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Monday, December 30, 2013

Update!

Guess what was waiting for me when I got home from tutoring and the grocery store today. My print proof of Love Served Hot!!! I'll post when it becomes available!
Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Types of Publishing

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be discussing career topics for the next several months. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page.

The publishing world is evolving faster than publishers, agents, and writers can keep up. Authors have more choices than ever before in regards to getting their stories into the hands of readers. Let’s take a look at Types of Publishing.

Traditional Publishers—This option is usually defined as print publishers like the Big 5 and Harlequin for romance. Most pay advances of varying amounts. Print (mass market paperback) is the primary format, but e-books are available for some imprints. Some of these publishers accept only agented submissions. Time from submission to release is often 1-2 years. Some traditional publishers also have e-release only imprints. The publisher is responsible for production and distribution costs.

Small Press/E-Publishers—This option is typically digital-first or digital-only release. Advances are unusual. E-books are the primary format, with print-on-demand books (trade paperback) sometimes made available, depending on sales, book length, or contract stipulations. Most of these publishers do not require agented submissions. Time from submission to release is usually significantly less than traditional publishers, often ranging from 2-3 months to 1 year. The publisher is responsible for production and distribution costs. Royalty rates are usually higher than traditional publishing royalties.

Self-Publishing—This option includes digital and/or print release at the author’s discretion. Advances are not given. E-books are the primary format, but print-on-demand (trade paperback) is also available. Submissions aren’t required. Release time depends on the author’s schedule. The author is responsible for all costs associated with production, distribution, and promotion. Tasks like editing, book cover design, and formatting can be contracted out for fees. All royalties are paid directly to the author from the distributors at higher than traditional, small press, and vanity rates. The author is the publisher.

Vanity Publishing—This option can include digital and/or print release. Advances are not given. The author pays fees to the vanity publisher for book production, distribution, and promotion. This business model does not follow the general rule that money should flow from the publisher to the author.

While I personally don’t advocate choosing the vanity route, each author must decide which course works best for his/her needs. Weigh the pros and cons of each option. Take into consideration how you feel about the time frame to publication, royalty rates, upfront costs, and the learning curve associated with each path. Above all, do your research to make an educated decision!

Which way does your scale lean? Do you prefer more than one method (hybrid author)?

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Recipe Time! Sugar Cookies

I'm finally getting in the holiday mood now that I've finished shopping and wrapping presents. The Christmas tree and decorations are up, and today was a baking day. My house smells like Sugar Cookies and Magic Cookie Bars. Tomorrow it'll smell like Chocolate Chip Biscotti and Kolache (Hungarian Nut Roll). Time to share a recipe!

Sugar Cookies

1 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
5-6 cups flour

Cream sugar and shortening. Stir in egg, milk, baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough. Cover and chill at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheets.

Roll dough about 1/4" thick on a lightly floured surface and cut with cookie cutters. Bake 6-7 minutes until bottoms are light brown. Cool and store in an airtight container. Makes about 6 dozen medium-sized cookies. Frost if desired.

Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Using Track Changes

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be discussing career topics for the next several months. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page.

Using Track Changes is standard practice for almost every publisher when editing manuscripts. Many agents prefer this method of noting comments, corrections, and suggestions in submissions. Some contests use it for feedback in entries. Every writer needs to know how to use track changes within a Word document.

Most times, Word will open with track changes already on if the document has been edited or critiqued with that method. If it doesn’t, you can turn it on manually by going to the “Review” tab and clicking on the switch above “Track Changes” in Word for Mac 2011. You’ll find track changes in a similar location in other versions of word. Comment bubbles will appear in the right margin to show comments and changes. Look within the document for additions of commas, apostrophes, etc. You’ll see a black vertical line in the margin wherever these additions have been made.

For anonymity as a contest judge, change the “Security” setting under the “Word” toolbar tab and “Preferences.” Set “Security” to remove personal information upon saving the document. Some versions of Word allow the user to create a name to use for track changes, such as Judge 101 or Red-Pen Editor.

To respond to a comment within the existing comment bubble, click inside the bubble and type.

To accept changes and corrections made to the document, click on the checkmark at the top of the comment bubble. To reject and omit the changes and corrections, click on the X. The comment bubble will disappear when accepted or rejected, so do this only if you wish to delete the comment. Be sure to “Save” the document to save your changes.

To add a new comment, click on “New” under “Comments” within the “Review” tab in Word for Mac 2011 or similar command in other versions. A comment bubble will appear in the right margin near the location of the highlighted word you wish to address in the document. Sections of text may be highlighted if the comment refers to a phrase, sentence, paragraph, or scene. Type your comment in the bubble. Be sure to “Save” the document to save your comments.

Make corrections within the document while track changes is on to show where corrections have been made. A bubble will appear when spaces, letters, numbers, punctuation, and symbols are deleted from the text. The addition of spaces, letters, numbers, punctuation, and symbols will show in the default color or the color you’ve chosen for your comments. You can set your color choices by clicking on “Preferences” in the “Show Markup” drop-down menu. A vertical black line will also appear in the margin to designate the area. Again, “Save” the document to save your changes.

Now you know how to use track changes. Practice with critique partners, beta-readers, or during self-editing to get comfortable with it.

A word of caution about track changes—When using the feedback of critiques, beta-reads, judged contest entries, and self-edits, ALWAYS make your changes in a clean document. Don’t depend on those accept, reject, and delete comment buttons to make track changes bubbles disappear forever. Once in a while, they reappear when track changes is turned on. I’ve judged contest entries with comments in the manuscript before I’ve started my critiques. Don’t let this happen when you’re submitting to your dream agent or editor!

Track changes—Do you love it or hate it?

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Blog Visit #4 & Giveaway!

I'm rounding out the week with another blog visit and giveaway! Check out today's post on Hennessee Andrews' blog and comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card! Deadline to comment is midnight on Sunday, Dec. 15th. Hope to see you there!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Another Blog Stop & Giveaway!

Good morning! Today I'm visiting with my friend, critique partner, and fellow Sextet sister Cheryl Brooks on her blog. Check out the recipe that inspires the hot kitchen scene in Love Served Hot and comment for a chance to win an Amazon gift card!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Writing Tip Wednesday--Critiques and Beta-Readers

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be discussing career topics for the next several months. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page.

Being part of a critique partnership or group is a personal choice. Some writers prefer to use beta readers or a combination of betas and critters. Others may rely on self-editing before submitting. Perhaps you need feedback faster than most critters can provide. As with most of the writing process, do what works best for you.

The first rule of critiquing is to point out positive aspects in the manuscript as well as problem areas. Use explanations and suggestions to help the writer make corrections. Critiquing is about giving and receiving feedback, not criticism. Keep in mind that a critique is one person’s opinion and you don’t have to follow every suggestion.

Don’t expect your critique partner to catch every mistake. Even the best editors can miss simple errors. A less-experienced writer may not spot POV glitches, passive voice, or telling instead of showing, but the vast majority of writers are avid readers and will notice plot issues and character problems. You can’t become experienced without experience. Critique partners and groups should complement each other, with each participant bringing strengths that offset another’s weaknesses. You're building what should be a long-term relationship.

Be honest. I can’t stress this enough. You aren’t doing your critique partner any favors by letting major problems slide. Some things can be attributed to voice or the tone of the story, but writing craft weaknesses can’t be improved if the writer is unaware. If you’re wary of pointing out issues in the manuscript, this could be an indication you and your crit partner might not be a good fit. Use the first rule of critiquing for guidance.

Critique feedback can help you develop the thick skin you'll need to succeed in the publishing world. Not every person will like your story. Whether you agree or disagree with the feedback, make a concerted effort to let the comments and suggestions you don't like roll off your back. In most cases, your partner is trying to help you improve the story. If you suspect snark and non-constructive feedback, consider finding a new critter group.

Some partners/groups exchange crits online. Others meet in person. Some use a combination. Something to remember--we often misread meaning without face-to-face contact to read body language and hear intonation/inflection. Brainstorming usually works better with the immediate vocal response rather than thoughts put into written word.

We all have lots of responsibilities. However, repeatedly promising to return a chapter or manuscript by a deadline and missing it is a no-no. If you tend to be slower or know you have a particularly busy schedule, be up front about the amount of time you’ll need to complete the critique. By the same token, be aware that your chapter/manuscript may not be your crit partner’s first priority. Expecting to get your piece back the same day is inconsiderate—unless you’ve agreed about the response time prior to sending.

Critiquing is a great opportunity to get valuable feedback and learn more about writing craft, but finding someone you’re comfortable working with is vital.

