Pages

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Traci Douglass

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! The year is winding down quickly, isn't it? Remember to keep paper and a pencil handy during this busy season to jot down all those ideas, even if you don't have time to write.

Traci Douglass, another of my fabulous IRWA friends, is here to offer her advice today. Welcome, Traci! Thanks for visiting!

Don’t Fall Victim To Plodding Pacing

Credit: huffingtonpost.com

Whether you’re a planner or a pantser, pacing is something that every writer struggles with at one point or another. As a full-time freelance writer, ghostwriter, editor, and frequent critique partner, one of the biggest issues I see in many writers’ work—both new and seasoned scribes—is pacing that drags. This is not something to necessarily tackle in the first draft of a manuscript, but it is something you will need to address later in the revision process, when the real act of writing takes place, to give your novel the best chance for success and keep readers turning pages.

So, what exactly can cause a “Plodding Pacing” and what steps can you take to correct it? Here are three common issues I see (and experience myself in my own work), the common culprits causes of said issues, and ways to fix them.

Lack of Conflict

Credit: quickmeme.com

A problem with pacing many times means there is an underlying lack of conflict within the scene. Every scene of every story, no matter the genre, must contain conflict or it will fall flat. And conflict comes down to three things: G-M-C. (Aside: If you’ve not read Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon, it is highly recommended). Distilled down, it basically means for each character in each scene you want to determine what each character wants, discover why they want said thing or outcome, then define what stands in the way of them achieving their goal. Re-read each scene of your manuscript to make sure these things are present and compelling on every page. Of course, there are different kinds of conflict as well—External (outer forces acting on protagonist), Internal (emotions and past experiences of protagonist), and in the case of the Romance Genre, Romantic Conflict (why do the H/h belong together and what keeps them apart. What’s preventing their HEA). If you can layer more than one kind of conflict in a scene and make it pull double or even triple duty, excellent. If these things are not present in the scene at all, consider cutting the scene entirely or revising to make sure the conflict is there.

Lack of Emotional Range

Credit: fanpop.com

Characters are people too. They should have varying shades and nuances of emotion to make them believable and engaging to the reader. There are times when writers will fall into what Carina Press Editor Rhonda Helms calls “Emotional Incontinence”—basically, letting their emotions run wild all the time, every time. Though this is a tempting fantasy, it is not realistic, nor is it sustainable for the length of 300-400 pages of a novel. Would you want to spend hours on end with someone who is always angry or bouncing off the walls with excitement or the human equivalent of a drugged sloth? Me neither. The emotional range over the course of a book can be thought of as a roller coaster, both heights and valleys. It is these soaring highs and low lulls that will helps propel readers forward in the story.

Lack of Story Structure

Credit: Artist Tom Gauld

This is not to say that there is any right way or wrong way to write. Every one of us is different and that is the beauty of this art we call writing. I have my process, you have yours. But in the end, there are certain pieces of the puzzle that must fit together in order for a story to be solid and marketable. Especially genre fiction. There are parts that readers expect in mysteries, in thrillers, in sci-fi, in fantasy, in romance. For the experienced writer, fiddling with these time-tested tropes can be fun. For those less seasoned, twisting these integral parts or leaving them out all together can spell disaster. The old adage, “One must know the rules before one can break them”, is still around for a reason. Does that mean that you are stuck using standard three act structure for every story every time? Or forever bound to The Hero’s Journey? Certainly not. What it does mean is that you better know those story structures inside and out before you have a very good reason for breaking them. Genre fiction readers are among the most loyal in the world, but they are also among the smartest. Try leaving out the HEA (or Happily For Now) at the end of your Romance sometime and watch the vile e-mails pile up in your inbox. Even the most whackadoodle story still needs some identifiable story landmarks to ground readers in your make-believe world. Readers can only suspend disbelief once they believe in the first place. Give them relatable touchstones—inciting incident, major plot points or turns into the next act, the dreaded black moment, the climax—then let the connections between these be where your creativity shines.

In the end, the most important thing to remember is that writing is a process. It really is more about the journey than the destination. The best writers are the ones who never stop learning, never stop growing, never stop. Period. Except for chocolate. Or wine. Wine is good…

Credit: theodesseyonline.com

How do you deal with Plodding Pacing issues in your stories? Are you a pantster or a plotter? What tricks or questions do you employ to spark your muse and get your creative juices flowing?

Bio:

Traci is an award-winning author of Paranormal and Contemporary Romance and Urban Fantasy, including her bestselling Seven Seals Series. Her stories feature sizzling heroes full of dark humor, quick wits and major attitudes and heroines who are smart, tenacious, and always give as good as they get. She is an avid animal aficionado, unrepentant chocoholic, and more than occasional smartass.

Discover more about Traci and her books at: www.tracidouglass.net

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Aly Grady

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I'm baaack! Every time I think I'm caught up, more must-be-done-this-minute stuff pops up again. When I'm working on my 2016 plan and goals over the next week or so, finding balance is going to be at the top of the list! What's on your list for next year?

My IRWA friend Aly Grady is here to add to those resolution ideas, especially where writing is concerned. Welcome, Aly, and thanks for visiting today!

Are you new to writing? OR, do you still feel like a newbie? What are some of the steps you’ve taken to get over that newness?

Honestly, my New Year resolution at the end of 2014 was to improve my writing career. Let’s face it. If you choose to start writing a book, seriously have a story in your head that just won’t stop talking to you, then you write. The problem is I’d already self-published three books, but still felt like a newbie. There are so many aspects to the writing industry that were, and still are, a mystery to me. So what did I do?

Early on in the editing process for my first book, Winslow Elliot suggested that I seek out a local Romance Writers of America chapter. What did I do? Brushed her off. Who needs a group right? Come to find out, I do! I don’t know about you, but sitting at home day in and day out—just the dog, me and my laptop—got lonely. Well, I would talk, but that stubborn dog wouldn’t respond.

Writing is lonely and I’m a social creature. That New Year resolution idea kicked in and I signed up for the national group. That’s all fine and good. But again, that was just an on-line thing. I needed people who got me and what I was doing with this writing thing.

Ta-da! Cue the bells and whistles. I found my local chapter of RWA. This group of ladies, and token gentleman, are a wealth of information. We come together once a month and learn writing techniques, strategies that have long been forgotten since high school or college. Discuss the latest trends in the writing industry and socialize.

We all come together from different places and backgrounds, but we have a common goal. We pump each other up and cheer on successes. I’ve felt less alone in my solitary career and, for me, that is priceless.

Have you looked for a local writing chapter and none are to be found? Well, since I’ve joined my writing chapter, I’ve also sought out more groups. There is a host of writing groups to be found on Facebook and I often use the hashtag #amwriting on Twitter. If you search that hashtag, you’ll see who else is writing. Go ahead. See who else is out there.

My latest endeavor to not feel alone in my writing was participating in National November Writer’s Month or NaNoWriMo. This is a crazy, stressful, exciting, and rewarding way to get 50,000 words written in a month. It is tracked on-line, but you can sign up to meet up through-out the month with others in your area. This is for any person who is interested in writing any genre. There are coaches to help you along your journey. There is a twitter sprint writing challenge you can participate in too. It’s fun tweeting with folks in Australia or Europe or anywhere in the world who are doing the exact same craziness as you. The whole thing is free, which is nice, and if you stick to their pre-prescribed plan, it can be relatively painless. Unless you are like me and you skip a day or five and push that last day to the limit of your imagination. Even if you don’t “win” by reaching that 50,000 goal, you still have the start of your amazing new work in progress.

So my point is—no matter what genre you write in, there are other folks out there doing the same thing. Seek them out, attend educational workshops designed for writers at industry events or local colleges. Most likely they want to find you too.

Talking to your Mom, sister, or friends about your writing struggles is nice, and they can pat you on the back and tell you that it will be fine. It’s a fellow writer who can work through that writing road block with you, because they know what you’re going through. They will also be the first to help you celebrate too.

So go find a writing buddy and then get to work on that next bestseller!

