Tag: writing

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?

Ten Things to Know about Being an Author – Part One

Since shortly after I was old enough to read and imagine my own stories, I wanted to be an author. My first story was penned in a spiral notebook when I was in third grade. The past four years that I’ve been living the dream doing this author thing have been amazing.

And instructive. And painful at times. Filled with discouragement and despair at other times. Even wrought with excitement to the point I soared above the clouds.

The higher you go, the further you have to fall.

And falling from such heights hurts. It might even kill you(r dream).

Traditional publishing is the slow track to being published.

By slow I mean, it takes years if you pursue one of the large publishing houses (which means you have to find an agent first). After you spend months writing, revising, editing and polishing your manuscript, the journey of ten thousand miles begins.

It starts with research. Which agents are looking for your style and genre? Which publishers would contract it?

Then the rounds of submission begin. Most of this is done electronically. This speeds the process of notification to three months instead of six to twelve. Many agencies won’t respond unless they’re requesting pages.

Talk about disheartening. It feels like tossing my life’s work into a black hole.

I wanted this for myself. I needed the validation. I wanted a publishing professional to confirm that my work was of a quality to be read and circulated.

Publishing with a small press is the fast track to getting work in front of readers.

Even though it was a small publisher who gave me my first fiction contract (and all my subsequent contracts until I began writing for Kindle Worlds), it didn’t feel like traditional publishing to me.

First of all, the submission hoops are simpler to understand and jump through. The turnaround time for notifying you of acceptance is shorter.

I started with short stories in answer to specific submission calls. This is the only way I’ve managed to publish in my dream genre (young adult fantasy).

The contracts are long but straightforward, and most of the small houses don’t offer advances. They split the royalties half and half, though, which I understand is a substantial raise over big houses.

You still get the benefit of several editing passes (story development, line edits and proofing) and a professional cover. On my stand alone titles, I’ve been consulted about the title and my thoughts and opinions were considered and employed.

Traditional publishing success is ninety percent about who you know.

Slush pile. I’m not sure the few manuscripts I’ve sent, although requested, actually met up with the agent or editor. Getting a query past this point is something I’ve only managed with small houses.

Could be my queries are weak. Or the agent wasn’t looking for the kind of story I was telling.

All I know is that hearing nothing is more depressing than a rejection. It’s like all your effort is meaningless to the agent or editor. Sure, they have a ton of work, but does it really take so long to send a four line email saying you aren’t interested?

If you can get an author to recommend you, I understand the odds increase exponentially in favor of a contract.

Small press publishing is fifty percent finding the right publisher and fifty percent telling a good story.

It will still take effort to locate the right press for your story. More small houses appear every month. Many of them will disappear within a year or two. I don’t send anything to a publisher that’s been around for less than a year. And I always check out their current and past titles.

I’ve started reading some stories from a small press that weren’t all that great. Then I see that the author is also the editor-in-chief. This looks like a new form of vanity publishing to me.

They started up the press so they could publish their own books.

I’ve also read a few fantastic stories that come from the same situation. The difference? I didn’t take a poll, but I think it involves professional editing and more skilled writing.

I don’t want a bad story to be published. This is what kept me from subbing manuscripts for years. I wasn’t good enough. Even reading the first fiction short that Roane accepted makes me cringe a little.

Indie publishing requires both entrepreneurial finesse and cash reserves.

Independent publishing makes you the boss of it all. You’re the captain of the publishing ship.

If you want, you can churn out a story and upload it to Amazon with a thrown-together cover. Maybe you’ll sell a few copies.

But if you want to be a professional author, act like one. Make a business plan. Plan a production schedule. Give yourself deadlines and then meet them.

To succeed, you need to learn the business. Locate professional editors and hire them. Listen to their comments and improve your stories.

If you don’t know design, hire a cover designer. You can hire someone to format the interior of the book. You can even hire a publicity representative to plan your marketing campaign.

All of that costs money. Plan on investing anywhere from $500 to $1500 from your savings per book. Then do the math and find out how many copies you have to sell to break even and make a profit.

I still haven’t broke even on my indie novella Reflections from a Pondering Heart.

This is only FIVE things you need to know about being an author. I’m guessing 900 words is more than long enough for most of my blog readers.

Come back on Thursday to learn the other five things.

Which of these seems most obvious? Most important? Most discouraging?

