Saturday, December 31, 2011


LETHAL REFUGE, my paperback just out from The Wild Rose Press
I was born in New Zealand and spent most of my life there, although our family now lives in Australia. The two main differences between Australia and New Zealand are the weather (warmer over most of Australia if you discount Tasmania which is very blue/green like New Zealand because it’s wet and often cold), and the fact that NZ has 4 million people and B-I-G Australia has 21 million residents. Yup. Australia is vast. It is the sixth largest country in the world and has a whole continent to itself. It’s not the sort of place where you get in your car and zip over to Auntie Flo’s. If you hear an Australian say, "It’s just down the road," you know they lie. Sure, it’s just down the road, but the road is a 2,000 kilometer dust-encrusted two-lane bitumen highway straddling two states, millions of curious kangaroos, hundreds of racing emus trying to beat your car, some wild camels, a million gumtrees, several townships and a couple of rivers if you’re lucky. Nor is it the place to get lost in the bush, since much of the bushland looks the same. You can go around in circles forever.

When they say, "It’s just down the road" in New Zealand, they mean it’s down a one-lane bitumen highway that goes for ten kilometers then switches to a gravel road that finishes at Jessop’s farm with 1,000 sheep dotting the peaceful hillsides. And at the back of that farm is bushland, tight, green and impenetrable. In the winter it drips with damp and in the summer the cacophony of cicadas screams in your ears.

But I digress. They say ‘write what you know’ and because I know more about the NZ Police than I do the Australian system, I based LETHAL REFUGE on the NZ system. But I took liberties with the truth. Of course I did. It’s fiction, for heaven’s sake. But think of the British Police and you’ve got a handle on the NZ Police Service which was originally based on the British system.

In LETHAL REFUGE, Célie Francis, a prickly young woman, self-reliant to the point of being irritating, witnesses the aftermath of a murder and is stalked by the murderer. When she is placed in the witness protection program, she can no longer be self-sufficient. She is at the mercy of a bunch of people who want to help her, for God’s sake. And then there’s Brand Turner, the police psychologist with a vulnerable intellect as high as the sky who has an annoying habit of demanding trust from the relocatees. When the murderer seems to track their every move, Célie finally realizes she can’t do stuff on her own any more.

Here’s a link to my Amazon page where you can find it:


Sydney Bristow clashes with Atticus Finch Downunder. Who can you trust if you can’t trust your own mother? Through the clammy fog, Celie Francis hears the chilling message. "I know who you are, Celie. I know where you live." And in the terrifying aftermath she reconnects with her dysfunctional family in ways she had never imagined.
I have attached two pictures to show just how impenetrable the New Zealand bushland can be. The house is Brand’s next door neighbor’s place. Steve and his wife don’t miss much and Brand’s low profile gets shot to hell by Célie’s behavior. The other picture shows the type of area that Célie stumbled around in, right on nightfall. Creepy, huh?
If you have any more questions or would just like to say hi, email me on
In the meantime, have a great day!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Today is the USA release day of my new Regency, the Second Son. John, the second son in the Trewbridge family is riddled with guilt when he unexpectedly has to step into the shoes of a brother he has always despised. Marguerite Ninian, a stoic young woman with no pretensions to either birth or beauty teaches him that he will succeed, that he can fill his brother's shoes far better than his brother ever did. Most of all, she teaches him to forgive himself.

The Second Son can be purchased from Musa Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, All Romance Ebooks and Bookstrand. It is the second published book of the Trewbridge series, although chronologically it is the first. (The first was called COMING HOME and was published by Robert Hale Ltd as a hardback last year. It comes out in e-book form from Robert Hale on 31 January 2012).

I enjoyed writing The Second Son, because as with most of my books, the hero is wracked with guilt and self-doubt. I've always enjoyed reading and writing tortured heroes because their opportunity for character development is vast.