Bio:
Aly Grady is New England born, but for the past ten years has enjoyed living in the Indianapolis area. She has firsthand knowledge of the racing industry because she is a racing widow. While not writing, Aly enjoys time spent trying to keep up with her two children and their busy lives, reading books by her favorite authors, watching IndyCar races to look for her husband, and traveling. The newest addition is a fur kid Labradoodle named Cody.

Aly accepted the challenge by her husband to write a book and created The Racer’s Widow, which was released in November 2012. Chasing The Dream and Taking A Chance round out the series. Aly is a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, and Contemporary Romance Writers.

Website: http://www.AlyGrady.com
Twitter: @AlyGrady
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AlyGrady2012
Email: alygrady@aol.com

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Gina Drayer

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Can you believe November is here already? I have lots of writing to do before year's end, and I think my guest Gina Drayer may be on to something. Her advice puts a new spin on how to accomplish a daily word count. Welcome, Gina!

The best advice I can give to new writers is: SCHEDULE TIME TO WRITE.

I’m not just talking about devoting time to your craft (which you should be doing). I mean, treat your writing like a job or a class. Have a set time every day that you write. It doesn’t have to be long. Even two hours once a day is enough to get started. But make that time and fiercely protect it. Let your family know. Tell your friends. Turn off the internet and silence your phone.

Why go through the bother of scheduling time? It’s a brain chemistry thing, kind of like having a set bedtime. When you have a ritual, something you do at a set time in a particular place, you mind gets ready.

By going through the motions, if you will, you are alerting your brain that “this is the time we get creative.” Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, you can create a neurological trigger for “inspiration” with your own writing ritual.

And when you’re ready to write, magic happens.

It doesn’t happen overnight. You are effectively retraining your brain, so it takes time. But it’s worth it. So the best advice I can give to you is don’t just make time to write; schedule time to write. You’ll thank me later.

Bio:
Gina Drayer is an avid reader, writer, and Ubergeek.

A proud Navy brat, Gina has lived all over the country, but now hangs her hat in Indiana with her family. Currently, she spends her days running the family's Home Health Agency and Women's Mastectomy Center and her nights creating fantastic characters and steamy contemporary romances.

The third book in her Modern Girl’s Guide series (http://amzn.to/1NmUDVo) will be published in December.

Follow her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/GinaDrayerAuthor/) or sign up for her newsletter (http://ginadrayer.com/subscribe/).

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Roxy Mews

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Fall is in full swing here in Indiana, so grab a cup of something warm to drink and pull up a chair. Roxy Mews is visiting today with some excellent advice for all writers. Welcome, Roxy, and thanks for being here!

I took a while trying to think about what advice I’d like to pass on to other writers. I’ve been lucky in my career. I’ve been mentored by some truly remarkable women, and something on my “to accomplish” list is to return the favor in whatever way I can. That’s why I jumped at the chance to write a post for Writing Tip Wednesday.

I could tell you the usual tips such as to never run out of coffee, write as often as you can, and ALWAYS delete your browser history before handing your laptop to parents or children. There are some things your mom can live without knowing.

I could also tell you about how I keep a book bible with details about my characters nearby while I’m writing. I learned the hard way that finding a hair color through two books is not an easy task.

But for this article I’ll stick with something a bit more true to my heart. Well, not counting coffee of course, because seriously…coffee is really needed.

My writing tip for everyone is to be brave.

Write brave. Let your characters call the shots. Don’t dial them back. Let your imagination play out loud and on the page. A special person told me once that, “If you have a story inside you, there is someone out there who needs to read it.”

Act brave. Even when you feel anything but. Jump at opportunities. When I got my first acceptance email, my first thought was…well I can’t write that on a public space without getting in trouble. Let’s just say, I didn’t think I was ready. I took the chance anyway. In that moment I acted brave, and I have a career because I took that chance.

Be brave for others. I’ve only been published for two years now, but I’ve met so many wonderful people. And guess what? Every author I have talked to has doubts. They doubt they’ll be able to switch genres, even though their heart tells them it’s the right thing to do. They doubt their latest hero will be likable. They doubt anyone will bother buying their book. But if they are as lucky as I am, when they have those doubts, they have other authors who will smack them upside the head and tell them they’re being stupid. Their fellow authors will tell them to go for it, and pass them a glass of wine when they hit send. When you find your niche, and you find those authors who are your peers, your critique partners, and ultimately your friends, be brave for them too.

So that’s my advice. Be brave. Write brave, act brave, and be brave for others, while you put your dreams on paper. Be brave enough to show your words to other people, and be brave enough to grow. Big dreams are scary. I should know. Mine terrify me.

Bio:
Roxy wrote her first story at age six on an electric typewriter. It was about a cat and a haunted house. Thankfully, her stories and technology have matured since then. Now Roxy spends her days fighting the evil day job in hopes of conquering the stories that run rampant in her head when she comes home at night. When she discovered Erotic Romance, Roxy fell in love. She can’t wait to share all her fun and sexy stories with everyone. To connect with Roxy Mews find her babbling on Twitter, friend her on Facebook, visit her Blog, or find all these links on RoxyRocksMe.com.

Links:
Website: http://www.roxyrocksme.com/
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/RoxyMewsAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RoxyMews
TSU: https://www.tsu.co/RoxyMews
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/roxymews/
Instagram: http://instagram.com/roxymews/
Group Blog: http://www.lustwithalaugh.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7151191.Roxy_Mews

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Release Day for Death Benefits!!!

Are you ready for a quick paranormal read to prepare for Halloween?

Death Benefits is now available from Amazon, ARe, B&N, GooglePlay, iBooks, and Kobo for only 99 cents!

Sometimes…you’re better off dead.

Even as a woman used to dealing with dead people, Genesis Blacke has met her match.

Widow Genesis Blacke spends her days with dead people and her nights wishing she could relive the last moments with her deceased husband, that she could somehow change the past and save him from death. Fate gives her a second chance at love, but it isn’t quite what she expects.


Enjoy!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Jeana Mann

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! In case you missed the announcement and cover reveal, I have a short story release on Friday, October 23. Death Benefits is perfect for Halloween lovers and will be available at Amazon, ARe, B&N, GooglePlay, iBooks, and Kobo for only 99 cents!

In the meantime, Jeana Mann is here to offer some great advice on writing exercise! Welcome, Jeana, and thanks for visiting!

FLEX YOUR WRITING MUSCLE

Thank you so much for allowing me to be here this week! It’s exciting to see so many writers sharing their knowledge and to be a part of it.

I‘m often asked about my writing process and how I’ve managed to write six books in less than a year. I thought I would share my experience and what I’ve learned.

Let me start by saying my first book, Intoxicated, took five years to write. FIVE YEARS. That’s a long time, especially in a business where authors are constantly told the faster you can produce, the quicker you will see results and build a readership. If I had any hopes of meeting these criteria, I needed to streamline my writing process. After attending a few courses on maximizing time, I took a long hard look at my work ethic. I came up with two problems. First, I was wasting time on undeveloped plotlines and getting lost in social media. Second, I had no discipline—at all. I am the world’s greatest procrastinator.

If you want to write faster, here are a few suggestions. Let me preface these by saying, I think it‘s important to evaluate your personal lifestyle and find what works for you. Everyone is different. We each have different goals and needs to be met.

1. Maximize your time—don’t waste precious minutes on things that take you away from writing. It is so easy to get sucked into social media and promotion. Focus on the areas you do well in or enjoy and let the others go.

2. Make writing a priority—carve out time each day to write, even if it’s only for ten minutes. Some days I get up an hour earlier before my day job in order to meet my writing goal for the day. I keep a small notebook in my purse to jot down ideas about characters and plots so that I’m ready to roll when I sit down at my desk.

3. Write every day—set a daily word count and stick to it. This is easy to say, hard to do. Sometimes everything I write is crap, but I keep writing anyway until I hit my count. I believe that writing is like exercising a muscle. The more you use it, the more flexible and strong it will become. The more you write, the easier it will be to get the words onto paper.

4. Set goals—make a plan for the next year. Set deadlines and keep them. I made a goal to produce one book every two months while working sixty hours a week at my day job. I do whatever it takes to hit these dates. If you can only write one book a year, then set your deadlines accordingly, but make yourself accountable.

