Transformation: Genre Branding & Platform

It’s hard to make a change when you don’t have consistency. Or at least that’s what I told myself about my author brand and platform. And then came 2018 and its Word:

The truth is, I’ve been walking around rather apologetically since I started this professional author gig. Well, except for a few months around the time of this release:

“What do you write?” People would ask.
“All sorts of things.” And then my eyes would dart to the side. “Most of my published stuff is romance, but I have one YA Fantasy and a women’s fiction novel.”
I’m guilty. I was ashamed to admit that I wrote romance. Many of my author friends are angry and revolted as they read this.

Because romance writing isn’t anything to be embarrassed about. Is it what I “dreamed” of writing? Nope.
But it IS what I’ve been able to market to publishers, and where most of my readers come from.
This is the year I embrace that identity. With one caveat, of course.

My Brand: Before

I’m not even sure I had a brand before this. Check out the things I used for continuity across every social media platform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you saw those things, what would you guess I wrote?

What? It doesn’t scream any genre at you?

That would be because I wrote so many genres I feared embracing anything that might look distinctively romance or fantasy or nonfiction or Christian.
Is it any wonder I haven’t been able to build an audience? No one can figure out what it is I’m selling here.

My Brand: After

 
One thing I’ve heard over and over is: “As an author, YOU are your brand.”
But what does that really mean? What does that LOOK like in logos and colors and fonts?
I am a person who loves to read many genres and has too many ideas to contain in a single writing category. So do I brand multiple personalities? How?
This is what I learned from a quick quiz from Kaye Putnam and her Brand Personality Quiz:
1. I have elements of several personalities in my brand
2. The ones that appeal to me most are Hero and Magician
3. To settle on ONE or know how to properly combine these, I needed to discover what I want my ideal clients (readers) to FEEL
Light bulb moment.
I knew the answer to this. So I took some time considering it more deeply.
I want my readers to feel understood and hopeful and encouraged. I want them to be empowered to chase (and capture) their own dreams.
Yes, I want to offer them escape, but more than that I wanted them to see themselves between the pages and know they are not alone. Someone relates to how they’re feeling and what their lives are throwing at them right now.
Then I outlined all of that and shipped it off to a designer. Perry Elisabeth is a freelancer I met through a Facebook Group. I’d been admiring her cover designs for months and I’d succumbed to the magnetism of her WriteMind Planner.
And this is what she came up with.



There was a transformation here, right? I can build a platform with this distinctive symbol.
Based on that, what genre would you guess I wrote?

And if you say “romance” or “women’s fiction” I won’t cringe. Because in 2018 I’m going to publish three (or more) Christian romances with women’s fiction themes and motifs.
More on that later.
What do you think of the new look? What/how does it make you feel?

A Romance Series in Sweet Grove, Texas

Small town romance series are a huge hit. How do I know? Because the little town of Cedar Cove,Washington (now a Hallmark Channel series) was invented by Debbie Macomber years ago and has millions of adoring fans.

It isn’t the only small town series I’ve read and enjoyed. Currently, I’m a huge fan of Kait Nolan’s Wishful Series. In fact, I never thought much about Mississippi until I read these books. Now I want to go there…and specifically to Wishful. Too bad it’s fictional…

Because of my affection for small town romances, my joy at being included in the Kindle World of Sweet Grove, Texas, shouldn’t surprise anyone.

I hope you’ll learn to love the people and the places of Sweet Grove as much as I do. Check out the entire world here. Read the recent feature about me from the SWEET GROVE SENTINEL here.

My newest romance series is considered a Christian romance series. I’d encourage readers of my sweet romances to give it a try. I swerve far from being preachy (and if you think I don’t after reading one of these books, please email me with your concerns), so I think even people who aren’t generally a fan of Christian books will enjoy this series.

Also, as several reviewers remarked, I tend to dabble on the darker side of town. Sweet Grove is a wonderful place, but it isn’t free from problems.

In this series, I’m trying to use non-standard sheroes and heroes with real life issues. And my happily ever after endings don’t feel forced or fast. (If you read and feel differently, again, send me an email. I want to know if I’m missing the mark and I don’t always read my reviews.)

Let me introduce you to my Sweet Grove Romances.

Book One

LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL released on November 15, 2017. Read all about it here.

 
Book Two

LOVE’S LITTLE SECRETS will release on March 13, 2018.
Will his secrets end their marriage?
Blurb
On the eve of her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Norma Wells isn’t sure she loves her husband anymore. They’ve grown apart since a barren womb robbed Norma of her most cherished dream. When his secret son crashes their anniversary party, she’s ready to walk away.
Herman Wells performs his duties, even when it means keeping secrets that would destroy the love of his life. All at once, every secret is revealed, and Herman prepares for damage control. No matter what, he’s not willing to see his marriage end.
To save it, he will have to take advice from his son and even confide in the preacher. He can’t rely on Norma’s anti-divorce to save him. Somehow, he must make her fall in love with him again.
Can Norma forgive the betrayal? Or has Herman’s secret-keeping doomed their love?

