Category: Books

A Preview of A Laboring Hand

November is halfway over. My Reflections series has been introduced, and I’m thankful for those of you who have purchased, read and reviewed the book. But it is only the first in a series, and I’m going to give you a peek inside the second book in the series today.

Today’s excerpt comes from A Laboring Hand, Reflections Book Two, which releases to the public in January 2020.

If you’re familiar with Mary and Martha of Bethany, you’ll recognize this scene. It’s based on Luke 10:38-42. I’m intentionally starting in the middle of the scene so you can’t see what leads up to Martha’s frustration.

I hope you glimpse the overwhelmed, responsible big sister whose trying to make sure her guests are content and satisfied. Not only is she serious about being the “hostess with the mostest,” Martha wants her siblings to help.

How often have you been frustrated with the lack of help from your family during a hosted event? Or maybe I’m the only person who can imagine this actually happening.

Excerpted from A Laboring Hand, chapter four:

Soon enough, the laughter and banter of a crowd of dusty men filled the room. I welcomed them with a small bowl of water and a clean linen cloth. Well, it was clean for the first man or two who dried their hands.

Yeshua reclined at the head of the table on the largest cushion which my parents had often shared. John bar Zebedee, one of the Boanerges, sat on it with the Master. He was only a couple years older than Mary and the youngest of all the Master’s followers.

The crowd of dirty disciples filled the room, folded onto other cushions. Some chose to lean against the wall on rugs Laz had pulled from his room and ours. The dirt floor could hardly be seen with so many men sprawled around the room.

Mary and I circulated with pitchers, filling every cup we owned and still two men shared each one of the battered pottery pieces. Once we finished, I began to distribute bowls of spiced beans and cloth-wrapped packages of bread, still warm from their place on the hearth. I turned to ask Mary to assist me, but she’d seated herself cross-legged at Yeshua’s feet, staring up as he started to teach.

I blinked hard. What on earth was she thinking? Was this her rebellion since I hadn’t let her get water for foot washing? She was certainly positioned in a way that she could wash his feet if she had the supplies.

I continued bustling around taking care of our guests, but my frustration grew. Yeshua’s authoritative voice, usually so soothing, fueled the ire inside me. He could make her help me. I glanced at Laz, but my brother was watching the Master and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Mary never once looked my way, even when I nudged her with my ankle as I passed to refill the cup John shared with Yeshua.

They had promised to help. When I’d first mentioned inviting the group to stay over for more than a day, both Laz and Mary agreed to help with the work. Now they sat there, enjoying Yeshua’s teaching while I served everyone.

With a careful eye, I glanced at every cup and bowl. Levi raised his cup in my direction, and I sidled through the sprawled bodies to fill it, nearly tripping on another man’s filthy feet.

The mud-caked toes never even flinched, and my bubble of anger swelled. I swallowed it, and turned to top off his cup. He stared through me, as if I were invisible, but I was used to that from working in the Pharisee’s home. In the past, Yeshua’s friends were more gracious.

Unrest stirred inside me as I shuffled around, refilling cups and then fetching more bread to replenish the diminishing stacks. After refilling my pitcher from the jar stored beneath the eaves, I counted the loaves in the linen clothes on the counter. Only three dozen were left. Soon, I would need to bake more.

And that’s when it became too much. I strode toward Yeshua holding the jug of watered wine aloft and jabbed my sister with a meaningful kick. She blinked, staring at me for a moment as if I’d woken her from a deep sleep.

As I filled the Lord’s cup, I said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

A hush descended in the room. I heard the wine trickle against what was in his cup. Our eyes met.

“Bid her to help me.” Couldn’t he see how much work needed to be done? And Mary was just sitting there like a useless lump.

“Martha.” His voice was quieter than it had been, almost gentle.

At the sound of my name from his lips, the turmoil loosened inside me. Why had I waited so long to ask for his assistance? His dark eyes filled with understanding and concern. I knew he would help me because he cared about me.

“Martha, you’re anxious and worried about many things.”

The comfort oozing through me turned sharp and became a prickle of conviction. Worry was sin. My father had told me so.

“But one thing is needful.”

One thing? I wanted to jerk my hand around at the crowd of hungry men who needed food, drink, and places to sleep. There were many things that needed to be taken care of. I knew he could see that.

Yeshua sighed. His fingers rested on the handle of the pitcher beside mine. They were square and scuffed—working man’s hands.

“And Mary hath chosen that good part.” His voice rose slightly, but not with anger or impatience, and his hand dropped to his lap. “And that won’t be taken away from her.”

Everything warred within me as I struggled to comprehend his words. Mary was sitting there while our guests needed food and drink. How was that better than helping me meet their needs?

With one long glance, he turned to scan the room. “A certain man…”

I recognized the beginning of a parable. Usually I loved his stories—they always carried so much spiritual significance. Tonight, I couldn’t listen because the words he’d spoken to me stung my heart.

Mary hath chosen that good part.

I filled cups with lowered eyes. Tears burned at the back of my eyelids whenever I blinked, but I widened my eyes and jerked my shawl up to cover most of my face.

Mary sat at his feet doing nothing, but Yeshua said she’d chosen the good part. Mary hath chosen that good part. The words kept echoing all evening, drowning out the Master’s stories and the disciples’ questions.

Even now, as I’m writing about it, his gentle admonition stings somewhere deep in my soul. Was there something wrong with my desire to make the men comfortable? Did Yeshua not want a meal and refreshment while he was talking?

One thing is needful. What one thing?