5. Use tools to make writing easier—don’t waste time going in circles like I did. I use Scrivener to keep track of my series data (ie: character names, eye color, ages). It also allows me to write in bits and pieces and move those bits around to suit my ever-changing plotlines. I also use Hootsuite to post to multiple social media sites in one fell swoop. Talk to other authors and ask what they use to organize their writing lives.

6. Find a balance—don’t spend all your time at the computer. Recharging your batteries is just as important as hitting the keyboard. Family, diet, exercise, shopping for shoes. Whatever your pleasure, make sure you allow time for it. My best ideas come when my mind is fresh. Getting away from your desk allows you to generate new ideas and spurs creativity.

I hope you find these tips useful. Stay diligent and remember to enjoy your life. Being an author is hard work, but it is also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Thank you for letting me visit with you today and happy writing!

Bio:
Jeana E. Mann is the author of sizzling hot contemporary romance. She was born and raised in Indiana and lives in a tiny town with a saloon, no stoplights, and cows in the backyard. She graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Speech and Hearing, something totally unrelated to writing.
When she’s not busy dreaming up steamy bad boys for her Felony Romance Series, she loves to travel anywhere and everywhere. Over the years she has climbed the ruins of Chichen Iza in Mexico, snorkeled along the shores of Hawaii, driven the track at the Indy 500, sailed around Jamaica, ate gelato on the steps of the Pantheon in Rome, and explored the ancient city of Pompeii. More important than the places she’s been are the people she has met along the way.
Be sure to connect with Jeana on Facebook or follow along on Twitter for the latest news regarding her upcoming releases.

Links:
Website: http://jeanaemann.net/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jeanaemann
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeanaemann
Goodreads: http://www.bit.ly/1civ66e

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!
Death Benefits ~ Coming Friday, October 23!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cover Reveal Day!!!

Back in February, I submitted a short story to RWA's Second Chances Anthology call. I wrote the 5500-word story on a whim, with the plot coming out of nowhere and the story telling itself. Even the title was easy. Don't you love when that happens?!

Well, I recently got a rejection email, so that means I have a new paranormal short story just in time for Halloween. And today is Cover Reveal Day! Do you see how I worked the situation to my advantage? The Big R equals Re-purpose in my book. :) Many thanks to Bethany at Dragonfly Press Design for the rush job on the cover! You're awesome!!!

Coming to an e-tailer near you on Friday, October 23!

Blurb: Even as a woman used to dealing with dead people, Genesis Blacke has met her match.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Susan Gee Heino

Welcome back to Writing Tip Wednesday! So many of my writer friends have been under deadline, dealing with health issues, and just plain buried under family and work responsibilities lately that it seems like we've all been playing catch-up. The wonderfully cheerful and sweet Susan Gee Heino is my guest this week and she's offering some great advice. Wecome, Susan, and thanks for being here!

Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Mellanie! I love what you're doing and I'm happy to add my little bit of knowledge to this project. So here is my piece of advice for new writers:

Writing a book is like parenting. It keeps us up at night, it fills us with pride, it makes our hearts dance, but it can also make us want to pull out our hair. Writing something with the goal of seeing it published is not for the faint of heart! Most of us don't write because it's a relaxing way to spend our free time, but because there is some deep, primal instinct that urges us onward. We can't not pour ourselves into our books.

Ask just about any novelist and she'll tell you that her book is her baby. Ask "which of your books is your favorite?" and you'll get a confused stare. The emotional investment in crafting a book is so huge, so personal, that there's really no way to disconnect ourselves from it. Even if we want to, and—as any parent will admit—sometimes we do.

But just as in real-life parenting, these babies that we love and hold close in our arms will someday grow up. They have a bright future ahead! Books aren't meant to be merely a document on our hard drive or just a pleasant hobby that we poke at from time to time. Books are meant to be read by others.

It's hard to let go sometimes, though. We want to keep our baby just the way it is, safe and chubby and cuddly and cute. We don't want to run the risk of exposing it to reviewers and sales reports and people who just don't get it. If your dream as a writer is to become published, though, this is exactly what you have to do. You have to be a good parent to that book-baby.

So don't think of your book as your baby; think of it as what it will become someday. Will it be the next big thriller? Will it be an implement of comfort and hope? Will it provide insight and amusement? Will it set the world on fire with heat and emotion? No baby can do all that, but a full grown book can.

All of your hard work now isn't just passing the time. You're not simply hitting your daily word-count goal or polishing pages. You are taking your wonderful idea—your brainchild—and nurturing it all the way from infancy to full adulthood. You are guiding your book through its long journey toward publication. You're teaching it to drink from the big-boy cup, you're taking off the training wheels, you're holding its hand when it gets stood up on prom night. Everything you do as writer is aiming toward that final product.

Your book has to be able to swim in the deep end. It has to hold its head up high when faced with a bully. It has to make people fall in love with it. It can't stay a baby forever and that's why you work so hard.

So my advice to new writers is to love their book, but don't treat it like a baby. Let it grow up. Learn your craft, set some goals, and take your efforts seriously. Find out what is happening in the market and use that knowledge to give your book what it will need to succeed. Nurture its unique personality and encourage it to reach beyond clichés and redundancies.

It's a scary world out there, but your book can make it. Have faith in it, and lean on all your writer-friends for support when junior seems to be throwing a tantrum or wandering off in the wrong direction. Put that baby on time-out and by all means, don't spare the delete key! Do whatever it takes to whip your book into shape. The extra effort will be worth it when the time comes for your precious darling to leave the nest and soar.

Bio:
Susan Gee Heino is a former actress, playwright, and theatre director, so she's no stranger to the dramatic. In 2008 she won the RWA Golden Heart® Award for Best Regency Romance, and her first book was released by Berkley Publishing in 2009. Since then she has published nearly 20 books and novellas. Her most recent title is THE GHOSTLY GOAL OF SCARY LORD LARRY, a Regency ghost story.

Along with her lighthearted Regency Romance, she writes quirky small-town Contemporary Romance. Under her pen name, Serena Gilley, she writes The Forbidden Realm fantasy romance series. Ms. Heino lives in rural Ohio with her pastor husband, two very creative children, and an accidental collection of critters. She loves to get to know her readers and invites everyone to connect with her on social media or visit her websites at www.SerenaGilley.com and www.SusanGH.com.

Links:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SusanGeeHeinoAuthor
Facebook: www. facebook.com/serena.gilley
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SusanGeeHeino

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!
Coming soon ~ Death Benefits, a paranormal short story

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Leah Braemel

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I've come to the conclusion that life is NOT going to slow down any time soon. I spent a fabulous weekend in Indianapolis with my IRWA chapter mates at our Liliana Hart Event. We had a great turnout (about 160 attendees) and the program was fantastic! If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of Liliana's presentations, don't miss it!

This week, my awesome Canadian friend Leah Braemel is here to offer her sage advice to new writers. I couldn't agree more with number one on her list! And number six. And number nine. Number two gives me warm fuzzies. :) The rest of her advice is right on the mark too! Welcome, Leah, and thanks for visiting!

Thanks to Mellanie for inviting me today – I’ve skimmed back over old posts, and there is a lot of great advice here, so I don’t think I’m telling you anything new, but these are the points that I have taught to my own classes. To be honest, these are pieces of advice I have stuck up on notes around my desk because even after fourteen or so published stories, and countless unpublished ones that will never see the light of day, I still need to remember these points.

Things to keep in mind when writing:

1. The BEST piece of advice I first heard from Margaret Moore, but I’ve heard other authors repeat it since: Treat all writing advice like a buffet. When an author stands up (or blogs) and says “this is how you should write” what you should hear is “this is what works for them, it may or may not work for you.” It took me a couple of years to realize how wise Margaret’s advice was.

2. Don’t overload yourself with how-to-write workshops or books. When I first joined a major writing organization almost ten years ago, they and their affiliates offered dozens of workshops a month. I would take at least one craft course a month for almost the whole year. By the end of that year I found myself writing a paragraph, or a sentence, and then thinking “Oh, but Jane said …” so I’d delete the sentence and re-write it using Jane’s suggestions, only to think “Oh, but Mary said…” and so I’d delete that sentence and try to write it the way both Jane AND Mary suggested, and so on I went. Needless to say, I didn’t get much writing done for almost a year.

