Posts tagged with: tamara hogan

Wordsmith Wednesday: Strong Opening Paragraphs

Welcome to Wordsmith Wednesday: Strong Opening Paragraphs!

In this monthly feature, we’ll analyze strong opening paragraphs by looking at examples from both published books and unpublished manuscripts.

In last month’s column, I invited members of our Ruby community to submit their own Opening Paragraphs for kudos and feedback. 

Our first volunteer is Kylie!

Wordsmith Wednesday: Strong Opening Paragraphs

Welcome to Wordsmith Wednesday: Opening Paragraphs! I’m your host, Tamara Hogan.

In this monthly feature, we’ll analyze strong opening paragraphs by looking at examples from both published books and unpublished manuscripts.

The unpublished manuscripts part is where you come in. 🙂 More on this in a second. 

Whether we’re talking about the opening paragraphs of a book, of a chapter, or of a scene, the author’s job is the same: ORIENT THE READER, QUICKLY.  To me, this means being able to answer the following four questions in fairly short order:

  • Who’s the point of view character?
  • Where are they? (Setting/world)
  • When are they? (Time/era-wise)
  • Who else is there? (if anyone)

Don’t make me wait too long! A couple-hundred words, max.  Bonus points if the opening paragraphs also convey information about characterization, genre, and the conflict to come. 

Here’s a great example – the opening paragraphs of Tessa Dare’s 2013 Spindle Cove novella, The Beauty and the Blacksmith:

Goodness. Just look at it. Thick as my ankle.

Diana Highwood took her glove and worked it like a fan, chasing the flush from her throat. She was a gentlewoman, born and raised in genteel comfort, if not opulent luxury. From an early age, she’d been marked as the hope of the family. Destined, her mother vowed, to catch a nobleman’s eye.

But here, in the smithy with Aaron Dawes, all her delicate breeding disintegrated. How could she help staring? The man had wrists as thick as her ankle.

 In three paragraphs – after a mere eighty-nine words! – the reader knows: 

  • Who’s the point of view character? DIANA HIGHWOOD
  • Where are they? (Setting/world) A SMITHY
  • When are they? (Time/era-wise) Not specifically noted, but Historical Romance cues abound: waving a glove, smithy, gentlewoman, nobleman
  • Who else is there? AARON DAWES

Other information conveyed in those eighty-nine carefully selected words: Diana, a gentlewoman, is hot for the blacksmith, which is a BIG no-no in terms of the era and socioeconomic class. There’s maternal pressure for her to marry well, to put the family on a firm financial footing. There’s also some naughtiness, and dawning sexual curiosity, revealed via Diana’s thoughts about, erm, size. 

Eighty-nine words, y’all. I BOW DOWN.


As part of the Ruby Reboot, we’re going to analyze opening paragraphs the fourth Wednesday of every month. While we’ll continue to use published examples as learning tools, we’d love to give YOU the opportunity to submit your opening paragraphs for kudos and feedback, anonymously or not. 

If you’d like to participate in an upcoming Opening Paragraphs blog post, please email your opening paragraphs to me at (200 word maximum, and let me know if you’d like to remain anonymous.)  We’ll try to publish several Opening Paragraphs per month, and the Rubies and our readers will provide feedback in Comments!    


Do you have any thoughts about Dare’s opening paragraphs, or about my approach to analyzing them? Is my 200-word guideline too hardcore? 🙂 

If you haven’t yet read Tessa Dare’s delightful Spindle Cove series, you’re really missing out. Buy links for Tessa’s books can be found at

Why yes, this pic IS from my Keeper Shelf!

From “Book in a Week” to BOOK!

Using the wonders of Yahoo groups and RWA online forums, my RWA land chapter, Midwest Fiction Writers, hosts a couple of virtual ‘meetings’ in addition to our monthly in-person meetings, where members can get cheerleading, support, and companionship while trying to meet their personal writing goals.

The first, “Club 100,” helps our members develop and maintain sustainable, long-term writing habits. In its purest form, “Club 100” participants commit to writing (or editing, or revising) at least 100 words per day, for 100 days – but much like the Rubies’ Winter Writing Festival, this goal can be customized.

The other virtual ‘meeting,’ held one week per month, is called “Book in a Week.” BIAW is meant as a short-term productivity blast, where participants write as much as they can during the week immediately following our monthly meeting.  As is the case with “Club 100,” BIAWers get virtual companionship, support, and accountability while meeting individual writing goals.

