Tuesday, April 13, 2021

2T Repeat Performance - Are You Happy

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

Originally published August 15, 2010 for ARRA

Are you happy?

(Or how to feel good about buying books.)

Really ask yourself. Are you happy?

My husband sends me articles. Oh, not the painfully silly ones or the ones so twee (sweet) they suck your lips into your esophagus. (My rule of thumb: I only forward it if it makes me laugh out loud or think a brand-new thought.) Anyway, just last week he sent me a link to a New York Times article titled “But Will It Make You Happy?”

Lots of people think more money will make them happy. Then you hear about the missionaries who visit the poorest people in the world, and it turns out those “poor” people are happier than the missionaries.  Necessities aside, money itself isn’t an automatic happy.

So, if not money, then stuff? Well, the article pretty much stomps that idea too.  Mr. Smith’s 3G Stuff may make him happy--until Mr. Jones gets 4G stuff. Then Mr. Smith is unhappy because he wants 4G stuff too.

Here’s my bet. You, dear reader, are pretty happy.

Why? Because, according to the article, the only type of spending that actually correlates to happiness is leisure spending (after the basic needs are met). Fun experiences like vacations, fun activities like golf or computer games. Diversions like TV or movies.

And where do we get the most experience and entertainment for the least money, the most bang for the buck or delight for the dollar?

Right. With books.

Readers who belong to groups like ARRA increase that delight by talking books with other people. Sharing books, in book clubs or with friends (or with other readers who become friends), taps an even bigger promoter of happiness: strong relationships.  The shared experience of quoting great lines, the shared anticipation of a favorite author’s upcoming book--the only thing better to my mind is shared chocolate. (I’m not going to say how that works. I’m an erotic romance writer. Let your imagination soar.)

So are you happy? I can’t answer that question for you, but I can say that if you’re here, you’re a reader who shares--and that’s a great start.

Thanks for having me back as a guest blogger at ARRA!


Mary Hughes is an author, a computer programmer and a flutist. Bite My Fire, ARRA nominee for Favourite Erotic Romance and the first book in Mary’s Biting Love series, just released August 3 in paperback. It’s available at several Australian booksellers including Borders, Booktopia,  and Angus & Robertson.


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

3T Writing Tidbit

 What's the difference between a movie, a television show, a play, a musical, an audio book, a graphic novel, a novel? There are differences in how you can tell the story and what kind of story you can best tell. Musicals, movies, and television have the added emotional element of music but often lack what's going on inside the character's head. Visual elements make for differences, too.

But there are some elements of basic storytelling that cross boundaries. This one I learned from Thunderbirds Are Go (2015), an animated children's adventure about five brothers who run a high-stakes rescue service in the near future, aided by their grandmother, their adopted sister, and a British lady and her very accomplished chauffeur. 

SPOILERS: John Tracy in Thunderbird 5, the space station, has created a simple game AI. The AI is nearly destroyed and, believing everyone is out to get her, does a 2001-Dave on John, kicking him out of the space station and nearly killing him. He manages to get back in and she continues to try to protect herself, escalating until (as I remember it) she endangers everyone on the planet. 

At that point John, to prove not everyone is trying to control her, takes off his helmet and challenges her to vent the atmosphere, placing his life in her hands.

AT THIS POINT there is a close up shot of everyone we're close to, reacting in shock and sorrow to John's decision. His brothers, his sister, his grandmother, the lady and her chauffeur. Gripping, gut wrenching, lending even more impact to an already emotional scene because we not only see John sacrificing his own life--we see how the loss of his life will affect those he holds dear. Plus it draws out the tension.

It's the turning point and the AI becomes friendly, though still playful. We again see reaction shots of all John's loved ones, this time in relief and joy.

We can use that technique effectively in books, too. We can draw out the tension and magnify the impact of an emotional high point by showing the reaction of non-point-of-view characters (best if they're characters the reader actually cares about). Even better, bookend an important turning point with non-POV characters to enhance both the before and the after.

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 9, 2021

2T Repeat Performance - Ebooks vs. Print

 I've done a number of blog tours over the years, posting on different sites. Now I'm bringing them to you! (And wow, has the world changed in just ten years...)

Originally published July 27, 2010 

Why does it have to be ebooks vs. print books? Can’t we all get along?

Do you ever skip while reading? Do you do this? If I don’t like the first paragraph on a page, I’ll check out the bottom of the facing page. If it’s interesting, I’ll read the stuff in between. Otherwise I flip the page.

