Tag: fiction

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).

Three UNEXPECTED Pieces of This story

The days of telling stories just to free them from the overcrowding inside my brain has past. And still, when I write something out of my norm it makes me nervous.

Enter the short story “Unexpected” coming in August. It’s one of four stories in the ONE SULTRY DAY anthology from Roane Publishing.

No, this isn’t an apology for my “outside the norm” writing.

Yes, I hope you’ll enjoy reading it with the same sense of expectation as other stories I’ve written.

This post gives a short list of what’s different about “Unexpected.”

An Unusual Shero

Most heroines-she hero or shero-are slender girls with the usual curves and model-length hair. It’s what romances are made of. Right?

Not this romance. My shero is tall and stocky. When she runs into the hero, it’s obvious that she outweighs him. He might even be staring UP at her.

Whoops! She’s also athletic and tomboy-ish.

Okay, there’s nothing wrong with these things. But they aren’t the norm in romance. Women look up to the man. He’s stronger than her.

I’m all for breaking stereotypes but I hope I don’t go too far with Ivory Konner.

An Unlikely Hero

As you can see, the hero isn’t the alpha manly type. He’s gangly and thin and has a pasty look about him.
It all makes sense when you learn his backstory. But that’s not all the issues I’ve given him.

Prescott Colyer is sensitive to touch. In fact, when he comes into contact with another person, it burns him. (Read the story to learn why this is so.) I took many of his responses from those I encountered while working with autistic students.

But I didn’t want him to be autistic. He is ARTISTIC, but that’s a whole other idiosyncrasy.

New Adult Tropes

The first couple short stories I wrote dealt with new adult tropes. Even though that’s only been a few years, new adult has fallen into disuse.

What can I do? The central problem for both of my characters revolves around their decisions for their future. The fact their parents disapprove is something that draws them together.

But it’s realistic to think it will also drive them apart. That’s how it works in the real world.

After publishing novellas with middle-aged main characters, this story feel like a stretch.

An entire post airing my insecurities. This is what it’s like every time I put another story out into the public eye.

What are your favorite sorts of characters to read about? What’s more important that you can relate to their issues or that you believe their problems could be real?

Note: If you want to read another excerpt from this story, join my Facebook “Friends & Fans” group. I’ll only be posting excerpts and giveaway details there from now on.

Another Note: There will be a giveaway associated with this books release. It will run from August 6 – August 26. The prizes are a $10 Amazon gift card and three eBook copies of ONE SULTRY DAY (four separate winners). Have you joined the Friends Group yet?

Summer with THE SUNSHINE SISTERS

Have I mentioned how much I love using Overdrive to checkout eBooks without ever leaving my house? It is the perfect library. And THE SUNSHINE SISTERS by Jane Green is a title you should check out (by any checkout method).


This isn’t my typical read. I say that half the time I write a review, I know. Maybe you’re wondering, “What IS your typical read?”
Glad you asked. I typically read:

  1. Fantasy – YA and series as opposed to epic. This is the genre that helps me escape and fully engages my imagination
  2. Christian Romance – I’m writing in this genre fairly regularly, so I need to read it in order to write it better. I also prefer things like Susan May Warren’s adventure romances over a straight “boy and girl fall in love” romance.
  3. Sweet Romance that’s more than just romance – I mean that there’s a mystery or an adventure or something. The romances I write tend to lean toward this, as well. The story is about the character’s struggle to change and the romance is a catalyst in that process.
  4. Women’s fiction – usually this is for a book club (as is the case with Ms. Green’s book reviewed below), but I’m also branching out into this genre because it’s where I hope to write in the future.

The Story

This is the story of a mother and her daughters.

The mother is a “B movie” actress who is always hoping for her big break. This motivation informs every decision she makes and impacts her children.

The oldest daughter, Nell, closes herself off to emotion. It’s the way she learned to cope with her mother’s rants and rages. When she becomes a single mother, she makes different choices for herself and her son, fully loving him as she doesn’t anyone else.

