Tuesday, March 20, 2018

3T Writing Tidbit

This is another in my 25 Ways You're Losing Readers (and what you can do about it) series.

When is a stereotype character good?

You might be tempted to respond, "Never." I beg to differ. (What a strange phrase that is. "Oh, please, puh-retty puh-lease let me get into any argument with you." ?? English. amirite?)

Last month we discussed "Glove" characters, or a character the reader feels more in touch with than your Point of View (POV) character. Kill off this "window" character at your own peril!

I'm arguing that, in this one case, a stereotype is good. It will help you keep your reader from identifying with the character you want to make the disgusting bad guy or kill off.

I happen to be an older female. I like the CW shows but am most attracted to the ones that have excellent older characters (The Flash, for example.) So I'll use Older Woman as my example here. If you know you absolutely have to make a disgusting bad guy out of your only Older Woman--stop. Create a second Older Woman. Make her the blandest, most stereotyped Older Woman you can. Leave your kinda quirky, energetic Older Woman as is. Now, when you make the bad guy--make it the stereotyped Older Woman. Ninety-nine percent of your readers who glove the Older Woman will glove the quirky one, not the bland one.

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.  Click here to see all 25 Ways You're Losing Readers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is another of those posts.

8 Shocking Secrets Healthy People Know--Favorite Things #2--originally posted February 4, 2015

Let's get to know each other! In my first year as a Magical Musings blogger, I'm exploring my 10 favorite things. This is number two.

I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose. ~Woody Allen
They say laughter is the best medicine. What I want to know is, where did Dr. They get her medical degree and what studies has Dr. They done?

"Laughing. Easier than Yoga,"
says Squirrel.
photo credit: 
photopin cc
Well, exactly. "They" say a lot of things. But in this case, there's stuff on the Internet to back them up, much more scientific (marginally). So here they are, the eight shocking secrets.
  1. "Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress" according to Helpguide.org.
  2. It also "boosts the immune system." Ibid (which means I sucked the quote from the same post).
  3. It also "protects the heart" by "increasing blood flow". Ibid (Yep. Another one from the Helpguide.org post).
  4. Importantly, for those of us who suffer from depression, it "dissolves distressing emotion" Ibid. Ibid. (Hey! Repeated, it sounds like a frog.)
  5. For diabetics, it "reduces blood sugar levels" according to PsychologyToday.com. I did not know that and am shocked. Shocked, I tell you. I don't know if my heart can take the stress. Oh wait--I can laugh it healthy.
  6. According to  Michael Miller, M.D. in the same article, "it is conceivable that laughing may be important to maintain a healthy endothelium." Right! Um...what's an endothelium? (Runs to Wikipedia...blood and lymph vessel lining, huh.) "And reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease." Oh! Now I see.
  7. In another article at UMM.edu, Dr. Miller's findings were elaborated: "people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease." (Does this count as separate item? Yes? No? Imma count it.)
  8. Frankly, when I laugh I feel better. Okay, that's mostly anecdotal, but here's a quote anyway. "When I start the day by checking out my favorite cartoons, I start the day with a smile." From this post by the author M. Hughes.

Cat asks, "This is humor?" photo credit: Ms D. Meanor via photopin cc
In conclusion, I leave you with this medieval quote, "I say unto you, go out and find merriment, as it doeth you much goodeth." Or, from the contemporary translation, "Laugh. It's good for you."

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

1T Status Update

As the last (or one of the last) huzzah of winter strikes, giving me the twofer of joy and exercise while shoveling (I'm being sarcastic about the joy), I am really, really, really looking forward to spring.