Book Three

Within the First Street Church Kindle World, the authors have decided to introduce specific subcategories. My third book will debut with the Heroes of Sweet Grove line on July 3, 2018
LOVE’S LINGERING DOUBTS
This is the tentative tagline and blurb, subject to change as the story is written and the characters buck my outline.
To trust each other or lose it all?
Blurb
When her brother is killed in battle, Jazlyn Rolle gave up her softball scholarship for Army green. Barely four years later, she’s home again, disgraced and disillusioned. She’s nobody’s hero.
Bailey Dyer’s doing everything he can to save the ranch he’s called home since being fostered there at the age of six. He doesn’t have time for anything but work.
Until the pretty stranger in clingy running shorts carries his dog along the country road. He wants to deny the attraction, but how do you avoid someone who hits a softball into your lap?
When a distant relative decides to fight Bailey for the ranch, Jaz will get her chance to come to the rescue using the legal skills she learned in the JAG’s office. But will Bailey admit to love? Or will he let Jaz succumb to her lingering doubts?

Book Four

Sweet Grove High is a line for young adult and new adult romances within this Kindle World. It debuts on September 10, 2018.
Readers of LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL expressed curiosity about what happened next for Ariel Stryker. Her story will be expanded in this fourth book, still untitled.
Future Books
I’ve roughed out at least two more stories for this series and they will likely be released in 2019. After that…who knows?
Another novella for the Heroes of Sweet Grove line, LOVE’S LOST INNOCENCE pairs a woman fleeing memories of a brutal assault with an angry former soldier, whose external wounds aren’t nearly as debilitating as his festering fury.
The secret son of Herman Wells is going to get his own book too. I think I’ll pair him up with a minor character from LOVE’S LATE ARRIVAL, but I haven’t decided for sure. I don’t have enough of the story outlined to settle on an appropriate title.
What’s your favorite small town series? What sort of characters or issues would you like to see addressed in future stories? (If I use your ideas, I’ll mention you in the acknowledgments or perhaps even dedicate the story to you.)

What’s “Bestseller” Really Mean?

Many writers have the goal of having a best-selling book. After all, that would be the ultimate sign of writing success, right?

Or maybe not.

There are different definitions for “best-selling” on different platforms. Many lists exist that determine what sells the best: USA Today, New York Times, and Amazon are the ones most often referred to in author biographies.
If a book is a bestseller, that means its sales must be watched and compared to other books. That’s why the list it bestseller list it appears on matters in actual significance.

Amazon

Amazon is unique among these three lists in that it is an actual book distributor.
Therefore, the sales of these books aren’t tracked anywhere but on Amazon’s site. And while Amazon is certainly a large book distributor, it isn’t the only outlet for book sales.
Another thing about Amazon is that it has hundreds (maybe even thousands) of sub-categories for its books. This is great if you’re looking for a book about starting a monkey ranch, but it can also be misleading in the case of a “best-seller” tag.
What do I mean?
I’ve seen books in very specific categories sell one copy and since they were the only book sold in that category that day, the book gets the orange “best-seller” banner from Amazon.
The author begins to claim they are a best-selling author (because they are) but what does that really mean?
Shouldn’t a best-selling author have hundred, thousands or millions of books out in readers hands? Certainly if I made dozens of crochet cases for tablets and only sold one of them (which is actually true), can I claim this is the best-selling product I’ve ever made?
After all, it’s the ONLY thing I’ve crocheted that I’ve ever sold. So in one sense, the statement is true.
But it’s misleading.
Fair warning: someone who is an Amazon Best-selling Author may not have actually sold a ton of books. (Caveat: Amazon does have a list of best-selling books that includes ALL the books. The day I wrote this, most of the books in the top ten on that list were also on one or both of the other lists. The number one book was also number one on BOTH of the other lists.)
Since learning this, I give much less credence to that label when it’s claimed by authors. It sounds impressive and prestigious, but it doesn’t always mean a book sold tons of copies.

USA Today

This is a list I’ve seen many of my indie author friends strive to make. And many of them have attained the status.
So, how do you make this list? Is it more prestigious than Amazon’s list?
This is a weekly list (as opposed to one that’s updated hourly like Amazon’s) that ranks titles selling well in both print and electronic formats. The sales numbers are collected from a variety of outlets: bookstore chains (like Barnes & Noble), independent bookstores, mass merchandisers (think WalMart or Target) and online retailers (including Amazon). See the complete list of sellers and the actual definition at USA Today’s site.

