Mia Kay on Pushing Through the First-Draft Panic

I’m so excited to host author Mia Kay today. Mia has recently published Hard Silence, the second book in her Agents Undercover series published by Carina Press. In this interview, Mia shares insights on working through the panic of writing a new story and dealing with the issues of the first story she ever wrote…you know, the one that hides in a drawer until eventually it’s given new life.

Mia also shares her approach to sending out submissions. Dear readers, please share your approach. How many did you send out for your first book? Do you wish you had sent more? Fewer?

How long have you wanted to be a romance writer?

While I was a romance reader, I never really decided to write a romance. My first attempted manuscript became a romance almost accidentally, and I realized how much I liked writing the happy endings. So I went to work learning how to do it better.

When did you decide to write a book?

In high school my favorite English teacher told me I wasn’t creative, so I was in my early 40s before I worked up enough nerve to try again. After years of writing only for work, I wasn’t certain I could write dialogue. Five years later, I’m still trying to get better at it and silence that inner critic. {I’m glad you tried again. English teachers don’t know everything!}

What inspired you to write this story?

Hard Silence’s inspiration came from the characters. Abby and Jeff are briefly on stage in Soft Target, and it was clear Abby was going to have her own book. Since she talks “only when it’s necessary,” it became a question of what would make her be quiet and why she would stay that way. With Jeff, it was about why he would pursue her and how he would get entangled in her life.

Describe your process for writing this particular book.

Sheer panic.  I had written the first few chapters, and I was way off the mark on what I wanted it to be. For a while, it looked like I was going to be the only author to write a boring book about a serial killer. {Lol ;)}

What helped you push through the panic and finish the story?
First, I took a class from Kiss of Death on serial killers and profilers, taught by a retired profiler. It helped me give the story new life. Second, I received excellent advice from my editor that did wonders for tightening the story.

Was this the first book you had written?

The first book I wrote is a small-town, cowboy, reunion romance. I have never submitted it to anyone. After my first writers’ conference, I knew it had major problems. I love the characters, though, so I’m planning a rescue.

What’s wrong with that story?

What isn’t? 🙂 There is a total lack of conflict, both internal and external. They are two nice people who fall in love and there’s no struggle to get there. And there’s no real plot – they have nothing to do. It really is a mess. I’ll keep the characters and the small town in Montana where it’s set, but I think they’ll end up being a “run for your life” sort of story.

What was the rest of your life like while writing Hard Silence?

I have a day job doing outreach and communications. At home, it’s just me and my husband. After work, I come home and try to eat, hang out with my husband, and write all at the same time.

Who gave you feedback as you wrote?

I have two amazing critique partners, Carrie Nichols and C.A. Speakman. And then my two closest friends – Sherry and Patti.

What kept you going through the process?

Once the story got started, it pulled me through all by itself. It gets to a point where it wants to be told. Then it’s hard to shut off.

How many submissions did you send out?

Hard Silence was part of a contract, so there weren’t submissions. For Soft Target, probably five. On Souvenirs, it was three. I knew submitting widely and getting a sea of rejections would discourage me, so I went slowly and used the rejections as a learning tool. I’m a constant student. It’s one of the things I love about writing

0416_9781459293557_Hard_Silence (smaller file)
FBI profiler Jeff Crandall returned to Fiddler, Idaho, to work on new Bureau protocols in peace…and because he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Abby Quinn. Kind, beautiful and quietly sexy, the petite rancher next door is loved by the entire town but keeps fiercely to herself. She’s a mystery that doesn’t want to be solved, though he’s desperate to try.

Whether that interest is professional or personal is a question he’ll sort out later.
Abby knows sharing her secrets would bring death and destruction to Fiddler. She survived her childhood, barely, but a long list of stepfathers weren’t nearly so lucky: their bodies are buried across the country, waiting to be discovered. The best protection is silence, anonymity and isolation, though the handsome agent next door seems hell-bent on destroying all three.
And he just keeps kissing her…

When Jeff is called in to investigate an interstate serial killer case spanning two decades, Abby knows it’s only a matter of time before he connects the dots, sees her for who she really is and walks away. But it’s when he’s standing in the crosshairs of Abby’s past that Jeff faces his biggest challenge yet: how to give the woman he loves the life she doesn’t believe she deserves.

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Mia Kay - thumbnail
Mia Kay spent years writing legal documents and keeping people out of trouble. Now she spends her days looking for ways to get her characters into trouble. She lives in Arkansas with her husband, who doesn’t mind discussing (and sometimes causing) mayhem over breakfast.

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Romantic Suspense Author Mari Manning is an HEA Kind of Gal

I’m delighted to introduce Mari Manning, author of romantic suspense and contemporary romances who has recently published her newest release with Entangled Publishing. In this interview, Mari shares her experience with humor and a helpful nudge of encouragement. You’ll appreciate her smart insights into the romance writing world; her explanation of why she writes romance novels is so on target and well articulated, I wish I’d written it myself!