This month:
  • Husband spotted a red-wing blackbird today! Even though white scheiss lay all about, that's a sure sign spring is around the corner. (Thank goodness. See above.)
  • Finished the second read-through of Night's Kiss. Kat, vampire hunter with a death wish for all vampires. Enkidu, vampire. Put on same page. Watch chaos ensue. Fun!
  • Both Bad Boy Billionaire's Lady and Playing With Fire: The Battle of the Bands were launched to much excitement. Thank you to my readers for helping me get the word out! 
  • Chapter One for Bad Boy Billionaire's Lady is here.
  • Chapter One for Playing with Fire is here.
  • I have another three planned read-throughs of Night's Kiss.
  • Next up after Night's Kiss is Soul Mates
  • As part of my prep for writing the final Pull of the Moon book, I'm doing a read-through and tweak of the series thus far.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

3T Writing Tidbit

This is another in my 25 Ways You're Losing Readers (and what you can do about it) series.

We're taught the reader sees the story through the Point of View (POV) character. While that is certainly true, I'd like to point out the big Elephant in the Room.

Readers have "glove" characters--and it may not be the one you want them to have.

In Sherlock Holmes stories, the POV character is mostly Dr. Watson. In the television show Sherlock, Holmes and Watson are the feature characters. But you know what? As a woman, those two are fun to watch, but I don't see myself as them. I first saw myself as Molly Hooper. Then I saw myself as Mary Watson.

The reader may have more in common with one of your secondary characters. The "fit" of that character may make for instant connection.

What happens when you kill off the glove character?

Well, I know for me, I've actually stopped watching shows because my glove character was terminated. What do you think happens?

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.Click here to see all 25 Ways You're Losing Readers.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Release Day! Rockstar romance on FIRE

I don't do rockstars. I play, too. I know how shallow the glamour is. But Connor seems...deeper. Different.

A friend asked me to write a rock star romance. I reached into how music makes me feel, both performing and listening, and Connor and Shivawn's exploded from me. Early readers raved over the music and passion in this book.

I want to share that electrifying excitement and emotional fulfillment with readers everywhere.

USA Today Bestselling author Mary Hughes brings you an electric story of music, passion, and rivalry.

Clumsy but smokin' fiddle-player Shivawn Kelly meets hot bass guitarist Connor Chase and lightning attraction strikes. 

But their bands are enemies in the Starstruck Battle of the Bands. Only one can win.

And then Connor overhears a rival band plotting—and he's afraid their target is Shivawn.

Céilí band versus rock-and-roll. It's the Battle of the Bands, but the real battle is in their hearts.

Welcome to STARSTRUCK, a showplace for talent, a playground for love. A collection of contemporary novellas that will leave you breathless and craving more.

Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Google | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU |

Read Chapter One here.

The first three Starstruck Novellas are helping me celebrate with a SALE!!
Jaded 99 cents https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00W4B324O
Wrecked 2.99 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VAZCDSQ
Obsessed 99 cents https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UW0GKPM

And look for Crushed and Desired coming March 1 and March 8!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Chapter One from Playing With Fire: The Battle of the Bands (A Starstruck Novella)

It's the Battle of the Bands, but the real battle is in their hearts.

USA Today Bestselling author Mary Hughes brings you an intimate glimpse into musicians' lives in an electric story of music, passion, family, and rivalry, with flashes of her signature humor.

Clumsy but smokin' fiddle-player Shivawn Kelly meets hot bass guitarist Connor Chase and lightning attraction strikes. But their bands are adversaries in the first Starstruck Battle of the bands. Only one can win.

Shivawn fervently hopes it's her family's céilí band, but Connor's rock group might just be better. His music stirs her soul even as his lithe body stirs her interest. But her da forbids her to even go near "that eejit boy".

Connor needs the win for his band to trust him again, but Shivawn and her music light his heart with joy. Yet when he tries to connect with her, she rebuffs him. He respects her need for distance, though it's tearing him up inside.

And then he overhears a rival band plotting—and he's afraid their target is Shivawn. He may have to defy her wishes, her father, and his even own band to keep her safe.

Amazon | BN | iTunes | Kobo | Google | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

Crushed by Elle J Rossi is coming March 1 and Desired by Kathy Love is releasing March 8.

Welcome to STARSTRUCK, a showplace for talent, a playground for love. A collection of contemporary novellas that will leave you breathless and craving more.

