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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writers' Block

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! A writing career consists of much more than writing stories. Be prepared. Be educated. Make well-informed decisions. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.

What happens when an author’s creativity slows to a tickle or stops altogether? Besides PANIC, Writer’s Block is the most common term for the condition. What are the causes? What’s the cure?

Lots of issues can lead to writer’s block, but one of the most frequent causes is burnout. Authors tend to write every day, usually eight or more hours a day and close to three hundred sixty-five days a year. A few days away can recharge the brain and allow the mind to focus on something else. Writing inspiration often comes from observing—people, nature, etc. Think of the time spent on “vacation” as research.

Stress is another major factor in abandonment by the muse. Unfortunately, it’s often a fact of life—but exercise can combat the effects of stress, leading to a relaxed mind and free-flowing thoughts. Diet, which may be affected by stress, can also affect mood and health, which in turn can cause stress. Break the cycle. Physical wellbeing can improve the state of the mind. Since writers tend to lead sedentary lives, proper diet and exercise can make a substantial difference in reducing writer’s block as well improving stress levels and general health.

Lack of sleep and some medications can also affect the ability to focus on a story. Note taking and in-depth plotting can be helpful aids in dealing with medication-related concentration problems. Better sleep habits or daily naps may make a difference with sleep deprivation and/or insomnia-related writing issues.

Possibly the most frustrating of all causes is the story itself. Oftentimes, the author’s subconscious mind notices problems with the story before the author does. Logic lapses, plot issues, and inconsistent characters aren’t always immediately apparent. Does the story start in the right place? Is each scene written in the most effective POV? Setting aside the manuscript for several days reduces familiarity, and mistakes are more easily spotted on a read-through. A critique partner or beta reader can also help in these instances. Fix the issues, and the story will likely begin flowing again.

Lack of confidence is another creativity killer. Some writers need to complete multiple drafts of a single manuscript before it’s ready for editing. Others edit as they go. No matter the process, writing should be as enjoyable as it is hard. Perfection isn’t the immediate goal. A finished manuscript comes first. Edits and feedback follow, to improve the story and/or the craft.

Take a deep breath, give the muse a boot in the behind, and WRITE!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Bellann Summer

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! This week's guest is Bellann Summer. Besides sharing a peek at her upcoming release, she's agreed to an interview and is giving away a copy of Tyler's Transformation to one lucky commenter who tells us what her favorite horse is! Release day is Thursday, May 29!!!

Blurb:Tyler Hayward let his family and his driving need to succeed push him to the breaking point. When an accident threatens to take everything away, it’s up to a big kinky cowboy named Graham Conner to show him there is more to life than baseball.

Buy Link: https://www.bookstrand.com/tylers-transformation

Interview!
Me: What inspired you to write your first book?
Bellann: There were many factors. It was at a time when I was at loose ends in my life. I heard a song on the radio that said, “Do what you want to do. Just let the words fall out. Say what you want to say…” It talked about being brave. I thought that maybe it was time for me to try.

Me: Do you see writing as a career?
Bellann: I believe so. I hope so.

Me: This book is the first in a new series. Do you prefer to write single title or series? Why?
Bellann: I prefer to write series. I find that when I am writing a new book, other characters jump up and down, waving their hands in the air screaming, “Tell my story, tell my story!”

Me: Give us some insight into your main character. What makes him/her special?
Bellann: My main character in Tyler’s Transformation is Tyler, the guy that everyone hated and who betrayed Tony in my Rescue for Hire series. Tyler is a professional baseball player. He has been playing ball since he was three years old. His family, coaches, agent and team have pushed him to not only immerse himself in baseball, but uphold a certain image. This does not include having a boyfriend.
He buckled under pressure and betrayed his lover Tony in a horrible way. Now he has had enough and finally stands up for himself. Only five minutes later, his whole world comes crashing down. He is faced with not only never playing baseball again, but being permanently disfigured.
The book is his journey to make a life he can truly live in. Of course he finds a big, hunky, cowboy that is quite kinky to help him. I had so much fun having Graham blow Tyler’s mind in the bedroom. Over and over again.

Me: Is there a message in your novel you hope to convey to your readers?
Bellann: I wanted to remind everyone that we all have done something that we knew was wrong and did it anyway. Also, when we decide to dislike someone because of the way they act, sometimes we need to remember there are two sides to every story.

