Tuesday, February 21, 2017

3T Writing Tidbit

Blurbs. We all hate 'em, but we gotta write 'em.

Some people are actually good at blurbs, even exceptional. I bow to all blurb writers, especially the one who whipped Passion Bites into shape. Here is what I sent in:

When a blond god blows into Alexis Byornsson’s emergency room and interrupts her treating a little girl, Alexis is furious. Or, not furious exactly, because Alexis is known as Dr. Frozen, but severely, finger-shakingly disapproving.  Then he kisses her breathless, and Alexis is stunned, her logical armor shaken, when what should be a nice release of endorphins breaks into a steamy tropical storm.

Luke Steel hasn’t felt passion since his wife died in a brutal attack three hundred years ago and he felt powerless to save her. Alexis shocks him by bringing good things to life in more ways than one. Mates are forever, so what the hell is going on?

Then an old frenemy takes off the gloves. With Alexis’s life at stake, all-consuming passion is the one thing neither Luke nor Alexis can afford, yet the one thing that will never let them go.

Here is what I got back:

Dr. Alexis Byornsson has her hands full in the ER when her patient’s uncle blows into the exam room. Stitching up a five-year-old’s cut is hard enough without a blond god distracting her all to hell.

To say she’s furious is putting it mildly—not that anyone would notice. Not with the legendary control that’s earned her the nickname “Dr. Frozen”.

Luke Steel never knew a woman chastising him could be so sexy. But for the first time in three hundred years, passion stirs in his gut—along with panic. Since his wife was taken before his eyes in a brutal attack, he’s sworn he’d never feel that powerless again.

Almost before either Luke or Alexis realize what’s happening, they’re sharing a blazing kiss that shatters her logical armor and unleashes his wholly unwanted mating instinct. And spurs a closer-than-skin enemy to put into motion a devastating plan for revenge.

 Let's look at some of the changes:
  • I started with the blond god. Blurb writer started with the main character's name and her situation.
  • I had "interrupts her treating a little girl". BW has Alexis's "hands full in the ER" and "stitching up a five-year-old" (interrupts vs. hands full and treating vs. stitching, each more active or descriptive).
  • I had Alexis furious at the interruption.  BW differentiated that it was the distraction from her work that made her furious, showing her to be conscientious, not contentious. 
  • BW kept my verb "blows into", noun "blond god", and nickname "Dr. Frozen".
  • I had the kiss as part of Alexis's paragraph. BW moved it down to the third paragraph (the couple's interaction paragraph).
  • I had a paragraph for Alexis, one for Luke, and one for their enemy. BW gave an intro to Alexis meeting Luke, a paragraph for Alexis's initial problem, a paragraph to Luke and his problem, and a paragraph to combining their romantic attraction and their enemy.
  • I had "Luke hadn't felt passion". BW punched that up to "For the first time in 300 years, passion stirs in his gut" and then yanks it 180 with the "--along with panic". True genius.
  • I had "frenemy". BW has "closer-than-skin enemy".

There's more, but I'll let you figure out the rest.

But as you can see, a good blurb is worth 200 words, but a good blurb writer is worth a helluva lot more.

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, February 14, 2017

2T Repeat Performance

In December, 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: Identity Photogr@phy via photopin cc

Playing Music in the Dark--originally posted April 30, 2014

Getting to know you. To dream the impossible dream. Favorite things. What do all these have in common? (Answer at the end.)

Speaking of getting to know you--I'd love to get to know you better. What's one of your favorite things?

In return, I'll share too. One little bit each month.

My favorite things #10--playing pit orchestra for musicals.

Sitting in the dark, watching the drama and fun and color of a musical unfolding onstage as an audience member is great. As part of the pit, you get to see so much more. The musical (for free), sure, but you're also privy to rehearsal bloopers and horrors (ask any community theater group what the show looked like the week before opening and prepare to laugh and cry) and the sometimes hilarious antics of brushup night.

