How NOT to Tour the UN Building: Tripping through New York City Part Three

Many cities tempt the historian or patriot or citizen within you. New York City is an international destination which invites residents of the world to peek inside the headquarters of the United Nations.

As you approach the complex, the semi-circle of diverse flags flap and sway in the constant stream of cabs, commercial and private vehicles and dignitary transports sporting a single flag.

How many countries can you identify by their flags (without the help of an outside source)? My own knowledge was tested and fell short.

Touring the UN Headquarters requires a ticket. Tickets are available online ($20 plus a $4 processing fee).

Most people assume purchasing tickets in advance simplifies the process. One less line to wait in at the point of interest. Right?

Wrong.

And in the spirit of bureaucratic failure everywhere, the United Nations makes purchasing tickets simple but understanding the process for admission complex.

Our Non-tour

Mr. Native NewYorker planned a complex itinerary for our five-day visit to the city (and we were beyond thankful he did this). He purchased tickets online and in advance for the Empire State Building and the UN Building. In fact these were the ONLY tickets he purchased in advance.

The Empire State tour went off without a problem. The UN? Anything associated with the government should have been suspect, I guess.

Unique tiling make sweltering on the various subway platforms bearable

The morning of our scheduled and pre-paid tour, we rode the subway to a station a few blocks away. Our guide works in a building not far from the world peace organization, so he showed us his office and introduced us to his co-workers. When we finished that, we had more than an hour until our tour time and were only a few blocks away.

No problem. There are plenty of things to see in New York City.

The walk toward the UN Headquarters takes you past several embassies and a number of international hotels. Cars flying foreign flags and black SUV’s with even blacker windows swept past on the street.

A guarded entrance at one end is clearly marked for delegates. The passes we had told us the cross street where we could find our entrance, which was also guarded. We hadn’t expected less.

As we walked, we quizzed each other about the different flags. Some we knew easily. Several we speculated about. Mostly we felt under-educated about these symbolic representations of diverse cultures who understood the importance of working together in our ever-shrinking global community.

That’s when a group of tourists rushed away from the marked visitor’s entrance.

As we speculated about our own passes, a man crossed the street and informed us, “You have to get actual tickets from the office over there.” He pointed to a nondescript brick building with large blue signs screwed to a few of its walls. “Only one of your group has to check in.”

Ah, check-in. No problem. We still had nearly twenty minutes until our tour time.

Except the line wrapped around the block. And a person about twenty individuals back had a 10:15 tour time and had been standing in line since that time.

A sign we had to search out said people who purchased tickets and had assigned tour times should move to the head of the line. Except…the number of people who fit this bill stretched nearly to the corner.

In the fifteen minutes we searched for a way to make our tour appointment, exactly TWO people emerged from the building with tickets in hand (and ID bracelets for all members of their groups). If the line moved, I didn’t notice.

And the guard at the door was both unsympathetic and unwavering.

Our prepaid tickets might have funded his paycheck, but he wasn’t moved by our plight.

Advice for the UN Website Designers

Our native guide was furious, but that didn’t stop him from wadding up the worthless paper our non-tickets were printed on and dropping them into the nearest trash can.

Nor did it get us inside the United Nations Headquarters.

We have a little advice for whoever decided to join the digital age and pre-sell “tickets” for this tourist stop.

  1. If you sell vouchers for actual tickets, this should be clearly stated on the non-tickets
  2. Important information, such as arriving an hour before your tour time and the process for redeeming vouchers for tickets should be in bold print at the top of the vouchers
  3. An address and a name for the office where you need to report should be included (rather than the vague cross-streets and “across from the entrance” verbiage used on our worthless non-tickets)
  4. Lines for redeeming vouchers should be clearly marked at the ticketing office
  5. In fact, an external booth clearly marked “Redeem your tour vouchers here” would be expedient (and yes, you can take pictures there and tie it into criminal databases; even Disneyland uses cameras at their entrance now)
  6. A helpful person should man the doorway

Seriously, the world is a disappointing place. The UN is a symbol of hope. Attempting to tour it should not provoke native New Yorkers toward violence.

An iPhone camera is NOT equipped for the scope of the UN flags

These small steps would smooth the process and alleviate the influx of frustrated people who paid money to support world peace only to be shoved toward an emotional outburst that could lead to something quite contrary.