Mary stirred on our shared bed. Her forehead wrinkled and then smoothed. As I’d helped her prepare for bed, I’d wanted to ask about the lessons, but I felt foolish. If I asked, she would know that I hadn’t paid attention while Yeshua taught.

Why did that make me feel guilty? Yeshua wasn’t angry with me. He even thanked me for the food and drink as I passed him to go to bed.

Yahweh help me understand what this means. What is the one needful thing for me to do? Sit and listen like my sister?

I sighed and my heart weighed more heavily in my chest. But if I do that, who will do the work?

**This is copyrighted material.

Are you ready to read MORE of Martha’s story? If you will commit to posting a review of the book on Amazon (and perhaps Goodreads and Book Bub), you can sign up for an advance copy. They will be going out to my Advance Review Team in December. Sign up here.

Take a Look Inside My Newest Series

This comes to you from chapter six of REFLECTIONS: A PONDERING HEART, the story of Jesus Christ from the journal of his mother, Mary.
Is there a better way to spend Christmas than with the Christ?


The sun’s last rays kissed the walls of Bethlehem as our group straggled within view of the city. Rather than heading toward the gates, Joseph followed a well-worn path to the east. His uncle lived outside the walls, near the shepherds. He spun cloth from the sheep’s wool and grew a supply of linen on a small plot of ground. Most farmland stretched further to the west, away from the meandering sheep. Or maybe away from the shepherds, who weren’t considered the cleanest of people.

We parted from the other travelers, including the grumbling man and his donkey. My feet protested against walking. I rubbed my lower back, stretching my shoulders to relieve the pressure. It would be good to sleep on a mattress again. The hard ground hadn’t done any favors for my already stressed muscles.

Joseph lessened his stride so I could remain beside him. Bleating and the familiar odors of sweat and dung eased my anxiety. These were smells and sounds of home. A group of keepers milled around the low walls of a sheepfold. Three stood in the doorway.

One goat rubbed its head against a shepherd’s leg. A twinge of sadness poked my heart. I missed my goats. My sister Mary cared for them, but she had given up the cheese-making. My mouth watered at the idea of spreading the soft, fresh goat cheese on bread. Perhaps Joseph’s uncle would invite us to join his table for dinner. Anything other than stringy dried meat sounded appealing.

The pathway widened into a well-traveled track with deeper ruts. I stumbled on a rock, too busy gazing at the shorn fields to watch my step; the advancing twilight didn’t help matters. With a strong hand on my upper arm, Joseph steadied me. Our pace slowed even more. I yearned to arrive at his uncle’s house, but my legs rebelled against moving any faster.

The smoky odor of cooking meat made my stomach rumble. I pressed my fingers over it and earned a kick from the babe. Out of the shadows, two buildings emerged beside the road.

From the larger of the structures, candlelight flickered invitingly. It was a flat-topped adobe building, common in Nazareth for merchants and shop owners. It was strange to see one outside the city walls.

I stood behind Joseph when he knocked on the door. It seemed a long while before the man appeared in the doorway. He had more gray hair than Joseph, but otherwise didn’t seem much older.

“Joseph,” the man said. His eyes slid toward me and he stepped outside, joining us in front of the house. “Your cousins arrived yesterday.”

“Travel was difficult,” Joseph said.

Uncle Biram nodded. “I have no room left in the house.”

He seemed embarrassed to admit this, looking toward the ground rather than directly at Joseph.

“The roof would be fine. Something for Mary to sleep on is all we really need.”

His uncle’s gaze rested on me, sliding down to where my hand rested on my distended abdomen. His eyebrows drew together. Would there be no escaping the judgmental scowls? We were miles from home and the untimeliness of my motherhood still garnered speculation.

“The roof is where we put Nadab and his family. They arrived two days ago.”

Joseph nodded. Were we being turned away by his family? Trembling started in my lower legs. I leaned into Joseph’s broad back. Behind his uncle, the door to the house opened and a woman emerged, holding a candle in a shallow pottery dish.

“Biram? Oh, it’s Joseph. Hello.”

“Aunt Leah.” Joseph nodded his head in respect.

“I was just telling them about our full house,” Biram said.

“This crazy census.” Aunt Leah shook her head, corners of her generous mouth turning down.

“I can find other accommodations tomorrow. If you could at least spare some floor space for one night—”

I could see Uncle Biram opening his mouth to deny this plea. Shame and anger clashed in my gut, making the empty organ churn. The baby kicked against my ribs.

“The barn,” the woman said. “We’ve room in there for you.”

I turned to gaze at the other building, stone and wood, shabbier than the adobe structure. It would be out of the wind and cooling night air. Perhaps I would find clean straw to mound into a pallet. It would be an improvement over sleeping beside the road. My back cramped at the thought of another night on the sun-hardened earth.

“Thank you.”

“I’ll bring some food out,” she said. “I see you have blankets.”

“Sorry I couldn’t offer you something more.” Biram sounded apologetic, and his gaze didn’t stray toward me this time.

“Times are hard for everyone, Uncle,” Joseph said.

He turned to me, face in shadow. His fingers closed around my elbow. We moved toward the barn. Behind us, the door to the house closed.
“It’s because of me.”

Joseph draped his arm over my shoulder, pulling me against his side. My head nearly fit there.

“My cousins came to register. You heard them.”

“The way he looked at me . . .”

“I’m sorry.” His lips pressed against the top of my head, reminding me of something my father did when I was a much younger girl. When would we have a normal husband and wife relationship? Maybe never. Nothing was normal for me now. It never would be.

I swallowed away the tears. The dark doorway into the barn loomed before us. Stepping inside, the familiar scents of animals and manure embraced me. Tension drained from my shoulders.

