Tuesday, January 16, 2018

3T Writing Tidbit

So at one point I came up with a great idea for an author guide. It would help people AND make money. Cool, right?

Only, the working title is 25 Ways You're Losing Readers (and what you can do about it)--excellent title, except I only have nine.

Sooooo here they are, one month at a time.

Writers are artistes, needing no one to complete their art. Right, or wrong?

Let's take a closer look. With a symphony or movie, dozens if not hundreds of people are required to bring the composer or playwright's art into being.

With an author, there's just one, right?

Wrong.

You have one other person you have to consider. The reader.

The reader brings their expectations, imaginations, and life experience to your work, and complete it.

Many authors forget the reader is an integral part of their art. Many also haven't heard of the implicit contract with the reader.

You promise to give the reader a great read. Moreover, by the very way you present your book, the type of cover, the blurb, and title, you have promised to give your reader a certain type of great read.

Break that contract at your own peril.

Don't believe me? Consider what would happen if I title my story "Sherlock Holmes and the Egyptian Mystery" -- you'd be justified in expecting a mystery with some tie to ancient Egypt. What if it's a romance between a cat and dog in a New York alley? Did you feel that little jarring in your gut?

Yes. That's a thing that will lose you readers.

Easy fix. Write your title and blurb. Give it to a reader (or give yourself fresh reader's eyes by putting your manuscript aside for a month or two).

Ask them to tell you what they expect from this book. (Is it the story you wrote? If not, you may need to tweak your title or blurb.)

Then give them the story. After they read it, ask them if the story met, exceeded, or confounded their expectations.

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.

Tuesday, January 9, 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.

New Year, New Goals, New Point of View—Guest Roxy Mews--originally posted January 1, 2015

This is the time of year when I usually dust off my treadmill and try to remember that yoga pants are actually supposed to be used in a yoga class. I’ve started calling mine YouTube pants, because that’s what I do when I wear them. The endless videos don’t judge me.

I’m switching gears this year.

Literally.

I’m writing about gears.

Next month I’ve got a new novella out with Samhain Publishing called Coral-600. If you’ve read my books, you’re familiar with my sense of humor. So you might be able to understand why I couldn’t resist writing from the point-of-view of a 90-year-old virgin robot. She’s discovering what all her genetically modified tissue can do, and I had to hang on for the ride with her.

I sent this little nugget onto my editor and neither one of us really knew what to do with it, but we knew it was too much fun to let sit in my computer. It’s a sexy love story that just happens to involve a robot. Coral, our robo-main character, is determined to get what she needs out of life and can’t understand why others would want to deny her things that just plain feel good.

In 2015, I want to be more like the strong female characters I write about. I want to figure out what I want and go for it. I’m trying to get organized, but for now, I’m filling my writing space with beautiful quotes. I’m journaling every day, and I’m writing down more of the stories inside my head.

If you’re looking for a book to make you smile while you’re keeping up with your resolutions, I hope you’ll give mine a try. Happy New Year!

Roxy Mews Professional PicRoxy wrote her first story at age six on an electric typewriter. It was about a cat and a haunted house. Thankfully, her stories and technology have matured since then. Now Roxy spends her days fighting the evil day job in hopes of conquering the stories that run rampant in her head when she comes home at night. When she discovered Erotic Romance, Roxy fell in love. She can’t wait to share all her fun and sexy stories with everyone.

To connect with Roxy Mews find her babbling on Twitter, friend her on Facebook, visit her Blog, or find all these links on RoxyRocksMe.com

Coral-600 Cover FINAL      Pleasure is not a malfunction.

Coral-600 is the first and only one of her kind. An artificial intelligence prototype with realistic skin over her metal frame, she was deemed too expensive for mass production and gifted to the royal family.

She cannot legally have a relationship with a human, and it never entered her electronic brain to want more—to break the law. Until she meets Quinn, and her DNA-enhanced skin tingles with a completely new sensation. Desire.

His body damaged beyond repair in the war, Quinn survived—barely—by agreeing to have much of it rebuilt. His royal relatives have taken him in, but it’s tough adjusting to a body that doesn’t come with instructions.

As Coral helps Quinn cope with his new body, the connection between them reaches the melt-down point. But unless she can convince the authorities that humanity runs deeper than flesh and bone, she’ll have her CPU wiped clean—permanently.

Warning: This book contains artificial and natural flavors, lubricant (lots and lots of lubricant), and fun with oh-so-hard drives.