Me: I love a good conflict. What draws your main characters to each other and keeps them apart?
Bellann: Chemistry drew them together right away. Then they became a team to face some terrible challenges. As Tyler fell deeper in love with Graham, he became worried that Graham would find out what he had done to Tony. The secret began growing into a bigger problem the longer Tyler kept it.

Me: How did you come up with the title?
Bellann: I finished the book and had no title. Then I realized that from the beginning to the end Tyler had transformed and grew into a different person. Hence, Tyler’s Transformation.

Me: What’s your favorite sub-genre (contemporary, sci-fi, etc.) to write? To read?
Bellann: To read I like paranormal and BDSM. To write I like to include action.

Me: I usually get plot ideas in the shower and while driving. When/where does inspiration strike you?
Bellann: Since I have started writing, I have not had a peaceful shower. The minute the water starts, the story starts telling itself. If I don’t hurry and get to the computer I forget all of the great dialog that just flowed through my mind.

Me: What new stories are you working on?
Bellann: Tyler’s Transformation is book 1 of The Men of the Crazy Angle Ranch series. I am currently working on book 4 and hope to have it submitted to Siren soon. Book 5 is going to be about the veterinarian of the ranch. I’m not sure if that’s the last one of the series or not. The characters haven’t told me yet.

Bio:
Bellann Summer lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband and children surrounded by lakes and woods. In the summer Bellann enjoys fishing, camping, gardening and growing flowers. Autumn is spent out in the woods exploring the beautiful colors and nature at its finest. In the winter there is ice fishing, snowmobiling and sitting in front of the wood fireplace. She has always loved to read and any free time is spent with a book in her hand. When major life changes occurred, she decided to try writing what she liked to read. And it worked.

Links:
Website: http://authorbellann.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bellann.summer
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J2GL7YG

Remember to comment about your favorite horse for a chance to win a copy of Tyler's Transformation! Enter by midnight EDT on Wednesday, May 28!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Reference Materials

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! A writing career consists of much more than writing stories. Be prepared. Be educated. Make well-informed decisions. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.

An author’s library should not only consist of books in her genre, but Reference Materials to help with creating stories and preparing them for submission and/or publication. The following list contains my go-to craft and research books, but is by no means a complete listing of available resources.

Writing Craft:
Chicago Manual of Style
Published by The University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 978-0-226-10420-1
The most widely used style sheet/guide/handbook. It covers grammar, punctuation, and other important aspects of writing craft.

Writers Inc
Published by Great Source Education Group, Inc. (a Houghton Mifflin Company)
ISBN: 0-669-47164-X
An easy-to-use basic guide to grammar and punctuation for students. It covers grammar, punctuation, parts of speech, and writing process.

Plain English Handbook
Published by Litton Educational Publishing, Inc.
ISBN: 0-800-91793-6
An easy to use guide to grammar and punctuation for students. It covers grammar, punctuation, parts of speech, and composition.

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary
Published by Merriam-Webster, Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-965-43710-3
One of the most commonly used dictionaries in the publishing industry.

New Oxford American Dictionary
Published by Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-195-39288-3
One of the most commonly used dictionaries in the publishing industry.

GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon
Published by Gryphon Books for Writers
ISBN: 978-0-965-43710-3
A step-by-step guide to creating a strong foundation for fiction writing. It covers using goals, motivation, and conflict for strengthening characterization, character arcs, and plot.

And, of course…
Writing Tip Wednesday: A Writing Craft Handbook by Mellanie Szereto
Published by Amatoria Press
ISBN: 978-0-991-14732-8
A handbook of writing craft topics, including grammar and punctuation.

Research:
English Through the Ages by William Brohaugh
Published by Writer’s Digest Books
ISBN: 0-89879-655-5
A guide to word origins and dates of use. This excellent resource for historical writing covers word use from the mid-12th century to the late-20th century.

Mythology by Edith Hamilton
Published by Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 0-446-60725-8
The classic guide to Greek and Roman gods. The Quest for the Golden Fleece, The Adventures of Odysseus, and many other mythology stories are included.

The Mammoth Book of Pirates by Jon E. Lewis
Published by Carroll & Graf Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-786-71729-3
Contains over 25 true tales of infamous pirates.

String Theory for Dummies by Andrew Zimmerman Jones
Published by Wiley Publishing, Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-470-46724-4
A beginner’s guide to string theory.