I would be more comfortable here than in a house full of condemning relatives.

Pick up a copy now. It’s available in paperback, digital and audio formats. This makes a great gift for the readers in your life, too. Better yet, with the purchase of the paperback, the digital and audio copies are reduced in price, so you can shop for three distinctive readers.

REFLECTIONS Series: Have You Read Book One?

I’m thrilled to announce that the first book of the REFLECTIONS series is live on Amazon. In fact, it’s available in three formats and at discounted rates if you buy the print version and add on either digital or audio (or both).

Better yet, it’s so pretty.

I know the woman on the cover isn’t authentic to first century dress. Scroll down to see the covers of the other three books in the series. I did much better using authentic models on those covers.

But, I’m SO overjoyed to have my first self-published title recovered and rebranded under my InkSpired imprint.

Also, I’m doing some live author events in November. I hope you’ll be excited enough to get an autographed copy that you’ll plan to attend.

REFLECTIONS: Where it Started

This started years ago as a seed planted from a Facebook quiz.

I know. That’s crazy. But if you’ve followed this blog for long, you know that I get story ideas from many strange places.

“I don’t think I’m anything like Mary the mother of Jesus. I mean, God chose her to be the mother of His Son. She must have been perfect.”

A comment from a friend on Facebook that went something like that planted the seed for this story in my heart and mind.
Because I had felt similarly. In fact, I’d retaken the silly Facebook quiz because I’d gotten Mary the mother of Jesus as my first answer, and I thought, “NOT!”

But why? Aside from the Catholic compulsion to saint Mary and pray to her for absolution of sin (which doesn’t have a basis in scripture), why would any human who lived be “perfect” or “above me”?

Because I don’t have the right perspective. I think that the fact Peter, Paul and Mary are written about in scripture means they are superior human examples. (Bonus points if you thought “The sixties folk singing trio?” when you read those names.)
They are human. God used them as examples.

None of them are perfect. The only perfect person to live? Jesus Christ.

And suddenly, I felt an urge to tell Mary’s story so people would see her as a woman who God chose to mother His Son. What would she feel? What would she think?

Well, scripture is clear she pondered many things in her heart.

And there you have the title.

The first version of this book was self-published on CreateSpace in 2015.

This updated version includes two additional scenes and a section of lesson plans so the book can be used in Sunday school classes or youth groups to help teenagers grasp the humanity of Mary of Nazareth

REFLECTIONS: A PONDERING HEART

This is the new cover and blurb, as well as some reviews of the first edition.

From Handmaid to Madonna: a journey fraught with agony

Blurb

My father asked me to keep the strangest parts of this story to myself, but I’ve always worked my thoughts out best when I put them on parchment. So, this journey begins the day an angel informed me I would have a baby—before I was even married.

On that day, the girl who loved her goats and spent time making cheese to sell disappeared.

Once Joseph realized I hadn’t betrayed him, life settled into a new pattern. In the next few years, I traveled further than I had in the fourteen years before them. But my spiritual pilgrimage had barely begun.

“You’ll call him Jesus,” Yahweh’s messenger told me. The old man in the temple prophesied that my soul would be pierced with many sorrows. From Judea to Egypt and back to Nazareth, swords of sorrow struck my heart and mind.

Jesus was only the first of five sons I would mother, but his life changed us all. For the better, yes, praise Yahweh. But not without conflict.

God’s promises always come to pass. Could I learn to embrace the painful with the same sincerity as the joyful?

As old Simeon told her in the temple, a sword pierced her soul – again and again. And the killing blow was yet to come…
What readers of the earlier editions are saying:

“This is an excellent fictional account of what it might have been like to walk in Mary’s shoes. The author did not take any verses out of context, but simply allowed the reader to see the human side of Mary.” Barbara, winner of Goodreads copy

I started reading this at 9:00PM on Dec. 23. I thought I could start and then finish it on the 24th. Well, let me tell you – I was up in the wee hours of Dec. 24th, not being able to stop reading once I had started. Sharon Hughson has done a beautiful job of putting words to paper on this narrative of Mary’s thoughts from the time she was approached by an angel about a virgin birth. There are no words to sufficiently describe this BEAUTIFUL story. As a mother and a lover of my Lord – this book moved and touched me deeply.
Vicki from Wyoming.

This was a great story and I can’t stress that enough. It was an in depth look at how things may have been for Mary after she found out she would give birth to Jesus up to his ascension. I learned so much about their customs and saw things from a different perspective. I highly highly recommend this book!! – Mary, 5-Star Amazon Review

This isn’t the typical book I’d pick up and read, but found I was hooked from the first page. I’ve often thought about Mary, not only as the Blessed Mother, but as a woman. Mary is perfect, and as a Christian woman that’s an intimidating standard to live up to. This book takes a brave look at Mary’s life and shows the human side to her, bringing the reader into her world and her mind. I wish this was required reading for CCD classes! Not only was I drawn into Mary’s story, her fears, her hopes, her dreams, I was amazed at the historical detail and the biblical accuracy as well. Highly recommended! – Jessica, 5-Star Amazon Review

Sharon Hughson took the little bit of information contained in the Bible, with (probably) a great deal of research, and a bit of literary license – managed to write a very realistic rendition of what Mary’s story quite possibly looked like. I was utterly impressed with what I read. I am without a doubt looking forward to reading the rest of the series!!! – E. Eblin, 5-Star Amazon Review

This book will give you a new perspective on the life of Jesus. – Shonda, 5-Star Amazon Review

REFLECTIONS: Where it’s Headed

So far, I’ve written two additional stories for this series. The second book, A LABORING HAND, is Martha of Bethany’s story. It didn’t receive the same stutters of awe and amazement from my beta readers as Mary of Nazareth’s story did, but it is the story I was most compelled to write during November 2018.

