Tuesday, September 15, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

I've studied story structure a lot, mainly because it's never come naturally to me.

And I have a secret to admit. More on that later.

One of my favorite rules of thumb for starting a story is this: start with your main character doing something interesting that shows their everyday life.

The reason I like this one is because stories are about change, and if you start this way, the end writes itself with a bookend scene. That is, using the opening "everyday" scene, show the main character doing something interesting that shows their everyday life now, after they've changed.

Compare and contrast. Effective, simple. And it wraps things up nicely to see, in the echo of where they started, where they are now.

Here's my little secret: I don't like reading or writing end-of-book sex scenes.

You know, the one where the hero and heroine get it on just one last time? I never got the point. Romance stories to me were about the tension between hero and heroine, and about the slow, sensual surrender to each other and emotional and physical intimacy.

But I've turned around on that one-eighty, and here's why. The Final Sex Scene is a hot/steamy romance story's "after". It demonstrates, in a clear and concrete way, where the couple has come from and who they are now.



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, September 8, 2020

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is a guest post I did before joining.


Mary Hughes Raises the Curtain – with Giveaway!--originally posted June 28, 2012.
Cue the Music, Raise the Curtain
What is it that’s so exciting about live theater? Is it the magic of sitting breathless in the dark with your date or family? Is it the drama of a great story? Is it the glitter of costumes, swirling in dance and song?

Or is it the possibility, however remote, of a train wreck and watching the actors try to bail themselves out?

In my upcoming release, Biting Oz, I take the reader into the world of musical theater as it is seldom seen—from the underside. Heroine Junior Stieg is a musician in the belly of the beast, that is, the pit.

The story’s backdrop is a musical retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The twist? Dorothy is being played by a young vampire. Complication? Someone’s trying to kidnap her. To protect her, Junior joins with Dorothy’s big, sapphire-eyed bodyguard Glynn Rhys-Jenkins. Together they find the true meaning of love and home.

Junior is a marvelous point of view character for me, letting me show the reader both the best and the worst of musical theater. She manages to keep playing through the almost cataclysmically bad dress rehearsal and endures performances where Toto gets bored and licks his, um, scenery. She also gets to help create the magic of the Perfect Show—the one that moves not only the audience, but the whole town, to tears and applause.

I love everything about musical theater: the drama, the humor, the costumes and the music, all of it larger than life. Pit musicians have a unique perspective on that world.  

What do you find exciting about live theater? Is there a perspective you’d find especially interesting in a story?
***
Real vampires do musicals.
Excerpt from Biting Oz. It’s the first full rehearsal and Junior is late. She’s rushing through the house (the audience seating) to get to the pit, but is blocked by a sea of kids/Munchkins. Glynn helps her out.
I set down my instrument bag and blew out my tension. “Wow.
Thanks. I…”
Straightening to his full height of six-OMG, he faced me, emanating strength and energy. Powerful chest muscles pushed into the jacket’s gap right in front of my nose.
I gaped, realized I was starting to drool and looked up.
Sondheim shoot me. His face was all dark, dangerous planes.
His eyes were twin sapphire flames that hit me in the gut. My breath punched out and none came to replace it. Bad news for a wind player.
He turned to set the sax down. I started breathing again.
A tapping caught my ear, the conductor ready to start. I needed to get into that pit now.
Half a dozen kids and two makeup adults were still in my way.
I’d have crawled over the seats myself but my joints weren’t as limber as the kids’…unless I used my black Lara Croft braid as a rope. I was desperate enough to consider it.
The man, turning back, saw my predicament. He lifted my instrument bag and music stand over kids with the same strength and grace as when he’d snatched the tenor. Then he turned to me.
And swept me up into his arms.
An instant of shock, of male heat and rock-hard muscle. A carved face right next to mine, masculine lips beautifully defined—abruptly I was set on my feet beside the pit. The sax landed next to me with a thump.
“There.” His accent was jagged, as if he were as rattled as me.
“There’s your instrument.” He bounded to the back of the theater and was gone.
Biting Oz releases August 14. 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.
Hugs! Mary
http://www.maryhughesbooks.com

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

Writing--art or craft?

Writers argue about this almost as much as pantser versus plotter.

In order to answer the question, you first must answer for yourself what is art (versus craft). I think one of the best explanations I've read recently belongs to Rex Stout, out of the mouth of his genius detective Nero Wolfe. Here's my interpretation of that:

Most detectives work by following leads and asking questions that lead to answers. You can trace backwards--that answer was from that question, and that question was because of that lead.

(Craft, in writing, is following the rules.)

Wolfe arrives at his answers by genius or art. There is no way to trace back from the answer to anything. The answer arrives in his skull fullblown.

(Art, in writing, is when you follow all the rules and the story still doesn't work. It takes a spark of something that can't be reproduced.)

