What I’m Writing these Days

If you follow me on Facebook, you get a monthly update of my writing projects. If you don’t, you’re going to get one now.
I’m an author so I write. I wish I could say that I only write things I LOVE and am jazzed to sit behind my laptop day-in and day-out pounding away on my wireless keyboard (which is missing seven letters and throws me off when I look at it to type).
I write blurbs and other marketing copy. When I’m selling or pitching a book to agents and editors, I pen query letters, outlines and synopsis (*cringes typing the word*).
What I write most often: blog posts.
You know, like this one.
Sometimes I even have interesting content or “high concept” ideas. Most of the time I feel like I’m shooting a post into the dark abyss of virtual space…hitting nothing, reaching no one.
So if there’s something you wish I would blog about, please complete the contact form here on the site…or leave a comment on this post.
My love is fiction and especially fantasy. Unfortunately, the market for that is rather soft and in order to “sell” a manuscript now and again, I write romance.

But I’m usually working on multiple projects at one time.

Fiction Projects

Unfortunately, there is no fantasy writing on my horizon. Even though I have an amazing dragon-covered Write Mind planner waiting for the magic of a new world with quests and magicians, I don’t know when I’ll get to write fantasy again.

I need to focus on writing things that sell.

At the moment, I have two projects that I’m guaranteed to sell.
The first is a short story (really more of a novelette) for the ONE SULTRY AFTERNOON anthology my publisher is planning for the summer of 2018.
Here’s a quick summation:

Ivory is in Leavenworth to earn money for her college education by guiding rafts on the river. Her boyfriend graduated and headed to the East coast without a backward glance, so Ivory isn’t looking for romance. Not even a sumer fling.
Prescott survived leukemia as a child only to become touch sensitive as a teenager. When he dropped out of college to pursue his painting, his photographer uncle opened his home in Leavenworth, in exchange for help manning the gallery and gift shop. The rugged beauty of the Alpine village of Washington inspires his creativity.
When they run into each other on a hiking trail, all their plans derail. But love is always a choice, and unless Prescott can overcome his fear of living he’ll never convince Ivory to choose him.

The second project is a novella for a 2018 release in the First Street Church Kindle World of Sweet Grove, Texas. While writing my debut in this world (coming November 15), I stumbled upon a minor character who’s about to run headlong into LOVE’S LITTLE SECRET.
Read on for the brief overview:

Norma Wells works at Sweet Grove High to nurture students, always aware of her own barrenness. She doesn’t understand why God didn’t grant the desires of her heart. At her Silver Anniversary party, she learns the reason her husband had no desire to pursue fertility specialists.
Herman Wells doesn’t deny that the Hispanic boy who crashes the Silver Anniversary party is his son. When he’d been the District Manager, he’d spent half of every month in New Mexico where he’d rescued Osaria and fallen in love with her. Or at least the idea that she needed him while his wife seemed content to build a life without him.
When Herman’s secret rocks their world, Norma has to decide if she can forgive her husband and welcome his now-motherless son. Herman wishes dealing with this fallout was the worst of his problems because when the pink slip comes, everything he build his life around tumbles around his ears.
An unlikely matchmaker seeks to reignite the love that life’s hardships snuffed out. Will Norma’s wish for motherhood come too late? Can Herman discover the most important truth before he loses everything?

Both of these are rough sketches, but hopefully they give you an idea.
I’m also working on edits for:

  • Love’s Late Arrival (due to release on November 15, 2017)
  • Reality Ever After (due to release on January 22, 2018)

My plan is to draft another two novellas in Sweet Grove for National Novel Writing Month OR to write the sequel novel to the women’s fiction novel I need to flesh out before trying to market it again.
What to write? What to write?

Nonfiction Projects

In my original business plan, my goal was to write two Bible study books each year. Unfortunately, that has never happened.
At the moment, I have four or five scattered ideas for studies but nothing concrete enough to begin working on. So it looks like there won’t be a new study in 2017.
The other nonfiction project I’m working on is the Christian living book about struggling through the aftermath of grief. I’ve been writing vignettes and Bible expository segments since 2015.


