When your Happily Ever After Gets REAL

Today, I’m jitterbugging all over my office. It’s an exciting day for me, and I hope you’ll join the fun. Who doesn’t love happily ever after?

Good News: The final installment of the Virtual Match romance series will be released by Roane Publishing on January 22, 2018

Yes, I’ve had the signed contract for some time. I probably already mentioned this news to my faithful Facebook followers.

However, I wasn’t authorized to share specifics–until today.

So let’s start with the gorgeous cover.

And then, to whet your appetite for the rest of Ronnie and Marcus’ story, here’s the official blurb:

Happily ever after collides with reality to make or break their love.

Systems architect Marcus Jordan proclaims his love for career girl Veronica Shay, but life keeps hurling obstacles into their relationship. When Ronnie’s niece is born prematurely, Ronnie rushes to be the big sister Tony needs, knowing she is to blame for his fear of failing at fatherhood.

Marcus decides to help put their daddy issues to rest, but his discovery sends Ronnie into a tailspin. Ronnie already knows trusting men risks her heart and stability. Why would she want to meet the first man who rejected her?

An even bigger secret about Ronnie’s father convinces Ronnie to give him one chance to explain, never knowing it will bring her face to face with the true source of her trust issues.  Will the revelation come too late to restore the happiness she’d found with Marcus?

Now comes the part where you get to show your excitement. 

As always, there will be a week of promotional posts when the book releases. And I need your help. If you have a Twitter account, or a Facebook profile or a blog, would you be willing to Tweet or post about the release on January 22?

If so, please click on this link. It will take you to my publisher’s official promotional tour page. Fill it out so you can get all the goodies needed to build your post for the BIG release.

Or maybe you know a book blogger? Or another romance author? I hope you believe in my writing enough that you could forward this link to those people, asking if they would support an independent author whose trying to get the word out.

As always, there will be a giveaway associated with the release, and I’ll make sure to pass along those juicy details as they become available.

To make sure you get all the details, special sneak previews and special access to review copies and giveaways, click here and I’ll send you a FREE romance to tide you over while you’re waiting.

You haven’t started this series yet? Why not check out the first book, Reality Meets its Match now?

Now to dance a little over my real life happily-ever-after.

An Online Book Club

Book clubs should be for discussing books and recommending books. Can you do such a thing online? That’s what I intended to find out when I joined Reader’s Coffeehouse.

One of my goals for 2017 was to join a book club. I love to read, so why not turn it into an opportunity to socialize.

Because we author-types tend to be anti-social reclusive and introverted. But books are our thing.

How I Found It

There’s no science behind finding this group. In fact, it sort of found me.

My friends list on Facebook is a combination of family and friends I know personally AND a bunch of writers I’m networking with, most of whom I haven’t met in person.

Guess what’s true about most writers?

They like to read.

And it was one of these friends who suggested the group to me. I think all they did was share a post from the group. It appeared in my newsfeed and the rest…is social media connection.

However, I’ve found other writing and reading groups by searching for them on Facebook. I’d recommend a private group, and I’m not sure you can search them.

Maybe a Facebook expert will comment on this.

The Group Format

The group I’m a member of was founded by nine (women’s fiction) authors. They regularly host drawings for their books (paperback, audio and digital).

One of these authors lives in a city near me. I’ve met her in person, listened to her speak about her writing methods and talked to her about the publishing industry.

Until that transpired (at a local library), I hadn’t even heard of her. That night I bought a trade paperback of one of her novels.
And I was hooked.

She wasn’t my usual sort of author. Her stories didn’t have total resolution or even a happy ending. But the people were vividly real. And she made me laugh.

Each day, one of the founders posts a question on the group page to spark discussion. I rarely comment on these. However, I’ve connected with other readers on Goodreads because of one such post and managed to win a couple books.

Each month, there is a book to read that is discussed with the author on the last day of the month. The list for the year is posted in the group (but not exactly pinned, so I copied it onto my tablet).

I’ve read four of the six books. I’ve commented on the discussion of three of those four.

End Results

While I’ve enjoyed interacting with this group, it’s not the same as when I had a monthly live and in-person group to meet with.
The comments are directed to the author of the book, meaning there isn’t much actual discussion about the story or characters or setting. I’m sure these are more interesting to non-authors who are curious about the process behind the page.

I just want to talk about books. Did the story engage me? Did the characters inspire or irritate me? Would I recommend the book to others?
So…the conversation about books has fallen short of my expectations.

Has the group fulfilled my needs? Partly.

I’ve met new authors and readers. I’ve read books I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

But it didn’t get me out of the house. And it certainly didn’t unhook me from the computer.*sigh*

There are rumors that a few of the members of my former book group are planning to reconnect in September. I hope and pray it is so.

Until then, I’ll keep scrolling through the recommendations and reading the monthly book. Hopefully, I’ll keep winning books, too.

Have you ever been in a book club? What makes it successful?

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.

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.