The middle daughter, Meridith, becomes a people-pleaser. She runs to London and her grandparents when she’s eighteen, but she can’t make independent decisions. Every time she does, it turns out badly which reinforces the lie that she’s meant to make others happy while ignoring her own unhappiness.

And then there’s the spoiled youngest girl, Lizzy. She roars through life mowing down all who try to stand in her way. This doesn’t make her successful or larger than life, but it does make her more like her mother than she’s willing to admit.

The story problem: can this family overcome the differences that divide them to unite and become a true family?

My Review

This story starts at the end. I don’t like that. It steals the tension from the story for me.
I think, “Oh, so she’s going to..blank.” Why do I care about what leads to that decision?

Green won me over by sharing only vignettes from the forty years of the characters’ lives that mattered to understand 1) why each daughter responded to her mother in that way and 2) where their personal lie came from. She proved she knew how to craft a great story.

Often if there are more than a couple narrating characters, I disengage from the story of many of them and gravitate to those chapters narrated by the ones I connected with. Even with four (and more) narrators, that didn’t happen with this book.

This doesn’t mean I LIKED all the narrators, but their stories intersected in a way that kept me engaged. Each scene moved the characters closer to the big reveal readers glimpsed in the opening chapter (a prologue).

There were several aspects that felt contrived to me and even came out of the blue rather than being hinted at naturally. And I predicted every outcome of the story (but I usually do, that’s a curse of being a fiction writer).

The end satisfied me in every way and gave a glimpse into what the future might hold for THE SUNSHINE SISTERS.

This is a 4.6 out of five star read, and well worth the time investment (and I devoured it in two days).

My Recommendation

This is a book for anyone with sisters or a mother. Yeah, that is most of you. Doesn’t everyone have a mother at least?

Even though I didn’t especially like the main mother character in this story, I could still relate to her struggles and failures. This is what makes the most meaningful story, and authors who are able to draw characters that our so real we “know” them deserve respect and praise.

Thanks for your wonderful snapshot of the Sunshine family, Ms. Green. You entertained, engaged and even enlightened me.

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts on it? What are your favorite genres to read?

THE GREAT GATSBY

The Great Gatsby stalks me from one high school language arts class to the next. In St. Helens, he prowls through the junior classrooms and in Scappoose, his story resounds with the freshmen.

This disparity in curriculum gave me pause.

After all, I’ve taught students between the ages of twelve and eighteen for many years. There is a huge difference in the analytical abilities of freshmen (fourteen or fifteen-year-olds) and juniors (sixteen and seventeen-year-olds). Can Gatsby’s theme and content bridge this gap? Will freshmen understand the depth of Fitzgerald’s message in the same way juniors do?

The proof is in the pudding. And I won’t be around to see the end product.


Freshmen

In the freshmen classroom, the project due at the end of the reading is a theme timeline.

This is an art-heavy project. Students will identify the (a) theme of the book and create a timeline of events that support that theme. As I talked about in a recent post about theme, it must be evidence-based using words from the text rather than experience-based.

If these students can prove their interpretation with sufficient text examples, they will have nailed a theme. I believe there are many, but Nick Carroway does a fair job of stating an obvious one in the first paragraph of the novel.

You can’t judge a person because you don’t know what they’ve been through.

Everyone judges Gatsby as a successful and wealthy man who loves throwing parties. He’s affable and generous, and everyone is happy to take part in his excess but none of them show up to pay respects at his funeral.

So what sort of person was Jay Gatsby really? I’m not sure we really know. A poor man who sought his big break and found it, but all the success in the world couldn’t overcome his insecurities. His life ended before he could reap the benefit of finding true love with Daisy.

Juniors

The juniors are focusing on the symbolism in Fitzgerald’s classic novel. There is plenty to be found.

The one chapter I read with these students had several symbolic things in it, but many of the students missed their significance. Even when I stopped and asked leading questions, they blanked out.

I fear the teachers will be disappointed at the outcome of this assignment.

Like theme, symbolism is one of those things that gets emphasized in high school (and college) literature classes. Symbols can be subject to interpretation. I spoke more about that in this post about Blue Being Blue.