After meeting with a memoirist and getting feedback from two agents, I’ve got fresh ideas for how to approach this book. Now to be in the right state of mind to work on it.
What do I mean?
This project is an emotional vampire. I can never write more than one section on a given day. And it might drain me so I can’t touch the project again for a week.
But it’s the project I know God wants me to write, so I will do it. But it isn’t a project I can force myself to work on, so I have to pray and trust that He will guide me through it.
Eventually, I’ll market this book to Christian agents and publishers, but I’ll give myself a deadline for acceptance. If I don’t get it, then I’ll indie publish it.
But that is a LONG way off. Probably somewhere in my three-year plan.

A Three-Year Plan

In the coaching session of the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference, Susan May Warren challenged her students to do the math and figure out how many novels, novellas, short stories, whatever they could write in a year.
When I’m on a roll, writing 1,000 words an hour is pretty common. Which means I can crank out 5,000 words in my five-hour writing day.
When we’re talking about the short fiction I’m writing for my publisher’s summer anthology, that means I can draft the story in a week. Those novellas I’m writing for the Kindle World? It will take five or six days to pen those first drafts.
You do the math. How many novellas could I write in a year at this rate?
Except for drafting them is the easy part.
According to Warren, I need to plan an equal amount of time for rewriting, revising, editing and polishing. (So the 25,000 word novella will take 10 to 12 days to be ready for beta readers.)
Still, if I focused on writing only short fiction, I could realistically churn a novella out each month (as long as my editor and cover designer could match my pace).
Whew!
If people purchased these, and I was an indie author earning 70 percent of the sale price, I could make some money. Maybe even support myself solely by writing.
Of course, that’s a big IF.

And rather than dream about this possible paycheck, I’d better get back to writing.

What would you like me to blog about? What genre would you like me to write in? What advice or encouragement do you have for this bumbling author?

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.

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.

Say “No Fear” to Rejection

Rejection. No one likes it. But dislike isn’t the same as fear. Let an author school you in how to say “No Fear” to rejection.

The road to a published book is paved with rejection letters.

Nowadays, make those rejection emails.

“I enjoyed reading your story…but the team has decided not to move forward with your novel.”
“We appreciate the chance to read your work, but unfortunately, the work is not a fit for our list at the moment.”
“Best of luck finding the right publisher for this work.”
“We’re going to pass, but we wish you the best of luck on your publishing journey.”

These are all taken from rejection letters I have received within the past ten months. There are more, but after reading one, they all ring with the same tone.

In the early days, I cried whenever I read a rejection. Maybe I stuffed myself with dark chocolate. Or perhaps curling in the fetal position with the covers over my head soothed my battered heart.

                                                      What I didn’t do was stop writing.

Not since deciding to “do this writing thing” for real.

I’ll admit that the beginning of this year, I was battered by all the rejection. It seemed like every open door slammed in my face.

Maybe I should stick with writing short stories and novellas. Perhaps I didn’t have the skill to craft a novel that would engage readers from the first line to the last.

Doubt wormed it’s way into every writing session.

Why am I even doing this?

And that was the right question.

Be dauntless, my friend. When the doubts seep in after rejection pulverizes you, seek your personal motivation.

Why do I write?

Because I can’t stop writing. I was born to do it. I’ve been making up stories since I learned to read and write.

“You don’t have to publish everything you write,” a published author friend of mine told me. “Some stories are lessons.”

True, but do the published authors of the world still need those lessons? Can they spend months on a project and then throw it aside?
I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to write only those stories which will find a home in readers’ hearts.

   So post them on your blog.

I rejected the inner voice without a second thought.

Maybe I should have listened. All those months hammering out the GATES OF ASTRYA series only to have four manuscripts hanging out on my hard drive. More months creating a rocky world of dragons, and DRAGONS AWAKENING isn’t fit to circulate in the world of readers, if rejection letters are any indicator.

Be dauntless. Why did I ever choose that word?

Because fear wants to defeat me. It hopes to silence the storyteller, keep the truths my characters discover from shining into the world.

Sorry, Fear. As this quote says, writers persist. Rejection makes us stronger.

In the spirit of sharing emails from publishers. Here’s one I got recently from my friends at Roane Publishing.
“Thanks for sending along the 2nd installment in your series so quickly. Roane Publishing would be pleased to offer a contract to publish it. Congratulations!”

Who wouldn’t prefer this sort of email about their creative endeavors?

If I had given up on this “whole writing thing” when I read the first hundred rejection letters, I wouldn’t have ever made it to the point where I would here the golden words “we want to offer you a contract.”

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 Finding Focus 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.

