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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Self-Publishing Terminology

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Self-publishing offers writers another choice on the road to publication, whether they’re already traditionally published and/or e-press published, or unpublished. Although the author maintains control of the process, she also has a lot of hard work ahead of her. Education about self-publishing and the publishing industry is vital to a good product and creating a professional image.

Knowing Self-Publishing Terminology makes communication with editors, formatters, and other publishing professionals easier. This list varies slightly from the one included in Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Career Handbook, but numerous terms overlap and are important to traditional, e-press, and self-publishing platforms. Several are used in the formatting guidelines for the retail outlets and will make self formatting easier to understand.

Audio book – narrated version of a book
Back matter – information or pages included after the story content in a book
Blurb – short description of the book designed to hook the reader; usually 25-150 words; used for promo and back cover
Bookmark – a link within a document that connects to another location in the document
Calibre – software used to convert document files to other formats
Copy edits – checks for grammar, spelling, and punctuation; also verifies legal and usage questions and checks or questions facts
Copyright – the exclusive right to publish, sell, or reproduce an artistic work
Copyright page – front matter of a book that contains copyright information
CreateSpace – Amazon’s print self-publishing venue
Developmental edits – edits for plot and character development
Draft Layout – page view that shows the document with breaks
Draft2Digital – digital publishing venue with options to publish to other venues
DRM – digital rights management: technology that limits the use of digital media for users
epub – e-publishing file; type of digital format file
Front Matter – information or pages included before the story content in a book
Google Play/Google Books – digital publishing venue
Hyperlink – an active web address link within a document
iBooks – digital publishing venue for Mac users
ISBN – international standard book number
iTunes Producer – Mac software used in conjunction with the iBooks publishing venue
KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing
KDP Select – Kindle Direct Publishing exclusive
Kobo – digital publishing venue
Line edits – checks the pacing, story continuity, and content
lit – literature digital file with DRM; type of digital format file
Metadata – data about other data; keywords and terms that help identify books
mobi – type of digital format file
Nook Press – Barnes & Noble self-publishing venue
Page break – break used at the end of text to separate it from text on the following page
pbd – program database file; type of digital format file
pdf – portable document format; type of digital format file
POD – print on demand
Print layout – page view that shows the document as it would print
Producer – narrator or production organizer for audio books
rb – rocket e-book digital file; type of digital format file
Royalties – percentage of the sale price earned by the author on sold copies
Section break – break used at the end of text to separate if from text in a following section
Self-publishing – publishing in which the author is the publisher and is responsible for all aspects of book production, distribution, and marketing, including but not limited to editing, cover art, and formatting expenses. The author receives all royalties directly from the chosen distributors.
Smashwords - digital publishing venue with options to publish to other venues
Tagline – brief phrase meant to spark interest in the book
Title page – front matter of a book that contains the title and author
TOC – table of contents

Be sure to check out the writing craft series, Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Craft Handbook, in e-book at Amazon and B&N and in print at Amazon and CreateSpace, and the writing career series, Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Career Handbook, in e-book at Amazon and B&N and in print at Amazon and CreateSpace. Watch for Writing Tip Wednesday: The Self-Publishing Handbook in early January—with extra formatting and conversion content!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Jillian Jacobs

Welcome to the final Author Spotlight on Mondays for 2014! Jillian Jacobs is back with a new release! Check out Ember’s Center from The O-line series and be sure to comment for a chance to win a signed print copy of Ember’s Center and a Green Moose Productions fridge magnet!

Blurb: She spent her life fighting for middle ground, and now that she’s found it, she’ll fight for her life.

Ember Brooks yearns for an end to the dark chapters of her life—abusive mother, negligent father, teenage trauma, and sibling suicide. Determined to escape her traumatic past, Ember is finally headed for solid ground, gathering strength and balance with the help of her trusted counselor and friend, Xander Kane.
Still reeling from the death of her brother, Ember finds solace when Manchester Marauders center, Owen Killion goes on the offensive and barrels into her life. Both on the football field and off, Owen is sure-footed and confident. With his domineering presence and reliable nature, he alters her game-plan. But for a girl continually left on the sidelines, can she leave her heart on the line?
When Ember is the victim of increasingly dangerous incidents, and Xander changes the course of their relationship, once more her life spirals out of control.
Ember trusts Owen to guard their love, but when someone else is calling the shots, can they reach the end zone or will they fumble?

Short Excerpt:
Ember braced a hand against Xander’s chest. The blows kept coming, and too many questions whirled through her aching head. Where was Owen? Did he believe these lies?

Will I go to prison?

Xander wrapped her in his arms. “It’s going to be all right. I’ll take care of you.”

“I’m so confused.” Where had this stomach bug come from? Why was she standing in the women’s restroom speaking to two men? Perhaps, she was still dreaming. “I’m not feeling so well.”

“I know.” Xander dropped a kiss against her temple. “We’ll work things out.”

She sighed. Of course things would work out. Owen wouldn’t believe her capable of such a thing, would he? And what had Xander said about meds? What meds? She’d stopped taking drugs over two years ago. Trust her father to come back and create this whirl of chaos. And yet, deep down, hadn’t she always known something like this would happen? Fairy tales weren’t real. In real life, the heroine’s glass slipper splintered under pressure, and all she had left was a bloody foot.

Buy links:
http://bit.ly/EmbersCenteriBooks
http://bit.ly/EmbersCenterARE
http://bit.ly/EmbersCenterAMZ
http://bit.ly/EmbersCenterBNNook
http://bit.ly/EmbersCenterKobo

Interview:
Mellanie: Give us some insight into your main character, Ember Brooks. What makes her special?
Jillian: At the beginning of the story, Ember is suffering from the loss of her younger brother.
After moving beyond her troubled childhood, she focuses on becoming a model employee and healthy individual, both mentally and physically. Fighting past insecurities, she develops a relationship with a pro-football player, but various roadblocks interfere with her budding romance. Ember is a survivor, strong on her own. She doesn’t need anyone to complete her or provide her happiness. Every time she’s knocked down by life, she gets back up stronger than before. She represents a resilient, educated woman.

