Tag: Sharon Hughson

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?

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The Power of Discussion

In May, I spent most of the month working as the substitute teacher in the freshman global studies class at our local high school. My favorite days were the ones when we had discussion prompts and they voiced their opinions.

These days reminded me of the power inherent in discussion. Note, I’m not talking about arguments or one-sided lectures.

Discussion involves a sharing of multiple viewpoints.

I admit, I played the Devil’s Advocate when I could. I took portions of what they offered up in their claims and twisted it to represent the opposite viewpoint in a better light. Sound perspectives from early classes were used to foster discussion in later ones.

And it made me smile. The eight hours of constant interaction generally zap me. I leave the high school feeling like a zombie in need of a long hibernation.

But not on those discussion days. Because the brain-stimulating charge from the discussion kept the fatigue at bay. Powerful and empowering: discussion.

Power of Thought

Some topics are thought-provoking.  Other topics might not be all that interesting until presented in a way that speaks to the place a person lives.

In either case, discussion requires a brain to wake up and get to work.

Believe me when I tell you the youth I interact with in public school don’t do as much thinking as they should. Instead, they’re spoon fed information to regurgitate as test answers.

Not the case for a discussion. Although, I can tell you it was clear when students supplied a regurgitated answer. When asked questions about it or to give a logical path between the question and their answer, they were stumped.

Deep thinking requires analysis and evaluation. Information is input into our brain and when it comes out our mouths it’s been synthesized through our worldview, experiences, values and additional knowledge.

Power of Understanding

One of the biggest powers of discussion is its ability to impart understanding. This isn’t in the form of facts. It’s in the form of mind-expanding.

In a discussion, another side we hadn’t considered is presented. The reasoning behind that viewpoint is explained. A lightbulb goes on.

Even if we aren’t convinced by this shared information, we’re suddenly aware of where the “other side” comes from.

We understand their way of thinking, the process of their logic. Suddenly, there isn’t just a right way and a wrong way. Or even a my way and their way.

True understanding opens the avenue of compassion. This isn’t the road to tolerance or even acceptance. It’s a path that says, “You can get there a different way.” Even if it isn’t the shortest or fastest route, it isn’t wrong either. Just different.

And diversity should be appreciated.

Power to Compromise

Most things in the world don’t have to be one way. This is the biggest outcome to open discussion. Open discussion being that where everyone listens and everyone has input. People talk and their words are heard and considered as valuable.

Compromise is rarely the path of least resistance. Its very nature requires concessions from both sides.

As long as either side sticks with an unbending will, there can be no meeting in the middle.

However, compromise can agree to disagree. We don’t have to think exactly alike to be able to work together for a better world.

To work together, though, we’ll have to put a sock in our pride. We can’t look down our nose at the other side because that breeds contempt and resentment.

If I have the cure for cancer, does it matter if the cancer patient believes the same way I do about politics or religion or even the best way to administer the cure? Won’t it cure them no matter what they believe?

But if I withhold the cure to use as a “lever” to sway those other beliefs, I’m guilty of inhumanity.

What do you see as the powers of open discussion between people with various viewpoints?

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?

My New Gig and a What the Heck? Moment

I have a new gig. The funniest part: that’s the ACTUAL name of it.

If you’re looking for someone to write your evil synopsis or proofread your story before you submit it, check me out on Fiverr. I have affordable rates.

Really. If you have a 100,000-word novel, I would proofread it for $550. That’s as much as half the rate of other professional editors.

Not that I have tons of time for proofreading novels. But I’m willing to make the time.

Why have I taken on another gig when I have so many writing projects under contract and in process?

There’s This Thing Called Retirement

My husband wants to retire. I talk a bit about some of our plans here.

I don’t think I’ll stop writing until I can’t do it anymore. Maybe my brain will turn to mush. Or arthritis will cripple my fingers. It’s possible the story ideas will stop plaguing me (but that’s hard to imagine).

However, my husband wants to stop the daily commute. He’d like to take on a new hobby or two. And both of us want to travel across the United States, through every state. Not just to say we have, but to see this country we’ve been born and raised to call home.

But all that takes money.

So before my husband can retire, we need to pay everything off. Plus, there’s the purchase of an RV that needs to take place. Don’t get me started on that.

To help in this process of paying down and saving for the future, I feel compelled to earn more money.

What About ALL Those Books


Writing isn’t a lucrative career. Not even for mid-list authors.

And I’m still WAY down the list.

With every book I release, I build a base. My earning potential increases. But I still don’t make as much with my writing as I can subbing only a couple days every month.

If I got a full-time job, I’d make even more. I’d be able to save my annual maximum in my Roth IRA with a couple paychecks and use the rest of the money to pay down my car loan and our mortgage. Then save it for a down payment on the RV.

What would probably happen then is that my husband would want to retire earlier. But with the whole medical insurance issue, that’s probably not going to happen.

Not that we spend much on medical expenses. But that will change as we get older. After all, old things break down. They need more maintenance.

Medical costs are crazy.