THE CRIMSON CURSE’s Creator Speaks (And a Sneak Peek inside the story)

Today, I’m thrilled to have my friend and Pen Sister, Melissa Crispin as a guest.

We’re celebrating our co-authorship in Roane Publishing’s Novella Niblets line. Melissa’s retelling of Beauty and the Beast is the second story to be released in this new, digital-only collection.

MelissaJCrispin-AuthorPic
Author Melissa J. Crispin

Melissa: Hi Sharon, Before we get started, I just wanted to say thank you for having me on your blog today!

ME: Beauty and the Beast is my  all-time favorite Disney movie. What version of the story inspired The Crimson Curse?

Melissa: Beauty and the Beast is my all-time favorite Disney movie, too!

ME: *SQUEE* We’re practically twins. *collects herself*

Melissa: I CANNOT WAIT for the live action movie to be released in March of this year. I’ve been stalking all the trailers.

When I thought about the original story, I wondered what it would be like if the roles were reversed, and if the woman were the beast instead of the man. I worked my way backwards from that notion, considering how she could’ve ended up cursed, and what it would take for her to break free from it. There is still a strong emphasis on a woman’s physical beauty even in this day and age. As cheesy as it sounds, I really do believe true beauty comes from within and it doesn’t hurt to remind the world of that from time to time. If that makes me seem like a total sap, then so be it.

ME: Nope. The more technology advances, the more we become obsessed with visual images. And true love is more than skin deep, which is one of the reasons I LOVE  the story Beauty and the Beast.
I was going to ask what your favorite Disney movie was, but since you’ve already copied my answer *sticks out tongue* what is your second favorite Disney movie? Have you ever considered doing a retelling of it?

Melissa: My second favorite would be Cars. My son absolutely loved this movie when he was little and I watched it countless times. In fact, I could probably recite a bunch of the scenes verbatim. I love watching Lightning McQueen’s struggle to figure out what happiness means to him. Also, I love the slow realization that success has different definitions as well.

I think it would be very difficult to do a retelling, but I definitely have other stories that revolve around this theme.

Thanks for giving us a “glimpse behind the author curtain.”

Crimson Curse

And because I have an inside track with Melissa, she’s agreed to give us a sneak peek inside the lovely cover of The Crimson Curse.

You’ll only read this  segment of  The Crimson Curse right here (unless you purchase the novella, links below).

Here’s an exclusive excerpt from The Crimson Curse:

Calliope may not have been able to leave the estate, but at that exact point in time, with her heart feeling so full, she couldn’t think of anywhere else she’d rather be. “What are you making?” she asked.
“Cookies.” Yareena turned, flashing a toothy grin. Flour dusted the little girl’s nose and clothing. “Mrs. Widdleworth is teaching me how to bake.”
“I most certainly am, and this child is a natural.”
Calliope approached and gestured at their preparation area. “May I?”
Mrs. Widdleworth drew back. “But, you’re the lady of the house.”
“So? When has that ever mattered? Yareena is a guest, yet here she is. You’re having such a wonderful time. I’d like to help.” She wiggled between Yareena and Mrs. Widdleworth, giving them each a light hip bump to make room for herself. She reached for the bowl filled with the prepared dough.
“Don’t you know three’s a crowd?” Bastian’s deep, baritone voice came from the kitchen’s doorway.
Calliope turned. “Excuse me?”
“I just think you should let the girls enjoy themselves.” He held a straight face, but the corner of his mouth twitched.
She raised an eyebrow. “Is that so? And what about me? Am I not allowed to partake in any fun?”
He leaned against the doorjamb and crossed his arms. “I thought you might like to take a walk instead?” A sly grin pulled at his lips, suggesting a different kind of enjoyment.
Calliope’s cheeks flushed.
Mrs. Widdleworth’s jaw slackened at the same time she dropped her spoon, causing it to clang on the countertop. “It’s a beautiful day outside.” Her eyes pleaded with Calliope to go as if the woman feared she would turn him down.
“All right,” Calliope said, “but I’m not convinced your company will be as entertaining as theirs.”
“We’ll see about that.” Bastian’s eyes met hers, filled with wicked suggestion, causing a tingle to travel down her spine. He held his arm out for her and she took it, allowing him to lead her out of the kitchen, and through the front door.
After walking a fair distance from the house, Calliope’s teeth chattered. The harsh winter weather had faded, but not enough to be outdoors without a coat.
They stopped, and Bastian faced her. His mouth quirked as if he was holding back a laugh. “I’m guilty of poor planning. Should we go back indoors before we turn into icicles?” The deep rumble of his chuckle warmed her insides.
“That might be wise,” she said, even though she would be more than willing to endure the cold in exchange for his company.
“Perhaps, but I should warn you, I may not be so wise when it comes to you.” He stepped forward and circled his arms around her waist, pulling her body against his.
His lips met hers, their tongues swirling in a delicate dance. All thoughts of the weather dissipated. She welcomed the feel of his body and the wave of desire that followed. Her fingers traced the angle of his jaw and caressed the back of his neck.
After a long while, he drew back and framed her face with his hands, taking care not to disturb her golden mask.
Her hands dropped to his shoulders. “You’re shaking.”
He leaned in until their foreheads touched. “You have that effect on me.”