The third book is Mary of Bethany’s story. It’s truly a young adult book, so it also includes a section of lesson outlines. It’s also the most worrisome of the three stories. At the moment, I’m revising and polishing it so I can get it to my editor by October 11th. I’m sure she’ll need to work more magic on it than either of the other stories needed.


The fourth book in the series is roughly outlined. It’s Salome’s story, and I’m struggling with where it needs to start and end. What is the point of this story?

For me, I’m writing it to understand Salome’s audacious request that her sons sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in His kingdom. I’ve always been stunned by this short scene in scripture.

But other than a few passing mentions, scripture tells us much less about Salome than any of the women I’ve written about. That means there’s more room for my imagination.

And more chance I’ll blunder the story completely and turn off all my readers.

I’d appreciate your prayers as I tackle this story in November. I want to explore my thoughts, of course, but I really want to tell the story God wants told.

My Author Schedule

Now that I’ve rambled on about this series. Let’s get specific about the release of A PONDERING HEART. The best way to stay informed about my author events, is to follow me on one of these platforms:
Facebook
Instagram

If you want the full rundown and opportunities to give me input about what I’m writing next, you should join this Facebook Group.

I’m hosting two book release events:
The “in-person” event will be held at Cathedral Coffee in Scappoose on Friday, November 8, 2019 from 6:30 to 8:00 PM.

The Facebook Event, which will include a couple of live videos, a giveaway for an autographed copy and several FREE copies of both digital and audio copies of A PONDERING HEART will be held on Saturday, November 9.

Here’s a link to the event. Plan to attend for your chance to win series bookmarks, an autographed copy of the first book OR the entire REFLECTIONS series on eBook.

Of course, if you’re willing to pay $10 and shipping, I’m happy to send an autographed copy of the paperback anywhere and include a FREE audiobook code with it.

Just complete this form:

A Glimpse Inside What I’m Writing Now

The cover for the second book in the REFLECTIONS series will be unveiled soon.

A Laboring Hand is the story of Jesus told by Martha of Bethany. And it’s a story that’s had a profound effect on the author writing it.

I’ve always teased my sister about being bossy, but Martha has taken flak from preachers for a couple thousand years about her tendency to be bossy. We’re familiar with this scripture from Luke 10, right?

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

But what did it look like in Martha’s life?

Here’s a glimpse from A LABORING HAND, chapter four.

I washed my hands and began to chop the handfuls of pungent herbs I would add to the beans. The pestle in my hand smashed the beans with rhythmic efficiency. Mary pressed together more flour, salt and olive oil, intent on baking more bread.

“The stone was hot.” The words had barely left my mouth when Lazarus limped in followed by a boy carrying a jug on his head.

“Leave it in the shade outside,” I waved a hand to the boy. “We’ll draw out into my pitchers half-filled with water. That will make it last.”

Laz nodded to the boy, gesturing to a place further along the house, away from the cooking fire and the chimney. I heard the jingle of coins.

“It’s already watered.”

“What proportion?” My brain estimated the amount of drink a dozen thirsty men would need.

“Fifty percent.” Lazarus slouched against the wall. Weariness etched his features, but I knew he wouldn’t rest. He was more eager for the visitors than any of us.

“We can safely add another twenty percent. Will you see to it?”

“I’ll need to draw more water.” Mary’s hands hesitated over the dough. “They’ll need what I drew for washing.”

“They aren’t zealots.” I returned to my chopping. “They won’t care about washing before they eat. Could you reach me the bowl of olives?” I gestured to the line of pottery on the wall overhead.

Mary shoved Abba’s weaving stool into place and stepped up to grasp the bowl. “I intend to wash their feet.”

I froze. Why would she insist on doing that? It was a servant’s job, and since we didn’t have servants, none of our guests ever expected this service.

“They’ll just get dirty again when he leaves on Sunday.”

“But they’ll be clean for Sabbath.”

Like that really mattered in a small synagogue like ours.

“There isn’t enough water.” That would solve it.

“I’ll draw more.”

“The bread needs baking. And the floor should be swept and the cushions beaten. Plus, we’ll need to get out all the extra rugs.”

Lazarus sighed and pushed away from the wall. “I’ll get started on the cushions.”

I shook my head. With only one arm, it took him much longer to clean them. “I’ll do it. Draw out the wine.”

Laz blinked at me, sharing a look with Mary. It was an apologetic look. He’d tried to aid her plan, but the bossy big sister nixed it. Something gnawed at my heart, but I ignored it. There was work to be done.

Soon enough, the laughter and banter of a crowd of dusty men filled the room. I welcomed them with a small bowl of water and a clean linen cloth. Well, it was clean for the first man or two.

Yeshua reclined at the head of the table on the largest cushion. My parents had often shared it. John bar Zebedee, one of the Boanerges, sat on it with the master while the others filed onto other cushions, some choosing to lean against the wall on the rugs Lazarus had pulled from his room and ours. The dirt floor could hardly be seen once all of them sprawled around the room.

Mary and I circulated with pitchers of wine. Once we finished, I began to distribute the bowls of spiced beans and packets of bread, still warm from their place on the hearth. I turned to ask Mary to assist me, but she’d folded herself cross-legged at Yeshua’s feet, staring up as he started to talk.

I blinked hard. What on earth was she thinking? Was this her rebellion since I hadn’t let her get water for foot washing? She was certainly positioned in a way she could wash his feet if she had the supplies.