A few words on beta-readers…
A beta-reader reads through the entire manuscript looking for logic lapses, continuity and pacing issues, typos, and other obvious errors. Many times, this person is a reader rather than a writer.

Some suggestions for working with beta-readers:
Even if you know and trust your beta-reader implicitly, consider entering into a basic contract. This may seem like overkill, but, while uncommon, authors have been plagiarized by their beta-readers. Piracy can also be an issue, so protect yourself.
Set a reasonable time frame for feedback, like you would with a critique partner.
As with a critique, suggestions from a beta-reader are one person’s opinion. The ultimate decision belongs to the author.
Your beta-reader should be an avid reader of the genre you’re writing.

What works best for you? Why do you prefer that method?

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Blog Visit #2 + Giveaway

I'm over visiting with Nan Reinhardt on her blog today! Stop by for an excerpt, a recipe, and a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Blog Visit & Giveaway!

I'm over at Siobhan Muir's blog today for an author spotlight and giveaway! Stop by and comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Guest Posts and Giveaways!

Next week, I'll be visiting four blogs, sharing excerpts from Love Served Hot, and giving away a $10 Amazon gift card at each stop! Look for links on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Recipe--Pork Roast with Sweet Potatoes

I've been experimenting in the kitchen again! With my son's tutoring schedule and a sick husband all week, I've been relying on simple and prepare-ahead ideas for supper. Oh, and I also still have most of those two bushels of sweet potatoes from the garden to use. Here's my latest success!

Pork Roast with Sweet Potatoes
approx. 1 1/2 lbs. boneless pork loin roast
1 teaspoon salt-free meat tenderizer
1 large onion, sliced crosswise into rings
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup apple juice
2 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/4 cup brown sugar

Trim fat from roast and slice into 4-6 chops, cutting 3/4 of the way through to allow slices to fan out. Place in 3-4 quart casserole dish or Crockpot. Sprinkle tenderizer between cuts and insert an onion slice between chops. Arrange remaining onions on top and around roast.

Place sweet potato chunks in a large bowl. Pour juices over top and stir to coat. Don't skip this step! The juice prevents the sweet potatoes from discoloring. Add sweet potatoes and juice to casserole dish or Crockpot. Top with cranberries. Dot with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar. Cover.

Bake at 300 degrees for 4 hours or 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, or cook in Crockpot on medium for 4-6 hours. Makes 4-6 servings.

Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday is back! Finish the Book!

Welcome back to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be focusing on Career topics in this next group of posts and look forward to your visits each week! Feel free to share the link with others!!!

Writing is only one part of being an author.

Depending on the publishing path(s) you choose, the other demands on your time will vary—besides family, day jobs, etc.. We all have to self-promote and communicate with readers through social media. Edits are a vital component of preparing a manuscript for publication. Conferences, conventions, and booksignings can also be a part of a writing career. Keeping track of income and expenses is a must, whether you prepare your own tax returns or hire a tax specialist. A website requires maintenance and blogging takes time away from writing. What about building a brand?

While all of these topics are important (and I’ll be blogging about them and numerous others over the next several months), the number one priority of every writer should be to finish the (next) book. Without a complete manuscript, your chances of getting published are zero. Without the next book, your readers will find something else to read.

However, don’t sacrifice your story to get it out to readers more quickly. Quality trumps quantity every time. Write a good story—and then write another one. We all write at different speeds and have different methods, so try not to compare yourself to others. Do what works for you and avoid measuring your success based on someone else’s ruler.

Some suggestions for getting that book done:
1) Set daily writing goals.
2) Participate in #1K1h sprints with other writers.
3) Discover your best time of day to write and set aside a portion of it for writing.
4) Take a writer’s retreat.
5) Brainstorm with other writers or friends.
6) Designate a reward for each chapter you finish or a larger one for finishing the book.

What motivates you to sit in that chair and write?


Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Now Available!!!

After much tweaking and cursing, Love Served Hot is now available from Amazon, B&N, and All Romance eBooks!!! Smashwords and Kobo are soon to follow!
I hope you enjoy it! Reviews on the retail sites and Goodreads are greatly appreciated!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Excerpt!

Here's an excerpt for the soon-to-be-released Love Served Hot!

He returned to the dining room to set a dish at Ms. Montgomery’s place, reciting the information she’d likely want to know. “Entrée number one. Dilled Salmon with Spinach and Brown Rice Pilaf. High in Omega-3 fatty acids, complex carbs, and iron. Moderate sodium content. Most vegetables and fresh mushrooms can be substituted for the spinach. And it’ll be served with a variety of sides.”
The aroma rising from the table made his stomach rumble. Taking the seat across from her, he waited for her to taste the offering.
She lifted the fork to her lips. Several moments passed with no indication of her like or dislike of the fish. The only movement of her face was an occasional blink and rhythmic chewing.
A bite of rice followed, her reaction as stiff and bland as the first one. He might’ve expected unresponsive behavior from a food critic, but not from a potential employer.
Unable to restrain his need to know if the food warranted the lack of emotion, he flaked off a piece of salmon and settled it on his tongue. The texture was perfect—not tough or chewy. A mix of mild fish flavor, salt, black pepper, and freshly chopped dill spread over his taste buds. It tasted exactly the way it had the thousands of times he’d prepared it.
Could the rice be the problem?
He slid the fork under the grains, certain he had the right proportion of spinach to rice. Leaning over the plate, he lifted the bite to his mouth. The rice was firm but not crunchy, the spinach and seasonings adding enough hint of flavor to complement the earthy tone of the dish.
Taking a peek at his dining partner, he finished chewing. He’d no more than swallowed when she shuddered and closed her eyes. They opened again, staring straight at him with a slightly glassy look as she pulled in a shaky breath.
Please don’t tell me she’s allergic to—
“Oh my.” She fanned her fingers at her face as she squirmed in her seat.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Facebook Page!

I finally got around to creating my author Facebook page! If you're so inclined, give it a like. :)

I've also been busy formatting Love Served Hot. This techno-challenged nerd taught herself how to create hyperlinks today! Release Day is getting closer!!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cover Reveal!!! And Updates

The break I've been taking from blogging is paying off! I'm almost ready to release Love Served Hot, the first book in the Love on the Menu series! I'll post as soon as it's available!!!

Being a tiny bit of a perfectionist, I want to be sure my story is the best I can make it before I take the leap into self-publishing. So, I've been immersed in edits and working with my fabulous cover artist and Sextet sister, Bethany Michaels at Dragonfly Press Design, to create a book my readers will love. Here's a peek at the cover and the blurb!
As acting director of her uncle’s retirement village, Lilith Montgomery must hire a chef for the new restaurant. She’s interviewed several candidates, but instantly decides on the sexy Irishman whose culinary creations give her foodgasms. Her rotten luck with relationships makes her determined to resist her attraction to him, even if it means sneaking into the kitchen at night for a taste of his delectable entrées.
Flynn Hastings is finally getting his life back on track after a year of anger and guilt over his sister’s death. He’s returned home to be near his family and has found the perfect job—with one small problem. His boss makes him want to cook in more than the kitchen. Putting aside his hard and fast rule about mixing business with pleasure, he sets his sights on Lilith, hoping their budding friendship turns out to be more than a flash in the pan.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Queries & Submissions

Your book is finished, edited, and polished to a shine. You've written your synopsis and created a snappy tagline and intriguing blurbs. The time to query and/or submit has arrived!

A query letter is business correspondence. If you expect to be treated like a professional, you must present yourself as a professional. You don't remember how to write a business letter? Chicago Manual of Style and numerous other sources can help you with formatting, so I won't be giving a lesson on that. A little online research will yield hundreds of examples of query letters. Instead, here are some basic rules to follow for Queries and Submissions.

1) Identify your recipient(s). Have you researched this editor or agent to be sure he/she is accepting queries/submissions in your genre? Is the person male or female? Business greetings should consist of Mr., Miss, Mrs., Ms., etc. and a last name unless you are personally acquainted.

2) Send individual personalized emails to each recipient. Do NOT send a single mass query to multiple agents and/or editors. If you can't be bothered to address each one individually, why shouldn't they lump you in the junk mail?

3) Most editors and agents ask for specific information to be included in a query. Go to his/her website for details and instructions. Not following directions will often earn you an unopened, unanswered, deleted email. Their spam filters are set to recognize approved subject lines in many cases. Take a few minutes to research their query/submission guidelines.

4) Include your synopsis, sample chapters, and/or full manuscript ONLY if instructed to do so and in the manner indicated in the query/submission guidelines--in the body of the email or as attachments. NEVER instruct the person you're querying to go to your website/blog to read your material. Make a good first impression by following directions.