Mellanie: Is there a message in your novel you hope to convey to your readers?
Jillian: That not every home life is perfect, and trying to find your normal can be difficult. As a woman, believe yourself worthy of everything. Most importantly, even if you don’t like someone or something, try to love them anyway.

Mellanie: What draws your main characters to each other and keeps them apart?
Jillian: Owen is drawn by his need to shelter Ember. She, on the other hand, wants to finally take the reins in her own life. She also has to take credit for all her positive changes, and not get bogged down in the past. Owen helps her take each step forward, but a foe steps in, holding him back.

Mellanie: How did you come up with the title?
Jillian: It’s a bit of a play on words since Owen plays the center position for a pro-football team. But Ember also needs to find that one calm in the storm of her chaotic life. Her center.

Mellanie: What new stories are you working on?
Jillian: I’m in the final chapters of the second book in my paranormal Elementals series. This will feature Flint and Violet. Fire’s Field is the title.
In my head, I’ve also outlined the storyline for the second book in the O-line series.
I can only work on one story at a time, which makes my product a little slower, but keeps me from mixing up character names and storylines.

Bio:
In the spring of 2013, Jillian Jacobs changed her career path and became a romance writer. After reading for years, she figured writing a romance would be quick and easy. Nope! With the guidance of the Indiana Romance Writers of America chapter, she’s learned there are many "rules" to writing a proper romance. Being re-schooled has been an interesting journey, and she hopes the best trails are yet to be traveled.
Water’s Threshold, the first in Jillian’s Elementals series, was a finalist in Chicago-North’s 2014 Fire and Ice contest in the Women’s Fiction category.
Jillian is a: Tea Guzzler, Polish Pottery Hoarder, and lover of all things Moose.
The genres she writes under are: Paranormal and Contemporary with suspenseful elements.

Links:
Website: www.jillianjacobs.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GreenMooseProd
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorJillianJacobs
Tsu: https://www.tsu.co/JillianJacobsAuthor
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9833245.Jillian_Jacobs

Thanks for visiting, Jillian and readers! Remember to comment by midnight (EST) on Wednesday, December 31, for a chance to win a signed print copy of Ember's Center! See you next year!!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Write the Next Book

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Self-publishing offers writers another choice on the road to publication, whether they’re already traditionally published and/or e-press published, or unpublished. Although the author maintains control of the process, she also has a lot of hard work ahead of her. Education about self-publishing and the publishing industry is vital to a good product and creating a professional image.

Completing a book, going through the editing and publishing process, and seeing it out in the market gives a sense of great accomplishment. Whew!

Now take a deep breath and start again.

Yes. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, and thoughts on the screen, because the best and most effective marketing tool is to Write the Next Book.

It wasn’t easy the first time, and it likely won’t be easy again. However, each book teaches the author something new—whether craft-, editing-, formatting-, or marketing-related knowledge, or simply that she’s capable of writing (and finishing) a book.

Writing should improve over time. A great writer continues learning about writing and publishing through her career. Some stories will seem to write themselves, while others have to be pulled kicking and screaming out of the author’s mind. No matter the process, every one contains part of her and certain aspects will progress a little more smoothly the next time.

So, start plotting if you’re a plotter. Start writing if you’re a pantser. This plantser is making notes and writing, knowing the characters and plot will lead the way to another finish line. Don’t sacrifice your story to get it out to readers more quickly, though. Quality trumps quantity every time. Write a good story—and then write another one. Everyone writes at different speeds and has 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:
-Set daily writing goals.
-Participate in #1K1H sprints with other writers.
-Discover your best time of day to write and set aside a portion of it for writing.
-Take a writer’s retreat.
-Brainstorm with other writers or friends.
-Designate a reward for each chapter you finish or a larger one for finishing the book.

Figure what motivates you to sit in that chair and write.

Check off #15 on the To-Do List and go back at #1.

The To-Do List
1) Finish the book. 
2) Polish and edit the book. 
3) Write taglines and blurbs. 
4) Create or purchase cover art. 
5) Purchase ISBNs, if using a single ISBN for all retailers using the same book format (print or e-book). 
6) Create front and back matter. 
7) Format for e-book and/or print. 
7.a.) Add images. 
7.b.) Create audio book. 
8) Update website, blog, and social media. 
9) Create metadata list.
10) Plan a marketing and promotion strategy.
11) Publish the book. 
12) File copyright paperwork, if registering. 
13) Add buy links to websites, blogs, and social media. 
14) Implement marketing and promotion strategies. 
15) Write the next book! 

Be sure to check out the writing craft series, Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Craft Handbook, in e-book at Amazon and B&N and in print at Amazon and CreateSpace, and the writing career series, Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Career Handbook, in e-book at Amazon and B&N and in print at Amazon and CreateSpace.
Writing Tip Wednesday: The Self-Publishing Handbook is available for purchase at Amazon due to a scheduling glitch and pre-orders at iBooks! Release date is January 2 for print and e-book for iBooks, B&N, Kobo, ARe/OmniLit, and CreateSpace—with extra formatting and conversion content!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--L.A. Remenicky

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! Indiana author L.A. Remenicky is visiting this week with her book Ragan's Song. Check out my interview with her and leave a comment for a chance to win a swag pack (key chain, rack card, magnet)!

