Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hi. My name is

A strange thing occurred to me a few months ago, and since then I've been flummoxed. I'm turning to you, the People of the Internet, for advice.

I am a writer, and I hope to be a published writer someday. Maybe even a well-known writer. Or at least a writer with an ongoing career in the business. The problem is my name. You see, there are at least two other writers I've heard of with the name Laura Hughes. *cue panic attack*


How can I stand out in the world of publishing if I'm constantly being mixed up with those other Laura Hughes writers? Not to mention the artist, the physician, the web developer, the actress, and the several dozen other Laura Hughes-who-are-not-me who turn up in a google search. I can't even stand out in a FREAKING GOOGLE SEARCH?! Yikes!

Well, I thought innocently, I can always publish under my maiden name. It's certainly not a common name. Herbenick. You likely don't know anyone by that name, unless you maybe heard of my sister, Debby Herbenick. It's not entirely unlikely. She has a Wikipedia entry AND an Amazon page. And no one would EVER mistake her books for mine. She writes nonfiction, and her alter-ego is The Sex Professor. So.

So I googled Laura Herbenick. I found a few references to myself, and a gajillion entries for Debby. At least there were no other Laura Herbenicks to confuse me with. But who knows me by that name? I've been Laura Hughes for more than 15 years!

I must have been a little slap-happy, because for a whole three minutes I considered publishing under the name Mittens Morgul. Ahem. I don't think so.

This is actually Mittens Morgul. No, kitty doesn't write.
And now on to the Reader Interaction Portion of today's post: (no, you don't actually have to do anything if you don't want to. But you made it this far, and I want to love you, so please share if you have any advice.)

I hope to someday have an agent, and I'm sure this is the kind of thing that they will help me decide. In the mean time, is your "real" name so common that you're considering publishing under a different name? Or have you already done that? Did you choose a pseudonym for another unrelated reason? Why? What would you do in my shoes?

A. Keep your real name. It's my name, and I don't care who else uses it.

B. Use the maiden name. No, I swear we aren't getting divorced, sweetie.

C. Pick another name entirely. Yes, that really is me. See? That's my picture on the back cover! No, I don't look that good today because I don't pay a professional hair and makeup artist to spruce me up every day. YES FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME, I SWEAR THAT'S REALLY ME!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

#SipSwap WIN!

I got my Sip Swap mug in the mail today. Well, technically today is Sunday, so I probably got it yesterday, but the mail was late, so I didn't get it until this morning. It spent a chilly night in the mailbox.*

*My neighborhood is strange. There's one little clump of mailboxes for the entire neighborhood. We have single lane roads that were only paved about two years ago. It was originally planned as a vacation destination, rather than a residential community. It makes life here quite nice, but accessibility wasn't a priority during the original street layout forty years ago. Thus, it's a quarter-mile hike up a rather steep hill to the mailbox. If the mail's late, it's often the next day before I try again.

So anyway, I found this today:


Inside this magical parcel, this awaited me:

 Yes, it's a rather plain looking mug. My coffee (in the pink mug in the background) was feeling kinda smug and confident. BUT THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED.

AAARGH!!! My coffee is screaming in terror! Or possibly squeeing with glee.

THERE'S AN OCTOPUS IN MY COFFEE! How awesome is that?!

**DISCLAIMER: I love octopodes. In fact, one of the favorite characters I ever invented while writing is a kraken. He was supposed to be an incidental character in one manuscript, and he rapidly became a character I wanted to know better. He will be central to the next story I write, because I can't just let him go. :D So I hereby name the little octopus in this mug Stewie. He'll be my little tentacled buddy while I write that manuscript.

***SECOND DISCLAIMER: Morgan approves of the wrapping job:

Seriously, he spent like five minutes ensuring the paper was not explosive, nor filled with cat treats, nor live rodents. He pronounced it safe after a thorough inspection.

