Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Tia Catalina

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! Tia Catalina, one of my favorite redheads is visiting this week! She's sharing her solution to a common problem for writers. Give it a try to see if this approach works for you!

Take it away, Tia!

Sagging middles are the bane of every writer’s existence. While sitting at a computer can add unwanted pounds, this is not the sagging middle I’m referring to. I mean the part of your manuscript where the story starts to bog down and sag, causing the reader to lose interest.

After reading a least twenty books on pacing, I developed a short outline that I insert at the beginning of every new manuscript. Romance novels have turning points and mysteries have plot twists. By reminding myself where these belong in the manuscript, I can avoid the dreaded saggy middle.

First, let’s discuss what turning points are. Turning points are the big scenes that create a change in the direction of the plot by changing the direction of the main character’s emotions. Before the story begins, the character has already made a core decision about her life. For example, the heroine decided she did not want to be a stay-at-home mom like her mother because her father died suddenly, leaving the family in dire straits. She has decided her career will come first and she will never have children. The first few pages should show the reader what the worst possible thing that could happen to the main character is. For our character, the worst possible thing might be meeting a single father who she finds attractive. The main character will think she has succeeded in staying her emotional course, but at the first turning point, she will have a change in her emotions. Maybe she feels things will work out if she just goes out with single dad on Friday night. He is cute, but she can date him without meeting the kid. The second turning point will involve some sort of intimacy and reversal. Things will start going wrong at this point. Main character is on a date with single dad when he gets a call that the kid has fallen and broken a wrist. They rush to hospital and the pitiful little cherub appeals to her for comfort. The third turning point will show her basic nature/core decisions have made things worse. Single dad and kid have fallen in love with her, but she freaks and decides to dump them before she gets too involved. Everyone is hurt and upset. This will set up the black moment where all hope is lost and there is no resolution in sight. She doesn’t want a family—the family wants her in their lives. The main character’s basic nature has forced them into this situation. No one can win.

Next, let’s discuss the plot twists. If you are writing romance only, these do not need to be included. Simply put, a plot twist is an unexpected element in the plot. These occur at approximately the same time as the turning points. I like to do the turning points first because it engages the reader with the character before disaster occurs with the plot twist. It is important to have the reader empathize with the characters so they can pull for them to succeed. The final plot twist is the resolution to the mystery.
TP=Turning Point
PT=Plot Twist

¼ way through
Basic nature/core decision in play

½ way through

TP3-PT3--Black Moment
¾ way through-Resolution
Everything goes wrong

Thanks so much for sharing, Tia! What do you think, writers? Is this a method that might put some muscle into a sagging middle for you? I'm pulling out the WIP that's been giving me fits and trying it out!

Tia owned a small business in the real estate industry for decades before deciding a change was required to preserve her sense of humor. She joined the Indiana chapter of the Romance Writers of America and the Speed City Sisters in Crime where she spent years studying the writing craft, specializing in humor and suspense.

She and her husband are residents of central Indiana where they enjoy volunteering for the various sporting events held in Indianapolis. Tia is an NFL, NBA and WNBA fan, spending many unrecoverable hours tailgating. Other talents include cooking and entertaining.


Fan Page:

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Ty Langston

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! This week I've invited Ty Langston to share her advice. I met Ty, along with several other wonderful writers, last year at Lori Foster's Reader Author Get Together in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, she isn't able to attend this year, but I'll be there and signing books on Friday, June 5, from 3:00pm to 5:00pm. Stop by if you're in the area!

Welcome, Ty!

I love writing. To tell a story, create three-dimensional characters that we all can relate to is fun for me. It is the reason why I became an author.

I get inspiration from watching people. I observe them talking, reading, doing everyday activities. I can be in a parking lot listening to a couple argue about something as small as a grocery store item to watching a young newlywed couple make up after an argument.

Everyday life these days seems to be the force that drives me. I love paranormal and have written it for a couple of years now. But recently, I find that writing about everyday struggles we all experience is not only satisfying but a challenge to write.

Do I write everyday? I did up until last year. I’ve always told people to try and write something, even if it’s a sentence. But as we know, life’s challenges can at times get in the way. My advice now to new and aspiring authors is if you can’t write daily, write when you can. In the end, it’s about what ends up on the page, good or bad. At least, with the more you write, you’re improving.

I guess is what I’m saying is quality over quantity works for me now.

