Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Never put all of your eggs into one basket.

We’ve all heard this at least a million times, right? Diversify your interests. Always give yourself options. Variety is the spice of life.

My issue? Too many freaking baskets.

I always bite off more than I can chew – figuratively and literally, like the shrimp taco I had to stuff into my mouth last night before the fillings busted out and ruined my new shirt. I never want to miss an opportunity, so I sacrifice time spent on other endeavors. For example, I’d probably be able to finish a book much faster if I wasn’t writing three others at the same time.

In a nutshell? I lack focus, which in turn, gives me stress. And there is no shortage of stress in my life, so I decided it was time for me to calm the hell down. Easier said than done.

I tried meditation. I’d just heard on the radio how Hugh Jackman and his wife attributed their successful marriage to meditation, so I figured it was worth a try. Except I got too stressed out trying to block out all of my thoughts. I didn’t want to focus on my breathing. I had a book to finish, and a cover to design, and a website to design, and a blog post to write, and…well, you get the idea. No bueno.

Even my daily workouts were stressing me out. I don’t leave the house, everything gets done right here at home. But sometimes, it’s hard for me to close my laptop and start lifting, especially if I’m in the middle of a scene or designing a user interface for a new app. And that happens quite often. So much for the elusive endorphins.

Until a week ago, I thought I was doomed. But then I made a choice that has finally given me some peace. Kickboxing. I know, I know. How can beating the ever-living crap out of a heavy bag bring you peace? Simply because you are so spent at the end of an hour-long class, you can’t possibly have the energy to be stressed. You unleash everything on the bag – stress, angst, anger, frustration – you use it all against your inanimate opponent and once you are finished. you walk out of the building lighter, happier, looser and – wait for it – FOCUSED.

Healthy body, healthy and CLEAR mind.

Novel FINISHED. =)

I Had A Dream…

Last night, I had a dream about one of my characters, Paul Emerson. He was upset about something and wouldn’t tell me what it was. I can see the setting so clearly, which is odd because I never remember my dreams. I was in his house – the one I’d created for him – and he was being really standoffish. Kind of a jackass. He ended up leaving at one point and then returning with some other guy. It could have been his best friend, AJ Morgan, but I wasn’t paying very close attention. LOL.

When I woke up, I actually remembered the dream. And in my sleep-cluttered mind, I tried to figure out why he’d appeared in my dream. And then I remembered…

But first, let me tell you a bit about this man. He has a very specific role as an arrogant prick in the first book of my series, Unlikely Venture. However, he’d also thrown his Rolex in the ring for a shot to win over Jessica, our heroine. But I’ll let you find out the rest of the story on your own.

Here’s the thing about Paul. He was the very first character I’d ever “created.” When I was plotting Unlikely Venture, I was planning it around Paul. But I ultimately decided he needed something bigger, so he had only a small role in the first book. It was enough to turn most readers into haters, and that panicked the hell out of me because I knew this guy, knew why he was the way he was, and why they needed to give him another chance, why he so desperately deserved redemption.

He’s always been my favorite. Not by a little, either. He’s so alpha, brilliant, an entrepreneur (and you know I’m passionate about entrepreneurship!), and the arrogant prick thing is right on target. His book, Venture Forward, was the hardest one I’ve ever written because I knew I needed to bring him to his knees and kick him while he was down to make his transformation that much more impactful.

Now, that was the long-winded way of telling you about my epiphany – why he was so angry. Earlier that day, I’d confided to The Stiletto Click, my Facebook reader group, that Jeff Torres (current swoony alpha of Hard Time) was nearing that top spot.

Bottom line? I think this dream was a manifestation of guilt. LOL! These guys have some hold on me, huh?

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Excerpt from Sex, Lies, and Wedding Bells by yours truly. =)
 
“Morning, beautiful.”
 
A low, gravelly voice approaching my ear sends chills shimmying down my spine. Even in my current state, I welcome the idea of having Jeff’s taut body sprawled on top of me again, feeling his magical fingers exploring every orifice, experiencing his hot, hungry tongue tasting me from head to toe—
 
“That alarm of yours has been going off for about ten minutes.”
 