This Doesn’t Have to Happen to You

It isn’t impossible to find the office – IF you know you need to look for it.

The most frustrating part for us was that we were early enough to have made our tour. We bought coffee and traversed the opposite side of the street on the end away from the entrance looking for the perfect photo spot to get a shot of as many flags as possible.

Then we went to find the entrance. And learned the passes we had paid for didn’t admit us.

And the line we needed to stand in moved slower than sleeping slugs and included people with tour reservations for 45 minutes earlier than ours (and they wouldn’t be able to go back in time to make that appointment).

Things you need to know if you want to tour the UN:

  • Read the fine print
  • Arrive an hour early (this is in the fine print)
  • Have identification and your tickets ready
  • Find the not-so-clearly-marked Visitor’s Information Center (it’s across the street from the Visitor’s entrance but is in a plain and not well-marked office).
  • Plan to stand in line to get “actual” tickets for your scheduled tour time

Everyone deserves to see the headquarters of this organization with a mission for world peace.

Have you been to the UN Headquarters? What was the best part of the tour? Share your recommendations in the comments.

Tripping through New York City Part Two: Like a Tourist

New York City beckons with bright lights and incredible historical significance. It’s a tourist destination…with plenty of traps to snare the unwary.

There are probably guide books. With the dawn of the digital age, information on the Internet could bury the unsuspecting in a maze without cheese at it’s center.

Now that I’ve toured the city, I can share a few tips to make the trip a tad less painful…although perhaps not less confusing.

The Largest Department Store in the World

Fifth Avenue is the shopping Mecca of New York City. And everyone in the world has heard of the Macy’s Parade.
Which centers around the largest department store in the world: Macy’s New York.

It’s ten floors tall and spans an entire city block. Yes, the short block (between 5th and 6th Avenue) and the LONG one between whatever streets it borders. I could Google that for you…but why rob you of the pleasure?

We were planning to shop here. Instead, we ate at Stella 34 for lunch and rode the lovely wooden escalators. Yes, I said wooden. Some of them even have the original wooden planks on the steps.

This place is a New York institution and you’ll walk past it on your way to the next destination.

The Empire State Building

No, it’s no longer the tallest building in the city, but it’s still one of the major landmarks. And it can become a tourist trap, but no need to get snagged.

Tickets to ride the elevator to the top can be purchased online. I recommend the express pass. It’s only $20 more and it kept us from waiting 45 minutes to ride the elevator up…and again to ride it down.

The best time for views is after dark. I know that seems contradictory, but there are so many lights. Many of the most prominent buildings have distinguishing lights, and you can appreciate all the bridges and the scope of the expanse.

Swooning over Miss Liberty

Life and Liberty, thank you France for donating this statuesque icon to our country.
Flying in to Newark Airport, you can easily pick out the Statue of Liberty, as well as the Empire State Building and other landmarks. For this reason, plan to arrive in the day time.

There’s a ferry to Liberty Island. We didn’t take it.

You can climb stairs. We didn’t do it.

Instead, we took the Staten Island Ferry (free) and took some great shots of Lady Liberty. I might have liked to set foot beside the icon and appreciate her immensity, but given our short time frame, driving by, er sailing past, worked well.

Trekking the Broadway Bridge

Maybe a hot and humid day isn’t best for this tour, but the trek is worth every dime it costs to get to Brooklyn Bridge.
Traffic hums beneath your feet. Wind buffets away the stifling stickiness. Steel cables confine on every side, and the skyline beckons.

There is both a pedestrian and bike path across the bridge. In fact, biking is an ideal way to see the bridges and the next destination.

Central Park

The park transports you from the bustle and rush of traffic into a green space worthy of the staunchest nature addict.
We visited on Sunday, and the park teemed with people. Lines for the rowing pond wrapped around the enclosure, but even with the crowds it didn’t feel crowded.

Yes, you could take a horse drawn carriage ride. That’s a real thing. The way so many of them had ribs showing, though? I wasn’t a fan. In fact, there was a group of people protesting the practice when we exited the park near the Plaza Hotel.

And if you wanted to have someone else’s pedal power get you from one side of the expanse to another, that will cost you $5 per minute. Yes, as in $50 for a 10-minute ride. No, that is not a typo.
Extortion? Surely. Exorbitant? Definitely.