Indian Mounds of the Middle Ohio Valley
by Susan L. Woodward and Jerry N. McDonald
Published by The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company
ISBN: 0-939-92372-6
A guide to mounds and earthworks of the Adena, Hopewell, and Fort Ancient peoples.

Medieval Arms and Armor: A Pictorial Archive by J. H. Hefner-Alteneck
Published by Dover Publications
ISBN: 0-486-43740-X
A pictorial guide to arms and armor from the 8th century AD to 17th century AD.

The Knights Templar by Frank Sanello
Published by Taylor Trade Publishing
ISBN: 0-878-33302-9
A history of the rise, reign, and fall of the Knights Templar.

Quite an eclectic collection, isn’t it?

As with any research, verify the information with at least two reliable sources. Build a library, build knowledge, build a career.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Andrew Jericho

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! This week my guest is Siren ManLove author Andrew Jericho. Great to have you visit, Andrew! He's here to share his latest release, Something Beautiful, with us! Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy!

Here's a peek:
Blurb:
Transman, Reed Collins and his partner, Levon Kruger, an openly gay drummer for the heavy metal band Hardcore, have been in a committed relationship for eight months. The couple is continuing to explore the love and passion that began in an online chat program a year ago. Recently, they further defined that commitment as a marriage.

While on their honeymoon, Avery Gaines walks into their lives in what he calls, “a chance meeting.” The couple is immediately attracted to the tall, dark-haired stranger, with deep green eyes. Reed is the first to admit his love for Avery, but Levon holds his emotions in check. Avery wants the trio to share love and a commitment, not readily understanding Levon’s reservations.

The romantic triangle goes through a period of conflict and turmoil, until Levon finally reveals a promise that he made to Reed, and how loving Avery would call into question the very foundation of the marriage he shares with his partner.

Story Excerpt:
Watching as Levon moved towards the front desk, Reed’s eyes became fixated on a sketch that stood alone in the corner. Unlike all of the other framed drawings, this one rested on a golden easel. Breathtaking. Smiling at his thought, Reed moved closer to the image of what looked like three pairs of hands intimately twined. There weren’t any faces, just arms that seemed to appear from the edges of the paper. Reed felt himself flush, when he realized that the three pairs of hands were masculine. Amazing detail. Such tenderness. Moving his hand towards the glass of the frame, Reed ran his fingers across the image.

“That sketch is one of my favorites. However, it’s not for sale.”

Hearing a smooth mellow voice next to his ear, Reed turned to stare into deep green eyes. Mesmerizing. Feeling himself blush again, he quickly looked back at the drawing, trying to rid his mind of the thought. Hating the fire he felt in his cheeks, Reed knew this time it wasn’t from the entwined hands.

The man standing behind him was at least as tall as Levon, maybe an inch or so taller. He had straight, dark brown hair, cut in a shag, which fell almost to his shoulders. A few bangs hung on his forehead, stopping right at the top of his eyebrows. The haircut perfectly framed the angles of his face. To add to the effect, he was wearing a pair of black slacks with a forest-green dress shirt. The combination only further highlighted those mesmerizing eyes. Feeling a twinge of guilt for the romantic attraction he felt, Reed was thankful when Levon returned from the front desk, draping an arm around his waist.

“Is this man bothering you?” Levon asked, as Reed felt him hook a few fingers through the belt loops of his pants.

Before Reed had a chance to reply, the stranger spoke, looking at Levon, “I’m sorry, I didn’t introduce myself to your partner.”

“Husband,” Levon quickly spoke. “I’m assuming that you are Avery Gaines?”

Reed watched Levon decline the hand that was offered to him. Instead, Avery crossed his arms across his chest.

“Mr. Gaines, are you aware of who I am?” Levon asked, tightening his grip around Reed’s body.

“Yes, you’re Levon Kruger, drummer for the heavy metal band Hardcore, and this is your husband, Reed Collins. I have fairly eclectic tastes in the arts, and one of those is rock music. Besides, both of your faces have been plastered on a few tabloids in the last week or so with rumors that you have quit Hardcore.”

“Then you know that I’m a transman?” Reed cut in.

“I know you’re a very handsome gay male, if that’s what you mean?” Avery responded, as Reed caught his gaze once more. “Levon, you are quite lucky.”

“Quit flirting with my husband!” Levon spoke sharply.

“I know Reed belongs to you, and likewise. I see the love that you both share, and I’m not trying to come between that, nor would I ever. I was not flirting, merely stating a fact. Levon, if you weren’t so worried about establishing your relationship to your husband with me, then you would have noticed my eyes subtly expressing that fact about you as well.”

