Tuesday, February 20, 2024

3T Writing Tidbit

One of the struggles that creators in the entertainment industry deal with is -- we want more of that, and make it the same, but different.

I was musing on that today. Most of the creative advice I've been given centers on this seeming absurdity. But there are ways to achieve it.

In music, the easiest and most common way for same-but-different is the old: State your theme. State it again. The third time you state it, go off on a variation. The opening to Beethoven's fifth symphony nails this. Duh-duh-duh-dahhhh. Duh-duh-duh-dahhhh. Duh-duh-duh-dah-duh-duh-duh-dah- and off it goes.

For a story, what you're looking to do is make the story and characters recognizable but stimulating. We love seeing family and friends, but the same stories every time we sit around the dinner table would be boring. Of course, that dividing line between safe, recognizable sameness and unpredictable, stimulating different is a moving target. Not only does it differ by reader (or movie-goer or whatever), it differs in the same reader depending on the day and what's just happened in their lives.

My grandmother taught us about politeness. Offer once, offer twice, offer a third time. If turned down three times, it's really refused. Fairy tales, music, or a grandmother's wisdom, it's a good sum up of the seemingly impossible same, but different. 

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 13, 2024

2T Repeat Performance - Whine and wine: Wine! A Midwest author visits California wineries

I've done a number of blog tours over the years, posting on different sites. Now I'm bringing them to you!

Originally published September 12, 2012 for Coffee and Porn

Whine and wine: Wine! A Midwest author visits California wineries.


Growing up with all things German (white Riesling, both Spätlese and Auslese), I found a recent tour of California wineries to be a revelation. My usual table wines are simple, crisp and fruity. What you taste at the beginning is generally what you taste all the way through.

California wines are intensely complex. Peppery, buttery, with hints of leather or notes of raspberry and plum. There are overtones and undertones and starts and finishes—and that’s before aeration, which adds even more richness and nuance.

My question is—why? Even a simple LA grocery store Muscatel was a medley of flavors. Why all the complexity?

One big reason surprised me.

The wineries are trying to stand out. They need to differentiate themselves from the French and Italian, German and Portuguese, Australian and Brazilian; they’re competing with a whole world’s worth of well-established, famous wines.

As an author and musician, I understand scrabbling to find your audience. Pushing to be heard as a single voice in a choir of millions is hard. The California wineries helped me better understand why some books sell while similar books languish. It isn’t that they’re necessarily better written. Those bestsellers are new in a way that stands out from the rest. They grab attention by being piquantly different.

So how’s this for complexity? Biting Love—spicy stories with powerful vampires, overtones of action, notes of humor, undertones of sex and a finish of music and love.

Real vampires do musicals.

Biting Oz (Biting Love Book 5)

Gunter Marie “Junior” Stieg is stuck selling sausage for her folks in small-town Meiers Corners. Until one day she’s offered a way out—the chance to play pit orchestra for a musical headed for Broadway: Oz, Wonderful Oz.

But someone is threatening the show’s young star. To save the production, Junior must join forces with the star’s dark, secretive bodyguard, whose sapphire eyes and lyrical Welsh accent thrill her. And whose hard, muscular body sets fire to her passions.

Fierce as a warrior, enigmatic as a druid, Glynn Rhys-Jenkins has searched eight hundred years for a home. Junior’s get-out-of-Dodge attitude burns him, but everything else about her inflames him, from her petite body and sharp mind to what she can do with her hip-length braid.

Then a sensuous, insidious evil threatens not only the show, but the very foundations of Meiers Corners. To fight it, Junior and Glynn must face the truth about themselves—and the true meaning of love and home.

Warning: Cue the music, click your heels together, make a wish and get ready for one steamy vampire romance. Contains biting, multiple climaxes, embarrassing innuendos, ka-click/ka-ching violence, sausage wars and—shudder—pistachio fluff. 

Mary Hughes is a computer consultant, professional musician, and award-winning author. At various points in her life she has taught Taekwondo, worked in the insurance industry, and studied religion. She is intensely interested in the origins of the universe. She has a wonderful husband (though happily-ever-after takes a lot of hard work) and two great kids. But she thinks that with all the advances in modern medicine, childbirth should be a lot less messy.

