Tuesday, May 14, 2024

2T Repeat Performance - questions for guest authors

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

Originally published October 11, 2012 for See Jane Publish

Q1. Tell us about your publishing journey.

Laying awake in bed as a kid, I got through the long, dark nights by telling myself stories. My mother liked cafe curtains and my room faced the street and people could see in, so I shivered under the covers and gave all my stories happy endings. Later I got full curtains and turned to romance. Soon I started writing the stories down. Many many years later I started selling them.

I think my journey mirrors that of many authors. For years I wrote a lot and worked on craft—taking classes and entering contests and submitting and getting rejected—but I didn’t get serious about selling until 2006. In 2008 I threw everything I did well, humor, sex, romance, action and vampires into Biting Nixie, a novel that I think sings, and sent it to The Editor. The Editor (or Agent or Publisher) is the one you want to sell to with your whole heart, and to get her interested you pull out all the stops including the 32 foot Bombard (pipe organ stop that shakes whole buildings). The Editor bought four of my books and started me on my career.

The journey isn’t over. I still get rejections, and editors and houses change. But I keep learning, and most of all I keep writing because that’s what I do to make myself whole.
 
Q2: What's the funniest thing to happen to you along your road to publication and what was the most exciting?

Funniest: Getting The Email and thinking Yay! At long last, I know enough about Writing to Get Published, then finding out I knew nothing about Editing, Selling Thy Book, Developing an Internet Presence, What Makes a Good Cover, Writing a Tag Line, Giving a Pitch, Writing a Blurb, Book Signings, Attending Conferences…I still grin at how much there was to learn. ☺ And of course, I’m still studying craft each day to be a better writer.

Most exciting: Hearing Donald Maass speak. He gave a workshop on the breakout novel, full of solid, useful information, delivered with such power that I’ll never forget it.
 
Q3: What has been the most challenging thing related to publishing you've had to deal with on your journey?

Selling. To reach readers you have to sell. If you go the traditional route you have to sell to an editor or agent or publisher. If you indie publish you sell directly to the reader. But either way your goal is to reach your readers and that means putting your book and yourself out there. I’m a self-effacing introvert (I enjoy people and have many good friends; it’s just that I get my energy from ideas instead of parties), so getting out there without shredding myself has been, um, interesting.
 
Q4: Who is your favorite author, and what are you currently reading?

Author, as in singular? Eek. How can I choose from Conan Doyle, Elizabeth Peters, Lara Adrian, Dorothy Dunnett, Rex Stout, Sherrilyn Kenyon, J.D. Robb, Charles Stross, Janet Evanovich or Jim Butcher? Right now I’m rereading David & Leigh Eddings’ Belgarath the Sorcerer, reading Janet Evanovich’s second Lizzie & Diesel book, and I’m on the library’s waiting list for the latest Richard Castle ☺
 
Q5: What's coming up next for you?

Does December 21, 2012 ring any bells? That date features in Black Diamond Jinn (A Hot SF/Fantasy Novella). “The Mayan Doom is real. Government witch Amaia Jones has the spreadsheet to prove it.”

And I’m thrilled to announce that summer of 2013 will see the release of Beauty Bites, the next book in my Biting Love series! Briefly—When top ad man Ric Holiday says no to designing a campaign for the quaint city of Meiers Corners, Scandinavian smorgasbord of a woman Dr. Synnove Byornsson is sent to change his mind. Ric won’t go near the place because of an evil master vampire who put a price on Ric’s head. But Synnove is gorgeous and sexy—and won’t take Ric’s no for an answer. What’s a vampire to do when a woman like a bright summer’s day comes along, and he’s desperate for sunshine?

Mary Hughes is a computer consultant, professional musician, and 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.

Biting Oz (Biting Love Book 5)

Real vampires do musicals.

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.

 

 

Black Diamond Jinn (A Hot SF/Fantasy Novella)

Have sex, avert doom, save the world.

 

The Mayan Doom is real. Government witch Amaia Jones has the spreadsheet to prove it.

Amaia is a research wizard living uncomfortably in the shadow of her famous Venus-magic parents. Then she discovers the world is ending. Tonight. Her bulldog of a boss not only refuses to believe her, he won't give her the secret to calling the one force powerful enough to help—the jinn. Amaia turns to her mental guardian angel, Rafe, the darkly handsome presence who has comforted her since her parents died.

Rafe has a secret of his own. He's a black diamond jinni, the deadliest and most powerful of his kind. An enemy is ruthlessly using blood sacrifice to stoke Y12 public panic. But Rafe can't get into the human realm to stop the Doom unless Amaia calls him, and she is threatened by his scorching sensuality.

Amaia's guardian angel is a stunning jinni and suddenly her job is far more complicated. Jinn take their pound of flesh in exchange for magical help, but the only flesh Rafe wants is hers, taut with delight. Sounds great, except Venus magic is what killed her parents' love. But with four hours to go on humanity's darkest night, the only alternative to surrendering her flesh may be surrendering her life.