I continued to serve. His authoritative voice, usually so soothing, fueled the ire inside me. He could make her help me. I glanced at Laz, but my brother was watching the master and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Mary never once looked my way, even when I nudged her with my ankle as I passed to refill John’s cup.

With a careful eye, I glanced at every cup and bowl. They would need continual watching. Matthew raised his cup in my direction, and I sidled through the sprawled bodies to fill it, nearly tripping on another man’s filthy feet.

They weren’t drawn out of the way, so I turned and topped off his cup. He stared through me, as if I were invisible. I was used to that from working in the Pharisee’s home, but usually Yeshua’s friends were more gracious.

The unrest stirred inside me as I shuffled around, refilling cups and then fetching more bread to replenish the diminishing stacks. Soon, I would need to bake some more.

And that’s when it was too much. I strode toward Yeshua with my pitcher and jabbed my sister with a meaningful kick. She blinked.

As I filled his cup, I said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

A hush descended in the room. I heard the wine trickle against what was in his cup. Our eyes met.

“Bid her to help me.” Couldn’t he see how much work I was doing? Why should she just be sitting there?

“Martha.” His voice was quieter than it had been, almost gentle.

At the sound of my name from his lips, the turmoil loosened inside me. Why had I waited so long to ask for his assistance? His dark eyes filled with understanding and concern. He would help me because he cared about me.
“Martha, you’re anxious and worried about many things.”

The comfort turned to a prickle of conviction. Worry was sin. My father had told me so.

“But one thing is needful.”

One thing? I wanted to jerk my hand around at the crowd of hungry men who needed food, drink and places to sleep. There were many things that needed to be taken care of. I knew he could see that.

Yeshua sighed. His fingers rested on the handle of the pitcher beside mine. They were square and scuffed. Working man’s hands.

“And Mary hath chosen that good part.” His voice rose slightly, but not with anger or impatience, and his hand dropped to his cup. “And that won’t be taken away from her.”

Everything warred within me as I struggled to comprehend his words. Mary was sitting there while our guests needed things. How was that better than helping me meet their needs?

“A certain man,” his gaze scanned the rest of the room.

I recognized the beginning of a parable. Usually I loved his stories, they always carried so much spiritual significance. I couldn’t listen though because his words stung my heart.

I filled cups, my eyes lowered. Tears burned at the back of my eyelids whenever I blinked, but I widened my eyes, pulling my shawl which had dropped to my shoulders, up to cover most of my face.

Mary sat at his feet doing nothing, but Yeshua said she’d chosen the good part. The words kept echoing all evening.

Even now, as I’m writing all this, they sting me somewhere deep in my soul. Was there something wrong with my desire to make the men comfortable? Did Yeshua not want a meal and refreshment while he was talking?

What do you think? How had you imagined Martha in this moment that gets so much negative attention? Should women be more like Mary?

If you’re excited to learn more about the REFLECTIONS series, make sure you’re a member of my newsletter. I’ll be running special (including FREE audiobooks of A PONDERING HEART) to my subscribers FIRST!
Sign up here

Welcome to Sweet Grove: FREE Book

If you love small-town romances, you’ll love Sweet Grove, Texas. People there will make you smile. Stories there will leave you feeling content.

Tomorrow, the first book I wrote for the First Street Church series will be FREE. I know, free books are one of my favorite things in all the world.

I hope you’ll adore Kyanna and Roth. They aren’t the typical romance couple. First of all, they’re middle-aged. *Gasp* I know! People in their 40s can fall in love?!? It’s true.

Kyanna has sacrificed everything to get ahead in her career. When she finds herself in a new town thousands of miles from her family, she begins to doubt whether her life has the right priorities. A scary call from the doctor? That’s enough to make anyone wonder if God’s trying to get their attention.

Roth has been a single parent since his wife died five years ago. New to Sweet Grove, his teenage daughter Ariel hooks up with the wrong crowd. And they both end up in the principal’s office. But Roth’s not prepared for the attraction he feels toward Kyanna.

And neither of them is ready for what will bring them together. But will they give love a second chance?

Here’s what reviewers are saying about LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL:

 

Four-star review: “The story was riveting and I had a hard time putting it down. The characters were so real that I felt they could be my friends, or even me had my path gone in the same direction.”

Five-star review: “What I love the most about this book is that it is a wonderful story by a Christian author. The writing is extraordinary, the characters heartfelt and the storyline does not allow the reader to put the book down. I read the entire book in one sitting and could hardly believe it was over! I didn’t recognize the time passing! Wow! Now I can hardly wait to read ALL her books.”

Don’t forget to grab your copy while it’s FREE!

If you’ve already read it, how about leaving a comment that encourages someone else to give it a try?

LOVE’S LITTLE SECRETS is FREE Today

I love Sweet Promise Press. And they’re making you a fan too with free books and plenty of tools to get well-written stories into a reader’s eReader.

Yes, Sweet Promise Press is a digital-only publisher.


Maybe you’re one of those people who only read books with paper pages you can turn. I totally respect that because I love the look, feel and smell of paper books.

But eBooks are so convenient for travel, working out and to take everywhere using only YOUR PHONE. You have that with you anyway, right? So why not load a FREE application on it so you’ll always have a book with you, too?

Anyway, you’re reading to find out about the freebie.

BUT FIRST…

My latest release with Sweet Promise Press came out on Friday, March 22.

As luck would have it, I was substitute teaching in a high school language arts classroom that day. But it didn’t keep me from checking Amazon to see if my Advance Review Team was posting reviews.
And to check on how the book was progressing up the charts.

I was overjoyed when it hit #20 in Friendship Fiction.