I write with some kind of music. I tend to write in the afternoon or in the evening. The music soundtrack of my stories tends to vary depending on what I’m working on.

Since I’m currently writing a contemporary series about three brothers whose stories center on a nightclub they own, currently there’s a lot of R&B, pop, and hip hop remixes on my Spotify playlists. When I write my paranormal Crave series about a rock band full of shifters, there’s a lot of 80’s and 90’s rock bands like Great White, Bon Jovi, and Motley Crue that are on my list.

Should you write what you know? Yes and No. I say both, because sometimes the fun is in the challenge. If you want to try a new genre, read about it, learn about it, talk to others who have some experience in a genre you are interested in. When you feel ready to jump in, go for it. There is nothing wrong with writing what you know, but it never hurts to break out of your comfort zone, either.

So my advice to all of you is to learn, watch, but most of all, live life. When you are able and ready to write about it, write as much as you can. Your stories and you will ultimately be better for it.

As a child, bestselling author, Ty Langston loved to read about dragons and knights so much that one day, her grandmother told her to "just write about them."

So she did.

From that day forward, she never left home without her pen, a notebook, and some kind of music playing in the background. Her love of reading expanded from fantasy into science fiction, and eventually into paranormal romance and erotica.

She enjoys different works from George Martin, Anne McCaffrey, Stephen King, and Jackie Collins. But some of Ty's favorite writers are from the world of TV and film: namely, Tudors creator Michael Hirst, and the late John Hughes.

Ty has a certificate in Broadcast Journalism along with a degree in Business Administration.

She's also the co-host of The Indy Geek, a weekly podcast on pop culture on Thursdays at 8 pm EST on Spreaker, itunes, Stitcher, and more.


Life does get in the way of writing sometimes, doesn't it? Thanks so much for visiting, Ty! Hope to see you next year at RAGT!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Tymber Dalton

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! This week my guest is the talented and outspoken :) Tymber Dalton. She's a strong supporter of writers and good writing, and I'm happy to call her cyber-friend!

Welcome, Tymber!

When my first fiction book was published on 8/8/08 (also the opening day of the Beijing Olympics), the e-publishing landscape looked a lot different than it does now in 2015. Yes, that was only seven years ago, but massive changes have hit since then. Amazon started KDP. Nook, Kobo, Google, and iTunes entered the e-book fields. Sales and distribution sites like Smashwords and AllRomanceEbooks came into play.

Where back in 2008 only a couple of “big” independent digital-first publishers existed, now there are hundreds, with more popping up every day. As well as single-author houses, authors who’ve formed a “house” to publish their own work. And let’s not forget self-publishing. Once considered the last resort of desperate wannabes who couldn’t land a traditional contract, now well-respected authors are self-publishing, taking control of their careers.

I wish I could tell newbies that they should self-publish right out of the gate, but I can’t. Here’s the problem—writers are the absolute worst judges of their writing. Good and bad. They can’t see their errors. (We also can’t see when it’s really good, but that’s a blog post all its own.)

I strongly recommend writers go with an independent publishing house for at least their first book. Or, try to, anyway. By going that route, you will learn valuable skills you will absolutely need if you ever hope to succeed at self-publishing, if that’s your final goal. You will learn about editing (and yes, EVERYONE needs an editor). You will learn about composing copy for the back cover. (Hint: do NOT use excerpts from the text, and do NOT tell readers how they will feel/what they will think reading your book.) You will learn how the cover creation process works. You will learn production flow, formatting—and you will have the benefit of being able to talk to fellow authors and help band together to promote each other’s work. Also, as long as the publisher is reputable, you do NOT have to pay for any costs like editing, formatting, covers, etc. The publisher handles that. That gives you a chance to improve and learn without shelling out expenses out-of-pocket.

No, the publisher will NOT do all the promo work for you. NO publisher will do that. That’s still on the backs of the authors, even at the Big 5 New York houses. Unless you’re Stephen King or James Patterson, or someone like that.

Research publishing houses carefully. Use Google searches to search the publisher’s name and “problems” or “complaints” or other search terms in conjunction with it. Ask writers whose books you really like for recommendations. Use sites like AbsoluteWrite and WriterBeware to see if there are any ongoing issues with a particular publisher.

It’s great that it’s easy now for any writer to publish their book. The problem is, it’s way too easy for any writer to publish their book, and they frequently do without editing, without a good, solid description, and with a cover that literally sometimes looks like their ten-year-old drew it for them.