My husband and I played pit for The Pirates of Penzance one summer. During the Croquet scene, one of the young ladies hit the ball too hard and my husband the cellist was beaned by a pool ball. So the next rehearsal he wore a hardhat.

In the Pit
A friend relates that, during The Wizard of Oz, Toto kept coming over to the pit to sniff the players. In our production, the cute doggy got bored in performance and decided to investigate himself! (My fictional heroine, pit musician Junior Steig, plays through a similar laugh-out-loud incident in Biting Oz.)

Another friend told of an old fog machine that got stuck during a performance. It produced great billowing gouts of the stuff. Stage fog is heavier than air, so when it gets to the pit it just falls right in. The string players' bows--haired in horsehair--went completely limp. No sound at all! My friend and the rest plucked their instruments like guitars just to get some sound. Plunk plink plunk.

Fun times aside, musicals speak to my heart. Who can't relate to young novitiate Maria in Sound of Music as she goes to her first job outside the convent, seeking the courage she lacks in "I Have Confidence"? Who doesn't feel the anticipation that tonight won't be just any night, shared by West Side Story lovers Tony and Maria in the duet "Tonight, Tonight"?

Getting to know you. To dream the impossible dream. Favorite things. What do all these have in common? They're all lines from hit musicals (The King and I, Man of LaMancha, Sound of Music), and they all speak to the heart.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Happily Ever Alpha: Falling for the Billionaire RELEASE DAY! Incl NY Times best-seller Opal Carew

99¢ special release day price and big party

20 Billionaires, 20 Sizzling Ways to Fall in Love.

Amazon | Nook | Kobo | Google | iTunes | Kindle UK

Whether your fantasy is a prince or a self-made man, this set has all the hard-bodied, Alpha billionaires you can handle. Let our award-winning, best-selling authors take you on a trip filled with exotic locales, dizzying privilege and heart-warming happily ever after.

And be sure to sign up for our Facebook Party! Tons of giveaways, games, and fun. https://www.facebook.com/events/1093591607436785

We're 20 award-winning, best-selling authors who write billionaires from hard-bodied alphas to genius inventors to exotic princes--but who all love a good happily ever after. Includes Opal Carew, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, USA Today best selling author, Victoria Pinder, Margo Bond Collins, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, and so many more.

Amazon | Nook | Kobo | Google | iTunes | Kindle UK

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

1T Status Update plus Billionaires, Billionaires, BILLIONAIRES!

20-Billionaire Set only 99 pennies, but not for much longer! More status-update news following the lovely billionaire pictures.
How do you like your billionaire served? Hot and spanky? Cool and in control (preferably in control of a black credit card and Lambo)? Rugged but loaded (in the wallet or other pant-stored things)?

I had a fun time pulling pics of billionaires for this awesome set, releasing just in time for Valentine's Day.  Amazon | Nook | KoboGoogleiTunesKindle UK

Whether your fantasy is a prince or a self-made man, this set has all the hard-bodied, Alpha billionaires you can handle. Let our award-winning, best-selling authors take you on a trip filled with exotic locales, dizzying privilege and heart-warming happily ever after.

$0.99 special preorder price--get yours today!

This set includes NY Times Best-Selling author Opal Carew, USA Today best selling author, Victoria Pinder, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Margo Bond Collins, and so many more. 99 pennies--but not for much longer!

Amazon | Nook | KoboGoogleiTunesKindle UK

STATUS UPDATE: When I first started writing fiction, I used imaginative names like Novel 1 and Novel 2. Later I updated to the always-scintillating "Vicky and Cliff" and "Glynnis".

But just because I couldn't name 'em didn't mean I couldn't write 'em. I needed to keep January open, waiting for my edits Night's Caress. So I took a romp through one of my earlier books (like, written 20-25 years ago earlier), a 180,000 word fantasy.

And I thought, "This is pretty good." I kept reading and kept seeing the possibilities. Now, I've learned a lot since then about pacing and plotting, but the characters are really nice and there are some intriguing twists going on.