Members of these groups absolutely love them, but people who go it alone also find the “Club 100” and “Book in a Week” concepts to be hella productive. Today, my friend and MFW chapter mate. 2010 Golden Heart finalist Nancy Holland, shares how the “Book in a Week” concept helped her write her latest fantasy novel, Felyn’s Curse.   

Take it away, Nancy!


By the time I finished Thalgor’s Witch, my first fantasy novel, it had already won the first two of several RWA chapter contests, so I had no doubt it would sell right away. (Narrator voice: She was wrong.) I was teaching then and had free time during the summer (although not as much as you would think). So I decided to try to write the sequel that became Felyn’s Curse in one week.

I had already done some prep work on the project: the goal, motivation, and conflict for the heroine and hero and a few other characters; a few scenes sketched out in my mind; and the basic plot points (more would have been better). I had a few other things on my side, too. My kids were old enough that they and my husband could pick up the slack in what had to be done around the house. In addition, at that time I drafted longhand and typed the pages into a computer later. That meant I could pick up my writing and carry it from place to place rather than having to sit at a desk all day every day.

Needless to say, I didn’t really expect to finish the book in one week, but setting that goal helped keep me on task. I ended up writing six out of twenty eventual chapters or very roughly twenty-nine thousand words. That averages out to over four thousand words a day, or twice the NaNoWriMo daily goal. The prep work helped, but another huge factor was being able to keep my mind “in the story.” Obviously, the more hours a day I wrote, the fewer hours I spent thinking about other things, but more than that, the more time I spent with my characters, the more deeply I fell into their world.

NaNoWriMo actually offers a useful comparison. I “won” NaNo (i.e., finished a 50k book) another year when I was on sabbatical and didn’t have to teach. I wrote fewer words per day in NaNo, but the BIAW was actually easier. Part of the difference was being able to stay more fully in the story, but another part was that it was easier to impose on my family and otherwise shut down my life for the shorter period of time than it was to half-way keep up with things for a whole month. If I ever wanted to produce a book in a hurry again, I think I would alternate BIAWs with two or three normal writing weeks rather than writing it in a single month.

Of course, everyone is different and your mileage may vary. Two huge variables are your work/family situation and where you are on the pantser/plotter scale (I fall somewhere on the pantser side of the middle). Still, writing almost a third of Felyn’s Curse in one week taught me both what I was capable of doing and my limits. If you have trouble freeing up all of November for NaNo or are curious about what it would be like to really write “full time” (i.e., all day every day), you might want to see if the BIAW approach works as well for you as it did for me.


Nancy, thanks so much for this glimpse into your process! 

Ruby Readers:  What do you think about the “Book in a Week” concept? Nancy will be with us today to respond to any questions or comments you may have.

Also… today is Felyn’s Curse‘s book birthday! The blurb:

When Felyn was a young, defenseless witch, she was cursed to live as a shape shifter—a deadly panther. She might have been rescued and raised by a noble and powerful leader, but she lives in fear she will hurt those she loves in her animal form so each full moon she hides deep in the forest. But how can she refuse her adoptive father’s plea for an arranged marriage with a new ally? After all, it’s temporary and in name only…

Varz agrees to an arranged marriage reluctantly because he needs the military and diplomatic alliance. He has secrets and a growing power struggle back home. He’s relieved he need only marry the young witch for a year until he meets his bride. Felyn is beautiful and intelligent and not easy to ignore, but Varz is a man of his word. His vow to leave his bride untouched will be the hardest one he has had to keep.

Congratulations, Nancy! 

Buy links for Felyn’s Curse:

 Amazon | BN | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play

We’re Back!

Okay, RWA National was fantastic! I did more than survive. My brain is exploding with inspiration, and also, and perhaps more importantly, with concrete ideas on how to execute.

While we all recover, I thought I’d put up a quick post with some of my top RWA 2018 moments.

– When the woman with the coolest hair at the conference refers to seeing you at the Indie signing as her “surprise fangirl moment.” (Thanks, Chelle Olson!) 

– When Tessa Dare looks at your name tag and says, “We know each other, don’t we?” (Only in the sense that we tend to follow each other around the same threads on Twitter, but *grin*)

– When someone tells you your “Reinvention” panel was the most inspirational thing they heard all week. 🙂

– Having to take a few things out of checked luggage and transfer to my carry-on to reduce suitcase weight to 50 lbs. So many great books! #goodproblems

Me, with Darynda and Vivi

– Dinner with the Rubies, and seeing old friends! There’s never enough time to catch up.