AmazonB&N

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Chapter One from Bad Boy Billionaire's Lady



Bad Boy Billionaire’s Lady
© 2017 Mary Hughes

The Lovless Billionaires. Three brothers with too much money and no time for love—until each meets the woman guaranteed to infuriate—and inflame—him most.
Bad Boy Billionaire's Lady (Book 1)

Elizabeth Rothschild promised a dying man she’d protect his charitable legacy. But how, when the greedy, manipulative sharks on the board want her out?
And now the biggest shark of all, the Lovless heir, is coming home.
Landon "Rebel" Lovless is a bad boy, a billionaire by virtue of being his grandfather's heir. The Navy SEAL wants nothing more than to get back to his team, but lovely Elizabeth Rothschild brings out a protective streak in him.

The loner and out-of-sync boy who left is not the stunning man who strides into the board meeting. He shocks them all by barking orders and commanding them to a team-building exercise on a tropical island. They're getting their hands dirty constructing a house. But as Reb, Elizabeth, and the board members toil side by side, will it build their camaraderie—or only put them close enough for someone to stick in the knife?

Chapter One

The trouble started when Elizabeth Rothschild, toting the rescue kitten, tried to dodge New York City rush-hour foot traffic by cutting through a dark alley.

She was late for an important after-hours board meeting. Stopping at the animal shelter to see if they needed food or medicine—part of her job as head of charities for Lovless Industries, but also her passion—made her later.

The kitten had been mewing piteously. She’d picked it up to cuddle and console it. Big eyes blinked trustingly at her from the ball of yellow fur, and she was lost, plucking the stray from the shelter to give him a home.

Now, as she muddled along the congested sidewalk, she kept one arm securely around the kitten’s tote. Her messenger bag flopped against her other hip, its strap crisscrossed with the carrier. Taking the poor animal with her probably wasn’t her best idea, but there’d been no time. A friend at work could watch the kitten during her meeting.

Jostled and late, the empty alley looked like salvation.

She ducked out of the press of bodies into the alley opening. Clutching the carrier, she peered down the dark, narrow path between the two tall buildings.

Deserted? Or hiding dangers?

She touched her knit hat. Her hair was safe from grabbing underneath. Muggings were no joke, but her coat covered her expensive power suit and nice jewelry. And she wore a good pair of runners.

One arm still around the kitten’s carrier, she dug with the other hand in her messenger bag for her phone and checked the time.

Five minutes until the meeting. And she still had to find her friend to drop off the little ball of fur.

Elizabeth swore. Walk in late? Or potentially not at all? She shifted on her runners, thinking of the boardroom that awaited, the big table ringed by two dozen of the greediest, most blood-thirsty suited sharks there were—and no more Landy to support her.

“One goal,” she coached herself. “Protect Landy’s charity legacy. Well, and not get fired.”

The kitten, perhaps hearing her voice, meowed.

“Okay, three goals,” she answered. “Protect the charities, don’t get fired, and buy you kitten chow. But for now, don’t worry. Ainsley will take good care of you while I face the sharks.”

The sharks, and one other complication—the new chairman of the Lovless Industries board of directors. A man even Landy called uncontrollable. Her stomach lurched, remembering her mentor’s last words to her.

“You’ll have to deal with my grandson.”

Muggers or sharks? Oh, what’s the difference?

“Right.” She made her decision.

*       *       *

The man saddled with the appalling name of “Landon Lovless the Third” was pissed.

The snarl of traffic, beeping and honking around him, echoed his mood. He sat on his motorcycle amid New York rush hour, hot and chafing despite the cool day. He ought to be with his SEAL team, not dressed up in this ridiculous suit. He ought to be hearing his brothers in arms calling him Rebel and Reb instead of a pack of corporate wolves calling him Landon or Lovless or worse yet, Mr. Chairman.

That was his old robber baron of a grandfather, not him.

Yet everything he’d rejected from day one, the name, the title, the money, had been forced on him by the old man’s death.

“I won’t do it,” Reb snarled for the umpteenth time. He’d donned his leathers over the suit and rode his Harley through midtown rush hour traffic in protest. It made him late, but that was a form of protest, too.

The light changed. Cars, cabs, and bikes moved forward. He rolled on the throttle—clamping and stomping the brakes when, three inches later, the car in front of him squealed to a halt. Clamping the bike into neutral, he slapped boots to the pavement. The left lane was supposed to be faster, but nothing moved right now. He was hot and late, and the fact that he’d done it to himself made him even more pissed.

Then he saw her.