		

Happy Birthday to my biggest fan

Every author wants to have someone who believes in their writing so much they’ll buy it without blinking at the price. Some writers have fans like this who they’ve never met in real life. I have my sister.

And today is her birthday.

So I thought I’d take this opportunity to let everyone know what a fantastic person she is. Not just because she believes in me and buys my books. (You really think I’m that shallow?)

My sister and I share a common history. Not only does this involve our shared genetic ancestry, but it also includes experiencing the nature and nurture of environment for sixteen-plus years.

Walking to honor our Mom at the Relay for Life
Walking to honor our Mom at the Relay for Life
Anyone who knows us understands our shared experience doesn’t mean we’re similar. Although she does like to claim we’re twins (mostly so she can deduct two years from her age).

We understand where the other one is coming from. A lot of things remain unsaid in our conversations (and this totally baffles my husband) because they’re understood.

In the book that is our lives, we don’t need to go on about back story. We lived it together. Do we know every emotion and every heartache? No. But we understand the context for all of those things.

Top Five things I Love about Her

  • She loves to read the same kinds of books I do (and she lends me her books all the time)
  • She listens well and her responses show both how well she heard and how smart she is
  • We can do outdoorsy things together because we both love to walk and hike
  • I feel accepted and appreciated by her even when I’m being a huge jerk (are you surprised that I’m a jerk? Or just that I would admit it in such a public forum?)
  • We can talk about anything and everything (can you tell I like to talk?)

Five things I bet she would Change about Me

Since my big sister is such a nice person, you’d really have to twist her arm to get her to admit she’d like to change anything about me. So this list should probably be renamed.

What my sister makes me want to change about myself. 

Sounds better right?

  • My sarcastic humor which goes too far sometimes and pops out at inappropriate moments
  • My sweet tooth. Back in the day, it would have been so there’d be more Russian Teacakes for her, but now it’s because she wants me to be healthy
  • The knack I have for putting myself down
  • Confidence in my writing ability (because she believes I am so much better at writing than I really am, so it makes me work hard to improve)
  • All my excuses – because I should have been where I am now two decades ago, but I had so many justifiable causes to hold me back

So – no more excuses. Why are you still writing this blog, Sharon? Get back to the writing that will be published and read. Words that will change the world.

Happy birthday, Sister. Hope you have a wonderful day. You deserve it!

When You Want to Read Three Books at Once

The worst part of the vacation I recently took was that my Amazon book order didn’t show up before I left. Instead, three books I’d been slavering over arrived on my doorstep while I was gone.

When I got home, I stared into one of my favorite gifts-a box of books-and my eyes glazed over.

I wanted to read all of them. All three were the newest release in series I enjoyed.

How is a girl supposed to choose?

I decided based on how recently I’d read the first book in the series. It had been less than two months for one of these three books.

So I picked up The Skylighter by Becky Wallace.

The Skylighter

Love this world and these characters. Wallace ended the first book with our characters in peril and so this novel starts at a sprint and rarely slows for breathers.

I enjoyed the growing romance between Rafi and Johanna because it spotlighted their individual character and priorities. The sad truth that love is rarely convenient and often a nuisance was fun to consider.

My favorite character from book one was Leao, the immortal who was played by Legolas (ie Orlando Bloom) in my mind. His unique powers as a full mage were explored (and exploited) in this novel. There were moments I wanted to throw the book against the wall because things weren’t easy for Leao, or his love interest Pira.

A few twists are in store for readers. I don’t like to spoil anything. I will say that the “ultimate” bad guy didn’t impress me much. I never understood his true motivations, so he seemed more like a caricature than anything else.

I didn’t fully accept the “change” in Vibora late in the novel. After she had been built up so convincingly as completely evil in the first book, it was difficult for me to accept the change. Wallace did lay groundwork and make it an evolving switch, but it still didn’t sit well with me.

One part of the story I didn’t anticipate was the portion from Dom’s viewpoint. It was vital to the tension and pace and overall understanding of the story. I liked him, but felt his character arc peaked too quickly. Many of the things that happened in his portion of the story were predictable to the point of heavy sighs and almost eye rolling.

People I liked were killed. The bad guys lose in the end. These two things can be mutually exclusive, but I’m more willing to accept the first when the second is the payoff.

All in all, this was a satisfying sequel to The Storyspinner (which is the best book I’ve read in 2016). I give it 4.8 out of five stars.

A Daring Sacrifice

The second book I picked from this stack of three “I can’t wait to read” novels was A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund. This is a sequel – sort of – to An Uncertain Choice, which I read last year.

Here we have Juliana, a female Robin Hood, robbing a man we were introduced to as an amazing knight. Her backstory is interesting and convincing, although this novel could have been longer to explore that more.

Collin has inherited his father’s massive estate which borders the estate where Juliana was born and raised as a noble for the first ten years of her life. He has a spoiled sister and very little interest in being tied to an estate. He’s enjoyed his adventures with The Noblest Knight.

Collin immediately sees through Juliana’s disguise as a man when she robs him. He follows her with his unbeatable tracking skills and takes her back to his estate.

