Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Brenda Maxfield

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Brenda Maxfield, one of my IRWA friends, is here for Week 3 of the Writing Advice series. She has some great tips to add to this topic!

Welcome, Brenda!

No Comparison!

I’m delighted to be here today to share with you. I’ve learned so many helpful writing tips over the last few years from my fellow authors. Their wealth of information and wisdom has been inspiring – and has kept me from digging a hole and throwing myself in more than once. Ha!

(For example, how many of you have ever formatted your own books? If so, then you know exactly what I’m talking about…)

As I think about all the tidbits I’d like to share, one in particular stands out, and here it is:

Don’t compare yourself to other authors. Don’t ever judge yourself by peering into the lives of other – and should I say, more successful – authors.

Learn from them, of course! Be inspired by them, you bet! But bemoan your progress, or lack thereof by looking at someone else’s benchmarks, is simply not healthy.

Writing is not a competition. (Something that is perfectly clear when one notes how generous authors are in sharing and giving help.)

All of us know that writing can be solitary and lonely, and if we exacerbate that with constant comparisons, we can put ourselves in a funk faster than a dog chasing a mail truck. (Hmmm. Silly analogy, but you get the point!) Keeping ourselves focused on our own goals and successes helps the words keep flowing and helps us stay sane.

So, I’d like to encourage all my fellow writers! Please compare yourselves only with yourself. Set your goals. And remember to pat yourself on the back with every step forward. Heck, pat yourself on the back for every so-seeming step backward, too, because you are still moving! You’re still working at it. You’re still emerging as the author you are.

Next time you make even the smallest of progress, grab that bit of dark chocolate and take a tasty munch. Look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself a big toothy smile.

You are on your way. And nothing (least of all, unfavorable comparisons) can stop you!

Brenda's Bio:
My passion is writing! What could be more delicious than inventing new characters and seeing where they take you?
I'm a teacher so I spend most of my waking hours with young people. I love chatting with them and hearing their views on love and life. My students are magical, and I am honored to be part of their lives.
I've lived in Honduras, Grand Cayman, and Costa Rica. Presently, I live in Indiana with my husband, Paul. We have two grown children and three precious grandchildren, special delivery from Africa.
When not teaching, I love to hole up in our lake cabin and write -- often with a batch of popcorn nearby. (Oh, and did I mention dark chocolate?)
I enjoy getting to know my readers, so feel free to write me at: Join my Newsletter Gang and get the latest news, contests, releases: Visit me to learn about all my books and some smart and sassy, clean teen reads: Happy Reading!

Other Links:
Goodreads Author Page:
Amazon Author Page:
And if you’re interested in books for tots:

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Julie Shelton

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! Julie Shelton is visiting this week to kick off the release of her new BDSM series, The Doms of Passion Lake. Book one, Passion's Dream, is available now and book two, Passion's Fury, will be available mid-February. Expect book three, Passion's Hope, in March. She's giving away three copies of Passion's Dream, so be sure to comment for a chance to win!

When Clay “Raven” Nighthorse is offered a job as bodyguard to a woman being stalked by her vengeful ex, he’s ready to turn it down. Until he discovers that she is the woman he met on a beach three years ago. The woman with whom he felt an instant connection. The woman who has been haunting his dreams ever since.
Leah Stanhope has never forgotten the day she surprised her husband in bed with another woman. Nor has she forgotten the kindness and compassion of the complete stranger who’d simply held her in his arms and let her cry herself out on a public beach. She despairs of ever seeing him again until fate brings them together in a conflagration of desire and smoking hot
passion. Can Clay convince Leah to risk her heart? And when her stalker finds her, will Clay be able to stop him in time?

Adult Excerpt:
Lifting his hand, he placed his fingertips against her cheek.

She jerked her head away, but otherwise couldn’t move. It was as if she’d been turned to stone. “Don’t touch me!” She’d meant it to be an icy command, but instead it came out a choked, frightened whisper.

Ignoring her, he sent his fingers on a journey along the line of her jaw, down the slender column of her neck. He paused at the base of her neck, holding the tip of his index finger over the pulse hammering there, betraying her agitation. The journey continued down over her collar bones, across the creamy, sloping mound of her breast to the edge of her modest bathing suit top. When she made no move to stop him, he hooked his forefinger into the stretchy material. When she still didn’t move, he allowed his fingernail to scrape against her tender flesh as he traced the outline of the fabric down to its lowest point—the point where it stretched across the shadowed valley between her breasts.

“Don’t—” It was a choked whisper. She closed her eyes, but she made no attempt to remove his hand. She was trembling, every clamoring nerve aware of his nearness, the potent sexuality of his hard, male body so close to hers. "I-I’m engaged to be married.”

“Ah, yes.” His lips twisted. “The ever-devoted fiance. Tell me, Leah,” he tugged her toward him, the weight of his hand pulling the stretchy, jersey top outward, threatening to release the rounded fullness of her breasts. “Tell me about him. What’s it like making love to an old man?”

She should have pushed him away. She should have stepped back—anything to put distance between them. Except she wasn’t standing. She was floating in the water, anchored by her elbow on the pool deck and his finger hooked in her bikini top. Unable to get away, she stared up at him helplessly, trapped as much by the confusion leaping within her as she was by the sensual spell he seemed to be weaving around her like a web.

Resting his left elbow on the underwater shelf, he released her top and lifted his hand to shape the back of her head, those long, lean fingers threading through the damp silk of her hair. “Does his touch arouse you?” Slowly, sensuously, he pulled her toward him, closing the distance between them, until his firm, mobile mouth was less than an inch from her own, his breath warm against her lips. “Does he set you on fire?”

The hard contours of his body brushed tantalizingly against the softly rounded curves of her own as the cool water undulated against them.

“Does he kiss you like this?” Clay persisted, dropping a warm, feather-light kiss near one corner of her trembling mouth, “like a father? Or perhaps like an uncle or older brother, like this,” he pressed his lips first to her cheek, then, tilting her head down, her forehead. “Or does he kiss you like a lover? Like this—” and his mouth closed over hers in a dark, golden storm, his lips expertly parting hers to admit the probing sweetness of his tongue.

Leah stiffened and tried to pull away, but it was too late. The flame ignited by his touch was all-consuming. Without volition, her arms went around his neck, her legs circled his waist, ankles locking behind him. The sheer size of the erection pressing against her sex made her gasp. Her belly plummeted, sending moisture gushing out of her pussy onto the strip of fabric that was the bottom of her two-piece. She’d never been so aroused in her life. Her traitorous body arched toward his, her hips grinding her sex against his cock. She moaned into his mouth as his arms went tightly around her back, crushing her soft breasts to his hard chest. Locked together, they sank beneath the surface of the water. Instead of panicking and struggling to break free, Leah wound her arms tightly around his neck and held on, trusting in his care of her.

Without breaking the kiss, Clay pushed off the deep end of the pool with a powerful thrust of his muscular legs, gliding swiftly through the water to the center of the pool, where he could stand up. They broke the surface still locked together, their mouths tearing apart only long enough to drag air into their oxygen-starved lungs before crushing back together, tongues dueling passionately.

Leah loosened her hold on his neck, running her hands wonderingly over his shoulders and back, savoring the power of the muscles flexing beneath his satin-smooth skin, delighting in the heat of his body beneath the cool slickness of the pool water. In spite of the pervading smell of chlorine, she could still smell his clean, masculine scent. Losing all reason, she broke off the kiss to bury her face in the side of his neck, where it curved into his shoulder, inhaling that scent deep into her lungs. Daringly, she put out her tongue and took a tiny lick of his warm, moist skin. God, he tasted so good! He felt so good! She couldn’t stifle the groan that ripped from her throat. Her hands curved around to the back of his head, her fingers gripping the thick, wet mass of his hair, holding his head still. She drew a shuddering breath, trying desperately to get herself under control. This is a mistake! This is a colossal mistake!