Enjoy this first chapter from Playing With Fire:

© 2017 Mary Hughes

Line dancing was harder than it looked. Shivawn Kelly had heard musicians were supposed to be more coordinated than most. Not her. Apparently, while the Fiddle Fairy had been fussing over her, the Klutz Fairy had taken a free shot.

“Why are we dancing, again?” she asked as she stumbled into Cousin Margaret a fourth time. “We’re supposed to be scoping out the competition.”

“We are inspecting the competition. Very thoroughly.”

Her cousin’s gaze ran over the lead singer onstage, going all dreamy at his skinny jeans and cowboy hat. Her eyes, the aching blue of a summer sky filled with mare’s-tail clouds, did the dreamy look really well. Maggie had a true Irish lass’s coloring with her translucent skin and rose-gold hair. Shivawn was her mirror image, if the mirror was old and darkened—chestnut-red hair, green eyes, and skin that sort of tanned before it burned.

“Maggie, dear, it’s amazing how much scoping out the competition looks like ogling the singer.”

“Oh, pooh. I don’t always go for the lead singer.”

She cut a disbelieving glance at her cousin, which sent her off-kilter and knocking into Maggie again. But really, this time she deserved it. “Margaret Clancy. You always told me there are only three kinds of band groupies: the ones swooning at the singer’s crooning; the ones dazzled by the lead guitar’s brilliant riffs; and the ones who want to do the drummer for his obvious hand-eye coordination.”

“So, which are you?” she shot back.

Shivawn kept her eyes glued to her feet. “None of the above. I’m surprised you’re interested. Musicians know how shallow the glamour is. Even a flute player is a musician, of sorts.”

“Ha, ha.”

But if I had to pick, give me the bass guitar every time. Not obvious or showy, the bass guitar was steady and relentless and drove the whole group to its climax. Give me that in bed any day over showy or self-absorbed.

Shivawn glanced at the electric bass in this country band. The grizzled blond competently walked fingers up and down the fretboard. Decent enough. But even if her eyes were capable of dreamy, which they weren’t, she wouldn’t have gone gooey over him.

The glimpse distracted her long enough that she grapevined left as Cousin Margaret went right, and she ran into her for the umpteenth time.

Fed up, Shivawn grabbed Maggie’s elbow and pulled her out of line—apparently a mortal sin from the black glares she got. But, really. Just because she didn’t have her cousin’s fairy skin didn’t mean she didn’t bruise.

She hauled them off the dance floor to the nearest bar. Bar—the word usually brought images of a narrow, gloomy space, a band smashed in a tiny corner, a postage-size dance floor, and cramped seating. But this was Starstruck, a combo dance club/concert hall, and everything was huge. Big stage, gigantic dance floor, sweeping balcony, and not one but two bars.

As Shivawn crossed the dance floor to what could’ve been the next county, she managed to finish her thought. “What do you think of the band?”

“As a musician of a sort,” Maggie began, proving she had been listening instead of ogling, or at least listening in addition to ogling, “it’s my opinion that, despite Hotty McCowboy’s many attractions, our band is better.” Her lilting Celtic accent made it sound less like bragging and more like a kindness.

Shivawn had no such lilt. Though her da was Irish, and she’d been born there, her mother was all American. At five, because of her parents’ separating, she’d been whisked to the USA to grow up here with her mother. Now her accent was firmly Midwest.

So, when she said, “Yeah,” it was flatter than a pancake. “So far I haven’t seen or heard anyone who comes close to giving our kind of show.”

Which was important, because Shivawn and her family band were here to compete in the first annual Starstruck Battle of the Bands.

At the east bar, a truly spectacular bartender was handing out drinks and a sizzling smile with equal speed and flair. The man packaged sex appeal like a Ferrari. Within moments, he slid toward them. He wore the Starstruck uniform of a black T-shirt with logo. But on him, it looked like less of a uniform and more of a tribute.

“What can I get you ladies?” The rich timbre of his voice, the lyrical spin he put on his words, caressed her ears. She bet he was a singer.