If Juliana hadn’t been gravely injured, I wouldn’t have accepted her staying with him for nearly a week. Of course, he does pay her in gold and jewels. I found this somewhat belittling, but Juliana accepted it as a way to provide for her band of peasants in hiding.

The politics behind Juliana’s forced hiding were hardly touched upon. The romance was enjoyable without knowing all these details, but the broader story suffered because of these omissions.

Collin was the one of the three knights I chose in the first book, so it was nice to see him find true love. It isn’t an easy path. It’s complicated by cruel and greedy men, a spoiled lady and a headstrong woman.

This novel earns four out of five stars from me. It’s fairly short, a quick read, but perfect for fans of the Robin Hood trope. As the first book ended with a hint about the danger of the second, this one ends with a preview of the danger awaiting Sir Bennet in the next book.

Calamity

This is the final book in Brandon Sanderson’s The Reckoners series. And just because I read it last doesn’t mean I was anticipating it any less than the other two books.

Sanderson impressed me with his Mistborn trilogy and has become my favorite fantasy author for adult books. He’s been exploring the young adult fantasy genre, as well, and this series is proof that he’s a man of many talents.

Calamity is the name of the so-called meteor that appeared a decade ago and transformed some humans into super-humans. Notice I didn’t say super heroes. In fact, nearly one hundred percent of the time, the powers drove these people to do heartless and despicable things. In fact, this abuse of power has transformed the United States into the Fractured States.

David Charleston watched one of these Epics kill his father. From that time, he made a study of every epic to learn how to destroy them. In the first book, Steelheart, he was recruited by The Reckoners, a rogue group whose goal was to dethrone the Epics, in order to help them carry out a plan to kill Steelheart, the Epic who murdered his father and held all of Newcago (yes, Chicago in our world) hostage.

While David mourned the loss of his father, he channeled that grief into hatred for Epics. Until he realizes the girl he loves is one. And the man he works with and respects.

This final installment of the series deals with David’s plan to save his friend Prof, whose powers have subverted him to become the evil overlord of Atlanta, Limelight. And carry out a plan to destroy Calamity, which is at the heart of the problem. After all, if there was no Calamity, there would be no powers. Or at least the powers wouldn’t turn people to darkness.

I still haven’t decided if I can buy into the fact that Calamity is actually an Epic himself. I don’t want to give too much of the story away, so I won’t explore my doubts in this review. However, it seems highly unlikely that the way Calamity came onto the scene would have ever been accepted as “a meteor” or some other anamaly. But this is what the author wants us to believe.

David spends too much time revisiting his past with his father, which is something that was lost beneath the plans of the day in the second book. In the end, this also seemed contrived to me because of the way the story wraps up.

I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of paralell dimensions and random superhuman powers is beyond my realm of comprehension. Still, I expect the explanation of these things to follow a form of logic that I CAN understand. My brain is still working over the nuances of this story to see if Sanderson did that.

I may have to re-read the entire series before I decide.

These conundrums didn’t keep me from enjoying the story. It was well-planned with a suitable number of twists, turns and cliff dives. The pages kept turning, and I wasn’t ready for it to end when I got to the last page.

I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to be inside Megan’s head in this book. She had become one of my favorite parts of this series, and has plenty of ghosts of her own to battle. Instead, her ability to subdue the darkness is trivialized, which it shouldn’t have been. But since the novel was all written from David’s perspective, we couldn’t really grasp the battle. And Megan isn’t the type to bleed emotions all over the place.

I will say the aspect that Sanderson might have considered his biggest surprise, really didn’t shock me too much. However, I couldn’t comprehend the underlying logic of the villain. And the purpose of his visit to Earth wasn’t satisfactorily explained.

This is still a four-star story. Whenever you blend all these fantasy elements, some of them won’t measure up in the mind of readers. I’m sure the young adult and new adult readers, the target audience for this series, will be quicker to take all of this at face value.

And since I’m talking about re-reading the entire series, you know I’m not disappointed I read it the first time.

What about you? Have you ever picked up or recieved in the mail a number of books (or something else) and faced the dilemma of deciding which one to read first (where to begin)? Do you have a fantastic decision-making strategy to share?

Time to COLLIDE with Melissa J. Crispin

I’m an author and sometimes I get lucky enough to hang out with other authors.

Such is the case with my guest today. I met Melissa in a critique group on Scribophile. We chatted about life-type things before discussing writing stuff. Well, maybe talked about both at the same time.

I’m thrilled to announce that Melissa is living my dream. Her young adult romance novel is being released by Evernight Teen (these people rejected a short story I sent them, but all is forgiven since they are publishing Melissa’s novel).

Let’s hear what Melissa has to say about her characters, her writing life and what she hopes to gain through this whole writing thing (and it isn’t money or fame).

ME: The main character in your novel COLLIDE is a ballerina. Do you dance? Why did you choose ballet over another kind of dancing? Why dancing at all, since it isn’t something most teenagers do?

MELISSA: I love this question. I took ballet for a few of years when I was little, but I wasn’t good at it. Not by a long shot.