The Museum Mile

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) takes up an entire city block, too. Apparently, this doesn’t make it as large as the Louvre. Someday, I’ll be able to compare that for myself.

The dining room on the fourth floor offers a pricey, three-course Sunday brunch. The food was great, and it was nice to sit and take a break from the eyeball stimulation for 90 minutes and sit in a comfortable chair.

Lines for the women’s restroom are a half-mile long. Admission lines can stretch around the lovely fountain outside. I recommend going at opening (which we did) and still plan to stand in line (albeit a MUCH shorter one).

The collection of impressionist paintings is expansive. The Italian Renaissance masters I wanted to see were sorely underrepresented.

You could spend an entire day here and still not see it all. Choose your collections wisely, and plan to take a few breaks to spare yourself from the inevitable sensory overload.

What other must-see tourist attractions have you enjoyed in the Big Apple?

Tripping through New York City Part One: Getting Around

Cities can be a beast to navigate. New York City can be especially beastly, and I’m thankful I didn’t have to stumble around like a blind person in a foreign country.

Because believe me, the Big Apple is foreign soil for a West Coast country girl like me.

I intended this post to share the different methods of transportation used while in the city. But before you can trip through New York City, you have to get there.

Choosing which Airport (of Three) is Your Best Bet

You would expect the largest city in the United States to have several airports. The three international airports we considered for our trip to the Big Apple: LaGuardia, JFK and Newark.

Since my brother is the “native” New Yorker referred to in this series of posts, my sister and I checked with him about this issue. His answer was quick and succinct.

Newark.

For native New Yorkers, there’s a general disdain for “Jersey.” Thus, it seemed more than a tad surprising that he directed us to fly into New Jersey without any fore-prompting.

Navigating Newark

The airport is the east coast hub for United Airlines (one of two airlines I frequently fly). It has three terminals, and they’re laid out in an egg-shaped pattern and connected by AirTrain.

We texted Mr. Native when the plane touched down on Jersey soil. This was after an airborne “flyover tour” (quote from the pilot of our aircraft) of the scenic state of New Jersey. And it was pretty, with dozens of pockets of deciduous trees spotted with neatly laid out subdivisions and at least five high schools whose mascots and colors could be enjoyed from our lofty vantage point.

After disembarking the Boeing 737-800, we searched for a restroom. Those in Terminal A nearest our gate were under construction (or being remodeled), so we employed those in the baggage claim area.

The AirTrain took us to the New Jersey Transit stop, where we waited in sultry nine-five degree sunshine for about fifteen minutes.

The reason Mr. Native prefers Newark for air travel is because it is two train rides with one simple transfer away from his apartment. To keep us from having to lug our suitcases through the stifling New York subway, we hailed a taxi after getting off New Jersey Transit at Penn Station.

(Normally, he would grab the 1 line at Penn and ride it out to 145th Street. We did this multiple times during our five-day tour). It can be a tight fit at peak travel times, so we were thankful not to have to navigate it with luggage in tow.

Cab or Uber

In front of Penn Station the iconic yellow taxis lined up waiting for fares.


So our guide didn’t take us out the front exit. My directionally-challenged memory can’t say which of the four exits we used. Wherever it was, we had to pass a lineup of Ubers to reach a place where he could hail a cab.

I got the opportunity to hail a cab for myself. At 11:30 PM at night on Mott Blvd. Half-a-dozen went by in those few minutes. Zero of them had their “magic lights” on.
So, I didn’t wave them down.
Although the wine-encourage crowd were sure I just didn’t know what I was doing.

I was instructed to get two cabs (one for my party and one for another couple).

A cab dropped a fare across the street from us. He saw me and waved me over. I tried to give him to the other couple (since I still hadn’t “officially” hailed a ride yet), but they’d decided on an Uber.

Ah, Uber. They were everywhere in the city, but my brother is “old school” so he declared we would hail cabs the “old-fashioned” way, while his 20-something friends were all using the Uber app to get rides without raising their arms.

The cost is fairly similar, if you have a cabbie who knows the best routes and isn’t trying to take you for a ride. (Yes, I mean that in the idiomic sense.)

