Tuesday, December 15, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

More tension! We hear it all the time. But how can we do it without resorting to characters simply screaming at each other for no good reason?

Well, goal, motive, conflict. Pick two characters with goals that don't mesh and you have conflict. But here's a little variation that's really nice, if you find a place it's appropriate.

Have people accuse the hero of stuff (usually not true or not true in the way people accuse). But here's the twist: don't have the hero rebut the charges. Have them walk away or stand and take it, making no answer--until by sacrifice or suffering or heroic act they earn the right to say their piece.

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, December 8, 2020

2T Repeat Performance - The Conquering Vampire Hero

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 12, 2010 for VampChix

Thanks, Michele, for inviting me to VampChix today!

I love alpha males, heroes that leap off the page.  But I never wanted to write a vampire story.

Vampires scare me. Always have, since I snuck into my older brother’s room and a book cover of Dracula sent me scampering back out. Dark places and things that go bump in the night scare me. Death scares me, having dealt with it too early.

Oh, and blood. I get faint at needles and blood; it doesn’t even have to be my own. Don’t make me tell the story of when my son broke his arm and we took him to the emergency room. It’s embarrassing.

But I write vampire romances. Why?

In her interviews Michele asks five wonderful thought-provoking rapid-fire questions. Three that interest me especially are light/dark, neck/bag, dead/undead. Overwhelmingly the responses are dark, neck, undead.

Michele’s questions gave me the key. Vampires are all about dark. It’s their natural habitat, to the point that daylight is a threat. They’re all about blood, to the point that they consume it.

And vampires are all about death—are in fact about beating it, about going through death and coming out undead on the other side. 

That’s why I write about them, why they fascinate me. Vampires aren’t afraid of the things that scare me. They’re not afraid of blood and death. They’re not afraid of things that go bump in the night—because they are the things that go bump in the night.

Vampires have no fear of dark and blood and death—more, they thrive on them. They’re beyond fear because they’ve conquered it—the ultimate hero material.

What’s your preference? Light/dark? Neck/bag? Dead/undead?

Biting Me Softly Coming April 20 2010!
He’s a candy box of sex appeal wrapped with a golden bow. She’s on a diet.
Blood, sex, violence. Blood, okay, but computer geek Liese Schmetterling had enough S&V when her cheating ex fired her. Now security expert—and lip-smacking gorgeous—Logan Steel saunters into her Blood Center, setting fire to her libido. And threatening her job.
Visions of pink slips dancing in her head, Liese tries to push Logan away without touching his jutting pecs…or ridged abs. Or petting the Vesuvius in his jeans. He’s hiding something, but it doesn’t seem to matter when his smiles stun her, his kisses crank her to broiling and his bites rocket her to heaven. Fangy bites which, if she weren’t grounded in science, would make her think ampire-Vay.
Centuries old and tragedy-scarred, Logan’s mission is to fortify the Blood Center’s electronic defenses against his nemesis, the leader of a rogue vampire gang. He’s ready for battle but not for Liese, who slips under his skin, laughs at his awful puns, charges beside him into dark, scary places—and tastes like his true love.
No matter how often Logan declares his love, Liese can’t bring herself to trust him. But when his archenemy comes after her, not trusting him may cost her life...
Warning: contains explicit vampire sex involving absurdly large male equipment (hey, they’re monsters), unbelievable stamina (just how long can he stay underwater in a hot tub?), hide-your-eyes violence and horrendously bad puns. And, just when you think it can’t get any worse, a computer geekette trying to play Mata Hari.

Read an excerpt at MaryHughesBooks.com.
See the trailer at YouTube!
Mary Hughes is a computer consultant, professional musician, and writer. 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.
To learn more about Mary Hughes, please visit www.maryhughesbooks.com.
Or visit Mary on Facebook!

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Kindle Daily Deal today only

"Your book has been chosen!" Exciting words to any author. But hopefully these words are exciting to readers, too, because this sale's for you.

Biting Me Softly Chosen for a Kindle Daily Deal on Thursday, 12/3.