“I’ll have your best beer on tap,” Shivawn said, then pointed to her cousin. “She’ll have some sissy drink.”

“They’re not sissy,” Maggie objected. “They have flavor.” She turned her brightest smile on Mr. Tall, Dark, and Drinksome. “I’ll sample whatever you’re mixing up tonight.” A bump of her strawberry brows gave “mixing” a bit of added steam.

“Well. For you…” Hands spread on the bar, he leaned toward them, chest and arm muscles bulging appealingly as he added his own bit of steam. “We’re having a special on margaritas.”

“Sold.” Maggie mirrored his tilt, plumping her considerable assets in her V-neck sweater. “Margarita is like my name, you know. Margaret, margarita.”

“Mine’s Ben.” As he tapped his name badge hanging from a blue lanyard, his gaze stayed on Maggie’s.

Shivawn gave him points for that. Her cousin had a flutist’s truly spectacular chest.

“Done with singers?” she murmured, and Maggie shot her an I-will-shortsheet-your-bed look. Shivawn smiled innocently.

“As far as beer goes,” Ben spoke to her this time while his hands nimbly prepared the margarita. “All our beers are the best.”

“What’s your favorite, then? I’ll have that.”

“One dopplebock coming up.” He smoothly slid a jumbo margarita before Cousin Margaret then retrieved a glass and frosted beer bottle, uncapped, and expertly poured.

As Ben moved off to serve other customers, Shivawn cast her gaze around the large space. On the main stage, the country band twanged its last number. Another band was setting up on the smaller, temporary stage across the dance floor from the first, tucked in beside the bar where Shivawn sampled a truly lovely dark beer. The two stages were alternating hopefuls of all genres in the four days of open auditions. Her family’s band was scheduled for the final night of preliminaries. Three judges, currently anonymous, would pick the top bands to go on. Things would get cooking with the first bracket playoffs Thursday.

“Where do you think the judges are?”

“Maybe in the balcony?” Margaret turned away from the bar and leaned back on her elbows, surveying the exposed second floor to her right. Her gaze wandered to the temporary stage, where the new band, lots of leather, skin, and studs, finished setting up. As the country band struck its final chord, she went on, “Or maybe the judges are dancing—”

“Weren’t they good?” A blond guy on the second stage grabbed a mic and broke into the dying chord. “Put your hands together for Country Boys and Cowboy Boots.” He raised his arms over his head and mimicked clapping.

Shivawn knew it was mimicked because if he’d really clapped, the amplified thud-thud-thud would’ve burned out their eardrums.

Applause like a brief rain spattered an instant before the guy said, “Now get ready to rock your body down with Taboo Soul.”

He flipped his long blond hair back, and Shivawn would have sworn she heard three women around her sigh.

Onstage, the lead guitar dashed off a riff that could’ve made Jimi Hendrix cry, a virtuoso run of tangling fingers, accompanied by muscular poses worthy of a superhero. He ended on a dramatic, dominant seventh chord that poised them all at the top of the song’s cliff.

And then the bass guitar came in with a glide from sol to do, so smooth and perfect it ran along Shivawn’s flesh like silk, leaving her skin rumpled and aching. When the drummer hit the first beat, everyone was hooked.

But for her, she’d been hooked by that bass slide.

The singer started rasping out lyrics as the crowd cheered. Shivawn’s feet carried her away from the bar, out to where she could see past the blond throwing his long hair around as he deep-throated the mic. Past the shaved-skull lead guitarist jumping around the stage like a stringy Hulk. Past the biker-styled rhythm guitar stalking in his wake. She wandered, almost hypnotized, out to where she could see the man laying down that dark, thrumming, pelvis-churning bass.

After the rest of the band, she was expecting leather, tats, and metal makeup. But no, the bass player was a mysterious contradiction. He wore an ordinary black tee, but it stretched across his broad chest and bowling-ball-muscled shoulders like paint. His pants were regular jeans, not leather, and a bit white with wear, but molded to his legs like silk. His axe was nothing special—black body, maple fretboard, silver bridge and controls. But something, the unusual tuning pegs or inlays or bridge pickup, told her this instrument was finer than it looked.