My Palm shows me one paragraph max. I either read it or I don’t. There’s no way to see what’s coming.

A true ebook device may show a few more paragraphs, but most of them only have one page visible at a time. And there’s no easy way to stick your thumb in and page to the middle, to see if your favorite character ever comes back or if it’s time to throw the book.

Fact is, you read slower on an ebook reader, according to a study reported on msnbc.com (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38108599/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/)

So the same book that hits big in print might flop in ebook. Ebook sentences must be shorter and the point made quicker. It’s not because people who read ebooks can’t fathom Kirkegaardbit’s because of the format.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

3T Writing Tidbit

 As I write this, I'm making self-editing passes on Night's Bliss, the final book in the Ancients series. One of the most important stems from the three-pass system by the always awesome Liz Pelletier, publisher at Entangled. It requires a complete read through and deals with overarching things like plot pacing. Normally I have 3-5 pages of notes when I'm done.

This book, I had four pages--in the first 10%. 

Most were line edit type things. Wrong word choice, muddled phrase or sentence. So I went through the book cleaning up the prose first. Then I tried the full read again. 

This time I got through four pages and 14%.

Frustrated, I did another nitty-gritty pass, cleaning up muddled paragraphs and sharpening dialog.

Then, finally, I was able to read the book at the level where I could see problems with character arc and plot structure.

It brought to mind a workshop on editing I took with great writing coach Laurel Yourke as part of A Weekend With Your Novel (UW-Madison Continuing Studies). She calls it "trees" versus "forest."

As writers, we spend a lot of time honing the trees. Crafting an elegant turn of phrase, getting just the right word. But too many of us get bogged down in all those elegant phrases and perfect words. We never see the forest, which might be a horrendous mess. Yourke, as I remember it, said we need to do more forest-edit passes.

True. But I discovered something during my rounds of self-edits. While the whole-book high level pass is essential, the shape of the forest can't be determined if the trees are choked by weeds. That is, the prose must be clean enough that you can actually see the shape of the big-picture things.

I encourage every writer out there, if you're not doing a read through like a reader, where you plow through the whole book from beginning to end with as few stops as possible--start. (If you don't know what to look for, I found insight with the two people I mentioned, but there are plenty of guides out there. Find one that works for you.) But be aware that the grand read-through pass may not be possible until you've weeded the garden first (or trimmed the excess clay from the pottery wheel or plucked the extraneous hairs from the eyebrow or whatever metaphor works best for you).

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 9, 2021

2T Repeat Performance - Use Artist

 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 20, 2010 for Vivi Andrews

Question- How has your writing approach changed since you've been published?  Does the fact that you now know readers & reviewers will be reading your books affect your writing process at all? 

Use Artist

Thanks so much, Vivi, for having me here today!

I admit to being a total use artist, use rhyming with moose, as in usefulness. I wrote church plays when my church needed plays. I sang tenor in my husband's choirs even though it drove me nuts when the sopranos complained the notes were too high (I live for sailing above the staff). I'm a flutist but learned oboe when my college needed an oboist. When our wind band needed extra percussion for a tour I stepped in again—and soloed throughout Europe on bass drum, LOL.

As a writer I need to be useful too, so what the reader wants factors hugely. Oh, I have some general ideas where I want my stories to go. But if I sense readers want more or less of a certain thing (or sooner rather than later), I’ll do it if I can.

The big caveat being if I can. I spent enough time writing before getting published that I know my writer self pretty well. I know there are certain plots, certain character types I can't write, no matter how wonderful they are. My husband has suggested some stunning plot twists but if they involve the hero being less than alpha (for example) my heart won't be in the writing. And when my heart's really not in it, the writing really doesn't happen.

So my basic approach hasn't changed that much. Sure, writing to public expectation makes the process harder. Besides Little Miss Inner Critic I now have Imaginary Shoulder Readers (not to be confused with Liese’s shoulder buddies).  And I spend about a third of my writing time in the colorful world of PromoLand, which I didn’t have to worry about before.

But knowing reader expectation actually makes the writing process easier too. I write all kinds of stories, science fiction to erotic romance. Before publishing I had to guess which to work on. Now I can choose what to bring to the front burner based on what other people want to read.

So if it’s Biting Love people want, that's what I'll mostly write. To paraphrase Nixie, it's what I can do to make other people happy.