I let out a groan and flip over. “I can’t move.”
 
“I think I can come up with a few ways to solve that problem.” He smooths back my hair.
 
A smile lifts my lips. His deep blue eyes twinkle, making me forget everything for a blissful, fleeting minute. And then it all comes rushing back, like an all-consuming wave, ready to pummel me into the shore. My throat tightens, and the nausea is back with a vengeance. “No time.”
 
“Yeah, you’re right.” The twinkle fades, the perfect white smile now forlorn.
 
“Your tux is in the closet.” I rise, clutching the sheet to my bare chest. “The shoes are in the bag by the door.”
 
“Ariana…”
 
“I have to get ready now. Hair and makeup are on the way. You know what’ll happen if I don’t get back to the suite.” Bile rises in my throat as I throw my legs over the side of the bed.
 
“Don’t go. This isn’t over, Ari.”
 
I slip into my tight, black cocktail dress from the night before and grab my Louboutins. “Yes, it is. See you at the altar.” My lips brush against his forehead for a brief second. I squeeze my eyes shut, but it doesn’t keep the tears from forming. I grab my clutch and bolt from the room without a backward glance. Because I know if I look back, I won’t be able to drag myself away. It’s what I need to do, what I did a very long time ago, and what I should have done last night. But fate…she’s a bitch with a sick sense of humor.
 
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Why Authors Should Adopt The Mindset of An Entrepreneur

I’d recently guest posted on The Authorteers and wanted to share with you all here as well. =)

I don’t accept criticism well. Oh sure, I say I can handle less-than-stellar feedback. But then when it comes, I sit with my eyes open wide, nodding my head as the critiques pelt me like icy cold drops during a monsoon-like rainstorm, a tight smile stretching my lips so they won’t quiver… yep, I crumble like a house of sand. Worst poker player ever. You always know what I’m thinking… always.

I think this is attributable to a few different factors. First and foremost, I’m an approval seeker. I crave accolades, and positive reinforcement totally charges me. Second, I have an insane amount of passion for my endeavors, whether it be handbag design, writing, blogging, or my career in general. I work hard and when I really believe wholeheartedly in the quality of my efforts, I want them to be recognized. It’s not enough for me to be satisfied with the end result. And when people I care about are less than starry-eyed over something I’ve done, well, it’s a tough pill for me to swallow.

Such was the case this weekend. My husband and greatest supporter, read a book I’d recently finished. He is not a romance reader, but he loved my other books to the extent he could, as someone who much prefers reading Michael Creighton. I felt certain he’d love this one too and truth be told, I was excited for him to read it because I think it’s my best one yet.

But there were no kudos for this story. Instead, I got a boatload of Post-Its and an overall assessment of “it’s… okay.”

Young crying woman in depression drink drinking alcohol

Heartbreaking is the only word I can use.

So by now you’re probably wondering – why is she telling me all this?

Trust me, there is a point.

I took a chance with my manuscript. Publishing a story with a predictable plot isn’t going to send people flying to Amazon and elicit gasps as the scenes unfold on their e-readers. I chose to push the envelope and navigate outside the norm. Maybe it will be to my detriment but I wanted to give my readers something a little different. I took a risk that may turn people off or make them die-hard fans because I believe in myself and my work.

Criticism is tough to swallow but it’s not always a bad thing if it drives you harder and helps you perfect your end product. Don’t give in to self-doubt. Stay true to yourself. Embrace any feedback that will help you achieve your goals.

My advice? Think like an entrepreneur! Establishing an author platform is similar to launching a new business, so why not adopt the mentality that will help you sharpen your focus and build your brand?

Start Up Business Launch Success Office Desk Concept

Passion Is A MUST! – Trying to gain traction with any new endeavor can be extremely disheartening at times so the more you believe in your offering and your ability to sell it to the masses, the more effective your end product (and outlook) will become.