Get it as a stocking stuffer or treat yourself. At 99¢ at most retailers, you can't go wrong with this ebook.

Logan’s muscular, graceful, and deadly, and his arrival at my Blood Center may put me out of a job. None of that seems to matter when his kisses and bites take me to heaven (bites, which if I weren’t grounded in science, would make me think ampire-Vay).


As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

Again taking a sidestep from strict craft into promotion.

Many authors are introverts. They'd have to be, to get energy from such an intensely alone profession. Because we're introverts, we think about things, deeply. And some of us...overthink things.

My stories are my own reaction to vanilla romance and vanilla paranormal romance. I like just a little ghost pepper in my romance, you see. And some people have my same taste.

Some, obviously, don't care for spice in their vanilla romance, and that's okay. Until I started thinking about that, worrying about how the stories would be disappointing for those readers. I started worrying about that when I did my ads and promotions and so pulled back on what made them special. I forgot how much of a kick they are for readers who like a little pepper.

Authors! Don't worry about how your book might disappoint a set of readers. Revel instead in how it excites your readers; how it enhances your readers' lives.

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, November 10, 2020

2T Repeat Performance - Big Heart = Baking a Bigger Pie (chocolate silk?)

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

Originally published March 13, 2010 for ARRA

Hello, ARRA! Thanks for inviting me to guest blog today, and huge thanks for Bite My Fire’s nomination, an honor and thrill.

What a lovely blog and website you have! I admit to a special delight in the ARRA logo. The way the Rs combine to make a heart really tickled my fancy…and inspired this blog.

ARRA. Australian Romance Readers Association. Well, I’m a US gal but my hubby has relatives in Australia, and I studied conducting under Geoffrey Simon—can that count for a bit of a connection? I’m certainly a reader of romance. Great swaths of it, Sherrilyn Kenyon, JD Robb, Anne Stuart and now Stephanie Laurens to name a few.

So many romances, so little time! (Ninety award finalists alone, all amazing authors.) And yet we find time, don’t we? Time to read, to water the seeds of love in our hearts, our lives. Despite our busy days and nights, we somehow find time to absorb stories of the sweet joining of two people in heart, body and soul.

ARRA nurtures that love, and not just through reading.

When Maggie notified me that Bite My Fire was a finalist in the Favourite Erotic Romance category, she also mentioned an opportunity to guest blog.  I emailed my interest, thinking that with all those finalists (did I mention there were ninety?) I might get a spot sometime in 2011. Instead Debbie mailed me back that extra blogging spots would be opened up during voting.  That’s plain exceptional.

See, there’s a lot of competition out there. A lot of writers, a lot of great books. As an author it’s easy to feel lost in the sheer volume of spines on the shelf.  Easy to feel you have to scrabble and grab for your little slice of the pie (mmm, lemon meringue).

But ARRA demonstrates the secret of love in action. When faced with feeding the multitude, instead of diminishing the portions, ARRA just baked a bigger pie. (Maybe pecan.)

I have to admit—I still scrabble and have to work hard not to grab. It’s fellow Samhain Publishing author, the awesome Vivi Andrews, who taught me what a big heart is. Just walking among the stars expands me. Makes my pie a little bigger.  (Strawberry-rhubarb. Or maybe chocolate silk after all.)

Thank you, Gentle Readers, for nominating Bite My Fire for Favourite Erotic Romance—for allowing me to walk among your author stars. It is an honor I hold to my heart, which is just a bit bigger today.

Please visit me at Mary Hughes Books!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

3T Writing Tidbit

This is a slight step away from strictly writing into the marvelous, frightening world of book marketing.

One of the things I used to wonder is why there are all these articles on Steps to Follow to Promote Your Book, and they'd usually consist of things like
  • Grow your newsletter to sell more 
  • Offer free books to grow your newsletter 
  • Offer free books to get more reviews to sell more
  • Make sure there's a call to action! (or trigger)
In other words, how to increase your reach.

Now don't get me wrong, these are good and valid recommendations. But even following them, you won't sell much better unless you have a good book that people want to read.