Thank you so much to @araenvo (also known as Simon P. Clark). Go compliment him on his fine sense of style.

So, who else got their #SipSwap mug? I can't wait to see all the posts! :D

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I was going to tweet this stuff, but it is too much for tweeting. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. If you're not in America, Happy Thanksgiving anyway. It's never a bad thing to be thanked. So thanks to you, too. :D

Here's some stuff I'm thankful for today. If I forgot something you think I should be thankful for, please let me know in the comments. I welcome the chance to feel even MORE thankful, at least as long as the egg nog holds out.

I'm Thankful for my family. They accept that I'm not quite right, and love me anyway.

Helper Monkey is thankful I didn't use the ambush photo I took of him.

Thanks, Tim, for putting up with me for the last almost 17 years. Love.

Lulu is not as thankful, since I used her ambush photo. Morning, hon.
I am thankful for Lulu, who is helping me cook today. I'm thankful she's growing up to be an awesome person. I'm thankful she hasn't yet devolved into rebellious teenagerhood. *fingers crossed*

Morgan. High on catnip.
I'm thankful for the fuzzy lumpkin.

I'm thankful for this pie.

Okay. This post seems to be devolving quickly. I have to go make stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, biscuits, mashed potatoes, and probably other things that I forgot about completely.

But I wanted to also thank everyone I've met on my writing and publishing journey. To everyone who read my manuscript(s), THANK YOU. You have given me insight, advice, and encouragement. To everyone whose manuscript I read or critiqued, THANK YOU! You have given me hours of entertainment, and none of you have actually stabbed me yet! *fingers crossed*

Thank you all for being who you are. Now go enjoy some pie.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Art of Compromise

Right. So I've known my husband, the Helper Monkey, for nearly 17 years now. We've been married for 15. And every once in a while, I learn something completely shocking about him. Sometimes it leads to snort-drooling laughter.


I decided to make pasta for dinner tonight, since I forgot to make up a shopping list for Helper Monkey to get the ingredients for @Fizzygrrl's crock pot curry recipe. This sort of mental lapse is typical. We eat a lot of pasta as a result.

So, I ask the Monkey and Lulu what kind of sauce they want. I have two jars, one regular marinara type sauce, and one of vodka sauce. Vodka sauce is one of my favorites, by the way, so I consider it a treat whenever I make it. I was personally leaning toward it, and had convinced Lulu it was the option to choose. Helper Monkey did not agree.

For the last seventeen years, I've made vodka sauce countless times. I knew it wasn't his favorite, but he always ate it with minimal grumbling. I don't know why tonight was any different, but The Truth has finally come out. Turns out, Helper Monkey equates vodka sauce with vomit. Lulu promptly renamed it Vomit Sauce, and hilarity ensued.

I laughed at his response, but then realized he was completely serious. This made me laugh harder. I was stomping around the living room with the reviled sauce, wondering how anyone could repeatedly eat something that they equated with puke. I have no idea why I found this so entertaining, but I was literally floored. I fell to my knees, laughing so hard I was drooling, all the while berating the Monkey for keeping his vitriolic hatred a secret so long. The mind boggles. Truly, if someone served me something I didn't like once, I'd probably eat it and be polite. I might mention that it wasn't exactly to my taste if they suggested they make it again. If they tried to foist such horror on me a third time, I'd put my foot down. There is no way in hell I'd repeatedly eat something I detested for seventeen years without opening my fat yap and screaming. No. Way. In. Hell.

The Monkey knows I like it, so he never said anything before now. O_o

Hello, people?! Compromise isn't about torturing yourself to make someone else happy. It's about having your needs met while also meeting the needs of others. Sure, I eat foods that aren't my favorite, but I do not eat foods I hate. I feel like I should bake the Monkey a cake. He's apparently suffered greatly in my culinary equivalent of Guantanamo. I'm pretty sure he likes chocolate cake, but I think I'll ask first, just to make sure...