Think about trying to unmake a cake. You can't separate out the eggs, butter, and sugar, you can't work backwards, you can only separate it into crumbs. So though we crafters follow a recipe now to make a cake, nobody before the first cake knew putting eggs, butter, sugar, and flour together and baking it would result in a cake. That was art. (Yes, art is sometimes lots and lots of trial and error until you finally hit something new that works, lol.)

So writing, according to this viewpoint, is mostly craft--and good craft is vital. But the books that breathe, that have an unexpected spark of genius--those are art.


 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, August 11, 2020

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is the last of those posts. (Addendum: I found a guest post I'd done before joining the team. See that next month.)

What day is today?--originally posted November 9, 2016.

Back in my IT days, I worked with a marketing database of a famous car company who shall remain nameless, but whose cars regularly passed the 100K mile mark even back in the bad old 80s (when cars were just starting to come out of the rustbucket gas-guzzling phase).

Now you may not know this, but car model years actually start in fall of the year before. So 2017 models will have released already, and 2018 is on the drawing board. For marketing, since we had to get ahead of the selling curve, this often mean I was dealing with the next year in June.

Sometimes I dated my checks that way.  You remember checks, the paper things we used instead of cash before debit cards, lol.

It was always a relief when January finally came. On the plus side, I never made a mistake dating checks with the old year.

Writing is a lot like that. I sit here on a rainy September day, the window open to 68 F temps, writing a post that will go live in November when it will almost certainly be 30s or low 40s. Working on a book that won't be due until December, and will probably release in 2017 but maybe as late as 2018. A book that's set in October. Still marketing a book that released in August of 2016.Thinking about plots for an April Fools short story.

I am in such trouble if I ever get in an accident. When the EMT asks, "What day is today?" I won't know.

ADDENDUM: This is the last of the old Magical Musings posts, and the issue is even more true than ever. I'm putting these together in February of 2017, gearing up to launch a box set next week that contains a book I wrote in 2013, waiting for edits on a book I wrote in 2016 that I think is coming out late 2017, working on a set of stories for release in 2017 that I originally wrote 20 years ago. Fun!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

One of the things you may have to do is show a character not liking, then learning to like, another character.

This is hard to do right, because if you create too big an antagonism in the beginning, you may never overcome it. Say main character M doesn't like and doesn't trust secondary character S--really upsettingly doesn't like--that may be a hole too deep to dig out of.

Some children still don't like Snape...just sayin'.

Here's one way to handle it (works best with adults).
  • Start: M thinks: We have nothing in common. I'm not sure I like S.
  • Move to: Oh, it'd be wrong to dismiss S as _____. (Some characteristic M doesn't like, say a forthright M might not want to dismiss S as sly).
  • Turning point: Find an important (hidden) thing where M can think: Oh, what a surprise! In this way, we're the same.

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, July 14, 2020

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is another of those posts.

I'm just a big cat--originally posted October 12, 2016.

The internet is a source of amazing information. Apparently, according to one study (http://www.cnet.com/news/scientist-cats-think-you-are-just-a-big-stupid-cat), my son’s cats think I’m just another big (and slightly stupid) cat.

I believe this. It would explain why they cuddle and take the pets sometimes and not others. Why they steal my chair. And why they lay on papers...specifically, bills and manuscripts. They’re saying “Life’s too short to work all the time. Come play with me!”

Although, with all respect to the researcher, there's another explanation.

Cats think they're human! I have pictures to prove it.

[caption id="attachment_28943" align="aligncenter" width="340"]carpetlayercats Carpet Layer Cats: “Nap break!”[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_28944" align="aligncenter" width="434"]editorcat Editor Cat: “I’m sorry, these thirty pages have to go.”[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_28946" align="aligncenter" width="415"]fashioncat Fashion Cat: “Tie one more thing on me, and you’ll see how good my pedicure is.”[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_28945" align="aligncenter" width="500"]princesscat Princess Cat: “Bring me my tuna!”[/caption]

What about you? Do your cats think they’re human, or do they think you’re a cat?

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

Last month I introduced Bruce Campbell's brilliantly simple three-act structure.

Let's complicate it with one simple truth: there is more than one solution to any problem.

Let that sink in. There is one solution to the problem...and another solution which may be better or worse overall, or better for some and worse for others,  or mostly better but with one big drawback...and yet another solution that fits the same puzzle in a different way...and, and, and.

We're taught to think beyond the obvious for the final solution to the main character's problem. Well and good. But don't throw those intermediate solutions away! The great thing about books is that you can explore alternate possibilities.

Paint those alternate solutions via other characters, and use them to compare and contrast--and so heighten--the main character's solution.


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, June 9, 2020

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is another of those posts.

Just how do I market this thing...?--originally posted September 14, 2016.


On to the topic of today's post. I think I've mentioned before that I write steamy, wickedly funny urban fantasy/paranormal romance with plenty of action. It's an olio that's hard to pin down. Like with the movie The Princess Bride, that means it's hard to market.

Too much action for a simple romance. Too much romance for an action book. Too much humor for a gritty paranormal. Too much grit for a hilarious romcom. Too much sex for a romcom too.