Buy Link:

Here's a peek at the second book in this series:
Kylie Ferrell’s nightmare begins when she discovers her boss dead from a bullet to the head. In less than twenty-four hours, she endures a police interrogation, finds her boyfriend in bed with another woman and her house explodes.
Terrified, she does the only sensible thing. She runs. Right through broken glass.
When Simon Rafferty finds her sleeping in her broken-down car by the side of the road near Passion Lake, Virginia, the connection between them is instantaneous and combustible. He recognizes her as the woman he and his two brothers have been searching for all their lives. Their lifetime submissive. And the fact that she’s homeless, injured, and targeted by the mob? Minor details.
Identical triplets and former spec ops soldiers, Caleb, Simon, and Ash Rafferty are more than capable of handling anything life throws at them. Including a sweet, sexy, lusciously curvy woman who has sworn off all men and who is clueless about the darkness of their needs and desires. Clueless…but intrigued. These dominant alpha males will do whatever it takes to get her into their bed, their hearts, their lives…and their dungeon.
But Kylie has secrets that put them all in deadly danger. And when that danger catches up with her, Caleb, Simon, and Ash must launch a desperate search to find her before she is ripped from them forever.

Mellanie: What inspired you to write your first book?
Julie: Nancy Drew. And oddly enough, my very first book was about a girl detective with two best friends as her sidekicks, who liked to solve mysteries. I was ten. It was a total rip-off of Nancy, but, hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?

Mellanie: Do you see writing as a career?
Julie: Well, with five books published and around a dozen more planned, I’d have to say yes. However, since I’m retired, it’s an entirely new career for me after spending the last thirty years working with young children as a professional storyteller and puppeteer. The leap from that into BDSM erotic romance is rather unusual, to say the least. Not your usual career path. Obviously there was a part of my psyche that working with young children simply wasn’t addressing, lol.

Mellanie: This book is the first in a series. Do you prefer to write single title or series? Why?
Julie: I have found that I prefer to write series, mainly because I fall in love with my characters and can’t seem to let them go. Readers met most of the Doms of Passion Lake in my first three books, Loving Sarah, Owning Sarah, and Keeping Sarah. Those were originally intended to be one book. But I couldn’t let those characters go, so they turned into a three-book series. Then I realized that most of the minor characters who played such important roles in the three Sarah books deserved books of their own. Readers thought so too, and many of them asked for that very thing.
So I came up with the premise of having this group of former SEALs all go in together to buy a bankrupt town and turn it into the thriving tourist destination of Passion Lake. Each book in this new series is a stand-alone book, although the Doms do appear in each other’s books, along with a host of other recurring, colorful characters who live in the town. And by locating Passion Lake less than thirty miles from Marshall’s Creek, where my original characters Jesse Colter, Adam Sinclair, and their wife Sarah live, they can make guest appearances in the new books, too! Every book is like a family reunion. I am having a blast writing this new series!

Mellanie: How did you come up with the title?
Julie: Well, since the name of the series is The Doms of Passion Lake, I decided to make the title of each book in the series Passion’s something. After a brief encounter three years ago, both Clay and Leah have been dreaming about each other ever since. So Passion’s Dream seemed an appropriate title, since their overall theme is that dreams do come true. I also decided that the title should be something that can be represented by a specific flower. The floral symbol of a dream come true is a red rose, so there is a red rose on the cover of Passion’s Dream.
Book Two of the series, Passion’s Fury, features a purple petunia on the cover, the floral representation of anger. Anger toward not only the heroine’s abusive father, but also the villain of the piece, who is totally reprehensible. But don’t worry. There’s also plenty of deep, abiding love. And, of course, a happy ending.

Mellanie: I usually get plot ideas in the shower and while driving. When/where does inspiration strike you?
Julie: I get ideas from everywhere, so I carry a notebook and pen with me to jot them down. I should carry around a little voice recorder, too, because, like you, I get a lot of inspiration while driving and writing while driving is frowned upon by the authorities, so a lot of those ideas are, alas, lost. But I also get them while reading, watching TV, talking with friends, and just thinking about stuff in general. Jill, my beta reader and critique partner is constantly sending me ideas SHE’s come up with, all of which are excellent, and many of which have already wound up in my books.

Mellanie: What new stories are you working on?
Julie: Passion’s Fury, Book Two of the series, is about identical triplets Caleb, Simon, and Ash Rafferty and the love of their life, Kylie Ferrell. Caleb made an appearance in Keeping Sarah. Look for Passion’s Fury to be available for pre-order around the first of February and for purchase around the twelfth of February, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Passion’s Hope, Book Three of the series, is about Nikolai Rostov and Jay Gillespie, who made appearances in all three of my Sarah books. They discover their forever sub in Charlotte Fielding, and their story will be out around the middle of March.
Passion’s Forgiveness, Book Four of the series, will be about Ted “Solo” Solomon and the love of his life, Cassie O’Rourke. Ted played a major role in Owning Sarah, and Cassie appeared in both Loving Sarah and Owning Sarah. It should be out by the end of April, middle of May.
Passion’s Innocence, Book Five, is about Doctor Lucas McKay, his brother Alex, and the new town librarian, Lily Graham. Lucas is a former SEAL buddy of Jesse and Adam of the Sarah books, although he didn’t make an appearance in any of those. Look for it by the end of June or middle of July.
That’s as far as I’ve gotten in this series, but as of yesterday, I had no ideas whatsoever beyond Book Three, so I obviously haven’t run out of inspiration yet.

Julie Shelton has always loved stories, both reading and writing them, ever since she was old enough to hold a book in her hands. One of her favorite childhood activities was smuggling books under the covers to read by flashlight after she was supposed to be asleep.
A career as a children’s librarian eventually led to her dream career as a freelance storyteller and puppeteer, a business she operated successfully for twenty-five years. During that time she created and wrote all the original material for a monthly language arts newsletter full of poems, songs, puppet and flannel-board stories, fingerplays, and other resource material for early childhood educators. For that endeavor she won the prestigious EDPRESS Award for the best educational newsletter of 1982. She has also written other resource materials for preschool and early elementary teachers.
Julie lives in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Now widowed and retired, she once again has time to devote to her two favorite things—reading and writing. “What’s not to like?” she asks philosophically. “It’s indoor work and doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting.” You can learn more about Julie and her works at the following links. Visit her website to find out what’s coming up in the Doms of Passion Lake series.

Amazon author page:
Facebook author page:
LinkedIn Profile:
Twitter: @JulieCShelton

Readers, thanks for stopping by and be sure to comment by midnight (EST) on Wednesday, January 28, for a chance to win one of three copies of Passion's Dream! And thank you, Julie, for sharing your new series with us!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday: Writing Advice from Silver James

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! The awesome Silver James is here this week to share her words of wisdom for writers, and she really nails it! Now I have to decide if I'm still a plantser or if I fall into her new category.

Hi, Silver! Thanks for contributing to the new WTW series. Let's meet for coffee/tea (or something a little stronger) at RWA2015 in New York City!

Discovering Your Writing Process

When I started writing with a serious eye toward publication, there were two topics I heard and read a lot about: Voice and Writing Process. Voice is something you grow into. Writing Process is something you figure out as you go. There is a LOT of advice on which process works the best. For many, the discussion centers around three schools of writing style.

Schools of Process:

Plotters outline the entire book, every in and out and tangled web before sitting down to write. There’s a lot to be said for this style. The writer probably has personality sheets on all the main characters. Plot and character arcs are easily diagnosed and fixed before ever committing a word to page. It’s a map to the story the writer simply has to follow, layering in narrative and dialogue as they write logically through the outline. Plotters insist they never get writer’s block. If you are a planner and your brain thrives on logic, this is probably the process you’d be most comfortable with.