I'll say one thing for sure, I am now eternally convinced of the Monkey's love. He suffered in silence all this time for me. Granted, I'd rather he'd have told me, but shoot. I can't be mad about it. He did it for love. :D


How far would you go to keep your dearest love happy? Would any of y'all really go this far? What's the nuttiest thing you've ever done for love? Or, if you're one of my writerly friends, what have you made your characters do for love? I'd love to know.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I'm happily nervous to be participating in the NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop! In case you haven't heard, aspiring writers and published authors have been answering ten questions about a work in progress or a recently published novel. Since I don't have any of the latter, and I'm in the boggy middle of my current WIP (i.e., can't answer questions about it yet), I'll answer them about Running Down the Dragon, the novel I'm currently querying.

Huge Major Thanks to The Writer Librarian, AKA Karen McCoy for asking me to participate! Since I am even later to this party than she was, I will leave it open for anyone who wants to participate. If you want to be tagged, please let me know either by commenting below or by sending an email to the address in my profile (the super original LauraHughesAuthor at gmail address) and I will update this post with your details and links to your blog.

What is the working title of your book?

 It's changed a few times, but it's currently Running Down the Dragon. It was originally called Dragon Hunter, and before a few rounds of edits, it was a finalist in Janet Reid's Liz Norris Pay It Forward Contest under that title. Then I found out Dragon Hunter had a lot of weird baggage (google it, if you're interested).

Where did the idea come from for your book?

 I was writing a high fantasy series (which was the first attempt at writing a novel I ever made), and realized I wanted to write something that took place in a world more like the one we all live in, with a few major exceptions. I'd just finished the first draft of the second novel in my currently-shelved old series, and decided to try something completely different. It was terrifying, because I wasn't sure I even had another original idea in me until I dreamed up Thalia, the main character. Once I knew who she was, everything else flowed from there.

What genre does your book fall under?

 This is one of my major problems. It's most easily classified as "speculative," but that's such a broad umbrella. It's also a crime thriller, a race against the clock to stop a serial killer. I've been told by some folks that it's not really urban fantasy, but neither is it a standard thriller (you know, since the main characters are shapeshifters who can use elemental magic). I usually call it a crime thriller with urban fantasy elements. Or an urban fantasy with crime thriller elements. Or maybe an urban thriller with crime fantasy elements? Nah, that's just silly.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

 I might be the only author on the planet who hasn't even thought about it. I really, truly haven't given it a single moment of thought. I've looked through pictures of models and actors for inspiration on the way the characters look, but as far as playing them on film, I haven't a clue!

***EDIT: It occurred to me I could at least give you an idea of how I see Thalia:

The lovely Tonia Sotiropoulou.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

 It's two sentences. I cheated:

Thalia Drake, U.S. Military and world's last dragon, must stop a serial killer from exterminating shapeshifters. But stopping him means exposing the dangerous secret she's hidden for thousands of years - her true identity.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

 I'm currently querying agents, so hopefully it will be represented by the Most Awesome Agent On Earth (aka the agent who loves the story as much as I do, whoever you are).

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

 I don't even remember! Six or seven weeks maybe? Once I started writing, it all sort of fell into place. It's been through about eight months of editing, though, so it's a far, far cry from that first draft!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

 I have called it the love child of a Patricia Briggs novel and NCIS.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

 My need to keep writing, despite the fact that I didn't want to keep writing my first series at that time. I had to test my limits, to find out if I could write something else entirely.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Who would've thought this was the hardest question to answer?

I'd have to say uncovering Thalia's history. She's been alone in the world for centuries, even though she's been surrounded by folks that adore her. When she watched the only other dragon she knew slaughtered in battle, she knew the only way to save herself was to hide her identity. Almost no one knows her real form, and if they did, she fears they would kill her just like they did the rest of the dragons. There are good reasons dragons were exterminated in the past. There's also the difficulty of fessing up to centuries of lies. How could anyone ever trust her again? She's kept herself emotionally isolated for centuries, until a killer sorcerer's spell accidentally unmasks her to the one person who might be able to help her.