Links for purchase are:


Here's an extract:

When he came upon the scene of the accident, his heart caught in his throat. The farmhands had set flares around the over-turned phaeton, and in the blackness it looked like a scene from Hell as men heaved and tugged, trying to free Spencer who was trapped beneath the cross-struts.
It was a bad situation. Had Spencer been caught beneath a wheel, they could have lifted the high-perch phaeton off him. But he was caught fast beneath the centre structure. No wonder he screamed when they tried to shift him.
John swallowed hard and dismounted. He crouched down beside the phaeton.
"Spence? It’s me. John."
"Knew you’d come. Guilty conscience wouldn’t let you stay away." Spencer’s voice was slurred and fading, but there was an echo of the old vindictiveness still there.
"Guilty conscience?" John asked, wondering if his brother’s mind was wandering.
"Oh, yes. I’ve always known you wanted to be me." Spencer paused and fisted his hand for a moment. His other arm was trapped beneath the phaeton.
The pain must be excruciating. John tugged off his glove and held tight to Spencer’s free hand. "No, Spence. I envied you Trewbridge, not the title. Oh, and sometimes I envied your famous way with the ladies. But I didn’t want to be you." He noticed he was talking in the past tense and reined himself in. How callous could he be? "No. I’m too dull to enjoy racing around, trying to keep ahead of my conscience."
Spencer ignored the last comment. "Dull," he rasped. "I told her that would singe your whiskers."
"For a time it did," John murmured. "But I’ve found someone who needs me and doesn’t think I’m dull. And I have an estate that will not give me sleepless nights like the responsibility of Trewbridge would."
There was a long silence and John felt the world shrink down to just the two of them, in the dark, with the sounds of rescue far away. Then Spencer’s cracked voice whispered, "But you will have it all now, while I dance with demons."
"I don"t think so. We’ll get you out of here. More men are coming. We will lift this damned phaeton off you and—-"
"No!" Spencer’s voice rose again. "I do not want to be saved." He gave a slight huff that might have been a laugh. "Never did."
The erratic pulse fluttering against John’s fingers slowed, and in the fitful torchlight, John saw his brother slide away. Spencer’s last breath exhaled on a sigh and his face gradually slackened into pain-free oblivion. His cold hand lay flaccid in John’s warm one.
John bent his head and prayed for Spencer’s soul. He had never, never imagined that one day he would kneel on the edge of a roadway in the peaceful English countryside beside his dying brother. He choked back a sob. "A wasted life," he whispered.

You can see the cover on my website at http://www.vonniehughes.com/


Friday, December 2, 2011

Free Reads and Gift Certificates

Further to last week's blog, here is the link to the free Christmas reads from Musa:


My Regency short story, The Gentleman is one of the stories in there.

On the other hand, you might prefer a "Buy 3, Get One Free" deal. Try this link:


Best of all, IMO, are the gift certificates. Go to this link then follow the prompts:


Hope these links gives you hours of reading fun!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Heads up re free Christmas book!

Prior to Christmas, Musa Publishing is producing a book of short stories FREE!!!!!!

One of my Regency short stories is in it. It's called The Gentleman, and in it a young lady and a real gentleman (not the smuggling sort) get a trifle confused.

Will provide the link when it is available.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


For what must be seen as the news of the week, go to

Oh, and if you don't know what speculative fiction is, have a look at this:

Interesting huh? Think Jules Verne, H.G. Wells etc.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Just a few links - blowing my own trumpet I guess. Everyone else seems to be doing it!

Here's where you can buy a hardback copy of Coming Home:
Yes, you can still buy from TBD even though it has been bought out by you know who. Or you can buy it from http://www.amazon.co.uk/
And in January you'll be able to buy it direct from Robert Hale Ltd as an e-book.

Wanna meet me on facebook? Go to http://www.facebook.com/VonnieJHughes

Oh yeah, I'm on Goodreads. Got quite a few recommendations for books I've read on there. See if you like the same stuff:

And that's quite enough trumpet blowing for today. In our family it's usually my husband and son who do the real trumpet blowing (some of it not so good). BTW, I'm on authonomy too, but you don't really want to hear about that...