Both my daughter and my niece attend the same dance school, and there’s a big show at the end of every year. When a senior graduates and is getting ready to move on, the owner of the school always does a recap of the person’s history. Many of them dedicated a lot of time and effort, and it showed in their performances. Some started their journey when they were four years old, kept at it through high school, and a few chose to continue with it even after that. My main character, Kayla, was inspired by a mixture of the stories I’ve heard while sitting in the audience.

ME: What motivates you to write for young adults?

MELISSA: Since the protagonists in YA stories are so young, it allows me to create characters that will truly develop and grow as he or she is thrown into a difficult situation. There are so many possibilities when you’re around that age, and so many hardships that you need to work through. I especially love writing about people who discover emotional strength in themselves that they didn’t know they had, and I think that’s a theme that lends itself well to YA.

,ME: What would be your ideal interaction with a reader?

MELISSA: As a new author just starting out, it would bring me great joy just to know that someone read my work and liked it. Whether that’s through some form of social media or someone telling me something along those lines in person, it would definitely bring a big, dorky smile to my face.

ME: How long have you been writing? Can you give us a glimpse into the publishing process for this book?

MELISSA: I started writing about six years ago. I was tearing through a ridiculous number of books, reading like crazy, then decided to try my hand at it. I’ve been doing it ever since.

It took a long time to get to this point with COLLIDE, and I’m so happy that I never gave up. I spent about a year getting the first draft written. I remember thinking that it was taking forever, but I work full time, so finding the time to write can pose interesting challenges. I went through two rounds of beta reads and then worked with a freelance editor. I did another round of revisions after that, and was over the moon when Evernight Teen accepted my manuscript for publication. I went through edits with them as well, and now this baby is finally ready.

ME: Name a Young Adult book/series that you think all teens should read. Why?

MELISSA: Is it okay if I name two?

ME: *quirks and eyebrow before granting a single nod*

MELISSA: First, the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor is awesome. I think any teen that reads it can learn a lot. I know that Fantasy isn’t a genre for everybody, but the subject matter tackled in each of the books is relatable to real life. The main characters endure warfare, love, and loss in this incredible world that is brought vividly to life by the author.

I’m showing that I’m no spring chicken with this next suggestion, but I think every teen should read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I loved this book as a kid, and I still find myself watching the movie whenever I catch it on TV. The story highlights that people shouldn’t be judged based on where they came from, but who they are. I find the display of loyalty and love the Greasers have for each other moving as well.

ME: Young Adult books have been getting turned into movies right and left in recent years (HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT, MAZE RUNNER). Why do you think this genre draws people into theaters?

MELISSA: I think several of the YA books that have been adapted to film share a common thread. Though the stories are very different in nature, the main characters seem to be ordinary teenagers thrust into extraordinary situations. They’re called upon to rise to the occasion and fight. Whether they’re fighting for life (Fault in our Stars, If I Stay) or for a greater good (Divergent, Hunger Games), they are seemingly average people that need to find the courage to go on. I think the ability to watch this kind of struggle and witness the characters transform is empowering for all, whether you’re young or old.

ME: I hereby grant you a movie deal. What actors will play your main characters?

MELISSA: Well, wouldn’t that be awesome. *sticks her tongue out*

For Kayla, I would choose Elle Fanning. I loved her as Princess Aurora in Maleficent and I could picture her in a role as an aspiring ballerina.

I had a tough time deciding on the male leads! This is harder than I thought it would be.

For Alec, I think a younger version of Scott Eastwood would be perfect. Okay, so he’s not in high school, but neither am I, so you’ll have to work with me on that one. 😉 He strikes me as a swoon worthy guy who would be good at protecting his lady.

I’d love to see Theo James, Four, from the Divergent movies, play Luke. Again, not of high school age so it would have to be a younger version of him, but I love how he shows both a tough side and a gentle side in those movies, which is a lot like Luke.

What’s COLLIDE about?

Collide-CoverPreviewWhen the balance between Earth, Afterlife, and Heaven are threatened, the fate of the universe falls on a selfish girl who must sacrifice everything to save it.

Kayla has a plan. She’s moving to the city after graduation and Luke’s coming with her. He’ll eventually become a doctor, she’ll be a ballerina—and they’ll live happily ever after. That is, until dark forces, led by a sister she never knew existed, start hunting her down for a power she never knew she had.

When Kayla starts working with a boy named Alec to learn how to defend herself and to stop the evil from eliminating the worlds, she finds herself falling for him. Hard. Torn between two loves and struggling to do what’s right for Earth and Afterlife, Kayla must decide if she’s fighting to keep her life together, or letting it go to save everyone else’s.

Add it to your Goodreads shelf now by clicking here!

Get your copy of COLLIDE

At Amazon or Evernight Teen website:

A little bit about Melissa

MelissaJCrispin-AuthorPicMelissa J. Crispin lives in Connecticut with her husband, two kids, and an adorable Siberian Husky. She spends her days in the corporate world, and pursues her passion for writing in the late nights and early mornings.