 So, who's next? I don't know! You tell me? Is it YOU?


AND WE HAVE A TAKER! The Next Big Thing will be Alexander Pierce, and on Twitter as @RedAntisocial. Be on the lookout!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ever: Team Frankie and Team Toby

That lovely banner above features the absolutely beautiful cover of Jessa Russo's debut novel, Ever. If the cover isn't enough to draw you in (in which case you are either vision-impaired or hopelessly unromantic), I wanted to share my favorite aspect of the entire novel. Before I start, I thought it best to introduce you to Ever and her friends.

In case you can't bring yourself to look away from that breathtaking cover, here's what the back side of the book says:

Seventeen-year-old Ever’s love life has been on hold for the past two years. She’s secretly in love with her best friend Frankie, and he’s completely oblivious.

Of course, it doesn't help that he’s dead, and waking up to his ghost every day has made moving on nearly impossible.

Frustrated and desperate for something real, Ever finds herself falling for her hot new neighbor Toby. His relaxed confidence is irresistible, and not just Ever knows it. But falling for Toby comes with a price that throws Ever’s life into a whirlwind of chaos and drama. More than hearts are on the line, and more than Ever will suffer.

Some girls lose their hearts to love.

Some girls lose their minds.
Ever Van Ruysdael could lose her soul.


Just as spectacular as the front, right? But here's the hard part for me. In nearly every book I read where our heroine has a difficult choice between two boys, I almost immediately know which boy's Team I'm signing up for. I've read Ever twice now (and also read a few snippets from Ever Two! Shhhhh!) and I STILL HAVE NO IDEA IF I'M TEAM TOBY OR TEAM FRANKIE! (!!!)

Each of them has their merits. Frankie is the love of Ever's young life. He's been her best friend as long as she can remember, and throughout that time she's harbored a secret love for him. When he's killed, his ghost follows her home and stays with her. How can she ever have a relationship with a ghost, no matter how much she loves him? But none of that matters to her. As long as Frankie is with her, even as a ghost, can she ever move on?

But hold the phone! Because Toby will come along and sweep Ever off her feet. She's never met anyone like him before, and the mystery of her new neighbor becomes irresistible to her. The more she gets to know about him, the deeper she and Frankie are drawn into a shadowy world they never knew existed, but could be the undoing of all three of them.

I am definitely not the only one who feels torn between Frankie and Toby. In fact, it's such a common phenomenon that when Jessa had tiny charms made from her cover, she had to feature THREE designs, instead of just a Frankie and a Toby design. The third is "Team Undecided," and has Frankie's glasses and Toby's wing. So at least I'm not alone in my inability to pick a team.

If you've read Ever and were able to choose a side, I'd love to know your reasoning. Also, if you've read it and can't make up your mind, I'd love to commiserate with you about our shared dilemma.

But if you haven't read Ever, you'd better get on the ball! It's time to find out who YOU think is the right guy for our girl.

You can get your very own copy this very minute! Here's the links:.

EVER on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Ever-Jessa-Russo/dp/1620070898/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351098991&sr=8-1&keywords=ever+jessa+russo

And you need to follow Jessa, too, because you don't want to miss out when the second book in Ever's journey is released. I'm on pins and needles for it!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessaRusso
Jessa on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jessarussowrites
EVER on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EverTrilogy
Blog: http://jessarussowrites.blogspot.com/
EVER on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13625388-ever

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Writer Friends

I remember back about a year ago, when I first realized I might want to publish all those novel-length things I was writing. First I went to the library to see what I could learn about publishing there. That's where they keep the books, after all. I figured I'd find a ton of stuff about getting published. Most of what was there was sadly out of date, so I turned to the trusty internet in search of information. I searched every publishing topic from A to Z, and was slightly (okay, more than slightly) overwhelmed by it all.