Which Led Me to Fiverr

Since the cover designer I usually work with has been swamped with writing contracts (good for her), I was back on Fiverr to find someone to design the logo and covers I need for the Reflections series.

As I was crafting my request for bids, I decided to just toss up a gig or two of my own. What’s the worst that would happen? No one would hire me and I’d be out an hour’s worth of work.

A week later, I got this lovely email from Fiverr:


They cancelled my proofreading gig because I’d mentioned proofreading college essays (I guess).

So…is it wrong to get your essays proofread by someone?

I ask this because I proofread many of my sons’ essays for college. I did NOT rewrite them. I did not change them. I proofed them for spelling, usage and grammar errors.

Yes, if there were flaws in reasoning, I mentioned that, but I didn’t rewrite anything. It was up to THEM to make even the changes I suggested. They still had to do the work.
Was it UNETHICAL for my—a professional author—to proofread my sons’ college essays?

I’d love to have a discussion about this. What do you think?

I think it’s a little crazy that Fiverr banned my gig because I mentioned proofreading essays. But perhaps they’ve had some sort of legal action brought against them in the past for soliciting students.

Two Sisters in the City

A visit to the Big Apple ranks prominently on many a bucket list. This author had never considered it because she’s a country girl at heart.

But when her older brother invited her and her sister to visit the city, the creative must perked up its head.
“Lots of stories in the big city,” it said.

The planning for the trip began more than a year in advance. This was because the calendars of three busy adults can be hard to coordinate.

What had been imagined as a springtime visit morphed into an end-of-summer visit. And boy did the difference in humidity make itself known. As soon as the travelers exited the air-conditioned airport and waited for New Jersey Transit.

We should be melting at the airport NJT station

Two sisters traveling the city with their older brother and his spouse should have the same experiences to share. Or not.

Enjoy the informal interview with these ladies about their six-day visit to New York City.

What were you most looking forward to?

Shari says: “In recent years, I’ve been traveling more, and I’ve decided that the place is about the people more than the scenery. In this case, I was most looking forward to spending time with my brother, who I hadn’t seen in five years and getting to know his husband better, but also hanging out with my sister who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.”

Connie Says: “What I most looked forward to was spending 6 days with my sister and seeing our brother. I was excited to be going to a Broadway show or two and seeing the Statue of Liberty in person!”

Shari Responds: Uh-oh! Since our answers on this question are pretty similar, this might not be the discourse on diversity of opinion that I imagined. Whoops!

What food impressed you most?

 

YUM! I cleared my plate.

Shari says: “I knew my brother was a food snob, so I was expecting the best of the best. So I was a little surprised to enjoy the Napoli salad at Stella 34 (on an upper floor in Macy’s) as much as any of the other fancy meals. The best food? The lobster roll and extra crispy fries at Ed’s Lobster Bar, a literal hole-in-the-wall local joint.”

Connie says: “The food that impressed me the most – most memorable the luscious New York Cheese cake from Jimmy’s (I think she might mean Juniors).The Greek Dinner at Loi’s – it was tasty and beautifully plated! Brunch at the Met was a great experience, but my sister had the best item with her french toast. I did enjoy my eggs Benedict. I also really enjoyed the Spanish Tapas at Tia Pol (?) We ate a lot of new things so it was hard to decide between a few.”

Shari snorts. “I said FOOD. Not dessert. *Rolls her eyes.

What restaurant experience impressed you most?

 

Last day of the trip: Outside the MET

Shari says: “I expected high class dining at these pricey establishments. The meal that offered what meets my definition of that was the brunch we had in the dining room on the fourth floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET). They offered a simple menu of three courses with gourmet dishes, amazing presentation and well-dressed staff waiting to whisk away your dirty dishes, refill your drinks and deliver the next course with a flourish.”

Connie says: “The restaurant experience that I enjoyed the most was the brunch at the Met. The food service was not rushed. There was plenty of space in the restaurant, a nice view, excellent service and the food was good and wonderfully plated.I loved that we ALL ordered different items and tasted each others!”

Shari GAPES. “Wait a minute! We talked about this on the plane, and you said Loi’s was your favorite restaurant experience!”

What surprised you most?

Connie says: “The things that surprised me the most was the smell of New York and how HOT the Subway Stations were!Even tho I expected the city to be big, when you view the skyline and travel to the various parts of the city it can be overwhelming to a small town girl like me!
I expected the crowds, noise and rushing from one place to another.”

Shari says: “I expected stinky everything and everyone to be rude and self-involved. Not at all what happened. We got caught behind a few sanitation trucks and THAT was super-smelly, and there were a few token obnoxious people in many of the places we went (not as many as I expected on the subway and bus), but overall, it was just a city.”

What was your favorite show?

 

Were getting ready to laugh for two hours at the Lyceum Theater

Shari says: “I’d seen WICKED before at the Keller in Portland, OR, but it seemed like a different story here. Still, THE PLAY THAT WENT WRONG was full of antics and endless laughs. It was exactly the sort of thing I needed that night, and it made everything else bearable.”