From micro-fiction to novels, Melissa loves to write stories in varying lengths. But, no matter the story, it’s almost always about the romance.

You heard it from her own mouth. Melissa wants to hear that you read and liked her story and promises to do a goofy grin in exchange. Here’s where you can connect with Melissa:

Website: http://melissajcrispin.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MelissaJCrispin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melissajcrispinauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/melissajcrispin/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/MelissaJCrispin

Writing in a New Direction

Which-Way-is-the-Right-way-for-Satellite-Web-Browsing-Sometimes directions are clear: “Turn left at the next stop light.” Other times, the directions can be convoluted: “Take the next right. Keep left.” (My GPS often says this, in fact. Amazingly unhelpful.)

In 2013, I started in a new direction. I quit my job with the school district to pursue a writing career full-time. I finished my bachelor’s degree and wanted a change.

Immediately thereafter, I finished my first young adult fantasy novel and had begun writing its sequel. I took a class on antagonists from Writing Jedi Master Kristen Lamb. When we spoke on the phone about my story, I learned it was gobbledygook without a clear purpose.

Back to the drawing board. For another young adult fantasy series, which Kristen and I had discussed during the heart-shattering call. Her advice: write the entire series before going back to edit book one. That way I’d know what the “real” story of the series was by the time I was rewriting.

Six months later, I had three complete novels in very rough first draft form. The summer of 2014, I attempted to market the first book in the series. By the time I’d gotten the final rejection back, I knew the first book was crap needed work.

But I had this amazing idea for a contemporary young adult fantasy. Dragons, erupting volcanoes, teenagers with special powers and the end of the world at stake. Who wouldn’t want to read that?

Or maybe the question should be: who wants to read it?

I’m still waiting for the rest of the rejection letters to roll in, but I think I finally figured something out.

What I Can Sell

As much as I love young adult fantasy, I’m not going to break into publishing with those stories.

No, I’m not giving up. I’m not copping out.

I’m being realistic.

Young adult is the fastest growing and most competitive fictional market right now. And fantasy has to have a certain bent to even get a look.

Sadly, dragons aren’t it.

Dragons: so TEN years ago.

Short fiction: I have sold three short stories. Two of them are sweet romances written to a new adult audience. The third is a young adult dark biblical retelling.

Bible studies: These are independently published by me, and I don’t price them to make a bundle. However, I do have a small following who enjoys my quirky teaching style.

Writing that Grows Me

In the end, writing the biblical fictionalization and Bible study books challenge me as a person. They require a slightly different writing voice and tons more research than most of my fiction stories.

In short, they stretch me out of my comfort zone.

And if people will buy them, I should produce them.

My Big Dream

During November, I wrote the first book in another young adult series.

I know. I know. I never learn.

What’s different about this book? It uses the short story I’ve already sold as a springboard into my post-apocalyptic universe. I continued the story of Scisco Irons, a sixteen-year-old blacksmith who dreams of discovering the technology destroyed in his homeland during the Demon Wars. And escaping the backward region he’s lived in forever.

I introduced a snarky teenage girl with major trust issues. Added in a “mentor” character with a pile of his own secrets.

The best part, I pitched the outline to the publisher of the short story (at her request, because she liked the world introduced in that story and saw potential for the story to continue). She wants to see it.

I have a professional editor who will help me content edit the first draft and polish the second draft to get it ready for submission. She’s employed by the publisher but has offered to help me because she believes in my story.

The dream:

I submit this manuscript in May 2016. The publisher adores it and offers me a three-book contract (that will finish out the series as I’ve envisioned it).

During our conversations, I mention my four other manuscripts. She asks for outlines of each of them. Why not, right? It doesn’t cost her anything.

She sees the potential in all of them and offers me another contract on Doomsday Dragons and asks to see the first Gates of Astrya book before deciding on that series.

Of course, the Age of Apocalypse series will appear in bookstores everywhere during 2017-2019. I’ll have an enormous fan base. They’ll scarf up anything I write.

The rest is J.K. Rowling’s history.

Where I’m Going Now

As often as I’ve been accused of being a dreamer, I’ll argue that point. I’m a realist. Yes, I’m a realistic optimist, but I know better than to float on the puffy vapors of “hope it happens.”

I’m going forward. I have a novella releasing in a collection with nine other independent romance writers in February. And I’ll say this, romance rolls from my heart onto the page. Nearly effortlessly (and then the editing torture begins).

All those years of sneaking my mom’s romance novels into my room to read when I should have been sleeping are paying off. Unfortunately, those royalties aren’t buying too much at the moment.

I have another study book in the works. There are ideas for sequels to Reflections from a Pondering Heart, but I’m not convinced that’s where I should invest my time.

My biggest project idea is a grief memoir/Bible study combination. I’ve got this baby outlined, and I’ve started amassing research. Am I ready to tap into my personal losses for the memoir vignettes? That’s the big unknown.

