Fantasy: An Anniversary

It’s hard to believe that one year ago, I made my splash as a published fantasy author. (And by splash, picture a pebble dropping in Crater Lake.)

Masked Hearts still has one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen. Yes, it’s my favorite among my titles.

If you’ve read the story, I hope you left a review. Reviews put royalties in a writer’s pocket. Even if all you say is: “Elves and humans should always hook up. Read this and you’ll know why.” And give it a few stars.

If you haven’t read the story, here’s the excerpt I shared last year when it first released.

Agent Camden Kerr shoved his fingers through his hair, long layers, mussy. Nothing like he’d worn when soldiering full-time. Staring into the nearly spotless icebox encouraged his stomach to growl. Looked like he needed to grab groceries or head out for dinner.
He shuffled across the kitchen. As his hand covered the coil of keys holding down the newspaper he’d yet to read, a click from the hallway stopped him. He tilted his head toward the sound from the laundry room, and his right hand sneaked along his chest until his fingers rested on the handle of his service sidearm.
Service. As if working as a Recovery Agent for the Magical Artifact Reclamation and Quarantine Society amounted to service. That bunch of stingy, wealthy sponsors had some interesting conspiracy theories about magic. Working for MARQS hardly gave him the same feel-good sense of accomplishment he’d felt while recovering stolen weapons, formulas and documents for the government.
Woodsy air wafted into the room. Hair on the back of his neck prickled. If they were in his office, he knew exactly what they were after. But how did they find him? He’d been careful when he’d lifted the medallion from the evidence room at the police station. Seriously. A drugged-up prostitute shouldn’t have anything so valuable in her possession in the first place. Whoever killed her hadn’t known what it was, or the police wouldn’t have been bagging and tagging it with regulated routine.
Cam eased the gun from its holster. His booted feet slithered over the kitchen tiles as silently as a rattler on rocks. Waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim light wasn’t an option. He had a better idea. A grim twist of his lips, and he slammed open his office door with his shoulder, smacked the light switch beside it with his left hand.
“Hands up!”
A slender woman with eyes glittering like emeralds twisted toward him, hands flailing toward the ceiling in a hypnotic, graceful arc. Her chin was a sharp point in her heart-shaped face. High cheekbones, slashed with ruddy shades of sunset, offset her peachy complexion. The mass of beige blonde hair topped off a perfect picture.
“Where’s my brother?” Her accented English wasn’t difficult to understand, its cultured tones free from panic.
His fingers tightened on the pistol’s grip, index finger straightening away from the trigger. He raked her lithe figure with a single glance, noting no suspicious bulges to indicate a concealed weapon. The rise and fall of full breasts beneath some sort of leather tunic didn’t escape his attention. Or the slender legs encased in form-fitting leather, down to the moccasin-like booties on her narrow feet.
“You’ve got the wrong house.” Cam kept the gun aimed center mass, even as he felt the tension drain from his shoulders.
“I don’t think so.”
She shifted away from the desk. Cam stiffened again, finger dropping onto the trigger, eyes honing in on his target.
And a fine-looking target, too. Messing up that chest with an armor-piercing round would be a total waste.

Can’t wait to read more? Click here and purchase it from my publisher, or click the “other retailers” tab and find it there.

If you can’t get enough of my lovely elves, you can get to know Alyona’s footloose brother for FREE in this novella.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Reality Meets its Match and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

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

Two Paths to Publishing: Which is Right for You?

This blog has often featured articles that writers might find helpful. Not because I’m an expert on this whole “writing gig” but because I’ve done some digging. I want your road to publishing to be smoother than mine has been.

One of the big questions I still find myself debating is about HOW to get published. Should I take the traditional path? Or should I self publish?

Recently, one of the writing teachers I follow wrote a long blog post on the subject. The teacher is Tim Grahl and you can read his post here.

Not that I’m trying to convince you not to click over to Tim’s site, but the post is LONG. And I can sum it up in two sentences.

If you want someone else to do the work of publishing your book, you want to go traditional. If you want to control all of the ins and outs, and don’t mind spending time as an entrepreneur, self-publishing is probably the road for you.

Too simple? Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

Traditional

This used to be the path of “authentic” authors. But it’s a LONG and arduous path with a lot more querying and pitching than actual writing.

Here it is:

  1. Write a book
  2. Revise, edit and polish the manuscript
  3. Research agents and publishers
  4. Craft a killer query and synopsis
  5. Start emailing your query to the members of your list
  6. Attend conferences to pitch agents and editors in person

Don’t sit around and wait, my friend. You’ll grow old and might ruin your computer from repeatedly clicking the refresh button on your mail inbox.