– Ruby Slippered Sisterhood shout-out at the Annual General Meeting, related to the need to gather feedback from the RWA membership about the Golden Heart contest, which will end in 2019. What comes next? My friend @SusanSey live-tweeted the #AGM – she’s always worth a read!

– Listening to 2018 Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Suzanne Brockmann’s electrifying acceptance speech:

(The RWA National office will post a YouTube link to the RITA Awards Ceremony soon. It’s worth watching in full.)

– Having multiple people mention how much they enjoyed/valued/appreciated the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog. Thank you so much! If you value the blog, we invite you to comment occasionally. Sometimes we wonder if we’re shouting into the void…  🙂

There’s so much more I could write here – workshops, and signings, and sore feet, oh my! But what about you?

What memories, learnings, and takeaways did YOU take away from this year’s RWA National Conference?


Surviving RWA National: Sound Sensitivities Edition

This blog post is a follow-up to one I wrote a number of years ago, in the early days of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. While the content of Behold My P-ness! Writers, Myers-Briggs, and an Introvert’s Guide to RWA National is self-explanatory and the advice still holds, soon after its publication the post came to make an entirely different kind of sense to me.

In 2012, TV host Kelly Ripa stated on her talk show that she had a sensory processing disorder called misophonia…and hearing her say this changed my life. It was then that I knew that there was a name for the weird set of sensory sensitivites I’d experienced since I was nine years old.  

I have misophonia, too—and while I’m still a legitimate contender for the title of “Most Introverted Author On the Planet,” there’s so much more to the story.   

April Showers Bring May…

…flowers? Nuh-uh, not where I live.

Here in Minnesota, there’s still snow on the ground, and anything planted before Memorial Day will likely be a victim of a serial killing frost.

Nope, if you grew up where I did, just south of the Canadian border, learning how to skate as soon as you walked and with a legit Team USA “Miracle on Ice” Olympian living across the street, April is all about hockey playoffs, and May the Stanley Cup.

In Minnesota, April showers bring May mullets. 😉

They say “write what you know” so it’s probably no surprise that my Underbelly Chronicles series is partially set in northern Minnesota. One of my favorite scenes from the second book in the series, CHASE ME, occurs when my sophisticated vampire villain, Beddoe, walks into a northern Minnesota dive bar while the locals watch the Stanley Cup finals, looking for a way to get more information about the archaeological dig down the road. Did I mention that Beddoe is…alien-born, a purveyor of flesh, and completely out of his element on the planet’s surface? Attempting to see a familiar setting through completely fresh eyes was a blast, and really gave me a workout!

To celebrate the hockey playoffs and the upcoming Stanley Cup, a throwback to 2012:


Despite her stature, she was a woman, not a girl. Her breasts were small but well-formed, her hips slight but rounded in sexual maturity. Her near-white hair was…quite extraordinary, and to a man in his line of business that was saying something. A certain segment of his client base would absolutely love her. 
He could calculate the profit already. 
Clearing his throat, he approached, levering himself onto one of the row of odd backless seats. He left one empty seat between him and the woman, who busily sucked on a small red fruit impaled on a tiny spear.
“What can I getcha?” the giant of a man said from behind the oblong table. His wiry gray facial hair cascaded to a barrel chest covered by a vividly colored red and black checked shirt. 
Beddoe looked at the row of colorful bottles, at the mechanical levers. The yeasty smell of the beer was making his stomach roll in a most unpleasant manner. What could he drink that wouldn’t make him ill? Gesturing to the small woman, he said, “I’ll have what she’s having.” 
The big man smirked. “One raspberry Cosmo coming up.” As he turned away, he muttered, “Goddamn metrosexuals.” 
“Citiot,” a man down the row said through a cough. 
He recognized the “goddamn” well enough—such colorful curses here on the surface—but “citiot”? “Metrosexual”? Given the men’s body language and tone of voice, the context didn’t seem complimentary.
A trio of trills emanated from a small rectangular device sitting on the table in front of the coughing man, who picked it up and spoke. The device looked enough like the comm unit he’d left behind on the ship that he could probably bring his with him the next time he came down to the surface. 
While the other man prepared his drink, Beddoe observed the room. What an odd mix of primitive and…even more primitive. Dead animal heads, stuffed and mounted, adorned the walls and stared at him with unblinking eyes. Brightly colored signs illuminated with ancient planetary gasses buzzed and popped and hummed. Music throbbed from a colorful box in the corner. A gravelly-voiced man begged someone to pour some sugar on him in the name of love. Up on the screen, men bashed a small, black, cylindrical object with hook-ended sticks.
The music was effective. He felt its pull at his groin—or maybe the pull came from the woman sitting at his right, suckling on the round red fruit with her flexible pink tongue. 
“Jesus,” the man seated on his other side muttered, setting down his comm device. “It won’t work, you know,” he said under his breath to Beddoe. “The ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ thing. She’s shot everyone down tonight.”
Shot? The man stank of herb and frustration, but he didn’t appear to be injured
“You from The Cities?” the man continued.
The Cities? Beddoe remembered the man’s previous comment. Ah. “Yes, I’m a Citiot.” 
The man cleared his throat, and his face turned ruddy. “Sorry about that.” 
The bearded man placed a reddish drink in front of him, setting it on a small absorbent mat. “Gonna watch the game for a while? Opening a tab?” 
Payment. Dia, he’d arrived with empty pockets—not that they’d know what to do with his digital tender anyway. How had Minchin dealt with this issue? 
“Let me get that for ya,” the man said. “No hard feelings, eh?” 
The small female spoke. “Put it on my tab, Tubby.” Her voice was lower and smokier than he’d expected. “Any man who orders a raspberry Cosmo in a northern Minnesota bar either has confidence to burn or a very odd sense of humor.” 
No one had ever accused him of having a sense of humor, but he wasn’t about to contradict her. Not if it kept her talking to him. “Thank you,” he said, picking up the drink and taking a careful sip. Tart, fruity sweetness exploded on his tongue. He narrowed his eyes, nodded in approval, and took another sip. 
“Good, huh?” she said with a tiny feline smile. “These guys don’t know what they’re missing.” 
Before he could respond, a loud cheer suddenly rose from the screen where two warriors circled each other, drawing closer with a great sense of ceremony. They exchanged snarls, words, bumped chests. They threw the sticks, gauntlets, and helmets to the ground with quick, deliberate actions before lunging at each other, trading methodical bare-fisted punches. 
On screen, the crowd roared even louder. “Kick the f*cker’s ass, Walloch!” Tubby called up to the device. “Ivy League p*ssy.”
The two men fell to the slippery surface and grappled for position, the warrior in dark colors—Walloch—quickly gaining the upper hand. The man on his back fought bravely, but Walloch, clearly dominant, repeatedly smashed his fist into the other man’s face. Blood spurted, staining skin, the man’s garment, and the hard, white surface. 
Beddoe’s fangs tingled. This Lord Stanley certainly had fierce warriors fighting for the honor of his cup.
The men rolled, scrabbling for purchase on the slippery surface, and still, the punches flew. First blood had been drawn. Why did they keep fighting? Just as he thought it, two men wearing black and white striped shirts approached, pulling Walloch up and off the other man by his arms. As the victor was led away, the defeated man lurched to his hands and knees, head hanging, spitting blood. 
On-screen, a melodious voice said, “And Walloch skates to the penalty box. Five minute major.” 
“Walloch couldn’t let that check on his captain go unpunished, Robert,” another disembodied voice added.
The warrior Walloch grinned, exposing bloody teeth, as he took a seat in a box that any youngling could escape. Beddoe tongued his fangs. All that blood going to waste. 
“Look at that, Vance,” Tubby said, pointing to the screen where several people had joined the defeated man, crawling on their hands and knees, peering closely at the white surface. “Dude lost a tooth.” 
Vance, the man who’d offered to pay for his drink, raised his own glass in a toast. “He should look for his sac as long as he’s down there.” 


There’s a killer on the loose!

Hockey: Love it or hate it, in Minnesota one can’t escape it.

One also can’t escape spring snowstorms. Last weekend, Winter Storm Xanto dropped 20″ of the fresh stuff over southern Minnesota. #sigh

April, we’re getting sick and tired of your shenanigans. You know winter’s worn out its welcome when you’re thrilled to see mud.

How do you know it’s spring in your neck of the woods? Do you get spring fever?

Tamara Hogan is the award-winning author of The Underbelly Chronicles paranormal romance series. An English major by education and a software developer/process engineer by trade, she recently stopped telecommuting to Silicon Valley to teach, edit, and write full-time. Tamara loathes cold and snow, but nonetheless lives near Minneapolis with her husband and two naughty cats.
For information about Tammy’s books, including purchase links, please visit

Coastal Magic Reconnaissance!!

Over the years, I’ve heard great things about the Coastal Magic Convention. As it says at their website, Coastal Magic is “a super casual, urban fantasy, paranormal, and romance focused convention in Daytona Beach, Florida.”

Casual? Great. Super casual? Even better. Florida, during the winter? Please, tell me more!