Cut to the chase, I'm editing this story to become a serial novel, three sets of 9 short books each. More info as I get it, but I'm really excited to share the story of the lonely healer and the last wizard.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

5T Tossup--Is your writing letting you down? A dozen quick fixes to manage the thinking life (in three easy steps)

As an author, I make my money by thinking. Luckily for me, I grew up in a family that valued thinking. Also I have the great good fortune to be married to a thinking man, although we sort of were the only ones to understand each other, lol.

The problem happened after college, when I we both were launching our careers and our family. The time to think shrank with each new obligation. Don't get me started on what happened with the kids entered school.

Now I've had experience both as a thinker and a doer. What have I learned?

There are three things you must do to maximize any job that requires thinking.

1) Minimize anxiety.*

The reason I started writing this today is because of a task I've given myself--sending an introductory newsletter to general signups from a party. Basically, I'm cold calling a preselected list. Some people relish a challenge like that, but I have a tendency to start a joke with the punch line ("Only one, but that light bulb really has to want it!"), laugh, and then wonder why nobody joins in. (Oh, yes, the set up: "How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?")

Four of my favorite quick-fixes to minimize anxiety are:
  • Meditate.
  • Exercise/confident body postures (the Wonder Woman pose).
  • Limiting myself to the FIVE TOP JOBS that need to get done today.
  • Tackling a job I know how to do. 
This post is an application of point four. I know how to write. This blog is easing my anxiety so I can think about how best to approach all those new readers.

*Something I didn't realized before, but anxiety in the thinking life includes too much NOISE and too much DISTRACTION. "Too much" is different for different people of course, and even different for the same person at different times or under different circumstances.

2) Minimize boredom.
We all write a scene that we can't stand. Or get sleepy because we're uninspired by our characters or plots. Bored by same-old, same-old, we can't even scare up the energy to try to think up something new to inject.

Favorite quick fixes:
  • Cut off bad bored habits (mine is clicking through game after game of Spider Solitaire, until my eyes bleed)
  • Ninjas!
  • Reminding myself my husband is working, and by darn, I'd better be working too.
  • Mixing in new projects on a regular basis

3) Maximize time in flow.
Starting quicker and easier gives us more actual productive thinking and writing time. If you've set the stage with #1 and #2, you should find your thinking time goes easier. But how do you get into and out of it best?

Favorite quick fixes:

  • Mood-setting behaviors. For me, I try to chew on ideas in my morning shower. Another way I get into the swing faster is by re-reading and editing the scenes I wrote the day before.
  • Mood-setting environment. For me, it's scent. Maybe yours is a character sound track.
  • Know your rhythms and work with, not against them. I hate to admit it, but I work best from 7:30 am to 10:30 am.
  • Leave yourself a hook. End your writing period before you're exhausted, and leave yourself some little cue about where you're going next. An exciting cue. HOOK YOURSELF like you'd hook your reader.
Does it work? Well, this is January 16 as I write this, and since January 1 I've finished a novella and am a third of the way through editing a novel. Plus I'm promoting a major box set release. And best of all, I've started my cold call newsletter intro.

**Thanks to my husband Gregg for constantly posting links to articles on consciousness

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

2T Repeat Performance

So you may have heard that in December, 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 the posts here.

photo credit: noir photographer via photopin cc
Television, Books and the Power of Story -- originally posted April 2014

Do you enjoy television or movies or the theater? What are your favorites? I have some confessions of my own to make, and I think you’ll be surprised.

Before we get chatting, I'd like to introduce myself. I’m Mary, usually Mary Hughes to differentiate me from the zillions of other Marys out there, Mary Jean if you’re my cousin Mary Ann :) . I’m a new regular to the Magical Musings team and I’m so very thrilled to be here. Huge thanks to Edie Ramer, Michelle Diener and the awesome Magical Musings team and readers for welcoming me!

Books are a passion of mine. But a picture paints a thousand words—you can’t get more concentrated storytelling than a movie, television, or play.

