Changing Things Up Right Here

Change is a four-letter word in some people’s vocabulary. But not mine. You know this because 2018 was a year of transformation for me.

After I suffered unexpected and unwanted changes in 2017, I decided to submit. Become the caterpillar, I thought, and let the Creator make me into a glorious butterfly.

Or not so much.


I’m a work in progress.

Thus, the year of building for 2019.

But that sounds boring. And I’m a wordsmith, so I found a synonym I could embrace.


Since my brand has been transforming and I’m venturing into new genres, I figured I might as well move away from the traditional blogs, too.

For the three of you reading this (Hi, sis. Hi, cuz. Hi, Aunt B.) Whoops! Didn’t mean to leave out the one reader not related to me. A BIG hello to Deborah!


For the FOUR of you reading this, that means I’m not going to be posting my witty repartee about whatever strikes my fancy. Try not to cry. I know you’re seriously bummed.

Instead, starting in April, I’ll be posting excerpts from whatever I’m writing.

In August, I’m going to transition into a weekly study format. I’ll use a few chapters from FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD. Then I’ll take that book off of Amazon so that I can add content to it.

IF I get the participation I’m looking for from the website and my Facebook Group, I’ll include some quotes from YOU in the new and improved book. I’ll also be adding a devotional section divided by the topic of the chapters. Devotionals for Mentors and Devotionals for Teachers (those are two of my favorite chapters in the book).

Once I feel happy with the new content, I’ll send it out to beta readers. Hopefully, I’ll have it back up and for sale in early 2020. But no dates yet.

So…my blog will become a place for Christian living nonfiction content. I’m hoping this will help me as I search for an agent for the book I’m writing about journeying through grief. (There might be some modified content from this book here, too).

What do you think? Will you keep reading the blog?

Under Construction: Building an Audience

Welcome to Sharon Hughson, author under construction!


This is the year. In 2019, I’m going to build an audience of readers.

According to marketing gurus, an author needs one thousand dedicated readers to have a successful book launch. And I’m launching (at least) four new books in 2019.

Thanks to a few free and paid promotions using my third First Street Church romance, LOVE’S LINGERING DOUBTS, I’ve built my scrawny newsletter list to nearly 800 subscribers.

Only half of those open the stuff I send them. I’m betting at least 30 percent of those email addresses are to boxes that are never checked.

So the question becomes HOW do I build an audience?

STEP ONE: FIND MY TRIBE


Author in search of her first 1,000 readers isn’t a headline that drives traffic to my social media sites.

And…which social media site will be the best for interacting with my tribe (once I find them)?

Yeah, I have more questions than answers about the process of finding my tribe. But, I’m working on it.

Here’s what I hope will happen:

  • I gave away more than 500 copies of LOVE’S LINGERING DOUBTS. I hope a large percentage of the people who grabbed those ebooks will read (and review) this novella. More importantly, I hope they fall in love with Jaz and Bailey and want to read the rest of their story. (Spoiler: there will be a happy ending.)
  • Links at the back of the book will connect these readers to my other fiction. They will click through and read them all.

There’s also information about joining my newsletter and the Facebook Group. They will be so excited to get the next installment of Texas Homecoming that they’ll join it all! (Yes, I’m dreaming all sorts of crazy here.)

STEP TWO: INTERACT WITH THE TRIBE


It’s no secret that I’m an introvert. I would rather sit in my lovely, light-filled office playing across the pages with my imaginary friends. Seriously, even when I create problems for those guys they love me anyway.
Because I always give them a happily-ever-after.

Wouldn’t it be great if life guaranteed that? (Yeah, sorry. I’m totally NOT able to deliver that for you.)
But I enjoy chatting with people through social media or email. I’m even trying to plan some in-person events. To warm up for that, I (sometimes) do a weekly live video on Facebook.

There are twenty-five people in my Friends of Author group. Pathetic. I know. Don’t rub it in.

I’m sharing the group every chance I get, but still not getting much traction.

One thing I always share in this group is book recommendations and freebies of books I’ve read and enjoyed.

Once I get a few members who interact regularly, I’ll start some giveaways. I also want to have read-alongs of my new books (and other titles we might agree on).

This isn’t me reading the book aloud to you. No, it’s all of us agreeing to read a certain amount (three chapters) and then hang out in the group at a certain time to talk about what we’ve read.

Good times, right? Who doesn’t love talking about books?

Mid-year or so, I’ll be using a special feature in the group to share one of the study books I wrote with you. For free. For your input on HOW I could turn it into an online course.