So when it came to ordering a trailer for paranormal romance Mind Mates, well, I was expecting a mishmash.

Instead, I got this breathtaking video.


The humor is utterly missing from the trailer. But wow, I'd buy the book just from the beauty of it. I did wonder if I should ask for changes to the trailer, to add the humor, but my husband said, "Let readers discover that as a bonus."

What do you think? Was he right?

Mind Mates: When a powerful wizard prince comes out of hiding to save his sister, he is forced to team with a pretty shifter—one with ugly, dangerous powers of her own. As vengeful enemies close in, a forbidden attraction flaming between them, the two race to find a mysterious key.

AB SmKAREG AppleAUK

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

1T Status Update - June

Is there a customer service department for years? Seriously, someone needs to cash 2020 in for a refund or exchange it for a better year.

In the interest of staying upbeat and positive... (grits teeth and makes with the happy face)

I did finish my final two final projects for my associate degree in software development, one of which was a challenging capstone project with big presentation. So, hooray! On the other hand, I should have been done by now except another class was a lab class so we had to wait until June to return to campus. So there's that. But I have an internship which is the last piece before graduation.

The first draft of Night's Bliss is done except for the denouement. Final school projects and various 2020 pressures means that draft is a little rough, but I have a week now to smooth it out. Then I'll have my usual personal edit passes. On track to send to my editor by end of August.

There's a Rafflecopter! To celebrate Tina Donahue's release of HARD LUST - PNR Reverse Harem, she's holding a Rafflecopter with $365 in GCs plus ebooks from bestselling authors to ONE winner.  https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ec8aae6737/

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

This one is from Bruce Campbell, in his autobiography Hail to the Chin, which is excellent reading (see below if you're interested in checking it out). He gives us the essence of story structure in brilliantly clear language.

A story can be separated into three pieces (the Three Act structure).

I Introduce the problem
II Confront the problem
III Solve the problem


 (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
( As an Amazon Associate
I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Also at Barnes and Noble and iBooks

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, May 12, 2020

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is another of those posts.

photo credit: Monaka & Laptop via photopin (license)
The Strange Places Ideas Come From--originally posted August 17, 2016.


My husband is in IT, running his own data center. He often brings work home, but he loves his job, and I'm happy he's happy—and besides, bringing work home is better than his having to groggily drive out in the middle of the night, which was true of one of his other jobs (I always sent a shot-gunner along to keep him awake in the form of myself or one of our kids, and an extra $20 for coffee, lol).

The thing is, for his current job, sometimes it's not just clients calling. Sometimes the computers call.

Strictly speaking, the servers on the computers that call. Problem is, he's got things set up to send an alert to his phone when a server is in trouble. Whatever time, day or night. Which leads to a story.

Now most times, his phone chirps with a minor problem. We wake up, but after a check, manage to go back to sleep.

Sometimes things get a little crazier.

The second weekend in March is Daylight Savings Time in the Midwest, where we set our clocks forward an hour, and two in the morning becomes three. One of the things the servers check for is power outages, based on--you guessed it--time. If the computer clock is missing so much as five seconds, it sends an alarm.

The phone alarm is a quick whallow-whoop, a small sound, but it can herald huge problems, like the data center crashing. Like a baby's whimper, it doesn't take long for that sound to auto-trigger a flood of stomach acid.

So at three-oh-one a.m. that Sunday, hubby's phone, laying on his nightstand, went crazy. Error-error-error-error...every few seconds it would throw another alarm. Whallow-whoop. Whallow-whoop. It was not a restful night, lol.

The time change is a really great example of how computers think differently than humans. People, faced with Daylight Savings Time, well, we might wake up an hour late and realize we're late for or missed a meeting or church or work. And we say, "Darn, I'm late," and let it go at that. Maybe we grumble a bit and there's fallout and we take care of it.

But computers...they're like dogs, in a way. They'll check the time and cry, "I'm late!" A second later they'll check the time and cry, "I'm still late!" And a second later, "Still late!" ad infinitum, that is FOREVER. Each with equal fervor, as if it's brand new.

Wouldn't that make an awesome story? A human and robot, either partners or in competition, and the human is rubbish at everything compared to the robot until they're in a situation like this?

Seeing the ordinary from a new angle is one place ideas come from.

What about you? Where do your ideas come from?

Less than one week to Mind Mates release and virtual tour! Much giveaway goodness and blog fun.

KindleNookSmashwords | iTunesGoogle Play | Kobo | Kindle UK

Pretty little shifter, wizard prince—their taboo love could burn the barriers between worlds.

When a powerful wizard prince comes out of hiding to save his sister, he is forced to team with a pretty shifter—one with dangerous powers of her own. With vengeful enemies close behind, and forbidden attraction flaming between them, the two must race to find a mysterious key.

 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Monday, April 20, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit--It must be High Concept! But what does that mean...?

Everything must be High Concept!!

