Summer, Summer, Where Have You Gone?

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

It was always winter, but never Christmas.

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

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

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

Here’s a recap of my summer:

Writing like a whirlwind in Vancouver, BC


Querying agents at a brand new conference


Choosing a title for the nonfiction I was querying


Getting selected to write Christian romance in a new Kindle World


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


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


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


Making writer friends at the conference


Enjoying a total eclipse of the sun with family

Must see what others posted on Social Media

Spending eclipse day with the birthday boy


A quick retreat at my sister’s beach house

Can you hear the shush? Smell the salinity?

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

Am I ready for the rainy season? Never.

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

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

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

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

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.

Something for Everyone in I’M ABOUT TO GET UP

Once you pick up this book from Julie Hunt, skip right to chapter 25 and you’ll see why a review of it appears on my “No Fear This Year” blog. I’M ABOUT TO GET UP is a memoir about grief written from a Christian perspective, but it has nuggets of truth to help anyone who wrings their hands when faced with death.

You’re at the funeral, next in line. The family stands there, red-rimmed eyes glistening with tears, hugging each person in turn. What will you say?

I’ll confess that I avoided a number of funerals in my younger years just because I couldn’t imagine how I would interact with the grieving family.

Until I was the grieving family. And I heard those cliché phrases that meant nothing or experienced the deep comfort of a wordless hug.

I’M ABOUT TO GET UP

about_to_get_up_coverThis book came to me before it released to the public. A publicist whose newsletter I follow invited me to be on the “launch team” for the book.

Since I’m intermittently writing my own grief memoir-ish book, I thought reading one would give me an idea how other approach the topic.

I’ll admit, it was difficult to read the book in December. Christmas has been a difficult time since 2009 when my grandmother graduated to Heaven a few days before the holiday.

Julie’s experiences are raw and real. She pulls you in to the Rainy Day with her and the grief she depicts resonates. It was too close to my own heart some days, so it took me a few weeks to get through the less-than-200-page book.

If you read nothing else, read the appendices. Here Julie lists all the things people want to know, the “where the rubber meets the road” practical things. Like what you can do for a grieving person, what NOT to say at the funeral (or any other time) and words that do offer help or hope.

In a world where people want to sweep the grieving process under the carpet, this book is just the dose of reality we need.

My Review

It was obvious from early in the book that Julie’s religious beliefs differed from mine. There were moments when my eyebrows scraped my scalp as I thought, “They did what?!”

Still, that’s not what this book is about. And Julie didn’t defend or expound on her specific spiritual ideals. Well, not the ones that had me gawping. The ones that had to do with facing grief head on? Yep, those she tackles.

Nothing can prepare you for the death of a loved one. I speak from experience at the bedside of a terminally ill mother. When they go, you grieve. A part of you shatters and needs time and care to be repurposed.

Julie goes chronologically through her own grieving process. This approach worked well, making the book read like a novel. If you like “based on actual events” reading, this book fits that bill.

Advice and encouragement for both those struck by grief and those attempting to minister to them is sprinkled throughout the prose. You won’t find sermonizing or patronizing in these pages.

In fact, the best part of the book is the practical, pro-active lists given in the epilogue and appendices.

I give four out of five stars to this book.

My Recommendation

This book is a must-read for every person in ministry. The glimpse inside a grieving heart will offer the best hands-on training a person could get without facing an actual death in the family.

Julie admits that she couldn’t read books when she was grieving, but I think this book is the sort that could be read to a grieving person. It is certainly an exceptional handbook for someone who fumbles with how to comfort others in the face of loss.

If you’ve been grieving a loss for a while and feel like the pain is still more raw than it should be, pick up this book. I promise you’ll see yourself reflected from a page or chapter, and you’ll be able to take the next step toward healing.

Thank you, Julie Hunt, for being real with all of us. Your journey will empower others so they can get up and get back to living.

What books helped you deal with grief and loss on a practical level?