In other words, how to increase your appeal.

Who writes articles about that? Who writes articles about the surefire way to write a blurb to get those one-clicks? Yes, the trigger is important, but so too are desire and ability. Few people write articles about how to stoke the desire to buy your books (at least, not in a step-by-step version).

Promotion is both about the books' appeal and their reach. But it's easier to quantify reach, and that's why there are more articles and posts about it.

I challenge bloggers to help authors increase their stories' appeal. How do we create the perfect blurb for our book? How do we look into our story and extract the marrow of what will appeal to readers? What if our book isn't anything like the bestsellers in the genre--and that's why we're writing, because we're tired of same-old, same-old?

So many articles on "promotion" are really on reach. Even when there are articles on appeal, it's how to promise to the broadest audience via stereotypes (dark, brooding vampires).

How do we appeal to our readers?

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, October 13, 2020

2T Research Tidbit

So now that I've run out of repeat performances, I thought I'd try something completely different. I do quite a bit of research in preparation and during the writing process, even and especially for the paranormal. As they occur to me, I thought I'd share some with you.

As of this writing (February, 2018) I'm doing research on Romania for Night's Kiss. Specifically, I'm putting together facts for my bad-guy vamp's hideaway castle. So I thought, why not check out Dracula's, the foremost bad-guy vamp there is?

Googling Dracula's Castle gets you Bram's Castle in Romania. But further research indicates Stoker (who wrote Dracula) didn't know anything about this castle. The two more likely contenders are castles Vlad III (the model for Dracula). Castelul Corvinilor and Poenari Kalesi (both in Romania) are linked to the Dracula legend. Not that either of these are Vlad's full-time castle. So I dug a little deeper.

And here, things got weird.

Turns out, there's a guy who did research into Stoker's notes (with the heir's help). According to Wikipedia, " Dutch author Hans Corneel de Roos,[1] proposes as location for Castle Dracula an empty mountain top, Mount Izvorul Călimanului, 2,033 metres (6,670 ft) high, located in the Călimani Alps near the former border with Moldavia."

But when I actually searched for Mount Izvorul? The only references are repeats of this particular fact. No independent corroboration.

Cue the X-Files music.

So I looked at the Calimani Mountains, hoping to identify the peak by height. Here's another quote from Wikipedia: "Maximum height is reached in Pietrosul Călimanilor Peak, at 2,102 m. Other significant peaks include: Bistriciorul (1,990 m), Stuniorul (1,885 m), Gruiului (1,913 m), Negoiul Unguresc (2,084 m), Rețițiș (2,021 m), Bradul Ciont (1,899 m), Iezerul Călimanilor (2,023 m)."

There is NO mountain peak of exactly 2033 meters!!

(There IS a Mount Izvor, but it's in Antarctica.)

So the apparent fact of Stoker's notes seems to be only a ghost of a fact. Anybody who has independent confirmation of Mount Izvor, get in touch!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

1T Status Update October

"There isn't enough time in the day" isn't quite true. What we're really challenged by is the fact that there may not be enough time to do everything that's important to us in a way that gives us satisfaction.

And yes, this is leading somewhere. I'm working full time outside writing these days, and so don't have as much time for the monthly updates or nice touches I was used to making in the online world. That may change, but for the present, this may be the last update for a while.

So, on to the good news! Giveaway! $462 in GCs plus ebooks from bestselling authors to ONE winner in this pre-holiday MEGA #giveaway.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

I finished the manuscript for Night's Bliss, final book in the Ancients series, and sent it in to my editor at the end of August. In celebration, I created two short videos for the first two books in the series.



Tuesday, September 29, 2020

5T Tossup

In honor of turning in Night's Bliss (final book in the Ancients Series) to my editor, here's another new trailer, for Night's Kiss (The Ancients, Book 2). Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

4T Olio

In honor of sending off Night's Bliss (final book in The Ancients series) to my editor, here's a new trailer for Night's Caress (The Ancients, Book 1)!

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