5) If the guidelines seem unclear, contact the editor or agent and ask for clarification. Don't guess.

6) Always thank the person for their time and consideration. A query is a job interview. Be polite.

7) Write the letter under your legal name. If you write under a pseudonym, include that name in your biography. You can also include a link to your website and/or blog. Do not write a query as one of your characters.

8) The closing should be professional--sincerely, regards, etc. No smiley faces/emoticons, **hugs**, or other casual quips. See the second paragraph above about being professional.

9) Be sure to include your contact information after your signature line.

10) Most editors and agents have a minimum response time for queries and submissions on their websites. Allow at least the minimum time before sending a follow-up email.

11) Check the query/submission guidelines about auto-response emails and whether rejections receive an email or no response. Knowing what to expect will make the waiting more bearable.

12) If you receive a rejection, do NOT send a nasty, condescending, snarky, etc. email. The query/submission process is a lot like buying a car or hiring a babysitter. Not every model/candidate will meet everyone's needs. Publishing is a small world, and no one wants to work with a difficult author.

13) Revise your query letter and/or rework your blurbs if you've gotten numerous rejections. Sometimes, a little change can make a big difference.

14) Keep writing while you're playing the waiting game. More writing means more practice and more material.

15) In case I haven't made a couple points clear, be professional and follow directions!

This post wraps up a year of writing craft topics. I'll be taking a few weeks' break to work on the finishing touches of my first self-published novel, Love Served Hot, and to compile/format my Writing Tip Wednesday blog into a writers' handbook for self-publication before I start on career and industry. Stay tuned for release dates!

Until next time, Happy Writing!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Easy Recipe Time!

Although I wasn't crazy about this past summer's cooler temperatures and wetter-than-normal conditions, a few of my garden crops loved it! I am the proud owner of two bushels of sweet potatoes, about half of which are nearly as big as my head. Time to get creative!

Sweet Potato Hash Browns

1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, cut into 1 teaspoon pats
1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Place half the butter in a large iron skillet. Top with grated sweet potato and sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice. Top with remaining butter. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Cut hash browns into wedges and turn to brown the other side. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Serve as a vegetable side dish or dessert!

Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Blurbs and Taglines

Your book is written. You've gone through numerous rounds of self-editing and sent it off to your critique partner(s), editor(s) and/or beta reader(s). While the story is still fresh in your mind, you have the perfect opportunity to write Blurbs and Taglines. Whether you plan to self-publish or submit to an editor or agent, you'll need to create a teaser to help sell your book.

Blurb (sometimes called logline) - a short description used for promotional purposes, including on the cover of a book. It's designed to hook the reader's interest in 25 to 150 words. I've seen the blurb referred to as a "short synopsis," but that's a misnomer since a synopsis reveals the ending. Let's stick with blurb.

Tagline - a short phrase or sentence used to spark interest in a book--usually less than 10 words--and also used in promotion and on the book cover. It's often a clever play on words or familiar phrases. A tagline serves a similar purpose to the marketing tool called "branding."

Are blurbs and taglines reminiscent of the dreaded synopsis? They can be--if they don't come easy to you. As with most aspects of writing, the more you practice, the better your skills.

Here's the method I use, in addition to getting feedback from my critique partners--including Cheryl Brooks, who is The Blurb Queen:

Make a list of themes, settings, important issues, words related to the plot, etc. This should include the characters' professions if they play a role in the story. In the case of my new series, Love on the Menu, I'm adding lots of food- and cooking-related words that fit the book's theme. Use your synopsis or timeline to help pinpoint the most important points of the story.
Word list for my upcoming release, Love Served Hot - nutritionist/dietician, chef, Irish, food, cooking, retirement village, eccentric retirees, love, death, healing, family, friendship, trust, foodgasms, eating, community, heat, kitchen, spice, entree, culinary, recipe

Choose your poison. Do you write long? Focus on the 150-word blurb first and then pare down your word count to 50 and 25. If you tend to add layering to your writing after a first draft, start with the shorter blurbs and add descriptive details. Or begin with the tagline, the shortest of them all.

From my list of words for Love Served Hot, I've created a tagline that plays on the well-known saying, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." The roles are reversed in my story, so my tagline will be "The way to a woman's heart..." This should trigger the original saying in the reader's mind and imply that food plays an important part in the story, even if it's only at a subconscious level.

My 25-word blurb is bare bones and doesn't mention character names. Here's my rough draft:
"Running a retirement village is far more exciting when the new chef’s creations give the acting director foodgasms, but he’d rather serve them up himself."
It needs a bit more punch, though, so I've tweak it a few words at a time until I created something I think will make readers want to buy the book.
"The hot new Irish chef’s delectable creations may give the lovely acting retirement village director foodgasms, but he would much rather serve them up personally." or
"The hot new Irish chef's delectable creations may give the acting director of a retirement village foodgasms, but he would rather serve them up personally."
Which one do you prefer?

I repeat this process for 50-word blurb, using more information about the characters and the story. Here's the rough draft for the 50-word blurb:
"Not only has Lilith Montgomery hired a chef who gives her foodgasms, he’s tall, hot, and Irish. Keeping the heat in the kitchen is going to be a problem. Falling head over stockpot for his boss wasn’t in the plan, but Flynn Hastings experiments with a recipe for love anyway."
After a few tweaks, the final version looks like this:
"Lilith Montgomery has hired a hot Irish chef whose culinary creations give her foodgasms. Keeping the heat in the kitchen is going to be tough. Falling head over stockpot for his new boss wasn’t part of his plan, but Flynn Hastings finds himself experimenting with a new recipe for love."

For the 150-word blurb, which will be one of my selling tools at online book retailers, I add even more details. My rough draft is 157 words.
"As acting director of her uncle’s retirement village, Lilith Montgomery must hire a chef to run the new restaurant. When she’s left with no other choice, she offers the job to an Irishman whose culinary creations give her foodgasms. Her past experiences with relationships make her determined to resist her attraction to him, even if it means sneaking into the kitchen at night for a taste of his delectable entrées.
Flynn Hastings is finally getting his life back on track after a long year of anger and guilt over his sister’s death. He’s back home near his family and has found the perfect job—with one small problem. His boss makes him want to cook in more than the kitchen. Putting aside his hard and fast rule about mixing business with pleasure, he sets his sights on Lilith. With luck and a lot of patience, their budding friendship will become more than a flash in the pan."
With some tightening and tweaking, I'll bring the count down to 150 words and use more concise wording. Did you notice any repeat words, awkward wording, unnecessary words? How would you change it?

With feedback from The Blurb Queen, I have my final version. And it's exactly 150 words! "As acting director of her uncle’s retirement village, Lilith Montgomery must hire a chef for the new restaurant. She’s interviewed several candidates, but instantly decides on the sexy Irishman whose culinary creations give her foodgasms. Her rotten luck with relationships makes her determined to resist her attraction to him, even if it means sneaking into the kitchen at night for a taste of his delectable entrées.
Flynn Hastings is finally getting his life back on track after a year of anger and guilt over his sister’s death. He’s returned home to be near his family and has found the perfect job—with one small problem. His boss makes him want to cook in more than the kitchen. Putting aside his hard and fast rule about mixing business with pleasure, he sets his sights on Lilith, hoping their budding friendship turns out to be more than a flash in the pan."
Did you notice those stronger descriptions? That sense of urgency grabs the reader's interest, hopefully resulting in the sale of a book.

If you're promoting a romance involving food, be sure the blurb reflects that. A romantic suspense should have hints at the danger the characters face. Remember, your blurbs and tagline should draw interest from your target readers. Make each word count, because you only have a few seconds before they click "buy" or scroll to the next book!

Next week, we'll talk about Queries & Submissions!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Self-Editing

Whether you wait until The End or make changes as you go, every manuscript needs Self-Editing. Even the most-experienced writer can make unintentional mistakes, like leaving out a word or referring to a character by the wrong name. So, when you're story is finished, set it aside for a couple days (or weeks) to lose some familiarity and then open it again to tackle self-edits.

As always, use the method that works best for you! Do you prefer fixing all problems in order on the first read-through? Would you rather focus on one area at a time--content before grammar and punctuation? If you know your weakest parts of writing craft, you might try looking at each of those issues separately. Learning to correct your errors will go a long way in improving your skills.

The first thing I look at when I'm ready to dive into the editing cave is formatting. Are my margins and indentations okay? How about all the other areas I covered in my standard manuscript formatting post? These are usually the most obvious and can set the (good or bad) tone for the editor, agent, beta reader, critique partner, contest judge, etc.