Deep Thinking at the Writer’s Retreat

My Muse is extroverted in every imagined scenario. My actual body and mind are introverted enough to happily stay home every weekend reading a book.
While Musie celebrated the idea of the Deep Thinker’s Writing Retreat, my mind shriveled into the fetal position and begged to visit a library instead. Preferably the one on my iPad which wouldn’t involve moving away from my couch.
Since the retreat was in Florida, my body argued with my feeble mind. “There will be sunshine and blue skies. We can get our daily dose of Vitamin D without taking that soft gel.”


The part of my brain that knows I need a writing tribe and that my writing is falling short—somehow, since I can’t get an agent to jump on it—also slapped the curled mound of quivering gray matter. After all, 2018 is a year for metamorphosis, and the biggest part of that is with my writing.
The battlefield inside didn’t stop me from packing a bag or waking up at 3AM. On waged the upheaval between mind, soul and Musie, while I kissed hubby goodbye and boarded a plane for the first of three legs of the journey to Destin, Florida.

My Expectations

It was a writing retreat. I expected to write.

In fact, I set myself a goal of completing 5,000 new words for the third Sweet Grove Romance. I figured, that’s five hours. I’ll be there six DAYS, surely there will be at least five hours to write.
Not if I expected to sleep.

Not if I hoped to glean the lessons I needed for character development.

I know this is my weak area, and the retreat organizers gave us three days to work on our characters. In fact, we spent hours brainstorming the hero and shero of every retreat attendee.
This after the entire group tossed out ideas for characters of the “group” story we were brainstorming.

Brainstormers Extraordinaire headed by Susan May Warren

Brainstorming is my super power. No less than six people told me that at the group. One woman (a former managing editor for Zondervan) told me to expect an email from her every time she got stuck.
Oh-kay.
But the only time I got to write anything was on the final day of the retreat. Then I was expected to craft the first scene we had brainstormed earlier and share it with my group mentor, Susan May Warren.
She wanted me to share a rough draft scene with her? Was she honestly expecting to see my best work?
Enough of that. Even if the retreat wasn’t what I expected, it was an incredible experience.

A Day in the Life

I don’t sleep in. The fact I was in a different time zone didn’t matter.
I woke up around 5:30 AM (3:30 my time). My roomie woke up, too, and we headed down to the beach for a walk. This became our normal morning routine for the next four days.
Breakfast was meant to be served at 7:30. The oven wasn’t cooperating, so that didn’t happen the first several days. (Eventually the maintenance man arrived and determined that the convection setting was the default, so the retreat hostess had been using that instead of a regular bake setting.)
At 8:45, Rachel Hauck led the group in devotions. She’d recently taught a class on the Song of Solomon at her church, so we got some condensed thoughts from that.
Enlightening, for sure. I was considering the intimacy of my relationship with Christ…and finding it sadly lacking.
Then the morning sessions began. These were the topics:

  • Stories that matter
  • Characters that matter
  • Lindy Hop MEGA
  • 4-Act Plot
  • Plot your bookends
  • Scenes that matter
  • Building your premise

No, we didn’t do ALL those the first day. There were two morning sessions and these were the topics for those sessions (ten planned sessions in all, although it ended up only being eight).
After lunch, the larger group broke into two smaller brainstorming groups of six attendees, one mentor and one scribe (the Administrative Assistant for My Book Therapy was our scribe and the retreat hostess was the scribe for the other group. Both of these ladies are published authors).
Here’s what the afternoon brainstorming sessions were supposed to look like:

  • SEQ Brainstorming (four sessions)
  • Plot Brainstorming (two sessions)
  • Black Moment Brainstorming (one session)
  • Scene One Brainstorming (one session)
  • One session of writing time
  • Two sessions for one-to-one meetings with mentors

Note how I said “supposed to” in the preceding sentence? Yeah, the brainstorming of the hero and shero took the first three days of the retreat for the six authors in our group. A full hour or more per character.

This is what a character SEQ looks like

This left no time for scene brainstorming because the rest of the sessions were needed to brainstorm six plot outlines (LINDY Hop four-act plot diagram).
I will say that we brainstormed the black moments and first scenes as we went, so all the bases were covered.

The Lindy Hop plot for my novella

The first three nights, we watched a movie from 7 to 9 PM. Each person was assigned something from that day’s lesson to find in the movie and we discussed it after the film.

  • We used THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY to discuss characterization on Friday night.
  • On Saturday, we talked about the major plot points with THE LEGEND OF TARZAN.
  • They made us cry on Sunday with THE IMPOSSIBLE. We talked about why that movie “worked” when the story was not action-packed. How did they build the emotional tension?