Connie says: “My favorite show was “Wicked” – I love musicals. The play that we saw was HILARIOUS! We had two great experiences on Broadway! “My Fair Lady” could have been my favorite, but I was voted down…”

Shari shakes her head. “No. Chris was willing to see it. He even told me whatever my experience, it wouldn’t compare to Broadway. You AGREED the play none of us had soon was a good second choice. You even agreed to “Phantom” as the third choice if Sunday turned rainy.”

What was your favorite site?

 

It is SO brilliant in Times Square

Shari says: “I wanted more of Central Park. I wanted to see everything. Even this morning, I saw a spot on the Today show with the anchors meeting Jimmy Fallon by the amphitheater (which we did see) and blowing bubbles by the fountain (which we also saw). I was just so over-stimulated from the MET, that I didn’t get to enjoy the park like I’d hoped.”

Connie says: “ONE really? View from the Top of the Empire State Building at night – just amazing. 360* view of the skyline, bridges, river, all of the lights. Quite memorable! Well worth the price for a once in a lifetime event! Broadway, the set at Wicked – walking on Broadway, lining up to see a show, thrilling!
I also looked forward to seeing Times Square at night – the lights, billboards, signs are amazing. A city of lights! Maybe I was thrilled with the view of the skyline and lights, because I am a small town girl and don’t enjoy being in the big city typically!”

Shari says: HA! There’s the diversity I’m looking forward to. And I managed to pick ONE thing! This post would be a million words long if I didn’t draw the line somewhere.

What do you wish you could have seen/done?

 

Our guide treated us to WICKED the second night of our trip

Shari says: “I really wish our tour of the UN building would have worked out. It’s an important place for the fabric of international and cultural relationships. I plan to make sure to see it when I return with my husband in 2020.”

Connie says: “What I wish that I could have done was see at least one more Broadway Show! There were many great ones playing!!! I would like to see a ballet or go to a concert at the Lincoln Center, I wished that we could have toured the UN and seen the 9/11 Memorial. I understood why we weren’t going to the memorial, as our brother was showing us a good time in his city!”

What three things are a must see in NYC?

Connie says: “3 things!! WHAT???? Must see: at least one Broadway show!!! I believe that everyone should see the skyline from the top of the Empire State Building, plus the history is very interesting. Get views of the skyline from different vantage points – The Brooklyn Bridge, The Staten Island Ferry, The rooftop garden at the MET. I found Grand Central Station awe inspiring, I could have spent more time there definitely. I enjoyed walking across the Brooklyn Bridge after seeing it from the Ferry, walking over the traffic was neat. I would add the Statue of Liberty, but I think that goes with the next question.”

Roof Garden at the met

Shari says: “I think you can get the same overall perspective offered by the Empire State Building if you fly into the city in the day time. But you HAVE to see the Statue of Liberty. It’s an icon. You MUST see a show on Broadway. I would like to say make it a musical because no one knows how to make a musical shine (and I’ve seen MANY of them on MANY large stages) like Broadway. You also need to go through Grand Central Station and Central Park.”

It was Grand Central Station in there

 

What three things are a must DO in NYC?

Connie says: “Ride the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue and another view of the city skyline. Definitely eat New York Cheesecake! Ride the Subway – interesting experience, plus the quickest way to get around!”
Shari says: “You have to take the subway. Everywhere! Really. To really “know” a place, you’ve got to immerse yourself in the culture, and there’s nothing that says New York City like the subway. Hail a cab. Really. It may feel foolish, but if I can do it, so can you. I really didn’t care about Times Square as we were planning the trip, but after going through it a couple times, you MUST walk through it. In the daytime to do some shopping and see the performers. At nighttime to be amazed (possibly made dizzy or even given a migraine) by the lights. Incredible!”

Any additional advice for those wishing to travel to NYC?

Shari says: “I hope you read the series of posts I wrote. There’s lots of tidbits for better travel hidden there. Plan for your plan to go awry. Get the Metro Pass and enjoy the microscopic cultural study on the trains and buses. If you can get a local guide, that’s the way to have an authentic experience, but decide what’s non-negotiable before you go, and create an itinerary with plenty of leeway for travel delays and time snags.”

Connie Says: “Buy a 7-day Subway pass and use it! Rent a bike if you are going to visit Central Park – you will be able to see more. If visiting the UN besides getting your tickets beforehand, arrive there at least an hour before your appointed tour time to get your ID picture taken and group’s bracelets. This happens across the street from the UN Building and doesn’t seem to be very well-known. Travel with someone and get a tour guide or travel with someone that is very familiar with New York. It makes the visit more enjoyable”!

Have you been to New York City? What advice would you offer?

A Review of TRUTH

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

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

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

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

The Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

The story earns three out of five stars from me.

My Recommendation

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

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

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

You Said Video Would Gain Exposure

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

Sure. Whatever you say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My unplanned videos got the best views.

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

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

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

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

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

Who knows?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saying Goodbye to The Emperor’s Edge

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

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

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

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

View all my reviews

Your Peek at UNEXPECTED

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

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

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

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

And…I can’t break my word.

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

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

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

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

The Grand Prize: TEN bucks to spend at Amazon

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

Thanks for reading. And Happy Friday!