Depending on the length of the story, I might divide my editing process into more than one area. My content edits start with the plot, but I also include POV choice, internal dialogue, backstory vs. exposition, characterization, opening hook, GMC, pacing, logic lapses, choreography, timelines, character arc, author intrusion, research, independent body parts, setting, world building, creating sexual tension, internal and external conflicts, and foreshadowing in that first review. I add to the notes I've compiled if I'm writing a series.

Next, I focus on more basic craft--active vs. passive, POV, headhopping vs. transitions, POV glitches, showing vs. telling, repeat words, crutch words, misplaced modifiers, varying sentence structure, voice,and using the senses.

Since grammar and punctuation tend to be my strengths, I save those for last, ending my editing on a positive note. I check my g&p list--dialogue punctuation, comma splices, adverbs, adjectives, contractions, fragments, homophones, numbers in writing, using pronouns, punctuation rules, hyphens, and comma usage 1, 2, and 3.

Then again, sometimes I forge headfirst into all of it. There is NO right way! Just get that story ready for your critique partner(s) and/or beta reader(s). I'll talk more about critiquing and beta reading when I move on to career topics in the near future.

No matter what avenue you choose for publication (self-publishing or submitting to an editor or agent), you need to complete at least one more step. Identify the genre. You may also have to write a synopsis. I know what you're thinking--that if you self-pub, you get out of that particular task.

Guess what.

You still need Blurbs and Taglines, which can be just as challenging. We'll delve into those next week!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing--a subtle hint, warning, or indication that a specific event will occur in the future.

Although foreshadowing is often used in romantic suspense and mystery, it has its place in other genres as well. By giving hints about a future event in the story, you can build tension and anticipation. But be careful about obvious clues. If the reader already knows what's going to happen, she has no incentive to continue reading.

Red herrings can be effective under some circumstances, but don't neglect hints at the truth. Misleading the reader can backfire.

Also be sure to follow through when using foreshadowing. Implying someone in the book will die and not wrapping up that loose end creates the perfect opportunity for a reviewer/reader to criticize your story.

What makes effective foreshadowing?

Subtly is key. By using two or three almost invisible suggestions, the event can be planted in the reader's subconscious mind. The hints may or may not connect the dots. Sometimes, the reader will ask, "How did I not see that coming?". Other times, that gut feeling kicks in. The reader then gets that I-knew-it-was-going-to-happen satisfaction of correctly guessing the outcome.

Animals are often more intuitive about natural disturbances than humans. If a tornado will hit your small Midwestern town, the main character's cat might act strangely from the shifts in atmospheric pressure. I've often seen sudden behavior changes in my cats when a high- or low-pressure system starts moving into the area. Use these survival instincts to put careful suggestions into the reader's mind.

Use a dog's well-developed senses of smell, hearing, and sight to hint at something foreboding. While the hero thinks the whining and pacing means his dog simply needs to go out, the animal might actually know the villain is lurking outside or that Timmy fell in the well. Sorry, I couldn't resist a little Lassie humor! :)

A serious discussion can foreshadow the death of an important role model. Even an off-hand comment can come back to haunt your characters. Does the heroine always take the stairs? Perhaps, the reason isn't only because she prefers the exercise. Could she have a fear of elevators? That bit of information could lead to her getting stuck in the contraption with her hunky sworn enemy.

Avoid adding too many indications, especially strong ones, and giving away everything. Go for the "Aha!" moment instead of the predictable plot.

Next up--Self-Editing!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Food and Romance

Check out this great article on food and romance by Susan Vaughn at Savvy Authors. I even got a couple mentions since I answered her call for input!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Internal & External Conflicts

I considered posting about character-driven vs. plot-driven stories, but romance technically has to be a combination. The happily-ever-after component is plot-driven, in that it's the end goal. How the characters arrive at their HEA is mostly character-driven. The plot requires external conflicts to help move the story forward, while internal conflicts drive the characters toward resolution.

What are external conflicts?

External conflicts are outside influences that can directly or indirectly affect the hero/heroine's path toward the goal and are often beyond the character's control. They force the characters to take action. Although they can cause/influence internal conflicts, external conflicts are separate from the romance itself.
Examples:
A storm causes a tree to fall on the hero's house.
A new city ordinance prohibits the heroine from having camels on her property.
A huge conglomerate is buying up all the available real estate in the heroine's neighborhood to build a mall.

What are internal conflicts?

Internal conflicts provide the character with room to grow and struggle against himself. They force the characters to make decisions about the relationships in their lives--with self and others.
Examples:
Can the hero trust the woman who might've stolen an Mayan artifact from his collection?
Will the heroine serve as a surrogate for her best friend, even though they suspect the friend's husband is cheating on her?
Does getting married mean the hero has to give up being a cop?

By using a combination of internal and external conflicts, you can create a well-balanced story with a strong plot and character arcs through GMC.

I love the way the elements of writing are all connected. :)

Next week, we'll take a look at Foreshadowing!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Apple (Pie) Season is Here!

My husband picked half a bushel of apples yesterday. Guess what that means...

I spent the afternoon making two yummy apple pies. Every one I bake reminds me of my wonderful late mother-in-law. When I was a few months pregnant with my daughter, I craved apples. Yeah, I know. Weird. Not pickles and ice cream. Apple pie. My husband happened to mention it to his mom, and she made an apple pie for me. :) Best mother-in-law ever!

So, in memory of that amazing lady, I'm sharing my apple pie recipe.


Never Fail Pie Crust

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups vegetable shortening
1 egg, well beaten
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons water

Combine flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in shortening until crumbly. Combine egg, vinegar, and water. Add to flour mixture and stir only until all flour is moistened. Shape into a ball. Cover or wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Divide dough into four parts. Roll between waxed paper to desired diameter. Removing 1 sheet of waxed paper at a time, line pie plate with crust. Fill. Repeat with another 1/4 of the dough. Cover filling, trim crust to 1/2-inch overhang. Crimp closed and cut steam slits in top. Makes 2 double-crust pies.

Apple Pie Filling

6-8 cups baking apples (depends on pie plate size), peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, cut into 3 equal pieces

Combine apples, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice in a large bowl and mix well. Pour into pie crust. Dot with butter and add top crust. Cut steam slits. Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes. Place foil over crimped edges of crust after 35 minutes to avoid over-browning. Cool completely before storing. Eat while warm (or cool)!

Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday---Writing a Series

I've learned a lot about Writing a Series over the last couple years, not the least of which is my writer brain tends to think in continuing/connected storylines. Almost every book tries to pull me into a multiple-secondary-characters-must-have-his/her-story-told vortex of never-ending WIPs. While they're always single titles, they may or may not have an ongoing subplot. This can cause major problems for a plantser like me if I don't follow a few basic guidelines. I'd also use these same tips if I ever wrote a serial.

1) Decide on a record-keeping method. Some options are Scrivener, OneNote, spreadsheets, handwritten notebooks or paper and file folders, Word documents with computer files. I prefer paper and file folders so I can have my manuscript open and look at my notes at the same time. Do what works best for you!

2) I keep a running list of character first and last names so I don't accidentally use the same name twice in a series. Even similar names can sometimes confuse a reader.

3) At some point, most main and secondary characters need profiles. The amount of information I include depends on the level of participation in the current story. For main characters, I list hair and eye color, height and weight, distinctive characteristics, age, occupation, anything that may be mentioned more than once (nickname, youngest of five siblings, etc.). Secondary characters usually have personality quirks or other traits that make them unique (uses a cane, has an accent, etc.).

4) If secondary characters in book 1 will be the main characters in book 2, note how they know each other or any info that might be important in book 2. If you're like me, you can't depend entirely on memory for those details. Readers will notice mistakes and inconsistencies!

5) Jot down ideas, plot points, etc. for future books in the series as they arise. It won't make you a plotter if you aren't one. It will, however, keep you from having to remember that great idea you had two weeks or months ago. Trust me on this!

6) Use a timeline to keep time frames and dates straight. Someone WILL notice if the heroine from book 1 is eight months pregnant in the opening scene of book 2 four months after conception.

7) Think about common themes in the stories to come up with a series name, whether it's location, family name, dragons, etc. Brainstorm a list of related words and work from there. My current series involves romance, food, and restaurants, so Love on the Menu fits great to tie all the books together.

8) Use similar titles or types of titles for books in the same series to help connect them. Does each title in the series have a common word? Do they contain related words or themes? Are they similar in length?

Whether you're a plotter who creates a series bible before you begin writing or a pantser/plantser who notes as you go or when you're finished writing the book, consider a method of organization. The time you save searching for one small detail is time you can spend writing!