Listen To The Naysayers! – Don’t delude yourself into thinking your offering is the end-all, be-all.  You need a thick skin if you’re going to succeed as an entrepreneur. People will slam your ideas. Get used to it. Graciously accept criticism and feedback then figure out how to respond to objections. Figure out what your key differentiating points are and highlight those to everyone and anyone.

Never Be Complacent! – You’ll have to work harder than you’ve ever worked before to create momentum and then work even harder to KEEP it. I heard a really cool quote this weekend that totally applies. I was at a writing conference and a number of bestselling authors were presenting on sales strategies. They all said market yourself like you’re nobody EVEN IF you’re somebody. This applies to ALL business endeavors.

Be Restless! – Let your creativity flow! Don’t be complacent and accept the status-quo. Dig deep and figure out to disrupt. Take risks! It’s okay to incorporate new ideas into your offering. Make it as compelling as possible and if at first you don’t succeed…. well, you know the rest.

Happy Cover Reveal Day! Unspeakable by Kristen Hope Mazzola

Title: Unspeakable (Unacceptables MC Romance)
Author: Kristen Hope Mazzola
Cover Model: Lance Jones
Release Date: March 12, 2016
Find on Goodreads
It’s finally my time.
Everyone has their damn breaking point, why did the president of my MC’s daughter have to be mine? She was everything I wanted, and nothing I could have.  Being a prospect was hard enough. Living with my father that I had only known for a few years wasn’t making life any easier. And there I was, ready to jeopardize it all for love. I went to Vilas to figure out where I came from, little did I know that I wasn’t just going to be passing through. This life was pumping through my veins, I just didn’t know it until I walked into the Unacceptable’s bar for the first time.
Raine Hellock was my kryptonite and come hell or high water, I was going to figure out how to make her mine.
I banged on the front door.
Thank fucking god for liquid courage.
The whiskey was making me warm. The panic of loosing Raine was making me frantic. The fact that I knew she was making a huge mistake was making me irrational.
“Ryder? For fucks sake…” Crickett threw the front door open, rubbing her sleepy eyes. “It’s three in the morning.”
“Is Raine home?”
Crickett shook her head. “She went out with Kiera. They said they were going to be late.”
I pulled in deep breath. “Well, it’s fucking late. Is Abel up?”
I heard his thudding steps quicken after I said his name, trotting down the stairs. “What in gods-name?” He was already pulling his boots on, no questions asked.
“We need to get to her before something happens.”
“What’s going on, Ryder? Where is Raine?”
I grabbed Crickett’s hand. “Don’t worry. We’ll bring her home safely.”
Abel pulled his jacket on and followed me out the door. “Lead the way.”
That was it. We were on a mission. 
Unacceptable – Released June 25, 2016

It’s finally my time.

Time to escape from my mother, her crazy antics and questionable morals. I’m getting the heck out of Dodge, leaving the trailer park, to make something of myself. Everything was fine until I walked into The Unacceptables’ bar and met Abel Hellock. With his gorgeous muscles, tattoos, motorcycle and perfect smile, my knees quaked. My life was about to be sucked back into the seedy underbelly I fought so desperately to climb out of.

Everything was fine until I met my step-brother for the first time.

**18+ for sexual situations, language, and adult themes**

You want to know more about me? Well, let’s see…

I am just an average twenty-something following my dreams.  I have a full time “day job” and by night I am an author.  I guess you could say that writing is like my super power (I always wanted one of those).  I am the lover of wine, sushi, football and the ocean; that is when I am not wrapped up in the literary world.

A portion of all my profits are donated to The Marcie Mazzola Foundation.

 

The Venture Series Is On Kindle Unlimited!

Stilettos, Seduction, Steamy Shower Scenes, Startup CEOs…

Check Out The Venture Series on KINDLE UNLIMITED!

Buy “UNLIKELY VENTURE” At: Amazon

Buy “NOTHING VENTURED” At: Amazon

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Palm South University – Season One!!!!

I’m so excited to spread the news of this upcoming launch! “Black Number Four” was my first Kandi Steiner novel and it was flipping awesome!!! Naturally, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on the details of her big announcement and next highly anticipated cover!! And now I’m sharing it with all of you!! =)

FYI – Kandi does all her own covers and they are SO fabulous.