Okay, sounds good. But what does that mean? If you ask, you'll get answers like--
  • Life and death!!
  • Galaxies at stake!!
  • Two exclamation points!!
Given these restrictions, I can think of only three different stories to tell. Where's the place for cozy mysteries, gentle reflections, coming of age tales? If it can't sell without a death in it, where's the room for comedy and happily-ever-after endings?

Don't lose hope! I've since seen the show Lucifer and had a shocking idea.

Any concept can be high concept.

What if high concept doesn't just mean humanity teetering on the edge of destruction? What if there's a very simple way to still write those gentler genres--but still make them more?

This is my take on High Concept.

Start with your concept. It'll probably have a couple parts that are in conflict with each other. Raise one of those items (bump it up a level). Then raise the other. Check the new dramatic possibilities. Use them to bump again. Repeat until you can't wait to write it!

Let's take a simple, universal example--

Boy meets girl. They fall in love.

Now bump up the boy. He's the son of a rich Italian family. Hmm... this has possibilities.

Bump up the girl. She's a poor waif in contrast to the rich boy...or wait. Make her the daughter of another rich Italian family...one feuding with the boy's family. This has dramatic possibilities!

Bump up the love. They can't live without each other, so they form a suicide pact. Or wait, they pretend to suicide...or do they? What if one dies and the other kills themselves in grief? What if that tragic resolution reconciles the feuding families?

Yeah. In just three bumps, you've got the archetypal high concept Romeo and Juliet.

From Lucifer: Start with a demon who wants a vacation from hell. Bump it up to Lucifer himself. Bump that up to vacationing in Los Angeles. Bump that to him meeting a detective who doesn't immediately fall in lust with him.

See how, with each bump, the possibilities expand?

Now take your concept and raise it to such dizzying heights you just have to write 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 14, 2020

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is another of those posts.

photo credit: Guess who? :) via photopin (license))
Princess: Pleasure or Pain?--originally posted July 20, 2016.

As part of the Cin Wikkid: April Fools For Love book tour, I did a couple posts on the top 5 pleasures and the top 5 problems of being a princess. As you can see, it's not all fun and games--but the perks might just be worth it!

From last month--my TOP 5 PLEASURES OF BEING A PRINCESS
  1. Sparkly tiara.
  2. Handsome prince. Or an ogre prince, but the key point is, this is your soulmate.
  3. Adventure.
  4. No cooking or cleaning! My personal fave.
  5. Ponies. Matched. Drawing a fancy carriage. ‘Nuff said.
So there are the Perks of Princessdom. But there are two sides to everything (or more!) and that includes princesses.

photo credit: Camilla & Catherine via photopin (license)
TOP 5 PROBLEMS OF BEING A PRINCESS

Frankly, Kate makes being a princess look easy and fun. But while there are a lot of perks to being a princess, there are quite a few down sides as well.

Here are my top 6 (with a tie for #5).
  1. Surely the worst thing about being a princess is those back-breaking, oh-so-fragile glass high heels. Or skyscraper heels of any sort. Sure, they’re gorgeous (yes, I may be whimpering a little in yearning at the shoe pictured here), but what is the price of these beauties in chiropractic and podiatry bills?
  2. Enduring long affairs of state (worse if you’re wearing the back-twisters, above). Although I’ve heard there’s champagne at these gigs, always served on silver trays by waitstaff in crisp black and white uniforms. That probably makes these shindigs worthwhile, or at least more tolerable.
  3. photo credit: Wicked Stepmother. via photopin (license)
    Your very own nemesis. For some of the more adventurous princesses, this may qualify as a perk, lol. But from Wicked Stepmothers to Evil Viziers, you’re in the big leagues now, and that means big problems in the form of an Arch Villain.
  4. Being treated like an object. Unfortunately, there is a form of princess who isn’t star of her own story. Most often in this sad reality, “the girl” is fought over by the Hero and Villain like a juicy steak. She’s trotted out only three times—at the beginning as a rescue goal, in the middle to remind everyone what the stakes are, and at the end as a reward. On the plus side, this kind of princess gets to languish a lot and doesn’t have much work to do.
  5. Tying for number five are two of my personal deal-breakers for princess as a career choice. First, you can’t swear. Ever. Only words like sugarplums can drop from royal lips, or the paparazzi or worse, the Princess Censorship League, get hold of it and bam, it’s time to hang up the royal tiara. Second, a princess doesn’t get a choice of where to rule. Sure, some lucky princesses get Hawaii. But what if you are born or marry into the Kingdom of Northern Freezing Extremities? Good luck finding flattering goose-down gowns. And glass high heels on ice? Whole new meaning to the words "royal pain".
CinWikkid3x4.5What about you? Would you take up the tiara anyway? Any favorite Princessly problems I’ve missed? Let me know! Cin Wikkid: April Fools For Love
 Amazonauk
From award-winning bestselling author Mary Hughes comes a fairytale romance with a twist.


