Friday, September 28, 2012

Free Contemporary Romance Novel plus EDITS!

Pages 1-5 of Hot Chips and Sand are ready to read! Vickie is a redheaded programmer who's been kidnapped and carted off to the Middle East. She escapes, only to run into a cliff of a man...

Bonus! This was the first novel I wrote. I'm bringing it up to date and as I post I'm also posting the edits I've made, along with explanation. If you're interested in the guts of writing, it's all here!

Double Bonus! I've been fortunate enough to work with the awesome Eliza Knight Workshops so for the first fifty pages I'm also posting those edits! See what polish a professional workshop can bring.

Monday, September 24, 2012

To carry on or not...? Guest Charlie Cochrane plus Giveaway!


 Writing series is great.  You build up a regular readership, each new book gives an impetus to the whole run of stories, and you can do some neat promo things like writing "missing scenes" or little freebies which reward stalwart fans and provide a way to draw in new readers.

But...

You run some risks with a long sequence of books. Will people, even the most ardent fans, lose interest, or feel that the series has "jumped the shark"? How can you maintain interest with a constant(ish) cast of characters? In the case of romantic mysteries, how many tropes can you work through and still make the story a fresh and interesting category romance? At least the mystery element is easier to contend with. There's always a new murder to solve and a novel twist to be brought out, so detective series have traditionally had good staying power.

One of the things I've done with the Cambridge Fellows series is to take some major risks. In book eight I had three (count 'em!) popular secondary characters die, so in book 9 some of the other minor players have grown into the old ones' roles. This gives a new slant to the "helpers of the heroes" bit and makes this book different to all the preceding ones (which is what you want of any book in a sequence). The death of favourite characters also adds a new dimension to the emotional aspects of the books. (I've still not got over the death of Barrett Bonden in the Aubrey/Maturin series.)

I've also tried to use the series to discover what goes on after the “Happy Ever After” moment. Boy meets boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy back...and then what? There's still plenty to explore, even in a relationship that goes on for years. The arrival of an old flame (or a wannabe flame), forced separation, illness, stress, past events coming back to haunt us - these, and others, are things which even the most enduring relationship may have to face. I've included at least one of these hiccups in each of the Cambridge books, giving the lads an emotional problem to solve alongside the mystery - an emotional problem which often mirrors in some way the murder or puzzle they're attempting to solve. (And it's been a lesson to me to discover that the brilliant, original plot twists I've come up with in terms of the romance are in fact long standing tropes which have already been used since time immemorial. It was ever thus...)

There is one definite advantage, however, of writing gay romance in an Edwardian or just post WWI setting; you don't have to go far to find tension and new threats. Homosexuality was illegal and what we'd call homophobic feeling had been stirred up by the Oscar Wilde trial at the end of the nineteenth century and the terrible Pemberton-Billing case during the war. (Gay and lesbian traitors purportedly around every corner.) My two lovers/detectives, Orlando and Jonty can fairly easily hide their relationship in plain sight, within the confines of a Cambridge college, so long as they're discrete. But outside those walls they have to keep their true nature hidden and are always going to be potential victims of blackmail.

Talking of which, I've found that having a Moriarty type baddy (Owens, from a rival college) has also been a good way of keeping up originality. There's always some new dastardliness for him to get up to!

Lessons for Survivors

Cambridge, September 1919

Orlando Coppersmith should be happy. WWI is almost a year in the past, he’s back at St. Bride’s College in Cambridge, he has his lover and best friend Jonty Stewart back at his side and—to top it all—he’s about to be made Forsterian Professor of Applied Mathematics.

With his inaugural lecture to give and a plagiarism case to adjudicate on, Orlando’s hands are full, so can he and Jonty afford to take on an investigative commission surrounding a suspected murder? Especially one which must be solved within a month so that a clergyman can claim what he says is his rightful inheritance?

The answer looks like being a resounding “no” when the lecture proves almost impossible to write, the plagiarism case gets turned back on him and Jonty (spiced with a hint of blackmail), and the case surrounding Peter Biggar’s death proves to have too many leads and too little evidence.

Orlando begins to doubt their ability to solve cases any more, and his mood isn’t improved when there seems to be no way of outsmarting the blackmailer. Will this be the first failure for Coppersmith and Stewart? And how will they maintain their reputations—professional, private and as amateur detectives?