What made you decide to write romance novels?

I write about things that interest me, and the relationships of men and women interest me. The courtship leading to HEA is always a delicate dance of attraction, diplomacy, a little bribery, a little deception, a lot of hope. The expectations of men and women tend to be different, which is fun to explore. I love creating flawed characters redeemed by love. I guess I am just an HEA kind of gal.

What was your biggest challenge when you were trying to publish your debut novel?

Just learning all the rules! I started out as a pantser. I wrote what pleased me, completely ignorant of such things as character arc, backstory dumps, head hopping, deep POV, inciting incidents, etc. It took a while to understand these concepts well enough to incorporate them into my writing.

What would you have done differently if you could start all over again?

I would have joined a writers group sooner. I’ve learned so much, and it’s so nice to have people to turn to when I need advice or have questions. We are all at different places in our writing careers so I have a chance to help people behind on the writing path, and also get help from those ahead of me.

Can you imagine having a different career? What would it be?

I’ve had lots of careers, and right now I am a Director of Marketing. But writing is something I’ve always wanted to do. I also wanted to be a movie star, but even my mother, who’s my biggest fan, had doubts about my ability to do that.

What is the single most important thing an unpublished writer should do to get published?

Do not give up. I think writing success is fifty-percent talent and fifty-percent persistence. I’ve met many amazing writers (far better than me) who have stopped writing because they got discouraged. Don’t do it! If you love writing keep going. Get advice, take classes, find seasoned writers to critique your work. Keep submitting to editors and agents. Woody Allen once said something like, “Ninety percent of success is just showing up.”

What is the single most important thing a newly published writer should do?

If you have just published your first book, think of it as your ticket to the show. Use it to get on blogs, set up author pages on major websites, volunteer to do signings, start a newsletter, etc. Then write more books. For most authors, being prolific is going to be important.

The only thing standing between her and disaster is a man she can’t trust …

As far as Dinah Pittman is concerned, men can’t be trusted. Especially cops. Her own father was a cop and a convicted felon who stole a small fortune before dying in prison. The best part? No one knows where the money is…and someone is willing to kill off everyone who knows anything about it.

And Dinah is next.

Rafe Morales left the Dallas police force to settle down to a simpler life in the small Texas town of El Royo. Instead, he finds himself protecting an infuriating, tough-as-nails, oh-so-sexy victim—and driving himself crazy with a thoroughly unprofessional desire.

But as the body count rises, Rafe and Dinah must find a way to trust each other…before they both end up dead.



About Mari Manning

Let’s start with the fun stuff. I love small towns, mysteries, quiet men, laughter, old-fashioned spaghetti dinners. I love boots and shopping and jokes and Hershey’s dark chocolate and white wine. I love lots of things. But my first love is reading.

I love to read. Just about anything, but it has to be well-written. I go through periods where I am into historical novels or romance or mystery or history or biography. I never know when my desires will suddenly change.

Now for the writer-ish, official stuff: Mari Manning is the author of several contemporary romances and three romantic suspense novels set in the Texas Hill Country. Stranger at My Door is the first in her A Murder in Teas series. The second, Stranger in My House will be published by Entangled later this year. The third book in the series is Stranger in My Bed. Currently Mari is working on a series of cozy mysteries. She and her husband live in Chicago.

Stranger at My Door

Bess George Shares the Challenges and Benefits Of Being a New Author

Have you ever read a disappointing book and thought, “I could’ve done better?” We probably all have at some point… Today, I’m thrilled to host debut romantic suspense author, Bess George, who did just that! She’s recently published her compelling romantic suspense, Happily Never After, with Soul Mate Publishing. (Read about it below; you’ll have to know what happens!) Here she talks you through the publishing process, sharing the challenges, frustrations, and benefits of being a newbie.

How long have you wanted to be a romance writer? When did you decide to write a book?

I’ve loved reading romance for as long as I can remember, but never considered writing something until my last child left for college and I suddenly had too much free time on my hands.

What inspired you to write this story?

We were on vacation and I’d just finished reading a book where the storyline left me frustrated. I found myself thinking about what I would have done different and the next thing I knew, I’d grabbed my laptop and the journey began.

Describe your process for writing this particular book.

Ha. It was a long process. Let me be the first to say that it’s a LOT harder than it looks. At the time, ‘I didn’t know what I didn’t know’. Which was probably a good thing since it allowed me to type down the words without obsessing over the details.

How long did it take to complete?

It took me a year to write it and then a second year to go back through to correct everything I had done incorrectly.

Was this the first book you had written?

Yes, but it definitely won’t be the last.

How did you fit your writing into the rest of your life?