Does that mean I’m saying you shouldn’t read any craft books and shouldn’t take any courses? Heck no. My shelf is filled with them – I highly recommend Mellanie’s books, or another favorite of mine - Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. I also highly recommend Margie Lawson’s courses.

3. There are no “Rules of Writing.” Seriously. They’re more like pirates’ guidelines.

In fiction, you can use fragments. You can use one word sentences. You can end a sentence with a preposition. You can write first person point-of-view for two different characters in the same book. (Just not in the same scene please, that would be too confusing.) Yes, there are editors and agents who will not read a book that starts with a prologue, but that’s usually because most new authors don’t understand what a prologue is supposed to show. There are hundreds of new books published by New York every year that include prologues. You just have to know when a prologue is necessary and when it’s just an info-dump. So if someone tells you that you can never use the word “was” in your first paragraph/page/50 pages, etc., or that you absolutely must follow the (picture me dropping my voice into a horror movie announcer tone) *12 Rules of Writing*, feel free to thumb your nose at them and show them the door.

4. You write the book, not your computer software: Don’t get stuck in the loop that if you just find the perfect writing software you’ll be able to finish your book. Sorry to disappoint you but even if you have great programs such as Scrivener or WriteWay Pro (and hey, Word’s not so bad either), you still have to sit your butt in the chair and write the darn book. The software is simply a tool to help you achieve it – it’s up to you to actually put the words on the page.

5. It helps to have a good chef teach you to cook, but there can be too many cooks in a kitchen. There are those (and I used to be—and still am—one of the advocates) who insist you have to have a couple good critique partners go over your work before submitting it. It’s a good idea, especially for new writers. But you also need to be aware the wrong critique partners can destroy your self-confidence until you don’t trust yourself anymore, and worse, they can try to change your voice or teach you bad habits. The key is learning the difference between a good critique partner and a bad one—oh boy that’s a delicate balance because someone who is good for one author might be a bad critique partner for another. Finding a good critique partner is like dating—you have to try each other out, get to know each other’s styles, and it’s okay to say “no, this isn’t a good fit” and move on.

6. Be aware that what works for you now, may not work for you 2 years from now, or vice versa. If something’s not working for you, don’t be afraid to try something new.

7. If you’re struggling writing a scene in third person, try writing it in first person, and then if your genre or your readers insist they only read third person, when the scene is done, you can edit it back to third.

If you normally sit at your desk, try sitting at the dining room table, or at a coffee shop, or the side of a river. If you normally write on a laptop, try writing on your tablet, try dictating into a voice recorder, or go old-school and hand-write your scene. You’d be surprised how a simple change can unclog your creativity and get you back on track.

8. Edits—they hurt so good. I once heard an author say how whenever they got their edits back from their editor, they pushed their chair back from their keyboard as far as they could get, closed one eye, squinted with the other, and very gingerly pressed the key to open the doc. I find myself reacting the same way most times. (Although usually my editor will tell me in the accompany email whether she liked it or not.) But – and this is a key point new writers need to remember—as much as it hurts to read an editor’s notes that tell you your writing isn’t perfect, you need to learn to listen to what they’re saying. You need to be able to take a step back and say “why are they saying that?” As the author you know what you meant, but maybe you weren’t clear enough so the reader is left confused. The editor is telling you the readers’ side, and that’s something that should be very important to you. Yes, there are times the editor and you may disagree. It happens on occasion. But don’t automatically dismiss their comments either. Their name goes on that book (even for my self pubbed books, I include the name of the editor in the front pages) and they are being judged by your work too. So open that edited doc, read through their comments, then close the doc and walk away for a day. Or two. That space and time will give you a new perspective.

Oh and about those edits? Yes, you really do need to hire a professional editor – unless your mom or your sister is a professional editor, please don’t think them reading your work is a pass straight to self-publishing and rave reviews. Sure it might happen, but seriously, go out and find yourself a freelance editor to edit your work so it’s the best it can be. Read their comments and listen to them, (most authors I know let them sit for a day or two to allow them to digest) and then EDIT your work again, and then hire a proofreader, and turn out the best possible story you can.

9. Straight from Nora Roberts herself – “You can’t edit a blank page.” And added to by me, “you can’t publish a blank page. So if your goal is to be published, you’d better finish that book.”

Bio:
Leah is the only woman in a houseful of males that includes her college-sweetheart husband, two sons, a Shih Tzu named Seamus, and Turtle the cat. She loves escaping the ever-multiplying dust bunnies by opening up her laptop to write about sexy heroes and the women who challenge them.

Reviewers have awarded Leah's books numerous Top Pick and Recommended Reads designations as well as nominated them as Best Contemporary Romance, Best Erotic Romance, and Best Ménage à Trois or More. Leah has also been nominated as Favorite Author and Best Erotic Romance Author.

Look for FEEDING THE FLAMES, book 1 in the Flirting with Fire series, along with the Grady Legacy series from Carina Press.

Follow Leah on Facebook, Tsu, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr and Goodreads. You can also follow Leah on her Amazon Author page or chat with her and other fans on her Facebook Reader group.

Website: http://leahbraemel.com
Blog: http://leahbraemel.com/blog

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from A.D. Ellis

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I'm back with another guest--after a week of "life" taking all my time! Between finishing IGO entry judging and trying to catch up with my garden (two bushels of tomatoes in the last week and a half among other assorted vegetables), something had to give. The good news? I'm caught up and writing again!

The fantastic A.D. Ellis has a great post for you today about something I really need to improve on (or clone myself)!

Focus. Focus is the key.

Well, focus is something I have to work into this this whole independent author journey.

Hi! I’m A.D. Ellis, author of A Torey Hope Novel Series and Torey Hope: The Later Years. I started writing in October of 2013 and published in April of 2014. At the time of writing this post, I have six books published with two more scheduled to finish out the second series.

I wish I could tell you that I got all of this done because I was focused. But that’s not what this article is about. I’m a mother, a wife, a teacher, and an author. I am the queen of multi-tasking and I think that’s why I’m able to get a lot done. I focus and give my best to all I do, but I have to work on several things at once. If I was not being a mom and a teacher and a wife, maybe I wouldn’t have to multi-task. But not doing those other things isn’t a choice, so I multitask.

This post is going to multi-task. It’s going to focus on a few of my biggest tips for success. They are in no order, they don’t require 100% focus (although, you WILL have to put forth effort and do your best), and they can be done along with several other things all at once.

Engage with your readers: Ask their opinions. Invite them to send you their thoughts and feelings on your work. Open yourself up to their comments and questions. One of the very best parts of being an author is getting to meet and interact with my readers.

A side note: DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT engage negatively with readers. EVER. Not on review sites, not in emails, not on social media. Keep it positive. It never turns out well and you’re trying to build your name up and reach readers; you don’t need to get a bad reputation.

A side note on my side note: Just because you publish and are (hopefully, but very honestly likely not) a huge overnight success, this does not give you the right to start slamming others and expecting that every single reader will love your book. Stay humble.

Back to engaging with your readers…they are the most important people in this whole thing. Readers leave reviews, readers tell their friends, readers buy more of your books. Treat them right.

Research to get it right: If you’re going to take the time to write and publish a book, take the time to get the details right. My first couple books had some topics I knew a lot about from my years as an educator; no research needed there. But, there were some topics on addiction and recovery that I wasn’t familiar with. Sure, I knew what I saw on television and movies, but I wanted to get it right; I talked to addiction and recovery therapists to get their insight.

I don’t have a medical background other than watching ER years ago. In my fourth book, there were medical scenes and I wanted them spot-on. I spoke to paramedics and nurses. There were some scenes involving police and laws, so I spoke to people in the law enforcement field.

In my two newest releases, I needed background/input on construction and the point-of-view of a gay man. So, what did I do? I talked to those in construction and I had a blast talking to families of gay men and gay men themselves.

What if you don’t know nurses, paramedics, police officers, gay men, therapists? JUST ASK! I promise, if you’re on social media and you put out a plea for information, you’ll get at least a couple people willing and able to help.

Open yourself up to critique: This is very hard. When you first write your book, it’s your baby and you don’t want anyone saying anything bad about your baby. But no one is perfect and everyone can improve on something. It’s hard at first, but toughen up, admit that there are things you can strengthen, and accept constructive criticism.