Blurb:
It only took one look into his eyes for her to know she was in trouble.
Adam Bricklin has heard the melody in his head for years, the melody that told him if a decision was right or wrong. When he met Ragan Newlin the song told him she was the one. He was devastated when circumstances tore them apart. It has taken three years for Adam to finally move past the heartbreak he suffered when Ragan left town in the middle of the night. No note, no email, no text. She was just gone. Now he has a new girlfriend, a new album in the works, and his daughter is doing well in school. Until the day Ragan returned to Fairfield Corners.
Ragan came home to celebrate her parent’s anniversary hoping they would forgive her for not telling them about her marriage or her son. When she discovered that Adam was still living in Fairfield Corners she hoped her secrets were safe; secrets that drove her away three years ago, secrets that could change their lives forever.

Excerpt:
He pulled open the back door and lowered himself into the car behind the driver’s seat, wincing as the freezing river water soaked through his boots. The water level had almost reached her face and it was still rising. The driver groaned and turned her head.

“Don’t move, I’ll get you out of here as fast as I can.”

The driver forced a yell, “Skylar, answer me, baby.”

Adam crouched down and reached between the front bucket seats to place his hand on her shoulder. “Shhh, he’s okay. He’s up the hill, inside my truck. He’s safe,” he said as he started cutting the seatbelt with his pocket knife. “Let’s get you out of this seatbelt. Then I’ll get you up to him in no time.”

“Adam?”

His heart stuttered in his chest when he heard her voice.

“Ragan? What the hell are you doing here?” Adam asked as he continued sawing at the seatbelt. Blood ran down her face and dripped into the water, making his heart race with fear. “Hold onto me. I’ll get you out of here,” he said, trying to maintain a calm voice.

He sawed harder at the seatbelt with his pocket knife as he tried to hold her out of the water as much as possible. Her lips were blue and she had stopped shivering, the cold water was taking its toll. She grabbed at his shoulders, trying to keep her face above water level.

The water continued to rise, forcing Ragan to turn her head towards Adam to keep her mouth out of the water. The car lurched, sliding farther into the river.

“Oh God, Adam. Hurry,” she screamed as the water inched up, her arms tightening around his neck. She spit out river water, gasping in air, afraid the water would soon cover her mouth and nose completely.

Adam dropped his pocket knife and wrapped his arms around her. That’s when he felt the seatbelt finally break. His heartbeat roared in his ears as he grabbed her with both hands and pulled her into the back seat, making sure her face was out of the water.

“C’mon Ragan, stay with me for a little longer, baby,” he said, his voice wavering with fear. “I need you to hold yourself up for just a minute until I can pull you out.”

She grabbed the back of the passenger seat and held on as Adam pulled himself out of the car. He reached back through the open car door and pulled her out, grunting with the effort. Her lips were blue as he wrapped the blanket around her; he knew he had to get her warmed up fast.

The feeling of her in his arms made his heart beat faster and his hands began to shake. He stopped for a moment… holding her, pushing the memories back before he raised her into his arms and started up the hill. It was difficult carrying her while using the rope to pull them up the muddy hillside. Maintaining traction wasn’t easy and they fell a few times.
When Ragan’s eyes started to roll back and her arm across his shoulders went limp, he gripped her tighter.

“Hold on, Ragan, we’re almost there.” Adrenaline coursed through his body as he climbed the hill, his one objective to get Ragan to safety.

Adam lowered her onto the back seat of his truck beside Skylar and brushed the hair out of her face.

“Dammit, why did you have to come back into my life?” he asked, as the elusive tune he’d been trying to get on paper for years started playing in his head. He thought it was gone for good when she had left three years ago. Was it a coincidence? She had come home to Fairfield Corners, and it was back.

Buy Links:
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OX5EKFE
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00OX5EKFE
Createspace: https://www.createspace.com/5066849

Interview:
Me: What inspired you to write your first book?
L.A.: It actually goes back to high school (way back when)… Me and my two best friends made up a story about the three of us and our lives that we told through letters to each other – we loved famous people, had exciting lives, you get the idea. Anyway, in 2012 one of my friends told me she had continued the story and she let me read it. I thought, “how cool, I should do this too.” She introduced me to NaNoWriMo that year – we signed up and I actually did it! 50,000 words which eventually became my first novel, Saving Cassie.

Me: Do you see writing as a career?
L.A.: Someday I would love for writing to be my “main” career, currently it’s just a sideline but I am ever hopeful that my books will sell and allow me to pursue writing full-time. Until then, I will continue to be a payroll professional.

Me: This book is the second in a series. Do you prefer to write single title or series? Why?
L.A.: I love to read a series, I can really connect with the characters so it’s natural that I love to write series. A series gives me that chance to explore other connected stories.

Me: Is there a message in your novel you hope to convey to your readers?
L.A.: Never give up and sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor.

Me: I love a good conflict. What draws your main characters to each other and keeps them apart?
L.A.: Ragan and Adam fell in love before Ragan left and broke his heart. When she returns they both realize their love never died but outside forces keep them apart. Can’t go into detail – don’t want to give away the twist!

Me: How did you come up with the title?
L.A.: Once I had the basic plot and character names it just made sense.

Me: I usually get plot ideas in the shower and while driving. When/where does inspiration strike you?
L.A.: Most of my plot ideas (so far) have come from music so inspiration can strike (and has!) any time I’m listening to music or just thinking about a song.

Me: What new stories are you working on?
L.A.: I am attempting NaNoWriMo again this year, my story is a sci-fi/fantasy romance. Here is blurb:
Ammica led a boring life until the summer she turned sixteen when Stone came to town and started working at her father's garage. When he left at the end of the summer he left Ammi with a broken heart and more questions than answers.
After her father is killed in an apparent robbery gone wrong, Ammi settles into life alone until that fateful day on the "haunted" side of the lake when she falls into the lake trying to escape from a would-be mugger. A hand reaches up from the depths of the lake and pulls her down into the darkness and into a world she never knew existed.