Cousin Margaret’s voice, calling her name, fell muffled on her ears as her feet brought her closer yet. She’d expected leather, and certainly those powerful arms and strong legs would look great encased in lots of buttery black…or better yet, nothing at all.

He was intent on his music, gaze on his bass as his long, artistic fingers glided easily along the fingerboard. While the lead singer vacationed on an ego trip, and the lead guitar put so many riffs in inappropriate places he began to sound like aural tinsel, the bassist hung out in the back—controlling the pace and shape of the music. Steady. Sure. Never changing.

No, scratch that. He was, ever so slightly, pushing the beat, slowly increasing both tempo and volume, but almost unnoticeably. The audience would feel it as a rising temperature in the room, a quickening of heartbeats. Without fanfare, but as sure as the dawn, he brought both music and audience slowly and inevitably to their feet.

Shivawn stood there, swaying, letting his music stir her. She didn’t understand her reaction, as he seemed mostly ordinary. Yet his notes reverberated deep inside her, where nothing else could touch. Her heart. Her soul. His hands were as capable on the guitar as they’d be on a woman’s body. On her body.

Then he looked up.




His jet-black eyes burned with all the tightly leashed passion that he was pouring into his music.

Her breath left her. Her heart paused, on the brink of recognition.

His gaze focused entirely on her—and connected with her with an almost physical force.

Electricity surged through her, her whole body going haywire. Her heart beat a new, hummingbird’s rhythm.

She swallowed hard. Ordinary? He was in no way ordinary.

But more…here was the band that could beat them.

Amazon | BN | iTunes | Kobo | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is another of those posts.

photo credit: Edgar Barany via photopin cc
It’s Gotta Have Heart--Favorite Things #3--originally posted January 27, 2015

Let's get to know each other! In my first year as a Magical Musings blogger, I'm exploring my 10 favorite things. This is number three.

My husband and I were having a discussion the other day about couples. We've gotten to the stage in our lives when we've rubbed a lot of the painful edges off each other--not quite to where we look alike but I can see the day looming coming.

You can find a recap of the couples discussion on my personal blog, but the point I'm exploring today is a bit different.

Couples in books.

photo credit: cdrummbks
photopin cc
Growing up I read a lot of science fiction (Isaac Asimov, the Danny Dunn series (which just came out on Kindle in November!!)), fantasy (C.S. Lewis, Five Children and It), magical reality (Zilpha Keatley Snyder, the Freddy the Pig series), historical fiction, and mysteries (Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe).

About my late teens I found the romance section. Remember your first introduction to romance? Me, it was a Harlequin I can't find again (darn it!), Kathleen Woodiwiss, and Johanna Lindsey.

I was hooked. I thought I'd be reading only romance for the rest of my life...

Well, no. Eventually I found traditional romance didn't give me all the things I looked for in reading. Action, adventure, mystery, wonder...these things are subgenres now but then I had to widen my search.

photo credit:BGSU University Libraries
photopin cc
Who did I find? Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum, mystery/humor). Jim Butcher (Dresden Files, SF/fantasy). Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody, mystery). Just recently I started on James Rollins (Map of Bones, Sigma Force series--thriller?), and I'm enjoying the stories immensely, but I'm not totally convinced I'll read the whole series.


Because strangely, the rest all have romance somewhere in their makeup. HFN or HEA; it may not be more than a small part of the story, but there's attraction somewhere in there that has the potential for committed love and is not just James Bond hitting on the Girl of the Week. (Revolving-door romance does not qualify for me. I'm not sure Rollins will give me that. I'm not sure he'll give his heroes their one-and-only, or if he'll give them a revolving door.)

Point being, when I looked at the books I read, I discovered that small or large, I need romance!

What about you? What was your stepping stone into Romance? Does a story have to have romance for you to read it?