Buy your copy now:

Roane’s Store (you can find the link to your favorite retailer here)

Giveaway

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a $25 Roane Publishing Gift Card, Bracelet with charm from Sweet Inspiration, Hot cocoa mixes and mug from The Crimson Curse

GIVEAWAY!

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I Want to be a Libriomancer

Books are magical. Reading transports you to a different place and time and introduces you to more people than you could ever hope to meet. That’s why I want to be a libriomancer.
You might be scratching your head, wondering what I’m talking about. If you’re a geek who knows some Latin, you might realize this has something to do with books and magic.

If you’re a fan of the Magic Ex Libris Series by Jim C. Hines, you know exactly what I’m talking about. (Still not sure, read my review of his earlier books in the series).

What is a Libriomancer?

Libriomancer-FullA libriomancer is a person who can draw magic from books.

I know, I think I’ve been one by that definition for most of my life. And I know C. S. Lewis was one because he transported me to Narnia via book dozens of times.

In Hines’ world, a libriomancer can access the magic inside a book to draw objects from the book.

You’d like an Invisibility Cloak? A libriomancer could grab one out of Harry Potter’s closet (if only those Harry Potter books weren’t locked. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read Libriomancer, book one of the series).

The “librarian” who is the hero of the series is pulling Lucy’s bottle of healing potion out of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in every installment. Fighting evil is a dangerous business. Best to be prepared for the worst.

                                              How does this work?

People read books. The more people who read the book and suspend their disbelief to embrace the story, the more magic potential that waits inside a book.

There are limits. The object has to be small enough that it would fit through the covers of the book. I suggest huge hardbacks for working these spells, so you can make certain Excalibur makes it out of King Arthur’s hand intact.

The magician has an innate sense of magic. They must be able to fully picture the object they want to pull from the book in their mind. Small imaginations need not apply.

Why I Want to be One

I fit all the qualifications for libriomancy.

  • I read books.
  • I have a great imagination.
  • I can recall scenes with vivid detail that’s just crazy considering how many books I’ve read.
  • I have a desire to be innately connected to a magical continuum.

In fact, since I’ve been claiming books are magic portals for years, I should be at the front of the line for receiving the gift of libriomancy.
Also, I’m conscientious. I wouldn’t abuse my power.
What other qualities do I need?

Book-ReviewA Review of Revisionary

Recently, I joined a Facebook book club (more on that later—maybe). One of the founding authors for the group asked what the best book we’d read this year would be.

Revisionary by Jim C. Hines was at the top of my list.
Revisionary-199x300
Even though I didn’t give it five shiny stars (I found a few things a mite of a stretch), it was the book I wanted to read the most that didn’t disappoint me.

I love Isaac Vainio, and I was wondering how things were working out for him since the wider world discovered the existence of magic and magical creatures at the end of book three.

As you can imagine, governments are trying to regulate magic while also exploiting it for their own purposes.

Magical creatures are starting to unite against humans. Humans fear them, so they want them crowded onto reservations and registered like firearms. Since they aren’t human, they don’t have protection under the U.S. Constitution.

The political finagling in this book rivals spy novels.

And we know how much Isaac adores jumping through hoops and cutting through red tape.

Lots of action in this book to keep you turning pages. Plenty of clues and twists keep you guessing to the end whose the mastermind behind the plot behind the plot of the plotters.

Readers of fantasy will love this book. Yes, there is some foul language. However, other adult themes are kept to a minimum.

The Surprise

The most startling thing to me about reading this fourth book in this contemporary fantasy series was learned when I read the acknowledgements.