Bio:
L.A. Remenicky ~ Love Stories With A Twist
An avid reader all her life, she finally put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) during NaNoWriMo in 2012 and has never looked back.
Paranormal romance, romantic suspense, no romance genre is out of bounds!

Links:
Website: www.laremenicky.blogspot.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/laremenicky
Twitter: www.twitter.com/remenickywrites
Google+: www.google.com/+LARemenickyauthor
Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/laremenicky
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1zANq9n

Remember to comment by midnight (EST) on Wednesday, Dec. 24, for a chance to win a swag pack!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Recordkeeping

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Self-publishing offers writers another choice on the road to publication, whether they’re already traditionally published and/or e-press published, or unpublished. Although the author maintains control of the process, she also has a lot of hard work ahead of her. Education about self-publishing and the publishing industry is vital to a good product and creating a professional image.

Good Recordkeeping is as important as writing a good book. Along with recording expenses for editing, cover art, conference and convention fees, etc., every author needs to track her income.

Each retail platform allows authors to view sales and royalty statements. Each payment should be recorded for tax purposes. Remember that income is based on when it was received, not when it was earned. If December 2014’s earnings are paid in January 2015, those royalties are part of 2015 income.

While some authors prefer to track sales and royalties separately for each retail outlet, a detailed breakdown isn’t required when showing income.

A sometimes-overlooked source of income is hand sales, whether casual (to a friend) or organized (at a book signing). The author should record each purchase of print books, along with shipping costs, and calculate her cost per book. The royalties from hand-sold books equals the amount the author paid for the book plus any shipping/handling fees subtracted from the selling price. If the author purchased ten copies of her self-published print book from Createspace at $3.00 each and paid an additional $8.00 for shipping, her total cost would be $38.00. Her cost per book is $3.80. If she hand sells those copies for $5.00, her profit (royalty amount) is $1.20 per book or $12.00 for all ten books. The amount of profits is income. Giveaways are an expense.

Expense posting follows the same rules as income. If cover art was received in December 2014 but not paid for until January 2015, the expense goes in 2015 records. By the same logic, if cover art was paid for in December 2014 but not received until January 2015, the expense is added to 2014.

Microsoft Excel offers templates for recording income and expenses, as well the ability to create customized spreadsheets. QuickBooks or other financial/budgeting software is another option. Even a notebook is sufficient. Save all receipts and income records in digital or physical format, or both.

Tax filing depends on the author’s business status—sole proprietor (DBA), LLC, S-corporation. Consult a tax professional, if necessary.

Enough about the tax aspects of self-publishing. The last item on the To-Do List is up next!

The To-Do List
1) Finish the book. 
2) Polish and edit the book. 
3) Write taglines and blurbs. 
4) Create or purchase cover art. 
5) Purchase ISBNs, if using a single ISBN for all retailers using the same book format (print or e-book). 
6) Create front and back matter. 
7) Format for e-book and/or print. 
7.a.) Add images. 
7.b.) Create audio book. 
8) Update website, blog, and social media. 
9) Create metadata list. 
10) Plan a marketing and promotion strategy. 
11) Publish the book. 
12) File copyright paperwork, if registering. 
13) Add buy links to websites, blogs, and social media. 
14) Implement marketing and promotion strategies. 
15) Write the next book!

Be sure to check out the writing craft series, Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Craft Handbook, in e-book at Amazon and B&N and in print at Amazon and CreateSpace, and the writing career series, Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Career Handbook, in e-book at Amazon and B&N and in print at Amazon and CreateSpace. Writing Tip Wednesday: The Self-Publishing Handbook is now available for pre-orders at Amazon and iBooks!. Release date is January 2—with extra formatting and conversion content!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Valley Brown

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! IRWA friend Valley Brown is visiting this week and talking about the not-so-solitary part of being a writer. She's also sharing an excerpt from Rough Piece of Road, book two in The Rocky Road series. Be sure to comment for a chance to win signed print copies of Rough Piece of Road and Speeding Tickets, book one of the series (available only to the continental US because of shipping costs). Take it away, Valley!

Thanks for having me back, Mellanie. I’m always eager to spend time with those of us who obsess about language and storytelling. And speaking of that…

We’ve all heard how writing is such a solitary undertaking, and how lonely it is to be a writer. I disagree. Yes, there are times when being totally alone is needed to put a fine focus on your work. However, there are scads of times when you need feedback from others – especially other writers.

Only another writer has walked in your shoes, hit the same snags and bumps. Only another writer has experienced that profound connection to a set of characters that has you wallowing in sympathetic despair one moment and breathing hard with heart-thumping desire the next.

When two or more of us congregate to discuss our work, the benefits go far beyond suggestions and catching typos. Close examination of someone else’s WIP wakes up our brain cells, the ones glazed over from rehashing our own WIP ad infinitum. Revelations may be small at times, but they can have far-reaching effects, much like a cascading row of dominoes.

Right now, my brain cells are working overtime. I’m mentoring a writing friend, acting as her developmental editor, a new role for me. Usually, I’m on the receiving end of a “Devil Ed”!

My friend made the big decision to try writing a novel earlier this year. She has a great (and complicated) story line and characters, all of which are still evolving. She’s a dialogue-driven pantser, meaning she fixates on conversation to the exclusion of setting and physical/body language clues from the characters. My goal is to keep her thinking about her plot and characters.

We meet every weekend for coffee, and to go over what she’s written since our last meeting. I read her chapter(s) and scribble notes while she checks her phone emails. Then the fun begins.