“Okay, stop it!” Reed cut in. “What’s wrong with you, Levon, and frankly you too, Avery? I’m assuming that I can call you that, Mr. Gaines, after this episode. My husband and I came here to thank you for buying our meal this morning, and to find out the reason.”

“To be quite honest, I am surprised that both of you are here. Whose idea was that?” Avery asked.

Reed stood quietly, watching as the artist looked directly at Levon’s face.

“The idea was mine,” Levon replied, staring at Reed instead.

“I see.”

“I like to be careful when it comes to who I have contact with, particularly now, since I am responsible for more than just myself.”

“I haven’t been completely truthful. While I didn’t know whether or not I would see the two of you again, I was hoping that I would. That’s why I left my card with the waitress. I bought your meal because it’s not every day that someone sees two men so openly in love, and outwardly expressing those same feelings. I think your husband has already figured out that I am gay, based on his interpretation of my sketch.”

“I didn’t make any type of interpretation.”

“Yes you did,” Avery replied. “I saw the expression in your eyes, and your fingertips tracing the image beneath the glass.”

“I told you to quite flirting with Reed! That’s the last time I will tell you! The next time my fist will make the point!”

“I don’t believe you really want to do that. My day job as a forensic and police sketch artist requires me to be acutely aware of the human body. As part of my training, I studied facial expressions, mannerisms, in additional to the anatomy and physiology of the human body. The body language from you speaks otherwise.”

“Oh really!” Levon said sarcastically, moving within an inch of Avery’s face.

Stepping between the pair, Reed realized that both men were oblivious to his presence, as he watched his husband’s gaze lock with Avery’s eyes.

“The other reason I paid for your breakfast was because I felt an instant attraction to both of you, not just Reed, as you so wrongly perceived. Now, before that statement is misconstrued into something cheap and ugly, I am not in the habit of paying for other men’s breakfast in the hopes of returning them to my studio for a quick seduction! In fact this is the first time I have done anything like this.”

Buy link: http://www.bookstrand.com/something-beautiful
Video Trailer Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtGoUPFkRlY

Author Bio:
Andrew Jericho is a ManLove erotic romance author for Siren-BookStrand Publishing. As a long supporter of LGBTQ rights, he is thrilled to be able to reflect this in the publication of his books that explore the lives of gay men in real situations of life and love.

Andrew’s writing proves that love and erotic attraction are the same regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation. Often his characters select themselves, as they are provided with a literary voice. Once a story develops, Andrew is compelled to see it through to completion. His characters make sure of that fact. Love and eroticism are two very important and powerful emotions that drive not only Andrew’s characters, but his style of writing as well. In their purest forms, Andrew has seen those concepts transform characters into better individuals.

Andrew is a gay transgender man, who lives with his partner, John Jericho, and family. When not writing expect to find him enjoying spending time with family, photography, eclectic tastes in music and the arts, and browsing the local library and art galleries.

Links:
Website: http://andrewjericho.com
Blog: http://andrewjericho.com/blog
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AndrewJerichoAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndrewKJericho
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AndrewJericho/posts
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/andrewjericho

Remember to comment for a chance to win a copy of Something Beautiful!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Conventions

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! A writing career consists of much more than writing stories. Be prepared. Be educated. Make well-informed decisions. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.

Conferences, workshops, and online classes emphasize the educational aspects of writing, although some conferences offer book-signing opportunities. Conventions, on the other hand, focus on reader-author relations. Book signings are an important part of conventions, along with meet-and-greet events and a party-type atmosphere. Cover models often attend conventions, giving both authors and readers a chance to meet their favorite heroes.

The (Romantic Times) RT Booklovers Convention is one of the biggest and most popular annual conventions. Like national conferences, the registration fee can be a major expense (and is tax-deductible). RT moves from region to region each year. Most recently, the convention has been held in Chicago and Kansas City, and is in New Orleans this week (May 13-18, 2014). Next year’s venue is Dallas. RT also offers workshops to attendees on a smaller scale than the typical national writers conference. https://www.rtconvention.com/

Another popular convention is Lori Foster’s Reader-Author Get Together near Cincinnati, Ohio. This event focuses on connecting romance readers and writers, offering two book signings and a variety of social gatherings for reader-author interaction. The reasonable fee is based on author or reader registration, and space is limited—currently 100 authors. RAGT is a more intimate convention due to its smaller size. http://lorifoster.com/connect-with-lori-online/readerauthor-get-together/