But there are those who rebel against such structure. They line up and wave banners saying, “Where’s the creativity?” and “Where’s the spontaneity?” Which leads us to the next writing style.

Pantsers sit down at the computer each day, waiting to be surprised, writing a book literally by the seat of their pants. Pantsers rely a great deal on their imagination. Some say their characters drive the story, revealing the twists and turns of the story as words appear on the page. There is flexibility in writing on the fly but there is also the possibility of getting bogged down in the story or losing your way.

Somewhere in the middle is the Plotser or Plantser, depending upon which school you start with.

Some writers are a combination of the two—the more exotic Plotser/Plantser (a term bandied about to describe that unholy marriage of the two main types). This type has an idea of who their characters are—the main ones, anyway. They know where the story starts and where it ends. For them, the fun is all the detours they take getting from Chapter One to The End. There’s much to be said for this school of writing process. You have the road map of the Plotter and the flexibility of the Pantser.

I tried outlining but discovered I’d deviated from the outline by…the end of Chapter One, usually, and almost always before I hit the middle of Chapter Three. I dabbled in the Pantser school but kept hitting roadblocks when my characters would rebel or, once again, the plot hit a dead end. I did get further with the WIPs—at least to the middle, which almost always sagged. Sagging middles are a topic for another time. Plotsing/Plantsing seemed the next logical step because I spend a lot of time getting to know my characters, sometimes before a plot ever suggests itself to me. Other times, I get the idea for a plot and then go in search of characters to make it work.

My process normally begins with characters in hand, the beginnings of their story, and a vague idea of where it things will end up. I sit down at the computer, open a blank document, type Chapter One, and start typing. The story usually unfolds organically, in a systematic way from Point A to Point B to Point C etcetera, until I type The End. Usually. Sometimes, a scene bursts into my imagination—the action unfolding like a Technicolor movie. Occasionally, I eavesdrop on conversations between characters that snap and sizzle—but has absolutely nothing to do with the scene at hand. Unfortunately, I seldom know where to put this stuff. Before Scrivener (my writing program of choice) I’d jot down the particulars on my white board and hoped I’d find a place to incorporate it in the story. The more I wrote, the more often this “scatter shot” method occurred. It’s like my brain has five or six “windows” open in its browser. That’s when I discovered a fourth category of writer, and one I think fits me perfectly. I am a Puzzler.

A Puzzler writes a book like they are putting together a jigsaw puzzle. They find the framework, then fit pieces together—pieces made up of characters, plot, setting, description, action, dialogue, elements pertinent to the genre, and pacing. When I work a real puzzle, I find all the straight-edged pieces and fit them together for the frame. Those pieces are my characters, my basic plot line, my start and my finish. Then I find pieces that either fit next to the frame, working from a corner out, connecting pieces as I go, or I find clumps of pieces that fit together as seemingly unrelated scenes. Those clumps “float” in the center of the frame until I discover where they fit. When I’m done, I have a complete draft. I’d written three books before I figured it out. I’m currently writing my 22nd book and I refine my process with each project.

When a new writer asks what method they should try, I suggest they use trial and error to discover which one works best for them. That’s the wonderful thing about Writing Process. There’s no one right way to do it. Try different methods. Combine them. Find what works for you. Because that’s the bottom line. It’s not about labels, it’s about finishing your project in a way you, as a writer, are most comfortable with. Understanding your process and utilizing it leads to creativity and productivity.

Silver James likes walks on the wild side and coffee. Okay. She LOVES coffee. Warning: Her Muse, Iffy, runs with scissors. A cowgirl at heart, she’s also been an Army officer’s wife and mom, and has worked in the legal field, fire service, and law enforcement. Now retired from the real world, she lives in Oklahoma and spends her days writing with the assistance of her two Newfoundland dogs, the cat who rules them all, and the myriad characters living in her imagination. She’s the author of two award-winning Urban Fantasy series, contemporary romances, and a time travel/reincarnation romance series. Please visit Silver at her website:

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Rhiannon Ayers

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! Rhiannon Ayers is back for another visit and she's giving us a peek at her latest book from her For Love of Authority series, Saints United. Be sure to check out my interview with her and leave a comment to win a copy of Saints United via a Siren gift code!

Andre "AJ" Johannes fell in love with his college roommate-he just didn't realize it until it was too late. After spending one unforgettable night in Ryder St. Claire's arms, fate forced them apart. But Ryder still haunts his dreams, and AJ's always wondered what might have been.
Eight years later, AJ is starting over. New job, new city, new life—and all of it without his wife and son. Marian divorced him and took sole custody, leaving AJ to wonder if the rest of his life will end up as useless as his shattered marriage.
Little does AJ know he's got a couple of Saints looking out for him. Ryder St. Claire married Lyss three years ago, and the two of them have been searching for their third-the man who will offer his submission and give them everything they cannot give each other. But can they overcome years of emotional abuse to convince AJ he deserves to be happy?

“Beautiful?” Ryder called as he closed and locked the door behind them. “We’re here.”

“Yeehaw!” said a joyful voice from the back of the apartment. “I’m just getting changed. Dinner’s on the stove. Right with you, boys.”

A.J. blinked, looking at Ryder questioningly. Ryder snorted. “She’s from Georgia,” he explained, eyes twinkling. “Country girl all the way.”

That explained the accent. Texans were known for that honeyed Southern drawl, but A.J. had never heard an accent as thick as the one Lyss had. If someone tried to spell out the words the way she said them, it probably wouldn’t even look like English. It sounded like she said, “Eye-yam jayast gittin’ chayn-gid. Deenir’s own th’ stow-ve. Reyet wit’ ye, bow-ees.” Kind of funny, actually. And sexy as fuck. There was a deep throatiness to her voice, that sensual timbre you’d expect from a nine-hundred number call girl. He’d noticed it when he listened to Ryder talk to her on the phone earlier, but had assumed he’d misheard because his brain was still swimming in lust from that kiss.

Apparently not. Curious now, wondering what kind of woman went with that kind of voice, A.J. turned toward the hallway across the living room and waited.

And felt all the breath leave his lungs in a silent whoosh when Lyss finally appeared.

Holy God, she was incredible. More striking than pretty, she had high cheekbones, full lips, and a slightly up-turned nose. Long bangs framed a high, aristocratic forehead while mile after mile of wavy, dark-brown hair spilled across her shoulders and down her back. Her shoulders were bared by an emerald-green tank top, while her thighs were lovingly molded by a pair of dark-blue jeans. She wasn’t one of those tiny stick women, either. Lyss had meat on her bones, and she had to be at least five-foot-seven. Luscious curves met his gaze everywhere he looked, from full, high breasts to rounded hips. She wasn’t overweight, though. Just full-figured. And hot damn, what a gorgeous figure it was.

While A.J. just stared, Lyss gave him an obvious once-over, then met his eyes with a dazzling smile that took his breath away all over again. There was so much character in her face, so much life, it was almost painful to look at her. She was entrancing.

No wonder Ryder loved her. No wonder Ryder married her. Holy hell, it was taking everything A.J. had not to drop to his knees in open worship. This woman embodied every single one of his fantasies about women, from her height to her weight to the sheer vivacity in her eyes. She must have men drooling over her everywhere she went.

Guess I still like women, after all. And here I thought my problem was I’d fallen in love with Ryder all those years ago. But that wasn’t what killed my desire for Marian, was it? She just…wasn’t my type. Holy hell, how did I not see that sooner?

His mind going in a million different directions at once, A.J. missed seeing Lyss cross the living room. Next thing he knew, she was standing less than a foot away, looking up into his face with clear hazel eyes that pierced right through every wall he’d erected around his soul, seeing all of him—instantly. He’d never felt so bare in front of another person, and yet he didn’t feel threatened. On the contrary, Lyss made him feel…safe.