As The Most Introverted Author on the Planet™, I’ve never attended Coastal Magic myself, so my friend and Midwest Fiction Writers chaptermate Nancy Holland, who just returned, has kindly agreed to give us a sneak-peak into her experience.

Take it away, Nancy! 


Hi, everyone. Thanks to Tamara Hogan and the other Rubies for having me on the blog today! I went to the Coastal Magic Conference last week in Daytona Beach, Florida, and thought you might be interested in a report on this small, friendly, and low-key event.

One reason for a writer from Minnesota to attend this February event should be obvious.

Coastal Magic started out as a fantasy/paranormal con, but has expanded into a more general romance conference that includes a wide diversity of genres, authors, and readers, including everything from YA to gritty romantic suspense to m/m to high fantasy. Unlike most RWA chapter conferences I’ve attended, the focus is very much on author/attendee interaction (including a featured “lunch with an author”). Plus they have a MST3000-style movie night, a big party, and great giveaways. [Tammy adds: I saw the Cinema Craptastique tweets. OMG, hilarious! Jason Mamoa sightings are always a plus.]

Coastal Magic Book Signing

There are also vendors, lots of bloggers, and a book-signing on Saturday afternoon that’s open to the public.

And I had a great time!

One unique feature of Coastal Magic derives from its origins as a fantasy and paranormal con. Rather than panels on craft, marketing, etc., they focused on what I’d call content areas — m/m romance, military/law enforcement, westerns, horror and, of course, fantasy. This way of organizing the conference meant I could interact with and learn from other fantasy authors who draw from history, myths, and legends in their stories, while trying to remain true both to their source material and their own visions.

There were also panels on topics such as research, “changing lanes” from one subgenre to another, sidekicks, and audiobooks. The diversity panel was especially interesting to me because it included a conversation about how even authors from traditionally under-represented groups have to work around and with the larger culture’s stereotypes of those groups. There was also a discussion of how to take cultures and stories we think we understand (e.g., Arthurian legend) and make them new again. An amazing number of the authors on the panels I attended were anthropology, history, classics, and religion majors in college. In other words, my people. 

It’s always fun to check out the SWAG!

The conference was well-run, with excellent moderators and speakers at all the panels I attended, and that appeared to be the case across the board. The social events were fun (if a bit raucous for an introvert like me). That said, I agree with the advice Damon Suede gave me when he told me about Coastal Magic — you should go as an “attendee” before asking to be included as an “invited author.”  (Despite having a great time and making new friends, I haven’t decided if this event is the right match for me and my readers in the long run.) The cost of the con is reasonable; it’s held in a lovely resort hotel; and if you live near Daytona Beach, you can register for one or two days rather than committing to the whole event. I’d encourage you to check it out:   Coastal Magic Convention website | Twitter


Thanks for the reconnaissance, Nancy!

Today’s question: As a reader or as an author, what are your questions about, or experiences with, regional or genre-specific conferences and conventions? We’d love to hear from you.

Here’s the blurb for Nancy’s new fantasy novel, Thalgor’s Witch

In a land of perpetual war and wandering, warrior Thalgor not only leads his people in battle, but keeps the hope alive that someday his displaced tribe can rebuild the kingdom that was lost to the treachery between witches and men. When he captures a beautiful witch, he knows he cannot trust her. But to succeed in his quest to find a new home and prevail over his enemies, he also knows he needs her.
Erwyn might be a slave and feared for her powers and precognition, but she doesn’t cower when confronted by the feared warrior. Nor does she act as expected. Thalgor’s kindness confuses her. His flashes of humor confound her. And the reaction he ignites in her body creates a longing that she cannot deny.
Neither anticipated falling in love. The stakes are high, but when Thalgor is mortally wounded, Erwyn realizes she must she must accept help from an unlikely source to save him.

Isn’t that cover gorgeous?!? Excerpt and purchase information is available here.

Falling in Love Again…

I mentioned in my last blog post that I was hitting up my keeper shelf in an effort to break out of a writing slump. The writing slump is slowly easing, but reading-wise? I’m IN THE ZONE.

I’m re-reading one of my favorite series for the upteenth time, and falling in love again. The objects of my affection? Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, and his creator, Lois McMaster Bujold.

Where do I start?