Here's a picture of the New Zealand bushland so your visit to my blog is not QUITE such a waste of time. This is in the Waitakeres, the hills just outside Auckland where my LETHAL REFUGE is set. You can read all about it on 13 January. Being released as a paperback by The Wild Rose Press.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Aurora Regencies at Musa Publishing

It is a year now since Aurora Regencies were launched (under the AMP banner). Now they are all under the Musa Publishing banner. Celina Summers is editor extraordinaire when it comes to assessing Regencies. She won't allow 21st century mannerisms to creep in nor allow improbable circumstances to sully the quality of Aurora Regencies. Have a look on the Musa Publishing site. I really, really enjoy writing for this company; they are so good at what they do.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

They're Heeeee-re!

Yay!!!!!!!!!!!! Musa Publishing opened its doors and we had a cyber party. Bevvies consumed, rubbish talked...the usual.

See this excellent post by Annie Seaton if you want to know all the nitty-gritty about this "new" publisher:  http://www.annieseaton.blogspot.com/

This gives an clear overview of what Musa stands for and shows the range of genres that readers can dip into, some of them cross-genres.

Enjoy! Musa will be around a long time.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Speculative Fiction & Behind the scenes of publishing

Let me draw your attention to two very different blog posts.  One is about speculative fiction. If, like me, you wondered what 'speculative fiction' means, have a look at Matt Teal's blog at http://penumbraezine.blogspot.com/2011/09/what-is-spec-fic.html

It seems speculative fiction is a very wide field which is good for the many writers who straddle two or three genres.

And here's a worker bee behind the scenes of a new publishing house (well, the company is new but the directors and workers are all very experienced)

Something a bit different for everyone to chew on.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Musa Publishing

On 1 October I'll be posting a lot more about this company, but since it doesn't 'officially' open till then, I'm just going to post its logo to whet your appetite.

Oh, and I forgot to say: 5 days and counting till THE date. Have a look at musapublishing.blogspot.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Never Rains But It Pours

The picture is me - up, up and away.

We authors spend a lot of our lives bending our heads against the lash of the rain from rejections - rejections from agents, rejections from editors.

Then suddenly we end up submitting to just the right publisher and we're accepted.  At last our existence, our years of tap, tap, tapping at midnight, our pretense that we never heard the phone or the kids creating mayhem is finally justified. And for a short time we get to walk on air or drink a bottle of bubbly or whatever our pleasure is. Then we usually stop and think, "Huh. Now I have to submit to a publisher's every whim. I'm going to edit and edit and edit, put up with covers that make my stomach turn and send ridiculous PR photos out into the world." Sometimes being accepted is every bit as terrifying as being rejected.

Then once in a blue moon it hails acceptances.

Okay, so I've had a couple or so acceptances recently. And guess what - the whole boiling lot of them want to publish me within a six week period! Uh huh. That's not terrifying, that's mind-blowing. The work involved in a chunk of edits plus the embarrassing marketing "Love me! Buy my book! Buy my next book!" drama can only be described as horrendous.

In the week before Christmas, Musa Publishing will e-publish "THE SECOND SON," under their Clio Historical banner. THE SECOND SON is a Regency which is the prequel to my hardback published with Robert Hale Ltd called "COMING HOME." BUT to complicate the issue, last month I was contacted by Robert Hale who are entering the scary e-publishing arena and will publish COMING HOME as an e-book. And they want to do that in the first week of January 2012. You're confused? Imagine how confused I am.

Then The Wild Rose Press have come up with a publishing date for LETHAL REFUGE as a paperback. You guessed it - it's on 13 January 2012. And just for good measure, in the last week of January the new Musa Publishing will publish another Regency of mine, MR. MONFORT'S MARRIAGE under the Aurora Regency label. More about Musa in another blogpost. But let me tell you, there is an efficient, hungry publishing house.

And as a family we have two birthdays in the second week of January.

So Christmas might be offsite this year. Alcoholic? Probably. Well organized? Not likely. Gotta book a restaurant NOW.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Claytons Conference

If you look up the word 'Claytons' in a dictionary you'll see that it is the name of a non-alcoholic drink designed to look like whisky. The color is the same and it's bottled in bottles that look like authentic whisky bottles. Claytons was marketed as "The drink you have when you're not having a drink."

So in the southern hemisphere, anything called "a Claytons" is not the real McCoy.