The list does NOT subdivide out according to category. This means the list will include nonfiction, romance, fantasy and memoir, along with any other genre that sold in substantial quantity.


For example, the week I wrote this (January 12), the number one seller was in current affairs, number two and three in genre fiction, number four in business and number five in youth.
A couple of my author friends hit the #89 slot with a boxed set including twenty-six fantasy/science-fiction novellas. They marketed hard in order to hit this list so they authors would be able to claim the status as “USA Today Best-selling Author.”

As amazing as this title is, in this case, I don’t think it means as much as it does for those authors who hit the list with a stand-alone title. Before everyone batters me in the comments, let me explain.

I pre-ordered the collection (and pre-orders are important if you want a book to hit a top spot because all those sales count on the day the book releases). I did so to read one specific story by an author I adore.
Eventually, I did finish a few of the other stories, but there were plenty that didn’t fit my reading preferences. And some of the writing wasn’t all that great (in my opinion). But every one of those twenty-six authors is now a best-selling author. Even if NO ONE reads the story they contributed to the collection.
This is the reason I say attaining the bestseller label in this way might not mean much. So, again, I don’t pay that close of attention to author’s who claim this title. (Sorry, that makes me sound like a book snob, which I’m not. I hardly ever go to the bestseller list for book recommendations.)

New York Times

The New York Times publishes “authoritatively ranked lists of books sold in the United states, sorted by format and genre.”
As you can see, this means the books are ranked in genre (so all the self-help books will compete against other self-help books) and format. This means that the numbers of hardback, paperback and digital formats aren’t considered together.
That makes this list more concise than USA Today’s but not as narrow as Amazon’s. Which means it is more difficult to leverage yourself onto the list.

These are the weekly best sellers lists:

  • Fiction combined print & e-book fiction, hardcover fiction, paperback trade fiction
  • Nonfiction combined print & e-Book nonfiction, hardcover, paperpace, advice, how-to & miscellaneous
  • Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover, Picture books, series, Young Adult hardcover (meaning the paperback and e-Book sales don’t even count for authors making this list.)

To compare this with USA Today, on January 12, the number one book in combined print & ebook fiction was #2 on USA Today’s list. The number 2 book in this category was only #23 on the USA Today list, while number three was also in that slot on USA Today. The book at number four was ranked #8 by USA Today.
In case you’re wondering, the book in the top slot on USA Today was number one in both combined and hardcover nonfiction on The New York Times list.
Since it is obviously more difficult to make this list, does that mean it’s more prestigious? I wouldn’t say that, but then I’m not someone who follows these lists.
I will say that my best-selling author goal is linked to The New York Times, though. And I don’t plan to “leverage” sales to make this list. I want to get there organically.
Will that make it more meaningful? To me, yes, but who knows if the average reader will even care?
After all, is Sharon Hughson, multi-genre author any different than Sharon Hughson, NYT Best-selling author? In my mind, I’m the same person, writing in the same style, either way.
Is one of these seen as more prestigious or more famous or more salable? I guess that depends on if the reader cares about such things.
Me? If I like your writing, I don’t care if no one else has ever heard of you. I will buy and read your books. I will give them four or five-star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, and I’ll recommend them to every reader I know.

What’s your opinion about the title of best-selling author? What makes a “bestseller” in your mind?

Three Reasons I Avoid Writing Book Reviews

I read tons of books. And I enjoy reading them. Even if I don’t end up liking the book all that much, reading has the potential to make me a better writer of stories.
And even though I track all my books on Goodreads, I’ve stopped writing reviews for many of the books I read. At times, I don’t even give them a rating.
And, no, this isn’t just because I didn’t finish them. I don’t even add those ones to my “READ” shelf. I have a special shelf for them: “Abandoned.” And it used to be a lonely place, but not so much any more.
If you don’t finish a book, you have no business reviewing it. Or giving it a rating. I’m sorry, folks, but you shouldn’t even say why you couldn’t get through it.
Reviews are for finishers. Why? Because the story could have turned around. Maybe it was a slow starter. Plenty of books that went on to become blockbuster movies were a drag to begin reading. Nope, I’m not naming names here, but I’m sure you know who you are *winks*
Many of the books I read are advance copies meant for the sole purpose of garnering a review on release day. And sometimes I’ll bet the authors who asked this “favor” from me wish they wouldn’t have.
Because if you’ve read my reviews, you know I can be harsh. Some people have commented that my four-star reviews sound like they’re for two-star books.

I’m honest with my criticism.

I’ll be the first to announce that reading preference is all subjective. A reader’s idea of what makes a book wonderful is also subjective…to the criteria their enjoyment is based upon.