The Vorkosigan Saga, currently up to 30 books, is a genre mash-up – though having won multiple Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards (including a 2017 Hugo for Best Series), I consider science fiction to be home base. The characters are amazing – more on that in a moment – but let’s start with the world. Bujold hasn’t so much built a world as she has a freaking galaxy, comprised of numerous planets as well as the ability to travel and communicate between them. Staid, aristocratic Barrayar, free-wheeling Beta Colony, dome-enclosed Komarr with its poisonous outer atmosphere, lawless Jackson’s Whole, ancient and sturdy Old Earth, and so many more… Over the series, we meet each planet’s citizens, immersing ourselves in various government and political systems, religions, histories, geologies, military battles, galactic manufacturing and trade arrangements, reproductive and sexual ethics systems, genetic manipulations, and advanced technologies (or lack thereof). It all gets a place on the page, beautifully rendered and exquisitely textured. The conflicts which inevitably arise as people from different cultures meet provide a fine opportunity for today’s reader to explore issues we face in our here and now—which I think the best science fiction does.

Bill Gates (1985-ish)

As a (former) technologist, I’m astounded by Bujold’s powers of extrapolation. Consider the state of digital technology in 1986, when Bujold’s first Vorkosiverse book, Shards of Honor, was published. Mainframes ruled; THE computer at my university took up an entire room in the Science Building. Personal computers were just entering corporate America, and network connectivity was in its infancy. (Modems, baby!) Yet Bujold, child of an engineer, imagined where these technologies could go. Many of the devices and technologies she references in her world – secured com-consoles, hand readers, miniature digital trackers—didn’t exist at the time she wrote Shards, yet they’re ubiquitous today. I hope Bujold’s prescience extends to synthetic bones, uterine replicators, sleeptimers, and wormhole jumps, too. 🙂   

To the characters…  The Vorkosigan Saga is multi-generational; Miles’s parents, Aral and Cordelia, are the main characters in the first few books, and they kick ass in their own right. Two people from very different worlds, they meet in wartime, fall in love, and start a life together. As the series goes on, we see the horrific, politically-motivated chemical attack that damages their fetus’s bones in utero. We’re there the day Miles is born, adored by his parents, but whose grandfather would rather see die than survive and pollute the family’s aristocratic bloodlines. Over several books and a number of years, we cheer for this hyperactive, hyper-intelligent little boy as he strains to overcome his body’s limitations. 

Not QUITE the Miles of my imagination…

In later books, we see Miles grow to adulthood. “Grow” is a relative term; due to the soltoxin attack, adult Miles tops out at 4’9” tall, his entire body scarred by injuries and surgical procedures, with an “oversized head exaggerated by a short neck set on a twisted spine” (Brothers In Arms, p.77). (As you might imagine, it’s impossible to capture Miles’s essence via cover art. No model or illustration quite does him justice.) Despite his physical limitations and distinctive frame, he crafts a career as the most successful undercover operative in Barrayar Imperial Security’s Covert Ops division, solving crimes and enjoying exotic lovers from across the galaxy, until a tragic mistake changes his life forever. However, he finds the resilience to start anew, meeting Barrayaran-born widow Ekaterin Nile Vorsoisson and her son Nikki, who completely capture his heart.

With a deft display of craft, Bujold conveys Ekaterin’s sensual curiosity about Miles’s physiology without fetishizing him, and vice-versa – which is some feat, being Miles’s eyes are level with her cleavage. 🙂  Their HEA does not come easily, but these two make my heart go pitty-pat. The proposal scene from A Civil Campaign is one for the ages. 

For me, brains, humor and kindness outweigh brawn any day of the week – and if pressed, I would select Miles Vorkosigan as #1 on my “Top Ten To Do” list – yes, edging out J.D. Robb’s Roarke for the top spot. Series-wise, I think The Vorkosigan Saga stands among the greats. Such is Bujold’s gift.

So, thank you, Lois McMaster Bujold, for creating a world, and characters, I can fall in love with over and over again. I’m not quite out of my writing slump yet, but reading your work helps me think it might be possible sooner rather than later – a gift beyond price.

Ah, the keeper shelf – where you can fall in love over and over again, with no guilt whatsoever! Which series do you compulsively re-read, and why? Which heroes and heroines appear at the top of your personal “Top Ten To Do” list? 🙂 


They say that opposites attract, but this is ridiculous!

Tamara Hogan’s latest book, ENTHRALL ME (Underbelly Chronicles Book Four), is available for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and in paperback.

Visit her on the web at!




Care and Feeding of the Perpetually Peeved

I have a confession to make.

This blog post is the first new thing I’ve written in over a month. My WIP, which I mentioned in my ENTHRALL ME release day interview last month, is stalled out at about the halfway point. I can’t bear to look at how long it’s been since I last updated my manuscript.