Once you send the queries out, it’s time to begin writing something new. Authors from either path agree on this.

Self-Publishing

This used to mean your manuscript couldn’t get past the gatekeepers. Let’s be honest, we’ve read some books that weren’t publish-worthy by snagging up free reads on Amazon.

But there are plenty of books that debuted as self-published and made their way into a movie deal or a television series. I’m thinking of The Martian not 50 Shades.

The traditional path generally takes long and probably won’t net you as much of a return on a “per book sold” basis, but check out all the steps for self-publishing:

  1. Write a book
  2. Revise, edit and polish the manuscript
  3. Research editors
  4. Hire an editor
  5. Research cover designers
  6. Hire a designer
  7. Fix manuscript according to editors suggestions
  8. Hire a proofreader
  9. Deal with changes to the cover
  10. Upload the final products to your publishing platform of choice
  11. Figure out how to market the book

Yes, I could have added a step for researching and hiring a formatter because it isn’t as easy as one might think to get the book ready for publishing. But it can be done with a minimum of hair pulling and several review phases with CreateSpace.

I’ve been guilty of including my small indie publisher in it’s own realm because it doesn’t require the wait times (nor have the distribution) of the big publishing houses.

There is a third path. It’s the one I’ve been traveling for the past three years.

Hybrid

I have manuscripts I’m actively trying to sell to agents or publishers. This is me on the traditional path

I’ve contracted many stories and novellas with a small publisher, so this is probably me on the traditional path, too.

I also have a novella and two Bible study books that I published myself using CreateSpace.

Some authors have books on Amazon they’ve published, and then they sign with a big house and contract for other books that will soon be on Amazon under that publisher’s control.

Either way, that’s the hybrid path. You aren’t sold on getting published ONE way.

Although Grahl suggests giving yourself a year on a path before deserting it, I think you can walk the middle line as a hybrid author. You’re likely to discover which trail appeals to you and you’ll see your name in print rather than waiting for an acceptance letter from an agent or publisher.

Maybe it really is as easy as deciding if you want to spend your time writing (and marketing because you do that on either road) or if you want to embrace the business side of publishing while you’re writing.

What experience do you have with publishing paths? Do you have other advice that will help muddy clear up this issue?

Now available

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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.

What’s this Kindle Worlds Thing?

I’ve never been a huge fan of fan fiction. I like to come up with my own story, thanks so much. But when I was invited to write in an author’s soon-to-be-formed Kindle World, I suddenly had a different thought.

Or twelve. You know me, I rarely think about only one thing at a time. And one thought leads to another and before you know it COOKIES!

Now, back to this Kindle Worlds thing.

Amazon Gets Bigger

I first noticed Kindle Worlds when an author I like (paranormal romance) released a new book in “The Runes Universe.”

Now, I’ve also read a couple books from The Runes series, and I found them good, but a little too shallow and predictable for me. They are young adult paranormal romances, after all, and they are a huge hit with the teenage girls they’re written for.

But I haven’t been a teenage girl for a few years. (Stop rolling your eyes, Darrin!)

What Amazon has done is ask some indie authors (don’t ask me how they decide but I’m guessing it has something to do with sales) to turn their fictional worlds into a place where anyone can contribute stories. The original characters can be used by these new authors, but they should not be the major players.

Furthermore, this universe is suddenly a sandbox that only Amazon (specifically Kindle Direct Publishing) has rights to play in. If you submit a story into the universe, you relinquish rights to it forever.

Most authors just shuddered. But I’m not worried about this at all. I’ll still own the characters, and if I fall in love with them, I only have to move them to a different setting and I can write about them for eternity.

The benefits of publishing in these Kindle Worlds during a targeted release blitz:

  1. A $250 bonus (to help offset cover design and editing costs-paid AFTER publishing)
  2. Amazon’s marketing power during the release
  3. Mention in the back of other books in the release linking you to the readers of many authors

For someone who hates to market, this really called to me.

Not Really Fan Fiction

This is how dictionary.com defines fan fiction:

a fictional account written by a fan of a show, movie, book, or video game to explore themes and ideas that will not or cannot be explored via the originating medium; also written fan fiction , also called fanfic

And I have to admit, I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the series of books that is the springboard for the Kindle World I’m planning to write for. That’s the biggest reason I don’t see this as fan fiction.