My criteria are few:

  1. A well-structured story (that isn’t predictable)
  2. Characters I can relate to and root for
  3. An obvious story problem with a clear resolution
  4. A dynamic main character (meaning this person CHANGES over the course of the story)

Sure, if you can make me laugh AND cry, you’ll get bonus points, but that won’t keep me from overlooking a lack of any of the above items.

In recent months, the number of books I’ve finished reading but haven’t written reviews for has increased. Here are the reasons for that:

ONE: SOMETHING IN THE STORY AWOKE MY BIASES

Yes, I just admitted I have biases. I’m sorry folks, but everyone does. Even if you consider yourself the most accepting and non-judgmental person on the planet, you have biases.
It’s impossible not to form them. If you disagree with this, let’s have a reasonable discussion about it in the comment section. (But don’t be surprised if I call out your biases when they appear in your commentary…because they will.)
For example, a recent book by an author whose stories I adore didn’t earn a review from me. The story line endorsed something that I am opposed to.
However, her writing was fine. The story met the other qualifications for being great. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to write an honest review without mentioning this thing that burrowed under my skin like a ravenous scarab.
So, I rated the book but didn’t write a review.
And I didn’t mention the reason anywhere.
In fact, I’m still not really telling anyone which book it was or what the THING was.

TWO: THE AUTHOR IS MY FRIEND

Okay, this is a tough one to admit. I’d love to say that I’m only friends with authors whose work I love and adore.
Alas, no.
Sometimes they are writing too far on the edge and I can’t buy into their fantasy world. They haven’t done the work to make me suspend my disbelief.
If I truly dislike the story or find the writing subpar, I might not even give a rating to the book.
In either case, I always contact the author directly if I’m giving anything less than four stars to their book. Because…I don’t want my “negative” review to affect their sales.
I’m an author, too. I might have been a reader first, but the business part of me understands that my opinion could sway people. And they might have enjoyed the story.
Who am I to keep people from reading something they might enjoy? Especially if the fact they bought it would help a friend of mine further their writing dream?
But…I’m not going to fib either. I’m not going to claim something is amazing when I growled about it.

THREE: THERE’S NOTHING REMARKABLE TO SAY

This is the one that I’ve decided is most prevalent for me (even though I’ve listed it third). Sometimes, I really like the book. It made me smile, laugh or tear up.

But when I finish, there’s nothing that stands out about it.

You can be sure it won’t get FIVE STARS in this case. But if I’m feeling warm and fuzzy, I’ll probably give it four stars. After all, all that means is that “I liked it” (on Amazon) and “I really liked it” (on Goodreads).
But if there’s nothing to SAY, why would I write a review?
If I give it a rating but not a review, you can most likely put it in this category. Unless the rating is three stars or less. And I really try NOT to give anything less than three stars.
Do you write book reviews? If not, why not? If so, what are your criteria?

The Final Chapter is Here!

Veronica Shay was born in my imagination more than two years ago. Today, the final installment of her love story hits the shelves of digital bookstores everywhere.


It’s bittersweet for me. I rejoice in the birth of another book into the wide world (and hopefully into the hands, heads and hearts of hundreds of readers). But it’s also a goodbye.
If you’ve been following Ronnie and Marcus’ romance, grab your copy of the final chapter now.
Maybe you’re new to the world of Sharon Hughson. Let me introduce you to my friend (and ofttimes nemesis) Veronica Shay. She had a little problem at her sister’s wedding (now that’s a story no one has read…and I have a surprise for you) and it sent her straight to Virtual Match. Anything to stop the well-meaning set-ups and continual nagging of her family—especially her mother.

You can read all about that in Reality Meets its Match.

Now available

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a romance if Ronnie kept her Virtual Match at arm’s length. Things get real for her and Marcus in Reality Bites. And if the title doesn’t give you a clue, I can tell you reality slams Marcus and Ronnie hard in the second installment.
Grab your copy of Reality Bites now.


If you’re still not sure whether this series is for you, here’s an exclusive sneak peek inside the final chapter.
This comes from chapter four of the latest ebook:

Marcus pulled Ronnie against his side, and she nestled under his arm like a kitten seeking warmth. His hand squeezed her waist while his chin tapped the top of her head.
“Thanks for coming.” Her voice was hushed, as if a normal tone might wake the babies.
“Stop thanking me. I wouldn’t have let you come alone.”
An independent part of her raised its back at what sounded like overbearing words. Ronnie shoved the ire away. Marcus wanted to take care of her in the same way she wanted to take care of her brother.
Movement beyond the second nursery caught her eye. A dark-haired man stood up, his face covered by a mask and body engulfed in a yellow paper gown: her brother. He spoke with a nurse before walking out of sight.
Ronnie scanned for an exit, shuffling toward the nurse’s station visible through the nursery’s glass wall. She drew slightly away from Marcus, preparing to be strong for Tony.
Her brother was discarding the paper robe and mask when she rounded the corner. He swiveled toward her with military precision and wrapped her in his arms.
“How is Jen?” Ronnie pulled away slightly and watched his face for tells. Dark circles smudged his eyes and wrinkles drew his mouth into a firm line.
“Stable. She lost a lot of blood, but they saved her uterus.”
Ronnie had been reading about placenta previa and the related side effects during the flight. About five percent of women needed a hysterectomy to staunch the blood flow associated with the misplaced placenta. As much as Tony wanted to father a son, it would have been heartbreaking for them if this was their only child.
“The baby?”
“She’s plugged into a breathing machine and hooked to a dozen different monitors. Most of her vitals are good, but she didn’t breathe on her own at delivery.”
A girl. This tiny one didn’t know how lucky she was to have a loving, protective father watching over her. A tug in her chest distracted. Was she wishing for a father? The one who sired her had walked away, and the replacement her mother chose had done unspeakable things.
She shook her head, tucking a strand straying from her upswept hair behind her ear. That was old news. This was the future.
Ronnie squeezed her brother’s fingers. “What can I do for you?”
Tony shrugged.
“Are you ready to sleep?” Ronnie peered into the tired lines of his drawn face. The adrenaline she imagined fueling him all day had run out, but behind the hazel eyes like hers, she saw anxiety, and she’d been reading those eyes for three decades.
“How about a walk?”Tony says this?No, Ronnie. I think I fixed it…
Ronnie wasn’t sure if it would help him, but anything had to be better than sitting in a hospital room.
Marcus squeezed her waist. Ronnie glanced up at him, breath catching at the tender look in his cobalt eyes.
“I’ll book a nearby hotel.” It was the one thing he hadn’t done in advance since they might have stayed at the hospital with her brother. Marcus wouldn’t expect to share a room with her and understood she wanted to pay her own way.
Ronnie rose on her toes and nearly touched his ear with her lips. His indrawn breath made her heart vault against her chest.
“One room.”
His eyes widened. She pressed her lips to his in a perfunctory kiss then turned to thread her arm through Tony’s.
“There’s a waiting room down that hall.” Tony gestured to the opposite side of the nurse’s station.
As he navigated the maze of halls to another bank of elevators, Ronnie fell into step with her brother. On the ground floor, he led her into a walled-in garden. Their shoes thumped against the paved path around the edge. Minutes passed in silence, and she drew a deep breath of temperate air, so different than the chill moist air near her apartment.
“Greg and Angie will be down tomorrow.”
Tony grunted.
“When’s Mom going to be here?”
“Dennis wanted to drive over and stay through the holidays.”
The holidays? It was nearly three weeks until Christmas. Ronnie shook her head and drew a breath to comment.
Tony continued. “She doesn’t want to fly in case she has an episode. It embarrasses her to lose control of her limbs.” He sighed. “While Dennis relayed their plans, she never stopped blathering about this being the only grandchild she’ll ever meet.”
Ronnie hugged his arm. The firm bicep bulged beneath her fingers, reminding her of Marcus’s very un-engineer-like arms. She pushed thoughts of him away. He was a distraction, and she needed to focus on her family. Hadn’t she told him as much on Sunday?
If she could shake her mother right now, Ronnie would do it. Couldn’t she see that Tony needed encouragement? Obviously, this terminal illness was going to exacerbate her mother’s self-centered tendencies.
“How can I help?” Please don’t say handle, Mom. But, she would do it if that’s what he needed.
Tony stopped walking and faced her. A desolate look stared back at her. “I don’t know how to be a good father. How could I? I never had one.”
Ronnie’s stomach nosedived into her feet. The truth was too much of a burden for her brother, which is why she had kept her secret for so long.
“Stop.” Her voice broke. She stiffened her spine and squinted at him. “You are three times the man of anyone who ever claimed to be your father.”
His ragged breaths did nothing to cool Ronnie’s flaming cheeks. If she could go back, she wouldn’t tell him anything.

STILL not sure if this series is for you? Check out this review of Reality Ever After.


And of course there’s a giveaway.

THE SURPRISE

Remember how I mentioned Ronnie’s sister’s wedding? Well, I’ve written a short story recounting that delightful event. If you want to read it, FIRST sign up for my newsletter.

Once you’re a subscriber, drop me a quick email (info at sharonleehughson dot com) to say you’ve subscribed and you would LOVE to see how Ronnie was driven to the desperate place of hiring an invisible boyfriend.

I hope to hear from you very soon!