Which made no sense. At all.

“I’m so excited I finally get to meet you,” Lyss said softly. A.J. could do nothing but stare dumbly as she reached up and slid her index finger along his jawline. Electricity zapped from that one point of contact straight through his spine, setting off little shivers he had no hope of hiding. Lyss smirked knowingly and caressed him again. “I’ve been waiting for this, A.J. I’m so very, very glad you’re here right now.”

A.J. swallowed hard. “I’m happy to meet you, too, Lyss. Ryder has a lot of great things to say about you.”

She grinned at him, making A.J.’s heart do a funny little dance. “Is that right? Well, did he also tell you I make a mean chicken and dumplings? ‘Cause that’s what I’ve got for ya’ll tonight. You hungry?”

Not for food. But he nodded anyway. “Sure.”

Ryder, who had been silent throughout their meeting, suddenly came up behind A.J., pressing A.J.’s shoulder blades against that hard chest as he lightly circled A.J.’s waist with both hands. That deep, rumbly voice sounded right by A.J.’s ear. “I’m going to go change. You guys get acquainted. I’ll be right back.”

A.J. couldn’t think, let alone respond. Not when they were standing on either side of him, caging him between them. Ryder’s heat blanketed his back, his body a wall of solid muscle strong enough to hold A.J. up no matter how weak he got. Lyss’s inviting curves so tantalizingly close, her hand still caressing his jaw and neck, provided a temptation unlike anything A.J. had ever experienced before. Between the two of them, his mind just…stopped.

His mouth, unfortunately, didn’t.

“I kissed your husband,” A.J. gasped.

Mortified, he cringed, waiting for their anger.

But Lyss surprised him with a laugh. “I know,” she said with a cheeky little grin.

Ryder snorted. “He means today.”

A.J. sucked in a breath as Lyss glanced at Ryder over his shoulder, one eyebrow raised. “Oh?”

Ryder’s shoulders moved up and down in what must have been a shrug. “He was talking nonsense. It was the only way I could think of to shut him up.”

Buy link:

Mellanie: Thanks for joining me, Rhiannon! Can you tell us a bit about the premise for Saints United?
Rhiannon: Thanks for having me :)
Since the first two books in the series focused on submissives who had little or no experience with the lifestyle (and thus the stories were about introducing them to their true selves), I wanted this book to be more about the life of a submissive who knows exactly who and what he is. I wanted to show some of the darker aspects of D/s, while also highlighting the fact that pain and impact play are not necessary for living a D/s lifestyle. This book is more about the dynamics in a D/s menage relationship, with a Dom, a Switch, and a submissive male, all of whom are well-versed in the lifestyle itself and therefore are more focused on learning about their relationship with each other, rather than in learning each other’s kinks.
Saints United tells the story of a Dom/Switch couple, Ryder and Lyss St. Claire, who have always yearned for a true third to join their relationship. Enter Andre “AJ” Johannes. Sparks fly as the three discover their dynamic, and the story follows their journey toward forming a lasting bond with each other.

Mellanie: Tell us more about the characters. Who are Ryder, Lyss, and A.J.?
Rhiannon: Ryder is a southern boy from a blue-blood family—every male in his family tree has been a cop. He is 6’2″, with short brown hair, a trimmed beard and mustache, and beautiful amber-colored eyes. He’s also a rebel, with half-sleeve arm tattoos and full chest and back pieces. He is a Dom, but not your standard 24/7 variety like most seem to be (in romance novels, that is.) Ryder is a bedroom Dom, with clearly defined boundaries for when and how he shows his Dominant side. Outside the bedroom (or the dungeon playroom), he’s just your average guy, dealing with annoying bosses, crazy work schedules, and trying to support his family. Inside the bedroom, he turns on like a nine-thousand-watt light bulb, and his Dominant nature comes roaring to the fore. Overall, I feel as if Ryder is one of the more realistic characters I’ve ever written. He’s not some perfect Dom who was born knowing what to do and can’t help shoving his Dominant nature in the faces of everyone he comes across. He is a Dom more like the kind you find in the real world, who have real lives and real jobs and can’t afford to be Dominant all the time. His personality has an interesting dynamic, which I hope readers will relate to. He certainly rings true for me, since I know quite a few men just like him!
Lyss is a sweet, sassy Southern belle with roots in small-town Georgia. She has long, wavy brown hair and hazel eyes, along with a slightly up-turned nose and a curvaceous figure. She was a practicing Domme for years before she met Ryder and learned the true meaning of submission. Now she Switches for her husband, and she absolutely loves being his sub. But, there’s also something missing. Lyss didn’t stop being a Domme when she met Ryder, and those urges are still there. She misses having a submissive man at her beck and call, but also knows that Ryder can’t be that for her. For Lyss, this story is about the emotional journey, going from Domme to sub to Switch and back again, while also helping her husband claim the man he’s always wanted. She wants nothing more than to make Ryder happy, and if making him happy also gives her the opportunity to exercise her Domme side, all the better.
A.J. is half-white, half-latino, with blue eyes, black hair, and tanned skin. He’s a computer nerd, with several different college degrees and accolades under his belt. He’s not so good on the social skills, though, and his personal life has been a total disaster since he ran from his first and only true love, Ryder. His marriage fell apart six months ago, and now he’s looking for a new start in a new city. But, there’s a hell of a lot more to A.J. than meets the eye. He discovered BDSM through a friend, and he desperately yearns for a way into that lifestyle. Not just playing in a club, or submitting to random Dominants for a one-night stand. He knows exactly who he is and what he wants—and doesn’t want—-from the lifestyle, and he’s not willing to settle for meaningless kink just to scratch his itch. When A.J. discovers that Ryder and Lyss are living the lifestyle he so desperately wants, he truly believes that he’s finally found a way to be who he wants while also being with the two people he loves more than life itself. What could go wrong?

Mellanie: What’s the most important thing that you want readers to learn from this book?
Rhiannon: That pain and impact play are not essential to living a D/s lifestyle, for starters. So many people shy away from BDSM because they believe that bondage and masochism are required elements. They are not. You can live a D/s lifestyle without having to enjoy pain and bondage play of any kind. There’s so much more to it than those two things, yet so many believe that’s all there is. My hope is that readers will begin to see that there is no “one true way” and that D/s is always about what works for you, personally.

Mellanie: Is there anything else readers should know about this story?
Rhiannon: This story was very personal for me, in a lot of aspects. Some of the scenarios are straight out of my personal playbook :) I hope my readers will enjoy the story, but also realize that this book is just one author’s interpretation of the lifestyle. The way my characters practice is the same way that I practice, so it is very personal. But, that doesn’t mean that my way is “right” way, and I am not by any means trying to get anyone to believe that my way is the only way. I write my stories with the simple hope that people will read them and understand that there are many, many ways to live the lifestyle, and that just because you tend to see certain aspects of it more often than others doesn’t mean that there aren’t other way’s to practice. There is NO right way. Just YOUR way.