Romance Novel Convention (RNC) is a newer event, founded by well-known cover model Jimmy Thomas. This convention is held in Las Vegas and offers workshops, classes, and plenty of opportunities to socialize with models Jimmy works with in his successful cover art business. Registration is mid-range priced and may be discounted with all-inclusive packages. http://romancenovelconvention.com/

RomCon consists of an educational portion for authors and a social portion for reader and author interaction. Mid-priced registration fees are based on attendance of one or both parts. RomCon offers book signings, chats, and other events for readers to talk to their favorite romance authors and meet new ones by sub-genre. The convention is held in Colorado. Author spaces are limited. http://www.romcon.com/index.html

Authors After Dark Convention focuses on romance readers and is a mid-priced event. It offers reader-author interaction and a public book signing as well as a costume ball for paid attendees. This convention changes venues from year to year. Author spaces are limited. http://www.authorsafterdark.org/index.html

Indie Romance Convention (IRC) offers a book signing, games, parties, and discussions for readers to interact with authors. IRC’s location changes from year to year to allow readers from different regions to attend. This is another mid-priced event. Author spaces are limited. http://indieromancecon.com/registration/

A Google search will yield more regional and genre-specific conventions. Remember that conventions are for connecting with fans and finding new ones as well as meeting other authors. The atmosphere is much more casual than a conference and gives authors a chance to directly introduce potential readers to their books.

Promotional item (swag) giveaways are a great way to attract those new readers at conventions. Some popular choices are bookmarks, trading cards, postcards, pens, fans, magnets, and jewelry. Vistaprint and Etsy shops offer a wide selection of personalized items at varying prices. And that swag is tax-deductible too!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Elle Boon

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! This week my guest is Elle Boon, paranormal erotic romance author at Siren Publishing. Read on to find out more about her and her first book, Selena's Men, from her Ravens of War series! She's also giving away an ebook copy to one lucky commenter!

Bio:
I’m a full-time wife and mother of two who has loved to read and write since childhood. I survived cancer and decided I could do anything, setting personal goals then and there. Four years later, after meeting many wonderful writers who allowed me to beta read for them, whom I can now call friends, I decided to write a book. Several years later I’ve attained my first goal, becoming a published author.

I love to write and have all kinds of stories in my head waiting to be written. The best part about my new journey is that if I don’t like it, I can re-write it, unlike real life, so I always make sure there’s a happy ending.

I’m creating new worlds, and I hope you all enjoy them with me. I can guarantee you’ll always have a hero or two you’ll love, and a heroine you’ll want to be.

Links:
www.elleboon.com
https://www.facebook.com/elle.boon

Interview:
Me: Do you prefer to write single title or series? Why?
Elle: I prefer to write series, because I love the continuation of being able to build a world where I can revisit old friends. I also love reading series, so I assume other reader do too. I'm a reader first and an author second :)

Me: I love a good conflict. What draws your main characters to each other and keeps them apart?
Elle: My characters are drawn together by an invisible bond, but they are sexually attracted for obvious reasons. The Ravens have one woman who is meant for them called their Fated, when they find her there's no mistaken on the mens part. In Selena's Men they are separated by the god Cronus. Both men will do anything to save her.

Me: What’s your favorite sub-genre (contemporary, sci-fi, etc.) to write? To read?
Elle: I love to read and write paranormal, whether it be about shifters, gods, or vampires, as long as there is a happily ever after at the end. But I also love to read a good modern day western or one about a biker club. I just haven't written one yet :)

Me: I usually get plot ideas in the shower and while driving. When/where does inspiration strike you?
Elle: Inspiration is a funny thing. I think I've gotten ideas for books, or scenes for books pretty much everywhere, even church lol. The last place that really sticks out was when me and my family were house hunting a couple weeks back. The tub in the master bedroom makes a presence in book 2 of my Ravens of War.

Me: What new stories are you working on?
Elle: I just finished book 2, Two For Tamara, and am working on book 3, Jaklyn's Saviors. These are all ménage and are part of my Ravens of War series with Siren Publishing. I also just finished 2 other books that I hope to submit to a couple publishers at Lori Fosters Readers Appreciation Weekend in June. One is about an elemental called Smokejumpers. The other is a shifter story that I hope to make a series called The Mystic Wolves, Accidentally Wolf set it Mystic South Dakota.