We bat each comment back and forth. Is the story going where it needs to? Sometimes we argue amicably about the ramifications of a twist, or that something a character said is “out of character.” I ask my friend questions, try out “what if’s,” and try to stretch her thought process, because writing is, after all a process. Thinking so deeply about where she’s going with her story forces me to re-evaluate my own WIP, and that keeps me humble, for sure.

My friend is amazed at her word count so far, having written mainly short stories or articles. I try not to laugh. I have been in her shoes and know that right now she’s simply up-chucking on the page. She will add tens of thousands of more words, and hack away as many. It will take as long as it takes, and we’ll both have a terrific experience along the way.

Series Blurb:
The Rocky Road romantic suspense series is about one woman’s journey through trauma and tragedy, moving forward as she deals with invisible wounds that never heal and finds the strength and courage to love again.

Excerpt from Rough Piece of Road – Book Two of The Rocky Road Series:
We took the freight elevator down to the lowest level, where incoming shipments were unloaded and held for processing. Being confined in the small space with a known mobster messed with my blood pressure.

“I guess you didn’t have any paperwork go missing, eh, Chris?” Tony rocked back on the heels of his black leather shoes.

“Excuse me?”

“I know you catch my drift.” He narrowed his eyes. “Your ex-boss trusted you, with everything.”

He raised a hand as my mouth fell open. “Oh, I know all about you two. I also know he saved your ass so my boy wouldn’t find the dough that he managed to hide from everyone.”

“That’s not…There was no money,” I choked, pressing my back into the wall of the elevator.

“Don’t waste my time, Chris. Something of mine is missing, and I want it found.” The tendons in his thick neck stood out. “I suggest you look harder, and fast.”

The elevator stopped and opened up onto the lower level. Tony gestured for me to precede him.

With some difficulty, I swallowed and walked past him. The dock appeared to be empty of people other than ourselves. I strode anxiously to the stack of boxes that contained all the student work.

“Quite a pile of stuff. Should fill that big space nicely, don’t you think?”

“Yes. It should.” My head was reeling. He needs you alive, Christine, to find what happened to his money. He’s not going to beat you up or waste you down here.

“So, now I can go to my daughter and tell her I’ve seen her stuff. Family is what it’s all about, Chris. We all have family.” Tony pulled his gloves out of his pocket and focused his attention on them.

“Family takes care of each other. We do what we need to do to keep them safe. Yeah. It’s nice if you don’t have to worry about anybody. I imagine you worry a lot about your husband, what with him working around all those power tools and heavy pieces of sharp metal all the time. Not to mention him riding that big bike of his a lot. Those things can be dangerous, yes. Then again, I hear you ride one of those things, too. Extra reason to be careful, don’t you think? Makes me concerned for your future health. Your husband’s, too.”

The threats were so barely veiled, they were practically naked. Doug’s tire damage was no accident, and Tony had the resources to effect far greater – and deadlier, results. Doug was one hundred percent correct that Tony would come after us and everyone around us. How was I going to prevent that, when there was no money to find?

“I’ll talk to you soon, Chris. Maybe at the reception, if not before?” He chuckled to himself, and stepped back into the elevator.

The door slid closed and I slid to the floor, backed against a large carton. I had trouble breathing. The world darkened, with tiny specks of intense light, and the next thing I knew, George was squatting next to me, patting my face and calling my name.

“Miz Hartford? Miz Hartford. You okay? Say somethin’ to me.”

My stomach boiled with acid that tried to gush up my throat. I forced it back down, and inhaled erratically. “Doug. I have to talk to Doug.”

“Well, that’s all fine and good, but let’s see if we can get you on your feet first.”

George helped me stagger upright. I made bracing myself against that carton my first priority.

“What happened down here, Miz Hartford? I saw Mr. Turdanno come out of the elevator alone and leave the building. That left a bad taste in my mouth, so I came looking for you.”

“He was in a hurry to leave. I got dizzy after he got in the elevator, and, and I guess I passed out.”

“Miz Hartford, think about who you’re talkin’ to. My momma didn’t raise no fool. Now are you gonna spill the beans, or what?”

Tears burned my eyes. I shook my head and chewed my lower lip. “George, I can’t talk about it right now. I really wish I could, but right now I need to be in my office. Would you just help me up there, please?”

George scowled as if I were four years old, but he assisted me all the way into my office, sat me down, and then brought me a cup of coffee.

“I know you’re in some kind o’ trouble with that guy, and you don’t want to involve me. That’s fine, as long as it isn’t somethin’ that hurts this place. My job is to protect this place and everyone in it. Should I be worryin’ about a security breach here?”

“No, nothing like that, honest.” I took a sip of coffee. “It’s…personal, and I need to find a way to take care of it before I can talk to you about it. Just keep your eyes wide open for me, but don’t say anything to anyone else, not yet. Please?”

“I don’t like this, none of it, but I will be watchin’ things a lot closer until I know what this is all about.”