Most of the time I skim these things. I know! As an author, I should read them. I understand how it takes a village to get a book from the idea stage to a library shelf.

Still, I don’t know most of the people mentioned.

I also don’t know much of anything about most of my favorite authors. I’ve never been one of those people who joins fan clubs and follows every media account of a celebrity. Even one I like.

Color me shocked when I discovered Mr. Hines was not a full-time author.

Excuse me? He’s writing these amazing books at a rate of once per year or so and that’s not his JOB?

Well, it wasn’t his job. With four books in a successful series, Mr. Hines has now donned the cape of insanity. He joins the rest of us spending his days holed up in an office with imaginary friends.

I’m thrilled. I hope that means there will be more books in this series I dearly love.

And if he could grant me the power of libriomancy…all the better.

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 Finding Focus 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. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Putting Yourself Out There

One of the hardest things about being an author is putting myself out there. It goes against every self-protective gene in my body. Not to mention coughing up a big loogey on my mother’s manners curriculum.

Today, I’m over on a fellow author’s blog. She’s someone I admire. I have fan-girled over her books on this blog.

I love the colors of this cover
I love the colors of this cover

Because of that, she’s asked me to read the next book in her young adult science fiction series and it’s a pulse-pounder. I’ve also been privy to a book she’s begun marketing that’s written for adults.

I’m happy to give her partial credit for my acceptance in the anthology she’s helping me promote today. She read the first chapter and shredded it.

When I sent her the rewritten scene, she praised it. Talk about making a writer feel pretty good.

“An amazing author in this genre thinks this is great.” *dancing around the room*

But I’m getting off the topic. There’s two ways that putting myself out there is most difficult.

Putting Stories from my Heart in Harm’s Way

Some of the stories I write are turned out in days for a specific reason. Although there is an element of “me” in them, my heart isn’t fully vested.

A novel that has taken months to write, rewrite, revise and edit? There’s a huge investment of my heart, soul and mind on those pages.

And then the agent rejects them.

The publisher criticizes the story line.

Readers rip on the characters in a review.

Or worse…people read it and then *crickets*

And I don’t want to ask, “What did you think of my book?”

Because if they aren’t bubbling over about it, the words that will answer that inquiry will wound me. Even if they’re spoken kindly.

Bragging about my Books so People Buy Them

Isn't she lovely? And on sale until the end of the year.
Isn’t she lovely? And on sale until the end of the year.

Okay, I don’t think I really ever brag about my books.

But I do post links on social media so people can buy them. I run ads. I carry boxes in my car.

I’m eager to make a sale.

And not for the money.

But so I can return to the position mentioned under number one. Because I want my story to burrow into the hearts and minds of readers.

If I had a dozen real fans (meaning they aren’t related to me and probably have never met me in person), I would hyperventilate. A dozen?

That’s how pathetic I am. Because all the big indie book marketers know you need 1000 readers to have a “successful” book.

And your inner circle of dedicated fans should be at least 100 so they will make your next book release amazing. After all, hitting high rankings on Amazon is what it’s all about, right?

Wrong.

And that’s why putting myself out there still feels like walking naked on the stage at high school graduation (not that I KNOW how that feels).

Cold. Embarrassing. Terrifying.

So, if you can give Jennifer a little love today by clicking through and leaving a comment on her blog, that would be like dropping a robe over my shoulders.

If you shared this post with your group of friends on Facebook or Google, this writer couldn’t get more fully clothed.

Have you ever put yourself out there? What was hardest about it?

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 Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

		

Jana Begovic talks about POISONOUS WHISPERS

If you’ve followed my site for very long, you know I love books and authors. And I’m especially fond of fantasy.

Although POISONOUS WHISPERS isn’t a traditional fantasy romance, it does have fantastical elements.

Today, I’ve invited author Jana Begovic to talk to you about her debut novel.

PoisonousWhispers_Cvr

Jana, thanks for coming today. Reincarnation plays an important part in POISONOUS WHISPERS. How did you become interested in this idea?

Thank you, Sharon for your excellent questions and willingness to feature my novel. The first time I found myself mesmerized by the concept of reincarnation was when my uncle, who is a psychiatrist, told a story about a patient whom he’d hypnotized, and who under hypnosis started speaking in a language he couldn’t recognize. He recorded her and later discovered she was speaking ancient Greek even though she never studied any foreign language and had never visited Greece. My interest in the topic continued through my reading of books on Buddhism, but it culminated with my discovery of Dr. Brian Weiss’ books on past life regression therapy. His work was the main inspiration for Poisonous Whispers.