Visit Mary at http://MaryHughesBooks.com.



Tuesday, January 16, 2024

3T Writing Tidbit

Here's something I've struggled with since re-entering the workforce and having to create How-To documents. What's the different between writing to inform and writing to entertain?

In a nutshell, one is dry and boring. The other is lively and fun! 

Well, maybe that's a little too nutshelly. Here's another look.

Writing to inform is information straight through. As one famous method puts it:

  • Here's what I'm going to tell you.
  • I tell you.
  • Here's what I've just told you.

Writing to entertain, though, is different. At its most basic, it's information with a twist. If we put it in the same format, it would be

  • Here's what I'm going to tell you.
  • Except I can't tell you because ninjas have just entered the room. I fight back and win.
  • But not before they've broken my whiteboard and turned my notes into a flurry of paper snow.

Much more entertaining, yes? The good news is, we can bring some of that into our dry, boring How-Tos. 

I used to think changing toner was a horrid, thankless job. (Picture of worker with a face full of toner and surprised look.) But now I know I have to follow these simple steps. (Outline steps.)

Maybe not appropriate for every audience, but think about ways you can get just a little creative with your business prose.

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, 2024

2T Repeat Performance - why I write what I write

I've done a number of blog tours over the years, posting on different sites. Now I'm bringing them to you!

Originally published August 29, 2012 for Pretty Opinionated

I’m halfway through an amazing virtual book tour for my new release Biting Oz, with the awesome Promotional Book Tours. I’d like to pause for a moment to tell people why I write what I write.

I write romance because I love the attraction leading to a deep relationship. It fascinates and energizes me. I write explicit sex because as a reader I’ve felt too often euphemisms like “core” are thrown in without a lot of thought. Hey, my core is my heart or my soul, not my lady parts. I write action because I enjoy it. I write vampires because I adore strong males and vampires are the ultimate alphas. I write humor because I see the world through glasses set slightly askew.

My goal is to take the reader away for a while. I still hear that old bath oil commercial “Calgon, take me away!” when I say that :) I consider my books to be less an escape and more a safe place. Sure, I work very hard to make the stories fun. But more. There are people who have been badly hurt by life. For them, even the brush of a negative emotion can be like a severe blow. So in the Biting Love stories I craft each emotionally-charged moment like a puff of air. Most people will say, nice breeze, but to me, there’s a difference between light and deliciously delicate.

What else? Well, there’s always a theme but I’m never hammering a message. There are some heart-stopping moments and some squirm-in-your-chair ones too. But by the finish of the book you should wind up feeling good about things, and find something to cheer about at the end.



Tuesday, December 19, 2023

3T Writing Tidbit

We're delving into another of the three elements of story: character. (The three elements being character, setting, and plot 😄) I'm not going in any special order with these. 

Last month we built a character starting with an archetype. The last piece was Goal, Motivation, Conflict, a huge subject in its own right.

So let's put it in a nutshell, shall we?




Just fill that in and you're good to go!

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

Okay, maybe it needs just a little more 🙂. How about an example?

Here's my matrix for Kat in Night's Kiss. I switched the headings because to me, the internal goal is the underlying "why" for the external goal. External goal why? Because internal goal.

NAME:Kat Kean 
GOALKill all vampires, especially King Vamp.
Fight back against the evil suckers.
MOTIVERevenge against the suckers who killed her parents and traumatized her sister.
Never feel helpless again.
CONFLICTKing Vamp is hard to kill and harder to find.
She's falling in love with a vampire.


Tuesday, December 12, 2023

2T Repeat Performance - 6 questions

I've done a number of blog tours over the years, posting on different sites. Now I'm bringing them to you!

Originally published August 24, 2012 for Identity Discovery

1. How did you come up with the name Biting Oz?

The long way around :) And with much good help. For most of the rest of the Biting Love series, I’d been riffing off of song titles--Bite My Fire, The Bite of Silence, Biting Me Softly--so I originally titled this Biting the Rainbow, like Judy Garland’s signature song but with bite. Anyway, The Powers That Be thought there might be some confusion as to the type of book it is, so they asked for a title change. Note, this is a good thing. My first book sold was titled Nixie: A Biting Novel of Passion, Punk Rock, and Polkas. TPTB thankfully changed it to Biting Nixie. Anyway, I’d done a short story prequel last year (which originally was Off To Bite the Wizard but which readers kindly informed me via a poll should be Oz Bites. They knew much, much better than me). My editor liked Oz Bites, but since it was already taken, we played with alternatives. Biting Oz was the happy result.