Enjoy an excerpt from Lessons for Survivors:

“Stand still.”

“I am standing still.”

“You aren’t. You’re jiggling about like a cat after a pigeon.” Jonty Stewart made a final adjustment to Orlando Coppersmith’s tie, then stood back to admire his efforts. “I think that’s passable.”

“You should wear your glasses; then you wouldn’t have to go back so far. You can’t use that old excuse about your arms getting shorter so you have to hold the paper further away.” Orlando turned to the mirror, the better to appreciate the perfectly tied knot. “Faultless. Thank you.”

The hallway of Forsythia Cottage benefited from the full glare of the morning sun through the windows and fanlight, enough for even the vainest of creatures to check every inch of their appearance in the mirror before they sauntered out onto the Madingley Road. Still, what would the inhabitants of Cambridge say to see either Jonty or Orlando less than immaculate, especially on a day such as this?

“It’s as well you had me here to help, or else you’d have disgraced yourself and St. Bride’s with it.” Jonty smiled, picking at his friend’s jacket. If there were any specks on it, Orlando knew that they were far too small for Jonty to see without his glasses. “I’m so proud of you. Professor Coppersmith. It will have a lovely ring to it.”

Orlando nodded enthusiastically, sending a dark curl springing rebelliously up, a curl that needed to be immediately flattened, although even the Brilliantine employed recognised it was fighting a losing battle. His hair might be distinctly salt and pepper, but he was still handsome, lean but not angular, nor running to fat like some of his contemporaries. He’d turned forty when the Great War still had a year to run so there was a while yet before he hit the half century. Jonty was a year closer to that milestone and was never allowed to forget it. “I won’t believe it until I see the first letter addressed to me by that title.”

“Conceit, thy name is Coppersmith.” Jonty nudged his friend aside and attended to his own tie. Silver threads lay among his own ruddy gold hair, now, and the blue eyes were framed with fine lines. He knew he could still turn a few heads and young women told him he was handsome. If the young women concerned were his nieces…well, that didn’t invalidate their opinions.

Orlando snorted. “Conceit? That’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.” He slicked back his hair again, frowning.

“You seem unusually pensive, even for the new Forsterian Professor of Mathematics.” Jonty stopped his grooming, turned and drew his hand down Orlando’s face, remapping familiar territory. Coppersmith and Stewart. Stewart and Coppersmith. They went together like Holmes and Watson, Hero and Leander, or strawberries and cream. Colleagues, friends, lovers and amateur detectives, they were partners in every aspect of their lives, and neither of them entirely sure whether the detection or the intimacy was the most dangerous part.

“I was just thinking how sad it is that neither your parents nor my grandmother are here today.” Orlando fiddled with his tie pin, only to have his hand slapped away and the offending object straightened once more.

“Leave that alone. I’d only just got it right.” Jonty put a hat into Orlando’s hands—not the one he was going to wear today, but one he could twist nervously to his heart’s content, with no damage done. “Perhaps it’s as well they’re not here for your inaugural lecture. They might have had to put on a magnificent act to cover their boredom. Computable numbers? Hardly the stuff of gripping entertainment.” Jonty smiled, trying to keep his lover’s spirits up. He knew how deeply Orlando still felt the horrible series of losses he’d suffered during the years of the Great War.

So many people he’d been close to, now gone; it had left a gap in his life that Jonty knew even he couldn’t entirely fill. Not that, Orlando swore, he loved Jonty any the less, nor, as Orlando frequently said, was there any less of him to love. The reports of the college veterans’ rugby matches still referred to him as a little ball of muscle and Orlando said he was beautiful beyond the power of words or numbers—even imaginary ones—to describe. Both of which were nice, if perhaps unbiased, compliments. “Thank you for your vote of confidence.” Orlando ruffled his lover’s hair, grinning smugly as Jonty scurried back to the mirror to begin priddying again.

“My pleasure. I’m looking forward to the lecture, of course. I’ve a list of keywords which I’ll tick off as they come. If I get them all, I’ll win five quid off Dr. Panesar.”

