Sexy in the City


woman in city

Some people are drawn to the coziness of small towns. Others crave the serenity of the wide open plains, the woods, or the mountains. I get that. I can see the allure of small-town life, all vanilla-scented neighborliness. I even fantasize about buying an acre or five in the middle of nowhere and going off-grid. Of course, I know I never will. I’m a city girl and always will be. At least in my writing.

Over the years I’ve lived in a lot of different cities and visited many more, and the settings of my short stories and novels reflect that. London. Rio de Janeiro. Chicago. Dubai. But there’s one city that I keep coming back to, again and again. New York.

It’s not just that NYC is the iconic urban jungle, the most contemporary of settings for a contemporary erotic romance. New York is one sexy city. The sexiest, I think. Here’s why.

New York is full of beautiful people

Just take a walk down Madison Avenue or a stroll through the Village. Sure, there are plenty of average folks. But most people in New York look amazingly good. They work out. They groom. They know their product. They care about what clothes they wear. A lot.

It probably helps that NYC is America’s leader in both the fashion and modeling industry and has its fair share of actors. Average salary and disposable income surely come in to play as well. But on a purely anecdotal level, there is an unholy abundance of eye-candy that you just wouldn’t find in, say, Cleveland.

New York has your favorite flavor

If you’ve got a type, you’ll find him (or her) in New York. Black, white, Latino, Samoan, gay, straight, bi, trans, hipster, goth, rockabilly, retro eighties punk python lover, they’re all there. You could literally come face to face the man of your dreams. What could be sexier than that?

New York is throbbing with desire

The old saying still holds true. Ask ten people on a New York street where they come from and only one will say New York.

Why do people move to NYC? Because they want more. Because they want to be actors, writers, cutthroat lawyers, and Wall Street rainmakers. Because they want, period. All that naked ambition, all that intense desire to have, to do, to be is a palpable force. An enlivening energy. And that’s undeniably hot.

New York has so many sexy spaces

Whatever your definition of a sexy setting, New York’s got it. Sleek minimalist penthouse? Check. Arty bohemian loft? Check. Leather and chrome S&M dungeon? Check. Its public spaces are pretty damn sexy, too. From the stripped down post-apocalyptic vibe of the High Line Park to the bars and clubs that cater to every imaginable aesthetic, NYC’s got it covered. Got a fantasy sex setting? You’ll find it there.

New York cleans up well but is dirty deep down

It’s no secret that NYC has a dark and gritty past. While these days you probably have as much chance of getting mugged in a suburban mall as on most streets in Manhattan, it wasn’t too long ago that the City was a dangerous place. And like the romance novel hero with a shadowy history, there’s something incredibly hot about that. An unpredictability. The feeling that if you just scratch the surface, something you never expected will be revealed. It’s compellingly layered, intriguingly unknown. Just like a good erotic romance.

And that’s why I heart NY.

How about you? Where’s your sexiest city?


Failure to Launch


You may have noticed a few changes here at Hazel Hughes Romance. Like in the sidebar. Do you see it? That book cover enticingly labeled “Coming Soon”? That’s because I recently signed a contract with Evernight Publishing and in a few short months, I will be releasing my new erotic romance novel with them!

Evernight-Family [38318]

No, I don’t have a release day yet, but I’m gearing up for the launch anyway. Because I really want this launch to be different from my first.

I don’t normally post about writing and publishing. When I started this blog, I aimed it at readers, not authors. But, as so many feverish romance readers are also feverish romance writers, I thought I would share my admittedly limited experience with launching a book.

Think of it as a What Not to Do for aspiring writers.

No Preparation: 

When I released Please in the spring of 2014, I thought I was prepared. I mean, I had written the best book I could write. I’d gotten it professionally copy-edited. I had a killer cover and a catchy blurb. What more did I need?

I released it on Amazon. Then I did a blog post about it, reposted that to Facebook and waited for the praise and the dollars to roll in.

Can you guess what happened?

That’s right. Absolutely nothing.