Immediately, everything else dropped away, including his temper. He didn’t know what about her attracted his attention; she scurried into his periphery, about a block behind him on the sidewalk, nothing out of the ordinary. Her lumpy cloche hat looked hand-knit—like something made by a kid, not the trendy, artisanal kind his grandfather’s too-young mistresses wore. Her coat appeared to be good quality wool, but a bit scuffed looking.

His forehead tightened in a frown beneath his helmet. Everything she wore looked a little worn, including her no-name running shoes and the messenger bag where, if she was like every other New York City office worker he’d met, she’d tote her sensible pumps. Unless she was the back-killing heels type.

The pet carrier looked new, though.

Then her face came into focus. She wasn’t worn-looking at all. As she hurried nearer, he was struck by her creamy skin, sparkling eyes, and ruby lips perfect for a man’s kiss…

He shook his head and turned away. Then turned almost immediately back.

Little wisps of blonde hair escaped from her hat. He normally couldn’t stand blondes, but something about those small, fragile curls, shimmering silver and honey and flaxen, intrigued him as she scurried past him on the sidewalk.

As she neared the alley and slowed.

Damn it. He could almost hear the thought going through her head.

Don’t do it.

Ignoring his mental warnings—and plain good sense—she swiveled on graceful legs and went into the alley.

The dark alley.

He chomped molars and turned away. Not his problem. She’d done it of her own free will. On her own head be it.

That dark, narrow alley. Perfect for an enemy ambush.

He glanced again at the shadowed maw. Nothing good came of pretty women cutting through alleys.

Forcing himself to look away, he told himself it was none of his business. Besides, he’d have to cut across two lanes plus the congested sidewalk…

She might be in danger, the SEAL in him urged.

The light changed. Traffic began flowing forward.

He eased out the clutch, first gear engaged, and rolled forward with traffic. She made the choice herself—

The panicked yowl of a young animal caught his ears.

Barely audible over the traffic noise. But his hearing, attuned to danger, meant the poor beast’s fear cut through.

With a sharp curse, he cranked his fork. Earning several honks and rude gestures, he shoved the bike into non-existent gaps in the wall-to-wall traffic. He only hoped he wasn’t too late.

*       *       *

As Elizabeth hurried down the alley, a big, bulky man stepped from a shadowed doorway to block her path.

“Where’re you going so fast?”

Her blood iced. The man was all beef and flexing muscle, with flinty eyes. She clasped the kitten’s carrier to her, forcing herself to breathe deeply, trying to slow her heart’s pounding in her ribcage. She knew what to do—extract her wallet from her messenger bag, toss it behind the guy, and while he was distracted snatching it up, run the other way.

A clattering from behind caught her attention. She glanced over her shoulder as a second goon slouched into the alley. His knit cap hugged his skull, the hat’s brim rolled to expose his hungry eyes.
Skullcap had just cut off her escape route.

She swallowed, hard. Squaring her shoulders, she faced the first mugger and thrust out a palm. “Back off.”

Instead, the beefy man sauntered closer. “What’s in the carrier?”

Her arm convulsed around the animal tote. A worried meow answered. “A cat. You don’t want him. You want my briefcase. You can have it.” She eased the messenger bag from her shoulder. “Just a bunch of work papers, though. A subway pass. Credit cards, but they’re maxed out.” And her phone and second-hand Gucci pumps, which she’d counted on to make the right impression with the new chairman.

But the best way out of the situation was to give the mugger the bag.

She glanced behind again, wondering if she could toss it far enough to have both muggers run after it, when the beefy man suddenly grabbed the strap.

She automatically yanked it away. Her fear and fury and rampaging adrenaline boosted the tug into a full-body swing. She spun around—and whirled the bag into the beefy man’s head.

“Hey!” He threw up a hand last-minute, but she still managed to wallop him in the skull. He collapsed with a groan to his hands and knees.

Her jaw dropped in amazement. Then self-preservation kicked in, and she lurched into a run past him. One step, two, she built up speed, her gaze zeroed on the street opening at the other end of the alley.

Just let me escape. I vow never to take a shortcut again.

Feet pursued her. A hand clamped onto her coat. Her pulse kicked into overdrive.

“Where d’you think you’re going?” Skullcap dragged her to a stop.

She swung around, messenger bag first, the kitten still clamped to her body.

Skullcap caught the briefcase mid-swing, ripped it from her grasp, and threw it to one side.

“Bad move, bitch.” He slapped her face.