I grew up in cities all over the United States. My parents enjoyed moving for the sake of seeing new places, so whenever wanderlust seized them, off we went. Eventually, our travels landed me on the Texas coast, where I attended high school and college. And though I have moved away for the sake of work in the past, something always draws me back. I believe Texas will always be a major part of my life, no matter what city I live in. Plus, I'm a HUGE Texans fan, so I have to be able to watch my football games on TV.
That said, even though my feet may be planted in Texas soil, my head is always in the clouds. I am a dreamer, a thinker, a planner, and most of the time a doer. When not creating artwork for my professional clients, I am constantly doing art projects. If it can be made by hand, I've made it at least once. I make jewelry, clay figurines, sewing projects, paper crafts, scrapbooks---you name it. And I always have an art project in some stage of completion.
My husband and I have been together for over a decade, and we are the proud parents of a wonderful son who will probably rule the world one day---he's that smart. Our inquisitive dog, Intrepid Explorer Max Puppy, helps round out the family and adds much joy and laughter to our home. My son is a math and science genius, which makes no sense since both of his parents are wordsmiths and artists, but hey, we roll with it. When not stumping me with his knowledge of higher math (the kid isn't even in middle school, for crying out loud!) my son and my dog happily hunt frogs, kittens, and other nefarious creatures that inhabit our apartment complex.
My husband is an editor, a writer, and a consummate pro at keeping me and the family on track. If not for his balancing capabilities, I'm sure I'd have us eating boiled fish sticks every night. But as goofy as we all are, we do have fun together. I wouldn't change it for the world.
As to my writing credentials, I managed to win two Silver Awards on the National Scholastic Short Story Competition when I was in high school, as well as the prestigious Vanderbilt Award for Excellence in Creative Writing. Before that, I wrote my very first adventure series when I was eight years old, a rousing tale of talking animals and evil villains that may or may not have been based on the Redwall Series by Brian Jacques. But, as silly as those first efforts of mine were, those stories were what convinced me I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Fate intervened for a time, so I grew into a different career that still let me nurture my creative side---graphic design. My very first novel was finally published in May of 2014, and it is still my single greatest achievement to date.

Best wishes, Rhiannon, and thanks to those who stopped by to check out my latest guest! Remember to comment by midnight (EST) on Wednesday, January 21, for a chance to win a copy of Saints United!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday: Writing Advice from Liz Flaherty

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday and Week 2 of the new Writing Advice series! Liz Flaherty, one of my wonderful IRWA friends, is here to offer some great tips on becoming a better writer.

Great to have you here, Liz! Take it away!

I have wracked my brain trying to think of something new or different that you haven’t heard or read before, something that will help make your writing easier, better, shorter or longer, more publishable, more readable, or easier to relate to. I’ve reached the conclusion that there is indeed nothing new under the sun. So let me tinker with the old stuff a little.

My best writing advice is to take a day or a weekend or even a whole week off. Not for vacation, per se, but to do other things. For me, it is sewing—particularly charity sewing. I have friends who knit. Friends who are active in local theatre, who sing in Round Robins on Friday nights, or who cook up a storm.

I suggest this so you will remember that even though you are a writer, that’s not all you are; you are the sum of other experiences and emotions besides the despair and/or euphoria afforded by writing. You have not always made extensive notes about settings when you traveled or tried to figure out how to use the conversation the couple at the next table is having in your next book. Sometimes you have managed to look at another person without thinking that exact hairstyle would look great on your protagonist. Occasionally you have laughed uproariously or cried really hard without thinking what it had to do with your writing career.

Do this again.

In other words, even though they’re not at all new ones, be sure to stop along the writing road and smell the roses. And do it without thinking exactly what color they are, how the sun is striking them, or how you will describe the scent.

And then go back to writing. Refreshed.

About Liz...
Retired from the post office, Liz Flaherty spends non-writing time sewing, quilting, and doing whatever else she wants to. She and Duane live in the old farmhouse in Indiana they moved to in 1977. They’ve talked about moving, but really…30-some years’ worth of stuff? It’s not happening!
She’d love to hear from you at or please come and see her at:


Great advice, Liz! I need to take more time for the other things I enjoy doing. Thanks so much for sharing!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Shawn Reilly

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! Shawn Reilly is my guest this week, and she's sharing an excerpt from Call of the Raven, book one in The Union series, and giving away a signed copy, a bookmark, and a rubber bracelet to one lucky commenter! **Note: This series is a serial, with each book in the series a continuation of the previous book. Call of the Raven is the beginning of an 8-book serial.

Blurb: Love is something everyone longs for at the deepest level—but for some, love is a curse. This is most certainly true for Asher Lake, the Keeper of an unknown group of people called ani-shifts. Ani-shifts, those with the ability to shift into animal forms, compose a secretive body of individuals known simply as the Union.
A wolf in shifter form, Asher lives with a curse placed upon him and his predecessors by the elusive Raven—a dark entity whose identity remains a mystery. According to the ancient archives, the Raven’s curse is conditional and set in motion by one fatal decision: if a Keeper ever allows himself to fall in love, he will die.
Choosing to live in isolation within the walls of Lake Manor, a private estate concealed by the dense woods of Brokenridge, Asher has vowed never to love or to fall in love with anyone believing it to be the only way to survive. However, after ten years of neglecting his people and the protégés left in his care, along with the impending threats of an uprising, Asher learns the only way to break the Raven’s curse on future Keepers, thereby preventing them from suffering the same fate, is to accept his.
This becomes his strongest challenge of all when he encounters Elle Ison, the woman of his dreams. Does Elle hold the key? Can she help him change his fate?


Grant Lake dropped his legs over the side of the bed and rubbed at his tired eyes. He hadn’t slept much for days, not since the rain had begun. For a few moments he sat there in a listless stupor, staring at the waning moon hovering above the large maple, before staggering to the window to have a better look outside. He didn’t see any sign of the dark bird from his dreams but he knew it was there.

He sensed it in his bones.

Throughout history ravens had been considered a bad omen. To him it meant so much more. As rain streaked down the windowpane, great sadness washed over him. He was born a wolf, a leader to the world of animal shifters known as the Union, as well as protector to the protégé heirs left in his care. To his kind he was known as a Keeper, and dying young was his destiny.

Leaving the window behind Grant went to the dresser and removed a chain from his neck. He ran his thumb across the silver medallion that bore the emblem of a wolf, and then draped it on top of an antique box shaped like a treasure chest. Closing the door behind him, he walked down the hall to little Keni’s room and stood just outside the door.

Reaching into the pocket of his jeans he removed a necklace with intentions of just leaving it on her nightstand, when he heard soft whimpering coming from inside. Unable to turn and walk away he pushed open the door and the moment she saw him her face lit up. The eight-year-old was sitting up in bed and his heart went out to her. Switching on the light he glanced around the messy room. Toys and dirty clothes were scattered everywhere.

Grant let out a sigh. If only he could have found a suitable nanny to look after the children, he wouldn’t feel so bad about leaving them behind. There was Bonnie, but she was an overworked, unappreciated maid. The children needed someone to look after them on a full time basis.

What they needed was a mother. Grant had hoped to give them one, but there was no point dwelling on the ‘could have’s’ now. He looked at the bare windows, then to the box of blinds in the corner that he planned to install a year ago.

There had been so much that he planned to do…wanted to do.

“What was it this time Keni?” Grant sat down on the edge of the bed. Keni’s green eyes were round with fear and on her right cheek he saw the traces of tears.

She pushed out her lower lip. “I dreamed of a big bird. It was the size of our house.”

“Wow, that’s one big bird.” Trying desperately to hide his fears, Grant forced a smile upon his lips. “What kind of a bird was it? Was he big, with big orange feet and a big orange beak the color of this hair here?” Playfully he tugged at her pigtail. Even with his teasing the little girl’s lip puckered, and she started to cry.

“No-o, it was the same bird that chased me this afternoon and was pecking on my window just before you came in.”

Grant’s fear could no longer be disregarded. Slow and sure it crept like English ivy up the length of his arms, straight for his heart. But he refused to let it strangle the life from him yet. He had to be sure. “Did,” he hesitated, “the bird look like Nix when he changes?”

“It was all black, like the picture I saw in the study. Asher called it a raven.” As though afraid someone would hear her, Keni leaned forward and whispered the last between her fingers, “Asher said it was gonna eat me.”

The ivy crept up the wall, weakening the mortar of Grant’s resolve. He could feel the foundation, everything that had kept him together this long, threatening to crumble. “Asher told you this?”