I’ll keep subbing short stories to anthologies – romance, young adult and fantasy. My crazy ideas will find their way into the spiral notebook I have dedicated for them.

Writing is more than my passion or my dream. I’m convinced it’s my calling.

And I’m saying “yes.” Even if I’m unsure of the direction it will take me.

Any advice? What would you like to read from me?

Lands of Ash: Epic Fantasy

If you like epic fantasy, you should consider Lands of Ash by H.L. Burke. It is an epic story with an intriguing world.

I “met” this author at a Christian indie author release party. I was excited to read her newest book since fantasy with a Christian bent can be hard to find.

When I agreed to review her book, she sent me an advanced reviewer’s copy. I immediately set about reading it while running on the treadmill (the best way to pass the miles).

Summary

Book one is about the war between humans and the fire elementals, who have been burning their forests and cities for decades. Most of the story centers on two brothers who are determined to stop the elementals – or die trying.

Book two follows a boy who occasionally narrated scenes in the first book. His sister was born the day the elemental war ended and she is the portal keeper. This brings all sorts of unsavory types out of the wood work, and he ends up seeking refuge in Haven, the settlement of the brothers from book one.

Book three follows the story after they’ve all returned to Haven. Many new voices begin narrating scenes, but the action is so constant that the changes aren’t noticeable or distracting.

In my opinion, adding scenes from the fire elemental lord’s perspective stole tension from the story and gave away too much information. There would have been more suspense if the author would have allowed the reader to learn about those plans at the same time the characters did.

Review

It was awesome to read fantasy with a Christian worldview. I loved the elements of forgiveness and redemption woven throughout the book, and especially in the third part. The Christian allegory is clear while not being intrusive.

Unfortunately, this book started out very slow. In the way of epic fantasy, we bobbed between narrators and I struggled to connect with the all-male cast. The foreshadowing wasn’t subtle and I called all the early “twists.”

The premise was excellent. The world well-conceived and revealed. The cast of characters – mostly shallow. With the exception of Ketyl and Brode, most of the point of view characters didn’t get enough screen time for me to get inside their head.

Sometime after the midpoint of the story, I was finally vested in the story. Things were moving along. We’d finally gotten out of the set up and background and into the STORY. This means, the author started the story too early.

Another problem I had with the book was that it was actually three books in one. Each told a different person’s story, but all of them had more than a single narrator. Most of the time, I wondered, “Whose story is this? Why do I care?”

According to the blurb, this should have been Pet and Brode’s story. The first book was mostly Ketyl’s story, and he remained a prominent point of view character. The second book seemed to be Brode’s story, and I can’t reveal who I believe the third book followed because I don’t want to spoil anything. This layout kept me disengaged.

My biggest issue with this story is the “turn to the dark side” of two characters. We know I’m not a fan of the dark side. But we need antagonists to add conflict to our story. I will say the motivation was present for the turns; they didn’t appear out of thin air.

One of the traitors is a minor character. His turn involves something as small as leading people to their camp and scaring someone. His special abilities make him susceptible to the “voices.” Afterward, he feels so guilty about his betrayal, he begs for banishment or death.

The other character is a major player. His motivations are authentic, but his actions kicked me out of the story in a second. His betrayal involved murder. And he didn’t feel remorseful. Here is someone we considered heroic and he isn’t even second-guessing his sudden compulsion to murder a CLOSE friend?

Recommendation

If you’re looking for fantasy that is more than just magic and epic battles, you will enjoy this book.

I suggest reading each book independently of the others, maybe even taking a breather between them. Don’t read the blurb. It sets your expectations in the wrong place (or it did for me).

Prepare yourself for a story of set-up. Feel free to skip over Brode’s scenes in book one and return to read them before you start book two. I found they distracted me from the flow of the story of Ketyl and Karvir versus the fire elementals.

This book is suitable for readers twelve and over. The violence isn’t graphic, so younger readers won’t be traumatized by the death portrayed here (there’s a war).

Whose story is it anyway?

In a non-parody of a comedic television show, let’s take a moment to investigate the ownership of a published work. Recently, this author has been pondering this oft-debated issue, and I’ve come up with four possibilities.

One of the co-authors in the romance anthology Accidental Valentine posted on the topic July 16, 2015. Her points made me reconsider this whole notion that a story belongs to any one person.

I hope you’ll take the time to read Wendy Sparrow’s post on this topic, as well as the comments (there were only two at the time of this writing). I won’t attempt to paraphrase what she says because I don’t want to twist her original meaning.

And there is the crux of this issue for me. How can I know Shakespeare’s intended meaning a few hundred years after his death? 

If an author is still living, and of sound mind, I suppose we could interview them to find out what they meant. However, if we assume that words can take on a life of their own when formed into a story, is the original intention even the point?

Those questions are to give you a hint how my brain arrived at the four possible owners of a story. (And I’m not talking about copyright issues because we have laws that clearly govern those.) Once a story is penned, published and consumed, does the story belong to the author, the readers, the literary community at large or the characters?

Perhaps you have a fourth alternative. I hope you’ll share it in the comments.