What Does it MEAN to Change?

It’s week three of the Year of Metamorphosis and I’m not seeing a butterfly moment yet. In fact, my caterpillar’s looking a little lost. Where’s my change?
What does it even MEAN to change?
The dictionary says change means to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.
In that case, there are a few little changes.
Like the colors I use on my website. And a few nifty social media templates I can use to “create” a new brand.
But who wants a little change? If that’s all I was looking for, I certainly wouldn’t have chosen the gold nugget “metamorphosis” for my annual theme.
I probably wouldn’t have even settled for the twenty-dollar transformation. We all know what that word brings to my fantasy-inspired thinking.

Image from comicbook.com

The thing is change happens a little bit at a time. Like erosion. The water runs down the side of the mountain. A decade later, it causes a crack. A century later the face of the mountain looks totally different.

But we don’t want erosion. We want an explosion.

But do we really? You want someone setting dynamite off in your life?
Backpedaling now, are you? I know I am. I’ve had a few explosions and I’ll beg for erosion. Even if it tries my patience.

Define Little

Small. Tiny. Minute. Unnoticeable.
It’s like that first five pounds you struggle to take off when you’ve got twenty-five to lose. It takes weeks to convince your body to give it up. You’ve worked out. You’ve stopped eating everything that tastes good (if it tastes good, it’s either bad for you or fattening).


And no one notices.

Even the mirror doesn’t see it.
You start questioning the scale. Did I really lose any weight?
But then you pull on that pair of shorts you couldn’t squeeze into last summer. And they button. No, they aren’t loose or even comfortable, but they’re zipped up.
It might be small and unremarkable, but it’s a start.
Change that is slow and steady will likely be long-lasting.

Define Big

Huge. Gigantic. Enormous. Monumental. Noteworthy.
In the weight loss scenario above, will twenty pounds be a BIG loss? Sure. You’re only five pounds short of the goal. You’re 4/5 done.
It’s time to celebrate. But probably not with a slice of New York Cheesecake and chocolate sauce. Better to go shopping for a new outfit.
However, if you’ve got to lose one hundred pounds, the twenty pounds doesn’t seem so big any more.
But why not? It’s still a chunk of lard gone from your frame. Why not celebrate it?
Why do we have to weight the importance based on percent of change or distance from the finish line? Let’s celebrate every step in the right direction.
Celebration is a mindset. Accentuate the positive.


Transformation vs. Metamorphosis

Transformation: the semi truck into a giant, alien robot who will kick butt on the bad guys.
The semi truck is bad news in its own way. If we want to take out the speedster in the Porsche, the semi will do the job. So, a transformation keeps many things the same, but changes enough to make it noticeable.
But a metamorphosis, that’s something altogether more amazing. It’s hard to see the caterpillar when the butterfly bats those gorgeous wings in your face.
Sure, if you go to a molecular and cellular level, you’ll see they’re basically the same thing. But no one walks around with a microscope in their pocket.

Metamorphosis is a huge change, a life-altering transformation.

The caterpillar crawled but the butterfly soars. A life on the other side of metamorphic revision is more dissimilar than similar.


So, maybe I’m not shooting for a metamorphosis this year (except in the way I think…more on that later). Maybe all I want is to transform my brand so my audience can find me.
It will still be my fifty-year-old body once I get it firmed into a certain weight and fitness range. And it probably won’t look much different on the outside, but I hope it will FEEL more healthy and alive on the inside.
One step at a time, I’m making these changes. Because that’s the only way real change happens.
How would you define change? What are you hoping to change this year?

Inside a Writer’s Brain

I thought the Professional Author’s Brain (PAB) would be different. Back when I started down this road to become a published author, I accepted that disparate ideas and motivation would war against my love of story writing. I was an amateur after all, and that creative writing/professional writing degree didn’t really prepare me for reality.
Four years into the real deal, I’m not sure anything could have given me a heads-up about being a professional author. Or what really went on behind the forehead inside a PAB.
True, continual writing and seeking feedback from more skilled writers could equip me with the TOOLS I needed. But there isn’t a book or course that can tame the beast inside my brain.
I know this because I’ve read an endless stream of writing craft and career books from successful authors, and I’m still scratching my head over some aspects of the whole “author gig.” I’ve also taken multiple courses offered online and at conferences from published authors who are also competent teachers (and as an educator, I can tell the difference).
What did I get? More knowledge. More tools.

Nothing to discipline the genius inside my heart, soul and mind.

The part some people call “The Muse,” but I’m inclined to agree with Elizabeth Gilbert’s assessment that we all have a genius at our disposal, and it isn’t subject to the spurious whims of the gods.


What? You didn’t know Muse is actually a Greek goddess, patron of artists everywhere.