Not that I want to teach online courses, but I do want to find an audience for my study books (since I’m writing the third one now and hope to release it in June).

STEP THREE: EXPAND MY REACH

Actual expression on my face while considering this step

Yeah, I’m totally clueless about how to do this.

I’ll participate in a few more Book Funnel promotions and probably pay for another promotion with LitRing to find new readers and subscribers. When I release my paperback omnibus of the TEXAS HOMECOMING series (you can help me title it in the Facebook Group), I’ll buy an advertisement on Amazon and cross my fingers.

But the best way for me to reach new readers is if my “1000 readers” share my books with all their family and friends.

Yes, friends, word of mouth is the BEST way to expand my audience.

So this is me asking you to spread the word. Share the memes I post on social media. Talk about my books. And review them on Amazon and Goodreads.

What other tips do you have to help my Under Construction Audience?

An Author’s Writing Resolutions

Another new year is here, and millions of people have made resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, save money or eat more healthily. Statistics say that by mid-February, a large percentage of those resolutions will already be broken.

As an author, what sort of resolutions should I make for the new year?

Goals, Not Resolutions

First off, I don’t make resolutions. Not personal ones and definitely not ones for my writing career.

I learned the hard way that breaking resolutions is easier than keeping them.

Does this mean I let a “new” opportunity to make changes leave me in the dust? Nope. I decided to set goals instead.

You’re wondering, “What’s the big difference?”

The difference is in mindset and planning.

Goals are written down (or should be if you’re serious about meeting them). More intentional thought goes into forming goals because we WANT to meet them.

No one wants to say, “I set these goals, but I didn’t reach them.” It sounds like failure and it feels like failure.

Failure is no fun.

Some writers make a resolution to:

  1. write every day
  2. finish their novel,
  3. submit their novel

or other reasonable sounding things.

But do they have a plan?

If their GOAL is to write every day, they might get out their appointment calendar and block out time each day for writing. Since they want to meet that goal, they form a plan to do it.

Resolutions are generally vague and abstract which is why they’re hard to keep but simple to break.

Goals need to be finite and measurable.

Maybe an author is going to finish a novel. They need to pull out their calendar and block out time to work on the novel. Maybe they’ll do a little math to figure out how many words they’re going to write so they can set a FINISH LINE.

Who wants to run a race when they don’t know where it ends?

Not me. I don’t like running that much.

So, how do I meet my goals?

Tracking My Baby Steps

I’d love to say that I have met every goal on time with finesse and verve. But that would be false.

However, in the past five years since I’ve being “doing this writing thing for real,” I’ve learned what helps me meet goals. And what doesn’t work for me.

First, I lay out a plan. It includes a step-by-step list of what it will take to meet my goal. And I track the markers I meet along the way.

This is like watching the mile posts go by on that run I mentioned earlier. It lets me know I’m making progress, and it reminds me that there is an end in sight.

I also like to reward myself for meeting these markers. It’s an incentive plan, which is something writers probably need more than the average non-author.

Why? Because you get a regular paycheck from your job (one that probably meets your expenses) but many authors get sporadic and often anemic paydays. Not that I’m complaining. I write for the joy not the money.

But it’s human nature to produce better results when an incentive is involved.

For example:

I know I can write 1,000 words per hour once I get in the groove. I’ve been known to write up to 1,700 in an inspired hour dedicated solely to writing. I give myself a word-count goal every day I write. Then I plan the “reward” for when I finish. It might be, “You get to read that awesome fantasy novel you checked out from the library.” Or it could be, “You can sit outside in the sun.” It varies depending on WHAT I WANT THE MOST that day.

I’ve also started keeping checklists on a free site called Workflowy. You can mark things off your lists there (which feels pretty amazing) and you can lay out every step in the writing process. Such as first draft, rewrite, first edits, submission deadlines, editing deadlines and publication dates.

This same strategy works for me if my goal is to lose (or maintain) weight or save money for a vacation.

Why not try these simple steps for your “resolutions”:

  1. Make the plan.
  2. Work the plan.
  3. Reward yourself for the baby steps along the way.

What about you? What resolutions have you made for 2019? What plans do you have in place to help you KEEP those “best intentions”?

 

**This post first appeared on the Roane Publishing blog in February 2018. In honor of that wonderful small independent publisher, I’m reposting it here. Share the love. Spread the word.

Under Construction: Crossing Genre Boundaries

This year is a construction zone in the world of Sharon Hughson the author.


You know, the multi-genre author who had FIFTEEN titles in various genres published until October 1, 2018. What genres? There was sweet romance, fantasy romance, young adult fantasy, historical fiction, Bible studies and a devotional as well as Christian romance.