Thunder boomed and the little girl let out a terrified squeal that startled Grant. He tried to laugh it off but all humor was lost when lightning lit up the room and revealed all too clearly a shadow shaped like a bird on the bedroom wall. Trying not to draw attention to that fact, Grant pulled little Keni onto his lap. If he had doubted the Raven’s call before, he didn’t now.

“Come on, the twins get scared easily during storms. You can keep them company tonight.”

“I’m scared Grant. Asher said the bird wants me.”

“Hush now,” Grant held her tighter in his arms hoping she could feel his strength, hoping she could find some comfort in that. “There’s nothing to be afraid of not while I’m your Keeper, and it’s not you the bird wants.” Dread washed over him as he carried the tiny girl across the hall, and her tears soaked the shoulder of his shirt.

“But I don’t want him to want you either.” She whimpered.

With those simple words Grant’s heart felt as though it would shatter into a million different pieces. Anger welled up inside of him. Life shouldn’t be like this. Why should he have to die and those he love suffer because of his unwillingness to accept the call. He refused to believe that his future—the future generation of Keepers was predestined to suffer, on account of an ancient curse put into motion long before he ever existed. There just had to be a way.

For the first time in his life Grant was happy.

For the first time in his life he was in love.

It wasn’t fair that such a beautiful thing could result in his demise. Grant’s only hope was to change that.
He’d just gotten the twins used to sleeping in their big bed, but at two years old and rather small for their age, they were nothing more than two tiny lumps burrowed under the covers. He figured since they were rats in their shifter form it was instinctual. Grant laid Keni next to them, and sleepily she peered up at him.

“You’ll be safe here Keni. Look after the twins for me, help the boys and try not to be afraid.” He dangled the necklace from his fingertips and her small hand reached for the chain. “This necklace will let you know when I’m near.” Bending over Grant kissed the top of her head and then opened the nightstand drawer. He removed the books he prepared for the twins and placed them on top, so that they would eventually find them. In turn, he gave them both a kiss as he had Kennedy, and left the room.

He had one last stop to make and that was the boys’ room. Turning the door handle he stepped inside the darkened room. The quiet was evidence that Ari was still awake. Any other time his snores could be heard throughout the entire manor. The room was shared by three boys. Two were in bunk beds and the third lay quiet and still on a single bed by the window, but it was fifteen-year-old Ari lying on the bottom bunk that he went to first.

“Can’t sleep huh?”

“Oh I could sleep,” Ari turned his head toward him, “but every time I drift off Asher throws something at me and wakes me up. He says my snoring bothers him, but I know he’s not even trying to sleep. He’s reading.” Ari yawned. “The fact of the matter is he’s miserable, so he feels the need to make me miserable as well.”

Grant glanced across the room at Asher whom he knew was listening. Lately being nice to him was an extra hard task. He had become so distant and mean at times, especially to his brother Ari.

“I think he’s worried about something, but of course he never tells me anything,” Ari complained. “He’s completely shut me out, and worst of all he won’t let me do my job as guardian.” When Grant again said nothing, Ari sat up and scanned over him. “What’s up Grant, you look a little worried too?”

“Ari, I would like for you to take Nixon and go sleep in the twin’s room tonight. You know they don’t like storms much, and I need to talk to Asher alone.”

Ari stood and looked at the boy sleeping on the top bunk. Nixon’s mouth was opened wide. Even in sleep the nine-year-old seemed to be in alert status ready to scream or worse, bite. “You know I always do as you ask Grant but can’t I leave Nixon here? He doesn’t like me.”

Grant put a fatherly hand on Ari’s shoulder. “Just give him some time. He’s new here. Now take him and go.”

“Oh, all right.” Ari gently pulled the younger boy by the arm toward him, and just when he was about to lift him into his arms, Nixon’s eyes and mouth flew open instinctively. Without thinking, Grant grabbed hold of his head before he could sink his teeth into Ari’s shoulder.

“Why does he always go with the teeth?” Ari breathed. “You would think a bird—”

“I’m not a bird you ugly wet-smelling dog!” Nixon shouted.

Grant hushed him quiet. “I know you don’t know us that well, but we mean you no harm. This place is your refuge.”

“I don’t need any ref-phuge!” Nixon exclaimed angrily. He pushed Grant’s hand away but the tears that threatened to form told a different story. Grant knew the boy wanted to trust him but earning his confidence would take time and time was something Grant didn’t have. “Why am I going with the dog and not him?” Nixon pointed toward Asher.

Of all the people in the house, even over the gentle loyal Ari, Nixon had chosen Asher and Asher could care less. “I need to talk to Asher alone,” Grant repeated, “so go with Ari and don’t give him a hard time.”

“Then tell him to keep his hands off me!” Nixon demanded jumping down from the bed. Even in that he was rebellious.

Once they were gone Grant crossed over to the bed and looked down at the remaining boy. His hair, long and black as coal, lay against a crisp white pillowcase. His eyes were opened staring blankly out the window at the waning moon. Grant knew how he felt. Since he too was a wolf, Asher also was affected by the moon’s weakened state.

“I’m seventeen…not yet a man,” he gravely said. “I’m too young to be a Keeper.”

“It’s the way of things. It’s not like you have a choice,” Grant said. “Besides, what makes you think I’m going to die?”

“Oh you will die and soon because you made the choice to fall in love.”

“Asher, do you always have to be so brutal with your words?”

Turning his head, Asher looked up at Grant. Even in the dark the boy’s strange eyes reflected light, but as usual there was no warmth to be found within their depths. Asher had stopped smiling. Asher had stopped laughing. Lately it was always the same blank unreadable face and the same harsh words. “You can’t stop it. You will die,” Asher flatly said.

“And so will you.”

“Yes, but at least I won’t die young,” Asher sighed.

“What makes you so sure? You’re a wolf,” Grant argued. “You were born a Keeper, and whether you like it or not you will take my place.”

“Yes, I will take your place because the Council has seen to that and will continue to do so upon your demise. However, unlike you, I have come up with a plan to guard myself against the Raven’s call.” Asher turned away as Grant sat down beside him on the bed. The boy made no indication that he planned to give him more room or that he wanted him to stay.

“And what plan is that?” Grant picked up the book lying next to Asher’s hand. The book befittingly was by Edgar Allan Poe.

“It’s simple really,” Asher said tonelessly. “The Raven doesn’t want us to be happy. When we are happy, when we are content, when we fall in love, that’s when the Raven appears. So I have vowed never to be happy, never to love or fall in love, and if I’m content, it is only in my acceptance of these things.”

Grant’s frustration escalated. “Let me get this straight. You will become Keeper to the Union and to the protégés but you won’t love them? Is that what you’re implying?”

“I will do only what is expected of me.” Asher said. “I will keep them. I will provide for them, but I will not love them, ever. It is the only way to survive.”

“There was one Keeper that married and had children and he lived a long life.”

“You are right. There was one such Keeper, in all the history of ani-shifts that didn’t accept the Raven’s call, but he eventually went mad. Didn’t he?” Asher’s eyes boldly lifted to Grant’s and his lips curved upward into a sardonic smile. “Or have you forgotten how your father was tormented until he eventually took his own life?”

This time Grant did nothing to prevent the fury spurned by Asher’s words. He allowed it to show in his eyes, his face. He had never told anyone the truth about his father and for Asher to know meant he had gone prying into the archives.

Detecting his anger, Asher exhaled, and then quickly stated, “The wolf has full autonomy. He can do as he pleases.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. Only the Keeper and the Pillar Council are granted access to the archives and you are not yet a Keeper.”

“Oh,” Asher looked away. “That’s where you’re wrong. Before the cock crows the Raven will call and you will be no longer.”

Grant’s anger was quickly replaced by an overwhelming and alarming sadness. Just as he started to speak his eyes landed on the book that Asher clutched in his hand and with the slightest turn of his head, he noticed several other books just like it stacked on the nightstand. The titles Grant knew all too well since he had read them himself. Fact or mythical, the books were all about the Raven.