It is hard to do when you work full time. I’m an accountant by trade so I usually write for thirty minutes in the morning before work, then on my hour lunch if possible, and then another hour or so in the evenings. I try to get as much done on the weekends as I can.

Who gave you feedback as you worked through writing the book?

I’ve taken lots of online classes on the writing process. I joined the local Chapter of RWA and then their critique group. Which has been the hardest part of this whole journey. I tend to be a little reserved and it is terrifying to put your work out into the world to be critiqued.

What kept you going through the process?

The warmth and support from this wonderful group tended to ease the sting. I learned so much from them.

Did you have a market in mind when you started writing the book?

I write what I like to read, romantic suspense.

What happened between hearing your yes and getting the book to print?

Waiting. Waiting for the edits, then waiting for the cover, then waiting for the reveal date.

What has surprised you most about this process?

The eye opener for me was how much promotion of the book fell to the author. Needless to say, it’s been a learning curve with developing a website, Facebook author page, twitter account, etc.

What would you change if you could?

I guess what I would change has been changed for me through the learning process. A step by step guide for new authors J



After being shot in a brutal attack outside her office, no-nonsense Assistant District Attorney Kelsey Brackston suffers from PTSD, panic attacks that won’t allow her return to work. In need of a fresh start, she heads to California to accept a job from her brother. All seems to be going well until the past comes hunting. Someone wants to kill her—again.

Former SWAT officer Bode Taggert doesn’t want to feel anything for anyone after a split-second decision caused the death of an innocent woman and nearly ruined his life. He’s pulled himself out of the bottle and has one last chance to be a cop again—the only thing he’s ever wanted. When Kelsey asks for his help hunting down a stalker, he resists, knowing the sizzling attraction he feels for her could jeopardize his focus.

Kelsey’s determination to put the past behind her and move on with her life is the one thing that he can’t resist, and despite his intention to remain uninvolved, Bode falls for the sexy lawyer. While he and the police are focused on catching the stalker, however, Kelsey vanishes. With his career—and his heart—on the line, Bode will stop at nothing to find her. But will their newfound faith in each other be enough to save the day? Or will the demons from their pasts destroy them both?

Excerpt from Happily Never After: 

Fight or flight kicked in and her rational brain shut down. She backed away from the stranger, clasping her hands together to control their violent trembling. Like a trapped animal, her eyes were frantic as they searched for escape routes, her heartbeat roaring in her ears. The wall stopped her backward progress with a jolt just as recognition hit her.

The cop.

She was safe. Two dark brown eyes pinned her in place as they stared at one another.

A soothing voice at her side broke the connection. David placed his arm around her shoulders and gave a gentle squeeze. “This is Bode Taggert, honey. He’s one of the detectives in the Redding police department. Bode, this is ADA Kelsey Brackston.”


Promotion 2

Debut author Bess George lives in Texas with her hubby. Her novel, Happily Never After was released by Soul Mate Publishing on September 2, 2015.

Even though Bess crunches numbers for a living, she’s managed to work in some unusual places over the years. The oil business, a gun range, and a golf course are a few jobs where she met all types of characters. She loves to hear stories about people finding the unexpected hero inside each of us.





Stanalei Fletcher Spreads the Love for Small Presses

I’m so thrilled to host Stanalei Fletcher, Romantic Suspense author who just released Dead Reckoning, her second book in the Northstar Security Series. Stanalei’s books are filled with high-tech, high-stakes intrigue and dangerous romances. Visit her Headquarters at http://www.stanaleifletcher.com/index.html to learn more!

In this interview, Stanalei shares her experiences writing with a small press and encourages writers to continually work on their craft. Clearly, she has done that; she has been a finalist or won first place in over 15 contests! Wow!

What made you decide to write romance novels?

I love to read, but I’ll admit that I didn’t like reading when I was a kid. It was more fun to be outside, playing Cowboys and Indians, or Army, or reenacting scenes from the Wild Wild West TV series. (Yup, just dated myself.) But then I found Alistair McLean, and suddenly a new world beyond comic books and the Weekly Reader stories opened up to me. I “saw” things in my head as I read, and my imagination took off. I soon began reading other authors, some who wrote romance, because the one thing I wanted more of in McLean’s books was for the hero and heroine to have more time together.

At the time, Romantic Suspense wasn’t the genre it is today…so I decided to write one. And I learned that I loved the process of creating characters who could act out the stories in my head, who could have the heart-pounding thrill of the chase and still feel love for the partner by their side. I was hooked. Writing romance is in my bones.

What was your biggest challenge when you were trying to publish your debut novel?

My biggest challenge publishing my debut novel was the endless queries and rejections. At the time, publishing meant hitting up the big New York houses, the agents and editors who were the gatekeepers. Getting them to even look at the submission was a challenge.