Oh, so she’s basically a romance writer.

Except reviewers will say things like, “There needs to be more romance.” Or “Her stories explore in some gritty issues.”

Well…life.

Not that I want my fiction to read like a soap opera. Or a crazy police scanner.

I am not a drama llama.

But I write stories for real people about people with real problems. And even though I give them a happy ending (because that’s what fiction should ALWAYS promise as a pay off), they fight their personal demons and work through real-to-the-world problems along the way.

Yes, there will be cancer diagnoses and assaults and family tension and runaways and foster families. Maybe these aren’t your problems, but I hope they’ll help you understand those who face those issues. Our world could use a little more compassion.

When I entered the world of Christian romance, I hoped to interest my sweet romance readers in crossing over to read the Christian. After all, it’s not preachy or overtly religious because…no thanks.

I invested tons of time and effort in the Christian romances (there are FIVE of those babies in the First Street Church World), so I hoped THOSE readers would follow me into the sweet romance genre.
Then all my sweet romances disappeared overnight. (This is old news.)

So I was left with my Christian romances, the young adult fantasy short story (a biblical retelling in a dark, futuristic setting), two Bible studies and my indie title.

Enter the curse of the Muse! Two new stories that would work as a series with my indie title (REFLECTIONS FROM A PONDERING HEART) would not leave me alone.

This happened while I was writing the first drafts of the two Christian romances I’m adding to the First Street Church world in 2019. I expect to write two more books for that series in 2020, and then I’ll either be done with that, or have fans clamoring for MORE…and I’ll be happy to oblige them because I have tons of story ideas.

The thing about the indie title is that it’s a biblical fictionalization. It’s a first-person account from the perspective of Mary the mother of Jesus. I promoted it all December long because…Mary has a heart for Christmas. She was a major participant in that first Christmas after all.

Since my Muse will not give up on the idea for this series, I’m writing it. I’m working on completing the first draft of the first two books between now and the time MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER releases in April.


Later this year, I’ll be offering glimpses into these books and trying to tempt you to sign up for my Advance Reader Team (more on that later).

Recently, I surveyed my newsletter subscribers. About ten percent of them responded, and of those, only about ten percent said they would NOT be willing to try the biblical fictionalizations I described. So if that percentage carries true, I might have an audience for my new genre experiment. YES!

Do you read romance? Would you try a biblical fictionalization written by a romance writer you loved? Or is that too much of a stretch for your reading preferences?

New Year: New Word of the Year

Time found its warp speed in 2018. The months were mere blurs out my view screen. And now we’ve arrived in a different calendar called 2019.

Maybe you recall that last year was a year for Metamorphosis around here. And there were a TON more changes and transformations than I had planned.

This year, I’ll be building upon those “new” things. That’s why my word for the year is

What’s Under Construction

My brand is the biggest thing that transformed last year. As you know, I went from a sweet romance author to almost solely a Christian romance author. I do still have a young adult fantasy short story in an anthology (IN THE BEGINNING) available, and my freebies are fantasy romance stories.

Two unexpected changes came last year.

First, out of left field, was when Kindle Worlds closed. You can recall my turmoil here.

Thankfully, Melissa Storm came through for all of the authors she rallied to her Kindle World and started Sweet Promise Press. I now have five titles available in the First Street Church series (with two more planned for 2019).

The most crushing change came when my first small publisher, Roane Publishing, closed its doors on October 1, 2018. Suddenly, my list of published titles was reduced by half. And, most devastating of all, my first full-length novel died before it could be released in November 2018.

As I worked through all the possibilities this closure revealed, it became clear to me that I should be going a different direction with my fiction. After all, I was building a list of Christian romance readers.

Would they be interested in my Bible studies and devotional? What about my historical women’s fiction based on women from the Bible?

I guess we’ll discover those answers as I construct a NEW back list of titles this year.

The Scriptural Reference


Since one of the biggest transformations last year was to almost entirely Christian fiction, I’ve decided to share my verse of the year on my website.

When you see what’s ahead for 2020, my penchant for this scripture will make even more sense. I hope you’ll stay with me, and even if you’re not sure the new trends will be “your thing” you’ll at least sample them before clicking “unfollow” and “unsubscribe.”

FaceBook Group

The biggest thing I want to build in 2019 is my Facebook Fan Group.

Okay, I admit, I don’t believe I actually have any “fans.” That’s why I’ve called the group “Friends of Author Sharon Hughson.”

Why am I doing this?