Another side note: There will be tons of reviews where the criticism is anything but constructive. Dry your tears, punch a pillow, laugh with some author friends, see if you can find anything helpful in it, and then MOVE ON. If you have the urge to reply to the review or call the reviewer out on social media or gripe about the low review to your readers/followers, please refer back to my previous side note about NEVER, EVER engaging with readers in a negative way. Just don’t.

Find a group that understands and supports you: The indie author community is one of the most welcoming and helpful groups of people around, except when it isn’t. And it isn’t open and supportive quite a lot lately. It’s a saturated market, especially the romance genre, and everyone is trying to get a piece of the pie.

That said, there are some great people out there. Sit back and watch; buddy up with people who seem to be like you; ask questions; stay out of any and all drama. You will soon find one or two people who you click with and they “get” what you’re going through because they are in the same boat.

Unless you have personal friends or family who are independent authors, they probably won’t “get” the emotions and effort and struggles and frustrations you’re going to deal with. Having author buddies is a tremendous help.

Remember when I said don’t respond to negative reviews? Well, if you’ve got those one or two close author friends, you can vent to them. They’ll understand because they probably have a bad review as well. Do it secretly; cry, cuss, vent; move on.

While on the subject of groups, get a group of beta readers. Beta readers read your work before it’s ready to publish. Authors do it differently; some send it chapter by chapter, some in bigger chunks, some when it’s completely finished. Betas read your work for errors, holes in the plot, things they like/don’t like, places where things don’t make sense, etc. They aren’t necessarily editors, but they have proven invaluable to me. When I’m doubting my work (and if you’re a writer, you know how we all sometimes doubt our work), I will send it to my betas and they give me feedback that lets me know I’m on track or helps me get back on track.

Keep writing: You wrote one book. People loved it. They want more. You can’t give them more if you’re not writing, writing, writing. If readers decide they like your work, they will voraciously want to read more. Be sure you have more to give them. That doesn’t mean rush through your work and offer up less-than-your-best; it just means don’t sit around waiting for that one book to make you a star. The more you write, the more you publish, the more readers you reach.

My final note (wow, I got a bit wordy, huh?) is this: Don’t give up. You will have bad days, you will have good days, and then there will be more bad days. If you truly aren’t feeling it, reassess and see if it’s what you want to do. But don’t reassess on a bad day. Wait until you’re between the good and the bad days. More than likely, you’ll realize that being a published author is just too much fun (and hard work, and sweat, and tears, and frustrations, and…) and you’ll decide to keep telling your stories. Because, in the end, that’s what it’s all about. Getting those stories out of our heads and onto paper so they can be shared with readers.

Bio:
A.D. Ellis is the author of two contemporary romance series, A Torey Hope Novel Series and Torey Hope: The Later Years. Her 2014 debut novel, For Nicky, was voted #3 of the Top 50 Indie Books of 2014 by ReadFree.ly readers/voters. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Indiana Romance Writers of America.

A.D. was born and raised in a small farming town in southern Indiana. An avid reader from the time she learned to read, A.D. could often be found curled up somewhere with her nose in a book. Most of her friends and family were not such book enthusiasts, so she got used to dealing with snickers and joking comments about her constant reading habits.

A.D. always dreamed of being a teacher. Graduating from Indiana State University in 1999 and earning a Master’s Degree from Indiana Wesleyan in 2003, she met her goal of entering the world of education. A.D. has been teaching in the inner city of Indianapolis, Indiana for 16 years; most of her years of experience have been in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade. A.D. loves teaching fractions, variables, probability, and graphing in Math. She loves almost all aspects of English Language Arts. Figurative language, theme, making predictions, drawing conclusions, inference, context clues, making writing come to life, A.D. loves it all! Her students don’t always share in that enthusiasm.

Ms. Ellis met her husband in college in 1996 and they married in June of 2000. She lives in a south side suburb of Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband, two school-aged children, and a hyperactive Yorkie named Snickers. When she’s not reading or writing with music blaring, she can be found shopping at thrift stores, reading to her children, and sweating at the gym.

A.D. began her writing journey in October 2013; she is grateful for the friends and support she’s found along the way.
Please connect with A.D. Ellis on Facebook. www.facebook.com/adellisauthor
Find A.D.’s author page on Amazon at www.amazon.com/author/adellis

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Jacie Floyd

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! A big part of crossing the threshold from writer to author is never giving up. Perseverance and continuing to expand your knowledge of writing and publishing can make all the difference in the world. If you don't believe me, the fabulous Jacie Floyd will set you straight!

Editing is More Than Typos and Commas

I had been writing for a very long time with pretty good success for an unknown, unpublished author. I joined RWA and several local chapters to stay current on publishing news and trends. I participated in critique groups. I attended conferences. And I entered contests.

I had been a Golden Heart finalist six times, and I had won twice, along with several other big competitions. I was on the right track and knew what I was doing. Or so I thought.

The first time an editor reviewed one of my contest entries, she asked to see the full manuscript. I sent it and waited. And waited some more. Waited a long time. Finally, after more than a year and numerous calls and letters, I received a response. A form letter Rejection. With a capital R. The same scenario repeated itself over the years, occasionally with more personal letters or revision suggestions. Editors told me I should get an agent. Agents told me “No, thanks.”

At the 2013 RWA National conference, the year of my last Golden Heart nomination, my daughter attended the conference with me. While I was busy enjoying my GH status, she went to self-publishing workshops. She asked me why I hadn’t tried self-publishing. Mostly because I didn’t have any of the required technical skills.

But luckily for me, my daughter was a wizard at the technical things and was willing to help. I just had to handle some of the non-technical things. Like chart my course, hire an editor, choose a cover designer, figure out Amazon, PR and marketing, and other tasks that I didn’t have any idea about. But I asked around. Got recommendations. Sent emails. With my daughter’s help, I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream and publish Meet Your Mate, my first romantic comedy. We might have struggled through that first publication, but we managed, and each one has gotten easier.

Now which of these things did I wish I had done or learned about previously? Which of them might have helped me get better rejection letters from editors, more consideration from agents, and possibly, a book contract with a traditional publisher?

The freelance developmental editor.

It was clear from the contest wins and requests from editors that I knew how to write.

But it wasn’t until I hired a developmental editor to look at my completed manuscripts that the light dinged. If there were spotty problems with structure, organization, coherence, or logical consistency, I couldn’t detect them on my own. This was the reason I hadn’t made the final connection with agents and editors in my quest for publication. This was the “special” something that my manuscripts lacked. My stories and plots were good, but not quite good enough. And I was too close to it to see the problem.

When your manuscript is perfect, when you think it is as good as you can possibly make it, whether you intend to self-publish or submit to a traditional publishing house, hire a professional editor look at it first.

The charges and services of a developmental editor vary. Some charge by the hour, some charge by the word. Check out their websites. Check with other authors who use them. To guarantee that they offer the type of expertise you’re looking for, some editors will review a few sample pages for you before you commit to a contract. But if you spend money on only one thing prior to publication, it should be spent on this.

Should you blindly follow all of their suggestions?

No, absolutely not. Only if it works for you and fits into your vision for your book. But even if it doesn’t, it may point out the trouble spots and give you something to think about that will lead you in a new direction. Possibly a better direction. This may be the thing that takes your work to the next level, the highest level, above everything else sitting in the slush pile or languishing in the Amazon rankings.

Make your manuscript shine with a professional polish of a developmental editor before sending it out into the real world.

Bio:
Jacie Floyd writes contemporary romance, romantic comedy, and emotionally rich stories about the kind of strong women and bold men you want to read about and know.