That isn’t so much the case now, and although I believe the gatekeepers have a purpose, I’m grateful for the smaller presses who had the vision to open their doors to authors whose stories don’t fit the expected niche. In addition, today’s writers have extraordinary opportunities with self-publishing.

How have you dealt with rejections as you have published more?

Even after publishing my first novel with a small press, I continued to shop my romantic suspense series to New York houses. I received some encouraging feedback but no offers. I even considered self-publishing. However, my experience with the small press that published my debut novel was amazing, and I chose to reach out to them again. They contracted the first book in the series and agreed to review all the stories. My editor at The Wild Rose Press has been an awesome advocate of my work. She is a gem to work with.

What would you have done differently if you could start all over again?

I don’t think I would have done anything differently, other than maybe had the courage to start sooner. In the mid-70s computers didn’t abound as they do now. I couldn’t afford to purchase a typewriter, so I wrote longhand in pages and pages of notebooks. My boys were young enough that I could work when they went to bed. Then as they grew and as other life experiences crowded in, writing took a backseat until the kids were grown.

Can you imagine having a different career? What would it be?

I can’t imagine having a different career. I do have a “day job” that continues to help pay the bills, but crafting stories, giving my characters challenges to overcome and to grow seems to be something I’m inherently wired to do.

How has your life changed as you have published more books?

Life hasn’t changed all that much as I publish more books. It’s busier with keeping up with promotion and marketing, but my writing schedule is much the same as it was when I started doing this as a career.

What is the single most important thing an unpublished writer should do to get published?

The most important thing an unpublished writer can do is learn the craft. A quality story gives your readers an experience they can get no other place. Story will take the reader on a journey away from their cares and world-weary day. It’s not about the accolades or your name on the cover. It’s about the reader.

What is the single most important thing a newly published writer should do?

LOL – see the above answer. Continue to learn the craft. Get better with each book. Keep the quality in your prose. I often tell my editor: “I’d rather have it right than fast.”

Where is the best place to go for writing advice?

If a writer hasn’t joined an organization that can help with resources and networking, I would highly recommend looking into joining one. Romance Writers of America has so much to offer and there are many local and online chapters for connecting with writers on a more intimate level. But there are other writing organizations for other genres, too. Find the one that fits your needs. Even if you only participate for a couple of years, it’ll be valuable time spent.

I have shelves of books on writing, craft, publishing, and all the stuff in between. But if I had to pick one book that I continue to read over and over again, it’s Dwight V. Swain’s TECHINQUE OF THE SELLING WRITER. So many other craft books quote this book. As I grow and learn and practice my writing, I find that this book offers something for every level of my progress.

A more recent acquisition for me is THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS, by James Scott Bell. I wish I had read it at the start of my career. But it’s never too late. Right? None of his advice is really new to me, but he presents it in such a simple, concise way that it’s easy to understand and implement.

What is the best writing advice you have ever gotten?

I’ve received so many gems of advice over the years, but the one that resonates the most with me, the one I continue to remind myself when I sit down at a blank page…”It’s about the reader.”

Do you have a favorite debut author? If so, who?

Now that I’m published, one of the drawbacks is my limited time for reading. As a result, my TBR list is very long and by the time I read a debut author, she may have several books out. That said, even though Jennifer Beckstrand only came on the scene in 2012, she is fast becoming popular in the Amish Romance genre. This genre is so different from what I write and I love how Ms. Beckstrand writes a riveting, but sweet romance.



DEAD RECKONING – Northstar Security Series, Book 2

Egan Maddox isn’t sure he’s the right man for the job when Northstar director, Byron O’Neal, asks him to find his missing daughter and protect her from an unknown danger. Egan’s never shaken off his attraction to Kellee O’Neal, and hiding away with her could be more trouble than this former Navy SEAL can handle.

Kellee is lost, with no memory, and believes someone wants to hurt her. When Egan appears and seems to know her, he convinces her she’ll be safe with him. As her memories resurface, she turns to Egan for comfort, and her youthful crush transforms into a womanly passion she can’t deny.

With the Russian Mafia closing in, Kellee learns her entire life has been a lie. How can her love for Egan be enough to help her navigate the murky waters of her past and prove that her heritage doesn’t matter as much as the woman she’s become?

DEAD RECKONING is available at these locations:

The Wild Rose Press –ebook


Barnes and Noble


Kobo Books


Stanalei’s love of writing stems from reading favorites such as Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Barbara Cartland, and Alistair MacLean. She has over twenty years of training in the martial arts and holds the rank of Sandan, a third-degree black belt, in Aikido.

After a taste of life on both U.S. coasts, she now resides in the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her hero, who is also her best friend and husband. Together they enjoy the open road astride a Harley, visiting museums and exploring ghost towns. You may visit Stanalei at:

http://www.stanaleifletcher.com/index.html or keep up with her latest project by signing up for her newsletter here: http://www.stanaleifletcher.com/contact.html