A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr

Image from Goodreads

Like several other fantasy series, I found this book because the author offered the first installment for free on Kindle. A book for free? I’m there.

Two reasons I pushed this book to the top of my “to be read” list and the plethora of other books previously waiting on my Kindle:

It is from the Christian fantasy genre I’m trying to break into (even though it is really more of a “New Adult” rather than “Young Adult” book).

The allegory seemed to be strong and subdued at the same time (hopefully I’ll make this clearer than Northwest Fog before the post is done).

I have to admit, I didn’t really like this book in the beginning. The main character was a drunken sod whose only goal was getting enough coin for his next tankard of ale. Not my sort of hero. A dark reason for his obsession is hinted at but not revealed until well into the novel.

It took a few hard knocks before Errol was able to let go of that craving and embrace the destiny thrust upon him. Carr did a good job ramping up the tension and throwing another monkey wrench into the plot when things seemed to get a little better for the hero. By midpoint, I was routing for Errol and trying to figure out the huge secret everyone kept hiding from him.

The allegory in this book is clear to me but not too overt as to be offensive to people who don’t want to see it. Carr has built an entire religious system around worship of “The Three” and shows us the divisions among that system. There are heroes and villains inside the church system; people who are only in it for power or wealth or position, which relates well to the world in which we live.

The fantasy elements contain both the tried and true and unique. Rather than using familiar beings like elves and dwarves, Carr creates his own unique races of people and steers away from using any of the classic terms. This creates more work for him, but he does a great job dropping the information we need to understand along the way.

I found the “magical” system intriguing and will be interested to see how the author develops it in the next book. As you read, you will see that the mystical is tied to the religious beliefs of the participants. No wizards or witches here. Instead, healers and herbwomen or readers and omres.

Yes, there were a few things that seemed to happen too easily or made me think “really? That’s how you’re going to solve that?” But is there a perfect book? No. Even the books I love contain little things that could be improved. After all, I’m a perfectionist and an author.

My Recommendation

This is a New Adult novel, I think, but mature young adults and older adults like me will also find it enjoyable. There is plenty of tension and action and the characters are engaging.

As I mentioned, this is the first in a series called “The Staff and The Sword.” I purchased the second book from Amazon for my Kindle. I didn’t start reading it immediately, but as I finish this post for my blog, I’m halfway through.

What’s the rush? After all, the third book won’t be released until February 18, and it is priced beyond the top of my “I’ll pay that amount for an eBook” range.

Guess that means I might have to buy it in paperback.

Love Makes the World Go ‘Round

Image credit: flickr.com

With Valentines floating in the stores and hearts abounding, it seemed an apropos time to touch on the essential Christian topic of love.

Jesus loves everyone in the world and he has left us this ministry of love. In fact, if anyone will be born into Christ’s Kingdom, they must see this love. Since Jesus isn’t here in body anymore, those who claim His name must reach the world by loving them with a Christ-like love.

  • We are commanded to love

John 15: 12 – “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” Jesus spoke these words just hours before going to Calvary to prove His love by laying down his life for us. I can’t remember the last time I died for someone, but I’m pretty sure it must be easier to love others while I’m alive.

  • Love shows our true heart

John 13:35 – “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Jesus made it clear that if we want people to know we follow him, we must love other followers of him. Let’s face it, nothing turns people off “church” faster than people who criticize and condemn others. Love is the best testimony we have.

  • Love is more than a feeling

Read the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians if you want a clearer picture of what love really is. “Charity never faileth” Paul writes in verse eight of that chapter. Feelings fail us, but true love never fails. This fact alone is proof that love is more than a feeling.

  • Love involves sacrifice

John 15:13 – “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This is the example Jesus set before us. I know of very few people who have been asked to die for another person. How many times have I given up my own desires to help another person? This sort of sacrificial giving is a small demonstration of the love Christ modeled for us on Calvary.

This Valentine’s Day show someone you love them. Share the gospel with them. What better gift could there be than the love of God poured directly into their heart?