Blurb:
Max and Malcolm King had been part of an Elite group of twelve men created by Zeus, called the Ravens of War. When they were no longer needed they were sent to Earth in hopes they’d find happiness. After hundreds of years, they‘d given up hope of finding their Fated, until they met Selena Ramos.
But the Gods aren’t done with them. Zeus needs them to find his lost daughter and time is running out for all of them. As the three lovers are consumed with passion, they find themselves thrust in a fight for their lives.
Cronus the dethroned King of the Gods has found the missing Goddess and plans to use her as the ultimate weapon for revenge. He’ll use her to regain the throne on Mount Olympus, killing his son Zeus at the same time. Max and Malcolm are willing to do anything, even share Selena, but they will die before they give her up.

Excerpt:
The change in the atmosphere was a palpable thing to Selena. One minute she’d been watching her employees go through the different routines on the bar, and the next she was on top the glossy surface and showing them it was okay to do a little improvisation.

With her favorite jean skirt and tank top with the bar’s logo bedazzled across the front and a pair of well-worn, fire-engine red cowgirl boots, she started stomping to the beat. By the time the chorus began, she’d shuffled across the bar with her arms up, and the straw hat on her head bobbed along with the words. She stopped abruptly and did an exaggerated hip swivel, facing her bartenders, and smiled. It wasn’t a sweet, “aww look how cute I am” lift of her lips. No, as Tamara was fond of saying it was her “girl’s gonna do something crazy” look.

Selena raised her left arm in the air and brought her right arm out, swooshing her hand through the air as if she were slapping something. The tempo increased, and with each slap of her hand she moved her ass back and forth, increasing the pace as the beat to the music became faster and faster.

When the last note blared out she stomped first one booted foot then the other, the sound echoing around the now silent bar. She shrugged her shoulders, looked over at Tamara and winked. Not stopping to think, she jumped, flipping off the mahogany surface, landing in a crouch onto the matching floor.

The stunned silence that met her little show was a bit disarming, but Selena was anything but shy.

All eyes had turned toward the entryway and the two men who filled the space with their presence. Both men’s eyes glittered with a feral light that sent a shiver of fear down her spine. With their hands fisted at their sides, they looked like warriors who were barely holding themselves in check.

Light and dark filtered through her befuddled brain. Although they were clearly identical outside with dark hair and the bluest eyes she’d ever seen in real life, there was a difference inside.

The vague sense that she knew these two men intimately gave her a start, but she lifted a shoulder and dismissed the crazy images flashing in her mind. Selena couldn’t very well meet the two men while having dirty daydreams.

Making her way to where they stood frozen to the spot, she tried to control the full-body shake that ran through her. With her heart threatening to burst out of her chest, she put on a brave face.

All her being wanted to make everyone in the club disappear so she could lay claim to the men whose sole focus was pointed straight at her.

“Howdy, boys,” Selena said in her best southern drawl. With her hand extended and smile firmly in place, she reached out to greet the one she believed was Max first.

The first to recover grasped her hand, and with the same ability she’d always had she knew it was Malcolm who gripped her fingers in a gentle embrace. For such a large man he was surprisingly gentle, just like Max had been earlier.

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Selena,” Malcolm said.

“You must be Malcolm?”

He looked at his brother, then turned a wide grin back to her. “Yep…That’s me. I’m the better-looking, smarter and all-around best twin.”

A muscle ticked in the other’s jaw before he took a deep breath and reached for the hand still enclosed within Malcolm’s.

“It’s very nice to see you again Selena, you look amazing,” Max murmured. “Do you usually get up there and um…dance like that?”

Selena wasn’t sure if he sounded angry or jealous, like he wanted to toss her over his shoulder and hide her away. The notion sent a thrill to her core, which worried her. She tugged her palm out of his grasp, tossed her hair over her shoulder to cover her nervousness or whatever she was suddenly feeling for them. Wanting two men she’d basically just met to go all Neanderthal on her ass wasn’t her.

She snorted. “As often as I can, yes.”

Malcolm nudged Max’s shoulder. “Great…I mean you dance really well.”

The growl that Max answered his brother’s statement with could’ve been agreement.

“Would you guys like a drink and then a tour? The employees were just getting ready to go grab some dinner before the opening.”

They had about three hours before the doors officially opened, giving Selena a little breather.

“How about you give us a tour first? Do you have an office here, too?” Malcolm asked.