I experimented with my Uber app, though. It was easy enough to book an Uber for our return to Newark airport. And cost about $20 less than a cab would have. Better yet, I scheduled it in advance and it showed up in front of our building.

No arm waving required.

Buy the Metro Pass

Although we were only using it for six days, my sister and I purchased the Metro Pass.

Our brother brought us two old cards and we recharged them. For a measly $32, we had a seven-day unlimited pass to ride the Metropolitan Transit System.

This meant we used the card a time or two for buses and multiple times daily to ride the nine different subway lines throughout his the city and boroughs.

Since it would have been $2.75 EACH time we re-entered the turnstile, by the second day, we’d used those 11.64 trips. Translation: even if you’re only spending a weekend in the city, if you’re going to use public transportation, purchase the seven-day unlimited pass.

Waterways ARE Roadways

Manhattan is an island. I think everyone knows this. It’s surrounded by tons of other islands.
The East River and Hudson River divided Manhattan from the Burroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. New York Harbor (home of Lady Liberty) divides the city from Staten Island and Long Island (among others).

There are bridges (too many to name). There are tunnels (not naming those either).

But there are also ferries and water taxis.


Our first day, we rode the Staten Island Ferry. This was our second big look at New York City. (The first look is discussed here.)

Thousands of people use this ferry to commute from the island into the city. No exaggeration here.

We’d planned to catch the 8:30 ferry (it departs every fifteen minutes from the island or the Manhattan terminal during weekday commuting hours).

We left the apartment ahead of schedule. Because who can sleep in a strange place? And who wants to sleep when there’s an amazing city to see?

But…once you’re over 50, you start to second-guess yourself. Our hosts could not recall if they’d turned off the gas beneath the tea kettle. And since they’d. Shown us the burned out shell of an apartment building that had caught fire a few months before, their minds were plagued with images of their flaming apartment devouring their beloved kitty.

One of them returned to verify the state of the kettle while the other continued with us. We waited through an hour’s worth of Staten Island commuters, and each ferry disgorged hundreds of them. The teeming lemming hordes flooded down the ramp, through the air-conditioned terminal and into the subway, onto a nearby bus or up into the nearby financial district.

It’s a fifteen-minute ride across the harbor to the island. The boat passes reasonably close to Liberty Island. We had photographic opportunities.


On Staten Island, we jogged through the (much nicer and more expansive) ferry terminal to catch the return ferry and avoid a fifteen-minute wait since we were already an hour behind our planned itinerary.

After traversing the Brooklyn Bridge (read more about that touristy trek tomorrow), we walked a few blocks through Dumbo (where? Read the answer in a couple weeks) and paid $2.75 each to catch a water taxi back up to 34th Street in Manhattan. We had lunch reservations at Stella 34 (details on that) inside Macy’s.

There was a bit of a walk for the Select bus that took us to 6th Avenue, but we made it within fifteen minutes of our reservation. And what a lovely window seat we had to enjoy our delightful Napoli salads and iced tea.
Have you traveled to and within New York City? What tips or advice would you add?

A Review of TRUTH

My small publishers always want MORE people to read and review their titles. They also offer the opportunity for their authors to read any book for free in exchange for an honest review. By now, they know my truthful reviews aren’t generally worth five stars.

I volunteered to read an advance copy of TRUTH by Avery Woods because the blurb was appealing.

A few weeks before the release, the author emailed me to thank me for promising to review the book. I emailed her back to say that the review would be for three stars and that I would wait to post it if she wanted.

She told me to post it right away. I loved her confidence, and I think you’ll find that as you read her story.

The Blurb

Sometimes you shouldn’t ask questions you aren’t prepared to hear the answers to…

Cori Winters life seems to be going according to the plan. While completing her PhD in Chemistry, Cori is offered a Research Fellowship, by one of the most accomplished Chemists in the Country. In addition, Cori has finally agreed to marry her long term boyfriend, Erik.

Abandoned at a young age, Cori has been told growing up that her biological mother has been MIA due to a severe illness. After a visit with her father, Cori discovers her dad sending a large amount of cash to an unknown woman. Cori decides to take matters into her own hands where she finally seek answers regarding her mother. However, sometimes secrets are better kept hidden…

After a childhood incident ruined any shot of Jesse having a relationship with his parents, he is finally glad to be living on his own, where he isn’t constantly reminded of what happened. That is, until his seventeen-year old step sister, Bethany, confides in him that she’s pregnant. Jesse vows to help Bethany, but what is the right choice to make when she wants to keep her pregnancy a secret? The truth is bound to come out….