Title: Palm South University (Season 1)
Author: Kandi Steiner
Release Date: Aug 25, 2015
Find on Goodreads

Drama. Lies. Sex.

Welcome to Palm South University.

The weather isn’t the only thing heating up in South Florida. At a school where fraternities and sororities don’t exactly play by the rules, relationships are bound to be tested. Parties and sex are definitely key ingredients in the Palm South recipe, but what happens when family issues, secret lives, and unrequited love get tossed in the mix?

Follow Cassie, Bear, Jess, Skyler, Erin, Ashlei, and Adam as they tackle college at a small, private beach town university. Written in television drama form, each episode of this serial will pull you deeper and deeper into the world of PSU.

Where the sun is hot and the clothes are scarce, anything can happen.

Kandi knows that some of you, especially those who have read Black Number Four, probably have a ton of questions about PSU. That’s why she’s chatting *LIVE* with fans tonight (6/16) on Periscope and Twitter! Tune in at 8PM EST.

Sighing, I take my place in the same barstool as before and Jarrett slides a fifth drink my way.

I hold up my hands. “I should probably say no this time. It’s almost closing time and I need to drive.”

“Not necessarily,” he offers. I eye him curiously and the corner of his mouth pulls up mischievously. He finishes wiping down a glass and hangs it above his head before leaning across the bar, his minty breath tickling my drunken senses. “You’ve been trying all night to get with that douchebag when I could have told you from the beginning that he wasn’t available. And now, you’re left with an ache between your legs that you don’t want to take care of on your own. So yes, you could drive home, get up and go to work tomorrow and just try again another night. Or,” he pauses, licking his bottom lip and dragging his teeth across the top as his eyes fall to my mouth. “You could give me your keys, jump in my truck, and let me take you back to my place so I can cure you of your current situation.”

Oh hell to the fucking yes.

Kandi Steiner is a Creative Writing and Advertising/Public Relations graduate from the University of Central Florida living in Tampa with her husband. Kandi works full time as a social media specialist, but also works part time as a Zumba fitness instructor and blackjack dealer.

Kandi started writing back in the 4th grade after reading the first Harry Potter installment. In 6th grade, she wrote and edited her own newspaper and distributed to her classmates. Eventually, the principal caught on and the newspaper was quickly halted, though Kandi tried fighting for her “freedom of press.” She took particular interest in writing romance after college, as she has always been a die hard hopeless romantic (like most girls brought up on Disney movies).

When Kandi isn’t working or writing, you can find her reading books of all kinds, talking with her extremely vocal cat, and spending time with her friends and family. She enjoys beach days, movie marathons, live music, craft beer and sweet wine – not necessarily in that order.

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Wanna Be A Crowdfunding Success Story?

Aspiring entrepreneurs can learn so much from crowdfunding success stories. Taking advantage of websites like Kickstarter puts your brilliance on virtual display for a whole host of future customers. But if you want to command major bucks for your company, carefully consider the forthcoming pieces of advice. Incorporating them into your pitch will make your idea that much more investment-worthy and ultimately help you meet your fundraising goal.

1. The Elevator Pitch – If you can’t sell your idea during an elevator ride, LEARN HOW TO DO IT. Embrace the art of writing an elevator speech and then memorize it. Practice it in front of a mirror. Think about a tweet. You get 140 characters to make someone decide to favorite or retweet your thought. Same concept applies here. Two sentences, thirty seconds – compress that story and sell the heck out of it before your target audience loses interest. You have one shot to captivate them. Don’t mess up.

2. Swear Partners To Secrecy? – Not if you want to heighten awareness of your product or service. Pre-launch is super-important because you want to have your “street team” already assembled and evangelizing your offering. Get the word out by leveraging your network, which will best position you for a big splash. Don’t be afraid of someone stealing your idea. Chances are pretty good nobody will run with it and beat you to the punch.

3. Plan For Delays – Challenges often crop up when planning for a product or service release. Best case, you launch on your scheduled date. But always have a contingency plan in place as backup, as well as a communication ready for all the folks eagerly awaiting your launch. You want to keep them personally invested.