Let's look at the differences between Internal and External Conflicts next week!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Greek Night--Spanakopita recipe!

I tried out a new recipe tonight--Spanakopita! Yum!!! It's a bit like Greek lasagna. :)

Spanakopita

2 cups feta cheese, crumbled
2 cups lowfat cottage cheese
4 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
couple dashes of black pepper
1 cup onions, chopped
8 cups fresh spinach, chopped (about 8-10 ounces)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 lb. package phyllo dough (puff pastry can be substituted)
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Mix cheeses, eggs, flour, basil, oregano, and pepper in a large bowl. Saute onions in 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until translucent. Reduce heat to low and add spinach. Cook and stir until spinach is fully wilted, about 5 minutes. Add to cheese mixture and mix well.

For phyllo dough--Brush the bottom and sides of a 13"x9" pan or dish with melted butter. Add 8 sheets of phyllo dough, buttering between each layer. Dough will go up the sides of the dish. Spread on half the cheese/spinach mixture. Repeat phyllo layer with 8 more sheets and melted butter. Spread on remaining filling. Top with 8 more sheets of phyllo and butter, folding in corners and buttering the top.

For puff pastry--Brush the bottom and sides of a 10"x6" deep casserole dish with melted butter. Add two-thirds of a sheet of puff pastry. Spread on half the cheese/spinach mixture. Repeat puff pastry layer with another two-thirds sheet and melted butter. Spread on remaining filling. Top with last two-thirds sheet of puff pastry, folding in corners and buttering the top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand ten minutes before serving. Makes about 8 servings.

Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Website Look & Inside Info!

In anticipation of the November release of Love Served Hot, the first book in the Love on the Menu series, I've completely overhauled my website. What do you think of the new look???

Yes, you heard it here first! Book 1 of my foodie series will be out in November!!!

After much thought and number-crunching, I've decided to delve into the self-publishing world. My Sextet sister Bethany Michaels, the brains behind Dragonfly Press Designs, is designing the covers--she does great cover art!--and I'm learning how to format books. Cheryl Brooks, one of my other Sextet sisters, has been answering lots of my newbie questions. I'd be lost without my writer friends!

More updates to come!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Creating Sexual Tension

Sex sells, but sometimes anticipation makes it even better. No matter the level of heat in your story, the reader becomes more invested in the outcome when obstacles stand in the way and challenge the characters' journey to the bedroom (in addition to their happily ever after).

What is sexual tension?

Sexual tension can begin with an immediate attraction or an instant dislike between characters. It can build over time for friends who are trying to decide if they want to take their relationship to a new level. Maybe your couple has already had sex, but some conflict prevents them from allowing the connection to deepen. Characters with a failing marriage could be trying to move on alone, only to discover they're still in love. Teasing creates anticipation for a long-awaited kiss or lovemaking session and hope that the characters will find their way to each other. However, sexual tension doesn't always have to lead to sex. A word of warning, though--dragging out the "foreplay" too long can result in an annoyed reader.

What are some ways to create sexual tension?

A casual touch, whether on purpose or accidental, will trigger a response. Is it physical--increased pulse, sudden feverishness, other more sexual responses? Is it emotional--longing, panic, frustration? Or is it both? Use the senses to convey those reactions by showing rather than telling.

Use dialogue to ramp up the tension. Is the hero angry at the heroine for some reason related to the conflict? Maybe he lets something slip about his feelings. Does he catch himself in time to cover his admission? Or does he reveal just enough to get the heroine wondering what he meant to say? People tend to lose control of their mouths when they lose their tempers. Dialogue can also be used in place of physical actions. An outspoken heroine might whisper her naughty plans for the hero in his ear. If they're in a setting where neither can act on her words, their anticipation grows.

Danger and emergency situations can bring out hidden emotions and a "lapse of good judgment" that can change those sparks to a flame. That urgency makes for less gray-area thought since adrenaline forces quick decisions.

Interruptions are a useful tool in creating sexual tension. Think about how sympathetic you'd feel if the hero and heroine are finally going to admit their love to each other and her ex-husband walks into the room. Doubts set in, raising the conflict and stakes.

Remember to use GMC to help guide your pacing and develop a relationship worth cheering for!

Next week's WTW post will cover Writing a Series. See you then!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Worldbuilding

Many writers hear the term Worldbuilding and immediately dismiss the chance to learn about it because they don't write sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, etc. Although creating a believable world that doesn't actually exist (that we know of) is vital for those genres, every story requires some level of setting that goes beyond what we see.

Cheryl Brooks' Cat Star Chronicles books are great examples of worldbuilding. She's written a fictional world in space, with numerous species of humanoid and non-humanoid creatures, each with unique cultures and physical characteristics. Each planet has its own type of society. All the "rules" associated with those characters and worlds help build and support her stories.

The same can apply to vampire-, werewolf-, shifter-, ghost-, demon-related stories. The characters and their communities become part of the setting--part of that unique world. Lynsay Sands' Argeneau vamps don't fit the traditional Dracula mold. With their nano-blood, blood banks, and interaction with "normal" humans, they help form a new world that operates under different conditions.

What about historical and contemporary stories? Do they need Worldbuilding?

Some may disagree, but I believe every story uses worldbuilding to a certain extent. In a historical setting, the writer can use time period and location to define how the hero and heroine interact. The social norms of the setting can easily make the heroine seem like an outspoken, overly independent woman. Family dynamics or a non-traditional occupation in a contemporary book can push the limits of what's socially acceptable in Amish culture or small-town America. Use those challenges to make your reader more invested in the outcome.

The combination of physical setting, characterization, GMC, and character arc create your world, whether it's in present-day Texas, medieval England, or the Klingon Empire. Your readers live in that world while they're reading your stories.

Now comes the tough part--building your world without backstory/information dumps. Instead of using several paragraphs to describe your aliens, shifters, etc., add small bits of description at a time. Compare their features to familiar objects. Use color and size to create an image. Work these details into an active scene for good pacing.
Example: Rumbling snores assaulted my ears as I carried the first crate into the cargo hold. My chief engineer was passed out on the floor near the entrance, forcing me to step over her tail. Gorba's scales seemed more orange than usual and her snout was swollen like an over-sized gourd. Had she tried to drink a band of Norwellian Habiks under the table again? She'd never been able to handle more than half a flagon of the fermented mugfruit they passed off as wine.

You can do the same for physical settings by using the senses as your character passes through an alley or marketplace. Smell can be especially effective at helping draw the reader into the scene. Which is more interesting--a paragraph that describes the buildings or an active scene where the character ducks into the doorway of a gambling den for a moment before moving on to an alley that reeks of rotting garbage?

If you're a plotter, make a list of details you want to include and then add them as needed. If you're a pantser or plantser, be the character and see, hear, smell what he sees, hears, smells as it happens. Keep the action moving, show rather than tell, and use careful exposition to reveal your world.

Next week we'll take a look at Creating Sexual Tension!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Guest Interview!

I'm over at Jennifer Denys' blog today for a guest interview! Learn more about my new foodie series, Love on the Menu, and read an excerpt from Love Served Hot!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Using the Senses

Today's topic ties in with Showing vs. Telling. By Using the Senses, you can avoid those dreaded filter words associated with telling--felt, saw, heard, touched, etc. Since the post on Showing vs. Telling focused on sight, let's take a look at the other senses.

If you close your eyes when you're standing in the woods, what do you hear?
Leaves rustled in the light breeze and the rapid thunk, thunk, thunk of a woodpecker echoed through the trees.
I swatted at the persistent buzzing by my ear. Go away, mosquito!

How about when you're walking down the busy sidewalk of a large city?
A car horn blared somewhere down the block.
The drone of a hundred overlapped conversations created nonsensical garble as I waited to cross the street.

Smells and Tastes can trigger good and bad memories, drawing the reader deeper into the story.
I opened the door to call for Fido, and an acrid odor assaulted me. Not again! Time to haul out the tomato juice.
She followed the familiar scent of cinnamon to the kitchen. What was Mom baking this time? Cinnamon bread? Snickerdoodles?
One bite of the pickle had me leaning over the nearest trashcan to spit out the turpentine-flavored cuke.
A hint of mint cooled her taste buds with the first sip of tea.

The sense of touch can get a little tricky. Be sure to leave out "feel" words!
He skimmed his fingers along her silky skin.
The splintered edges stabbed at her palm, but she didn't let go.
The kitten's downy fur tickled my leg as she curled up next to me in bed.
How would they climb the jagged rocks without gloves?