No. Just…no.

If you do that, then don’t complain when you don’t sell. You might have an awesome book, but because you rushed it to publication without doing the work, it sucks, and no one will buy it.

When you self-publish, YOU are responsible for paying for editing, formatting, covers, creating the back description, setting up accounts with distributors and uploading your work and making sure the information is correct, keeping track of payments—everything. It’s a LOT of work.

Forget the thought that you’ll publish, and overnight a lightning strike will hit and make you famous. You have a far better chance of getting hit by lightning.


Did you know that many of the “bestselling authors” on the NYT list STILL have day jobs to pay their bills? Why? Just because someone is a “bestselling author” doesn’t mean they’re making a lot of money. That’s a HUGE misconception. You will still need your day job. You will STILL need a reliable source of income.

The good news is, however, that with a lot of reputable independent publishers out there now (yes, and quite a few bad ones) any author who does their research and doesn’t get all grabby-hands greedy to get published at any cost can find a good publisher. That’s if your book is already fairly polished.

Learn your craft. I’ve seen people post excerpts of books they’re working on, and seriously, I want to tell them to go back to high school and take English all over again. But they can’t see their errors. And then they wonder why they can’t get a publishing contract.

There are NO shortcuts here. Self-publishing is NOT a shortcut. It’s a different path, yes. But you still have to do the work (or pay to have it done). You still have to put in the time and effort. Just because you can vomit out a rough draft and publish it on KDP and twelve hours later, it’s for sale to the world, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

You should NOT.

Because if you’re serious about being a writer, get this through your head—there ARE NO SHORTCUTS. The work still has to be done. Trying to go through an independent publisher first is a good way to learn everything that has to be done. You might decide after seeing all the work involved to produce a quality product that you want nothing to do with self-publishing, because it’s a LOT of damn work.

I always laugh when newbie writers complain how hard it was to write their book.

Honey, writing the book is the EASY part of the publishing process. Seriously. Ask any author, especially multi-published authors. They’ll all tell you that editing is far harder than writing, as well as all the other stuff that must be done on top of that.

And don’t be a promo whore. Do not hit up writers who don’t know you from Adam and put them in the uncomfortable position of asking them to pimp your book for you. Please, just don’t. It’s rude. Build up a group of online friends to become your readers, and remember that readers are PEOPLE, not a commodity. And don’t get all jealous and snarky and bitchy. The public is NOT some finite pie where if another writer does well, you’ll suck. Not at all. Be nice. Doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat, but don’t go leaving one-star reviews for other authors. Trust me, when it gets around that you did that, you will get blackballed by readers. They have a long memory and will talk you down to other readers. That said, readers who like you, who you come off to as a genuinely nice person? They will pimp you out like crazy.

The secret?


That’s the magic formula. There are no shortcuts. Write good books, be a nice person, and repeat. Frequently. You cannot write one book and then pimp the crap out of it for years. Write the book, be nice, repeat.

If you haven’t already, follow Mellanie Szereto’s blog, Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds blog, and Kristen Lamb’s Warrior Writers blog. They are invaluable sources of information for writers. They also have books out for writers. Learn your craft. Attend workshops. If that’s not in the budget, buy writing craft books and DEVOUR them.

There. Are. No. Shortcuts.


The good news is, if you do the hard work? You’re already ahead of the game. Plenty of writers vomit one half-baked book, toss it up on KDP, whine that it’s not selling, and disappear into the void. Unfortunately, plenty of people are doing that, more every day. So to slice through the signal noise, you need to be a cut above and beyond them.

You need to be a professional. You need to treat it like a job. And how you conduct yourself on the Internet needs to be as if your family and friends and real-life acquaintances were the people you are interacting with. In other words, conduct yourself in a way you wouldn’t be embarrassed for others to see you act if you were, say, working in an office or a store. Never forget there are REAL people on the other end of that keyboard.

Readers notice that. How you stand out is not by non-stop pimping your book. You stand out by repeatedly writing good books readers want to buy and pimp for you, because you’re also a nice person to interact with online.

Tymber Dalton is the wild-child alter-ego pen name of writer Lesli Richardson. Under all her pen names, she’s published over eighty books to date. She lives in the Tampa Bay area with her husband, writer Jon Dalton, and too many animals of various species. Her website and other social media links can be found at Her latest release, Out of the Spotlight, is book 23 in her Suncoast Society BDSM series and is now available from Siren-BookStrand.