4. Just Give Me A Reason – The product is supremely important to prospective investors BUT the story should never be overlooked. To sell a product, you need to establish a reason WHY someone should buy. Use the story to create the perception of need and watch it drive the demand.

What other pearls of wisdom can any of you successful crowdfunders share??

The Swifty Entrepreneur

I’m currently obsessed with Taylor Swift’s newest hit, Style. I admit I wasn’t always a fan but over the past months, I’ve changed my tune, no pun intended. Her music is peppy and catchy but what really impresses me is the way she’s been able to transform her brand into a vocal empire.

 

Three specific things come to my entrepreneurial mind.

1. Know Your Customer – When you’re building a product, you need to be in tune (ha! I did it again!) with the needs and desires of your target audience. Taylor’s demographic is primarily female, primarily millennial. She creates music that appeals to their tastes – snappy, bouncy beats tinged with a bit of heartbreak and vulnerability. We’ve all been there and can relate to the trials and tribulations of dating. Her blatant honesty makes her music that much more refreshing and you want to sympathize with her plight because, really, who hasn’t had their heart pummeled at one time or another?? As women, we band together (OMG, I’m totally on a roll here, right??) and support one another in times of need. It’s just our nature. And with her 40 million Twitter followers, she has a pretty captive audience for those tales of woe.

2. Perfect your Product – As entrepreneurs, we work tirelessly to build and deliver quality products. But if we can’t believe in them wholeheartedly, how the heck can we convince the world to embrace them? Sometimes we need to make choices about our market distribution. Setting the right perception up front goes a long way in resonating with your target customers. If they see you offering your product for a lower value than they perceive it is worth, you may lose them. Consider Taylor’s decision to pull her music from Spotify. Why, you may ask? Because she felt distributing her music through streaming services devalued it. She recognized that perception is reality and being true to her hard work meant she needed to be very selective about her distribution channels.

3. Stay True To Your Brand – Taylor is a crossover success story. She tweaked her image but never strayed from her core which is why she’s sitting pretty at the top of the charts. The beats changed but the message always stayed constant and her fan loyalty persists as a result.

 

Release Day Blitz! “The Design” By R.S. Grey

Title: The Design

Author: R.S. Grey

Release Date: March 1, 2015

Find on Goodreads

Five minutes until the interview begins.

Fresh on the heels of her college graduation, Cameron Heart has landed an interview at a prestigious architecture firm.

Four minutes until the interview. 

She knows she’s only there because the owner, Grayson Cole, is her older sister’s friend.

Three minutes. 

For the last seven years, Grayson has been the most intimidating man Cammie has ever had the pleasure, or displeasure, of being around.

Two Minutes. 

But the job opportunity is too good to pass up. So, Cammie will have to ignore the fact that Grayson is handsome enough to have his own national holiday. 

One. 

After all, she shouldn’t feel that way about her new boss. And, he will be her new boss.

“I’m not scared of you,” I said with a confident smile.

“Perhaps we should fix that, Ms. Heart. Close the door.”

Amazon

I paused just outside of the front doors and took a deep breath, trying to get my bearings. I was twenty minutes early for my interview. My outfit was still wrinkle-free. My pad-folio was filled with extra copies of my resume and reference letters, and I’d rehearsed every possible question that Grayson Cole would ask:

Greatest weakness? My inability to settle for anything less than what I deserve. I’m stubborn and persistent.

The honest answer? My inability to overcome my schoolgirl crush on you even though you’re a self-righteous ass.

I would NOT be giving him the honest answer.

I am a lover of books, chocolate, reality TV, black labs, and cold weather. Seriously, if I had it my way, I would be curled up on the couch with all of those things… everyday.

I live in Texas where I spend my free time writing and reading. My favorite authors include Mindy Kaling & Jonathan Safran Foer. I’m a comedy geek and love all things “funny”. Women like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Mindy Kaling are definitely the biggest inspirations for my writing, though I think my work tends to skew a bit smuttier than theirs.

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