Author

As an author, it’s no surprise that my first thought of ownership centers on the story’s creator. Surely, the one who created it should be able to say, “That’s my story.”

As Wendy Sparrow says in her post, ” authors pour a little bit of themselves into what they write, so taking the author’s opinion away from the work might strip it of some of its value.”

I would say authors pour heart and soul into whatever piece of fiction they’re working on. And creative non-fiction based on personal experiences takes an even bigger chunk. If the author holds back, the writing lacks authenticity.

Like Hemingway said, “It is easy to write. Just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.” (Read more on the debate of the true origination of this quote here.)

However, I can’t take full credit for any of the stories I’ve created. Something in the real world sparked the idea in my brain. It originated from that little seed. To grow it, I just kept expanding on the idea, asking “what if” until I had a solid story line.

Readers

I agree with Sparrow in that I am a reader first. I love to write. I live to write (or is that I write for a living?), but my first love is reading.

Once an author releases a story into the world through publishing, it settles into the hearts and minds of readers. Some stories are in the mind only as long as it takes to read them. Others embed themselves deep in the heart, offering up reminders of characters whose attitudes and experiences shaped my own worldview.

Do I write for readers? Yes. My stories are as much for them as it is for me. If I didn’t want to share it with someone, I wouldn’t.

Does that mean I’ve relinquished ownership to them?

What does that mean? Ownership, according to dictionary.com is “the state or fact of being a person who has or holds” some object. Ownership implies possession. If I possess it, it is mine.

Once I publish the story, I have consented to share its ownership. By making it available for public consumption, I’m sharing my creation. It’s like baking a cake. Everyone who consumes a part of the cake becomes owner of its deliciousness. I can’t take it back. It’s in them.

The same with written words. Once they are consumed, they become part of the consumer. That story is now part of the reader. It might go out as quickly as the cake. Or it might stay around for awhile (like the fat on my waistline from all the cake I’ve consumed over the years).

Sparrow says it well: “Authors want readers to invest in their stories…to become so involved that they care what happens to the characters. In some ways, we want to pass on ownership of our vision to the reader so that they immerse themselves in reading. It’s the only way a book becomes more than just text and becomes a journey.”

Literary Community

Once a book is published, it’s fodder for the public. One major voice in this realm is the literary community. You know who I mean, the professors at universities and English teachers at every level.

We’ve all suffered through a lecture on symbolism in some classic story or another. We were told the blue walls represented the author’s depression. The sword was a euphemism for death or power or kingship. (How can it be all three at once?)

In her post, Sparrow cited some literary figure and his theory on “The Death of an Author” (read more here if you’re interested). He’s one of many who believes if an author didn’t infer or state something in the text, it shouldn’t be later implied to be there.

Can we hear professors of literature everywhere sobbing?

Let’s face it, stories – especially fiction – are subjective. Each of us interpret the text through the stained glass of our own experiences. And the author did the same while they wrote it.

Can a story mean more than one thing? Certainly. It can live a thousand lives in the heart or mind of anyone who reads it and gleans meaning from it.

As an author, I want people to find themselves in my stories. I want them to relate to characters who are like them and find compassion for those who are completely contrary. Some of my writing is purely for entertainment, but even a short romance story I wrote had a deeper message: “breaking free from expectations takes determination.”

Characters

This is where my mind went after I read Sparrow’s post.

I might have birthed the story. In fact, I know I labored hard to perfect it on the page. It’s my baby. Or, I should say, it’s about a bunch of my babies. I’ve given them life by writing their story down and sharing it with others.

“Dream Architect” is whose story? Ashlin’s and Dylan’s. I told their story and submitted it to a publisher. The publisher liked it and bought the first American publishing rights to it. (So maybe the publisher is the owner of the story-for three years anyway.) Readers consumed the story.

But the story is about Ashlin and Dylan. It belongs to them. They lived it (as much as a fictional character can). They experienced the accidental encounter and the turmoil that followed. I wrote their experiences down and readers learned about them through reading, but the story is Ashlin’s and Dylan’s.

What do you think? Does a story have a single owner (possessor)? Do all of these people share in ownership of a story?

Meet the Author: Krista Ames

Author_interview

Today, I have a special treat for my readers. We’re going to talk to a real live author. She is working on a new romance series and the first book, a novella, released this week.

Along with chatting up Krista Ames, you can read all about her book (I’ve read it, and it’s definitely worth checking out) AND enter an awesome giveaway (Link at bottom of the post).

Welcome, Krista. Thanks for taking time out to chat with my blog followers.

First of all, authors aren’t all about writing. We like to get out of the house sometimes. Let’s go to the movies, Krista. What sort of film do you want to see?

I love the movies, let’s go !!!!!  My all-time favorite type of movie is actually the mushy romantic movies (a romance writer’s dream) with a full-fledged happy ending!  However…in the last five or so years, since I met and married my hubby, he’s opened my eyes (kicking and screaming, of course) to horror (*shivers*).  Not gory horror but the mysterious,  scary horror (*shivers even more*).  I’ve also gotten hooked by my children on some of the Dystopian movies and just about anything paranormal.

