Tuesday, May 10, 2022

2T Performance - 6 Questions for Mary Hughes

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

Originally published May 16, 2011 for Sarah

6 Questions for Mary Hughes

Sarah, thanks so much for having me here today!

Welcome, Mary, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Basics: wife and mother, earn my living with my passions―writing, computer programming, and playing flute. I think and read way too much but compensate for it by listening a lot more than I talk.

At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
My first experience with writing was transcribing my favorite story, Bambi, at age seven via an old Underwood manual typewriter. I started typing my own stories on a new PC when pregnant with my first child. I made my first sale twenty years later (I tended to write two novels for every rejection I got :)

The Call (or The Email actually) came after an unlikely sequence of events. I like combining weird things so tend to be ahead of the market (like mashing mystery and paranormal, which twenty years ago just didn't sell). I'd gotten totally fed up with rejections and let loose, writing a story incorporating all the things I knew I did well. It combined vampires, action, comedy, and explicit sex and I had a total ball writing it. But when it came to selling it, well, nobody was buying all that in one package.

Until an anthology call from the amazing Samhain Publishing asked for exactly that. I wrote a shortie in the series and submitted it. It didn't make the anthology but was passed on to another editor who requested revisions. Since I had a full-length novel in the series ready, I asked to submit that in the meantime. She read it, loved it, and bought it.

What is the hardest scene you had to write in this piece? (Biting Me Softly)
I write stories that are explicit in both sex and language, packed with action and definitely mature. But I also think they're emotionally safe stories. I'm not going to kill off any good guys or seriously compromise their morality. So I always work hardest on the scenes that poke at a soreness in an important relationship. In this book my heroine Liese deals with her mom going rebellious because the mom's dealing with cancer. Heavy topics and potentially dangerous so I work very hard on painting the topics honestly but with a light enough brush that they're dramatic but not maudlin. It's a delicate balance.

What was your first reaction when you got a glimpse of your cover art?
I drooled. Honestly, I'd buy this one for the cover alone :D

Which of your novels most reflects who you are as a writer?  Why?
Probably Bite My Fire. It was the first I wrote in the series, but I learned so much after publishing Biting Nixie that I went back and rewrote Fire. Then my editor had more changes and I did another rewrite on the beginning three chapters. Of all my books, I think Fire was the one that I most had to use technique rather than muse.

As an author, what makes a book great in your eyes?
Half is clean vivid prose. Dorothy Dunnett can do more with a single character gesture than most authors can in a whole chapter. The other half is compelling story, but compelling is mostly dictated by a reader's personal taste.

What advice would you give to the new/unpublished author?
Write the story inside you that demands to be told. Then put it away and write another. Take out the first after you've forgotten what you wrote. Read it like a reader, not the author. Mark the places you're uncomfortable. You may not know how to fix them right away, but it's the first step in learning the vital art of self-editing.

“Never give up” is great advice too, but I think superfluous. If you're an author, you can't give up. You're always writing, if only telling yourself stories in your head.

Oh, and make a card that says “SUCCESS” and post it where you can see it. That's you, baby.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you began your writing career?
How about the three things I wish I hadn't known? :)  When you're published you have to deal with negative reviews, marketing yourself, and challenging yourself to get better at your craft every day. I knew all that and wondered if I would be up to it, which scared me, which really ended up making me doubt myself and my writing. Which I think delayed my getting published at least a decade.

The fact is, you'll learn what you need and do what you need to in order to reach your readers. In the context of reaching readers, it all becomes much less frightening. It's a lot of hard work (and negative reviews still blow), but understandable, good work.

If someone wrote a biography about you, what should the title be?
The Introverted Performer

Is there anything you would like to ask your readers?
Dear Reader: What makes a story memorable to you?

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

3T Writing Tidbit

As I was learning the craft of writing, sometimes I got a little confused about the proper way to do things. Here are a couple rules of thumb I picked up. As with any rule of thumb, this is a guide, not a set of commandments.