In my mind, symbols take more time to recognize. The harder you have to look for one, the more unlikely it is to be one. When analyzing a novel, only obvious symbols should be considered (as far as I’m concerned).

I believe symbolisim requires deeper reflection on a text, so perhaps the varied focus of the curricula explains things. The choice of this text for students at different intellectual stages of development might make sense in this case.

Literary Takeaways

No one argues the state of The Great Gatsby as a classic. It should certainly be part of a robust literary education.
Or should it?

As an author, I rarely give thought to symbolism in my writing and thought of theme is something done during revisions. Since I write genre fiction, that’s to be expected. Nothing I write will be considered a classic. No one will teach my short stories or novellas in their English class.

I’m sort of glad about this. Even speaking to readers about my books can be disheartening if they don’t “get” what I wanted to say. The thought of some English teacher claiming the technology in the follow up novel to “The Demon Was Me” represented evil as much as the demons makes me cringe.

Mostly because I didn’t even want my demons to represent evil. They were being trying to survive, and the way they did it destroyed regular people. Can you see a deeper truth in this? One that might be important for young adults (the intended audience) to understand?

I think students in today’s classrooms would be more engaged if more contemporary novels were taught in classrooms. My experience teaching a group of middle school students Hunger Games proves this point. They were low readers, many with language disabilities, so they missed much about theme and symbolism, but they could plot out the story and relate the character arc of Katniss Everdeen. Doesn’t appreciation of story have a place in a language arts classroom?

Fitzgerald is a notable wordsmith. His descriptions are lovely and borderline purple prose. Since he puts so much of himself into a story, readers feel intimate with the characters. But most of his stories are lacking on plot.

Maybe teaching one literary classic per year would suffice in high school English classes. Introduce reluctant readers (which most young people are these days because…technology) to a few masters. Let the assignments practice important life skills: like disseminating essential information and conveying ideas with clarity.

Because how often have you needed to identify a theme or recognize symbolism in your day-to-day life? It’s nice to want kids to broaden their horizons and look outside the box for beauty, but if they can’t balance their checkbook or hold down a job, does that truly matter?
What classics do you believe are essential for every young American to read? What skills should be taught in language arts classes?

Get THROUGH THE FIRE Now

Now Available!
Through Fire
New Adult Romance
By Sage MacGowan
Release Date: November 6, 2017
Confidence. Faith. Redemption.
All her life Cass has been the wallflower, quietly content to make her mark from behind the scenes. As a cognitive psychologist in the research field she will use her intellect and tenacity to heal the “broken” brain. Because she learned long ago she isn’t capable of fixing broken minds, maybe not even broken hearts.
 
Possibility. Strength. Acceptance.
Bryan doesn’t even want to think about his present. To escape his past, he had always looked to the future. As a materials engineer he will use his ingenuity and talent to develop state-of-the-art products. But now an accident has drastically broad-sided his life…and the hits keep coming.
 
Force of will. Daring. Absolution.
They give each other the motive to step beyond self-consciousness, to reach outside themselves to touch the other. They discover the courage to pull one another close. To love. To be loved. From one another they draw the power and fortitude to move beyond mistakes.
 
~~~oOo~~~
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
 
Growing up, and for quite some time after, Sage was a reader and a dreamer, but didn’t often put pen to paper. After becoming addicted to romance novels, she would often rewrite the stories in her head. Then late one night, while listening to music, with story ideas dancing in her mind, she was overcome with an undeniable urge to actually write.
 
Sage is a nature-worshiper and spends a fair amount of time hiking and camping (real camping, not the wussy RV kind) with her family. She also rides horses as often as she can (which isn’t often) and gets her horse fix by volunteering at the local therapeutic riding center. Her other volunteer gig is a non-profit group that helps military veterans train dogs as support animals and service dogs. In her previous life (former career) she was a veterinary nurse for over 20 years, and has always had a passion for medicine, which is behind the presence of “medicalese” in her stories.
 
Links:
 
Website: Druidessepona.wixsite.com/sagewriter
~~~oOo~~~

GIVEAWAY!!