Jana, you are from Europe and this novel takes place in several European countries. Have you visited all the places in your novel?

The only place mentioned in my novel that I have not visited is Ireland. I have always felt drawn to that country, to its music, dance and lore, and it is an attraction I simply cannot explain.  It is a seductive thought to think I may have lived there in one of my past lives.

Your settings are quite real. Readers want to know: is it difficult to translate the culture and ambiance of a place onto the page?

It is difficult to translate the culture and ambiance into fiction if you have not lived in that place. I believe the portrayal may stay somewhat superficial as there is so much invisible culture, which is difficult to convey unless it is a part of who we are.

When we first talked about your novel, you said it didn’t fit neatly into the romance genre. What would you say to compel readers of traditional romances to try out your novel?

 I would say that most readers would agree that the universal themes of love, romance, loss, heartbreak, suffering etc. cannot and should not be confined within the rigidly defined boundaries of any genre. Readers want quality books, novels that will give them reading pleasure and perhaps, teach them something new, or make them reflect on their own life and experiences.

By breaking out of the traditional romance parameters my novel aims to offer a multi-layered story, with characters that are flawed, like we all are, characters that make bad and morally dubious choices, suffer profound heartbreak as consequence, and become better versions of themselves along the way.

I also believe very few readers are strictly devoted to one genre exclusively, and are willing to venture out and try something different. In short, I’d tell them, please give it a try, and I promise you will not be disappointed. Like ice cream, romance comes in many flavours, from commercial to literary, traditional to less traditional.

I decided to feature you here because I see this novel as a fantasy/paranormal romance (and I’m more about fantasy than romance around here). What elements of fantasy are present in this story? How would you interest fantasy readers in your novel?

 Fantasy elements in Poisonous Whispers are the supernatural forces, or malevolent gods who play with the heroine’s fate across several incarnations. She hears their voices in her dreams and in a state of wakefulness and wonders if we humans are the objects gods use for their own amusement. In one of her past incarnations, the heroine also has special powers she uses to protect herself. Readers who are mostly interested in fantasy may not find enough of it in Poisonous Whispers, unless they consider reincarnation as part of fantasy.

You have an academic background. What inspired you to write a fiction novel?

I’ve always been intoxicated with the written word, and I’ve always been an avid reader. My decision to pursue literary studies was an easy and natural one. My writing attempts began in elementary school. I wrote a Western story, then a collection of poems and fables. I always wanted to write a novel, but never trusted my ability to write one.

My inspiration for writing novels comes mostly from the stories friends and acquaintances tell me. I am fascinated both by storytelling and human stories. For that reason, my novel is full of sub-plots.

There are many historical elements in your novel. Did you do research on those time periods? Why did you choose the times you did?

 I researched the historical periods trying to reflect them as credibly as I could. For example, I researched witch trials in Ireland and opera in Italy. Because the novel describes past life incarnations, I selected the times in which the heroine could have lived before her current incarnation. I selected Ireland and England because I find both countries highly alluring, and I chose Italy because I’ve visited it many times and could never get enough of it. I’d like to mention that most of my research was spent on the psychology of adultery, which is one of the main themes of the book.

Now that you’ve published a novel, what’s next for your writing career? Any hints about what you’re working on now?

I have written two short stories and am writing a third one. I have started a sequel to Poisonous Whispers, in which I plan to show what happened from the perspective of other characters. Most of us have heard about the Rashomon effect, that is, everyone’ perception is subjective. In Poisonous Whispers the reader sees the events through the eyes of Leandra, the heroine. In the sequel, the male protagonists will give their account of the same events. I also plan to write another scholarly article based on a project I have been leading as part of my regular job.

Thanks so much, Jana.

Readers, do you have questions for Jana?

Be sure to check out the giveaway for a $10 gift card. All the purchase links for Poisonous Whispers can be found here.

A Novel way to Write a Novel

image from www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com

There are books on the process of writing a novel. Entire websites are dedicated to the subject. And none of them suggest doing it the way I’m about to demonstrate.

As I move through the process, the reason for that will become abundantly clear. In fact, multiple reasons for avoiding my novel way of writing a novel will flash like neon warnings.

But did that stop me?

And it begins

I’ve been working on a short story project since March. I’ve alluded to it several times in posts here or updates on Facebook.