  • On paragraphing: A description of him from her perspective belongs in her paragraph.
  • On placement of adverbs: -ly word goes with its verb. It suddenly flared, not suddenly it flared.
  • Act II belongs to the villain.
  • The inciting incident has the climax embedded in 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, April 12, 2022

2T Repeat Performance -- Meet Electricity

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

Originally published May 11, 2011 for Vivi Andrews

Meet Electricity

Boy meets girl. That first collision of eyes, the first sucked breath of recognition. That tingle of awareness that signals an unexpected attraction. Or zap, if it's really strong.

I love the electricity of the first meet. So I always include it in my stories, usually with a twist (because that's just how I am :) Here are three.

Biting Me Softly
(“I” is Liese, a computer programmer)
When I first clapped eyes on Logan, I thought, Hot damn. Look what the Sex Fairy brung me!

It was eight p.m. Sunday night. I don’t know what made me look up. The cool March air, perhaps. Maybe the aroma wafting in, mystery and magic with overtones of raw sex.

Whatever it was, my eyes lifted and there he was, the most stunning male I’d ever seen. Smack-me-between-the-eyes gorgeous. Bright blond hair rippled to broad, muscular shoulders. Lean strength roped a long, lithe body. Laughter and intelligence sparked gold-flecked hazel eyes. Perfect lips curved in a smile so sensuous it made my innards go bang.

Then he opened his mouth and spoke. Talk about ruining perfection.

“Hello, gorgeous.” His tone was deep and lazy. “I want to speak to the computer man in charge.”

Right. Well that just spoiled everything, didn’t it?

Biting Nixie (“I” is Nixie, a 5-foot-zero punk rocker)
Schleck’s face went red as a stoplight. His hand jerked back—to hit me.  But no shedding bully-blood in the mayor’s office meant I would have to take it. I squeezed my eyes shut.

Nothing landed.

“I believe you’re out of line, sir.”

The voice was deep and cultured. The words resonated with an accent I couldn’t immediately place. Proud, almost aristocratic. I cautiously popped one eye open.

Strong, sure fingers held Schleck’s wrist in an unbreakable grip. The vice-principal’s face was white as he stared up. And up. I followed that stare, and—

Towering over us both was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. 

Bronzed skin. Black hair and brows. Outrageously long black eyelashes sweeping over laser-sharp blue eyes. Sensuous dark bronze mouth. A jaw made to run your fingers over. Lean muscular body with biteable shoulders and a flat waist. He made a Chippendale look like a cub scout.

Gorgeous Guy stared down at Schleck with cool contempt. Schleck, like bullies everywhere, cut and ran. Gorgeous Guy released the veep-creep as if he were slime.

Wow. Not only man-beautiful, but the guy oozed strength. No, more. Power. Power, the kind restrained by a tremendous will. I could have fallen in love. Could have, but not.

The guy was wearing a fucking three-piece suit. Vest and all. Seriously, had anyone worn those since the ancient eighties?

Bite My Fire (“I” is Elena, 5'9” and all cop)
I spun. Went for my gun. “Hold it right there…!”

My voice died in my throat. My XD pressed against the most amazing abs I’d ever seen. Washboard, eight-pack…whatever, licking those abs would be like tongue-surfing warm ocean waves.

A black tee stretched in all the right places over a torso ripped enough to star in 300. Bronzed cannon arms, dusted with blond hair, crossed over a battleship chest.

Very male. And very big. Viking big. With him, even my five-nine felt petite. I choked on a whimper as my eyes continued helplessly up.

Strong, corded neck. And his face…sweet Suzy’s Cream Cheesecakes. Warrior big and warrior gorgeous. Cheekbones cut from granite, arching blond brows, carved jaw. Thick wavy blond hair. Eyes the brilliant blue of the Mediterranean in summer. A fiercely beautiful face, the kind that jolts you in the gut.

But big, bad and yummy here was a stranger. Worse, he was wandering near a murder scene. Alone. By the Big Book of Police Rules, that made him a suspect.