“Does he have a list as well? Does everyone?” When they’d first met, Orlando would have been thrown into a panic at such a statement. Now he was older, wiser and alive to Jonty’s attempts to make game of him. “And do I get a cut of the proceeds? I’d write my lecture specifically to help out the highest bidder.”

“That’s the spirit. I’ll start the bidding.” Jonty leaned forward and kissed Orlando, as tenderly as when they’d first been courting. “That’s the deposit. You can guess what constitutes the rest of the payment.” He was pleased when Orlando, visibly happier, returned the kiss; he couldn’t let Orlando succumb to melancholy now. The man might start blubbing through his inauguration.


As  Charlie Cochrane couldn't be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, predominantly historical romances/mysteries. She lives near Romsey but has yet to use that as a setting for her stories, choosing to write about Cambridge, Bath, London and the Channel Islands, all of which are places she knows and loves well. Her ideal day would be a morning walking along a beach, an afternoon spent watching rugby, and a church service in the evening, with her husband and daughters tagging along, naturally.

Charlie's Cambridge Fellows Series, set in Edwardian England, was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name.

She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, MLR, Noble Romance and Cheyenne.

Website www.charliecochrane.co.uk
E-mail  Cochrane.charlie2@googlemail.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/charliecochrane


Charlie has offered a great giveaway for you! Winner's choice of either a print copy of one of her books or a "seductive Dr Coppersmith" t-shirt! Comment to enter. Through Thursday.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Vegas Dancers, Jane Austen, and All Their Jewelry

I visit the awesome Nine Naughty Novelists to discuss how much glitter is enough--dating, stage, and writing. I love this blog for the authors' pics alone :)

Please come comment!

3T Writing Tidbit

I've been published since 2009 but I've been writing for a lot longer. Over the years I've accumulated various items of wisdom from all over. Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit will showcase these items one at a time in no particular order.

Create reality through disparate images.

This applies to everything from theme to concrete settings to distinctive characters to interesting titles.

The thing that gives us depth perception is two eyes seeing slightly different images. Stereo helps pinpoint where a sound is. Motion is created by change in position through time. The easiest way to set up interest is direct opposites--he's a vampire, she's a vampire hunter. Another way is two halves joined to make a third thing--Nitro? Meet glycerin. Yet another is to show different people handling the same concept--Junior's idea of home isn't the same as Glynn's, and neither has the same as Dorothy.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Guest Vanessa Jaye -- Dream Destination -- Plus Giveaway!

Maui, Paris, Greece, the Caribbean. Fill in the name of your dream/favorite destination and feel a smile creep up on your face. Travel is a chance to explore, for a little excitement or relaxation and to spread your wings.

After a few years of no travel beyond my daily commute to work, I went to New York in May with my best-friend. New York is an amazing city and boy did we have a blast! I can’t tell you how much I needed that break.

The heroine in my paranormal romance, Hunter of the Heart, also needed a break, maybe more than I did because poor Tricia had never even been out of the country before. She said ‘screw it’ to all the well-meaning doubters in her life and went on a cruise, alone, that she and her recent ex-boyfriend were supposed to go on.

Tricia was looking for a little excitement, maybe a little space to find herself. She got that and a whole lot more when she met the hero, Nathan, onboard.

Okay, maybe not the space thing. Nathan pretty-much did not let her out of his sight once she got on his radar.

He’s everything her ex isn’t, protective (maybe a little too protective), smoking hot, and, oh yeah, a werewolf! Once she convinces herself, that, nope, she isn’t crazy (but maybe he is) Tricia decides to fight for this second chance at love for both of them. But she’s fighting the ghost of his dead wife/mate and an evil shifter who’s out for both their heads.

My New York trip wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as Tricia and Nathan’s cruise, but how about you, any hairy travel experiences you’d like to share in comments? To celebrate the Sept 12 print release of Hunter of the Heart, I’ll be giving away 1 copy (your choice of print or ebook) today! 
(Contest runs through Wednesday. Winner will be posted Thursday.)

Here’s an excerpt from Hunter of the Heart:

“You should get cleaned up. Wash the blood off,” she said.

Tessa gaze slid down his abdomen and settled briefly where the sheets draped over his hips. Her hand trembled beneath his.

“Would you like to help?”