Apparently, Facebook has decided that groups are “in” and “now.” They give preference in feeds to posts from groups.

Big whoop-de-doo, right?

Except, I want to connect with my readers. Social media is the easiest way to do that. This group is where I’m hoping we can hang out together.

I’m planning to do some giveaways, book read-alongs and even test out my “mini-study.”

If any of that sounds remotely interesting or intriguing, I hope you’ll join the group.

Do you have a theme or word for 2019? How do you come up with it?

Another Year is Ending

It seems like only a month or two ago and I was working out the word of the year for 2018. Now it’s time to introduce the word for 2019.

Where has the time gone?

And so much has happened for me this year. It’s crazy! And unbelievable.

But choosing Metamorphosis for my theme word last year turned out to be more accurate than I’d planned.

Remember how I was going to change my brand and my focus.

It all started with hiring a designer to help all my posts have a certain look.


I joined Novel Academy, mostly for the weekly live classes.

Then I went to the Deep Thinker’s Writing Retreat. And while I was there, I messed up the story I was working on. Because the SEQ’s for the characters revealed more story background than I could reveal in a 30,000-word novella.

I released my second book to Kindle Worlds in March. Then Kindle Worlds announced they would be closing in July. What? I had planned three more novellas to release in that world for the year.

So much for those plans.

Thankfully, the owner of the First Street Church Kindle World decided to open her own publishing company. I was SO thrilled about this.

I wrote the story for the July 3 release that wasn’t going to happen now that Amazon had closed Kindle Worlds. I submitted the manuscript to the new press, and it come out at the same time my first two novellas re-released.


August was a busy month for me. Those three novellas came out, and a short story I’d written for a summer romance anthology with my first publisher, Roane Publshing, also released.

I ran a contest and found a few new subscribers for my newsletter. I also tried a different method of finding an Advance Review Team, and of the twenty-two books I gave away, nine people reviewed ONE SULTRY DAY.

My sister and I visited our brother in New York City over Labor Day weekend. When I got home, I was hard at work at the contracted novella for Sweet Promise Press (to release April 2019).

At the end of the month, my husband and I attended a marriage seminar in Florida. It was hot and wonderful.

While I was there, my publisher, Roane Publishing, notified us that they were closing their doors after seven years.

This ripped my heart out.

Half of my published works disappeared the next week.

This was NOT the metamorphosis of my brand I had in mind last December when I was coming up with that word.

Strangely, my remaining works were all Christian. It was like someone else DID have a big plan.


While I was working on the romantic comedy and outlining two novellas to write for National Novel Writing Month, an idea for a Bible study book gelled. I outlined that, too, and wrote some of it while on vacation with my husband.

After the big closing announcement (two in one year? Really, God?), it was difficult to focus on anything. But I did. And I determined that 2019 will be a building year for me.

I’m going to build my newsletter list. I’m going to build my new brand as a Christian writer. And one of the ways I’m going to do it is by expanding the REFLECTIONS FROM A PONDERING HEART into a series. (More on that later.)

I struggled to write 50,000 words in 30 days for National Novel Writing Month. But I did finally manage it.

Then it was December. I had to rewrite the romantic comedy, beef up my character motivations and figure out how to make it funnier without losing the serious essence that is my trademark.

I spent a week in Hawaii. So this post was written early.

Based on the clues I’ve given, what do you think my word will be for 2019?

Do you pick a theme verse or a theme word each year? If so, what will yours be?

Happy Birthday from Hawaii

Aloha from Hawaii.

Happy birthday to me!

Every girl should get to travel to Paradise for her birthday. Especially once she’s celebrated half a century living in a climate more suited to ducks and beavers than lazy sun cats.

Some of you will get those tongue-in-cheek references.

Today, I slept in. Or even if I didn’t, I woke up and flung open my window to suck in the tropical breeze. The shushing of waves against the shore lulled me into tranquility.


I could listen to that sound every second of every hour of every day from now until eternity.

And somehow there will be no sea in Heaven? It’s hard for this ocean-adoring girl to imagine.

I’ve been horseback riding on the largest cattle ranch in the US. Bet you didn’t realize it was in Hawaii, did you? You thought it was in Montana or Wyoming right?

Fresh pineapple and Kona coffee has graced my breakfast table. There’s been time to relax in the sun.

And I’m soaking up as much Vitamin D happiness as I can. (Sadly, you can’t store Vitamin D. That’s why you need 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure daily to replenish it.)


Tonight, I’m going out to dinner with half my kids.

I won’t be doing this lobster thing again.