“That’s all I’m asking, George.”

~~~~~

The museum shut its doors at 4:00 p.m., but it was almost 5:00 by the time I made it down to my car. Taking a deep breath, I tossed my coat and purse onto the front seat, locked the doors and buckled up.

“Don’t turn around.” A raspy voice came from directly behind me, startling me into a high-pitched gasp.

A sharp, distinctive click assaulted my right ear, followed by cold steel pressed to my neck. I tried hard not to look straight into the rearview mirror, afraid to make eye contact with whomever was in here with me. A dark, knitted ski mask was visible in my peripheral vision, along with the blunt, finely machined tip of a handgun. It was a very compact weapon, short and as dark as the ski mask, like nothing I had ever seen before.

“Drive out of the lot, exactly like you normally would. When you get to the main road, turn right.”

Left would have taken me in the direction of the university. Right would take me to parts of town I would rather not be in. This late in the year, especially after the time change, it was dark enough outside that no one would ever notice someone in the car with me.

“Go straight until I say otherwise.”

I drove slowly for several blocks, wondering what was going to happen when we reached the destination my hijacker had in mind. Doug wouldn’t think to worry about me for at least an hour. I was off everyone’s radar for at least that long, and a lot can happen in an hour.

“Take a left at the next light, then keep straight. You take directions well, Mrs. Hartford. I suggest you remember that you have something you need to find, and the sooner you find it, the better off you and your husband will be. You have until the 24th to locate what’s missing. If it doesn’t show up, don’t be surprised if your husband has a little accident.”

Shivering, I gripped the steering wheel so hard I thought the bones in my hands would break.

God, please help me. Don’t let them go after Doug. Please. I really need some help here.

Doug was everything to me. How was I going to get us out of this mess in one piece?

“Stop here.” He pressed the muzzle into my neck muscle. “I’m going to get out now. You drive on and don’t attract any attention to you or me. Lives will depend on it.”

Sniffing hard, I nodded ever so subtly. The muzzle withdrew from my flesh, and a few seconds later, my passenger exited, walking casually into a crowd milling around a run-down corner tavern.

I saw his dark form in the side view mirror, but never saw his face. A car honked behind me. Startled, I pulled forward, not certain where I was. It was several blocks before I recognized a street name and turned in the direction of home.

How I managed to cover the distance without incident, I had no clue. Suddenly I was in the garage, getting out of the car, then walking unsteadily to the dark house. When I closed the front door behind me, Beebee jumped at my leg, and I screamed. She fled with a hiss, and I fled in the opposite direction, to the commode, to upchuck. I was still curled up there when Doug called my cell phone, worried. He blew a gasket when I told him what happened. I was too upset not to tell him. He ordered me to stay right where I was, to wait for him. Only fifteen minutes passed before he came in the door.

“Baby, are you okay?” he dropped down on his knees beside me, crushing me against him. “God, if anything had happened to you…” He trembled, as much with fear as with rage, and kissed the top of my head repeatedly…

Author Bio:
Author Valley Brown writes and lives in Southwestern Indiana. She is a member of Romance Writers of America – including the Indiana Chapter, ABATE, AQS, IQA, and the Raintree Quilters Guild.

Links:
Amazon Author page: http://amazon.com/author/valleybrown_romance
Facebook: https://facebook.com/pages/Valley-Brown/243539242332064?ref=hl
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5222461.Valley_Brown
Twitter: https://twitter.com/valley_brown
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/valley_brown/

Thanks for visiting, Valley and readers! Remember to comment by midnight on Wednesday, December 17, for a chance to win signed print copies of Rough Piece of Road and Speeding Tickets, book one of the series!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Marketing & Promo Push

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Self-publishing offers writers another choice on the road to publication, whether they’re already traditionally published and/or e-press published, or unpublished. Although the author maintains control of the process, she also has a lot of hard work ahead of her. Education about self-publishing and the publishing industry is vital to a good product and creating a professional image.

One of the top priorities of the Marketing & Promo Push is adding buy links to the author’s website and/or blog and sharing links on social media. Posts on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. disappear from view fairly quickly, but website and blog buy links offer a constant source of promotion. Remember to add new books to author profiles on sites like Goodreads, Author Central, Authorgraph, Manic Readers, and RWA’s Novel Engagement as well. Again, those links are always visible. Take advantage of the long-term exposure options! To better prepare for those additions, create a promo info document that includes the book title, series name, word count, release date, ISBNs, taglines and blurbs, an excerpt, and all links. This is a great place for a copy of the current author bio. That promo info document can also include sample tweets and posts.

A reminder about posting links to social media...
Even a once-a-day routine for several days around release time can be seen as spam if the posts aren’t intermixed with social updates. A continuous barrage of “buy my book” turns off most readers. Find a good balance.

Any release parties, giveaway events, blog tours, etc. should be scheduled and ready to begin. Guest posts should be written and submitted to bloggers when requested. Be “present” for promotional events and respond to readers’ comments and questions. That doesn’t necessarily mean spending every minute monitoring blogs and such. Time management is extremely important during this marketing push. Set aside part of the day to continue writing, even if it’s only a couple hours. Balance.

Book signings/personal appearances are uncomfortable for many writers, but they offer a chance to interact with fans and gain new readers. Introverts can choose small events at a local library, bookstore, coffee shop, etc. as way to get used to the social aspect of promotion. When authors handle the sales of their own books, they should have plenty of change available. Credit card readers, like Square, can be used as well. While guessing the number of sales ahead of time is nearly impossible, bringing more books than the anticipated need prevents a lost sale. Book signings are also the perfect place to give away swag (business cards, pens, magnets, etc.). Many signings provide only a table (or part of a table for a large event) and chair. Customize the space with a tablecloth and decorations that fit the theme of the book(s). Consider having a receipt book or paper and pencil handy for those wanting a receipt.

Advertising is often expensive, but it can provide wider exposure, especially when combined with special pricing. Promoting a price reduction usually boosts sales. However, as mentioned before, free is only effective for improving rankings unless the author has other books available for sale. Book signings are an excellent opportunity to offer special pricing on a single book or bundle-pricing on a series.