After all, all that happens is I put my characters into the town of Sweet Grove, Texas. The books need to be a sweet romance and since the world is called “First Street Church Romances,”  they’re probably going to explore inspirational themes or have Christian worldviews.

All of which is what I want to do anyway.

Am I deluding myself? Will people see this as fanfic?

Weighing the Pros and Cons

As always when I’m presented with a new writing opportunity, I pulled out my notebook and began scrawling out my thoughts.

Here’s an excerpt: “These are novellas-20,000 to 40,000 words-of sweet romance with some Christian influence. This could be a way to build my brand IF I’m going to write mostly inspirational romances after this.”

And with the power of Amazon behind each launch, I’ll pick up new readers. There will be people who buy everything they see, thinking it’s going to be a series they love.

Plus the author who originally invented Sweet Grove is a marketing professional, and she intends to push all the books with her considerable platform and influence.

When 100 writers jumped in with both feet at the idea, you know it’s a good one.

My lists were incredibly short:

Pros: inspirational; wide market range; connection at Amazon; free promo from Melissa Storm

Cons: romance; edit & cover costs; another distraction from “real” writing

But why isn’t this “real” writing? I have some sort of chip on my shoulder about inspirational romances which makes no sense. For a decade or more, that is ALL that I read.

Only now, I’m back to reading mostly fantasy. Romances are too predictable to me, so I don’t enjoy reading them as much anymore.

But there are millions of people who DO enjoy reading them. And they would read the ones I wrote because Amazon would make sure they knew about them.

So, what do you think I should do? Is it worth my time and effort to publish in a Kindle World?

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 see 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.

7 Must-Ask Questions to Find Your Perfect Book Editor – Part II

 I hope you haven’t been holding your breath for a week waiting for the second part of Kristen’s post on finding the perfect editor for your book. Waiting with bated breath is good. Holding your breath for a week? Not so much.

Now here’s Kristen with the rest of the questions that will help you in your editor search.

Go for it Kristen:

Last week I shared four of seven questions every author must ask to find the perfect editor for your manuscript. The first four questions are easy, focusing on narrowing your search to editors who offer the type of editing you need, who specialize in your genre, who have experience, and who have a portfolio and testimonials for you to look over.

Now, we’re getting into the serious stuff. By the end of this, you’ll have found the editor that’s right for you.

5. What is the editor’s attitude?

Real talk: There are too many editors to settle for one that doesn’t contribute to a healthy author-editor relationship. When you make first contact with an editor, pay attention to how they communicate.

  • Do they have time to talk to you on the phone about your project?
  • Is conversation with them easy, and do you see eye-to-eye with your plans for the book?
  • When you ask about their experience, are they open and communicative?
  • Do they seem excited about your project?

The author-editor relationship is famously collaborative, meaning if you don’t feel your editor is onboard 100%, move on to the next option. Your manuscript is understandably an important project—and usually a major part of your life. It deserves the respect of an engaged, enthusiastic editor.

6. Does the editor offer sample edits?

As you narrow your search for an editor, you may find several editors that may be a good fit for your project. Getting a sample edit is often the only way to know for sure which editor is right for you. Most editors will be happy to do a sample edit of 500-1000 words on your manuscript—just ask! Once you get the sample edit back, ask yourself:

  • Did the editor’s sample edit make a difference in your novel’s excerpt?
  • Do you feel that the edited material reads better than the original?
  • Pay attention to the editor’s stylistic choices, such as using em dashes (—), semicolons (;), and italics. Do you like their style? Do you feel like it’s right for your book?

The best editor will be able to match your writing style, so all editing changes will be seamless to your original writing. The final result will be a beautifully polished book, highlighting your skills as an author. 

7. What about contracts and pricing?

Before making the final decision, pay attention to two more important elements: if the editor offers a contract or written agreement, and if the price is reasonable.

As a book editor, I require a contract with every project, which provides the details of any editing project in writing, including the payments, editing services provided, and a confidentiality agreement. At the very least, protect yourself and ask the editor to provide a written agreement prior to you submitting payment or your manuscript.

Finally, the old adage “you get what you pay for” is true when it comes to selecting a book editor. The Editorial Freelancer’s Association’s Editorial Rates Chart is the gold standard for how much editing should cost, so make sure your editor falls in the ballpark. Generally, more experienced editors will charge more, while less experienced editors will charge less. You get what you pay for.

BONUS: Editing company or freelance editor?