I’m not sure what I’ll be eating. But I’ll be saving room for dessert. I’m thinking chocolate. Dark, dark, chocolate.

Happy birthday from Hawaii.

If I don’t see you before then, Merry Christmas.

The Hawaii of My Birth Month

Three days until I fly south for the winter.

Okay, I’m actually only going for a week, but since it’s Hawaii, it’s a week in Paradise. Which is almost the same a migrating for winter.

I wish.

If I can’t hibernate in winter, I should get to migrate. Maybe someday.


At least my husband understands my need for Vitamin D infusions. (So does my primary care giver, but she’s not invited on this vacation with us.)

As I mentioned last week, Mr. Wonderful took me to Hawaii for my 50th birthday. Well, I wasn’t actually THERE on my birth date, but it was close enough to count.

This time I’ll actually be there on my birthday.

I have to admit, this is a PERFECT gift for someone who:

  1. Comes to life in the sunshine
  2. Suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder
  3. Has been feeling claustrophobic beneath the Oregon gray skies

(Of course, as I wrote this post, it was all blue skies and sunshine outside my office window. The weather man had predicted the same for the entire week. I’m not complaining, mind you, but it’s harder to recall how bland those cloudy skies make me feel when God paints them baby blue and brilliant.)

This is what I’m looking forward to waking up to every day.

Here’s what I expect to see on a nightly basis.

Best of all, I plan to do a couple things I haven’t done yet:

  1. Horseback riding with my oldest daughter
  2. Parasailing
  3. Stepping as close to a live lava flow as allowed

What’s strange about Hawaii in December is the Christmas trees and other decorations. I’m used to snow and cold being associated with those things, but that won’t be part of my birth month on the island.

Also, Hawaiian Christmas music isn’t the same-old same-old that’s been playing on the radio in Oregon since WAY TOO EARLY in November.

All those ukelele-accompanied songs remind me I’m enjoying a tropical holiday…during the Christmas holiday season.

Have you been to the tropics in December? What stood out to you?

The Hawaii of Year’s Past

Ten days from now, I will arrive on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Palm trees are in my future

There will be sunshine and palm trees. A volcano will spew lava every day.

Kilauea erupting

Since I grew up in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens and survived the 1980 eruption, I’m excited about all that. It will be neat to see lava flow rather than the mud flow that decimated Washington all those years ago.

I’ve been to Hawaii before.

My first trip was to Honolulu in 1999. I went with a friend who had two aunts that lived on the island. We stayed in Waikiki. Very commercial, still we had a good time.

My second trip was for my 25th anniversary. Kind of.

Hubs and I went to Maui in October of 2013. I wrote some blogs from that visit.

Like this one about biking down a volcano.

It sounds like I have a thing for volcanoes, doesn’t it?

Mr. Wonderful also took me to Hawaii for my 50th birthday a couple years ago.

We stayed in a Hilton resort on Oahu. It happened to be a big Pearl Harbor anniversary while we were there and they held the reception at our resort. Very cool.


And it was 70 degrees.

I got to lay beside the pool and not really sweat but still get a sun tan.

Yeah, that’s my idea of vacation perfection.

This year it was supposed to be a family vacation with our kids and their wives.

But…then this happened.

They’re pretty happy with this news too!

Hawaii in December. I won’t complain about that. Besides, it’s my first trip to the Big Island.

Have you been there? What should we do (besides soak up Vitamin D and enjoy the tropical splendor?)

The News I Never Expected

I’m married to a man who has a genetic history of mostly male siblings. He had two brothers. His dad had only a brother. We have two sons.

This is why I expected to have only grandsons.

BUT…then they had the ultrasound today.

My first grandchild

My first grandbaby is a GIRL!

I’m still stunned.

Shocked.

In a state of wonder and disbelief.

They’re pretty happy with this news too!

After this, I’ll probably go on a retail binge to validate this unexpected news into reality.

And cute girl baby things…I mean, it’s been so many years since I could indulge in these to my heart’s content. I only have one niece, and she’s closing in on the big three-oh.

So, all you grandmothers of girls, what is the best part?

My mom had a special birthday tradition with her only granddaughter. It involved a shopping trip for only the two of them. I believe it often included a sleep-over, as well.

I like this idea.

What are some other grandmother-granddaughter traditions?

I’m looking forward to hearing ALL your fantastic ideas. I’m going to start a special folder on my computer called MY GRANDDAUGHTER. (She might have a name, but that’s not my news to share.)

This wasn’t supposed to me my regular blog post day, so I promise that Thursday’s post will be short, sweet and mostly pictures.