However, even though I have a signed contract, I was sworn to secrecy. It was my Top Secret project.

As I pen these words, I still haven’t been given the go ahead to announce the project or my participation therein. What was supposed to have an October 2015 publishing date has been pushed back to February 2016.

The repercussions of a story I wrote specifically to submit to this secret project ring like aftershocks in my writing world.

It all began with a line from an email:

“Last, but not least, the publisher is curious as to whether you’d be interested in developing The Demon Was Me into a full novel! (Way to go, Sharon!)”

In a world where I sent queries into the depths of cyberspace, pleading for a chance to send my fully written, revised, edited and proofed novel for their reading enjoyment, that simple sentence knocked me for a loop.

And there were expectations

I would have been crazy to shrug off this opportunity. So, I sent a cautious reply to my editor.

And the email correspondence continued for another week.

What the publisher wanted, however, wasn’t a novel – or even the outline of a story. These were the specifications for what she wanted:

“To retain threads of time, theme, characters in the short story and throw out ideas that can be explored further” in a novel-length work.

Does anyone go about building a story this way?

Isn’t the seed usually for a premise or concept, or maybe a character or problem?

And there were plenty of lee lines hanging around in my short story. In fact, my main character had something like a heavenly directive given to him in the resolution of the 9000-word experience (otherwise known as short fiction).

So, rather than outlining his complete story, I was supposed to brainstorm possibilities for what happened afterward.

Yeah, I scribbled out three full notebook pages without pause.

But how can I organize these tidbits into something compelling enough to convince this publisher she wants the story?

And deadlines

The initial deadline to share my visions of where the story might go (after it ends in the short story bought and to-be-published) was given.

“The publisher would love to have a 10-point outline from you by October 1.”

More gaping.

I have an idea factory inside my brain. Every fiction writer I know has something similar. The slightest thing becomes a seed for a full-blown tale.

The same was true for the universe I imagined in detail as the setting of this short story.

So the scribbles continued. First, I guessed I had enough for a four-book series. On closer thought, I condensed it into a trilogy.

But the stakes and the ticking clock needed for the first installment still seemed a little week.

And wait! Am I even supposed to be planning this stuff?

The ten points that are due …the clock is ticking on that…don’t have to outline a complete story.

Shouldn’t I have sighed with relief? Instead, frustration mounted.

I seriously didn’t know how to pitch on incomplete story idea. Should I focus on a few premises? Let the publisher take her pick?

And brainstorming sessions

Those original three handwritten pages were a drop in the bucket.

I expanded the 500-word history I’d written for my setting into a nearly 3000-word history. I laid out the different sub-sections of the war-torn country. I gave each of them inhabitants and a governing style and leaders.

Now there were people for my hero to meet on his journey.

And so I filled more notebook pages with descriptions of the people and their problems. I listed possible conflicts that would arise when my hero encountered those systems.

And it still looks like a trilogy in the making or one FAT novel (not the preference for YA readers).

But I didn’t know what to include in the requested outline. So I called on my fabulous editor.

And waiting

When it was all said and done, written down in sparkling clean fashion and emailed to the publisher, the waiting began.

Again.

Sometimes it feels like writing is more about waiting than it is about transcribing pretty words on a page to form cool adventures.

Are you writing a novel? If you’re nodding yes, don’t follow this plan. Seriously.

The Artisans by Julie Reece: a MUST read

Sometimes I avoid reading a book because I think the subject matter is wrong for me. That was the case with The Artisans by Julie Reece. It was reviewed as a ghost story.

First of all, horror movies are not for me. I will have nightmares for weeks. The same goes for scary books (because my imagination is every bit as good as Hollywood’s best special effects).

So even though I heard great things about this book – and interact with the author in an online critique group, I avoided reading it.

Then it went on sale for $3. Yep. I couldn’t avoid the impulse purchase.

And after finishing the book this morning, I’m not at all sad to have caved in to my baser need for books. I only wish I had snapped the thing up when it first released into print.

Summary

Raven’s stepfather’s in trouble. His alcohol problem has led to a gambling debt and getting on the nerves of the powerful Maddox family. To get him the help he needs, she agrees to live with and work for Gideon Maddox.

She thinks she’d in danger from Gideon, but she soon discovers things are not all peaceful and serene in the enormous mansion where she lives and works. While her heart fights attraction to the complex master of the house, ghosts from the past make her fight for her very life.