Although good visuals can help the reader picture the scene in her head, certain smells, tastes, and sounds can evoke strong emotional reactions. Textures often cause pleasure or pain, whether real or sympathetic. Make good use of all the senses!

Next week's tip will be all about Worldbuilding!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Canning Recipe--BBQ Sauce

I've had to focus on my garden a bit more the last month or so. Zucchini and summer squash, corn, green beans, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes... And that means lots of canning and freezing! Here's another requested recipe!

BBQ Sauce

15 lbs. tomatoes, cored and chopped (I use a mix of whatever is ripe--Early Girl, Roma, Cherry, Grape)
2 cups celery, chopped
2 cups onion, chopped
2 cups sweet banana peppers, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon hot sauce (Tabasco or your favorite)
dash of ground red pepper (cayenne)
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and cook over medium heat for 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Run the cooked mixture through a food mill, keeping juice and discarding skins, seeds, etc. Taste for sweetness/spiciness and adjust seasonings. Cook over medium-low heat to desired thickness, stirring often to prevent scorching. For thick sauce, plan on at least 12 hours of cooking time. A Crockpot/slow cooker may be used. Follow manufacturer directions for canning. Makes approximately 4 pints.

Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Voice

After several weeks of grammar and punctuation, I'm ready for a good discussion about one of the less definable elements of writing craft--Voice.

What is Voice? How do I develop it? Can it change from book to book and over time?

Voice adds depth and personality to the story. It sets the tone, whether that tone is humor, suspense, or something else. Think about what makes individual people different from the person standing next to them. Does the stuffy CEO have a deadpan sense of humor? Or maybe she has a knack for telling the unvarnished truth without caring that she might offend someone? Every writer will have his/her own way of writing the same scene based on his knowledge, past experiences, and perceptions.

Voice, through word choices and punctuation, can change the meaning of a sentence, adding uniqueness to an otherwise "flat" scene. To add suspense to a scene, the heroine might creep along an alley rather than walking through it. While you choose "creep," I might choose "slink" instead. For sexual tension, the hero might dangle the heroine's black lace thong from his fingertip for a moment and give her a wicked grin instead of simply removing her panties and dropping them on the floor. Will the panties be a thong or a scrap of lace? A well-placed em-dash can give the right punch to a line as well, showing emphasis where you want it to fall.

By allowing your personality into your writing, you develop your own voice. Not only do word choices and punctuation add to it, sentence structure and word order contribute to that not-the-same-as-everybody-else element as well. This is often influenced by geography and education. Think dialects. A native Bostonian isn't going to speak the same as a Southern lady, and a mechanic probably won't sound like an English professor. An important point to remember--your characters still have to stay true to who they are.

As you write (and live) more, you gain more experience and knowledge--sort of like your very own character arc. Those factors tend to make subtle changes to your voice. Maybe you've shifted from historical romance to paranormals. By putting yourself in new surroundings, you'll adapt your voice to fit the genre, just as most people behave differently in a variety of situations. That growth is a good thing, but be sure to follow through once you've chosen the humorous, serious, reflective, etc. tone for your book.

Although Voice is intangible, it still influences the mood of your writing. Make a list of your strongest personality traits and decide which ones you want to show in your narrative. If you're trying to develop a new voice, define how you intend to convey it. Then write and get feedback. Remember--if writing was easy, everybody would finish a book. :)

Since I'm sitting at my desk smelling the sauce cooking for lasagna, let's delve into Using the Senses to draw in the reader next week!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Another Recipe! German Doll Cookies

At the request of an old friend, I'm posting a recipe for German Doll Cookies. My sister and I spent what seemed like days helping our mom make cookies for Christmas. These are one of my favorites. They're a bit labor intensive, but they taste wonderful!

German Doll Cookies

1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
4 cups flour
6 eggs whites, beaten
extra sugar
ground walnuts

Mix butter, sugar, egg yolks, sour cream, lemon juice, and flour in order. Roll out dough to about 1/4-inch thick on a floured board. Cut with mini gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters (about 2 inches high). Dip unbaked cookie in beaten egg whites, then sugar, then nuts. Bake on greased cookies sheets at 250 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool completely before storing. Cookies will be slightly crisp and flaky. Makes approximately 17 dozen.

Here's a scale photo of the cookie cutters I use. They were part of my grandmother's huge collection. She had over a thousand cookie cutters!
I'd hoped to include a picture of the cookies, but no search results came back for the recipe name. They must have a German name... Imagine a small sugar cookie with light nut coating and a shiny, sugary finish!

Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Comma Usage Part 3

Commas demand a lot of attention, don't they? I'm wrapping up this topic today with Comma Usage Part 3!

If you missed Part 1 and Part 2, be sure to check them out!

1) Use commas with "not" phrases.
Examples:
She wanted brownies for her birthday, not chocolate cake.
Not to be outdone, the other peacock fanned its tail feathers.
I need an electrician, not a plumber, to install a new circuit breaker.

2) Commas are needed with "the more" and "the less" in longer sentences, but are unnecessary with shorter phrases.
Examples:
The more they tried to repair the paint job, the worse the car looked.
The less time he spent at the arcade, the more time he had for studying.
The better her grades, the more likely she is to earn a scholarship.
The more the merrier.

3) Use commas to set off names of places.
Examples:
She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but now she lives in northern Minnesota.
Have you ever been to the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas?
He accidentally bought a plane ticket to Springfield, Missouri, instead of Springfield, Illinois.

While the combination of all three parts of this series doesn't list all aspects of comma usage, I've covered those used most often in fiction writing. When in doubt, look up the rule. In case you missed the memo, get a copy of your style guide, like Chicago Manual of Style, as a reference. Keep it with your writing materials. Use it!

Next week, let's talk about that sometimes indefinable thing called Voice.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Recipe Time Again! Tomato Soup

I made Tomato Soup today with half a bushel of garden tomatoes, and I'm getting requests for the recipe! Feel free to share!

Tomato Soup

approximately 13 lbs. ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
6 large onions, halved and sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 sweet banana peppers, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
pinch of ground red pepper

Combine tomatoes, onions, celery, and peppers in a large pot. Cook over medium heat about an hour and a half or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Strain the mixture through a food mill, catching the liquid in a pan and discarding the tomato skins, celery, etc. Return to medium heat.

Combine salt, flour, sugar, and ground red pepper. Mix well.

Bring the tomato mixture to a low boil. Gradually add the flour/sugar mixture. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring often.

Seal in sterilized canning jars. Makes about 7 pints.

**Note: I often use a combination of Early Girl, Roma, and Cherry tomatoes, but any flavorful tomato or combo will work!

Besides simply heating for soup, I use tomato soup for chili. Brown 1 lb. ground beef with 1 medium onion, chopped. Add 1 large can kidney beans with liquid, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and 1 quart tomato soup. Cook over medium-low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Comma Usage Part 2

Are you ready for another dose of Comma Usage rules???

Let's dive right in! Here goes...

1) Commas can be used with parenthetical (supplementary/non-essential) elements for slight breaks. Use an em-dash for a stronger break.
Examples:
She bought the thigh-high boots, even though she'd never wear them in public.
Romance heroes are handsome and muscular, for the most part.
The trip wasn't cancelled, in spite of the nasty weather.

2) Use commas with non-restrictive phrases. If a descriptive phrase isn't essential to the sentence's meaning, it's non-restrictive.
Examples:
The boy, with the helmet perched sideways on his head, turned toward the rumbling Harley.
The doe, trailed by her trio of fawns, grazed her way across the yard.

3) Always use commas with dependent clauses that begin sentences, including participial and adverbial phrases.
Examples:
If he saw one more tear, he'd break down and forgive her. (dependent clause)
Without any money, they couldn't rent a room for the night. (dependent clause)
Exhausted from the chase, she ducked into the tangle of briars to catch her breath. (participial phrase)
After hours of waiting, he no longer had any patience. (adverbial phrase)

4) Use commas to separate a listing of two or more adjectives before a noun when they can be connected by "and" and adding commas won't affect the meaning. The order of the adjectives can be reversed and still make sense. Repeated adjectives also need commas.
Examples:
He shoved his fingers into the sticky, gooey dough.
The forecast is calling for a cold, rainy, overcast day.
Many, many people have phobias.

5) Direct addresses require commas. Remember "Let's eat Grandma." vs. "Let's eat, Grandma."???
Examples:
When did you arrive, Aunt Millie?
Miss, please close the door.
You, Mr. Drake, aren't welcome here.

6) Use a comma after an introductory "yes" or "no."
Examples:
Yes, you may sit there.
No, I wasn't expecting you.

In case you missed my other comma-related posts, check out Comma Usage Part 1, Comma Splices and Punctuation for Dialogue.