A $10 Roane Publishing Gift Card
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use a RoanePublishing.com Gift Code.  No purchase necessary, but you must be 18 or older to enter. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter, and announced on the widget. Winner well be notified by emailed and have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. This giveaway was organized by Roane Publishing’s marketing department.

How Conferences Make you more Professional

Professionals attend conferences. One thing all conferences have in common is the availability of workshops so attendees can customize their experience.
Writing workshops will help you improve your craft , making your writing more publishable. Conference workshops can also enlighten you on the use and availability of helpful tools of the trade.
One of the things about the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference that appealed to me were the number and quality of the writing workshops (which were included in the tuition). For several years, I’ve wanted to attend these smaller, interactive classes, but the additional fee for them at other conferences (or the stand-alone tuition) made it an either/or proposition.
I can either attend the workshop for a day (or a few hours) OR I can attend several days of sessions at the conference.

The variety of the conference sessions always won.

But at OCW Conference, I didn’t have to choose. An eight-hour workshop came with the regular tuition for the event. The only thing I had to choose was WHICH one of the workshops would benefit me most at this time in my career.

The Choices

OCW Conference organizers called these “coaching classes.” The instructor becomes a coach. Check out the popularity of coaches in every area—life coach, fitness coach, writing coach, nutrition coach—and you’ll understand the high appeal of this concept.
These were the nine coaching classes available at this year’s conference:

  • Weaving Spiritual Themes into Fiction
  • Children’s/Young Adult Critique (yes, you brought pages which were shared with the class and coach and picked apart)
  • Writing Historical Fiction for Contemporary Readers
  • Destined for Glory: Crafting Your Protagonist and His/Her Inner Journey
  • Get Published Fast: The Art to Writing Great Articles
  • Imaginative Fiction Critique Class (yes, more sharing your manuscript and getting feedback)
  • Telling Your Story with Authenticity and Empathy
  • A Novel Career: for both indie and traditional authors at every stage in the writing journey

With such an incredible selection, you can imagine my struggle in choosing only ONE.

I considered the critique classes but decided I have enough published authors reading my manuscripts in the beta stage that my time would be better spent on something else.


Since I chose to pursue the nonfiction path with all the one hour sessions, I decided against taking the coaching class. Although, after meeting with that coach in my mentor session, I know it would have been profitable for me.

My Workshop

In the end, I asked myself: “Why am I going to this conference this year?”

The answer was three-fold:

  • To pitch my Christian projects
  • To learn more about writing and selling nonfiction
  • To further my writing career through networking and accrued knowledge

Susan May Warren is the author of more than 50 fiction novels. She was the coach for the “A Novel Career” workshop, and because I respected her writing and knew she had a career writing novels, I decided to let her impart some of that knowledge on to me.

It was the right choice.

It will take me months to work through all the information she covered attempted to cover during our eight hours together. Thankfully, she emailed all her slides to class members, so I’ll be able to look back at her presentation rather than trying to make sense of my notes.
Along with talking us through finding our brand and forming a writing plan, she stopped to answer any questions we had. On the first day, she filled a white board with all the things we told her we wanted to learn about in the class.
She covered all those subjects, too. If not thoroughly, she included the information in the mailer to us.
It would have been worth $550 just to take her class. Although I’m a frugal-minded author since my writing paychecks have yet to cover my writing expenses, so I doubt I would have understood that in advance. So I would have passed.
This single coaching class made the time and money invested in the conference an epic win for me.
I pray my writing career bears witness to that claim in this next year.
Do you think networking or knowledge is more essential in business? What’s the best class you’ve ever taken?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

The Books of Summer

With the return of The Game of Thrones to HBO, people are into the groove of summer viewing. I’d rather be reading, and I know plenty of people who would rather READ George R. R. Martin’s next installment for this series.


Still, the anticipation of the show reminded me that summer’s long days encourage reluctant readers to pick up a book and head to the porch (or patio or deck)

What I’m Reading

I’m always reading something. This year, I’ve challenged myself to read 150 books. At the time I wrote this, I had read 102 (actually more since a couple were collections but Goodreads only counts them as one).
Recently, my reading choices have expanded to include more women’s fiction and Christian romance. These are genres I’m trying to break into with my writing, and the best way to understand what works is to read the genre.
As part of the First Street Church Kindle World, I’ve been reading the original series and some of the spin-offs.