This title contains explicit sexual language and may not be suitable for all readers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

3T Writing Tidbit

Backstory. Love to hate it. One writing guru suggests cutting all backstory in the first 3 chapters and using a very miserly hand with any after that.

The reason backstory is so maligned is that it's often an info dump. And an info dump is often a lazy writer not bothering to write the scenes that would show the info in a more entertaining way.

But sometimes, even if you're not lazy, you find yourself needing to stick in a piece of information the reader needs to know to understand a scene. So what do you do?

Here are a couple suggestions.

Just stick the info in, with as few words as humanly possible. If you need to know a sword has the ability to behead vampires, say, "I pulled out my sword, sharp enough to slice hair -- or a vamp's spine." 

Stick the info in, in an entertaining way. Like, while two characters are taking a bath. Naked people in water generally intrigue us. Or use humor. Call your sword The Spine-slicer 2000.

Make it a scene, with a full compliment of goal-conflict-dubious resolution.

If you simply must dump in a couple paragraphs of backstory or explanation, at least put someone in danger first, or raise an important question. Most readers will slog through a bit of tedium to get to the resolution. 

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, April 9, 2024

2T Repeat Performance - Behind the Scenes: An Editor in Action

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

Originally published October 11, 2012 for FF&P

Behind the Scenes: An Editor in Action

What does an editor really bring to the process? Don’t they just catch typos and grammar mistakes?

Well, no.

I’m thrilled to be able to share a few insights from an actual first-pass edit that brilliant editor Christa Desir made on my latest vampire romance, Biting Oz.

This simple change ramps the sentence from basic showing to yikes! Heroine and pit musician Junior is late getting to the theater and about to miss the downbeat.


“Overture, please.” Up front the pit director called the musicians to attention.

Before: I forked fingers into my hair, forgetting my scalp-tight braid, and nearly tore out hair.

After: I forked fingers into my hair, forgetting my scalp-tight braid, and nearly tore out a chunk.

Sometimes the editor not only points out character blind spots, but paves the way for better character and relationship development. Here heroine Junior is in the pit with friends Nixie and Julian (who is also a lawyer), when she sees hero Glynn chasing suspicious, Gollum-like Steve across the stage.

 

Before: “Stay here.” Julian snapped to his feet, one hand on [Nixie’s] shoulder. “Stay out of trouble.” He vaulted onto stage and dashed after Misters Gollum and Gorgeous on very long legs of his own. {Editor’s comment: So why isn’t Junior wondering why Julian is getting all up in this business? Crazy stuff happens all the time in the theater and the pit pretty much ignores it.}

 

After: “Stay here.” Julian snapped to his feet, one hand on her shoulder. “Stay out of trouble.” He vaulted onto stage and dashed after Misters Gollum and Gorgeous on very long legs of his own. Nixie sat.

“What was all that about?” I asked.

She shrugged. “They’re trying to catch Steve to ask for a headset? It’s theater people. Who knows.”

“Julian is theater?”

“No. But if there’s any trouble he’s the suit who’ll have to deal with it, with his Lawyerly Loquaciousness. He’s probably just mitigating the risk factors or whatever has more syllables than is healthy.”

“I see.” I didn’t, but had given up figuring out the weirdness that seemed to follow Nixie around.

 An editor’s strategic pruning will make for maximum emotional impact.

 

Before: Glynn saw my dilemma. Brilliant guy that he was, he glided to the door and did his vampire compulsion thing. “Inside, please. Form the line here.”

I loved him a little more in that moment.

He shepherded them all in and shut the door, then nudged the line to wind through the aisles. Oh wonderful man. Vampire. Whatever. I didn’t think I could love him any more.

Until he got behind the counter and started bagging.

Keeper.

{Editor’s comment attached to second highlighted sentence: So you need to either drop this one or the earlier one bc it feels redundant.}

 

After: Glynn saw my dilemma. Brilliant guy that he was, he glided to the door and did his vampire compulsion thing. “Inside, please. Form the line here.”

He shepherded them all in and shut the door, then nudged the line to wind through the aisles. Oh wonderful man. Vampire. Whatever. I didn’t think I could love him any more.

Until he got behind the counter and started bagging.

Keeper.

 Am I the only writer who gets so myopic with plot nuances that the characterization suffers? Thank goodness the editor catches motivation fails.

Hero Glynn visits villain Camille to convince her to stay away from heroine Junior. Here’s how I ended the scene.

 

Glynn left. He’d gotten what he came for—Camille had agreed to leave Junior alone.

But his headache had returned, perhaps because he knew the value of the word of the queen of lies. As empty as that pile of nothing {Editor’s comment: Which makes this entire visit an exercise in futility. You need to work harder in this scene to get him to try and draw out the old Camille. Make him believe perhaps he can change her mind.}

Needless to say, that’s exactly what I did.