Your search may turn up freelance editors, or editing companies—big difference between the two. Editing companies can have five or more editors on staff, several of whom will be working on your manuscript. Although multiple eyes on a document can be a good thing, conflicting editing styles and an inability to communicate freely with your editor may turn some authors off.

Generally, freelance editors own their own companies, take on fewer projects, and are the sole editor of your manuscript, meaning you’ll be working with one person (the editor) throughout the entire process. You’ll get to speak directly with the editor you’re working with and form a personal connection with her. That personal connection I make with the author is why I will always be a freelancer. Maybe I’m just biased. 😉

When you hire an editor, you’re paying them thousands of dollars and giving them the power to improve or destroy your work. Choose wisely!

Book manuscript editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of Kristen Corrects, Inc. , which provides manuscript editing services. Working independently allows Kristen the opportunity to interact with clients and provide them personalized service. There is nothing better than communication and friendliness in a business world that is slowly becoming less focused on people. 

Kristen is included in the 2014 Guide to Self-Publishing and the 2015 Guide to Self-Publishing, both published by the prestigious Writer’s Digest. She is also part of the credible Writer’s Market, Publishers Marketplace, and Editorial Freelancers Association and plays a pivotal role as senior editor at Modern Gladiator magazine.

Reading is Kristen’s passion, so when the workday is over, she can usually be found curled up with a good book (alongside her three cats, Sophie, Charlie, and Jack). She loves pizza, cat videos, watching The Bachelor, and traveling, and is likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, Idaho.

What are your personal experiences in working with editors? What advice can you offer readers?

Cover Reveal for Virtual Match Sequel

My readers met Ronnie Shay on April 1, 2016, and they delved into her online romance with Marcus Jordan. Who knew geeks could give girls heart palpitations?

(Uh…ME. I’m married to a computer engineer. I know my handsome, hunky geek quotient.)

The biggest complaint from readers of that early story: it ended to soon.

When my publisher introduced a new line of e-book only novellas, I made some changes to Ronnie and Marcus’ story and submitted it with a new title Reality Meets its Match. My Virtual Match-sters launched the new line with grace (if not gracefulness, Marcus is a bit klutzy you know).

But the new readers weren’t any happier about the way the book ended. “We want to know more.”

“Things were just getting started with them.”

“What happens next?”

And by the time the novella released with Roane, I had drafted a sequel.

Now I’m happy to share with you the amazing cover for the next installment of Ronnie and Marcus’  romance, Reality Bites.

 

Release Date: July 24, 2017

Blurb

Ronnie wanted a Virtual Match, until she fell for the guy on the other end of the texts and emails.

After real-life dating for only a few weeks, things start to heat up. Ronnie’s crazy family gets crazier, and her therapist gives her an ultimatum.

Marcus teeters on the edge of falling in love, but when he learns Ronnie’s secret, he’s afraid of moving too fast. The idea of life without her terrifies him more than anything, but it seems like she’s closing him out. After all she’s been through (and going through), he can’t blame her.

Ronnie runs back to the safety of her career, but can her heart ever be free from what Marcus has awakened? And will he let her go?

Still haven’t read book one? Get your copy here.

Now available

At this time, I’ve got the third novella planned out but I’m not writing it until closer to the release date. AND those who sign up for my newsletter (click here if you want to do that) will get a few teasers from both the second and third books, maybe even before my publisher reads the third one.

If you would like to sign up to help me get the word out about this new book, please click this button.

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7 Must-Ask Questions to Find Your Perfect Book Editor – Part I

Today’s post is written by my friend, a book editor, Kristen Hamilton.  She’s going to enlighten us on how to find a perfect editor for our book.

Here’s Kristen…

Imagine this: You’ve finished writing and self-editing your manuscript and are ready to hire an editor. You type in manuscript editor on Google and are overwhelmed by the results—over 95 million. You e-mail several book editors, not really knowing what you’re looking for, and choose one at random, possibly the cheapest one or the one who has the best looking website. Then, after spending thousands of dollars, you’re unhappy with your book and, discouraged and disenchanted, you shelve your book and never publish it.

Just as the market is saturated with books, it’s also saturated with book editors—some good, some not so good. Although every editor has something positive to bring to an author-editor relationship, some editors will undoubtedly be a better fit for your manuscript.

How do you find the right book editor for your manuscript? You just need to ask yourself the right questions.