THE WRONGED DAUGHTER Cinderella hungers to escape from under Widow Wikkid's grinding thumb. But to snare a plum job at Prince Industries, Cin desperately needs her degree, and she can't wrap her mind around tax accounting.
Then scarred but sexy Rafe Montoya ignites her imagination with his brilliant tutoring—and, as they work together in his cozy apartment, he sets her body on fire. She thinks he's the one for her, until he starts pushing her to attend Gideon Prince's marriage-mart ball.
THE HANDSOME PRINCE Rafe is really Gideon Prince, head of Prince Industries. He must name his bride by his April first birthday or suffer the loss of his family fortune.
Rumors say he's still single because women love his money and looks, not him. Is he lonely or just another duplicitous tycoon?
THE GLASS SLIPPER TEST Hopefuls flock to Prince's birthday ball, but only the woman who is kind, wise, and generous will win his heart. Is it Cin, or will her stepmother, as she always does, snatch the prize for her own daughters?
And on the night of the ball, when Cin discovers Rafe’s true identity, can she even accept his final test?
Warning: Rags-to-riches fairytale meets the texting generation. Stepsisters who are a blush-brush shy of a full makeup set, and a ball gown built like a tank. Contains material intended for mature audiences. Reader discretion advised.
For anyone who has ever been persecuted or hidden their light under a bushel.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Don't miss the MASSIVE SALE going on now

I'm so grateful for my publisher, Liz Pelletier and Entangled. To help ease the burden of isolation at this difficult time, they're discounting their entire category imprints to 99¢ and putting the first book in all single title series for free. This means for a limited time...

Night's Caress is free. Brie Lark wants nothing to do with her hometown or vampires, but FBI Special Agent Seb Rikare needs her help on a case…in her hometown. And she’s pretty sure he’s a vampire. What’s the worst that can happen?

Bite My Fire is free. Cop Elena packs a gun and an attitude. Master vamp Bo’s the biggest suspect in her murder investigation.

Over a thousand books are sale priced. Find them at

Barnes and Noble All Free/99¢
Kobo 99¢ sale
Kobo free
Google Play free

Also at Amazon, but there's no ability to list by publisher.

*Ebooks are free/discounted at most retailers.

You can find my books at
Amazon As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Apple BN Kobo Google Entangled Amazon UK Amazon CA Amazon AU

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

5T Tossup -- New Release

I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe during this difficult time.
 
An April Fools joke turns deadly for Mo Gaffney. Only the visiting New Orleans grandmaster can save her. 

Now available. 99¢ this week only!

Read Chapter One here.

In honor of April Fools and the brand-new release inspired by it, here's Imgur...

This is why we can’t have nice things
Because chemistry!
My university chem department's idea of an April Fools joke

Pure evil...
I'm a 27 year old, immature father of 3 and husband, and IT'S APRIL FOOLS SOON!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

4T Olio

New Orleans Nobody 99¢ preorder.
Regular $2.99.
Get it before the price goes up!

An April Fools joke turns deadly for Mo Gaffney. Only the visiting New Orleans grandmaster can save her.

New Orleans Nobody 99¢ preorder. Regular $2.99. Get it before the price goes up!

In honor of the upcoming holiday, here's some April Fools fun...

ha ha ha
April Fools, Doc!


Just a little April fool's prankery

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

This is another in my 25 Ways You're Losing Readers (and what you can do about it) series.


Are you losing readers to confusion?

"Tease your reader."

I'll be frank. I don't get it when writing gurus say that. When I write under the influence of "tease" it comes out vague.

Do you have this problem? Do readers say your story is vague or muddled?

How can they say that? You've been teasing them. Don't readers want to be surprised?

Well, yes. Readers want to be surprised. But they want to understand clearly what the mystery is, first.

Let's take a hypothetical murder mystery then compare it to a popular television show.
Hypothetical Mystery: Murder! Look, there's a bunch of clues. Some of them point vaguely at some suspects. Ooh, let's sneak around getting more clues and more suspects. And it's all dark and moody and then suddenly the killer strikes again, but closer! Isn't that mysterious and exciting? LOL.

One of the most endearing television mystery series was Castle. It featured Nathan Fillion as bestselling author Richard Castle doing research ride-alongs with hard-nosed but beautiful NYPD detective Kate Beckett. There was a formula I gleaned from the show that is quite useful.

Murder! Look, there's a clue. Clue One leads us to Suspect A. We interview Suspect A and show how Clue One means A's the killer. But twist, Suspect A says, I didn't do it, I have an alibi (or no motive or no means). But I happened to overhear Suspect B talk about Clue Two. We interview Suspect B and show how Clue Two means B's the killer. But Suspect B also has an alibi... You get the picture.

This is a simple example of how to have a mystery with surprise revelations but still be perfectly clear.

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. Click here to see all 25 Ways You're Losing Readers.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is another of those posts.

photo credit: Hailie Ciomperlik via photopin (license)
Why Princess Might Be the Career Choice for You--originally posted June 22, 2016.