I’ve been beta reading for some of my author friends. In this case, one of the books was a new take on vampire origins. (I’m NOT a fan of vampires.) I was intrigued by the twist on this, but still wasn’t convinced that I would invest myself in an entire series about them.
For my online book club, I read The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster for July. It sounded intriguing, but I had a hard time engaging with it.
On audiobook, I listened to a YA fantasy series from Tamora Pierce while cleaning, crocheting and coloring. (I love being able to multi-task.)
The second book in the Spellsmith & Carver series releases on July 31 (TODAY), and I’m excited to read it. I read Coiled by this author (H.L. Burke) earlier in the summer and couldn’t put it down. If you’re looking for a fairy tale retelling…pick this up.

What I’m Writing

I’ve written the final installment for my Virtual Match romance series.
The first draft of my debut into both Christian romance and Kindle Worlds has been wrapped. I’ll be rewriting it and getting it out to beta readers. I have until September 7 to get a copy to my editor.
My next writing project will probably be a short story I’m submitting for an anthology my publisher is putting out in 2018.
After that, things are up in the air. Once I know how my manuscripts are received at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference, I’ll know if I’m going to work on another women’s fiction story.
I will finish writing Through the Valley of Shadows, the grief memoir that’s been in and out of my queue for several years. I’ve decided to pursue indie publishing for it if I can’t get an agent to contract it.
Some books fill a hole in the market, and that’s how I see this book. Everyone will grieve (at multiple times in life) and the idea of mourning in a healthy way for as long as it takes isn’t highly promoted in Western society.

What I’m Wishing For

I’m not much for paranormal romances…most of the time. Maybe it’s because I forced myself to read the Twilight series so I could discuss it with my students. So if there are vampires and werewolves? I’ll pass.
So color me shocked when I downloaded the first book in Melissa Haag’s Judgement of the Six young adult paranormal romance series a couple years ago.
To date, Hope(less) the first book, is still my favorite and Clay and Gabby are my favorite couple.
I love the integration of a society existing in our own world. It’s well-crafted and believable. For some time, I wondered if bulky blond men on motorcycles were actually werewolves.
Just as Stephanie Meyer created her own vampire history, Haag has given the wolves an interesting backstory. By starting with a skeptical character in the first book, she had a chance to show us the two sides of werewolves. Later we saw the “dark side” generally meant they were a different species.

What?

And each human girl that is the central character in the book has a special gift. Because truly she is something called a Judgement. Six women are born in a 100-year cycle and if all of them unite, they get to make a judgment.
Haag has kept us in the dark about all this entails. But there is one group of wolves trying to round up the girls and mate them with their kind so they can control the judgment.
The final book, Sur(real), doesn’t release until November, but I’m ready for it now. This year I intend on re-reading the entire series in the weeks leading up to the release.
If you haven’t read this series, check out the first book for free. I promise you’ll get hooked.
What books are you reading, writing or wishing for this summer?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

 

An Online Book Club

Book clubs should be for discussing books and recommending books. Can you do such a thing online? That’s what I intended to find out when I joined Reader’s Coffeehouse.

One of my goals for 2017 was to join a book club. I love to read, so why not turn it into an opportunity to socialize.

Because we author-types tend to be anti-social reclusive and introverted. But books are our thing.

How I Found It

There’s no science behind finding this group. In fact, it sort of found me.

My friends list on Facebook is a combination of family and friends I know personally AND a bunch of writers I’m networking with, most of whom I haven’t met in person.

Guess what’s true about most writers?

They like to read.

And it was one of these friends who suggested the group to me. I think all they did was share a post from the group. It appeared in my newsfeed and the rest…is social media connection.

However, I’ve found other writing and reading groups by searching for them on Facebook. I’d recommend a private group, and I’m not sure you can search them.

Maybe a Facebook expert will comment on this.

The Group Format

The group I’m a member of was founded by nine (women’s fiction) authors. They regularly host drawings for their books (paperback, audio and digital).