The Romance Writers of Australia recently held their annual conference, and those of us who couldn't get to Melbourne held our own Claytons Conference online. It mirrored the genuine conference right down to contests, prizes and cyber bubbles. (Last year a group of Cinderellas had a Claytons Conference too, and those who stayed in touch afterwards formed a group called the Basefook Fiends. Well, it's a nice change from the endless Facebook "friends," isn't it? Our intrepid leader is Tonia Marlowe. Look her up. You'll be impressed).

This year we devised text for cartoons, wrote 100 word stories (most of which were unpublishable not because of their standard but because of their ribaldry and improbability but by God, they were great), chatted online with bemused overseas authors and editors unused to Aussie humor, and generally had a great three days. Out of it all came inspiration for a few, perspiration for most, and exasperation for those with fingers not fast enough to nail the chatroom speed. Heck, I thought I was a fast typist. Forget that idea. I got left behind in the rush. One young woman who just had TWINS for heaven's sake, won nearly every prize going in between dashes to the bathroom. Talk about on a roll.

So for writing groups everywhere, if you can't make the nationals, think about having an online Claytons group of your own. All it needs is a bunch of enthusiastic people with no need for sleep, some writing talent and a wish to hone their craft under pressure. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

New Zealand bush - Lethal Refuge

Thursday, June 09, 2011

My romantic suspense (Lethal Refuge) that I'm doing final edits for now, is set in the Auckland area of New Zealand. I've downloaded a couple of images of the area where it takes place. It's called the Waitakeres i.e. the Waitakere Hills outside Auckland. Okay, hard to say, huh? It's a Maori word that's pronounced "Whytackuray." That's the closest, as a European, I can get.

In Arthur Lydiard's coaching days (the great runner coach), good runners used the Waitakere Hills as an exacting weekend run. Hills like you wouldn't believe, not too much traffic if you start early enough, and bushland as far as the eye can see, dotted here and there with houses. That bushland is very, very thick. It's not like the Australian bush for example where you can see through sparse groups of gum trees. No, it's more like Canadian bushland. Believe me, you can easily get lost in bushland in New Zealand.

In LETHAL REFUGE, Celie runs away to evade a killer and ends up going round in circles in the Waitakere bushland. She comes very close to being killed there; in fact someone is killed, but it's not Celie.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Coming Home

Here are a couple more images of places in my Robt Hale Ltd book 'Coming Home.' The first is the hill above Oporto (Porto) where the English/Portuguese heroine, Juliana, walked in her attempt to book a berth on a ship sailing for England. The Douro River flows down to the sea and Juliana walked beside the river for part of the way.

I saw the Douro five years ago and let me tell you, it is a very impressive river, no mere trickle in spite of the arid inland of Portugal.

The second image is the docklands of Porto, still unchanged today. This is where Colly booked them a passage together and where they sailed from.

And finally, here is an image of the very last sight of the land of Portugal that Juliana saw as they sailed to Portsmouth.  All immigrants the world over will empathize with Juliana's emotions as the land faded into the distance.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Coming Home - Regency published by Robert Hale Ltd

Trying to sell a hardback when everyone else is downloading great stories for $5.99 is hard going. Coming Home is still struggling along, selling a few here and there. It is by far my favourite of the books I've written so far, because it is deep and not all the impressions you get are up front. Some you have to delve for. I enjoy books like that myself so that is the way I wrote Coming Home.

I thought you might like to see a couple of images of the places the hero and heroine, Colly (short for Colwyn) and Juliana go through on their journey 'home.'

The book begins in Porto, (Oporto) Portugal and ends in Dorset.

Here are a couple of images of the landscape Colly and Juliana travel through before they get on board the ship bound for England.

The arid one depicts the typical arid surroundings where the Peninsular Armies, both the Allies and the French, sweltered and persevered for six years. Colly and his friend John Trewbridge who appears in my book The Second Son, soon to be published by Aurora were only two of many thousands of men who were subjected to an unfriendly, parched land far from home.