Not surprisingly, the emotion building still fit into the LINDY Hop structure we’d been learning.
Using movies is a great way to solidify the importance of characterization and plot. Everyone has the same frame of reference, so the question of subjectiveness is alleviated.

The spot where phone calls home happened

For the most part. There were varying themes for TARZAN that could be determined by naming different things as the “man in the mirror” moment or “black moment.”
The Deep Thinkers Retreat might not have been what I was expecting. (Notice I didn’t call it a writing retreat there. I think it’s meant to be a writer’s retreat rather than a retreat for writing.) Still, I learned so much that my brain overloaded on the flight home.

The perfect place for writing

My next Sweet Grove romance was written using these methods. In July, you can judge for yourself if this retreat made me a better storyteller.
What makes something a retreat? Have you ever when to a retreat with one set of expectations only to discover it would deliver a different set?

Florida in February

Who wouldn’t want to go to Florida in the middle of winter? (Okay, winter is only a month from being “officially” over, but still.)

What writer wouldn’t want to attend a five-day writing retreat with two best-selling authors? Maybe someone, but not this author.

I wish I could tell you more about it, but at the moment, I’m in transit. Since the retreat is held at a house in Destin, Florida, I’m having to zig and zag all over the place to get there from the Pacific Northwest.

I left before 7 am this morning from Portland to fly to San Francisco. From there, I’m heading off to Houston, which appears to be the only major airport on the west side of Destin with flights to the little airport.


I arrive at 6 pm, exactly one hour before the shuttle leaves from the airport to take a bunch of us writers to the retreat.

Bright and early (okay, not really early in my book) on Friday morning, the retreat begins with breakfast and devotions led by Rachel Hauck. Not sure who that is? One of the best-selling authors. She writes Christian historical romances and historical fiction, so if those aren’t your genres…you’re forgiven.
There will be classes in the morning. Group sessions for brainstorming and applying the lessons.
In the afternoon, I’ll be writing my next Sweet Grove romance novella. That’s the entire focus of this retreat for me. I hope to come back with 5-10 thousand new words. If nothing else, I’ll have an incredible hooking scene and complete understanding of my characters’ motivations.

Because the first draft WILL be written before the second book releases on March 13.

Yes, here’s the pretty cover, in case you missed my post about the series. (You did? Here’s the link.)


Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you know how well the retreat worked out for me. Maybe even this time next week.

Or maybe not since I’ve scheduled March 1 as an official “recovery” day from all the travel and lack of sleep.

Where is your ideal winter vacation spot?

Lessons from a Parking Lot

It’s going on 6:00 pm. I’ve got a date in a room with a dozen other writers for something called Late Night Write, a specific brand of National Novel Writing Month torture. And I promised them chocolate.

Fred Meyer is only a couple blocks from my house. On the way to the next town over where the librarian who is also the organizer of the write-ins reserved a room at the library after closing hours. I’ll stop by the store, rush into the Christmas candy section, snag a bag of Hershey’s Miniatures (something for everybody in there) and be on my way in a snap.

Or not.

Instead, everyone will choose to drive down the row where I parked. The man next to me will pull out at the same time I stick my vehicle in reverse without so much as a glance behind him. Good thing the guy in the pickup truck was respectfully waiting for me.

The armored vehicle is parked along the curb across from the exit from my row. All traffic is squished into a single line.
Here are the things I learned that night:

  • Trucks pulling trailers should not squeeze by in a single lane
  • There are polite drivers who will let you into the congested stream of unmoving traffic
  • Plenty of drivers are myopic. Watch out for them because they don’t see anyone else
  • The traffic flow from the gas pumps stymies the regular pattern
  • If someone lets you in, you need to pay it forward and let someone in
  • If you let too many someones in, the seemingly-polite driver who showed you favor might morph into a Gremlin who lays on the horn
  • People don’t walk and talk on the cell phone at the same time very effectively if it requires dodging a snaking snarl of slow-moving vehicles

All in all, I’ve determined that unless there is an emergency, I won’t be returning to Fred Meyer or any other grocery store with a gas station in its parking lot on a Friday in the vicinity of 6:00pm.

On a positive note, it gave me something fresh to write about when I got to the room powered by creative energy.

What lessons have you learned from a parking lot?

Meet the Authors who are BRAVING THE ELEMENTS

I love authors. I love supporting authors. And I LOVE introducing readers to their new “favorite author.”