Cori and Jesse grow closer, when Cori’s fiancée attends a wedding in Italy. Cori and Jesse relate to one another, when each confides secrets of their own. However, when each reveal their secrets, will the other be able to handle the truth?

My Review

Cori and Jesse didn’t engage me. I didn’t buy their motivations.

This is a common complaint for me in romance novels. Many authors believe they’re telling the story of the romance, but if I don’t connect with the desires of the characters, the story–no  matter how incredible–falls flat.

Much of this was the story of Cori discovering she didn’t truly love the man she was with and that she wanted to find out the truth about her mother, who she assumed was dead. I will give Kudos to Ms. Woods for adding a twist to the “true heritage” for Cori. It wasn’t your average, “mom died when I was young” or “given up for adoption” background.

Jesse’s story with his sister didn’t compel me in the least. Yes, it’s a common issue and the author handled it gracefully. But I felt like the events were relayed to the reader. How did Jesse feel? Why did he feel that way? What made him bond with Bethany so much?

And when we discovered Jesse’s wound, the opportunity for deep connection with him had already been lost. A powerful backstory didn’t engage me because Jesse never felt anything. Or I should say I was never invited to experience anything along with him.

The actual romance between these two felt rushed. My favorite romances are friends who become lovers, and that’s one of the reasons I picked this book up to read. But even their friendship developing happened before the story began and I was expected to believe they were friends when all I really saw was Jesse’s crush and Cori’s distance (because her boyfriend was the jealous sort).

The story earns three out of five stars from me.

My Recommendation

Romance readers will likely enjoy this story. I expected more character development based on the blurb and then I didn’t truly connect with the characters.

Readers who like the slow reveal of an unexpected secret might find more here than they bargained for. While the story and characters didn’t engage me, it wasn’t because of poor writing.

You can grab a copy of this book from the publisher, Amazon, Amazon UK, B & N, Bookstrand, Kobo and Smashwords. Ms. Woods would appreciate if you would leave your own review at the retailer of purchase and Goodreads.

Time for TRUTH to Debut

Today, Roane Publishing releases TRUTH, a new romance novel.

Hiding secrets is a huge theme in genre fiction. But the truth always comes out.

I read Truth by Avery Woods in August. Look for my review on Thursday.

Blurb

Sometimes you shouldn’t ask questions you aren’t prepared to hear the answers to…

Cori Winters life seems to be going according to the plan. While completing her PhD in Chemistry, Cori is offered a Research Fellowship, by one of the most accomplished Chemists in the Country. In addition, Cori has finally agreed to marry her long term boyfriend, Erik.

Abandoned at a young age, Cori has been told growing up that her biological mother has been MIA due to a severe illness. After a visit with her father, Cori discovers her dad sending a large amount of cash to an unknown woman. Cori decides to take matters into her own hands where she finally seek answers regarding her mother. However, sometimes secrets are better kept hidden…

After a childhood incident ruined any shot of Jesse having a relationship with his parents, he is finally glad to be living on his own, where he isn’t constantly reminded of what happened. That is, until his seventeen-year old step sister, Bethany, confides in him that she’s pregnant. Jesse vows to help Bethany, but what is the right choice to make when she wants to keep her pregnancy a secret? The truth is bound to come out….

Cori and Jesse grow closer, when Cori’s fiancée attends a wedding in Italy. Cori and Jesse relate to one another, when each confides secrets of their own. However, when each reveal their secrets, will the other be able to handle the truth?

Excerpt

“Are you ready?” Jesse asks me.

Am I ready? No. Do I have to do this? Yes. “Where are you going to be?”

“There is a nearby record store I wanted to check out. Depending how long you take, I might go back to the hotel and call Bethany. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. Just call me, either way. Even if I don’t make it down the block.”

“Okay.” I’m glad he has something to do. It will be embarrassing if I end up calling him after a short time, but I know Jesse won’t be judgmental, which is why I let him accompany me on this trip. “I’ll call you when I’m done.”