He had spent a great majority of his life searching for an answer just like Asher. Even among the archives Asher was searching past historical events for solutions. If he wanted answers, than he couldn’t be beyond help—beyond hope. Neither of them was. Grant had to believe that.

“I discovered a spell in an old book,” Grant said. For the first time during their conversation Asher’s attention was fully his. Even in the dim room the strange color, the almost fluorescent blue of Asher’s eyes intimidated Grant with their intensity. Lowering his gaze, Grant refused to let Asher see his doubts.

He knew that his plans weren’t full proof. There were dangers that involved cost, not just to him. “I’m not going without a fight. I plan to use the spell. I want to live and I want to love. Asher, despite everything else that you feel, please lookout for me.”

Unconvinced, Asher shook his head. “You have nothing, so nothing will change. Fate has seen to that. As I said before there is only one way, and that is my way…never to love.”

Grant stopped in the doorway and regarded him. “What a sad, selfish way to live then.”


Mellanie: What inspired you to write your first book?
Shawn: First it was my stepfather and a need to teach myself to read due to my dyslexia and then later in life I was struggling with some depression after developing Lupus and fibromyalgia so I started up again. I had never stopped writing over the years but I thought of it as a hobby and therapy only. But when I stumbled across an article about Indie publishing I decided to give it a try. After that I felt the need to prove to others that dreams do and can come true.

Mellanie: Do you see writing as a career?
Shawn: I do. Whether or not that will be a successful career remains to be seen but at this point in my life I don’t see myself doing anything else. I love to write and it’s become a part of who I am.

Mellanie: This book is the first (second, third, etc.) in a series (omit this statement if not applicable). Do you prefer to write single title or series? Why?
Shawn: I prefer to write series books. I love to introduce characters and situations and then carry on with them in more than one book. To me it seems more real.

Mellanie: Give us some insight into your main character. What makes him/her special?
Shawn: Asher Lake comes across as harsh, unfeeling, and brooding—sworn off love the way he is but on the contrary it’s because he wants what he cannot have that he behave in such a way. But then again I believe I would act the same if I knew love would be the death of me.

Mellanie: Is there a message in your novel you hope to convey to your readers?
Shawn: In all my books there is a message or an example to be found and stands to a readers interpretation but if I were to choose one I’d say it’s to not be afraid to love.

Mellanie: I love a good conflict. What draws your main characters to each other and keeps them apart?
Shawn: Good old physical attraction, the need for one another in difficult situations, and what keeps them apart would be the fear of the curse that hangs over Asher’s life.

Mellanie: How did you come up with the title?
Shawn: Actually my daughter came up with the title. I told her the basic plot and she came up with it, so it stuck.

Mellanie: What’s your favorite sub-genre (contemporary, sci-fi, etc.) to write? To read?
Shawn: I write in several genres but my favorite to write in is paranormal romance and science fiction.

Mellanie: I usually get plot ideas in the shower and while driving. When/where does inspiration strike you?
Shawn: Inspiration strikes me anywhere. I was walking with my daughter one Halloween night and she was looking over a neighbor’s house, where the owners were dressed up like witches and asked what if monsters really did exists and we had to live with them so the next day I started writing a book using that premise.

Mellanie: What new stories are you working on?
Shawn: Right now I’m working on the seventh book in the Union Series titled Rise of the Raven which is due out spring of 2015 and the sequel to a YA that is already out.

Bio: Shawn Reilly lives in Mt. Comfort Indiana with her husband, three daughters, and far too many pets. She is the author of the Union Series: Call of the Raven, Legend of the Raven, Pursuit of the Raven, Sacrifice of the Raven, Curse of the Raven, Allegiance of the Raven, and a YA Paranormal Romance titled Bug. She is currently working on the seventh book in the series, Rise of the Raven, due to be released spring of 2015, and the sequel to Bug.

Amazon Author Page:

Thanks for visiting, Shawn! And thank you, readers, for stopping by! Remember to comment by midnight (EST) on Wednesday, January 14, for a chance to win a signed copy of Call of the Raven, a bookmark, and a rubber bracelet!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday: Writing Advice from Mellanie Szereto

Welcome to a new year of Writing Tip Wednesday! As many of you know, this weekly blog series is my pay-it-forward project. When I began my writing journey, the authors I met gave me honest but encouraging feedback and taught me a lot about writing and the publishing world. Many have became good friends and I know I can always count on them. I strongly believe writers should support and help each other through shared information, critique groups, writers’ programs and organizations, and collaboration. Most of us are avid readers and are happy to cheer on our colleagues as they work to achieve their writing career goals—finishing a manuscript, getting a new contract offer, signing with an agent, having a new release, etc.—so this year will focus on Writing Advice from published authors. I’m up first!

My top two recommendations for all writers are to study writing craft and join a writing group. Even with a strong background in grammar and language, most writers still need guidance in craft. Using POV correctly, utilizing GMC, and showing rather than telling typically aren’t taught in high school and college writing courses and are often weak areas for those embarking on a writing career. Whether grammar and punctuation are strengths or weaknesses, everyone can benefit from having a copy of Chicago Manual of Style handy. The investment is worth it!

Writing groups and organizations are also an excellent investment. Not only are they a great resource for finding critique partners, many offer learning opportunities like programs, workshops, and conferences on craft, the publishing industry, and research topics. Being surrounded by other writers fosters friendships and sparks creativity. I always come home from IRWA chapter meetings and the RWA National Conference reenergized and ready to dive into writing.

Good craft is the basis for good writing, but learning about the publishing industry is vital as well. No matter the path an author chooses, she needs to be educated on how the process works. Far too often, writers who submit to editors and agents haven’t researched standard formatting guidelines or don’t follow the submission rules. Self-publishing gives her more freedom and control—plus a lot more responsibility. Some writers rush to put their books out in the market as quickly as they can, skipping over important steps like editing and previewing for formatting errors.

In the quest for knowledge, beware of any resource claiming all writers should follow a specific method for writing and publishing. No single way is the right way. The journey belongs to each individual and the path is unique. Self-publishing doesn’t fit every author’s needs any more than plotting makes a pantser write better or faster. We all have varying demands on our time and different responsibilities to balance. Find what works for you. Also, keep in mind that writing methods and processes can change from book to book and with experience.

Setting realistic goals can help with balance. Make them challenging but achievable to avoid the too-easy road and the set-myself-up-for-failure or compare-my-word-count-to-others’ pitfalls. A setback isn’t the end of the world, so adjust goals as needed. Don’t give up!

Write what’s in your heart and be prepared to work hard—because writing is hard work!

Author 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 or 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. She is multi-published with Siren-Bookstrand (five short stories in anthologies and ten novellas) and has self-published two novels in her foodie contemporary and erotic series, in addition to her nonfiction Writing Tip Wednesday handbooks on writing craft, writing career, and self-publishing. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of twenty-eight years, their son, and a crazy black cat. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and PASIC. Visit her website at

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Author Spotlight--Michelle Roth

Welcome to a new year of Author Spotlights on Mondays! I hope everyone has a great 2015!

Michelle Roth is visiting this week and sharing her latest release, In Full Bloom, book one in her Second Chances series. She's also giving us insight into her life as a writer. Welcome, Michelle!

From the moment that Taryn Michaels runs into her new landlord, Evan Connolly, on the stairwell, she is dangerously attracted to him. She's starting her career as a veterinarian at the Los Angeles Zoo and isn't looking for any complications. The more she gets to know him though, the more she realizes that he might be worth the risk.
Evan Connolly has moved back to L.A. to pursue his lifelong passion for growing exotic orchids. When he buys a florist shop, building and all, he gets far more than he bargained for when it comes with a gorgeous, feisty tenant. As the sparks fly between them, he's finding her more and more difficult to resist.
When they finally give into temptation, it quickly develops into something deeper. As the truth of Taryn's past comes back to haunt them, will Evan be able to break down the walls she's built around her heart? Will she let him?