1. What type of editor are you looking for?

Are you happy with your book’s overall structure? Do you feel like something’s missing in the storyline? Do the sentences have good rhythm and flow? Most books require three distinct stages of editing:

  • Substantive or developmental editing focuses on the big picture of your novel: addressing character development, pacing, plot holes, and loose ends.
  • Line editing looks for improving sentence structure, readability and flow, consistency and clarity, and logic and sense of scenes.
  • Proofreading is the last check for surface errors including spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choice, and syntax.

Some editors only provide one or two of these services, while others are specialized in all three. Of course, each editing service will be a separate pass through your manuscript. The more times your editor goes over your manuscript, the more errors that will be caught. A good editor will be able to guide you to choose which editing services are right for your book.

2. Does the editor specialize in your genre?

Once you find a competent developmental editor, line editor, and/or proofreader, narrow down the results a bit more by genre.

Most editors specialize in a specific genre. Cookbooks, crime thrillers, general fiction, or memoirs are all highly different types of books, and need different elements to succeed. Naturally, the more experience the editor has with that specific genre and type of editing, the better hands your book is in. And while there are no guarantees that your perfect editor will transform your book into a bestseller, an adequate and competent editor will certainly improve your manuscript.

3. What is the editor’s experience?

Once you’ve narrowed the pool of editors to a select few who offer the type of editing you need, check that the editor is qualified with a degree in English, writing, or a related field. While years of on-the-job experience will help hone an editor’s skills, nothing can replace the specialized learning that comes with earning a degree in the field. Any qualified editor will also be a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, and you can search the database of editors here.

Unfortunately, uninformed authors can easily choose a really, really terrible editor. Beware of editors who don’t have a lot of experience, who have extremely low prices, or who are just plain…sketchy. There have been countless times I’ve accepted a new client who was burned by their previous “editor,” where the editor took their money, did minimal edits, and left a very dissatisfied author and an incomplete manuscript. Yikes.

4. Does the editor have a portfolio and testimonials?

This one’s easy. Check out the editor’s portfolio and testimonials from previous clients—a reputable editor will have these clearly listed on their website.

Take it a step further and read reviews on the books they have edited. If there are complaints of misspelled words, poor editing, or a confusing storyline, move on to the next editor. Your book is too important to put it in the hands of a sloppy editor. If possible, ask to contact an editor’s previous clients. Were they happy with the editor’s work? Would they hire them again? Previous clients’ testimonials are one of the best ways to vet your future editor.

This is just scratching the surface of what you need to do to find the perfect book editor for your manuscript. Check back next Thursday, where the final three questions will be addressed, helping you to find the perfect editor for your book.

Book manuscript editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of Kristen Corrects, Inc. , which provides manuscript editing services. Working independently allows Kristen the opportunity to interact with clients and provide them personalized service. There is nothing better than communication and friendliness in a business world that is slowly becoming less focused on people.

 Kristen is included in the 2014 Guide to Self-Publishing and the 2015 Guide to Self-Publishing, both published by the prestigious Writer’s Digest. She is also part of the credible Writer’s Market, Publishers Marketplace, and Editorial Freelancers Association and plays a pivotal role as senior editor at Modern Gladiator magazine.

Reading is Kristen’s passion, so when the workday is over, she can usually be found curled up with a good book (alongside her three cats, Sophie, Charlie, and Jack). She loves pizza, cat videos, watching The Bachelor, and traveling, and is likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, Idaho.

What questions do you have about finding an editor?

Reflections from a Lifetime Friendship

Friendship comes easily for some people. Other people need to tangle with a metal hurdle and eat cinder from the track to find a true friend.
You guessed it. I’m the second kind.
In fact, ramming my right knee into a hurdle in eighth grade is exactly how I met my long-time friend. Believe it or not, our junior high (now a middle school) still has that red cinder track.
And my right knee really bugged me recently, after a five-hour stint in the car and our five-mile hike up Icicle Ridge.
It’s safe to say I don’t take friendship lightly, and I try to value each person who calls me a friend.
And I think the list is pretty short.
And not just because writer’s don’t get out much. Besides being an introvert (which doesn’t mean I’m shy or don’t talk much), I don’t share my heart with many people.
Well, except portions of my heart are available to anyone who reads my stories and books.
It’s funny how I try to be transparent in my writing, but I don’t bare my heart and soul to many people in face-to-face relationships.
Some people call everyone a friend, and while I try to be friendly to everyone, I have only a handful of close friends.