Current books:
The Billionaire Brotherhood:
Winning Wyatt http://www.amazon.com/Winning-Wyatt-Billionaire-Brotherhood-Book-ebook/dp/B00YBLKAXG
Daring Dylan http://www.amazon.com/Daring-Dylan-Billionaire-Brotherhood-Book-ebook/dp/B0140K01IQ

The Good Riders:
Meet Your Mate http://www.amazon.com/Meet-Your-Mate-Riders-Romance-ebook/dp/B00MPSD65Q
Cursed By Love http://www.amazon.com/Cursed-Love-Good-Riders-Romance-ebook/dp/B00OZVOSJ4
Meant For Me http://www.amazon.com/Meant-Good-Riders-Romance-Book-ebook/dp/B00WP6ZGLA

Summer Kisses: Ten Golden Heart Authors Boxed Set http://www.amazon.com/SUMMER-KISSES-Golden-Heart-Authors-ebook/dp/B0103283SU

Website: www.jaciefloyd.com
FB: http://www.facebook.com/JacieFloyd
Twitter: @jaciefloyd

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Mellanie Szereto

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I'm hijacking this week's post to share some very important writing advice for all writers. As I push through judging IGO Contest entries, I've noticed a few things. They remind me of staring at the ever-changing patterns of a kaleidoscope--different yet the same--for each entry.

The Craft of Writing

Like any craft, writing takes practice and requires a set of specific skills. Those skills must be learned and developed in order to complete a project of good quality. Some writers have a natural aptitude for some of the basics. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling fall into this category. Many (far more than half) of the contest entries I've judged over the past several years are weak in those areas. Even some published authors have a difficult time deciding where to put commas and how to punctuate dialogue. There, their, and they're cause lots of headaches, not to mention how to avoid misplaced modifiers and comma splices. What if grammar, punctuation, and spelling are weaknesses?

Invest in a resource library. It doesn't have to be extensive, but it should contain a Merriam-Webster or Oxford dictionary and at least one widely used style guide like Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). While these three areas are some of my greatest strengths, CMOS is my go-to guide for all grammar and punctuation questions. I refer to it on a regular basis. High school level handbooks, such as Writers Inc. and Plain English Handbook, are also very helpful.

Besides basic knowledge of grammar and punctuation, writers need to learn writing craft rules that apply to fiction. Point of view (POV), showing vs. telling, backstory vs. exposition, and goals, motivation, and conflict (GMC) are among the most important. These areas are linked to almost all other aspects of writing craft and, done correctly, provide a strong foundation for any story. How can writers learn and improve those skills?

Again, books on writing craft are a worthwhile investment. My Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Craft Handbook covers a lot of writing craft topics, while Debra Dixon's book on GMC focuses on a narrower one. Attend conferences, workshops, and online classes. Many RWA chapters offer monthly programs on a variety of writing topics. Kristen Lamb's Warrior Writer blog is an excellent free resource, as are other writing blogs.

Take time to expand your writing skills. Learn them. Practice them. Get feedback and improve.

Writing is a journey, not a destination.

Bio:
When her fingers aren't attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies and the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of twenty-eight years and their son. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and FF&P Romance Writers.

Check out Mellanie's books and appearances on her website at href="http://www.mellanieszereto.com">www.mellanieszereto.com.
She loves to hear from her readers! Contact Mellanie at mellanieszereto@hotmail.com.
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authormellanieszereto
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/mellanie_szereto
Google+: http://www.plus.google.com/mellanieszereto
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mellanieszereto

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Valley Brown

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! The wonderful Valley Brown is sharing her advice for new writers this week. And it's the tough truth.

Writing Without Illusion or Delusion

Writing. One of humankind’s greatest creative outlets. It epitomizes and gives tangible form to our best thoughts, but not all who embrace it are destined to have their words consumed and glorified. In today’s digital world competing for reader attention is a task akin to Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders. Millions of new books arrive each year. That’s a lot of newbie writers floundering in a cutthroat global market.

So what would ever make any writer hope they could outshine millions of peers? Perhaps it’s the pervasive myth that being a writer is a glamorous, wildly creative life. The physical and mental gymnastics involved in writing, while often arduous, are the undoubtedly the most enjoyable aspects. Everything else tends to become a necessary evil.

Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Tolstoy, Shelly – biographies abound with romanticized gatherings and carousing, bestseller limelight and grand literary awards, with bright careers occasionally ending in tragedy. Before you fling yourself into this abyss, consider what the personal cost of devoting your life – and that of your family, if you have one – is in actuality, for there is far more to writing than grand sporadic inspiration. Writing is only half the battle.

Marketing is a huge investment of time, energy and funds. It sucks as much of those resources as you allow and then some. Whether under contract to a traditional publishing house or self-published, expect to spend enormous quantities of time and effort toward generating discoverability and sales.

Today’s writer spends little time traveling for personal appearances. Today’s writer is tethered to online devices in continuous interface with social media and potential readers utilizing the virtual world. There are out-of-pocket expenses to all this jockeying for attention, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars every year, year after year. How prepared are you to do this?

How supportive will family and friends be when you: a) withdraw from everyday life to write intensively; b) start shelling out for websites, promotional copies, swag, contest prizes, and travel expenses; and c) if self-pubbed, take returns of trade hardbacks or paperbacks in quantity? (Yes, not everyone will love your work enough to not return it for a refund! Printed copies need to be returnable if you want vendors to agree to sell them.)

Are you willing to forego family and social events because of deadlines or marketing obligations? Are you self-disciplined enough, determined enough and hungry enough to treat writing and marketing as legitimate full-time jobs? Because that is exactly what they are. They are full-time occupation of your waking hours. Schedule your work, play, and personal maintenance. Includes time for decompressing with people you care about. If you can’t, chances are you won’t succeed.

Being a writer is a tough road to travel. Literally sit down with your family and have the discussion. Jot down the positives and negatives in front of each other and do the math. Even if the odds are nowhere near in your favor, take heart. It doesn’t mean you have to deep-six your dream. It only means you should follow it without any delusions.

Bio:
Author Valley Brown and her husband live in Southwestern Indiana along the Ohio River. When not writing or working with art glass, she takes short road trips on her Honda Shadow, and makes art quilts. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Indiana Chapter of Romance Writers of America, Indiana ABATE, American Quilters Society, Raintree Quilters Guild, and the International Quilt Association.

The Rocky Road romantic suspense series is about one woman’s journey through trauma and tragedy, and how the power of love keeps her moving forward. It touches on the sensitive topic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the different ways in which people deal with wounds that never heal, yet somehow find strength and courage to love again. Speeding Tickets (Book One) debuted in 2011. Rough Piece of Road (Book Two) was released July 2013. Divided Highway (Book Three) is “under construction”.

Links:
Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/valleybrown_romance
Facebook Page: 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

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Author Spotlights on Mondays--Andrew Jericho

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! My guest this week is Andrew Jericho. Here's a peek at his latest release!

Blurb:
Ace Freeman is the president of Prison Masters, a BDSM club for gay males. He’s in love with cellmate Tyler Chase and guard Paul Ryder. Ace is Dominant, desiring to take both men as pets.

As an experienced sub, Tyler wants to give submission to two Masters. He slips an explicit drawing into Ace’s notebook. Later, he blurts out his affections for Paul. Tyler hopes his actions will gain collars from both men.

Underneath Paul’s shy and soft-spoken exterior lies a man who lives the BDSM lifestyle. Paul is a switch. The guard desires a Master who can fulfill his need for no limits, and a pet to dominate. However, Paul knows his desires for Ace and Tyler have the potential to cost his job.

A good Master cares for his pets. Ace believes that principle. Once a triad begins to form, Ace needs to find a way to ensure their love will survive even in the hard times.

Excerpt:
Within two months, Ace was sleeping in Carlos’s bunk every night. One month later, the handsome Latino whispered, Te amo mi amor siempre. Ace still heard his tender voice. That was the first time another man had declared love. Ace had to eat his own words. The same night, he gave his body to the one who would become Master.

Carlos had been twice his age, but neither man cared. I’ll always love you, Master. The sentiment filled Ace’s mind. Tyler stirred, bringing him back to the present.

“Shh, baby,” Ace said. “Sleep. You’re safe.”

For two years, Ace had felt safe in Carlos’s arms, too. The Latino’s gentle touch kept him sane. Carlos had given him the freedom to explore sexuality. From puberty, Ace had wanted to kiss boys. As he grew, so did his desires. Carlos became his best friend, lover, partner, and Master. Then one day, it was all over.