Next week, I'll tackle more ways to use commas. No, I don't expect you to remember them all!


Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Early Christmas!

Celebrate Christmas a little early with The Sextet Anthologies Volume 5: Mistletoe & Menage! It's 50% off at Siren Publishing through August 28th!
Happy Reading!
Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Comma Usage Part 1

I don't know what I was thinking. Comma Usage? I could spend days talking about the rules--and the exceptions.

How about I make this topic a three-part series? I don't want to be held responsible for anyone's brain overload!

The Golden Rule: Get a copy of Chicago Manual of Style (or whichever style guide you prefer) and keep it handy while you're writing. Yes, I mention this in almost every WTW post, but good writing resources are essential to honing your craft. I'm sure I'll plug CMOS again next week too. :D

Remember, these rules can vary a bit from style to style!

1) Commas should be used with a combination of good punctuation judgment and ease of reading in mind. They can denote pauses, but aren't always necessary. Sometimes, they're used for clarity of meaning. If your critique partner/beta reader asks for clarification, a comma may solve the issue.

2) To use or not use the serial comma? The answer depends on which style you're following. CMOS advocates the use of the serial (Oxford, Harvard) comma when writing a list connected by a conjunction (and, or, etc.). The AP Stylebook says to use a serial comma only when absolutely necessary. My vote goes to "use." It often creates a clear understanding of the intended meaning.
Examples:
Dialogue punctuation can include quotation marks, commas, and periods. OR Dialogue punctuation can include quotation marks, commas and periods.
After the addition of potatoes, carrots, and cabbage, stir the soup and cover with a tight-fitting lid. OR After the addition of potatoes, carrots and cabbage, stir the soup and cover with a tight-fitting lid.
The valedictorian thanked his favorite teachers, his parents, and his uncle. OR The valedictorian thanked his favorite teachers, his parents and his uncle. (This one brings up the clarity issue. Are his parents and his uncle his favorite teachers?)
He bought birthday gifts for his mother, sister, and wife. OR He bought birthday gifts for his mother, sister and wife. (Here's another case of necessary punctuation. Is his mother also his sister and his wife?)

3) Use commas with non-restrictive clauses. If the clause can be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning, it's non-restrictive. This was a major issue in a couple contest entries I judged this year.
Examples:
The shoes were made of cloth, which had been woven by local artisans.
The electrician, who wasn't licensed or bonded, short-circuited the entire house.

4) Use commas with non-restrictive appositives. An appositive is an equivalent explanation to a noun. If this alternative can be removed without confusing the reader about the noun to which it refers, it's non-restrictive.
Examples:
My favorite animated movie, Despicable Me, is available on DVD.
Her sister, Karen, has two children. (This works here if she has only one sister. If she has two or more sisters, the appositive becomes restrictive and commas shouldn't be used.)

Okay, time for a deep breath. We'll cover more on Comma Usage next week!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Hyphens

I'm back from the RWA National Conference in Atlanta and ready to dive into writing again! I attended some very informative workshops, spent time with lots of writing friends, and even had professional photos taken. Check out my new profile pic for one pose! I've posted the others on Facebook.

Hyphens...

They have a lot of uses, and some of those vary from one style to the next. Be consistent. If you use Chicago Manual of Style rules for hyphens, use it for the rest of your punctuation, titles, etc. The same goes for all other style guides. Since I refer to CMOS, I'll be following their rules.

Numbers
Always use a hyphen for multiple-word numbers less than one hundred. Examples: twenty-three, sixty-eight, forty-five.
When a number over one hundred contains one of the above numbers, hyphenate only that part (except when used as a compound modifier/adjective phrase). Examples: three hundred, seven hundred one, nine hundred ninety-seven.

Compound Modifiers/Adjective Phrases
Per CMOS, use a hyphen between words used to describe a noun that follows. The exception--don't use a hyphen when using an -ly adverb with an adjective or participle for description. Examples: four-year-old boy, black-and-red plaid, slow-moving car, mostly dry towel, fully stuffed chicken.

Compound Words
Some compound words are left open, like high school. Others are closed, like heartbeat. Still others are connected by a hyphen, like self-conscious. Check your dictionary if you're unsure since you'll find a lot of exceptions.

Readability/Clarification
Some words need a hyphen to avoid being misread or to give a clear understanding of the meaning. Examples: co-op instead of coop, re-creation instead of recreation, much-needed rest vs. much needed rest.

My best advice is to refer to your style guide if you're unsure about whether or not to use a hyphen. The English language is full of exceptions, and it's always evolving. What's hyphenated today may become a closed compound word in the near future!

See you next week for a summary of Comma Usage!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Punctuation Rules

By the time this blog posts, I'll be at the RWA National Conference!!! So, HELLO from Atlanta!!!

Let's review basic Punctuation Rules. Here's a simple list:

1) Period - Use at the end of sentences and fragments. Examples: Callum cradled his fallen comrade's head in his lap. "My friend. My brother."

2) Question Mark - Use at the end of interrogative sentences and fragments (questions). Example: How could he exact revenge upon his enemies?

3) Exclamation Point (or Mark) - Use at the end of exclamatory sentences and fragments (exclamations). Example: "You will suffer for this!" Callum yelled into the darkening sky.

4) Em-dash - Use at the end of interrupted internal and spoken dialogue. Example: Jane kicked at her captor. "Unhand me, you filthy--" "Beware yer words, fine English lass."

5) Ellipses - Use to show hesitation or trailing off of internal and spoken dialogue. Does he mean to...kill me?

6) Semi-colon - Use to connect two independent clauses that are closing related. Example: Being kidnapped hadn't been in her plans; being forced to marry a stranger was no better.

7) Quotation Marks - Use to enclose spoken dialogue, titles of poems, songs, etc., and emphasized words. Example: "The Raven" is one of her favorite poems.

8) Colon - Use to indicate a list. Example: Here are some types of punctuation: period, question mark, exclamation point, and em-dash.

Yes, I've left off hyphens and commas, but both really deserve their own posts because of their number of uses. In the meantime, crack open your copy of Chicago Manual of Style! You'll find lots of help with punctuation!

Next week, we'll tackle those hyphens!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Using Pronouns

I've been neck-deep in IGO Contest entries for most of the past week, and I had to comment in every one of them about Using Pronouns correctly.

What is a pronoun? A pronoun is a word used as a substitute for a noun or another pronoun.

One of the most common problems I've seen with pronouns is confusion about who the pronoun refers to. If I'm writing a scene with more than one person of the same sex and using "she" for both of them, how does the reader know which "she" I'm talking about?

Here's an example:
***Jan's arms loaded with groceries, she stabbed the doorbell with her elbow.
***The door swung inward, and Grandma peeked through the opening. "Come in, dear! Let me help you carry those things to the kitchen."
***"It's okay. I got 'em." She tightened her grip on heaviest bag.
***"If you're sure." Leading the way to the kitchen, she glanced over her shoulder. "Can you stay for lunch?"
***She shook her head. "Sorry. I wish I could, but George has appointment at the vet in twenty minutes. Rain check?"
***"How about Tuesday?" As one of the bags sagged on the counter, she steadied it, keeping fruits and vegetables from tumbling onto the floor.
***She smiled. "Perfect."

Assuming the action tags are placed with the correct dialogue (which isn't the case with some of the contest entries I've judged), who steadied the sagging bag? Can you easily remember who's saving the produce without going back to the beginning of the scene? Who has the last line of dialogue?

By referring to both women as "she," the person doing the action and speaking becomes more muddled with every line. Imagine an entire three- or four-page scene with only "she" and "her" to guide you after the initial mention of names. Confusing, right?

To clarify who's speaking, let's modify the scene to be more specific.

Revised example:
***Her arms loaded with groceries, Jan stabbed the doorbell with her elbow.
***The door swung inward, and Grandma peeked through the opening. "Come in, dear! Let me help you carry those things to the kitchen."
***"It's okay, Grammy. I got 'em." Jan tightened her grip on heaviest bag.
***"If you're sure." Leading the way to the kitchen, her grandmother glanced over her shoulder. "Can you stay for lunch?"
***Jan shook her head. "Sorry. I wish I could, but George has appointment with the vet in twenty minutes. Rain check?"
***"How about Tuesday?" As one of the bags sagged on the counter, Grandma steadied it, keeping fruits and vegetables from tumbling onto the floor.
***With a smile, Jan set down the last of the groceries. "Perfect."

Although more frequent use of names can seem awkward, it's often necessary to make the scene easier to follow. To keep a reader's interest, avoid confusing her.