Tymber’s Trybe Reader Group:
Out of the Spotlight (Suncoast Society 23, MMF, BDSM):

Thanks for sharing your advice today, Tymber, and thanks for supporting Writing Tip Wednesday!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Writing Tip Wednesday--Writing Advice from Michelle Roth

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! My guests in this series have had terrific writing advice, and today is no exception. Michelle Roth is visiting this week, sharing her personal experiences and some wise words.

A year and a few months ago, I was you. I'd toyed with the idea of writing. I thought about it. What if I were to write a book? In just a split second, that changed. 'What if' became 'When I.' One afternoon I was reading a book and it was really bad. The plot was disjointed and confusing. The dialog seemed unrealistic. I thought to myself, “Ya know what. I can do better than that.” So I started typing.

I can admit it's not the best reason to write a book. I got so annoyed with someone else's book that I (in my best Nick Burns Computer Guy voice) yelled, “Move!” and then got to work. I was going to school part time, working full time, and I managed to write a 50K word novel in a little over a month.

Don't be too impressed. I can assure you that it wasn't a great book. I was able to crank it out so fast largely because I didn't think anyone else would ever really read it. When I finished, I decided it wasn't half bad, so I sent it to a couple of friends. They encouraged me to submit it to publishers.

Being susceptible to peer pressure, I did just that. It was actually a little bit shocking to me that someone published it. It still is. It was decent, but it definitely wasn't my magnum opus to the world.

It actually took me three more books before I realized that I was no closer to writing that magnum opus. I was missing a really integral part of the whole writing process. I wasn't really looking for feedback. Sure, any feedback that came my way, I certainly took and it made me a better writer. I wasn't really seeking it out, though.

New Writer, if I could give you but one piece of advice, it would be this. Check your ego at the door and ask for help. Seek feedback from reputable sources. Have people beta read your work. Join a critique group. Join a writer's group of some kind. Talk to other writers. Let them tear apart your plot. It may hurt at first, but it will only make you stronger.

Ah. You noticed that little caveat there, did you? What I mean by reputable sources is that there are a lot of folks out there who will say that they're writers. Honestly, I suspect most people have uttered the phrase, “I'd write a book if I had the time,” at some point in their lives. I'm not talking about most of these people. Find the people that are truly dedicated to the writing process.

How can you tell who they are? They are the people who get up two hours early to write before work or stay up until insane hours at night to write because they can't help it. They're the people you can find cranking out pages between breakfast and laundry and the million other things they have to do. Those are the people you need. Those are the people who will want to help you.

I really can't stress it enough. Find the people with a passion for what you're writing and talk to them about your work. They'll listen. They'll have ideas about how to make your writing better and they'll probably be right.

Once you've done that, then return the favor. You'll find that, through listening to constructive feedback and providing it for others, you will become a stronger writer. Never forget. Writing is just like any other acquired skill. It takes practice and dedication.

Michelle Roth is a novelist from the Great White North (Toronto, ON). 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. Visit for all of the latest updates!

Stalker Links:
Twitter: @mroth_author
Amazon Author:

Thanks so much for being here, Michelle! Good critique partners and honest, constructive feedback are great ways to improve writing skills. They've made a huge difference in my stories!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Calling All Writers!

Happy May Day! And happy birthday to my son! :) I have information on a couple of great opportunities for writers/authors to learn more about publishing and writing craft.

Indiana Romance Writers of America is hosting NYT and USA Today bestselling author Liliana Hart for her program The Future of Self-Publishing at the Indianapolis Central Library on September 12! Topics included Algorithms, Backmatter, Social Media and Marketing That Works, Street Teams, Foreign Translations, Audio, Diversifying Your Books, Moving From Small Time Writer To Big Time Corporation, and much more. Seating is limited. For more info and to register, go to A room block is available!

IRWA is also celebrating the 25th anniversary of its IGO Contest for unpublished writers! Get detailed constructive feedback on comprehensive category-specific score sheets. Two lucky entrants will receive a critique of their 55-page entry from an editor. One winner will be selected from the first 25 COMPLETED entries received. (Completed entry means registration form is completed with payment received. Actual entry can be sent closer to contest deadline.) One winner will be selected from ALL entries received. So, enter early for two chances to win! For more info and to enter, go to

Don't miss out on these fantastic opportunities!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!