Carlos had been in charge of the Prison Masters’s club. He hated the word “gang.” Carlos believed it incited violence. The group was for gay men, including those interested in the BDSM lifestyle. Submissives were also welcomed. A riot between Prison Masters and White Aryan Resistance had broken out. Carlos was shanked. He bled out in Ace’s arms. Ace still wore Master’s collar. More memories of the man he still loved filled his thoughts.

* * * *

“I’ve taught you well, pet.” Carlos’s voice quivered in pain. He reached for Ace’s hand. “I’m so cold.”

“You’re all right. Master, stay awake!”

“Pet, you’re in charge now. You’ll make a good Master, because you’ve known submission.”

“Hardly.”

“One last scene.”

“Anything, Master.”

“My last order—I bind your submission to me. Never give it to another.”

“Never.”

“Mi amour—”

“Master? Master! Wake up! Dammit, don’t leave me!”

* * * *

Sometimes ten years ago seemed like yesterday. At others, Carlos was a distant memory. Ace didn’t even have a picture of him. The memories lived in his heart. He would always be in love with Carlos Sanchez. Their final scene would be eternally played. Ace had never given submission to another man. Carlos had symbolically bound them in that dynamic forever. Out of respect for Master, he had never spoken of that moment with anyone.

Ace had become a man in his Latin lover’s arms. Carlos had made love to him first. Then, several months into the commitment, they had negotiated their first scene. BDSM had saved Ace, mentally and physically. The positive effects counteracted the negativity of prison life. While it wasn’t completely negated, it made it bearable.

From the first time Carlos had put him in subspace, Ace craved it. It hadn’t just been the cuffs on his hands and ankles, or the way Carlos flogged him, but his lover’s dominant words. The euphoria came slow, arriving like an evening tide. Once Ace surrendered to it, every inch of flesh tingled. He experienced sensations of tunnel vision. Carlos’s face was the only image visible. BDSM quickly became their preferred form of lovemaking.

After Carlos’s death, Ace had assumed leadership of Prison Masters. The club’s members accepted Ace without question. Even though Ace had been Master’s pet, he was now a Dominant man. Since then, he had experienced Domspace, but subspace would always find its way back. Many nights, Ace recalled Carlos’s final order. Raw arousal burned through his body. He would cuff himself, imagining it was Carlos’s hands buckling the leather. The memories slipped him over the edge.

Some of the club’s older men defined him as a switch. Others saw his dominance. Regardless he had earned their respect. Members from rival gangs didn’t lay a hand on anything belonging to Master.

One afternoon, six months ago, Ace had learned it was possible to be in love with three men—Carlos, Paul, and Tyler. The twink in his arms ignited his dominance in ways no other man had, except for Paul Ryder. Paul started work as a guard a year before Carlos’s death.

The blond-haired, soft-spoken man still worked the midnight to noon shift. He was a decent guy, just trying to do his job.

Prison Masters met each morning at breakfast. The group had nearly two dozen members. Even though Paul was on duty, he always seemed to be more interested in their meetings than guarding. Paul had been friends with Carlos, so it was natural to continue the camaraderie with Ace.

A year ago, Paul’s Dom had passed away, leaving the handsome guard an emotional mess. A few months after the man’s death, Ace had eased Paul’s pain, making him feel like a submissive again. Two months before Tyler arrived, both men admitted their love, but held each other at arm’s length. Ace knew it would cost Paul his job to become involved. What type of life would they have with Paul dividing his time between prison and the outside world? Ace feared the heartbreak.

Sure, he had been with other men besides Paul and Tyler. He had fucked, made love, and even been Master to several during play. Men transferred units, and some got paroled. Prison Masters provided a safe, sane, and consensual place to play, but Carlos had whetted his desires for more. While Carlos had awakened his submission, Tyler peaked his dominance. Ace not only wanted to play with the young man, he wanted a commitment again.

Buy Link: http://www.bookstrand.com/hard-times

Bio:
Andrew Jericho is a ManLove erotic romance author for Siren-BookStrand Publishing, and a long supporter of LGBTQ rights. His writing proves love and erotic attraction are the same regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation. In their purest forms, Andrew has seen those concepts transform characters into better individuals.

He is a gay transgender man, who lives with his partner, John Jericho, and family. He enjoys photography, eclectic tastes in music and the arts, and browsing the local library and art galleries. All of Andrew’s work can be found at: Andrew Jericho.

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

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Michelle Graham

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Iced Latté is now live at most online retail outlets and I'm in the process of adding links to the blog and my website!

This week my guest is Michelle Graham! She has some great advice, so read on. Welcome, Michelle!

Things That Drive Me Nuts As A Reader

I’m a voracious reader. I also judge my RWA chapter’s contest, and I have critiqued many manuscripts in a variety of capacities, from personal to professional. There are some things in books that will make me want to toss my Kindle at the wall or have me screaming in frustration at my computer. Following is a list of things that drives me absolutely nuts and that I wish all aspiring authors could eliminate from their writing. I’ve even seen professional writers do some of these things. No one is perfect.

I’ll admit that I have been guilty of making some of these mistakes myself, but if I had had this list when I started my writing career, I could have avoided a lot of rejection. I hope you find it helpful!

1. Characters who are TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) – “You’ve had 10 beers? Why yes, I think I’d love to let you drive me home.”

2. Damsels in Distress – “Oh, how tragic that I’ve been kidnapped and tied up! If only a big, strong man would come and save me!” (see #1)

3. Misunderstandings – So you saw him having lunch with another woman and instead of asking him, you just assume he’s having an affair and go off and have a snit fit?

4. Ridiculously descriptive language – She plucked the blood-red cherry from the heavily laden tree, which drooped from the weight of its abundantly flavourful load, and savoured the sweet explosion of sticky juice between the impeccably flossed enamel of her teeth.

5. Huge passages of backstory; especially at the beginning – She hung up the phone and remembered every single event from her birth to the phone call in question.

6. Characters who have long internal monologues, especially which feature arguing with themselves – “I’ve always been afraid of commitment. Maybe if I hide and don’t answer the phone, I won’t have to deal with her. But if I don’t deal with her now she’ll just keep calling. How I hate the sound of the phone ringing or her annoying nasal voice. I just won’t answer the phone. But what if she tried to call from a different number and I talked to her by accident? Maybe I should just answer it. I remember a time when I didn’t hate answering the phone…”

7. Typos or incorrect usage – Eye sea your knot a grammer nerd.

8. Trick endings – It was all a dream!

9. A huge cast introduced in the first 2 pages of the book - also a huge cast with similar names (I’m Terry and this is Jerry, Carrie, Larry, Tammy, and Pammy).

10. Endings that drag on – So we lived happily ever after. We had a beautiful wedding with 3 kinds of cake and bridesmaids dresses that had a sweetheart neckline, which matched the bow ties of the groomsmen. Then we went on a beautiful honeymoon and had lots of beautiful sex. Once we got back we bought a beautiful house and made beautiful babies and lived into our eighties and had a slew of great-grandchildren…

Thanks this awesome list, Michelle! My head almost exploded when I read #7. :D Writers, are you guilty of any of these mistakes???

Bio:
Michelle is a multi-published author with books available from Siren Publishing and Evernight Publishing. She lives in southern Ontario with her husband, son, daughter, and two fur babies.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michelle.graham.562114
Twitter: @MichelleGAuthor
Website: www.MichelleGrahamBooks.com
Bookstrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/michelle-graham
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Michelle-Graham/e/B00BCO7B7S/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_7?qid=1437961977&sr=8-7

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Andrew Jericho

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I'm back after a brief hiatus to get past the funk of having three deaths of family and friends in a month's time and finish Iced Latté Release date is July 27!

Andrew Jericho is joining me this week to give some insight into his writing process to help new writers! Hi, Andrew!

Thanks for having me as a guest, Mellanie, on Writing Tip Wednesday!

Many Paths to Becoming an Author

I don’t believe in a “one true path” to becoming an author. I never had an epiphany that writing was my calling. I began my career as a freelance journalist and photographer, and became a ManLove erotic romance author in November, 2012 upon the publication of my first book, Ripped, with Siren-BookStrand Publishing. I’ve always been a writer in one form or another.