In my mind, these are rare people who can accept my flawed, opinionated self at face-value and aren’t trying to change me into something more acceptable. Not that all of them think I couldn’t change for the better, but their affection isn’t tied to those invisible standards to which I don’t measure up.
Here are some things I’ve learned about friendship from the tall girl who had to walk me in to the locker room on that long ago day at track practice:

  1. No one’s perfect, but anyone can pretend to be. When people only like you or want to spend time with you because you act a certain way (dress a certain way, work in a certain profession, earn a certain amount of money…and the list goes to infinity and beyond), they probably aren’t showing you their true heart and they don’t want to share yours.
  2. Time and distance never diminish authentic feelings. Some people can go years without seeing each other, and when they’re together they pick up as if no time passed. And they experience the same joy and connection as if they’d been together the entire time.
  3. Laughter only has value where tears do. Laughter’s the best medicine. A laugh a day keeps you healthy and young. As far as the benefits of laughter, they can’t be underestimated, but what makes a true friend unique is that they value tearful moments as highly as mirthful ones.
  4. Advice is given freely without any strings. Some people want you to tell them what to do, and when they give advice they expect you to follow it or “they’re done.” That’s not friendship. Friendship is 50 percent ears to hear, 40 percent heart to love and 9 percent eyes to see with only one measly percent mouth to spout advice.
  5. Listening goes both ways. Everyone knows people who talk and talk and talk. And when you talk, they aren’t listening but planning what they’re going to say next. A friend isn’t all about talking out their issues. They’re eager to hear what’s on their friend’s mind almost more than they’re waiting to finally share their burden with someone.
  6. Communication happens silently. “We looked at each other and burst out laughing.” Have you ever experienced it? Yes, if you knew the other person well enough to understand you were thinking the same thing at that moment.
  7. Time spent with them is a great investment. We’ve all spent a day with someone and felt emotionally and physically exhausted afterward. Time with a true friend energizes our soul and strengthens our emotions, even if we do things (like stay up all night talking) that sap our bodies of energy.
  8. Acceptance is the currency of friendship. Even when you disagree with beliefs or choices, it doesn’t lessen the emotional bond. Two can walk together even if they disagree when they accept that being right isn’t as important and being loved.

What are the characteristics of your longest, most meaningful friendship? What did I leave off my list?
If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Reality Meets its Match and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

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

Experience Bavaria in Leavenworth Washington

If you’ve never traveled to Bavaria (a region in Germany in case you checked your map app and nothing showed up), you might not have to travel overseas to do it. There’s a quaint village in the Cascade Mountains called Leavenworth, WA, that promises you a sample.


I might have visited Leavenworth first, but I’ve also traveled to authentic Bavarian mountain villages. The similarity is striking. If you’re a resident of the Pacific Northwest and have never made the trip over the mountains to Leavenworth, please reconsider. It’s the closest thing to Germany on the West Coast.
It’s All About the Setting
Several mountain passes provide access to the Bavaria-of-the-Cascades (no idea if that’s a real moniker, but I like the sound of it). I drove through Blewetr Pass via I-90. Highway 2 takes you through the center of the village.
As you descend out of the mountains, the road flattens into a narrow valley. The Wenatchee River wends its way through, wide and sluggish from the spring rains. Fruit orchards and shuttered fruit stands pepper the sides of the road.
Then you drive around a curve and blue mountains rise up in front of you. My friend says they look that color because of the blue spruce trees. All I know is that the Cascades where I’m from are green or gray, never blue.


In the early spring, it’s a vista of blue with white peaks. My breath caught in my throat. I was here in the fall before and there hadn’t been snowy jags like this.
A grin tugs my lips and I forget the ache in my rear from sitting in the car for five hours. On the right, there’s a Safeway that looks nothing like any other Safeway in my experience. It’s painted with mountain scenes on its stucco-like sides. It’s roofline mimics the A-frame architecture of an Alpine village.
Every building that lines the highway takes its structural cue from the same guidebook.
I’m reminded how amazed I felt when we visited a mountain village in Bavaria and realized I’d seen buildings painted with murals and windows framed by dark wood shutters. Here. In Leavenworth.
And There’s Shopping
You could make the drive to Leavenworth just to appreciate the beauty. And it would be worth it. Because, believe me, it’s not on the way to anywhere. You’ll have to decide to visit.
However, if you’re there, you might as well park the car and stroll through the blocks of shops that nestle between the highway and the Wenatchee River.


