Tuesday, August 17, 2021

3T Writing Tidbit - One simple lesson for nailing the page-turner

I learned something important yet simple with my very first published book, Biting Nixie. I thought it was genius at the time then forgot it a few years later and beat myself blue trying to remember.

Finally, I did. It's not necessarily genius, but it's hella important for writing a page-turning story.

What's amazing is that it's so super easy. Here it is:

Find places that go, "I'm hunting vamps. Oh, look. A vamp."

One of my favorite authors starting feeling stale. Lots of antics but it seemed too easy.

That was the problem. The heroine would bop here and bop there and nothing ever subverted the reader's expectations.

When you have action, you must go A-B-C or risk the reader losing track of the action.

But when setting emotional or consequence expectations of a scene, go A-B-Z or better yet A-B-!@#$!!

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 10, 2021

2T Repeat Performance - Ring in the New Year

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

Originally published December 31, 2010 for Tina Donahue's Blog


“Ring in the New Year with the explosively hot The Bite of Silence!” *

*Joyfully Reviewed  

Thanks, Tina, for having me here today!

Ever been in Times Square on New Year’s Eve? Maybe you’ve watched it on television. Did you feel the excitement as the Ball descended at midnight, the crowd counting down the final seconds? 

What if killers were let loose with the New Year?

I love exploring characters in the extremes of action. In crisis mode, I really get a sense of the stripped-down character, the pure essence of who they are. Even better, a crisis shows the essences of supporting characters. Do they give aid or harm? Do they help or get in the way?

That’s why I love Twyla Tafel and her perfect foil Greek vampire Nikos in The Bite of Silence.

The Bite of Silence
© 2009 Mary Hughes

Spartans do it with discipline.

Times Square on New Year's Eve. A million partiers chanting the final seconds. This year, it's a countdown to death.

My name is Twyla Tafel and I've uncovered an insane plot to unleash berserk vampires on those unsuspecting revelers. I have to stop it, armed only with my great admin skills, my useless art degree—and Nikos, a severely hot vampire who I'd love to photograph as a Spartan king roaring his muscular challenge at the Persians.

But Nikos has issues, if you know what I mean. Roadblocks in his psyche that say stop when all I want is go-go-go. See "severely hot", above.

Although if I finally break through Nikos's reserve, I may get more than I bargained for. He's seriously big, seriously built, and more than just a tad dominant. Still, it's time to push my limits and find out who I really am, so I'm willing to try...I think. I'm sure. I'm mostly sure. Until he starts stalking me with those sable bedroom eyes and long, sharp fangs?!

Material Safety Warning: Contains 50% high-voltage sex by volume. 10g seriously hot Greek vampire, 4g curvy, competent heroine, 7g explosive action and gritty language. Made on equipment used to process snarky comments. Some light bondage may occur during handling.

Excerpt (Twyla and Nikos in New York. Twyla has just discovered her cousin is in on the plot to unleash vampires in Times Square):

“I don’t know how I’ll act in a crisis, if I’ll be up to it. I can guess, but you yourself said that’s not knowing.”

Nikos released me, saying simply, “I have faith.”

I jumped to my feet, started pacing. “Take this crisis. What good am I? A compulsion device that works by sound waves. I don’t even have the potential to solve that puzzle. I couldn’t tell a whole note from an octave. What the hell is an octave anyway?”

“It’s from ‘say’ to ‘see’ in the first line of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’.”

I ran the song in my head. Felt the notes with my throat. “Ouch. That’s a leap.”


“But see what I mean? Here’s a crisis and circumstances or fate or whatever has put one of the least appropriate people for the job in the hot seat. What if ‘circumstances’ never come together for me? What if I’m just a dud?”

“Twyla, love. We need to go back to my hotel.”

I stopped pacing. “Pity sex?”

He smiled. “No. I must retrieve my patrol blade. And I think you’ll help me figure this out, but only when your thoughts aren’t blocked.”

Wow, over a dozen words, a veritable novel for the reserved Nikos. “Blocked by what?”

“By a belief that everyone has more to contribute than you.” He guided me out. “A mistaken belief.”

I checked the shadows of the building for Klaus but saw nothing. As we slid into the limo, I said, “A Spartan general, out unarmed? You must feel naked.”

“I have my public blade.”

“Whatever that means.”

In his hotel room, seeing the xiphos and kopis laid side by side on his dresser, I was smacked in the face with exactly what that meant. Twelve extra inches of cold steel. I swallowed. “Guess you’re serious.”

Nikos pressed a button on the shorter one, the xiphos. The double-edged leaf-like blade retracted almost magically. He picked up the longer one, started to rub the edges with a stone. His muscles worked steadily as he honed the wickedly curved blade. “The only way to stop Klaus is to cut off his head.” He paused. “Twyla. You have the heart of a warrior. But I don’t want you to watch that.”

“Don’t worry. I’m not into overachievement.”

He just shook his head and slid the kopis sword into its sheath in a quick, practiced motion. Setting it next to the switchblade xiphos, he turned the full force of his attention on me. “Come to bed.”

“I thought you said no pity sex.”

“More an exercise in confidence building.”

“Oh, that. The mayor has us do yearly team-building exercises. I’d rather have—what are you doing?”

He glided toward the closet, shimmering into mist as he moved. His clothes dropped to the floor. He re-formed while still moving, misting out of his clothes as easily as a man shrugs off a robe. Casually, naturally, as if he did this every night.

Hmm. Maybe he did.

And what was revealed—frickin’ yum. Forget Michelangelo’s sculptures. No mere artist could capture the stunning glide of lithe muscle under skin, the contrast of jet hair against ochre flesh, the gleam of intent in sable bedroom eyes as he grabbed some ties out of the closet and flowed to the bed.

I trotted after him like a puppy.

Nikos snapped the hold-back loops off the canopy. The curtains fell over the bed like sultry saffron promises. With a final scorching look, he disappeared in a billow of yellow.

But I hesitated. What did he have in mind with the ties? He was, after all, a Spartan general who was a tad dominant.

On the other hand—naked male. I climbed in after him.