Now you do. And that explains her fickle game plans and unpredictable work schedule.

What I’ve learned as a professional author is that you can NOT wait for the Muse to show up before you work. You have to sit your rear in the chair and do the work.
But, the truth is: Muse work reads like poetry and my work affects me like a C-level college essay. So why write the words are going to sound so…average?
Why didn’t my brain shift into a different gear once I decided to go “pro”? Surely professional authors with a string of best sellers and a backlist that fills five Amazon screens don’t have problems tricking their brains into work mode. And their Muse must show up for eighty percent of their writing sessions.
You’d be surprised what best-selling authors do to trick their brain to do its best work. But, I can’t rely on the bag of tricks they share as “writer’s gold” in their blogs, memoirs and books on writing best sellers.
Because most of it is nothing more than fool’s gold to my brain.

My Creative Brain

I come up with ideas for stories quite easily. Too bad that’s NOT the hard part.

I might be standing in the grocery line and here are some things that would grab my creative genius:

  • The cover of a gossip rag in the magazine stand
  • A snippet of overheard conversation
  • The set of the cashier’s shoulders
  • The look a stranger gives as he passes by
  • The contents scrolling across the belt about to be purchased by the person in front of me

There’s no shortage of ideas in the world. Anyone with a spark of imagination can come up with hundreds of ideas during a one-hour brainstorming session.
In fact, I never need to brainstorm story ideas. What I need to learn is how to multiply plot points that will compel readers to turn the pages.
Because while the idea pool is deeper than the Mariana Trench and wider than the Pacific Ocean, the number of ideas which will generate an entire, interesting story or novella (forget the gargantuan required for a novel) fit in an espresso cup.


The Other Half of my Brain

And that little puddle is where the other half of my brain refuses to play. It likes the splash of plenty in the ocean of ideas.

Why narrow things down? Won’t it be more fun to play with all the interesting water puppies?
No, Brain, it only leads to frustration.

Except for when it causes plot holes. Or there’s an off chance it will peter out in the dreaded middle of the story. Maybe it locks itself in a tower and conveniently misplaces the key.

The left brain has lots of fun, but at some point the right brain (PAB) must approve all the fantasy-babble. It has to contain enough truth to suspend the reader’s disbelief. And this half of the brain is like a wet blanket on the fiery creative half.
So why can’t I convince this half of my brain to “create” like a professional author?
Because it doesn’t tends to cage the fluttering explosion of ideas and the Muse doesn’t survive behind bars.
In other words, professional authors learn to write IN SPITE of the flibbertigibbet whiff of inspiration and genius.
Me? I’m still trying to escape the beast with all my limbs intact.
What sort of things do you imagine go through a PAB? Any questions for this full-time author that might light a fire beneath the Muse?

What You Should Be Reading this Weekend

Weekends are the perfect time for cuddling up in front of a fire with a good book. It’s even better if you can get a bite-sized story that fills the one or two free hours perfectly. And I have a recommendation that fits both bills: ONE SNOWY NIGHT.

This is a new collection of four short stories released by Roane Publishing only a few days ago. Because it’s my publisher, I read the advanced copy several weeks ago. And boy did it get me in the mood for snowy nights cuddled up with my honey.

I’m not going to give you the summary. You can click over to my blog earlier in the week to read the blurbs for all the stories.

My Review

You’ll enjoy four- and five-star reads in this collection. It includes stories with traditional tropes but all of them have a twist. That’s exactly the way I enjoy my tropes.

Melissa J. Crispin takes the “I lost my memory” trope and throws it into an interesting situation. What if you forgot you were divorced? What if you woke up after an accident expecting to see your husband? Asking these questions worked for the author because the husband under consideration hadn’t wanted the divorce in the first place.

These characters weren’t especially relatable as far as careers go, but their emotions were universally understood. Although I thought the story shifted too suddenly in some areas, it was still a powerful, feel-good read that made me tear up.

Four stars.

If you haven’t read anything by T.E. Hodden, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. I’ve read several of his stories, and this one has the most “feels” of any I’ve read. Again, he uses a common trope–friends to lovers–and freshens it up with incredible stakes.

He employs two devices I’m usually NOT impressed with. The first is that most of the story is a flashback. The reason this doesn’t really work for me is because I know where the story’s going and that takes away the tension in the progression.

That didn’t happen here. In fact, I kept turning pages wondering, “Well, how did this happen?” And although I figured out the big misunderstanding fairly early, I still wanted to keep reading.

The other thing is the use of first AND second person. I especially dislike second person because I never feel the “you.” In this case, the author pulled off this strange point of view. It came across as the narrator telling the story to the love interest (the “you” of the story). Some skilled writing went into this.