And then this happened.


I was floating to pass up the first book in the series which is priced at $.99 while the others are $2.99. But when I ranked higher than Susan Wiggs?

My goal was to make it to #5.

These great sales were thanks to my publisher’s advertisements, newsletters and dedication to creating a sales funnel inside the series books so readers can easily purchase the next book in the series.

Speaking of series, I have TWO series within the First Street Church shared series based on Melissa Storm’s series of the same name.

These stories happen in Sweet Grove, Texas. I’ve mentioned that place a time or two on this blog.
And today…only today…you can grab the SECOND book in my Sweet Grove Romance series FREE.

Here’s more about that book:

Love is all about truthfulness, honesty and being authentic. Except when it’s not.

But, surely, if a couple has been married for more than two decades, there are no secrets between them. How could you live with someone for that long and NOT know everything about them?

Well, Norma is about to find out.

This is a rough and emotional story. As much as I fell in love with Norma when I wrote her as Kyanna’s secretary in LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL, it pained me to put her through the torture of this story.

But the thing is, life isn’t easy. Yes, I promise my readers a happy ending. But what I know about sweet endings is that they’re more satisfying if the struggle that came before them was intense.

Today, Sweet Promise Press is giving this book away. It’s ALWAYS free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, but today, it’s free for the rest of you.

I hope you’ll give it a chance. Here’s what some readers are saying:

Grab your copy here.

Stop by my Facebook page and let me know if you do pick up a copy. I’d love to know someone’s reading this story.

Happy reading, my friend. Well…happy ending at least 😉

What about the FIRST book you wonder? Well, It’s called Love’s Late Arrival, and the publisher has put it free before. She’ll also be doing it again on April 21st!

Of course, if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, the entire series if always free.

If you’ve read these books, PLEASE leave a review. Love’s Little Secrets only have five reviews. Granted, they’re all five-star reviews, but I’d like to have at least twenty reviews on ALL my books (and several of them aren’t there yet).

To grab your FREE book, click here.

To learn more about ALL my books, click here.

If you’ve already READ this book and would LOVE to talk about it, join the fun on my Facebook group. Right now, we’re having a contest for a signed paperback and other swag.

Do you own an eReader? Or do you read on your phone and/or tablet?

Meet My Quirkiest Shero Ever

Tomorrow is the day. My book baby MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER will be live on Amazon. (Sorry. I wish it was available on other platforms, but that’s a decision my publisher makes.)

Yes, that means this book is only available in ebook.

I hold the print rights. If I cough up the money for the cover, I could release the book in print. But it would cost $9.95, and that seems like a chunk of change for a book you can read in one sitting.

Post on this if you would buy such a book. Maybe if there is enough interest, I will fork out my OWN chunk of change (which will require I sell 15 books just to break even).

Now, on to the book.

Isn’t she lovely?

An excerpt from the beginning to get you primed.

Mommy Loves the Banker
Chapter One

This mommy gig wasn’t going like she remembered. When her daughter was in elementary school, parents sent their kids to school on the bus or their bikes. Or—Heaven forbid—they walked. Every Clara Barton Elementary student needed to be dropped off.

Or so it seemed as Meredith Williams eased her daughter’s Toyota minivan forward in the two-block long line of cars. Finally, she caught a glimpse of the school building.

“Are we late, Mimi?” Poppy nibbled her brown curls and hugged her self-constructed wind chime closer. Wearing her bulging backpack, she couldn’t sit flush against the built-in booster seat.

Meri glanced in the rear-view mirror, checking the line of vehicles behind her before meeting the worried gaze. Brown eyes brimmed with urgency and sent a knife into Meri’s midsection.

“Not unless all these people are late, too.”

Poppy twisted around. Meri pulled forward, three car-lengths this time. The end of a long sidewalk peeped around the tires of the SUV in front of her. Rain sprinkled the windshield until the automatic wipers cleared it away. Kids who’d been playing four-square on the covered playground beside the athletic fields scurried toward the doors. Was school starting?

The clock on the dashboard showed three minutes until eight.

“Come on, come on.” Good mommies—or mimis—didn’t make their kiddos late for school.

Two cars pulled away from the curb near the school entrance. Several kids piled from the minivan in front of her. She checked her side mirror and flipped her blinker down. She’d go around, and Poppy wouldn’t be tardy. Again.

She steered into the street with her foot nudging the accelerator. A honk like a freight train bellowed, and Meri floored it. The Sienna reared forward. Brakes screeched, and more horns blew.

Meri’s heart sprinted as she swerved back to the curb. She ignored the nasty glares from the drivers she passed. Certainly they’d do the same to make sure their kids made it to school on time.

Another truck gunned in front of her and Meri ignored the driver’s one-finger salute, although his blaring honk made sure she saw it. She slammed to a stop beside the door and slapped the shifter into park.

“Cheap Trick.” The name of the band slipped out in a curse as she fumbled with the button to open the side door. “Can you get the buckle?”

Her spine crackled as she swiveled toward the back seat. Poppy held out the conglomeration of wrapping paper, paper towel, and toilet paper tubes they’d spent an hour gluing together the night before. Meri grunted as she contorted to hold the creation without smashing it. The seatbelt cut into her neck.

Strangled by a seatbelt. She’d suffer worse for Poppy and Sunnie.

Poppy released her harness and scrambled out of the seat. Her cool lips pressed into Meri’s forehead. “See you, Mimi.” Her granddaughter balanced the sculpture in gentle hands and hopped out of the minivan.