Jesse rubs my thigh before I get out. “Good luck, Cori.”

I give him an uneasy grin as I step out of the passenger seat. I can feel my whole body shaking. Jesse reverses slowly, and I give him a weak wave as he drives away. I like that he is giving me privacy. I need to do this on my own.

I take five calming breaths and begin to move my shaky legs towards the front door. Shivers run up and down my spine. I’m covered in goose bumps. I can’t believe I am actually doing this. It’s surreal. A million thoughts run through my mind, and by the time I get to the door, I realize I have no idea what I am going to say to her. I don’t think, ‘Hi, I’m the daughter you abandoned almost twenty five years ago’ is a great opener.

I stand in front of my mom’s house for a couple minutes, just trying to collect my thoughts and process through my head that I am actually standing in front of my mom’s house. I decide it’s like pulling off a band aid and I just need to knock on the door. Before my mind convinces me to chicken out, I lift my fist and knock on the door.

When I hear movement coming from inside the house, I’m tempted to turn around and book it. I keep my feet firmly planted on the ground, as I keep reminding myself that I can do this. A few seconds later the door opens, and I am almost certain my heart stops for a good couple of beats.

The woman who opens the door is of average height, with a petite waist. She is extremely beautiful. She has the same porcelain doll skin as I do, but unlike me she has shoulder length, straight blonde hair. She has a small nose, with big blue eyes that are darker in colour than mine. Her lips are full, and she is wearing a cream cashmere sweater with dark blue denim jeans. She has a few soft wrinkles on the corners of her eyes, but opposed from that she looks almost too young to be my mom.

“Meredith Holmes?” I ask.

She gives me a puzzled look, letting me know that she has no idea who I am. My stomach drops shortly, but I regain myself, as she answers. “That’s me. How can I help you?”

The Author

Avery Woods lives in beautiful, but sometimes rainy Vancouver, BC, Canada. In addition to writing, Avery Woods works as a full time Registered Nurse. When she’s not writing or working as a nurse you can find her consuming books by the minute. Trust is her first book.

Connect with her at her website, on Facebook or Twitter, and follow her on Goodreads

Buy Now

All the purchase links can be found here

Spice up your summer with SPICE BRINGER

I read fantasy. Fantasy makes me happy. And there are a few authors who I will always pick up their books. H.L. Burke, author of SPICE BRINGER, is one of those.

I’m in Ms. Burke’s “fan” group on Facebook. I’ve been hearing about this book since it was an idea that was keeping her from focusing on another project. So…for awhile now.

I voted on character names. Each of the tidbits she shared as she wrote it piqued my curiosity. My opinion was cast when she asked for input about the blurb.

But it was at that point I told myself, “This is going to be a sad book. I don’t think I’ll read it.”

And that’s why I signed up for an advance copy.

Wait! What? It doesn’t make sense to you that I’d volunteer to read and review a book I’d decided I wasn’t going to read?

It was a book by H. L. Burke. I wanted to read it (even thought I didn’t want to read it). So I convinced myself that the best thing to do was get a free copy, and that way if it was too sad for words, I wouldn’t have spend money on it.

Makes perfect sense, right? *holds up hand*


What’s the Story?

This is a tale of three people on individual quests. Their goals bring them together.

Niya has known she’s living on borrowed time for her entire life. She dreams of seeing the sea and riding an elephant, but she’s happy to spend her days in the grove caring for the spice that keeps her alive.

Unfortunately, the princess of the realm believes she needs the fire salamander that helps the vitrisar seeds to germinate and grow in order to ascend her adoptive father’s throne. When her eagerness to snatch the beast sets the grove on fire, Niya must take the remaining plant and Alk, the fire salamander, to a safe place.

Early in this journey, Niya runs into people who want to steal the spice she’s carrying. It’s rare and valuable. Jayesh, a monk on his own quest, saves her from robbers and joins her. He’s searching for redemption. His lack of faith in his god cost people their lives, and now he’s trying to atone for that. Helping Niya fits into his plans.

They travel. They meet people. Their beliefs are tested. Eventually, they face the princess. Can they convince her that their quest will benefit the empire than hers?

My Thoughts

Once I started this book, I didn’t want to put it down.