Creativity is what authors do best! Apply that to marketing and promotion.

Check off #13 and #14!

The To-Do List
1) Finish the book. 
2) Polish and edit the book. 
3) Write taglines and blurbs. 
4) Create or purchase cover art. 
5) Purchase ISBNs, if using a single ISBN for all retailers using the same book format (print or e-book). 
6) Create front and back matter. 
7) Format for e-book and/or print. 
7.a.) Add images. 
7.b.) Create audio book. 
8) Update website, blog, and social media. 
9) Create metadata list. 
10) Plan a marketing and promotion strategy. 
11) Publish the book. 
12) File copyright paperwork, if registering. 
13) Add buy links to websites, blogs, and social media. 
14) Implement marketing and promotion strategies. 
15) Write the next book!

Be sure to check out the writing craft series, Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Craft Handbook, in e-book at Amazon and B&N and in print at Amazon and CreateSpace, and the writing career series, Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Career Handbook, in e-book at Amazon and B&N and in print at Amazon and CreateSpace. Watch for Writing Tip Wednesday: The Self-Publishing Handbook in early January—with extra formatting and conversion content!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Amber Nation

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! This week my visitor is Amber Nation, another Indiana author. She's sharing a look at The Brown County Series and giveaway a boxed set of all 4 e-books!!! Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win Not Alone, Runaway Love, How To Save A Life, and Unconditionally (M/M).

The Complete Series contains 3 full-length novels and 1 novella.

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/BrownCountySeries
B&N: http://tinyurl.com/mblmt5o

Interview:
Me: This book is part of a series. Do you prefer to write single title or series? Why?
Amber: This ebook is actually the complete Brown County series, consisting of 4 titles. When I set out to write Not Alone I didn’t foresee it being part of a series, but sometimes life throws you some amazing curveballs.

Me: Is there a message in your novel you hope to convey to your readers?
Amber: All of my novels revolve around love and sometimes having a second chance in life. Being yourself regardless of what anyone thinks or says about you.

Me: What’s your favorite sub-genre (contemporary, sci-fi, etc.) to write? To read?
Amber: I love to read and write contemporary romance. Something about the main characters finding love and their happy ever after.

Me: I usually get plot ideas in the shower and while driving. When/where does inspiration strike you?
Amber: Normally while driving. I have to keep a notepad handy so I can jot things down at a moments notice. The notes app in my phone is pretty full as well.

Me: What new stories are you working on?
Amber: I am working on a new contemporary romance, More Than A Memory which is due to be released on January 11th, 2015. It’s a second chance romance about two high school friends turned lovers who haven’t seen each other in over fifteen years due to circumstances out of their control. They set eyes on each other again in the days leading up to their 15 year high school reunion.

Bio:
Amber is a stay at home mom currently residing in Southern Indiana with her husband and two beautiful daughters. If she's not shopping, going to concerts or on road trips, or having her nose stuck in a book, you'll often find her at the ball field watching one of the numerous sports that her girls are involved in.

She is the author of the contemporary romance Brown County Series, titles include Not Alone, Runaway Love, How To Save A Life, and Unconditionally (M/M).

Links:
Website: www.ambernationauthor.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ambernationauthor
Twitter: www.twitter.com/nation_amber
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Amber-Nation/e/B00GLAUKQ2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Thanks for visiting, Amber! And thank you, readers, for stopping by! Remember to comment by midnight (EST) on Wednesday, Dec. 10, for a chance to win The Brown County Series boxed set!!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Filing Copyrights

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Self-publishing offers writers another choice on the road to publication, whether they’re already traditionally published and/or e-press published, or unpublished. Although the author maintains control of the process, she also has a lot of hard work ahead of her. Education about self-publishing and the publishing industry is vital to a good product and creating a professional image.

Filing Copyrights isn’t mandatory. Technically speaking, an original work is copyrighted as soon as it’s created. However, a registered copyright gives the author the ability to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement. The unfortunate fact is a lawsuit for copyright infringement is very costly. Attorney’s fees and statutory damages may be recovered in successful litigation if the work is registered within three months of publication. Registration within five years of publication allows an award of actual damages and profits.

Each author must decide whether the additional rights are worth the cost and effort of registering the copyright—currently $35 per title/collection/single author when registering online at the US Copyright Office/Library of Congress and $55 for all other registrations.

To file a copyright registration form online, visit www.copyright.gov. For a tutorial of the process, check out http://copyright.gov/eco/eco-tutorial.pdf. Be aware that registration requires a copy of the work be submitted to the Library of Congress, so plan on shipping costs for print books or CDs for e-books, if not submitting an electronic copy with the application. If the book is available in print, plan to send a print copy since the Library of Congress requires the “best edition” of the work.

Information included in a copyright document is available to the public. Authors using pseudonyms who wish to keep their real names private have the option of filing the registration under the pen name. All information on the form will be released, so the author should complete only those details that are required and that she’s comfortable having the general public know.

With piracy and plagiarism happening in epidemic proportions, copyrights can provide a way to fight these diseases. With the right evidence and a good lawyer, an author may be able to recover damages and profits—but a lost case means substantial legal fees.

Check off #12!

The To-Do List
1) Finish the book. 
2) Polish and edit the book. 
3) Write taglines and blurbs. 
4) Create or purchase cover art. 
5) Purchase ISBNs, if using a single ISBN for all retailers using the same book format (print or e-book). 
6) Create front and back matter. 
7) Format for e-book and/or print. 
7.a.) Add images. 
7.b.) Create audio book. 
8) Update website, blog, and social media. 
9) Create metadata list. 
10) Plan a marketing and promotion strategy. 
11) Publish the book. 
12) File copyright paperwork, if registering. 
13) Add buy links to websites, blogs, and social media.
14) Implement marketing and promotion strategies.
15) Write the next book!