Another pronoun issue I want to address is "it." You know, that little pronoun we use all the time without having a noun for it to reflect? While Chicago Manual of Style allows "it" to represent an understood meaning or concept, I prefer not to use that arbitrary "it" in narrative. By saying exactly what you mean, you leave no chance for error on the reader's part. That's my preference, though. I recommend avoiding the use of "it" without a specific noun to new writers to promote tighter, more concise writing. However, like many areas of writing craft, the rules aren't written in stone, and I'm not about to say my way is the only way. :)

Next week, while I'm in Atlanta for RWA's National Conference, let's review basic Punctuation Rules. By then, I should be done judging contest entries and back to writing!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Numbers in Writing

With a graduation party for my niece, a trip to visit my daughter, my husband's aunt's funeral, vacation w/a family reunion thrown in--all in Ohio--and RWA Conference in Atlanta all within an six-week time period, I think I need to take on some more basic topics! Numbers in Writing should fit that description. Because I typically use Chicago Manual of Style as my go-to reference, I'll use their general rules. Most importantly, be consistent throughout the manuscript when you choose your style guide.

Let's keep it simple...

1) In most cases, any numbers less than one hundred should be written in words. Some exceptions--whole hundreds are almost always words. Examples: six, forty-five, eight hundred.

2) In most cases, numbers over one hundred are written as numerals. Some exceptions--whole thousands are usually written as words. Examples: 10,068 flowers, 423,648 people, two thousand, fifty thousand.

3) Years are written in numerals. Examples: 1857, 34BC.

4) Addresses are usually written in numerals and words as you'd address an envelope or business letter. Example: 804 West Main Street.

5) Fractions are written in words. Exception--whole numbers with fractions are usually written as numerals. Examples: one-half, three-quarters, 2 3/4.

6) Apartment and building numbers are usually written in numbers. Examples: Apartment 212, Building 8, apartment 5F.

7) License plates are written in numerals. Examples: 1401WIP, LS357H.

8) Prices are usually written in words for cents and whole dollars. Some exceptions--large amounts can be a mix of words and numerals. Examples: ten cents, five dollars, $480 million, six-million-dollar mansion, $100-million lawsuit.

9) Decades can be written in words or numerals. Note--no apostrophe is used. Examples: the sixties, the 60s, the 1860s.

10) Time should be written in words. Examples: twelve o'clock, seven forty-five, nine thirty, noon, midnight.

11) Never begin a sentence with numerals.

12) When in doubt, look it up!!! And be prepared for LOTS of exceptions!

Off to pack/unpack/hit the road... See you next week for Using Pronouns!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Setting

Less than one week left to enter the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest for unpubbed writers! Trained judges, detailed constructive feedback, and TWO editor final judges in each category! Check out IGO13!!!

Setting is an important element of every book, whether it's as general as the name of the city or town where the story takes place or as specific as the lab where the heroine is working on a vaccine for a rare disease. The question is...How much is too much?

Like your characters' backstory, setting can become an information dump if you're not careful. Do your readers really need to know the precise pattern in the carpet? Is it vital to the plot? Or is it a way to increase your word count?

By dropping in pieces of the setting as they become necessary to the story, you can avoid spending two or three paragraphs describing every building on Main Street or all the furniture in Aunt Emma's parlor. Instead, the blinking neon sign in the hardware store window can flash splotches of red on the bride's disheveled wedding dress. The hero can clamp his hands on his thighs so he doesn't pick at the strings on Aunt Emma's threadbare couch and risk making the whole thing collapse beneath him.

Those details add subtle layers to the scene without intruding on pacing and losing the reader's interest. Characterization can also benefit from the use of instances like the threadbare couch. The hero's feelings for Aunt Emma will show in the care he takes of her belongings, and Aunt Emma's character might be revealed by her inability to part with the items she and her dead husband shared.

Besides location, Setting also gives the reader a sense of time. When the heroine strips off her sweaty T-shirt and cutoffs to jump in the creek, we can be relatively certain the season isn't winter and that we're in a contemporary setting. Shadows creeping into the alley suggests dusk is falling. Horses' hooves clip-clopping on the cobblestone street almost always defines the story as historical. Use well-placed descriptions to help identify the time period and season, whether it's in the past, present, or future, winter, spring, summer, or fall.

Worldbuilding for sci-fi, fantasy, futuristic, steampunk, etc. also falls under Setting. Rather than trudging along with an opening chapter that tells the reader all about the rules of your world, add small components as your characters encounter them. Let your setting grow in the reader's mind with the story. Build it a block at a time to create a memorable place.

Writing craft is a web of interconnecting parts. As I explore one aspect, another piece overlaps, which overlaps with yet more parts. Use what you know and learn to help improve other areas, and you continue to grow as a writer. I am. :)

Up next--Numbers in Writing.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Another Retro Release!

The Sextet Anthologies Volume 4: Entanglements is on retro release through July 23rd! Get the e-book for 50% off at Siren Publishing!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Opportunity for Unpubbed Romance Writers!

The entry deadline for the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest is quickly approaching! We offer trained first-round judges, detailed constructive feedback on our four-page score sheets, and TWO acquiring editor final judges in each category!!! Enter your opening chapters and synopsis (up to 55 pages total) by July 1st! Click on the link for complete rules and entry form!

Back to the writing cave! :)

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Independent Body Parts

Only two weeks left to enter the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest for unpubbed writers! Trained judges, detailed constructive feedback, and TWO editor final judges in each category! Check out IGO13!!!

Independent Body Parts...This topic always reminds me of the comedy/horror film Idle Hands. The main character's right hand has a murderous mind of its own.

Are you allowing your characters' body parts to act independently?

Let's look at this issue from the POV character's perspective first.
When choosing a Point-of-View, we show the story/scene through that character's senses. We write what she sees, not that she saw it. Remember Showing vs. Telling? If she hears birds singing, we describe what she heard (Song sparrows warbled a lively tune outside her window.) rather than telling (She heard birds singing outside her window.).

The same is true of her actions. As the writer, you're the POV character. She reached for the letter opener. Not--Her fingers moved toward the letter opener. Her fingers become independent from the rest of her body by giving them the action.

For the non-POV characters, the rule applies differently.
If the POV character is watching someone else's action, you can use body parts. Her fingers closed around the letter opener. Your POV character is describing what he's seeing. Remember to avoid filter words like watched, saw, heard, etc. that tell instead of show. "He watched her fingers close around the letter opener" distances the reader from the characters.

A comparison--Think about which version draws you closer to the POV character and into the story.
Version #1
***Jane paced to the long table, careful not to look directly at her target. Feigning a polite smile, she tried for her friendliest tone. "Are you finished eating, Laird Callum?"
***"Aye, Lady Jane. 'Twas a hearty stew." His words were likely as close to a thank you as she'd get from her warden.
***The tiny key still rested on the bench next to him, the same place she'd spotted it when she'd delivered his supper. She only had to slip it into her skirt pocket as she gathered the remains of his evening meal.
***Lifting the bread board, she tipped it ever so slightly, sending the knife clattering to the floor beneath his seat. "Oh, dear! Forgive my clumsiness!"
***Intent on her plan, she set her load on the bench to retrieve not only the knife but her chance for escape. The key was scant inches from her possession. She reached for it.
***He grunted and turned toward her, his wide palm covering her target a moment before she could grab it. "Dunna take me for a fool, lass. A woman who sends a seductive smile to her captor is always up ta no good."

Version #2
***Jane's feet carried her to the long table as she carefully avoided looking at her target. Her lips curved upward and she tried for her friendliest tone. "Are you finished eating, Laird Callum?"
***"Aye, Lady Jane. 'Twas a hearty stew." His words were likely as close to a thank you as she'd get from her warden.
***The tiny key still rested on the bench next to him, the same place her eyes had spotted it when she'd delivered his supper. Her hand only had to slip it into her skirt pocket as she gathered the remains of his evening meal.
***Lifting the bread board, she tipped it ever so slightly, sending the knife clattering to the floor beneath his seat. "Oh, dear! Forgive my clumsiness!"
***Intent on her plan, she set her load on the bench to retrieve not only the knife but her chance for escape. The key was scant inches from her possession. Her fingers reached for it.
***He grunted and turned toward her, his wide palm covering her target a moment before she could grab it. "Dunna take me for a fool, lass. A woman who sends a seductive smile to her captor is always up ta no good."

Did you catch all five instances of independent body parts in the second version? By adding her feet, lips, eyes, hand, and fingers as being active by themselves, I changed from third-person to omniscient POV. I was no longer showing the story.

POV covers a lot of territory, doesn't it?

Next week, we'll look at Setting!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!