But I did. Because I also didn’t want it to end.

I hate books like that. I mean because I LOVE them, so why can’t they go on forever?

These three characters are realistic and relatable. You want to despise the princess because of the heartache she causes for Niya, but since Burke gives you scenes from the princess’s point of view, you know what’s motivating her. And it’s a reasonable and justifiable motivation.

Even if she’s being manipulated.

Niya’s death sentence makes her live every moment to the full. But it also makes her leery of emotional attachments. After all, she’s going to die, and whoever loves her will be brokenhearted.

Jayesh has his own baggage. His tendency to over-think every decision and wait to act puts him in conflict with Niya’s immediacy. Since he rescues her at their first meeting, we cheer him on to the end. He’s a good guy and he deserves to find the redemption he seeks.

There is a not-so-obvious allegory in this story. The three gods that act together could represent the Trinity. Each of the gods have an attribute that is also one of God’s characteristics: Kind, Just and All-Knowing. The battle between good and evil is clear.

The magical elements are neatly interwoven into the setting and characters. It was easy to believe each one. Burke does a great job of explaining what could be unbelievable in a way that doesn’t rob it of it’s mysticism (The Force was way more interesting before it was explained).

I laughed at the character dialog and interaction. I cried at the heartaches and losses. And I predicted who would make the first and greatest sacrifice.

My Recommendation

If you read young adult fantasy, this book is for you. If you like quest stories, this is a story you don’t want to miss.

You like snarky heroines? Me too! You’ll get that and an even MORE sarcastic fire salamander. The bi-play between the two will make you laugh.

Maybe you think stories should have a deeper message, not be solely for entertainment. Well then, why are you still reading this? Go get this book. Download it today and see if you aren’t moved by the themes underlying the adventure.

Yes, there’s romance in this story. It’s not sappy. And it’s not typical.

In fact, the only people who might not enjoy this story are people who despise fantasy, especially if it has a hint of allegory. Otherwise, this is a five star read guaranteed to take you from hilarity to suspense to tears and back again.

SPICE BRINGER is the perfect spice for the final weekend of summer (and any other time of year).

Not Feeling the Back-to-School Craze

People do NOT go back to school in July. Do the marketers know this? In fact, our local school districts don’t have their school offices open in the month of July. Why did the push of Back-to-Schools begin so early?

There’s a marketing genius somewhere who’s going to answer this. I hope they do it in the comments here.

Because the week after Independence Day, I do NOT want to think about going back to school.

For years (about fourteen), I focused on these sales. My kids needed new clothes, new shoes and that school supply list at the local retailers had to be snapped up and checked off.

In those days, I started the shopping at the end of July. I watched the sales and picked up the items on the list when they were on sale.

I guess many parents still do this. And that’s probably why the sales start so early.

But now that I DON’T have any lists, I don’t want to think about going back to school. It means the end of so many things that I love.

If school is back:

  • Days are shorter
  • Falling leaves will replace blooming flowers
  • Clouds will obscure the sunshine
  • Calls to sub will begin
  • Endless weeks of writing are over
  • A more definite schedule ensues
  • Work devours relaxation

Does any of that sound appealing to you? Then you might be feeling the Back-to-School Craze.

Me? Not so much.

Sure, I know I’ll be more productive when I’m forced into only three writing/author-stuff days per week. There have been summers when I’ve been super productive, too.

This summer, I wrote two completely new novellas (about 60,000 words), revised and submitted another story, and released TWO new works and re-released two others. I also wrote a completely fun fantasy short story that will be published this fall.

I could spend several more paragraphs describing the reviewer practices I put into place. But who wants to hear me yammer on about that stuff? We’re here to talk about the end of summer.

Yikes!

Sunshine makes me happy. I’m one of those people who is chronically Vitamin D deficient, so I joyfully plan twenty or more minutes of “sun time” every day the sun is shining.

This summer, that’s been most of May, June and July. August has been amazing, too.

Some people squawked about all the 90+ degree days, but it’s really days over 100 that suck me dry. Our air conditioner did earn its keep, though, and I wouldn’t have wanted to live without it.

I do like back-to-school supply sales, though. Although, I probably already have enough notebooks, gel pens and sticky notes for full-time author stuff for at lease five years. But the smell and feel and look of all those paper products lures me every time.