As part of my Cin Wikkid: April Fools For Love book tour, I was asked many Princessly questions. Build your perfect prince or princess was popular. It made me realize my idea of royalty was more Shrek than Disney. But I'm a traditionalist in some ways.

Top 5 Princessly Necessities

Sparkly Tiara. Seriously, these things rock. A hat that glitters and is a nice nest egg for retirement? Where do I sign up?

A handsome prince. Or an ogre prince, but the key point is, this is your soulmate. Seriously, this guy loves you enough to hack apart impenetrable sword-sharp thorns or brave a whole new world or change from a beast into a man. If that isn't true love, what is?

Adventure. From flying carpets or canoes or exploring creepy old castles, being a princess means new experiences. Well, unless you have really, really long hair, in which case you're locked in a tower. It's only a real problem if you make the mistake of starting the pectin diet on the wrong day (beware the door-to-door fruit saleslady) or are the victim of a shoddily manufactured spinning wheel. But Princesses Are Resourceful!* You’ll find a way out of any difficulty by The End.

photo credit: The Britannia State Coach via photopin (license)
No cooking or cleaning! You'll have an army of servants to do all that, or at the very least strangely musical animated household items.

Stylish transportation. Although the new BMW hypercar has a lot to recommend it too.

What about you? If you changed careers, what would it be? Would Princess be on your list?

CinWikkid3x4.5
From award-winning bestselling author Mary Hughes comes a fairytale romance with a twist.
THE WRONGED DAUGHTER Cinderella hungers to escape from under Widow Wikkid's grinding thumb. But to snare a plum job at Prince Industries, Cin desperately needs her degree, and she can't wrap her mind around tax accounting.
Then scarred but sexy Rafe Montoya ignites her imagination with his brilliant tutoring—and, as they work together in his cozy apartment, he sets her body on fire. She thinks he's the one for her, until he starts pushing her to attend Gideon Prince's marriage-mart ball.
THE HANDSOME PRINCE Rafe is really Gideon Prince, head of Prince Industries. He must name his bride by his April first birthday or suffer the loss of his family fortune.
Rumors say he's still single because women love his money and looks, not him. Is he lonely or just another duplicitous tycoon?
THE GLASS SLIPPER TEST Hopefuls flock to Prince's birthday ball, but only the woman who is kind, wise, and generous will win his heart. Is it Cin, or will her stepmother, as she always does, snatch the prize for her own daughters?
And on the night of the ball, when Cin discovers Rafe’s true identity, can she even accept his final test?
Warning: Rags-to-riches fairytale meets the texting generation. Stepsisters who are a blush-brush shy of a full makeup set, and a ball gown built like a tank. Contains material intended for mature audiences. Reader discretion advised.
For anyone who has ever been persecuted or hidden their light under a bushel.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

March 1T Status Update

I'm at 60K for Night's Bliss first draft, through the Crisis and into the Climax. I took a few weeks out to finish up New Orleans's Nobody for the April Fools For Love 2020 group. Found out recently we won't be doing it this year  

Since I have the story done (just a few brush up edits), I'm going to go ahead and release it anyway.Now available for preorder with the special price of 99¢!
An April Fools joke turns deadly for Mo Gaffney. Only the visiting New Orleans grandmaster can save her.
The reason the blurb is so short is that I'm studying for the third of three comprehensive exams for my schoolwork. Brushing up on class material I haven't seen for nearly two years is lots of fun. Well, not exactly, but it is good to go over the material again knowing what I know now.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit--One reason readers might be bypassing your book

More blurb help...

I'm on several mailing lists for cheap/free ebooks (it's not an addiction, honest!) Anyway, I was going through one of them the other day and clicked on several "See More." But each time I read the full blurb, I returned to the newsletter instead of buying.

Why?

The blurbs promised action, adventure, magic...all the things I like in a read. But the main character, the highlight of the story?

Might as well have been a brick.

As a reader, I want to connect with the main character, not just in your book, but in your blurb.

How can I do that? Remember your character is a person. Pretend you're at a party, and you want to get your character together with a friend. You really want your friend to like this person.

How would you introduce the character to your friend? Would you say she's smart? Or would you say she's a college grad, or better yet a Stanford PhD? Would you say she's kind? Or would you say she volunteers at the local pet shelter where she's absolutely taken with one animal everyone else hates, the crotchety old wolf? (See the plot starting to weave in here?)

Point being, don't genericize. One way to make your character memorable--and clickable--is by giving her real, touchable/quantifiable assets.

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 11, 2020

2T Repeat Performance

In December 2016, the lovely Magical Musings crew decided it was time to close down their blogging shop. I had three wonderful years with them. This is another of those posts.

What's in a name...? A Blurb Fit for Royalty -- Guest Remi Bond--originally posted June 16, 2016.

Please welcome guest Remi Bond, whose release Surprise for Three: Leap Year, along with S.L. Carpenter's Chasing Dreams: Leap Year, leaped into reader hands February 29!