One of these authors lives in a city near me. I’ve met her in person, listened to her speak about her writing methods and talked to her about the publishing industry.

Until that transpired (at a local library), I hadn’t even heard of her. That night I bought a trade paperback of one of her novels.
And I was hooked.

She wasn’t my usual sort of author. Her stories didn’t have total resolution or even a happy ending. But the people were vividly real. And she made me laugh.

Each day, one of the founders posts a question on the group page to spark discussion. I rarely comment on these. However, I’ve connected with other readers on Goodreads because of one such post and managed to win a couple books.

Each month, there is a book to read that is discussed with the author on the last day of the month. The list for the year is posted in the group (but not exactly pinned, so I copied it onto my tablet).

I’ve read four of the six books. I’ve commented on the discussion of three of those four.

End Results

While I’ve enjoyed interacting with this group, it’s not the same as when I had a monthly live and in-person group to meet with.
The comments are directed to the author of the book, meaning there isn’t much actual discussion about the story or characters or setting. I’m sure these are more interesting to non-authors who are curious about the process behind the page.

I just want to talk about books. Did the story engage me? Did the characters inspire or irritate me? Would I recommend the book to others?
So…the conversation about books has fallen short of my expectations.

Has the group fulfilled my needs? Partly.

I’ve met new authors and readers. I’ve read books I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

But it didn’t get me out of the house. And it certainly didn’t unhook me from the computer.*sigh*

There are rumors that a few of the members of my former book group are planning to reconnect in September. I hope and pray it is so.

Until then, I’ll keep scrolling through the recommendations and reading the monthly book. Hopefully, I’ll keep winning books, too.

Have you ever been in a book club? What makes it successful?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

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Ready for a little Virtual Romance? REALITY MEETS ITS MATCH is here!

Are you ready for a little romance? It’s Sweet Romance Month at my publisher’s, so they have a new romance novella for you every week in February. To start things off: Introducing REALITY MEETS ITS MATCH

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My little novella, which you might think you’ve already read (if you purchased the VIRTUALLY YOURS collection last year), is making a comeback. REALITY MEETS ITS MATCH is an updated version of MATCHMAKER: REALITY, from the earlier collection.

What it’s About

In case you don’t recall, Ronnie Shay has a nagging mother and younger siblings who’ve already been paired off. In order to silence the matchmakers, she signs up for an online service, Virtual Match, which promises her texts, emails and even gifts from an invisible boyfriend. Given her aversion to relationships, this sounds like a perfect fix-up for Ronnie.

Little does she know that geeky Marcus Jordan is crushing on her–big time. When Marcus takes things into his own hands, Ronnie begins her first relationship with someone she’s invented. Or so she believes.

When things heat up, Ronnie decides it’s time to get a different invisible boyfriend. What she discovers when she calls the Virtual Match help desk sets her into a tailspin.

Can Marcus win Ronnie over? Will reality be even better than a Virtual Match?

There are Prizes

Check out the opportunity to win $25 in Roane Cash and some other nice prizes (at the end of the post).

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A Sneak Peek

And, in case you’re wondering, here’s an exclusive (author’s website only) look inside the first installment of Ronnie & Marcus’ love story.

Ronnie yanked the cuff of her navy blazer, curling her fingernails into the satin-lined sleeve. The table hid her clenched hands from view. She must be crazy, agreeing to meet a stalker.

A quick scan reassured her. The quaint coffee shop where she imbibed caffeinated calories while working on reports over the free Wi-Fi was packed with customers. She would be safe, but the place would be tainted. She’d never find peace there again. This strange man had ruined it.

Over the melody of human voices placing orders and compressed steam frothing milk, the tinkling of the door’s bell rang ominously. Was that him? She clutched her cell phone and grazed its screen with her thumb. She’d arrived early. The digital numbers announced the agreed-upon meeting time.

Her table lurched as a body stumbled into it. She glanced toward the bulldozer. The nerd from the sixth floor stood there, smoothing a masculine hand down a purple and gray striped tie.

Her frazzled head buzzed at his attire. Something was off.