Thanks so much to Vivi for having me here today!

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

3T Writing Tidbit

One of the realities of the writing life is that after you've written your amazing perfect story, you've got to entice people to read it.

So we all have hooks, those things that make us go Ah! or Wow! For many of us, these hooks are in the form of a stereotype.

Ugh, no! Not the STEREOTYPE.

Do you like brand better? or how about archetype? Whatever you call it, it's a character or trope or situation that's deep-rooted in our very psyche, and it gets our interest.

But here's the tidbit. Excite the reader with the stereotype -- then add a twist. Go off at a right angle or 180 degrees or swing your partner do-si-do all the way around. It freshens up the stereotype, it makes it your own, it gives it the pizzazz it needs to go from Ah! or Wow! to I want.

The sweet, shy maiden who gets stubborn when you threaten her friends.

The hooker with the heart of gold who's actually an undercover agent.

The up and coming rock star with an identical twin brother who is undercover and can't afford to be outed.

Go wild!

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 8, 2022

2T Repeat Performance -- Contrast

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

Originally published May 2, 2011 for Star Shadow


I visited Alaska for the first time last week. I’d done some research and knew Anchorage was a good-sized city near the Gulf of Alaska, and that mountains were nearby. So I wasn't expecting any surprises. I’d seen mountains before, rising from the plains in Colorado. I’d seen water before, the Pacific in San Diego and the Atlantic in Florida. I’d seen cities before, from Boston to Kansas City, from Chicago to Houston.

What I didn’t understand though, was that in Anchorage, the mountains and water and city are right on top of each other.

No gentle foothills swelling from the Plains. No long beaches lapped by ocean tides. Mountains thrust from water, and are the city's backdrop scrim. The contrast is abrupt. Stark.


Writing must also be compelling, so contrast is vital. Which leads me to taglines. After the book's cover snags the reader's attention, the tagline and blurb are story capsules to draw the reader into trying a page or two. 

Sharp contrast makes these short capsules sing. Here are three of mine.

  • He’s a candy box of sex appeal wrapped with a golden bow. She’s on a diet. (Biting Me Softly)
  • Nitro? Meet glycerin... (Biting Nixie)
  • At last, the perfect lover. Now what? Stake him, shoot him—or love him? (Bite My Fire)

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

3T Writing Tidbit

Here's a bit of a wayback. I used to have an Author Tool Bag. I'd include various sites that had information I found useful. And at the end of the tool bag post:

My Author Tool Bag features sites I use in writing, editing, and marketing. It's stuff I've found online. The usual caveats apply--no recommendations either expressed or implied, don't click on blind links, have a good antivirus, etc. You know the drill. 

 Hey whaddya know, it's still good advice, lol.

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 8, 2022

2T Repeat Performance -- Why Do I Write Fantasy?

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

Originally published April 28, 2011 for Amber Polo

Why do you write fantasy?

To me, fantasy is an integral part of life. It’s that sense of wonder, the ability to see the amazing beauty and variety all around you. It’s the fun, the joy, the wow that makes life worth living. I think that, since fantasy is the “what if” that enchants everyday life, all stories are imbued with it, from romance to spy thriller to sword and sorcery. 

I write fantasy because it’s got the biggest helping of wow. The most play in “what if”. I write fantasy because that’s the biggest story playground. 

My published books are red-hot vampire romances. Strangely, my favorite novels star mostly wizards: Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, David Eddings’s Belgariad, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I recently discovered Charles Stross’s Laundry FilesbI think the series appeals to the computer programmer in me. My favorite vampire fantasy (and comfort read) is Robin McKinley’s Sunshine

As a reader of fantasy, I love the interplay of possibilities that you can’t get in a regular story. Fantasy can show human nature against incredible backdrops, stretch it to the limits and beyond, pit the soul against truly impossible odds. I think fantasy is for the reader who wants more, and more again.
Not only would I write fantasy if nobody read it, I did, for twenty years!