Sure, Please was live. But it was just single minnow in the sea full of books that is the Amazon Kindle Store. How was anyone to find it? And if it did somehow slip into their nets, what would make them want to pay money to keep it (besides that killer cover) instead of throwing it back?

Well, it would have helped if I had thought about the fact that I had…

No Presence:

When I released Please, I had a blog that was a few weeks old and a handful of “friends” on facebook whom I hadn’t actually interacted with. In other words, for all intents and purposes Hazel Hughes didn’t exist.

As romance author Natasha Boyd, mentions her RWA workshop 3-2-1 Launch, it is incredibly hard for fiction authors to build platform before they release their first book. But at least they can build presence. Online presence.

What do I mean by that?

A blog or a website where you post regularly. Ditto Facebook page and profile, Amazon and Goodreads Author Pages. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, whatever floats your boat. Just like sex, being there is good. Engaging is sooo much better.

No Promotion:

After I realized that the multitudes were not thronging to read my erotic romance novel, I decided to research what I could do to find potential readers. Not wanting to spend any more money, I made a list of erotic romance book bloggers, prepared my pitch and sent it off.

Many bloggers refused to review self-published novels. Some were too busy to accept. And some just weren’t interested in a book that had already launched.

I did get a few reviews. But it was both too little and too late. Three months in, Please was old news.

There are so many ways for authors, indie or not, to promote their work, most for very modest fees. Blog tours, guest blogging, giveaways, Facebook ads, to name a few. Research, investigate, talk to those new author friends on social media.

No Persistence:

So what did I do? Well, I’m ashamed to say, I just gave up. Stuck Please in KDP Select, decided I wasn’t meant to be a romance writer and got on with my life. Stopped blogging. Stopped posting on Facebook. Stopped writing.

Only, you know how that goes.

When you’re a writer, it’s like you have a mosquito bite deep inside of you, and the only way to scratch it is by writing. I don’t need to tell you not to give up writing, because you can’t. But don’t give up on the other stuff, either. Prepare for your next launch, expand your presence, continue to promote.

Which brings me back to that sidebar. My new novel, Dance with Me, will be on virtual bookshelves in a few months. And this time, the erotic romance-reading world will know about it well in advance. If you’d like to be among the first to read it, be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter.

*Oh, one more thing – Platforms. I only released Please on Amazon. Big mistake! More platforms = more potential readers. Get that book out there!


The New Normal

Old Navy

When I opened a link to an article about this ad in my Facebook feed, I had a strong reaction. Total shock followed by incomprehension. Not because of the ad itself, but because there was such a venomous backlash against it.

So much anger. Because of a picture of a happy family whose skin colors and hair textures are not the same.

I had the same reaction when Barb*, a member of my (overwhelmingly white) writers’ group, asked me why I chose an Asian-American protagonist for my new erotic romance novel, Dance with Me.

Put on the spot, I got defensive, justifying my choice. I’ve lived internationally in multi-cultural communities for most of my adult life. I have lots of friends of mixed-race backgrounds. A lot of them are in interracial relationships. My brother is mixed-race.

What I should have done was paraphrase Justin Trudeau.

When Canada’s Prime Minister was asked why fully half of his newly selected cabinet were women, he replied, “Because it’s 2015.

The truth is, it never occurred to me that the main character of my novel shouldn’t be Asian-American. Or that she shouldn’t fall in love with someone who wasn’t.

When I sat down at my laptop to write about an ambitious young reporter falling for her subject, a troubled but charismatic Ukrainian ballet dancer, both characters popped, fully-formed, into my head. But Sherry Wilson-Wong was ultra-clear. Singaporean mother, Wasp father. Former medical student. Lover of venti lattes and the Ramones. Killer cook.

I wasn’t trying to provoke or rally or target a demographic by playing the diversity card. I was just writing the world as I see it.

Because it’s 2016.

Why did Old Navy make an ad featuring an interracial family?

Because mixed-race families make up a growing percentage of the North American population. Because they have money to spent and might prefer to spend it in stores that recognize that. Because they read beautiful, hip, progressive and cool.

But mostly, because it’s 2016.


*not her real name