A couple hours can plunge us into deep drama, as with Death of a Salesman or Streetcar Named Desire. An hour brings justice to an NCIS criminal or cures (or kills) a House MD patient. Sitcoms solve world problems in 30 minutes or less. Commercials tell a complete story in mere seconds! (Have you seen the TJ Maxx/Marshalls commercial? Two groups of sassy women march at each other like football teams about to clash. One set carries red Maxx bags, the other blue Marshalls. We think it’s going to be a Jets/Sharks West Side Story moment but they meet and become friends. The message: you can have both! That’s a story in a nutshell.)

But books...ah, nothing will ever replace them. Because, Scrubs internal asides aside, nowhere else can you truly get the thoughts and smells and raw feeling and emotions found in a book.

So here are my confessions.
*My husband and I didn’t own a television for the first five years of our marriage.
*One of my favorite entertainments? The Geico commercials. “Do Dogs Chase Cats?”—yes, they do, in a Bullitt-style car chase—continues to top my list.
*Though I adore sparkling comedies, I never saw Scrubs before this year.

What visual entertainment is your favorite? Do you have a can't-miss show or a movie that will forever be with you?

BONUS! I also adore quirky comic strips. Here’s XKCD on television before the Internet.

Want to see what I mean about the up-close-and-personal touch, taste, and emotions you can only find in books? Get inside a shy flutist’s head in hot vampire romance Downbeat. Striking the right note could shatter more than their hearts. Warning: Contains a master of seduction and symphonies, an awkward and innocent flutist, small-town humor, heart-stopping action, and an exodus to Iowa. Oh, and the cheese balls are ba-a-ack—and deadlier than ever.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

3T Writing Tidbit

When to reveal?

This is one I struggle with. I've done other 3T Tidbits about it, but this is a different slant, brought about as, on this Tuesday in January 2016, I begin mapping out the opening to a new vampire UF/romance.

Here's the rule I've heard--reveal the THING (twist, secret, change of heart, whatever) as late as possible.

So I did. That led to vague nonsense, random bad feelings about blah-blah that I didn't actually explain until it was too late for the reader to care.

New directive: reveal the THING when it will do the most damage.

Or has the most impact, but I like the word damage. I think we remember damage longer than impact.

Example: Vampire UF/romance--as I'm envisioning it now, starts with a prologue from the point of view of Our Hero, an ancient vampire who's also FBI or NSA, not sure which yet, stationed in New York City. He's kneeling beside a bloodless body with two very obvious puncture marks on the throat. "This is the fifth one."

Now, I could leave it at that, and it might make a nice little mystery, but I'm going further. Our Hero says, "A vampire is murdering humans and wants the humans to know it. Wants to show vampires are real." "Why?" asks the sidekick. "My guess?" says Our Hero. "Incite panic."

So right away, I'm revealing the bad guy and his motive, because now it's not just a murder, its a vampire who's operating against the vampire Code of Masquerade, which I think raises the stakes.

Our Hero needs to go to Heroine's HomeTown (for Reasons), but because he's not part of the town's  Local Vampire Network, he needs an excuse. Enter Our Heroine, a HomeTown native living in New York (who does NOT want to go back to HomeTown). He says he has to go undercover and Our Heroine's homecoming (or class reunion) is the perfect excuse--he's going as her date.

At this point she knows something is off, but not what. He doesn't tell her, not that he's a vampire or that he's not part of the LVN and the locals are going to get miffed. She'll get vague vibes that things are off, but won't know what. I could have him reveal this stuff to her, but I think it'll be much more effective if he tells the truth after--you guessed it--he's started to care for her and will care about the lie hurting their relationship.

See how this works? Try imagining the THING revealed now. How much headache or heartache does it cause? Now imagine revealing the THING later on down the road. Is the damage worse? The same? Less? If the same or less, how much clarity does the story lose by revealing later?

Now you can decide the best place to put the reveal.

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.