Kids are getting bored about now. They’re ready to see their friends every day. Parents are counting down the days when the schedule returns to normal.

I even saw one of my teacher friends post on Facebook that she was ready to get back to school (around August 8 which is when I wrote this post).

As for me? I’m not excited to pull out my sub pack. Summer has been too short, and there are things on my list that didn’t get accomplished.

For me, I still have two trips to enjoy before I get back into the classroom. Five days in New York City with my sister visiting our brother (August 29- September 3) is first. Then six days in Florida with my husband during the last week of September will wrap up the vacation season.

I usually don’t get calls to sub until October. I might even be ready for the Back-to-School craze by then.

Are you ready for back-to-school? What’s your favorite school supply? Do you shop the sales?

You Said Video Would Gain Exposure

Facebook algorithms favor video. Oh, and groups. So, to get the best organic exposure on facebook, post videos in your groups.

Sure. Whatever you say.

Who said it? People who know all about making your brand stand out. Professionals who are PAID to make videos that bring in customers.

But I’m an author. I’m not selling a class. And, sadly, I’m not selling many books either. But if I get my face out there, people will hunt down my stories.

Hey. No need to hunt. I’ll provide the links.

But, apparently, the quest is part of the excitement. Or something.

So I took a course about making videos to share my brand.

https://sharonhughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/2143024042585774-record.mov

But one is never enough. In fact, once a week is probably not enough.

My unplanned videos got the best views.

When I tried to only post the video to my group, only two people watched it. Of course, there are only 20 members (maybe) in the group, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

https://sharonhughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/img_0315.mov

So I went back to posting live on my author page. And my sister watched.

Of course, I didn’t really announce that I would be going live. I need to do that. Maybe more people would show up if I did that. Maybe I’ll do that next week.

If I wait until the evening when more people might be on Facebook, maybe that will get me more views, too.

Who knows?

All I know is that I fumble for something to talk about in these videos, and no one comments to give me any ideas.

https://sharonhughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/img_0361.mov

So, here I am posting a video or three on my blog. Because a few people read that, right? Maybe they’ll watch the videos and leave me some feedback.

I wish building my brand and audience worked the way the “professionals” said it would.

If wishes were riches, I’d own a small country.

If you’re reading this, what do you wish an author would talk about on live videos? If you watched the videos, what would make them more engaging?

Saying Goodbye to The Emperor’s Edge

Republic (The Emperor's Edge, #8)Republic by Lindsay Buroker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I ADORE these characters. I read the last chapter super slow, hoping to extend my visit with them.
This book reads more like alternative history or even science fiction than fantasy, but I still loved it. Buroker does a great job making each narrator’s scenes distinctive to their voice and style.

Yes, they all got a happy ending, but I want to go on missions with Amaranthe and Sicarius. What sort of adventures will Sespian have with his new responsibilities? And let’s face it, Maldynado needs to pop the question before Yara dumps him overboard.

A perfect escape with people who make me laugh and a story that brings me to the edge of my seat. Thanks, Lindsay.

View all my reviews

Your Peek at UNEXPECTED

It’s finally Friday. All week, I’ve been throwing tidbits from the amazing stories in the ONE SULTRY DAY anthology. But you follow me, and you’ve been waiting for today’s excerpt.

I know you have. Well, I hope you have.

But…a few weeks ago, I made a promise to the people who agreed to admit they were my friend (or maybe even a fan of my writing) and join an exclusive Facebook group.

The promise: I will only share excerpts of my work in the group.

And…I can’t break my word.

BUT…while this is a closed group, I’m happy to add anyone to the group.

So, if you want to read today’s excerpt, you’ll have to click over to the Facebook group. I’ll have the excerpt front and center.

If you’d rather avoid all that and just read the entire story, click on the book cover, and buy away.

Or maybe you’ll take your chances and try to WIN a copy (or $10 from Amazon which will purchase TWO electronic copies). If that’s your game plan, click on the meme below and follow the giveaway instructions.

The Grand Prize: TEN bucks to spend at Amazon

Otherwise, I hope to see you over at Facebook. If you’re going there from here, will you comment on the excerpt post that that’s how you found it? I’m doing a little market research.

Thanks for reading. And Happy Friday!