ENTHRALL ME itself? I’m so proud of the book I wrote. Reviews have been great, but sales could be better. It must be said: this is rather a self-fulfilling prophesy, because I’m completely uninterested in doing the “Buy My Book!” social media pole dance right now.

Promoting my book feels…so inconsequential, like fiddling while Rome burns.

I’ve found 2017 to be a very challenging year to be in the happily-ever-after business, and the internet – particularly social media – is part of my problem.

I used to love Twitter. 

I used to appreciate the fact that, when an important news story broke, it broke there first. I felt engaged, energized, and well-informed. But then came 2017, the Year of the Dumpster Fire, and I’m drowning in a digital deluge of breaking news, political propaganda, apocalyptic weather events, nuclear threats, racist/sexist/homophobic/xenophobic screeds, lurking authoritarianism, literal neo-Nazis, police brutality, mass casualty events, terrorism, and too many #MeToos to bear.

The result? I feel chronically anxious, permanently triggered, easily distracted, and utterly exhausted. Apathetic, brain dead, sick to my soul, and perpetually pissed off. Writing-wise, words, phrases, plot points, and original ideas slip away before I can grasp them.

My brain is too busy processing other information.

The internet, and social media tools, provide so many ways for us to engage with the world, to stay informed, but over the last couple of years the ratio of good stuff to bad seems to have taken a distinct tip toward the toxic. So much of what I see online these days sends me spiraling down into an emotional sh*thole, but… There I am – *flick flick flick* – like a car crash gawker, or an addict needing her next fix.

It’s a really bad high.

They say the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. I have one.  It’s time for a digital detox.

Bottom line: I desperately need to move toward a healthier, more productive  head space, and to do that, I need to exercise more stringent control over where I go, and how much time I spend, online. (When the dude who invented Facebook’s “Like” icon makes a similar choice, I feel I’m in good company.) So! I’ll be scheduling more blocks of offline time in the upcoming days, weeks, and months, to try to decrease my anxiety levels and get my writing mojo back.

Other things I’m doing:  

  • Re-establishing my “no wireless at the coffee shop” rule. Over the last year, I fell into the bad habit of “just checking the news” on my phone before starting to write each morning. Talk about a slippery slope! Pro Tip: There will always be news, most of which I can do nothing about. Barring a nuclear attack or eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano, news can wait.  (UPDATE: I’m happy to report that this is working! Words! New words!! New words being written! By me!!! Wheee!!!!)
  • Raiding the keeper shelf, Part 1:  Comfort reads to the rescue! Reread, and wallow in, some old favorites. 
  • Raiding the keeper shelf, Part 2: Learn from those old favorites! Assess those keepers for craft. 
  • Rereading my own books to reconnect with the Underbelly Chronicles world.
  • Using social media with purpose. No more mindlessly flicking through Twitter and Facebook just because I’ve got a minute.
  • Scheduling a little bit of promo. Get SOMETHING out there, so I feel like less of a #promofail.
  • Stepping away from screens and engaging with the physical world more frequently. I’m going to try to pick up a physical book – or better yet, a notebook and pen – instead.

The simple act of putting these feelings into words, and coming up with some practical strategies to tip the scales in a healthier direction, has been scary, yet so very helpful! Now, to follow through and find the joy again. Wish me luck.

Ruby community, it’s your turn. Is anyone else finding 2017 to be a really challenging year to be in the happily-ever-after business? How are you holding up?

Please share your strategies for productivity, work/life balance, and self-care.



Cartoon by David Sipress, who can’t remember where it was first published.


They say that opposites attract, but this is ridiculous!

Tamara Hogan’s latest book, ENTHRALL ME (Underbelly Chronicles Book Four), is available for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and in paperback.

Visit her on the web at!



My Low-Key Book Release Plan

Those who read my blog post on redefining success realize I’m not necessarily apt to follow conventional publishing wisdom because I don’t publish frequently enough for conventional wisdom to apply. That said, on October 9 I’m releasing my first book in four years.

Allow me to introduce Tia and Wyland!

They say that opposites attract, but this is ridiculous…

Vampire journalist Tia Quinn is young (by vamp standards), curious (even by reporter standards) and sitting on some information that could threaten civilization as she knows it. She’s honor-bound to share it with the Underworld Council’s chilly Vampire Second, an ancient vampire more powerful than she can imagine…and who’s hotter than hell. He’s also burdened by duty and taciturn to the point of grimness but when a stalker breaks into her house, Wyland insists on keeping Tia close until the perpetrator is caught.  