The question was asked casually, but the heat radiating off both men was anything but casual.

“Of course.”

Buy link: http://www.bookstrand.com/selenas-men

Selena sounds like a feisty woman, doesn't she?! Remember to comment by midnight (EDT) on Wednesday for a chance to win a copy of Selena's Men!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Workshops & Online Classes

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! A writing career consists of much more than writing stories. Be prepared. Be educated. Make well-informed decisions. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.

Conferences don’t always fit into an author’s lifestyle, schedule, or budget, but Workshops & Online Classes are available from many reliable sources for continued learning and growth. Like conference workshops and presentations, online workshops and classes cover almost every topic related to writing, publishing, and research. However, not all are of the same quality and not all instructors have the proper experience and/or knowledge to teach them. Lots of true experts offer workshops and classes, so be selective.

Many genre-specific writing organizations and RWA chapters offer great classes on topics like period costuming, crime scene investigation, and mythology—the research end of writing. Authors have a wide variety of “day jobs” or experiences that are excellent real-life resources. Check out the instructor’s credentials, if possible. An emergency room doctor or nurse is a much better source of information than someone who watches every episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

College degrees are fine, but a combination of book knowledge and applied knowledge usually provides a more accurate basis for information, especially in writing craft and publishing-related workshops and classes. A creative writing degree is much more effective when combined with actual publishing (writing and/or editing) credentials.

Authors are expected to use social media to promote themselves and their books. For the technologically challenged, the learning curve can be a steep one. Invest in online classes about using social media, creating blogs and websites, and self-promotion, taught by those familiar with marketing and the publishing industry to avoid learning pushy promotion techniques. Using social media incorrectly can be worse than not using it at all.

A few suggestions:
Kristen Lamb – Classes on writing craft, social media, and other writing/publishing-related topics. She also posts regularly about writing/publishing/marketing topics on her Warrior Writers blog. Great info!
RWA –For RWA members only. RWA University offers one or two online workshops per month. Many are free. Others are low cost ($10). Topics vary and have included Taxes for Writers, Self-Editing, and Pitch Perfect.
Genre-specific RWA chapters – Kiss of Death, FF&P, Celtic Hearts, Hearts Through History, and others offer many research-related topics. Some classes and workshops are available to non-members.

Online workshops and classes are available on almost every topic a writer might need—research, grammar/writing craft, social media, writing programs like Scrivener and OneNote, book cover design, etc. They’re an affordable alternative to conferences and some conference speakers also offer the same classes in an online setting. Continued growth as an author is vital!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Sandy James

Time for Author Spotlights on Mondays again! Please give a warm welcome to my friend and IRWA sister Sandy James. Her latest book, The Bottom Line, releases tomorrow and kicks off a new series, The Ladies Who Lunch! She's sharing some insight into her writing process and giving away an e-book copy of The Bottom Line to one lucky commenter!

Blurb:
When life gets tough and love is hard to find, four friends take their troubles to lunch. Surviving a failed marriage and an illness that almost takes her life, high school teacher Mallory Hamilton needs the Ladies Who Lunch more than ever . . .
After a year of upheaval, Mallory has had her fill of change--with one exception. Her house is a disaster, and she wants it fixed. Hiring a contractor to finish the projects her ex-husband started will help her banish the past so she can return to the life she had before everything went awry. But her contractor is sexy, sweet, and single which threatens the peaceful, solitary life Mallory has planned for herself.
Ben Carpenter has had a hard time raising his daughter without his ex-wife's help. His new client's projects will give him the extra income he needs, not to mention afternoons alone with a gorgeous woman. Though their attraction is undeniable, Ben sees the fear and pain hiding in Mallory's beautiful eyes. But how can he help her if she won't let him in? Ben can fix about anything, but can he fix Mallory's broken heart?

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Bottom-Line-Ladies-Who-Lunch-ebook/dp/B00CO7GHJK

Interview:
Me: What inspired you to write your first book?
Sandy: There were two things that prompted my writing. The first was reading a book by a fairly well-known author and being thoroughly disappointed in her portrayal of an older heroine. The book was about a married couple who had been apart and were thinking about reuniting. More than once, the author said the thirty-nine year old heroine still looked seventeen. Nope. Not buying that for a minute.
Add the second reason—I was getting “stale.” My youngest was close to graduating high school, and it dawned on me just how predictable my life was getting to be. Writing became something new and fun to do. So I set out to write a romance about a married couple with an older heroine who looked and acted her age.
The first book got me addicted pretty quickly. The whole process was fun, frustrating, invigorating, and just plain great. So I wrote another book. And another. And… Just couldn’t stop.