Be sure to check out the writing craft series, Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Craft Handbook, in e-book at Amazon and B&N and in print at Amazon and CreateSpace, and the writing career series, Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Career Handbook, in e-book at Amazon and B&N and in print at Amazon and CreateSpace. Watch for Writing Tip Wednesday: The Self-Publishing Handbook in early January—with extra formatting and conversion content!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Brina Brady

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! This week my guest is fellow IRWA author Brina Brady, and she's sharing her latest release, Bend Over, with us. She's also giving away to one lucky commenter! Take it away, Brina!

Blurb:
Runaway 18-year-old Shane O'Rourke is living under the Huntington Beach Pier. He carries many secrets from his past. Shane wasn’t allowed to explore his sexuality when he lived home with his father, The Reverend. His submissive nature and desires had to remain fantasies.
Shane meets a dark stranger on the beach. Julien Callier is a Dom from Martinique and is sixteen years older than Shane. Bad boy Shane wants to win the heart of Julien Callier and become his sub. But does he really understand what Julien expects from his boy?
Julien's heart goes out to this gorgeous boy and he takes him under his wing, grooming him to be his sub. Julien is determined to let Shane experience the good life, even financing his education, but he’s challenged at every turn by Shane’s rebellious nature.
When Shane’s defiant behavior threatens to come between them for good, Julien has to act fast to teach Shane the meaning of real submission.
Can Julien tame the bad boy? Can Shane give up his old ways of stealing, lying, and using drugs? The playroom is open.

Excerpt:
“Did I do something wrong, Julien?” Shane asked, biting his lower lip.

“Do you have anything you want to tell me?” His dark eyes searched Shane’s face, then studied his eyes as if he were trying to find something hidden there.

“No, Sir.”

“I called you here to let you know I’m going to be training you myself for the back room tricks and we’ll begin today.”

“Oh.” Shane stared at a red door that had a padlock on it.

“That’s my private playroom, and you’re never to go in there. I keep it locked.”

“Oh, okay.” Shane wondered what was in a playroom that needed to be padlocked.

“You are going to learn from me only. I want to make sure you can do what I need you to do for this job.” Julien waited for a reaction from him, but there was none.

Shane didn’t know what to think or what this meant. His face remained expressionless because he was unsure if this was good or bad.

“This also means you’ll be living here with me.” Julien walked around him, looking over his body.

“Here with you?” Shane’s voice squeaked a bit in panic. His cheeks burned when Julien looked at him directly. What did living with Julien mean for him? What would the training entail? He was drowning in his own fears, so he looked down at the red patterned throw rug, feeling too insecure to look directly at Julien. But he wanted to live with Julien, so what was his problem? His hesitation surprised him.

“You don't know much about me or this job, but you will when I’m done with your training.” His expression turned grim.

“All your things were moved while you were at the gym. You’ll have your own room here, but you’ll be sleeping in my bed at night with me.”

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P2XO5YM
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/489425
All Romance Books: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-bendover-1659072-3.html

Interview:
Me: What inspired you to write your first book?
Brina: I suppose I was always fascinated with rent boys and Russian mobsters. I had to amp it down because I like to write taboo topics, but I had to restrain myself as not to be banned on arrival.
I read about Putin’s stand against gays in Russia and that disturbed me greatly. There goes my trip to Russia. I wanted to show how difficult it could be for a gay man to fight his desires and his culture. Dmitri loved Brennen but he had many cultural forces against his lifestyle with Brennen. I wanted to show that Dmitri, like any repressed person could grow and accept who they are regardless of the cost. In his case, Dmitri lost friends and family’s respect.

Me: Do you see writing as a career?
Brina: I do see writing as my second career because I work eight hours or more a day on my writing.

Me: Do you prefer to write single title or series? Why?
Brina: I prefer writing a novel with a sequel.

Me: Give us some insight into your main character. What makes him/her special?
Brina: Shane O’Rourke is eighteen years old. He left home because he carried many secrets. He was raised with a strict Christian upbringing with a pastor for a father. He has a twin sister named Shane, who he protects and loves. Shane sells drugs, uses drugs, smokes, and drinks. He dropped out of high school to run away from New Jersey to California. Shane lies and steals. He seeks love and approval but doesn’t understand he needs to change. This is the story of young man who sees his error and makes corrections. Shane is conflicted because he is bisexual.

Me: Is there a message in your novel you hope to convey to your readers?
Brina: My message is to love everyone regardless of their sexual preference.

Me: I love a good conflict. What draws your main characters to each other and keeps them apart?
Brina: Shane O’Rourke threatens his relationship with Julien Callier because he lies, steals and uses drugs. Shane signed a contract with Julien before he had moved into Julien’s condo to follow the house rules and he constantly breaks the rules. Shane wants Julien to be his Dom, and Julien wants Shane to be his sub. Shane needs to express his submissive nature while Julien needs to express his dominant nature.

Me: How did you come up with the title?
Brina: Shane O’Rourke wants to be Julien Callier’s sub. He has to bend over for spankings, often.

Me: What’s your favorite sub-genre (contemporary, sci-fi, etc.) to write? To read?
Brina: I love to read and write M/M Gay Erotica with BDSM fiction.

Me: What new stories are you working on?
Brina: I’m working on Own Me, which is Rent Me’s sequel. This will be about them as a married couple living the BDSM lifestyle. They will fight like cats and dogs but in the end, they still love each other.
I’m also working on Don’t Throw Me Away, which is Bend Over’s sequel. This will be about Julien and Shane in the Dom/sub lifestyle.

Bio:
I am from Huntington Beach, Ca. I taught various subjects at a Continuation High School in Los Angeles, California for 27 years. I obtained a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in history, Secondary Social Science Credential and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Reading and Secondary Education from California State University, Long Beach. I also enrolled in some creative writing classes at UCLA. I am currently taking classes from Romance Writers of America. (Author of Rent Me)

Links:
Email address: brinabrady@gmail.com
Blog: http://brinabrady.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brina.brady.3
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrinaBrady
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/brinabrady/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+BrinaBrady/posts
Stumble Upon: http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/brinabrady
Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/brinabrady

Be sure to comment by midnight (EST) on Wednesday, December 3, for a chance to win a copy of Bend Over!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!