Wyland’s life is exactly the way he likes it — solitary, calm, predictable. Then Tia moves in, turns his staid bachelor household upside down, and wakes his libido from its hundred-year nap. She’s too alluring, too damn young, and hell on his self-control—especially when she cheerfully informs him the attraction is mutual. But the last time he let his heart overrule his head, his people paid the price. He can’t make the same mistake again.    

As they work together to neutralize the threat, Tia and Wyland soon realize that not only do opposites attract, but that the end result can be positively magnetic… 


After four years spent sitting on the bench, my primary goal with this book is simply to get in the game again. To reintroduce myself to readers who might have forgotten I exist. So, here is my low-key book release plan!

PHASE ONE: The Underbelly Chronicles “goes wide”

Earlier this month, I re-released the existing books in the series, TASTE ME, CHASE ME, TOUCH ME, and TEMPT ME, at Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo in addition to Amazon (Kindle/paperback).

PHASE TWO: Outsourcing Decisions for ENTHRALL ME

Though I have a software development background and have been known to hack out my own HTML on occasion, I am unable to produce professional-looking graphics. Kim Killion to the rescue!

Kim designed all the covers for my re-issued Underbelly Chronicles series – the ENTHRALL ME cover was literally “one and done” – so when it came time to outsource other graphics work, The Killion Group was a natural choice. 

First, marketing/PR materials.  Kim developed the following graphic based upon a ratty-looking sketch I made. I’m using it for bookmarks, social media headers, social media posts, and a print ad you’ll see in the Oct. 2017 RWR. (Thanks again for the blurb, Darynda!)

Second, reviews. Though I’ll contact some bloggers directly, I’m giving The Killion Group’s Book Blast PR service a try. With this service, a member of Kim’s team sends my press kit and a review request to a curated group of book-loving romance reviewers and bloggers, inviting them to help celebrate ENTHRALL ME during its release week, Oct. 9-13, 2017 by posting a review. We have a couple of requests so far. Stay tuned!

Third, I booked a NetGalley Co-op slot through The Killion Group. In the interest of simplicity, the co-op is scheduled for October, my release month, so people can post their reviews immediately rather than having to wait for the book’s “Pre-Order” status to change.

I’m not putting a lot of time, effort, or resources into building pre-release buzz for this book. Sales are sales; I don’t care when they come. Hitting a list isn’t on my radar. Nudging this book into the world is.  


As Ruby Sis Heather McCollum mentioned in her awesome release planning post a couple of weeks ago, I too used Canva to whip up some simple promo pieces to use on social media. An example:

I’m still tweaking the Canva graphics. Personally, I think the text is still too small. Opinions?

I don’t plan to do a blog tour, but closer to release time you’ll see me at a few blogs, and on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll probably break down and produce a newsletter, if only to let my long-suffering subscribers know why I dropped off the face of the earth for four years…

On Monday, Oct. 9, Ruby Sis Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane will host a release day Q&A with me here at the blog. Thanks, Vivi/Lizzie! 

A thousand thanks to Spark Creative Partners’ April Reed, who finished my website updates lickety-split….including posting an excerpt from a scene where Tia and Wyland visit the Minnesota State Fair. 🙂    

For those so inclined, here are some ENTHRALL ME pre-order links!!

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

(Paperback available soon, all * gulp * 480 pages of it…) 

Rubies and readers, thank you so much for keeping me sane during the last four years! To celebrate sanity and sisterhood, today I’ll give an ENTHRALL ME eARC (Mobi, EPub, or PDF) to one randomly-selected commenter.

Today’s question is a simple one: What are you reading right now? Give an author some love.


Tamara Hogan is the award-winning author of The Underbelly Chronicles paranormal romance series. An English major by education and a software and process engineer by trade, she recently stopped telecommuting to Silicon Valley to teach, edit, and write full-time. Tamara loathes cold and snow, but nonetheless lives near Minneapolis with her husband and two naughty cats.
Her debut, TASTE ME, won a Daphne du Maurier Award for Mystery and Suspense, was nominated for the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award®, and won Prism Awards for Best Dark Paranormal, Best First Book, and Best of the Best.
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The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: Everyone of these cover designers is so talented. I wish I had their eye for detail.
  • Autumn Jordon: I totally agree, Kate. I think it takes a certain eye to make an awesome cover.
  • Autumn Jordon: They did a amazing job answering my questions, didn’t they. I also learned a lot.
  • Darynda Jones: What a great interview! Thanks for taking the time, guys. This is so informative and timely. I love...
  • Kate Parker: Thank you so much for this timely interview. I’m indie and getting ready to recover the first in...