Five stars.

If you like the friends to lovers trope when it’s separated by a time lapse, you’ll like Laurie Treacy‘s story. While I felt like it told us the individual stories of Danielle and Quinn rather than truly building their romance, I still enjoyed it. Part of that could have been the hometown setting, which is one I generally adore.

The characters were well-developed and I could relate to their struggles. The plot progressed very much as expected in a romance, but I never felt the budding (or revisited?) relationship was in peril, so it didn’t have the sort of tension I need to fully engage with a romance-only story.

Four stars.

The final story I read in the collection was by Charlotte Snead. “One Snowy Day” took the trope of surrogate mother to wife and twisted it by giving an incredibly unique situation as the setup. It didn’t have the same “winter afternoon” feeling as the other stories, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable and engaging.

I never connected with these characters the way I did in the other stories. The only one who had my empathy was the little girl, Molly. I wanted the aunt and dad to get together so Molly would finally have a happy home.

Four stars.

My Recommendation

If you enjoy sweet romance, you’ll want to pick up this collection. Each story offers enough familiarity to pull you right in and enough originality to keep you reading.

These aren’t holiday stories. Yes, most of them center on events that happen in the winter, but many of them span several months or years.

Once you sample these authors, you’ll be back to Roane Publishing to read more from them. And that’s a perfect way to throw support to a small indie publisher.

Don’t forget the Giveaway for a $10 gift card.

What are you reading this weekend? I hope you’ll consider adding One Snowy Night to your pile.

Time for ONE SNOWY NIGHT of Romance

Another great short story anthology from my publisher, Roane Publishing. I’ve read this collection and will post a review later this week. If you’re ready for some sweet, snowy romance, grab your copy today.

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO

ONE SNOWY NIGHT!

 
 
One Snowy Night
A Sweet Romance Anthology 
By Various Authors
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Release Date: Jan 8, 2018
Check out these blurbs for the FOUR great stories waiting to entertain you on those long winter nights.
 
All the Things I Should Have Told You
 
One snowy night, in an Accident and Emergency ward, a life hangs in the balance, and your best friend is going to tell you everything you don’t know about him, about your life, and what you both might be about to lose.
 
 
Unforeseen Circumstances
 
Marlene Martin wants to start over, to escape the sad past she can’t seem to leave behind. Between her marriage falling apart and her brother passing away, she has no reason left to stay in Mistport, New York. Her pending move across the country is exactly what she needs—or so she thinks.
 
Brady Miller doesn’t want to love Marlene, not after their agonizing divorce. His constant travel for work keeps his mind off of where they went wrong. But when he moves back to his small hometown to help with his brother’s business, seeing her again awakens the feelings he had long pushed aside. Each time they bump into each other, his interest in her only deepens.
 
When Marlene wakes up in the hospital after a terrible accident, she turns to the first person who enters her mind: Brady. Her world is shattered when he reveals that they’re divorced and her brother is gone. Brady helps her sort through the pain of memories she’s forgotten while he tries to avoid complicating her life even further.
 
Is Marlene’s memory loss a second chance for their love, or will history repeat itself?
 
 
Somewhere Between Falling
 
Recent college graduate Danielle Haviland had her future planned as a bride, band PR manager, and world traveler. Her dreams are ruined when her fiancée dumps her. On top of her heartbreak, Dani’s demanding mother issues an ultimatum: choose a viable life plan by the New Year, or assume a position picked out for her in the family real estate business. Dani runs away to the beloved town of her childhood summers to heal, refocus, and decide her future.
 
Still reeling from a family tragedy, Quinn Martin has been hoping for a second chance at happiness. His old friend Dani’s return might provide the opportunity he needs. When he offers Dani a job, the two grow closer and see that time hasn’t diminished their bond. Their chemistry sparks and broken hearts begin to heal. Will the plotting of a devious ex separate the couple before they can explore the relationship both desperately crave?
 
Somewhere between falling snowflakes, a chance kiss on a city sidewalk might offer childhood friends a new beginning. 
 
 
One Snowy Day
 
When tragedy strikes again, Aunt Evvie once more steps to the rescue. Her sister attempts to poison her daughter even after her own suicide, leaving behind chocolates tainted with arsenic in her daughter’s drawer and urging her to eat them in a note. Calling Molly’s beloved aunt for help, Phillip sees her convince her niece that she is both good and lovable. Evvie surrenders her job to stay home with Molly and in in the process comes to realize her brother-in-law no longer feels like a brother. Phillip convinces Evvie to enter into a psudo-marriage to provide stability for the hurting child. After rejection and betrayal, can Phillip trust romance again? Can the Evvie, the plain, older sister, compete with her beauty-queen sister? 
 
 
 
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.