Her thoughts were so easy to read, she was imagining herself in the shower with him, soap in hand, and touching him. Everywhere.

More heated images flew around in her head, multiplying exponentially. His hands, wet and firm, returning the favor. His mouth, greedy and hot, on her body kissing the need away. Him, inside of her. Filling her. Moving hard and fast—

Tessa squeezed her eyes shut. “No.”

“No?” Nate couldn’t hide his amusement.

“No.”

Silence.

But his scrutiny was like a lover’s touch—soft, persistent, demanding.

“And stop looking at me like that!”

“Like what?”

She opened her eyes. “Like….that. I don’t like it.”

Nate laughed; what a little liar she was. Even now there were some very intriguing thoughts flitting through her head.

He smiled as one particular image stood out crystal clear: so she liked that did she? He could accommodate her. It would be his pleasure.

“And I don’t like the way you’re looking at me now either. You’re practically drooling.”

Nate grinned wider in response, gave her a little flash of the canines and felt the tiny thrill in her response; his senses to explore her reactions more, the rush of blood through her veins, the increased pulsing of her heart, and the faint scent of her arousal. Intoxicating.

“Do you like this better?” He leaned closer, his lips almost touching hers, but he delayed the moment by turning his head slightly aside. A predator by nature, he understood all about the hunt; about timing and how it could sharpen the appetite and make the feast to come all the sweeter.

“You’re a woman of many dislikes Tessa,” he whispered against her ear. “I’ll have to work hard at discovering what delights you.”

She jumped up as if scalded by his open desire. Definitely afraid of her own. “Make that a cold shower. I think it’s time for me to leave.”

Like some ancient god rising from the mist, Nate rose from the bed. He gave no sign he cared the sheets fell away leaving him naked. “I can’t let you do that.”

Tessa backed up and his expression hardened, turning him into a stranger.

What was she thinking? He was a stranger. And she was alone with him. Could she fight him off? Stupid! A little too late to be thinking about stuff like that now, wasn’t it?

Nate’s expression became even more remote, his anger nipping at her senses. Tessa pressed her hands to her skull—wanting him out of her head.

“I’d never force you. I wouldn’t need to.” He kept the connection between them open, even as she fought to shut it down. “I told you I would come to you, Tessa. When you asked,” he said with supreme confidence, as if it was simply a matter of time.

“Well don’t hold your breath for that invite. And you can’t keep me in here.” She turned towards the door.

“Actually I don’t have to keep you. You want to stay.”

“Wrong. Do not pass go; do not collect $200.” She grabbed the knob.

“You want to stay, because someone out there wants you even more than I do,” Nate continued. “He’s had a taste of you. Inhaled you scent…”

She started trembling, her palms suddenly damp as her grip slackened.

“And the only thing standing between the Pithcus and your delectable self…is me.”

Hunter of the Heart is available at Amazon, Samhain Publishing, Barnes&Noble!

Born in Gloucester England, Vanessa Jaye arrived in Canada 3 years later via a short 3 month stint in Jamaica. She now resides in Toronto with her handsome teenaged son, and a well-endowed mortgage. Her days are spent in the exciting cardiac-arresting world of credit reviews and loans underwriting, and her evenings spinning tales and regaining her sanity. An avid reader across all genres, Vanessa writes contemporary romances and dark paranormal/fantasy romance, both subgenres with a healthy dose of emotion, eroticism and humor.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September 1T Giveaway!

Welcome to the First Tuesday giveaway! Each first Tuesday of the month I'm offering a contest where I choose one winner (who hasn't won in the past twelve months) by random number from all comments on that post. (Please comment at my blog here: http://maryhughesbooks.blogspot.com/2012/09/september-1t-giveaway.html)

The winner will receive his or her choice of one Biting Love ebook *or* a $5 gift certificate from Amazon or Samhain!

If you're a 18+ and an adult, and if you consent to having your name listed on the rotating 12-month winner list, just comment on this post to enter! Void where prohibited. Please note, the Biting Love books contain explicit sex and violence. If you win please consider that when making your prize selection. Winner chosen at the end of the month and posted as part of next month's contest.

August's winner is--Joanne! Congrats Joanne! Please contact me at mary@ maryhughesbooks.com to claim your prize.