Warmth poured into Meri’s stomach and chest, drowning the honking-induced panic. That simple kiss wiped away the negative sensations. Precious Poppy was the reason Meri’d left everything, drove across four states, and bumbled her way through the new era of motherhood.

Keep Reading Now

Enter the Giveaway

See all the books in the Series

What do you think of Meri’s quirk? Did you catch it? Do you enjoy reading second-chance love stories featuring middle-aged characters?

What I’m Writing Now

I’m not talking about this blog. One of the new things you’ll see around here this year is at least once per month, I’ll give you a glance behind the scenes…or more accurately between the covers…of whatever I’m writing at the moment.

Have you Seen These?

The current project is in “revision” mode. This isn’t my favorite. I think I’ve shared this meme before, but each time I see it, it reinforces my emotions in the two processes of being an author: writing and editing.

There is a series within the First Street Church Series published by Sweet Promise Press. This is a trilogy I’ve affectionately called, TEXAS HOMECOMING.

In Book One, Jaz comes home with a plan to find a post-military job and make a quick exit. Since her brother’s death, she and her father can barely occupy the same room without having harsh words.

Bailey dreams of leaving Sweet Grove, too, but when his sister returns home with plans to convert the family ranch into a resort, he knows he has to stay and help her. She’ll be his only family once their father succumbs to the cancer devouring him.

But what if they don’t inherit the ranch? What if a “blood” relative comes to claim it? Bailey seeks out a legal expert and finds his high school crush. Jaz can’t turn the handsome cowboy away, but she’s hardly prepared to start falling for him.

Even without a will, love finds a way.

 

 

 

 

The story continues in Book Two. I refer to this as “Jaz’s story” because she finally gets questions answered about her brother. Of course, a mysterious visitor makes an auspicious delivery. When Bailey sees Jaz embracing the man, he suspects the worst.

Because he knows he’s not worth loving.

Sometimes hope needs a helping hand.

I Have a Plan

When I originally concieved the idea for this series, I hoped to write THREE books outside of Sweet Grove. I was going to pull readers from the Kindle World into my own sweet romance world.

And then their were no more Kindle Worlds.

But there was Sweet Promise Press. And I enjoyed working with Melissa Storm and her crew of friendly and knowledgeable professionals. So, I decided to bring the characters back to Sweet Grove. It was supposed to be a Texas Homecoming anyway, right?

My new plan is to release the third book in the trilogy in April.

Then I’ll hire a designer to make a lovely Texas Homecoming print wrap and in the fall, I’ll release the trilogy in a print collection. All three stories (somewhere between 80,000 and 90, 000 words) together in a single paperback.

Doesn’t that sound like a fantastic idea?

Between the Covers

Now for the moment you scrolled past the rest of this to see. Here’s a scene from the second chapter of the book.

I hate to give too much away, but book three is Bailey’s story. Plenty of reviewers have commented about how static and even whiny Bailey has been in the first two books. Well, he’s not weak. He has a bad past.

And it’s about to come to Sweet Grove.

From the second chapter (this is NOT final copy and is subject to change and IMPROVEMENT) before it’s included in the final book:

Lonie Dyer was a piece of work. Jazlyn Rolle had met sweet talkers like him during her six months with Boldt & Associates.  It wasn’t the false charm that grated against her as much as the expectation to get something for nothing.

By the time he’d spoken two sentences, Jaz had known that the striking physical resemblance between Bailey and Lonie was all there was. Even without the sharp planes on his face and hardness in his eyes, Lonie wasn’t at all appealing.

“And who might you be?” That was the first sentence he’d spoken.

“This is Jaz.” Tess stepped around her as the two of them entered the parlor.

Lonie’s hand settled possessively beside a photo book of Central Texas on the edge of an antique table.

“A Sweet Grove native like my little girl?” His tone dripped honey, and Jaz figured the man could con a starving man out of his last meal.

Probably how he’d convinced the parole board a man with one armed robbery after another shouldn’t serve out a full sentence. Jaz had entered the man’s name into the county database as soon as Bailey had mentioned he was out of prison. Not that she expected him to show up in Sweet Grove. He’d burned whatever bridge he might have had to his children years ago.

“I thought you’d be in your room.” Tess gazed at him with expectation.

That’s when Jaz saw herself in her friend’s posture. Tess wanted his approval. Since she’d always yearned for Daddy love, Jaz knew the feeling exactly. But her friend missed the calculating way Lonie’s eyes narrowed, and Jaz knew Tess was heading for heartache.

Jaz stepped closer. Lonie’s gaze flashed to her and roamed lasciviously down her body.

The very same thing had happened so many times during her six years in the army that Jaz was surprised when she glanced down at herself. The uniform she expected to see was only loose boyfriend denim and a form-fitting sweatshirt. By the way the lust filled the older man’s gaze, it should have been something much more revealing.

“I’m Bailey’s girlfriend, and he’s on his way here.”

Lonie’s lips thinned into a reptilian smile. “Boy couldn’t wait to see me.” His dry chuckle sent a hoard of shivers down Jaz’s spine.

“Tess and I are going to hang out until he gets here.” Jaz turned Tess toward the doorway. “Let’s get some sweet tea. What’s on the menu for breakfast?”

She forced her backbone to steel as she marched her friend back to the kitchen. Tess responded about breakfast, but Jaz didn’t pay attention. Now that she’d met the man and seen the open desire in Tess’s eyes, she realized Bailey hadn’t been overreacting to send her to the ranch.

Jaz blocked the doorway into the kitchen by leaning on the side of the bar. Lonie pulled up a stool like he belonged there.

“Sweet tea?” Tess paused to glance over her shoulder at Lonie while pulling glasses from the cupboard.