The assortment is unique to this place with artisans alongside Cheesemongers and gift shops beside pubs and restaurants. Live music is featured in many of the eateries, and it’s supplied by a man in Swiss attire pressing out tunes on an accordion at King Ludwig’s.
I’ve never sampled Swiss chocolates (because I haven’t been to Switzerland), but the stuff handmade in the SChocolat shop in Leavenworth are melt-in-the-mouth delicacies. Without the waxy texture of most American-made chocolates, which is similar to the authentic Belgian chocolates I’ve eaten.
There’s a Danish bakery (the pralinas and cherry streusel are scrumptious) and a nutcracker shop. A photo gallery, metal artisan shop and a Christmas store called Kringle’s. On further exploration, you’ll discover a comic book shop, tea shop, smoke shop and a peddler of knives.
Perhaps it sounds like the same-old stuff to you.
The buildings painted to resemble a variety of Alpine structures and the cobbled streets beneath your feet might change your mind. If not, perhaps the horse-drawn carriage or the gazebo lit with a million white twinkling lights.
Still unconvinced? Turn your eyes upward and gasp at the blue and white mountains standing sentinel, close enough to touch it seems.
These Might not be The Alps
Okay, it’s an Alpine village look-alike. There’s a Bavarian feel to the majority of the commercial buildings in the shopping district.

Image from wildwater-river

But the elevation isn’t even a mile above sea level. Most of the spiking peaks rise a mere 2,000 feet more. In the shadow of the mighty Rockies, this is nothing.
                                            Take a hike, my friend.
Trails for inexperienced and advanced hikers surround and abound. Let the wind sing through the pines and the nip of winter tingle across your cheekbones. Inhale the freshness of the wilderness.
You need to spend at least five hours in nature per month to reap the mental health benefits it provides. Why not let the Wenatchee National Forest be your therapist?
Have you traveled to Leavenworth? An actual Alpine village? What was your reaction? What distinctive sights have I neglected to mention?
If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Reality Meets its Match and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

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

Four Things that Keep me Awake at Night

I fall asleep easily when I first go to bed. Most nights, I can drop back into slumber after urgency wakes me for a trip across the tile floor to the bathroom. And it’s really not accurate to suggest things keep me awake.
To clarify: once I wake up, there are a number of things that prevent me from returning to the land of dreams.
Usually, I’ll start praying and that will tip me over the edge. I’m pretty sure God isn’t impressed that I fall asleep during so many of our conversations, but thankfully his mercy is great.


On the night in question, that didn’t work.
Snoring
Not mine. My husband’s.
Tonight, it only took two elbows and two adjustments of his position for the ear-grating noise to cease. Hallelujah!
Too bad that wasn’t the only enemy to my night of restful slumber.
Cats
I adore cats. In my mind, there is no such thing as “too many cats.”
Of course, I’ve never had more than three cats at one time, so perhaps it’s my lack of experience talking here.
Because one cat can be too many in the middle of the night when my body craves rest but my brain refuses to shut down.
One cat was resolutely positioned between me and hubby. Fine. Except when the other cat decided to walk over her to get to me.
Because there isn’t an entire mattress.
Purring soothes me and sometimes I can concentrate on the vibrations and that lulls me into sleep. But not if the cat in question has gas. Or is beating me with his tail.
Or must circle incessantly to find the best position, which always has to be much less comfortable for me than him. And this is nonsensical since we’ve all seen the memes of cats sleeping in the craziest contortions imaginable.
Thinking too Much
This one is sometimes related to the last think keeping me awake tonight.
Or it could be thoughts about:

  • What I need to do tomorrow
  • A story idea
  • A problem with a manuscript
  • Lists I need to make
  • Another story idea
  • Crochet projects and what colors of yarn I need to buy (see this post for more info)
  • Wondering if I’ll get called to substitute teach in a few hours
  • Mapping out my menu for the week
  • Outlining the next writing project (all of which will be forgotten in the light of day)
  • Testing out blurbs or loglines for a current manuscript