“Excuse me.” As usual, the deep voice tickled along her man-radar, incongruous coming from a klutzy geek.

“It’s fine.” Ronnie expected him to turn away. Instead, he shuffled his over-sized feet. The hand not touching his tie reached to shove his black-rimmed glasses further up his nose.

Ronnie shifted away from him. The iron legs supporting her squealed. “I’m waiting for someone.” Was there a polite way to tell him to get lost?

“I know.” He shoved his hands into the pockets of his black slacks.

Slacks and tie weren’t his normal work uniform, were they? She rode in the elevator with him every day, but she had never really paid much attention to his wardrobe.

He pulled out the chair opposite her, tripping over the table leg and sitting hard in the counter-height seat.

“Thank you for meeting me.”

“Meeting you?” Ronnie’s mind spun. The nerd was her stalker?

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Giveaway Information:

$25 Roane Publishing Gift Card, Bracelet with charm from Sweet Inspiration, Hot cocoa mixes and mug from The Crimson Curse

GIVEAWAY!

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Bleeding on the Page. Thanks for the advice, Hemingway!

Writing is easy. All you have to do is bleed on the page.

And if you’ve been writing for any length of time, you know how true this sentiment is. It’s the reason many people keep their written words hidden.

I poured my heart and soul on that page. If someone laughs or scorns after they’ve read it, my soul will shrivel into a ball and die a slow, agonizing death.

Yes, I’m a writer so hyperbole is to be expected.

I try not to bore you with my writing stuff all the time. But I’ve been bleeding so much in recent weeks, I need a transfusion. I figured maybe some of my readers would step up to the plate and offer to donate to me.

A Grief Memoir

The nonfiction project I’m currently working on has been brewing in my heart, mind and imagination since February 2014.

I had attended my mother’s funeral a week before. The day I had my first thought about this book, my husband and I were plodding through the snow on our way home from another funeral.

I wished there was a book I could read that would make all my crazy feelings make sense. Or at least, if they couldn’t make sense I’d realize I wasn’t alone in feeling them.

And I reached for some books for those in grief. And they didn’t have what I needed.

And since…

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I began making notes about what I wished would be inside this book.

It needed to be part memoir because I wanted to get inside the heart of another person who was going through the grieving process. And it needed to offer hope, so I figured that meant it should be part Bible devotional or study.

As the idea evolved, I decided not to include study questions. I opened each chapter with a vignette or two from my personal experience grieving people I loved and lost.

The second half of the chapter would be my expository thoughts on Bible stories, passages or characters who went through something similar. Or who offered me hope as I was facing the dark forest of grief.

Even though I began researching for the book in Spring 2014, I never wrote any words in it until 2015. And it took a tourniquet to stop the bleeding.

So I shelved the project.

The delightful thing about a nonfiction book like this is that I only need to write three chapters to market it to agents. I have the first draft of those chapters and a rough book proposal. Before this year is out, I will sent this project out to agents.

And it still doesn’t have a title.

What would you call it?

Elephant in the Tearoom

Concurrently, I’ve finished the full-length first draft of a short story I wrote during National Novel Writing Month in 2014.

Three women take a pilgrimage to Victoria B.C. in honor of the mother who planned the trip. Of course, they’re all carrying secrets and extra baggage that no one knows about.

This is women’s fiction at its finest. But it also takes an auto-biographical moment and converts it into fiction. And I’m not the only “real” person to star in the novel.

So, I obtained approval from the other two women who people will assume the story is about.

Folks, it’s fiction. I write stories. While the premise in this book is based on a trip that my mother planned, the trip never happened. Every event in the story is made up.

The emotions behind the story? Those are real. Because if the writing doesn’t bring tears to my eyes, I can’t expect my readers to cry.

And once again, there was a story that could benefit the world. So…

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Both of these projects are tapping into my memories of times of loss. Doing that is putting me back through the five stages of loss.

And it’s emotionally grueling.

In fact, some days I think training for a marathon would be simpler.

And only insane people think running 26 miles is a good idea.

When have you felt like a project required your heart and soul? Any encouraging “blood transfusions” to offer me?

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