Me: Do you see writing as a career?
Sandy: I do now, yes. At first, it was more of a hobby. A few of my friends asked to read that first book, and they enjoyed it. They started encouraging me to try publishing. I figured it was worth a shot and haven’t looked back since.
I’ve been teaching social studies for close to twenty years, and now I look at that career as approaching the finish line while my writing career is just now getting out of the starting gate. Writing will be something I can do to keep myself active as I get older.

Me: This book is the first in a new series. Do you prefer to write single title or series? Why?
Sandy: I love writing both, but if pinned down for an answer, I’d go with series. I’m not sure about other writers, but I feel like I “know” my characters. To be able to bring back the people I’ve grown to love, even if in secondary roles, makes me happy. I also think it’s easier to build an audience when you have a series. If the first book pleases a reader, she’s likely to look into other books in that storyline.

Me: Give us some insight into your main character. What makes him/her special?
Sandy: Mallory Hamilton is one of my favorite heroines. She’s plucky while still being fragile. I love how she takes life as it comes and never feels sorry for herself, even when she gets thrown a curve ball or two.

Me: Is there a message in your novel you hope to convey to your readers?
Sandy: Life’s going to get tough sometimes. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still live it to its fullest.

Me: I love a good conflict. What draws your main characters to each other and keeps them apart?
Sandy: Physical chemistry is the first thing they notice, but both Mallory and Ben resist that pull. They’ve both been burned before and have no desire to stick their hands back into the fire. Add the fact that he’s the contractor remodeling her house, and getting involved with each other could end up being more than a little uncomfortable.

Me: How did you come up with the title?
Sandy: It’s based on something Ben says to Mallory early in their relationship. The words seemed to click for me.

Me: What’s your favorite sub-genre (contemporary, sci-fi, etc.) to write? To read?
Sandy: I love writing contemporary. Our modern world is full of so many delicious situations ripe with conflict. Relationships nowadays are complicated! To write stories about the people living in that world is a lot of fun.
I tend to enjoy historical romances best, perhaps that because the genre is so different from my contemporary stories. I don’t have to worry about being subtly influenced by another book’s plotline.

Me: I usually get plot ideas in the shower and while driving. When/where does inspiration strike you?
Sandy: The most inopportune time—when I’m trying to fall asleep. Tends to be very disruptive to a good night’s rest.

Me: What new stories are you working on?
Sandy: I just finished writing the third in The Ladies Who Lunch series. Since there are four ladies, I’ll be diving into Danielle’s book next. I’m also working on the fourth book in my Safe Havens series that’s set in the Old West. It’s been a very popular series of books, and I have fans emailing me to write another story. So I will!

Author Bio:
Sandy lives in a quiet suburb of Indianapolis with her husband of thirty years and is a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband own a small stable of harness racehorses and enjoy spending time at the two Indiana racetracks.
She is published through Forever Yours, Carina Press, and BookStrand, as well as indie-published. She has been an Amazon #1 Bestseller multiple times and has won numerous awards including two HOLT Medallions. Represented by Browne & Miller Literary.

Social Media Links:
Website: http://sandyjames.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/sandyjamesbooks
Twitter: http://twitter.com/sandyjamesbooks
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Sandy-James/e/B002BLZOFW

Thanks for visiting, Sandy! Wishing you lots of sales!

Remember to comment by midnight (EDT) on Wednesday, May 7, for a chance to win a copy of The Bottom Line!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Announcements!

Happy May Day!!! Besides my son's birthday, a couple other exciting events happen today. :)

Brenda Novak's Diabetes Auction opens for bidding today! Be sure to check out all the great items in the auction, including a Love Served Hot reader package and a Writing Tip Wednesday writer package. Bidding is open through May 31, 2014.

Also check out the 2104 IGO Contest for unpublished (or uncontracted for three years) authors! Modeled after RWA's Golden Heart Contest, IGO entries are 55 pages (includes up to 10-page synopsis) and receive detailed feedback from trained judges. Our scoresheets offer fantastic analysis of all writing aspects. Ten of last year's finalists received full manuscript requests from our editor judges and four finaled in the Golden Heart Contest!

Have a wonderful first day of May!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!