His palm was like a flat rock smashing into her cheek. Her bone rang with the impact, and her head spun with the momentum, jarring her off balance. She stumbled back a step. The pain came an instant later, sharp, insistent. She willed it down to a dull throb, desperately trying to keep control of what she could.

The mugger grabbed her by the lapels—and tore open her coat beneath the carrier strap.

She sucked in a shocked breath. Inhaled a wash of male stink. She recoiled automatically, heart hammering. The kitten released a terrified screech.

“Well, well.” The mugger dragged her back, his foul excitement pouring off him. “What’s this?”

Beyond him, the beefy man was just rising. “Hold her.” Hand to his head where she’d clipped him, he staggered toward her. “I owe her some payback.”

She struggled against Skullcap’s hold, impotently, horrified that the situation had careened so out of control. Her blood thundered in her ears as she tried desperately to think of a way out…or was that the sound of a motor?

Suddenly, the hard roar of a powerful machine filled the mouth of the alley.

Beyond the muggers, a motorcycle skidded into the narrow way, its harsh engine reverberating against the buildings.

Both goons spun toward the intruder. Freed, Elizabeth clutched the carrier and stumbled back, her pulse racing frantically.

The bike tore down the pavement and squealed to a stop a few feet from the muggers.

A big, helmeted, leather-clad man sat easily on the low-slung seat. Scuffed, shitkicker boots rested flat on the pavement.

Her panted breaths rasped in her ears. The muggers’ more dangerous biker pal? God, and she’d thought things couldn’t get worse.

One boot rose to toe the stand down. With a fluid lift of his muscular leg, the man dismounted easily, unfolding to almost a giant’s height. Face completely covered by a mirrored visor, he stood before them without a word.

More dangerous? Try deadly.

Elizabeth’s breath came in frosted little pants. Was she rescued, or in even more trouble than before?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

January 1T Status Update

Happy New Year! Warm wishes for a wonderful 2018 to you all.

I spent the last days of 2017 pushing out words for Night's Kiss, the second book of the Ancients trilogy. I'm happy to report I reached the crunch (middle) of the book. Fifty thousand words done, only forty to go!

This week, I'm working on all those holiday giveaways that were going on in December. I hope to have all the winners picked and notified within the next couple days.


In other news:
  • Bad Boy Billionaire's Lady is up for preorder. NOTE: If you have Billionaire Ever After, it's in the set. But if you want to buy it again so you have the beautiful cover by Scott Carpenter, we'd all understand :)
  • Playing With Fire: The Battle of the Bands (A Starstruck Novella) back from my editor.
  • Playing With Fire: The Battle of the Bands (A Starstruck Novella) has cover art! I hope to show it off soon.
  • Night's Kiss (The Ancients book 2) first draft is halfway done.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

3T Writing Tidbit

Many writers, because of the nature of the field, are introspective. Accessing the muse requires the ability to delve deep into one's mind, past the conscious and into the murky depths.

But to sell books we have to be as outgoing as salespeople.

Conflict is the meat of a good story, but in reality, it's hell on sleeping. So early in my career I took a closer look at introversion versus extroversion.

This isn't a treatise on my journey. That would take books. But I did want to dig out and polish four gems for you.

Specifically, when an introvert tries to pitch a book or give a class, what stands in the way?

Overemphasis on what went wrong. We tend to view our errors from a deep, root level, which in turn cranks them way out of proportion. Don't believe me? Imagine you making that horrendous mistake. Now picture your best friend doing the same thing. Not quite so awful, right? Treat your errors as if they belonged to another person. Practice compassionate objectivity.

Delay in response is natural. We learn deep, which means whenever we have an event in the outside world, we read it into long-term memory. We also try to fit new facts into our existing framework. So if the least little thing changes in our class or pitch from how we practiced it, we can't just wing it. We have to analyze the whole situation, basically pinging the thing against our entire mental hard drive. Yikes! That takes time--especially since some of our hard drive is really on backup. Build in time buffers within your presentation or practice saying, "I'll get back to you on that."

We're at the mercy of our environment. If someone coughs during our class, we notice it. If our pitchee's eyes glaze over, we notice that. We're not only more sensitive to what's going on around us, we have to stop to analyze how it affects our presentation, and try to adjust for every little thing. Hone in on your personal/core truths. They'll relax you and focus you on your message, not the environment.

We've all heard, "Nervous? Picture the audience naked." Yeah, that doesn't work, and here's why. Our imagination is too good! We spend what mental energy we have building a picture of naked people...he has a tattoo there??...to wretched excess. Before you go into your pitch or stand before your class, take control instead. Do the superwoman pose. Tell yourself you're in control. Building yourself up is much better for you than knocking the other guy down.