That’s why I invite authors onto my blog. Today, I’m thrilled to have not one, or even two, but FIVE guest authors. All of these writers are published with Roane Publishing, the small house that gave me my fiction debut. (I ADORE them!)

No one wants to read a long, wordy interview. Especially not from FIVE different wordsmith-type individuals. So, today, I’m asking all the authors of the newest fantasy anthology from Roane only ONE question.

Isn’t this cover amazing?

 

No, that wasn’t the one question. But so you know, they all shouted YES! It was really harmonic too.

So, authors, you’ve written stories with elemental magic of some sort. Which element are you? Why? What will you do with your elemental power?

Terri Rochenski (author of Mist Weaver) says:

I think I would want to be Air. Being able to manipulate mass with blasts. Water, Earth, and Fire can all be somewhat controlled by Air.

Now we know Terri is all about CONTROL. A perfect character trait for a fiction writer.

Kelly Said (author of The Myth of Mt. Agony) takes a deep breath and admits:

I wrote about earth, but feel like AIR is a pretty potent element. It’s a gentle breeze that can bring relief on a sweltering summer day. It’s a powerful force that can lift up or knock down anything in its path. And it’s contradictory in its nature, because it’s usually there when you need it (ahh, breathing is life), but will let you fall if you trust it too much (gravity can be a bummer — Wile E Coyote). If I had the ability to control air I think my prankster side would totally pop up. I’d walk by breezing papers off people’s desks, or go strolling down the sidewalk giving everyone bad hair days, LOL! But then I could see how something might set my temper off and I’d probably pull a Darth Vader move and yank the air out of someone’s lungs until they turned blue. Sigh. I’m too human to possess such power, which is why I write about characters who do. 😉 

Another air aficionado. At least Kelly is wise enough to limit her elemental magic to the pages of the stories she writes. And who knew she was such a prankster?

Claire Davon (Author of The Dragon, The Witch, and the Swordswoman) had to think a moment before replying:

Oh such a complicated question! I like something about each one of them but if I have to pick one I would say water. If I had the elemental power to control and manipulate water I would want to use it to go down to the depths of the ocean that we cannot reach and see what it’s like down there for myself. What an adventure that would be! The ocean floor is such an unknown and it’s on our own planet!

Oh my. Claire is much braver than I am. The thought of all that water pressing down, suffocating me. *shivers* But authors have to be brave, so I applaud Claire’s adventurous spirit.

Rebecca Hart (author of Alice and the Egg) tilted her pirate’s hat at me and said:

I think I am a water element, personally, even though my story revolves around fire. I am addicted to all things ocean, and being a Virgo (the water bearer), I think it is just “who I am”. What would I do with my elemental power? Bring the ocean to me, of course. ?

Now Rebecca has the right idea. I’m a little bit of an ocean lover, too, as long as I’m on the beach.

Michael Siciliano (author of Forging Mettle) jumps right in with:

Um … is sarcasm an element, because I’ve honing my skill with that one since I was a teenager. All right, I admit, it’s not. It should be, but it’s not.

I’m kind of liking carbon, but if you put too much of it into the air, you get 90°F in January and beach front in Tennessee. Fine, fine, I’ll stop making jokes.

Medieval elements. I think my Talent would be to manipulate light. Making an area anywhere form pitch black to blindingly bright. Hey, that’s a pretty damned good idea. That might appear somewhere in a follow-up story to Forging Mettle. I call dibs.

Sarcasm is in fact an element. Wielded with skill by the bravest writers everywhere (consider Mark Twain).

And there you have it. Two air benders, a pair of water wielders and the man who would be a light bringer.

If you want to learn more about these authors, they’re also doing an interview over at Liz’s Reading Life.

Of course, the best way to know an author is to read their stories. So, support an author today. Pick up your copy of BRAVING THE ELEMENTS.

Last of all, enter for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

GIVEAWAY!!

A $50 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.

Summer, Summer, Where Have You Gone?

Summer is my favorite season. Shortly after Christmas is past, I start wishing for warmer temperatures. Or at least sunny skies.
I have a cousin who would happily leave his Christmas tree up year-round. If there was a symbol for summer, I’d set that baby up and move it to more prominent positions as temperatures dropped.
Seriously. The only good thing about winter is Christmas. I learned that fact in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Narnia was cursed by the White Witch. How?

It was always winter, but never Christmas.