As she started up the second flight of stairs, she let out a surprised yelp. Quickly dodging a box as it rolled down the stairs toward her, she turned to watch as it broke apart at the bottom of the landing with a thunk.

“Shit! I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” a worried voice asked from the top of the stairs.

“Yeah. I think whatever was in that box probably isn’t though,” Taryn said, turning back toward the voice at the top of the stairs.

He wore a pair of faded jeans that were torn in several places and a snug black T-shirt. His lower jaw was covered in dark stubble. His black hair was short and messy, as if someone had been running their hands through it. His eyes looked almost black in the dim light of the hallway. He was in his mid-thirties, Taryn decided. He was the very definition of sin.

Suddenly, aware she had been staring, she asked, “So, uh. Why are you throwing boxes down the stairs at me?”

Tall, dark, and sexy gave her an all-out grin now and said, “Hey now. I didn’t throw it so much as it fell.”

Dear Jesus. That voice. It was deep and smooth. A sexy face, a ridiculous body, and that voice, too? She couldn’t look away as he descended the stairs and stopped in front of her.

Reaching out, he extended his hand and said, “Evan Connolly. I bought the building.”

Taking his hand and giving it a firm shake, she said, “Taryn Michaels. Your tenant.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“You, too. I’m gonna head on up so you can can go ahead and finish throwing your things down the stairs,” Taryn said, grinning.

“Yeah,” he said, smiling good naturedly as he ran a hand through his messy hair. “I’m not likely to live that down, am I?”

“Probably not any time soon,” she said, stepping around him. “Have a good night.”

As she moved toward her apartment door, she thought, Well. This was certainly an interesting development.

An hour later, Taryn had showered and changed. She was applying a coat of mascara when she heard a knock on the door. Putting the mascara wand back in the tube, she moved back through the bedroom.

“Hang on,” she shouted as she moved toward the door.

When she opened it, her sister Cora stood on the other side of the door. All but tackling her, she squealed, “Tare, you’re a vet now!”

Grinning, Taryn said, “I am!”

Taryn pulled her inside and said, “Help me lace up the back of this shirt. When I bought it, I didn’t think about the dynamics of trying to put it on without help.”

Turning around, she presented Cora with the back of her red corset top.

“Ooh,” Cora said. “This is hot! Are you looking to get some tonight?”

Snorting, Taryn said, “You’re staying the night tonight. I’ll pass.”

“The girls were out,” Cora said, gesturing to Taryn’s chest. “I was just checking!”

Rolling her eyes, Taryn moved toward the bathroom, saying, “Lemme mascara and then we can leave.”

Ten minutes later, they walked across the street. Darla’s was a little hole in the wall place. Darla, an older heavy-set woman, had been behind the bar the few times that Taryn had gone in. It was low key and close to home. In deference to the fact it was technically her celebration, the girls from work had let her pick the place.

As they walked in the door, she immediately spotted Serena from administration sitting at a table with Mindy, one of the other veterinarians on staff. Serena immediately jumped up and said, “You’re official now! Congrats, honey.”

Taryn was immediately pulled into hugs, then gifted with a tiara and a martini. She took a sip of a martini, placed the tiara on her head, then introduced Cora.

Over the next few hours, several people stopped by the bar to congratulate Taryn. Even her new boss, Mike, had showed up for a while. He’d congratulated her on finishing her internship and reminded her that now she, too, would know the joy of telling the intern to shovel the poop from the rhinoceros cage.

Everyone had wanted to buy her a drink. After the fourth one, she’d started giving them to her sister and had switched to water. At 5’3”, Taryn was a light-weight to say the least.

It was after midnight when they finally walked back across the street to Taryn’s apartment. She wasn’t particularly drunk, but she was definitely feeling relaxed. As they turned to walk up the second flight of stairs, Taryn ran directly into a wall of warm, male chest.

Looking up, she saw Evan. Reaching out, she grabbed his shoulders to steady herself, then felt his hands settle on her hips. Feeling the warmth of his fingertips against small swath of skin between where her top ended and her jeans started, awareness coursing through her veins. She watched him now as he slowly appraised her, taking in the corset top and dark-washed jeans.

His hands flexed against her hips as he released her and stepped back. Even though they no longer touched, she could still feel the electricity arc between them.

Next to her, Cora said, “Well, hello. I’m Cora. Who are you?”

“The new Mrs. Weatherly,” Taryn answered, not breaking eye contact with Evan.

Sparing her a glance, he said, “Evan Connolly. Nice to meet you.”

Looking him over, Cora grinned and said, “Definitely easier on the eyes than Mrs. Weatherly.”

When neither party responded, she continued, “Well, I’m going to go inside and make another drink while you two stand out here on the landing and eye fuck each other.”

Giving a little wave, she wobbled up the stairs.

Buy Link:

Mellanie: Do you see writing as a career?
Michelle: Absolutely. It's just like any other job. You sit down for however many hours a day and write. Granted, it's an awesome job, but it's a job nonetheless. ;)

Mellanie: This book is the first in a series. Do you prefer to write single title or series? Why?
Michelle: I much prefer series writing. As I involve other characters in my books, I find that they start begging for their own story. It's pretty easy to segue into that.

Mellanie: Give us some insight into your main character. What makes him/her special?
Michelle: Taryn Michaels is a fighter. Not in the boxing gloves sense, but she's had a tough life. Despite nearly insurmountable odds, she's managed to succeed. She may be a little bit of a mess emotionally, but she's never let that stop her from doing what she needed to do. Developing romance between her and Evan, watching her figure out how to love someone. That was fantastic.

Mellanie: Is there a message in your novel you hope to convey to your readers?
Michelle: I've noticed that my books tend to center around family. As I get older, something that I discover for myself is that family isn't a biological thing. They end up being the people that you choose to surround yourself with. If the book is trying to convey anything, it would be that family matters. Love matters.

Mellanie: I love a good conflict. What draws your main characters to each other and keeps them apart?
Michelle: This conflict is a little man vs. self. The main characters are immediately drawn to one another on a physical level. A number of different things hold them back. Evan is Taryn's new landlord, so both of them want to avoid any weird messiness that a relationship could bring there. Evan is also running a business now, so he's worried he doesn't have time to devote to a relationship. Taryn is just starting a new career and has some pretty deep issues with love and trust. All of these things make for an interesting roller coaster ride.

Mellanie: How did you come up with the title?
Michelle: The same place I come up with all of my ideas. In my car, randomly.

Mellanie: What new stories are you working on?
Michelle: I've got lots going on. I'm current working on book 2, with book 3 of the Second Chances series in planning stages. I've got a novella in the works for my last series. All kinds of good things happening in 2015. :)

Author Bio:
Michelle Roth is a novelist from Los Angeles, California. When she’s not disappearing into foreign lands, or making two perfect strangers that she invented fall in love, she’s probably curled up somewhere with a glass of wine and a good book.

In her spare time she is typically hanging out with her awesome boyfriend and their two equally awesome cats. She likes taking road trips to nowhere in particular, cooking elaborate meals then making other people do the dishes, and being nerdy on the internet. Her books are currently available on

Social Media Links:
Twitter: @mroth_author
Amazon Author Page:

Thanks for visiting with me today, Michelle and readers! Have a wonderful day!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday: The Self-Publishing Handbook

Writing Tip Wednesday: The Self-Publishing Handbook is now available in print and e-book! Get the trade paperback from CreateSpace and Amazon. Get the e-book from Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo, and ARe/OmniLit. Buy the print and digital versions from Amazon and receive $2.00 off the e-book price with MatchBook!

As always, reviews and ratings are greatly appreciated. :) The new Writing Tip Wednesday topic starts January 7!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!