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.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

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. I thought you might be interested in seeing those posts now.

photo credit: the green gables via photopin cc
A Pearl for Your Fantasy--Getting to Know You #4--originally posted December 10, 2014

You’ve won a million dollars! Ever wonder what you’d do? Would you buy a sexy negligee or a Maserati? Take an island cruise? Make a loan to a favorite relative?

One of the questions authors are asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?" Well, by asking exactly that question--what if.

That million bucks (or quid or gold bars) that's now yours--what else would happen? Every investment broker on the planet would call you. Empty hands would thrust toward you (it's all fun and games until someone's eye gets poked out). The one relative you can’t stand would demand the biggest handout (but you could flip him a finger communication. Go ahead. Hey, it’s your fantasy).

Take one thing, just one, and change it. That is the seed of world-building. The grit to the pearl. Take the world you know, plus one what if. What if I won that million? What if my job were perfect? What if people lived forever (including that annoying neighbor/coworker)?

photo credit: seasonal wanderer via photopin cc
What one thing would you change? Let’s try—what if magic existed? Imagine cleaning with the snap of a finger, everything you want free! Wouldn’t life be grand?

Well, no. Remember, we only get to change one thing in our fantasy world. Basic human nature doesn’t change. People are still good and bad and just plain silly. You and I might use magic for good, but what about that neighbor/coworker? What about magical accidents?

Should you invent language? Let’s take our magic example. Every culture has a way people get extra energy. Tea, coffee. Coke, both the legal and illegal kind. Kaffey’s been overdone (IMHO) but you’d need to name the substance people use to jolt up the magic. MagiCoke? Maybe that’s illegal too, so you’d have MagiCoke pushers. Assign a shorthand. Call them Mushers…or Pushcokers…well, maybe not. But you get the idea.

Take one thing, and change it. Like a pearl, your world will soon grow!

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 four.

What one thing would you change, and how would it affect your hero/heroine's life?

A holiday gift for you! Aunt Aina's Swedish Coffee Bread

My husband's family recipe. Every year we enjoy kneading, braiding, and smelling the buttery baked goodness of this holiday treat! Pretty enough to give as a gift. Tasty, especially warm from the oven with butter and coffee.

Ingredients:

2 c. milk
1 c. butter
1 cake yeast or equivalent (I use just over a tsp of dry yeast)
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp salt (I cut this back a bit, especially with salted butter)
15-20 shelled cardamom seeds, or 1 tsp ground cardamom
7-8 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375º.

  1. Scald milk and cool to lukewarm.
  2. Make a sponge of ~2 c. flour, salt, yeast and milk. This should clean the bowl, not stick to it. Cover loosely and let double.
  3. Cream butter, egg, sugar and cardamom until fluffy.
  4. Add creamed mixture to risen sponge and work through until smooth.
  5. Add flour by ½ cupfuls until dough is smooth and no longer sticky.
  6. Divide dough for loaves. Two portions make larger loaves, eight portions are good for individual loaves as small gifts.
  7. Braid loaves and put on non-stick baking pans or sheets. Cover and rise until doubled in size.
  8. Bake at 375º until nicely browned on top.

Top can be brushed with egg white and sprinkled with sugar pearls prior to baking.

This recipe comes from Sweden and is very old. Consequently, I make some changes in deference to modern ingredients. For instance, with pasteurizing, I no longer scald the milk, but use the microwave to bring it to a temperature for adding yeast. 

A note on cardamom--it’s kind of hard to find. Generally a small container, a half ounce or so, is sufficient for a year’s holiday baking. I understand, although haven’t tried, that adding some cardamom to coffee grounds prior to perking makes a nice nutty addition to the coffee.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December 1T Status Update

Many of my holiday gigs are already over and I'm digging out from under the heavy practice schedule, yay! Here's what's going on in my writing world.
  • Playing with Fire: The Battle of the Bands (A Starstruck Novella) is with my editor.
  • Bad Boy Billionaire's Lady will go up for preorder later this month. 
  • Revised proposal for Night's Kiss is with my editor.
  • Huge, very big, gigantico giveaways going on now!!!! (You know it's big if there are more than two exclamation points!) If you're not a newsletter subscriber, now's the time to sign up.
  • Did you review Night's Caress? I have a very very special giveaway for my active readers. Join my MH Readers Facebook group here or the MH Readers Newsletter group here. (There's also a special holiday giveaway for active MH readers!!!!)