 

Here’s an example of inadequate scene conflict coupled with character motivation failure. Heroine Junior goes to villain Camille’s bar to ask her to return hero Glynn’s tokens of home. Camille says no and Junior makes a rude gesture and leaves. {Editor’s comment: This whole previous scene doesn’t really work to me. [Junior] goes and asks for the knickknacks and Camille won’t tell her so she leaves? I think at the very least, you need her snooping around, trying to hunt around the place to see if Camille hid them somewhere. Which will also give you the excuse you need to stumble on all the rooms instead of Junior just being nosy. Then Camille can find her and they can have that conversation. Then, I think Camille needs to throw her out (w/ help of bodyguards) so we feel like she at least tried. As it stands, she has accomplished nothing and it seems silly for her to have even gone.} The editor’s version was obviously better so I rewrote the scene.

And best of all, an editor will encourage you to keep writing. At the end of the first chapter, blue-eyed friend Julian is warning heroine Junior not to go out for drinks with hero Glynn and young stage star Mishela.

 

“Junior, the thing is, Mishela and Glynn aren’t like you and Rocky.”

[Julian] was warning me off, just like Nixie…no, not just like Nixie, because of Nixie. The bricky titch had pulled a Business Maneuver #5—siccing a well-meaning relation on me. (Cousin Liese had tried to get me to talk her mom out of marrying a reformed badboy. It backfired because I kind of liked Race.) “Not like us? Are they brain-sucking zombies? Space aliens?” I gasped. “Mimes?”

“No, of course not.” He looked away. “Not exactly.”

“Then what? Exactly.”

“Well, I…” Frustration shaded his features. “I can’t say.” His eyes returned to mine and they were an eerie shade of violet. “But be very careful.”

That shook me. Smiling to cover it, I latched onto Rocky’s arm and pulled her out the door. He watched me with those strange violet eyes the whole way.

{Editor’s comment: Outstanding chapter one!!! }

 Biting Oz (Biting Love Book 5)

Real vampires do musicals.

 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 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://www.MaryHughesBooks.com.

 


Tuesday, March 19, 2024

3T Tidbit

Anticipation - Challenge - Reward: for progress in something that's meaningful to you, where do you get the dopamine rush? 

I read up on game theory a while back. I've forgotten most of it, but that little note seems to have come from that exploration.

Answer: The dopamine is in the anticipation. That's why it we sometimes dwell on the planning of things that will never happen. The challenge getting there is great, and the reward may never be better than what we're getting now. Who hasn't mentally spent a bonus ten times over before it's received or bought a lottery ticket for the sheer joy of imagining all the ways of spending the winnings? Even though the chance of getting hit by lightning is greater and the bonus will depressingly go for repairs?

Good news for writers, though! Challenges that are mundane and take years in real life become significant and life-affirming when lived vicariously through fiction. Ups and downs are exaggerated into a thrilling rollercoaster of a ride. The quiet satisfaction of a job well done or new level of expertise claimed fictionalized into the rewards that would actually outstrip the rush of anticipation.

So when you write, make sure you take advantages of all the stages. Your hero's going up against the bad guy? Don't shortchange anticipation of how the fight might go, good and bad, or who in your hero's life might be affected. Make sure the challenge is worth the anticipation, and most important of all, make sure the reward is commensurate with the hero's fight, because the reader must feel the hero has earned it.

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, March 12, 2024

2T Repeat Performance - Vegas Dancers, Jane Austen, and All Their Jewelry

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 18, 2012 for Nine Naughty Novelists

Vegas Dancers, Jane Austen, and All Their Jewelry

Dressing for a great date. Shimmy into that little black dress or those long-legged jeans and tiny sweater that does everything for what’s on top. Sweep color onto cheekbones and long lashes. Pop open the jewelry box for a glittering final touch of gold, silver, platinum or pewter. Or diamonds, turquoise, zirconium or pearls. Go with chunky and bold or sleek and elegant?

Stand back and look in the mirror. Is it too little? Too much? What’s right?

My college music teacher used to say, “Composing is like a woman choosing her jewelry. She selects carefully to complement her clothes and her mood. She put on a piece here, then picks up a contrasting color or texture there. She never wears all her jewelry at once.”

She meant it for music but I still hear her voice, decades later, when I look in my jewelry box. “Don’t put on all your jewelry.”

But what’s tasteful for a business professional would be horrible for, say, Vegas dancers. They’re a symphony of glitter and color—and that’s right for the bright stage lights. Makeup, too, is dependent on conditions. A rock star’s stage makeup would have office clerks screaming “Clown!”, but it’s brilliant under the searing spotlight.

Writing is like that. The heroine who would have “nudged fundament” in Jane Austen’s time can kick ass in ours. The world is bigger, the lights are brighter, the stakes are higher. We can throw more styles together too. In Bram Stoker’s time vampires meant horror. My books spice up vampires with sex, action, and romance. And in the case of my new release Biting Oz, it’s topped off with a touch of glittering theater.

Biting Oz (Biting Love Book 5)

Real vampires do musicals.

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 author. At various points in her life she has taught Taekwondo, worked in the insurance industry, and studied religion. 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, 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 Sp├Ątlese 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.