to fall in love others know in seconds. I love the thrill of discovery for the couples in the books I read.
    RAINWATER by Sandra Brown does not have an HEA or the possibility of one. It is one of the most poignant romances, love stories, whatever the freak you want to call it, I’ve ever read. Are J D Robb’s books romances using the criteria? Hmmmm?
    When an author does a good job of drawing me into a couple’s romance/love arc I don’t care if it takes up ten or ninety percent of the story. Make me feel something for those characters and I will remember them forever.  For…ev…ver.
    I also don’t care if the romance drives the story. More and more I see love and romance being added to books not in the so-called romance genre. Those other genre authors are beginning to take romance seriously. Is it because romance sells or because love is a real human emotion that readers can connect with? I don’t care.  Do you think the reader does? I think not.
    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. So everybody write on. Call it what you want. I don’t care. Just write me a good story.  

    Rita writes about extraordinary women in the military and the men they love. Call it what you like. She doesn’t care. She only wants you to enjoy it.    

Friday, June 26, 2015

Tips For An Effective Website

By Sandy Parks

Everybody wants a website that is easy to use and effective as a sales or information tool. All these things are within easy reach whether you do your own, have someone do it for you, or a combination of both. All of it depends on your technical abilities and knowing what a good website requires. Having designed several websites, I've put together a list of my top eleven tips for an effective website for authors.

1. Make sure your name and what you do (author, writer, cover artist) are across the top, in an easy to read font, and against an eye-catching background. The header above with Sandy Parks has “Author” in the header. On the header below for Sandy Moffett, I waited and put the info as a header in the first column to the left. Why the left? In a responsive or mobile ready site (ie. your cellphone), your left column is usually the one seen first.

2. Have simple clean navigation on every page and even at the bottom if it works for your site. You should be able to reach all the pages on a website from any page on the site. That also goes for your blog. Many times I have left a website to check out an authors blog and then can’t find a link back to the website or vice versa. I leave frustrated and they’ve lost a potential fan/sale. The header photos both have an example of a navigation bar that should be on all pages. This one is horizontal, but they can also be vertical. Some fancy sites even have a floating navigation box. Personally, I find them distracting, but others love the convenience. What is not obvious in the photos, is that on the website the navigation bars have more drop down choices when you roll a cursor over them. Too many choices on the main bar can clutter the page.

3. If you link to locations off your website (Amazon, blog, information, favorite authors), those should open in a new window so viewers can easily tab back to your page (not using back arrows). When you add links in most programs it will ask if you want to open on a “blank” page or in a "new window." Answer yes, and your link will open a new tab and window on your search engine. Easy. Try out this link to Anne Marie Becker’s website and see if it opens in a new window (but please come back for the rest of the tips).

4. Make your website compatible with mobile devices! This is extremely important as Google and likely other search engines are giving ranking priority to “mobile ready” or “responsive” content. What does this mean?

If you search for your website on your phone or tablet, the columns should automatically condense to one or two columns (as in the photo to the left). For example, if you have a three column site, it should realign to one long column for those reading on a smart phone. Or perhaps two columns for ease of reading on a tablet.

5. Also important with a MOBILE compatible website is the navigation when in mobile configuration. It should show at the top of the window at all times, rather like when viewing Facebook or Twitter on your phone. The screen shot below shows three small bars in the upper right, and the selections that would normally be across the top of a wider website are now stacked up and still accessible. I’ve clicked on Books & Writing so submenus are visible (in light blue). You can also hide the menu’s to see more content.

6. Have a Newsletter Signup on the FIRST PAGE, not the Contact Page. Some viewers never click on the Contact page and thus will never see your sign-up notice/link/form. You can see an example in the photo above. Mine links to MailChimp, but there are many sites/methods which can help collect the information. Many successful authors will tell you these lists of readers can make or break their sales.

7. Add Twitter feed (example below). It updates your website whenever you post on Twitter so search engines note your site is active and that helps keep it visible to searchers. You can find the information on how to add it from the Twitter site.

8. Place links to buy books at every available vendor on every page where that book is mentioned. This is not as easy as you think. On my websites books are mentioned on the home page, a separate book category page, and a separate book excerpt page. There are places where I have added new book material and have yet to add a link. That’s why I also keep a website To Do list. When you add links they should include your affiliate link for the vendor. That is another source of income for an author whether indie or traditionally published, so check it out if you haven’t set up an account with a vendor. If you use icons for the vendors on your website, you should double check if the vendor has a required style. Several of the ones on my site need to be updated to reflect recent changes.

9. Your most recent book cover, if not more, should be displayed on the HOME page. The whole purpose of your website is to encourage sales and make the title of your book and your name familiar to the person stopping by.

10. No flashing, twinkling, constant motion on your site. These type things can be terribly distracting and actually drive people away (music is also a touchy subject and not recommended). Photo or banner rotators are fine if they are set to move or change slowly and have professional content (photographs that relate to subject, book covers, etc). You can also have some quick initial or introductory motion, but once people are on the sight and looking at content, that should be it. For example, Julie Moffett wanted something geeky for her website (about a geek sleuth) so she has motion as you load the site and particular pages.

I could go on and list many more examples, but have to do some website tweaking of my own. So I’ll close with this last tip.

11. Check out all your links and other things on your site once in a while, especially after adding new content and updating the old.