As an author, I’ve been asked numerous questions. I enjoy hearing from readers, and encourage e-mails and comments often. While there are too many questions to address in this guest post, I’ve chosen several topics to share. I hope my answers will help others authors develop their paths to success.

New Author Advice:
The first step is getting published. The next? Promote, promote, promote! Also when writing, don’t be afraid to share your thoughts. There will be people who respect you, not only for your ideas, but for your honesty.
Be kind to readers and other authors. Give shout-outs to fellow writers. However, promo shouldn’t be the only thing you post on social media. Readers want to feel connected to their favorite writers. Post about other interests besides writing.

Character Development:
I don’t have any one formula for character development. A character can be a compilation of many, or the product of a few. For example: a voice from one, or a personality from another, is often woven into my literary figures.
My characters write their own lives. While I provide them with literary direction, they ultimately make their own decisions. Once an idea for a book forms, I feel compelled to see it through to completion. The characters I write about demand their stories be told as uniquely as they’re forming in my memory. Many times, I’ve told characters to, “take a number.”

Writing Inspiration:
My partner, John, is my greatest inspiration and muse. I infuse my characters with bits and pieces of the man who shares my life. The real-life depiction of ManLove we share has inspired my writing.

Writer’s Block:
I get writer’s block all the time. In addition, I’m a slow writer. My theory for coping is when a story is ready to be told I’ll write it. I can’t force the process.

The Hardest Part of Writing:
The hardest part of writing my books is weaving romance, passion, and eroticism into a realistic story. I strive to capture gay men in real situations of life and love.

Handling Negative Reviews:
I’ve had negative reviews, as likely all authors have. Not everyone will like your work. For every negative review, there is always a reader who has positive comments about a book. Also, never argue, or post a response, to a negative review!

Why Erotic Romance?:
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Erotica as, “works of art or literature that deal with sex and are meant to cause sexual feelings.” As a ManLove erotic romance author my writing not only includes sexuality, but is a blend of romance and passion. Romance. Passion. Eroticism. All three words in that order define my definition of erotica.
I write about gay men in real situations of life and love who are intense and sexual. Those who read my books know what to expect. My writing is not for the faint of heart. However, readers also know they will find romance within my stories. I believe erotica is an emotion born from the intense and sexual nature of the human spirit, infused with the need for human affection, or romantic ideals.

While erotica does explore sexuality, it also shares the emotions and romance necessary to move my characters towards different levels of intimacy with their male partners. Erotica focuses on many human emotions within us all.

Bio: Andrew Jericho is a ManLove erotic romance author for Siren-BookStrand Publishing, and a long supporter of LGBTQ rights. His writing proves love and erotic attraction are the same regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation. In their purest forms, Andrew has seen those concepts transform characters into better individuals.

He is a gay transgender man, who lives with his partner, John Jericho, and family. He enjoys photography, eclectic tastes in music and the arts, and browsing the local library and art galleries. All of Andrew’s work can be found at: Andrew Jericho.

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

Thanks so much for visiting today and sharing your advice for new writers, Andrew!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Bethany Michaels

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! My guest this week is the fabulous Bethany Michaels! Not only is she a talented cover artist, she's also a terrific writer and a good friend. Does her affliction sound familiar??? It should--to almost every writer!

Writing is Hard: Head Games

I've been writing seriously for over 10 years now and I'm telling you, it NEVER gets easier. You might think one would gain confidence once she writes and publishes a bunch of books.

Nope.

Most of the difficulty for me relates to the head games I play with myself. I often waver between "This is awesome. I am awesome. I rock! Pulitzer Prize, baby!" to "Oh my God, no one is going to read this. This sucks. I suck. I am the worst writer EVER. Someone should shoot my laptop and put it out of its misery. I'm getting a lobotomy...TODAY." This all happens within a ten-minute time span...and is an internal reaction to the exact same piece of work.

This is normal. Almost every writer I've ever talked to has the same reactions to her writing at some point, whether she is a first-time author or a New York Times bestseller. Writers' neurosis never really goes away; you just get better at managing it.

I think that these voices telling you that you suck, or that you are the best writer ever, are all defense mechanisms. Writing is an art and, like any art, you put a piece of yourself on the canvas—your desires, your needs, your world view. You open yourself up to ridicule and rejection and to letting people who know you in real life see what a weirdo you really are. It's scary!

Telling yourself you suck keeps you from having too many expectations of success, so you're never disappointed when you get a rejection letter or don't immediately hit the NYT list with your first book. You knew you sucked anyway, so you were right all along. Score!

Telling yourself you are the next (insert big-name author here) pumps you up to keep putting words on the page, but it can also make you do things to turn other writers, editors, agents and readers off, especially if you truly believe your own hype. Self-promotion is absolutely necessary when you're a publishing author, but I think we've all seen the "look at me, me, me, buy my book, buy my book, buy my book" types online. So annoying and really kind of sad.

I find that head games I play with myself are the reason it's so hard to get started sometimes. It's better to avoid writing completely and binge-watch Alex O'Loughlin in "Hawaii 5-0" than put myself though all the emotional angst writing engenders.

But most of us writers MUST write. It's a way to let the crazy out a little bit at a time so we can function as normal human beings when we have to.

Here are a few tips for wrangling the crazy-talk in your head and getting down to work:

-Bring it on: Try physically writing down all the negative crap your inner hater is whispering to you. Put it all on the page and then...get rid of it. Burn it, wad it up, eat it, flush it...whatever. Poof! It's gone, physically and symbolically. You can also just listen for a moment and then visualize all the lines of negative words streaming out of your head and vaporizing. Or coming out in word bubbles and popping. Weird but effective. Try it! It's too hard to work with all those niggling little whispers bouncing around inside your brain. Do whatever it takes to exorcise those demons. They'll come back, but now you know how to temporarily rid yourself of them. Repeat as needed.

-Just do it: Do a writing sprint. Set a ridiculous word count goal and do everything you can to meet it. If I'm writing fast, I don't have time to listen to those confidence eaters. I'm too focused on typing as fast as my little fingers can go! This is the theory behind NANOWRIMO, where your goal is to draft 50,000 words in one month with no internal editor to hinder you. On Twitter, you can join other writers doing sprints (maybe trying to vanquish the same demons?) at #1k1hr.
-The DELETE key is your friend: A good thing to remember is that your writing is private until YOU choose to make it public. As Stephen King says, "Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open." Give yourself permission to write a shitty first draft. No one will see it but you. And if it really, really does suck eggs, you can employ this fancy little keyboard trick: SELECT ALL---> DELETE.

Personally, this is huge for me. I know I can write a bad scene with really awful dialogue and too many instances of "gaze", "she sighed" and "inner goddess" and no one will see it. EVER. Critique groups work for a lot of writers, but they don't work for me. I found that I was so worried about the feedback I was going to get on Chapter One that I could not go on to Chapter Two. I was writing to please the group rather than writing to get my story on the page where I could work with it and improve it. Now I write and revise until I'm happy with what I've got and THEN I share.

For the record, the phrase "inner goddess" has never made it to the final draft of any of my manuscripts. Or the first draft, for that matter ;)

Ok, procrastination time is over. Go banish the writing demons and get to work!

Thanks for visiting today and sharing your great advice, Beth!

Bio:
Bethany Michaels grew up in a small Indiana farm town, which gave her lots of time to indulge her love for reading and writing. She graduated from Ball State University with a degree in English and logged hours towards an MA in English at Butler University. Bethany currently lives outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and children.

Bethany is the author of over a dozen short stories, novellas and novels. She writes hot sexy love stories for several publishers including Red Sage, Whispers and Siren and is working on some independent titles as well. She earned a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Nomination for her novel, Nashville Heat and is a member of Romance Writers of America, Music City Romance Writers and Indiana Romance Writers of America.

When not at work on her next book or catching up the laundry or dishes, Bethany enjoys watching movies, hiking, reading, travelling and volunteering with her kids’ scout troops. She is trying to enjoy snacking on vegetables and using the treadmill rather than snacking on potato chips and using the television, but isn’t quite there yet.

Bethany loves to hear from readers! Contact her at Bethany@Bethanymichaels.com

Links:
Website: http://www.bethanymichaels.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bethany.michaels
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/BMichaelsAuthor
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/bethany21345/

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!