One of the first and most frequent bits of information I read was you should edit and edit and revise and edit. The most recommended strategy for success was to have your writer friends review your work. You know, all your writer friends you have when you're first starting to write.

funny gifs

Yes. I hadn't even told my sister I was writing at that point, let alone tried to make friends with other people like me. People in caves huddled over their laptop, churning out word soup. Riiiiight.

I had been on Twitter for a while, but it was more a way for me to follow other people, rather than actually communicate with anyone else. I think I followed about 30 people, most of whom were celebrity-types, and I had a grand total of six followers, including my sister's dog. (Her dog is @Jezebelthedog, in case you were wondering. She doesn't tweet much. Maybe because she's a dog?)

So I trudged along, trying to edit my own work, doing the best I could. I felt so deprived because I didn't have any writer friends. And then I heard about a few writing contests. I heard about The Authoress, I heard about the Query Shark, Janet Reid. And then Cupid. Things kind of snowballed from there.

I made it into a few contests, and made friends with people I met in the comments sections. There was manuscript trading, and then learning how to critique and edit someone else's work. It was my entry into an amazing community of writers.

I didn't think a thing about this journey until I saw a series of tweets today about how much the twitter community of writers means to all of us who are a part of it. And how difficult it would be to get up every day and sit down to write without knowing all those other folks are out there right now doing the same thing. And without being able to pop over to twitter for a chat or a laugh when we get stuck or frustrated. It's the absolute truth. Writing might be a solitary activity, but being part of a group makes it that much easier and more fun.

Everything is better when you have folks who understand what you're going through to celebrate and commiserate with. So go forth and write, and celebrate the internet, because without it, we'd all be alone at our writing desks.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Untweetworthy, Part Deux

The second in a continuing series of bizarre little snippets that proved too long, too silly, or too irrelevant for Twitter, but needed to be written down somewhere (if only to get them out of my overcrowded thinker).


 Without further ado, here we go:

1. Facebook calls it a timeline. Why? It's not even linear. I wish there were a way to make the posts reflect the accurate passing of time. The same handful of posts seem to stick to the top, and interesting things get buried deep in the pile. This is why I like Twitter better. At least it uses linear time to post updates instead of the mish-mosh method FB uses.

2. Rape jokes: NEVER FUNNY. Rape APOLOGIST jokes: BAZINGA!

3. Oh, Florida. I thought I left you because I was sick of hurricanes. Turns out, you were too disorganized even for me to tolerate living there. Someday you will learn how to hold an election at least as well as Washington, D.C. can (and DC was woefully underequipped, but still managed to get everyone to the polls and tally up their votes on election night).

4. Just when I thought I was done with political ads, I remember how far behind I am on the TiVo. Just watched a show from two weeks ago, and realized every show for the next few weeks will be progressively more stuffed with campaign ads. At least I'll be fast-forwarding through all of them.

5. I'm starting to get distracted from my WIP by the first novel I ever wrote (and then imprisoned under the bed with an armed battalion of dust bunnies to prevent its escape). I am SO TEMPTED to rewrite it, you know, without all the adverbs this time...

6. Why was this blog so lacking in funny .gif images before?


7. I love the people of Twitter. I think I got kinda lucky in the imaginary friend lottery.

8. Having manuscripts on submission during election season was awful. I reflexively answered the phone every time it rang, JUST IN CASE IT WAS AN AGENT. I can't tell you how many political robocalls I hung up on, but I think the number was in the kajillions*.
*In the interest of mathematical accuracy, this is a number larger than a berjillion, but smaller than a squintillion.

9. I'm not the first person to say this, but WHY is it always the tweet with the typo that gets the most retweet love?

So there you go, the random overflowings of my sad little mind. To make up for it, please enjoy this gif of a slow loris having its little armpits tickled. Thank you.