“I never did sweeten to it.”

Once Tess turned away, Lonie shifted a leer to Jaz. She glared, unblinking. Maybe it would be smarter to pretend to fall for his slimy charm, but she couldn’t do it. Men like Lonie Dyer had too much power over women, and Jaz refused to be another conquest for him, even if it was only in his own mind.

Tess handed her a glass of tea and sipped hers. “What are your plans?” She set her glass down. “Did you want something else to drink?”

This wasn’t part of her normal B&B hostess routine, and Jaz wanted to snap at Lonie to leave the kitchen, since it wasn’t generally open to guests. But Tess’s hopeful expression killed the protest before it reached her lips.

“A shot of Jim Beam would be nice.” Lonie chuckled again, this time the sound more authentic, although it still grated on Jaz.

“How about a coke? I have Sprite or cola.”

Lonie shrugged. “Don’t go to any trouble for me, darlin’.”

As if she hadn’t already by loaning him a rent-free room. The front door opened and closed, and footsteps plodded toward the dining room. Jaz’s heart leapt, but Bailey would use the kitchen entrance, so it must be Tess’ other guest.

“That’s Mr. Gary.” Tess brushed past Jaz and into the hallway.

Lonie arched a scraggly eyebrow at her and smirked. “How long you been goin’ down on my boy?”

Jaz clenched her fist. “He’s not your boy any more than Tess is your darlin’.” She mimicked his syrupy drawl of the endearment.

What do you think? Are you ready to read more?

A Fun Look into Match-Making

No, this is not an episode of HOW IT’S MADE. I’m talking about romantic matchmaking…not the manufacture of match sticks. Although both of them can lead to fire.

A matchmaker is a trouble maker.

Okay, that’s not the dictionary definition. But if you’ve ever been subjected to matchmaking by someone, you know first-hand that it can be a painful experience. Maybe not root canal or tonsillectomy quality agony but close.

A new series from my publisher looks at kids of single parents as the meddlesome matchmakers.

It’s supposed to be a series of romantic comedies. Although I’m the first to agree I’m hysterically humorous, I tend to write books with a serious tone.

I hope my readers won’t be disappointed by my foray into this new genre. Based on the experience, it’s unlikely I’ll continue to write in it. It’s not like I don’t have tons of other things to write (like I talked about here.)

 

THE LINE-UP

Indie authors with huge followings and tons of experience will write in this series. Although I’ve only read ONE of the actual stories, I know you won’t be disappointed in the quality of the writing. (UPDATE: I have actually read THREE of the stories plus my own, and I’m certain you’ll be thrilled to invest in the entire series.)

Here’s the Mommy’s Little Matchmakers line-up:

  1. Mommy Loves the Principal by Shenae Johnson
  2. Mommy Loves the Military Man by Allie Kincaid
  3. Mommy Loves the IT Guy by Joanne Dannon
  4. Mommy Loves the Rockstar by Janae Ronniesha
  5. Mommy Loves the Doggy Doctor by Deb Kastner

And last but not least…
MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER


Okay, first of all. There’s a titling formula for this series. I’m sure you noticed it.

My book is not about the actual mommy. In my book, the grandmother is taking care of the mischievous little matchmaker for a year. A more appropriate title would be MIMI LOVES THE BANKER.

So…you’ve been warned.

The Blurb

Neither was banking on love…but their granddaughters have different plans.

She was abandoned by her husband. He buried his true love. Can they find a second chance at happiness?

In a new town, filling her daughter’s shoes as a stand-in mommy, struggling entrepreneur Meredith Williams longs to prove her ex-husband wrong and make a go of her lotion-making business. But when he constantly defaults on his alimony, she approaches the local bank for a small business loan. She’s about to find something so much better.

Tightened lending policies at Bank of Virginia force Donavan Anders to reject Meri’s loan application, killing any chance he can act on his interest in the enterprising woman, until he realizes their granddaughters play on the same T-ball team. Maybe he can make up for bank policies and score a date at the same time.

When bullies make T-ball difficult for their granddaughters, it’s up to the grandparents to step up their game. While they’re working together on that, their matchmaking granddaughters connive their way into one sleepover and two lunch dates. Lots of girlish giggles might lead to a happily-ever-after…if only those stubborn grandparents will get a clue.

I LOVE THIS STORY

This story was tons of fun to write. Since I’ll be a first-time grandma a few weeks after this book releases into the wild, it was fun to imagine myself in Meredith Williams’s shoes.

We have other things in common too: 1) We’re entrepreneurs; 2) Dads who left; 3) Love of baseball and 4) Disgust for bullies.

While I’m happily married, it’s always great fun to imagine a romance for people near my age. Since Meri hadn’t really experienced all the feels of falling in love before, I wanted her to have lots of tingles and ah-ha moments.

Who better to give them to her than a man who HAD been head over heels before. A man who felt certain he’d spend the rest of his life alone because he’d already had his “one true love.”

Debunking ideas like this are one of the best things about being a fiction writer.

GRAB THE SERIES

If you’re a fan of this genre or you think the premise of kids as matchmakers is intriguing, you can grab the entire six-book set for 35 percent off the price of purchasing the titles individually.

Better yet, you will get ALL SIX STORIES on the day the first story releases. While everyone who doesn’t order the entire set is twiddling their thumbs for a month to read MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER, you’ll have it on your ereader on March 1.

Doesn’t that sound awesome?

Of course it does. Order your set now. Read one and read them all before everyone else.

After hearing about this book, are you excited to read it? Do you like a series written by different authors? Or do you prefer to stay with the same characters for a series?

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?