This is a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a paranormal twist.

My Review

I’m not a fan of ghost stories. Did I already say that? Sorry. To reiterate, I don’t read ghost stories. If they don’t make me have nightmares, they make my eyes roll in disbelief.

I read to immerse myself in a different world. Why would I read something that constantly kicked me back to reality because it was unbelievable?

That is not Ms. Reece’s ghost story. She has a plausible explanation and resolution for the spirits haunting the pages of this young adult romance.

I adore Raven. From the first page to the last, I wanted her to succeed. Her backstory was complex and well-constructed and her personality had just enough contradiction to keep her believable.

I loved the banter between Raven and her two friends. Although they were minor characters, her friends were well-drawn. No cardboard cutouts here.

Although Ms. Reece did a fine job making Gideon likable, I still had trouble seeing past his veneer. Of course, that works for the first part of the story. He won me over when he chased after Raven. Seriously, I hate when guys let the girl of their dreams walk out.

The magical element – why Raven could see and hear the ghosts when no one else could – was never explained. This bummed me out a little, but didn’t keep me from loving the story.

After all, “The Force was a lot more interesting before it was explained.”

My Recommendation

If you love quirky teenage heroines, you want to read this story. If you like a little bit of ghost with your romance, you’ll find this book worth every moment you spend in its pages.

Hot guys? Yep, that’s here. Laughter and tears? Another yes. A book that’s hard to put down? Oh, yeah.

If you’re an adult, you’ll enjoy this book. The mystery and intrigue will keep you wondering. There isn’t too much angst and only a couple hot-and-heavy kisses.

Don’t let the description of “Southern gothic horror” deter you if you’re not a big paranormal fan. Is it creepy in spots? Most definitely. And I refused to read it after dark on principle.

But I could hardly wait for it to be daytime so I could start reading it again. Worth five stars in my book.

Waiting for News? Write on!

By the time you read this post, it will have been four weeks since I mailed out my queries for Doomsday Dragons.

The first week after they were gone, I was still combing through the manuscript. I read it aloud. Strengthened the sentences with stronger verbs and more precise nouns and descriptors. Tried to polish it to a sparkling gem.

Then I closed the Scrivener file and moved on to a different project.

What? Did I check my email every ten minutes looking for manuscript requests?

Not really. But I didn’t need to.

Early Responders

Shock of all shockers, I had answers to some of the queries in the very first week.

In fact, within six days, three agents responded with “no thanks.” I was impressed by this because all of them requested between four to eight weeks to get through their queries.

One of these only allowed query letters. Their only taste of my story came from the query description. Obviously, they weren’t impressed by dragons.

The others? I guessed they also probably weren’t piqued by a dragon story. It takes a very specific sort of person to imbibe the myth and fire.

The fourth response was a notice of an undeliverable mail. So even though I checked all the links and double-checked all the email addresses, one of the agencies was no longer receiving mail at the address they advertised on their website.

Four of twelve responses within one week. Not too shabby.

Except they all amounted to 100 percent rejection.

Non-Responders

There were just as many who made no promise to even respond to every query.

Of the twelve, four of them said that hearing nothing after a certain time frame would be equal to a “no thank you” email.

The surprise? The amount of time given before drawing this conclusion ranged from two weeks to twelve weeks.

Talk about holding out hope.

Or maybe it would be more accurate to assume dashed hopes. And then if an email magically appears, it can only be good news.

People I Pitched

Of course, the two people I pitched my idea to at the writer’s conference will get the full 90 to 120 days before I begin to assume the worst.

At least they’ll respond.

I hope they’ll remember me favorably enough to offer advice if they decide the project isn’t for them. Don’t I deserve at least that much?

The Rest of the Pack

That leaves only two out of twelve agencies that will still respond to me sometime during this lengthy waiting period.

Fortunately, I’m not holding my breath.

I’m not sitting on my hands or biting my nails.

I’m following the professional writer’s prescription for winning this waiting game: write something new.

In fact, I had to polish a novella that’s coming out in a month or two and deliver it to an editor. Then I nibbled on the idea for another short story.

And, of course, the women’s fiction novel I’d begun writing while waiting for the last of the beta edits on Doomsday Dragon still needed finishing.

The best way to insure a watched pot boils is to walk away.

In writing terms: write something else without constantly checking your in-box.

What about you? What are your tricks for making waiting bearable? Please share. Not that any of us our impatient or anything…