Slow loris loves tickle

Monday, November 5, 2012

No No, Nano! Or, Unsticking All The Words

I didn't sign up for NaNoWriMo this year, because I was more than 50k into a novel, but after a big discussion on Twitter at the end of October, I did agree to NaNoFiMo, or National Novel Finishing Month. We proposed that we'd stick to the NaNo spirit of daily writing goals, whether it be a daily word count goal, an editing goal, or critiquing and polishing. Anything that got you closer to finishing a novel would count as a goal. Most importantly, we would be accountable to each other. We'd have to fess up when we didn't meet our goals. It's a great kick in the pants to stick to those goals!

I wanted my work in progress to be on the receiving end of this sort of kick:

funny gifs

But more often than not for the last week, I ended up more like this:

funny gifs

I was the dizzy squirrel, running in circles, unable to decide where the words were leading. As you can see, I'm still tying my metaphors up in knots. But I think I finally figured out what comes next.

So now this is me, writing many words, skating across the frozen surface of plot holes, and laughing as I swing like Tarzan across the dreaded Boggy Middle of this book:

funny gifs

All it took was a week of reading, self loathing, and a five minute email exchange with the fabulous @FeakySnucker. I swear, she should append her name to include the Fabulous. I don't even think she realized how helpful her gentle prompting was. And for the record, "gentle prompting" now includes such phrases as this:

"Either way, someone's going to be getting pounded."

This is why everyone needs a good critique partner. Not just after the writing is done, but for those horrible, horrible times when you get stuck. And as for NaNo, whether you choose to NaNoWriMo from the beginning, or NaNoFiMo from somewhere in the middle of a novel, I wish you many happy unstickings.

How is your November writing goal coming along? Are you NaNo'ing in any way? Need someone to kick your metaphorical patootie? I am available for booty booting, and happy to help!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Campity Campity Camp

Sorry if everyone is completely bored with my camping adventures. But I'm going camping again this weekend for the third time in two months. This time will be different, though. It's the official camp certification training for the Girl Scouts. After this weekend, I will be an officially certified camp leader. Be afraid.

It's almost redundant for me to have to do this, but it's a requirement, so I have to go. Even though its freaking cold outside and I'd rather sleep in my own cozy bed than in a sleeping bag on a wooden deck. I'd rather have my stove, my fridge full of nummy food, and roast marshmallows in my fireplace rather than over a fire pit in the mud.

And I'd rather stay home and write, with my electricity and my internet, than try to read by a tiny book light while I attempt to prevent frostbite, and likely pass out from sheer exhaustion before I finish a single page.

The things I do for my kid.

Since I'm the only one in my training group with any experience camping with Girl Scouts, I left most of the planning to the others. It should be an interesting, likely costly, experience.

We normally spend about $6-$8 per girl for food for an entire weekend. We do this by shopping in bulk, eating on the cheap, and understanding that camp is not the place for gourmet meals. Judging from the menu that the food coordinator prepared for us, I may be paying three times that much for my share. She is a nutritionist for a living, and the food will be fantastic, but I think the others in the group will be schooled. I enjoy fancy-schmancy name-brand food as much as the next person, but camp is more a place for Costco discounts than Whole Foods premiums. And that's half the fun of it.

So off I go. I have a billion things to do today, including chopping up candle stumps to make fire starters, restocking my first aid kit, and making sure I pack extra socks. I also have to complete the two page camp quiz, which I likely should have done before today. O_O

The camp site where I'll be staying may have sustained some Sandy-related damage, too. It's right down by a river, and it's muddy even when it hasn't been pouring rain all week. Hopefully I won't sink into the mud and disappear forever.


So to anyone who tries to reach me this weekend, I will return calls, emails, texts, and tweets, but it might be Sunday before you hear back.

Anyone else have anything more interesting planned for the weekend? I'm dying to hear about your non-damp, non-freezing activities. Sort of like watching Hawaii 5-0 during a snow storm. Keeps you feeling warm. :D