Hope these tips help. You can check out my less than perfect website at Sandy Parks or Sandy Moffett. I'd also love to hear your website tips or opinions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Courtesy Dana Rothstein Dreamstime Stock Photos
     I recycle glass, metal and plastics, newspapers, advertisements, and circulars, and use USDA certified biobased products but—when it comes to writing I print out page after page of my stories and articles. Reading what I’ve written on the computer works for my first few drafts but after that I need to look at the print on the page even when the piece is meant for an e-book or an on-line site.
     Mistakes I hadn’t noticed when I read the words on the screen jump out and accuse me of carelessness. I cringe when I notice a dull sentence—so dull I know a more active word must be found, and often I discover I’ve repeated words or a descriptive phrase more times than I thought humanly possible.
     Characters scold—telling me they would never use certain expressions or behave in a manner so completely removed from their reality. Sometimes my protagonist encourages me to change the direction of the plot or forces me to alter the antagonist’s motivation.  

Courtesy Terry McAllister Dreamstime Stock Photos     
     I may find I haven’t clued my future reader into something they need to know—that would be a disaster and sometimes I’ve said too much—why would someone bother reading to the last page if they’re way ahead of me? Times and dates urge me to double and triple check and make sure the actions and events I’ve planned could have possibly happened within the period written about. Was that dish served or that special gown worn in that particular country, in that particular century?
     I print out chapter pages or an entire article, make sure I have a pen and take it with me to work on in another place. Perhaps a ride on a bus, a park bench, or a coffee house; then it’s back to the computer to make changes and begin again—begin at the beginning.
Courtesy Dreamstime Stock Photos

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Smorgasbord of Suspense

Smorgasbord originally meant a Swedish buffet, but now the term refers to a wide range of options, a variety of styles. That variety is one of the things I love about the current offerings in multi-author boxed sets. The sets are a way to discover and “try out” new-to-me authors at a price that seem too good to be true. How can you beat $.99-$2.99 for groups of novels from your favorite authors? I’ve discovered really good books by picking up a friend’s box set—and discovering new favorites.

DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS just released and is heating up more than the bestseller list! With a variety of heat levels, there’s a story to tempt everyone.

Get your heartbeat racing with 13 romantic-suspense novels from USA Today, bestselling, and award-winning authors. Nerve-wracking thrills and dangers, heart-melting romance and love--enjoy them all in this outstanding collection of DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS....

Fallen Idol - USA Today Bestselling author Nikki Lynn Barrett
Sparks ignite between a single father and a singer making her musical comeback, but danger lurks in the distance, only getting closer as time goes on. For two people who want different things out of life, it's possible to find healing together...

Cross Examination - Bestselling Author Denise Moncrief
Tamara Slay moves to Louisiana to start a new life with her daughter, but her dreams of a peaceful existence are shattered when Lt. Martin Beck suspects her ex-husband is a serial killer.

Carnival Tricks - Award-Winning, Bestselling Author Jade Kerrion
A dying scientist propels a waitress into the shady world of corporate espionage. The unwilling carrier of the recipe for a lethal chemical weapon, can Sofia save the world when she can't even save herself?

Height of Danger - Nancy & Nolan Radke
How do you keep a woman safe who distrusts you, and won't stay where you hide her? CIA operative Owen Putman has to protect his employer's daughter while trying to find out who is killing construction workers at a Central American dam site.

Six Days of Memories - International Bestselling Author Stacy Eaton
Detective Natasha Foster comes across the crime scene of her career, and she will put everything on the line to find out the truth, including her heart. Jay's need to know if he's the victim or criminal pushes him to remember who he is and with the pull of a trigger, Jay's memory will suddenly return and with it, the terrible truth.

Broken Lies - Sharon Coady
Bodyguard Niall Kerrigan lets his guard down and falls for Abby Bailey, a beautiful woman with a secret past. When Abby goes missing Niall must face his ruthless father to fight for the woman he loves and choose between a life with her or keeping her safe without him.

Don't Know Jack - Amy Manemann
Undercover FBI agent Jack Hamlin meets his match in small town bakery owner, Kate Monroe, when they're swept into a dangerous game of lies, intrigue and desire.

Cypher - Award-Winning Bestselling Author Cathy Perkins
When a hit man kills the wrong person, a SC detective confronts hidden agendas and conflicting motives in a powerful local family, while trying to control his attraction to the intended victim--a woman who's hell-bent on saving the remnants of her family.

Murderous Lies - Bestselling Author Chantel Rhondeau
Max is exonerated for murder after eight years, returning to his home town and the fiancée he left there. Rose isn't so happy to see him...and then the murders start again.

Tidal Falls - Jacquie Biggar
When Nick fails to notice an IED and loses most of his teammates, he shuts down. It takes meeting and falling in love with a woman in danger to make him realize life's worth living.

Suspended Animation - Sylvie Grayson
Suspense, spicy romance and attempted murder erupt when hockey player Brett hires Katy to run the office of his ailing father's near-bankrupt trucking company. Can he protect her from her lethal friends and the chaos surrounding them?

Knowing Vera - Award-Winning, Bestselling Author Rachelle Ayala
Suspenseful romance, an unsolved murder, and love on the beach. A young woman seeks to prove her father innocent of murdering her boyfriend's mother.

Special Agent Francesca - New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Mimi Barbour
Violence, suspense and sizzling romance explode during Special Agent Francesca's humorous journey fighting off the mob! Dr. Sean Collins wants to tame her! Yeah-like that's gonna happen. Only one thing keeps Francesca motivated. Proving to her mother, the FBI "Snow Queen," that working undercover is where she belongs.

I hope you’ll take a moment to check out this amazing deal and if you give the stories a try, I hope you come back and share your experience with us.

Don’t forget, reviews are an author’s best friend :)

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