What film comes to mind when someone says “the best movie ever”?

As far as “the best movie ever”?  I could group a bunch in that category but my all-time favorite movie is Price & Prejudice, the one with Kiera Knightly!

Let’s talk men, for a moment. My perfect hero is a combination between the generosity of my husband and the hot-factor of Gerard Butler. Describe your perfect hero. Does he resemble anyone in your world?

Photo credit to mygezza.com

There is definitely something to be said for Gerard Butler for sure, and I’ve for sure got my hotness favorites like Channing Tatum and Kenny Chesney but I think my perfect hero is my hubby (me too!).  He came into my life when I was grieving over a failed marriage and raising three kids on my own.  He is everything that I always wanted in a husband.  He holds my hand when we go for a drive or a walk, he hugs & kisses me for no reason and tells me he loves me all the time.  It’s really nice to hear it first.  There’s always a kiss good morning, a kiss when he walks in the door from work and even if we do argue over something before bed, we still kiss goodnight.  He loves me and makes sure I know it 🙂

Readers always want to know about an author’s quirks. Let’s talk about where we work. I love writing in a well-lit area that is extremely quiet – could be my office or my patio. What is your best “creative” space like?

I am a stay at home mom with four kids and FOUR crazy schedules so, the place I actually like to write is the dining room table.  It is right in the midst of the living room and kitchen.  I can see all from that spot.  Big table so I can spread out and a lot of light to see.  Plus I can watch those horror movies with my hubby and still be in my work area.  The laundry room is right around the corner for when the dryer dings or a hop-skip to the kitchen sink for dishes.  My kids always know right where to find me.

WOW! I admire full-time moms who can turn on their creative genius in a house full of controlled chaos. I could never figure out how to do that, which is why my full-time writing career is happening now that my nest is empty.

I’m still waiting for my first fan letter from someone I don’t know personally. What is the most meaningful thing a stranger has ever said about any of your stories? OR what would be the most meaningful thing a stranger could say to you about your writing?

To be honest, I’m still waiting on mine as well   I did one time have a couple different review blogs tell me how great my writing was, and it made my heart melt !

Now for a few quick answers, just for fun:

  • Army or Navy? Do I have to choose?  Ok, Navy
  • Cowboy or Fireman? Tough choice….  Cowboy
  • Chocolate or Strawberry? Strawberry
  • Mints or Gum? Mints
  • Morning or Evening? Evening
  • Cats or Dogs? (I know you have both, so yes, this is a trick question) lol, Dogs
  • Bike or Walk? Walk
  • Unicorn or Pegasus? Pegasus
  • Greek or Roman? Greek

So much for us being twins! We agree on cowboys, mints and Pegasus in this list. Oh well. It was a blast getting to know another author. Thanks for stopping by and chatting with us.

Sharon, thanks so much for having me on your blog.  I had a great time answering your questions!

All you ever wanted to know about the Author:

Photo from KristaAmes.com
Photo from KristaAmes.com

Born and raised in Northern Indiana, Krista now resides in Northern Lower Michigan.  She is married to a very supportive man who allows her to follow her true passion of writing and never complains when she is pirated away on her computer for hours.  He is excellent at bouncing ideas around with and even helps the occasional writers block.  He’s also a terrific “in house” editor.  Krista is also a mother of 4 ornery children who keep her plenty busy.  With an addition of 2 beautiful chocolate lab sisters and a playful kitty, there is never a dull or spare moment in her household.

Krista has always loved to read and would often sit up for hours into the night not able to put down a book until she was finished.  She still reads when she can but her main focus is creating her own stories to share with the world.

She loves to communicate with her readers so please feel free to drop her a line anytime.

 Connect with Ms. Ames on these platforms:

Email: krista@kristaames.com

Website: http://www.kristaames.com

Blog: http://www.apassionforromance.blogspot.com

 

MorgansMountain_Cvr_FinalTitle:  Morgan’s Mountain, A Montana Series Novella
Author:  Krista Ames
Publisher:  Roane Publishing

Blurb:

On the proverbial run from another failed relationship, Morgan finds herself in the one place she always found solace. With every intention of being alone, she’s surprised when she comes across the one person she never expected.

Luke would go to the ends of the earth to figure out why Morgan ran away five years ago and make things right with her. However, a dangerous trek up the mountains to her family’s cabin might not have been the smartest choice. To say she was happy to see him would be a huge lie.  Having to rescue him, mortifying for Luke.

Toss a kidnapper into the mix and their feelings for each other are brought into perspective, revealing parts of themselves they never thought would come to light.

Buy it now at your favorite retailer:

Roane Publishing
Amazon
Amazon (UK)
Barnes and Noble
Smashwords
Bookstrand
All Romance eBooks

Find Morgan’s Mountain on Goodreads!

Don’t miss the rest of the tour!  http://www.roanepublishing.com/morgans-mountain1.html

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