I would go on, but I’m pretty sure the list has already put 95 percent of the people reading it into a peaceful dream state.
                                                                             You’re welcome.
Replaying my own Stupidity
This is the reel that pushed me out of bed tonight (which is not the time you’re reading these words but it is the time I wrote them around 3:28am on a Tuesday).
How have I become so dependent on a navigation system? Not that I’ve ever been good with directions, mind you, but why can’t I follow road signs?
Did I really let the fact my phone wouldn’t sync with my car’s Bluetooth distract me from finding my way along the highway?
(Yes, these things are related. They are things that made me upset when I was traveling home from my most recent girls’ weekend.)
You call yourself smart and independent but you can’t even follow simple directions.
You should appreciate people who pump your gas more than you do.
Because I nearly ran out of gas on this same trip because “I just want to get somewhere that I don’t have to pump my own gas.” I know that most of the people reading this are thinking I’m insane. Everyone in the country knows how to pump their own gas. They do it every week when they need to refuel.
Except I don’t have to do it because I live in Oregon. And I’m happy not to do it.
The last time I pumped my gas, I had to remove a gas cap. Apparently, cars don’t have those these days.
And you really have to push the nozzle with force to get it inserted past the gatekeeper on this type of gas tank. Which is probably every gas tank on newer vehicles, but since I don’t pump gas, I’m ignorant of these things.
And I hate to say it, voluntarily in the dark, because I don’t think about how to pump gas.
But I had to call my husband when I cashed in my pride and pulled up to a gas station in Kelso, WA, to avoid the shame of running out of gas (which I have never done).
Wow! Is anyone else so prideful they nearly run out of gas? So spoiled they throw a tantrum when a gas tank looks like an object from a science fiction movie?
Needless to say, none of these things helped me regain my sleepy state of mind. Until I poured them onto the page, stifled a yawn and padded back to my Sleep Number 55 mattress.
What keeps you awake at night? Do you have any tactics for getting back to sleep?
If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Reality Meets its Match and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

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

A Weekend with the Girls

Life speeds ahead and important elements like friendship might become little more than casualties along this racetrack. This is one of the reasons I have made a weekend with my best friend from high school a priority in my schedule.
If you’re a man, you might be able to relate if you go hunting with your friends. Or maybe you have tickets to a sporting event and share dinner before (or after) with a testosterone-heavy group. Good for you. Friendships enrich our lives.
And no, a girls-only getaway doesn’t me pillow fights in pajamas (regardless of what my husband likes to think). But it does involve the heart-to-heart talks that may have been left behind with those teenage slumber parties.


Many years ago, my best friend from high school and I began this tradition. Although we haven’t maintained an annual reunion since the inception, we’ve been faithful to it for the past three years.
City Escape
Two times we’ve traded our small-town existence for the big city. After all, spending time with friends isn’t about secluding ourselves from the world.
Our wide world begs us to experience its many faces. How better to see the bright lights and high rise shadows than with a friend?
We’ve visited San Francisco and Seattle. A trip to Sin City is brewing.
These destinations offer unique opportunities. Walking along Fisherman’s Wharf to the sound of barking sea lions? Sure and don’t forget the wax museum and Ghiradelli factory. If you’ve never been offered drugs at the entrance to Golden Gate Park, have you really lived?
Fish tossing at Pikes Place Market? We saw it. And sampled fresh-roasted coffee and nuts while perusing wares from dozens of artisans. When we wanted to be grossed out, we toured down Post Alley to the gum wall.


These are shared memories that fuel the midnight conversations in years to come.
Mountain Escape
One of our earliest weekends was at a condo near Mount Hood. It rained to greet our arrival, so we watched movies and snacked on popcorn.
While the clouds camped on the highest peak in Oregon, the sun shone on one trail that wove through evergreens to a small lake. There the mountain was reflected in all its glory.
This year, we took a longer drive to Leavenworth, Washington. We hiked two-and-a-half miles up the side of Icicle Ridge to enjoy amazing views of the river rushing through a rocky gorge on one side and calming to lap gently at several parks on the other.

Yes, that’s the river gorge nearly 2,000 feet below us

This little town offered plenty of other sights, too, with much more panache than the sleepy mountain towns of Rhododendron and Zig Zag (look them up if you don’t believe me).
Worth the Drive
While we flew to California, most years we hop in our respective vehicles and drive to the rendezvous point. The older I get, the more my body groans at being trapped behind the wheel for hours on end.
                                                            Yes, I’m not much for road trips.
But to spend a weekend laughing, sharing, crying and living with my girlfriends, I’ll suffer the butt-ache and stiff knees (all of which faded after the long hike anyway because my feet screamed much louder).
Even if we lived much closer, I think my friends and I would still like to “get away from it all” together. It’s therapeutic to bare our souls and drain our stress.
Sunday comes before we’re ready. There are hugs and goodbyes and then the promise of the future.
“See you same time next year.”
And it’s a date.
If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Reality Meets its Match and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

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