Ugh.
This entire year has sped by already but summer seemed in constant fast-forward. Can you believe this is the last day of the eighth month of 2017? Tomorrow is the ninth month.

Worst of all, the ninth month will bring the end of summer.

The weather man is predicting warm, sunny days for a few weeks still. But when the sun goes down, the heat goes away.
No more sitting out on the patio in the evening to chill. Unless you want to pull on warm socks, long pants and a sweatshirt. No more s’mores roasting.
Of course, it also means no more air-conditioned house 24/7. Once the temperature drops, you can switch the AC off and throw open the windows.
My husband has already started doing this.

Here’s a recap of my summer:

Writing like a whirlwind in Vancouver, BC


Querying agents at a brand new conference


Choosing a title for the nonfiction I was querying


Getting selected to write Christian romance in a new Kindle World


Installing a water feature in the back yard
Releasing the second book in my Virtual Match Romance series


Barbecuing with the family on the patio
Writing the Christian romance story


Meeting new writers to beta read this new genre
Attending Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference


Making writer friends at the conference


Enjoying a total eclipse of the sun with family

Must see what others posted on Social Media

Spending eclipse day with the birthday boy


A quick retreat at my sister’s beach house

Can you hear the shush? Smell the salinity?

Lots of reading in the evenings (but boy did my crocheting suffer)
It doesn’t seem like much when written in a list like this. But it filled three sunny months and made them whip by.
My favorite memory from this summer is that it didn’t rain. Only a couple of days were cloudy. After nine months of endless downpours, I needed this three-month reprieve.

Am I ready for the rainy season? Never.

What’s your favorite memory from this summer? Include a picture if my comment section allows it (or jet over to my FB page where you can surely post one in the comments on the post announcing this blog).

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.

Monday Morning Blahs

Monday is another day. It is the day following Sunday, generally a day of worship and rest for me, and the beginning of a new week of writing. Most of the time it is no more blah than Tuesday through Saturday.

And then there was this morning.

Ugh.

What made this Monday less-than-exciting? It could have been that I woke up at 3:30 to the call of nature. Except, it’s pretty standard that I will wake up at least once in the wee morning hours for that reason.

The first hint the day was not going to go as planned, I tried to sit up and my back screamed bloody murder. My husband is grateful (I’m sure) that I clenched my teeth so the agonized scream of my old muscles emerged into sound waves as a muffled groan.

You’re welcome, Honey.

It took longer than usual to walk four feet into the bathroom and take care of business. Every slight move from my core seized my lungs as my back caterwauled out displeasure.

When I returned to bed, my cat had curled up on my pillow. He’s been doing this lately. Sometimes, out youngest girl cat will move onto the spot where my body had been moments before. They’re always happy to take the human-warmed spots.

She’d remained huddled next to my husband’s legs, but the slant-eyed look my other cat gave me warned me off trying to relocate him. Truthfully, I didn’t think my body could manage. At least, that’s what my back was whimpering into my ears.

It’s difficult to find a comfortable spot when

  • your back is screaming
  • a cat’s butt is lodged where you want to pillow your head

As I tried to fall into oblivion, my mind kicked on. I really hate having a writer’s brain sometimes.

Here’s the thoughts that whirred in my head:

  • possible titles for the other Christian romances for First Street Church 2018 launches
  • list of things I would do when I woke up in the morning (HA! It was morning and I was awake.)
  • how to move the cat and earn another couple centimeters of pillow
  • replaying conversations with my kids the previous day
  • debating a menu for the week
  • outlining the known changes I want to make to Virtual Match #3 which I’m revising and polishing this week

and on it went.

The cat finally decided to relocate. I turned to my other side and he curled into my chest. My brain spun into neutral.

And the snoring began. Not from me. Or the cats. Process of elimination gives you…Mr. Wonderful.

I tried to nudge him, but my back seized up and I had to meditate my way back into a state of relaxation.

Eventually, I peered through my eyelids at the luminous numbers on my alarm clock. 4:20.

I maneuvered myself–and my uncooperative back–out of bed, snatched a light blanket and headed to the couch. Curling into a fetal position incited a sigh from the distraught muscles.

As I wondered if I would be able to do my workout that morning, I faded into happy nothingness.

At a few minutes after five, hubbs sat beside me, rubbed my shoulder and said, “I was snoring, huh?”