The first thing a reader sees of an author's book is the cover or title. I think Surprise for Three is a good, engaging title, and with SL Carpenter's artwork, you know the cover is going to be superlative.

But the next thing a reader sees is the "tag" and "blurb", the hook line plus the three or four paragraphs that set up a promise as to what kind of ride the story will give.

I wrote what I thought was a good blurb, but for this first menage, was it good enough?

So I handed it over to The Blurb Queen, a professional. Oh, my, am I glad I did! Here's the before and after, paragraph by paragraph, for your reading pleasure.

TAG
Before: (none)
After: Will she dare to take a leap this bold?

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
Before: Annaliese loves Ransom, but she's too shy for him, and knows it. So in farewell, she throws him a Leap Year birthday party—with a surprise. Sure, she doesn't get his heart a-pumping, but the beautiful exotic dancer popping out of the cake will.
After: … she's not daring enough for him Annaliese loves Ransom, but has given up on winning his heart. It hurts too much to watch him with other women, so she’s leaving town. In farewell, she throws him a Leap Year birthday party—with a surprise. She may not get his heart a-pumping, but the beautiful exotic dancer popping out of the cake will.

THE RICH PLAYBOY
Before: Ransom craves the adrenaline rush extreme sports and kinky sex give him. His heart belongs to Annaliese, but he’d make her miserable as her lover. He can only hope his hot blood cools before another man sweeps her away …and then the giant cake is wheeled in.
After: … he's too much of a risk-taker for her Ransom’s heart belongs to Annaliese, but he’s convinced he’d make her miserable, since he craves the adrenaline rush of extreme sports and kinky sex. He can only hope his passion for her matures before another man sweeps her away … and then the giant cake is wheeled in.

THE INJURED SEAL
Before: Jack's home from war for good and looking for a sweet woman to settle down with. When a relative maneuvers him into a pirate costume to swing his sword for some rich woman's birthday party, he spies sweet Annaliese and knows she's the one he wants. But she loves another…
After: THE WOUNDED WARRIOR … she's just what he's looking forJack is home from duty as a Navy SEAL and on the hunt for a sweet woman to settle down with. When a relative maneuvers him into a pirate costume to swing his sword for some rich chick's birthday party, he goes along as a favor. Then he spies sweet Annaliese watching his moves and knows she's the one.

(Wrapup)
Before: When the exotic dancer bursting from Ransom's birthday cake turns out to be a well-muscled pirate, it's a surprise for three.
After: A LEAP YEAR LOVE TRIANGLE … can they make it last? When Jack sees the way Annaliese looks at Ransom, he’s ready to back away … until Ransom invites him to a private after-party for three. Can Annaliese overcome her shyness to share passion with not one, but two hot men?

WARNING
Before: This story contains material intended for mature audiences. Reader discretion advised.
After: Warning: This story contains hot ménage and demonstrations of affection between two alpha heroes and one heroine.
Don’t miss your chance to get in on this sexy celebration—get your copy of Surprise for Three today!

Here are the finished products:
Chasing Dreams: Leap Year by S.L. Carpenter

Michelle has reached a crossroads in her life just as the year offers her an extra day – February 29th. Walking away from an empty relationship and striking out on a new path is reviving feelings—both scary and wonderful. A train trip home offers time to think about her future, and what the Leap Year might bring. It also offers her a good looking drunk, passed out in her sleeping compartment.

Josh is mortified that he crashed in the wrong compartment, but fascinated by the woman who let him sleep and even covered him with a blanket. Their meeting seems pre-destined, as does the passion sparking between them.

But they both have pasts, and sometimes the past can leave a long shadow across the future. Michelle and Josh will have to come to terms with where they’ve been before they can really set off on the ultimate adventure…chasing their dreams.

Amazon | Amazon UK
Surprise for Three: Leap Year by Remi Bond

Will she dare to take a leap this bold?

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR … she's not daring enough for him Annaliese loves Ransom but has given up on winning his heart. It hurts too much to watch him with other women, so she’s leaving town. In farewell, she throws him a Leap Year birthday party—with a surprise. She may not get his heart a-pumping, but the beautiful exotic dancer popping out of the cake will.

THE RICH PLAYBOY … he's too much of a risk-taker for her Ransom’s heart belongs to Annaliese, but he’s convinced he’d make her miserable, since he craves the adrenaline rush of extreme sports and kinky sex. He can only hope his passion for her matures before another man sweeps her away … and then the giant cake is wheeled in.

THE WOUNDED WARRIOR … she's just what he's looking for Jack is home from duty as a Navy SEAL and on the hunt for a sweet woman to settle down with. When a relative maneuvers him into a pirate costume to swing his sword for some rich chick's birthday party, he goes along as a favor. Then he spies sweet Annaliese watching his moves and knows she's the one.