2. How much research did you have to do for all the sausage references?

A lot. I do far more research than I need to for most things, so the story is as solid as possible. I looked up how to make sausage, what the various ingredients are, how they’re seasoned...you name it. Then I match the reference to the mood at the time. Our heroine Junior does not make humorous sausage references when she’s in the midst of a tragedy. Some of my references simply come out of growing up where I did. Wurst, brats, and beer were just part of life. Made for some great cookouts :)

3. Why didn't Junior ever move out of her parents place even if she wasn't leaving the city?

Money. Her full-time job was her folks’ store. She wasn’t earning any cash--what little profit the store made went to things like the family’s food and clothes. The only cash she got was from the gigs she did, and that wasn’t enough to pay for outside rent and utilities.

4. What was in the cheese that caused the town to go crazy?

Camille spiked it with drugs both highly addictive and hallucinogenic. Those drugs weren’t part of the cheese originally, though the hydrogen was.

5.what is the history between Glynn and Camille?

Oh, there’s a grand question. About eight hundred years ago, Glynn and Camille and a few others were made vampires around the same time. The young vampires met up and banded together, to survive, to find blood and comfort, and to keep each other from going rogue.

As a human, Camille was an ambitious woman at a time in history when that often meant realizing ambition through a man via sex. Before becoming a vampire, she’d trained as a courtesan. She was used to working through men, used to working outside of society’s strict boundaries. She still uses that early training today. She wants to be universally desired but suspects in her heart of hearts that she's not. So she keeps trying to prove men can't resist her and is piqued when they do. Since she’s willing to fight dirty and backstab to get what she wants, the men in her life need to be on their toes.

Vampires are sexually charged creatures. Glynn and Camille, as well as the rest of their small band, were lovers. But because of vampires’ blood-tracking sense, blood is shared only among the very closest of friends, allies, and lovers; none of the youngsters were blood lovers. For the first hundred years Camille was sweet although not exclusive--none of them were. As she grew more confident, then became cocky, she decided she wanted to found her own household (although she would use her humans, not live in harmony with them. She thinks vampires are better than humans). She wanted to use the strongest vampire of their group, Glynn, as her enforcer, planning to hold him to her with sex. Glynn objected to her keeping people like a herd of bloodsheep. His rejection broke up their group because he appealed to the other vampires' better natures and got them to walk out with him. Though she says otherwise, Camille has never forgiven him for any of it, for getting the rest to leave her, for screwing up her nefarious plans, and especially not for rejecting her.

6. I haven't read any of the other books in this series (but I want to). Would you mind sharing a little about the series in general and where it is heading?

The series started when I combined everything I’d gotten good feedback on in my writing (humor, first person, riveting action sequences) with vampires. The first story, Bite My Fire, was centered in the little German-settled town of Meiers Corners, which is outside of Chicago, and was about a local murder. The series started expanding when the nearby cadre of bad-guy vampires, the Coterie, started trying to take over the Meiers Corners blood center. The problems will escalate as the scope of the series gets bigger. For example, the next planned book takes place mostly in Minneapolis, although the book after that will return to Meiers Corners. Some of the storylines will also turn a bit darker and more serious. In the next book there’s an embedded mini-novella that reveals the secret of vampire healing in a rather terrifying way. I have four heroes definitely planned and a handful more that readers have been asking about. Currently I’m planning the end of the series to feature the Ancient One.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

3T Writing Tidbit

We're delving into another of the three elements of story: character. (The three elements being character, setting, and plot 😄) I'm not going to go in any special order with these. 

There are a ton of ways to develop characters. Here's one that builds on July's introduction of archetypes.

Start with a character archetype.
Add specific characteristics.
Build a backstory.
Give them quirks, faults, flaws, characteristic(s) in contradiction with the archetype.
And then the pièce de résistance: GMC, or goal, motivation, and conflict. More about that next month!

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.