I rolled off the couch, my back proclaiming that I would NOT being doing the mixed martial arts workout I’d planned, and limped back to my bed. Once there, I cuddled into my husband’s warm pillow and…

My little cat jumped on the bed and stood on my back. Well, my side and back. Then she headed over to attack the fingers peeking out from beneath the pillow.

I did return to sleep. To be awakened around 6:00 by my husband’s ringing cell phone and his conversation held right outside the bedroom door.

I should have just gotten up at 4:20, because I didn’t feel better when I rolled out of bed at 6:25, thinking my husband had left for work without kissing me goodbye (a big no-no around here).

I stumbled around, wincing at every move, calling my old body all sorts of unflattering names.

And realized I didn’t have a blog post in the queue for this morning. I had intended to write one on Saturday, but I was over my head finishing the first draft of Love’s Late Arrival. (I was thinking about some needed additions to it during my early morning should-be-sleeping ponderings.)

There are bathrooms to clean (the Monday chore).

At least the sun is shining. I’m hoping the ibuprofen I took will relieve my back’s simpering enough that I’ll be able to take a walk later today.

The worst part? I’d rather go back to bed. Even after all this proof it won’t make anything better. Maybe I’m planning to sleep until Monday yields to Tuesday.

What makes Monday blah for you? Or is there another day of the week you generally struggle with? Also, any encouraging words for my back problems would be accepted with gratitude.

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?

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

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When I Want to Relax

Some people go on vacation to “get away from work.” Or to experience some new and exciting place. Maybe they want to have once-in-a-lifetime adventures. While I might want a little of those things, sometimes I want to do nothing…and relax.

Relaxation takes many different forms depending on the person.

There are some people who run five miles to relax. Others want to chiropractor to adjust their joints and then they’ll suck down a gallon of water and hang out in a hammock.
In fact, I find many things can be relaxing. For example, I might relax while: getting a pedicure, getting a facial, having a massage, sitting by the pool, reading a book, walking on the beach (or pier or a trail) and even riding horseback. But do I have to do any of those things in order to relax?
Let me phrase this another way: can I kick my stress to the curb without doing anything special?
Like so many other things in life, de-stressing (isn’t that the essence of relaxation?) is all about mind over matter.

My Mind

As a creative person, my mind is a hive of activity. There are many memes I’ve seen that illustrate this fact, but this is my favorite one:

Because most of the time, if I appear to be staring into space, I’m likely in an alternate universe. One I’m creating and populating with people I’ve dreamed up to face all sorts of situations I’ll never face.

Often my eyes will be closed but my mind will be spinning at a million electric charges per nanosecond. Yep, this old brain is one speedy computer.
Which means it rarely shuts down.
Many authors will tell you they’ve vividly dreamed many of their best stories. They wake up and try to regurgitate the brilliance onto a page before it dissipates with the morning mists.

Yes, even when I’m asleep, mental gymnastics continue.

So how can I ever relax? Where’s the shut-off switch for this thing?
Can I truly rid myself of stress if my thoughts continually roller coaster?
Mind over matter, my friend.
For me, it’s all about WHAT I’m thinking about that determines the quality of my anxiety.

It Doesn’t Matter

In order to dump my stress, I have to actively convince myself that the things hammering away in my brain like an overzealous woodpecker, aren’t important enough to think about. AT THIS MOMENT.
In effect, I convince my mind to reschedule contemplating the stressful items to a later date. Say, Thursday morning…when I’m vacuuming the house.
My query packet for my women’s fiction isn’t ready to submit on June 1. It doesn’t matter. You can think about it May 30th.
Are those sample pages from my nonfiction book enough to convince those agents to request all three chapters? Will they contract me to write the book? Am I ready to delve into the depths of my grief to pen those pages? It doesn’t matter today. I’ll find out in August.
How about creating something new? Maybe just a short piece that you don’t intend to publish? Or the opening scene for the short story you imagined during your girls’ weekend last month.
The cats could be tearing apart the house while I’m staring at the misty horizon at the western edge of the earth.
Look at the shades of blue in the Pacific Ocean and the sky stretching above it. Feel the pounding of the waves against my tattered soul.
The projects and deadlines and considerations for my author world will still be waiting in my office when I get home from this short retreat to the Oregon Coast.

Today, those things don’t matter.

What matters is the taste of the salty breeze, the scattering of seagulls in the surf and the sting of sand blown against my bare calves.
That’s the way I use my mind to subdue the thoughts that would infuse stress into a day meant for relaxation.
Does mind over matter work for you? What is your picture of true relaxation?