A LEAP YEAR LOVE TRIANGLE … can they make it last? When Jack sees the way Annaliese looks at Ransom, he’s ready to back away … until Ransom invites him to a private after-party for three. Can Annaliese overcome her shyness to share passion with not one, but two hot men?

Warning: This story contains hot ménage and demonstrations of affection between two alpha heroes and one heroine.

Don’t miss your chance to get in on this sexy celebration—get your copy of Surprise for Three today!

Amazon | Amazon UK

What about you? Does a polished blurb make a difference?

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

February 1T Status Update

Ah, February. Month of valentines, candy kisses, and alternating slush and freezes (at least in 'Sconsin). Am I the only one who buys those little candy hearts with the cute messages to drop in my husband's pocket or lunch? Even stale, they're both crunchy and fun.

  • I didn't quite finish the first draft of Night's Bliss, but I'm into the crisis, and of course the climax is mapped. More info as it comes.
  • Back-to-school means I've switched over to a smaller project (more doable in short spurts). New Orleans' Nobody is shaping up nicely.
  • Did you miss Helen's blog post? You can see it here. Informative and enjoyable for both authors and readers!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit -- Special Guest Helen C. Johannes


Helen C. Johannes is one of the smartest writers I know. She's also kind, witty, and a great teacher. Today we're lucky to have her present one of her gems of writing knowledge!

Read on for her guest post...

Layering a Scene 

by Helen C. Johannes


Plot, or what happens, is the basis for a scene. If nothing happens relative to the overall plot, the scene should be cut. But just recording what happens isn’t enough to make a scene memorable or create enough of a hook to keep the reader involved. To do that a writer needs to put flesh on the bare bones of the plot. That requires using these tools in the writer’s toolbox: the five senses, the character’s emotions, elements of conflict, and symbolism (if possible).

Consider the following bit of plot:

She paused at the foot of the stairs. The doors above were open. Swallowing, she went in.

Let’s flesh this out first by adding the five senses with time and place:
  • Who? Name the character.
  • Where exactly is she?
  • When? What’s the time of day? Day of the week? Year? Season?
  • What does she see? Texture, color, temperature? Objects?
  • What does she smell? Hear? Dialogue?
  • Are there others—people, animals—in this scene?

Now add the character’s emotions:
  • How does she feel about being in this place?

Bring in elements of the conflict, either main or contributing:
  • Why is she here?
  • What’s at stake?

Enhance symbolism, if possible:
  • Stairs can represent choices and decisions. A character can go up to something new, or down into something bad, or refuse to participate and remain aloof.
  • Are these stairs central to some particular conflict or memory?

Here’s an example:

     Jennifer Bryant halted at the foot of the courthouse stairs.
     Twenty-four granite steps, two flights of twelve with a six-foot wide landing in between, stretched toward the colonnaded portico above. As a child she’d raced up these steps and dashed from end to end amid three-story high pillars only to stand panting in the middle at the precise spot where the boulevard ran straight to the steps.
     “All roads lead to Rome,” her grade school teacher had told her. McKintock County wasn’t Rome, but to her fourth-grade self, that spot up there had been the center of the universe.
     All around her, a steady stream of people flowed upward, not a single one pausing at that special spot. Men clad in suits, ties flapping, women dressed in conservative brown, black and tan, all carrying briefcases in one hand and cups of varying descriptions in the other. The strong smell of fresh coffee wafted in their wakes.
     She breathed the aroma, and wished for the third time in as many minutes she’d stopped at Coffee Joe’s for a brew of her own. Having something to cling to just might galvanize her into taking that first step.
     When had the simple act of climbing these steps, passing under those Doric columns and entering her workplace of the last six years become so daunting?
Layering means to go through your scene as often as necessary to add pieces of “flesh” to it. From the bare bones you can construct something meaningful and evocative that also advances your plot, reveals character, creates conflict, and—even—suggests symbolism. And, most importantly, keeps your reader reading.

Helen C. Johannes writes award-winning fantasy romance inspired by the fairy tales she grew up reading and the amazing historical places she’s visited in England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. She writes tales of adventure and romance in fully realized worlds sprung from pure imagination and a lifelong interest in history, culture, and literature. Warriors on horseback, women who refuse to sit idly at home, and passion that cannot be denied or outrun—that’s what readers will find in her books.

Links:
Amazon Goodreads BookBub Email Blog
      Blog


Latest release: Lord of Druemarwin
In a world of lies and betrayal, can they trust each other?

Lady Raell can fight, ride, and argue politics as well as her brothers. Only being mistress of her father's household keeps her in skirts. In Naed, the new Lord of Druemarwin, she has found devotion, a kindred spirit, and a marriage promise. But when a forgotten and unwanted betrothal comes to light, she has no choice but to run.

Amidst sweeping revolution, Naed must rally his people, fend off assassination attempts, and fight against claims he's a traitor. Then he discovers everything about his lineage and family is a lie. And his beloved belongs to another.

With lives and a kingdom at stake, Raell and Naed must find a way to protect the innocent and save their love.



Click here to read an excerpt


Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.