The second picture is the route Juliana took home from her work at the hospital each day when the heat of the day had gone and dusk was settling. She walked through the brick roads from the centre of Porto out to the cooler district where she stayed in a guest house suitable for young ladies. Rather than live near the hospital, she wisely chose to escape the smell and the fear and decided to live as far away as possible from Sao Nazaire.

Now I hope that tempts you to dip into the book!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lethal Refuge

I got the cover today for my e-book with The Wild Rose Press which will come out shortly.

Now the cover artist, Kimberlee Mendoza, created EXACTLY what I wanted. I didn't want any clinches with the clinchees in various stages of undress; and I wanted the cover to engender fear and suspense.

I think she did a great job, don't you?

The amazing missing blogpost

Okay, I've looked into why a perfectly good post disappeared off my blogsite. There were about nine replies to it, which makes it even more irritating. And in spite of all the explanations, there isn't one that stands up.


Did you get the feeling I'm exasperated?

Monday, March 7, 2011


My romantic suspense has been contracted by The Wild Rose Press. This is the one whose working title was Trust in Time.

Now it's LETHAL REFUGE. Much more oomph. The title derives from the fact that the heroine has been sent to a safe house organised by the New Zealand Police. But someone knows exactly where she is and is intent on shutting her up - permanently. Why and how? Read the book when it comes out.

I'm pleased that TWRP is so complimentary about the book. This is one of those things you write that you really, really believe in. It's odd, but when you're writing a book, sometimes you get chills up and down your spine. Something tells you: this is the one. I felt like that about Coming Home and I feel like that about Lethal Refuge. It's a sort of a zing that gives you the impetus to keep writing on and on after 2 a.m. when the whole neighbourhood is asleep and you're writing by the light of your screen so as not to disturb the family.

Some time soon I'll post more. At the moment I shall just bask.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Authentic Regency arguments

Well, here we are at it again. Everyone involved in writing Regencies at some stage or other comes up against the argument - what is genuine Regency behaviour and wording, and what is not?

On the loops we complain about 21st century attitudes and words creeping in to our Regency books. There are two sides to this story.

I'm all in favour of genuine. I cringe when a so-called Regency miss gets 'feisty' and wants to go out in the dead of night to teach some young buck a lesson. If she was of good birth, she'd be too closely guarded to get the chance to go fluttering around on her own at night. If she was careful of her reputation she simply wouldn't go out asking for trouble - it wouldn't occur to her. But there are ways around scenarios like this. They just have to sound 'period.' And there must be a VERY good reason for her to flout convention. Not just a yearning for excitement.

I don't go a bundle on the covers of books where shirtless guys bearing marked resemblance to gypsies (the old tall, dark and handsome I guess) leer down the genetically enhanced nippled decolletage of simpering young women in the throes of passion. At least I think it's passion. Some of 'em look constipated.

But I am all for writing books that are exciting for 21st century readers to enjoy. That's what it's about. A writer is an entertainer.

So a Regency author has to tread a fine line between what you can get away with (or what your editor lets you get away with) and still have that authentic flavour of the early 19th century. You can't disappoint your readers. And you musn't have them chucking your book at the wall and saying, 'This is not Regency.' Do them the compliment of understand that many Regency readers are VERY knowledgeable about the period. They know the difference between a landau and a lorgnette. Or buckskins and a bufflehead.

I think any writer has to treat his/her audience with respect. As for Regency, it's a croweded Regency world out there at the moment and you don't want your reader defecting to a more authentic writer.

How to zap up the excitement? Don't look at me. I'm a dull, prissy writer. But I'd suggest a hero, heroine and villain out of the ordinary, or a setting that's really unusual like somewhere on the hero's Grand Tour or the cold Yorkshire moors. No more Almack's. And best, of all, I'd suggest a mystery or a crime with a villain that's not quite a villain. You know, a man who under other circumstances could easily be a friend, but he took a wrong turning. You can wring a lot of angst out of someone who is almost likeable.

I'll attach a picture (if it works) of a genuine Regency miss c. 1806. She's an interesting young lady. You get the impression there are lots of secrets behind the eyes. Most all, I like a heroine with guts. Nobody wants to read a book with no conflict or danger or excitement. And I think the young lady in the sketch has a great story behind her.