2015: My Year in Review

Image from mustang-times.com

The ball will drop in Times Square. Another countdown with celebratory kisses and confetti is only four days away. But where, oh where, has 2015 gone?

This is my year in review…

January

  • Crazy revisions on two separate manuscripts to get them off to beta readers.
  • Two deadlines made. Two deadlines met.
  • (This seems so long ago that I’m having trouble remembering)
  • Researched short story markets and agents for YA fantasy

February

  • My fiction debut. I become a published author with the appearance of “Dream Architect” in the romance anthology Accidental Valentine. *Happy Dance*
  • Manuscripts come back for my fictionalized novella.
  • Wrote and submitted two short stories. One is accepted (in April) the other rejected.

March

  • I seek and employ a freelance editor to line edit my manuscript, Reflections from a Amazon PH CoverPondering Heart.
  • A cover designer is contracted and we shoot ideas back and forth over Facebook messaging.
  • All but one of my beta manuscripts for Doomsday Dragons is returned, but since that one is coming from an actual published YA fantasy author, I decide to hold off on making revisions.

April

  • Wrestled with the CreateSpace publishing platform for the first time.
  • Uploaded my cover and interior with weeks to spare before the release.
  • Put the Kindle up for pre-order
  • Wrote another short story and submitted it. Rejection received.

May

  • Release day for my independently published women’s fiction Reflections from a Pondering Heart
  • Hosted my first ever release party on Facebook
  • Successfully generated hundreds of adds on Goodreads by running a giveaway
  • Mailed out nearly fifty signed copies of the book
  • Wrote a 20,000-word novella for a ten-author collaboration

June

  • Sent Matchmaker: Reality to beta readers
  • Wept bitterly when my image of Doomsday Dragons was shattered by my good friend and beta reader
  • Went to work revising according to the feedback
  • Received two thumbs up on the rewritten first fifty pages

Willamette-Writers2July

  • Purchased tickets for Willamette Writer’s Conference
  • Purchased two pitch sessions at the event (to pitch Doomsday Dragons)
  • Perfected the pitches
  • Finished polishing the complete manuscript and proofread it
  • Had a wonderful visit with my cousin from Oklahoma
  • Brainstormed a dragon story and an origin story

August

  • Attended the conference
  • Pitched the book twice – got two requests for pages
  • Sent out a batch of ten queries to agents and the pages requested at the conference
  • Finished Matchmaker: Reality (the novella mentioned in May which was supposed to release in an indie collection in October)
  • Heard from a publisher of a SHH-secret short story anthology that they might be interested in a novel in the same universe
  • Wrote an origin story for this universe

September

  • Wrote a military themed short story and submitted it
  • Worked out a ten-point outline of a novel to present to the publisher who expressed interest
  • Experienced vertigo from mood swings of fear, anxiety, excitement and disbelief
  • Finished writing a study book and devotional based on Psalm 119
  • Short story was accepted for publication in a January anthologyHeartsofValor_eBook_CVR
  • Polished the origin short story and submitted it. Rejection received.

October

  • Wrote the study guide for an updated version of Reflections
  • Scrambled to research settings and characters for the novel my editor was pitching to the publisher
  • First round of edits accomplished on “Hero of her Heart” (the romance accepted in September
  • Outline and character sketches ready for November
  • Organized scene cards in the new Scrivener file
  • Hired a cover artist for the study book
  • Completed author bio, blurb and excerpt for “Hero of her Heart”
  • Prepared a presentation for National Novel Writing Month to give to local writers in November

November

  • Wrote the first draft of a 68,000-word young adult dystopian with sci-fi and fantasy elements in 20 days
  • Completed second-round edits on “Hero of her Heart”
  • Logged rejections from eight of twelve agents regarding Doomsday Dragons
  • Began classes to become a licensed substitute teacher
  • Edited and uploaded the manuscript for the study book
  • Uploaded the cover
  • Wrote parts for a Christmas program at church
  • Spent a week at the coast with my husband and a wonderful Thanksgiving with my sister
  • Wrestled with CreateSpace over cover specs and interior issues on the study book, Poet Inspired

PoetInspired3DDecember

  • Sent Matchmaker: Reality for editing
  • Released a second edition of Reflections
  • Finished training for sub teaching and jumped through licensing hoops
  • Ordered and approved proof of Poet Inspired
  • Worked on the Christmas program parts (my first foray into voice acting – I think I’ll stick with writing)
  • Released Poet Inspired in print only
  • Worked on marketing tasks for these releases and the upcoming January release
  • Editor notes on Matchmaker: Reality asked for extensive additions and changes
  • Wrote a (15,000-word) fantasy romance for a future anthology (to be revised, edited, polished, and submitted in January 2016)
  • Added to and revised Matchmaker:Reality
  • Somehow managed to get ready for my son’s wedding

Don’t forget that I publish original blogs bi-weekly on my personal website and weekly on my church’s blog. So I wrote all of these every month amidst all the other work.

I would like to say I’m reaping huge benefits from all this writing and submitting. Monetarily, it hasn’t happened yet. All of my contracts are “royalties only.”

As for my independently published title, I have sold around 55 print books, and 100 e-books were downloaded during promotional periods when it was free.

I’m still an unknown. But I’m pushing forward, closer to meriting the title I give myself “full-time author.”

Looking forward to 2016

A new calendar year is about to dawn.

I’ll have new goals. They’ll be written in my business plan.

Among them:

  1. Increase my newsletter mailing list (not sure how to accomplish this at the moment, since I follow all the industry advice and have 22 subscribers after a year)
  2. Submit the dystopian novel to the publisher by May
  3. Write another study book (or two) and publish them for print on demand
  4. Write and submit six short stories to anthologies (one is written for a February 2016 deadline)
  5. Work on the grief memoir/Bible study I’ve outlined (possibly ready to pitch by the summer)
  6. Write the rest of the dystopian series
  7. Land a book publishing contract

What accomplishments from 2015 do you want to shout about? What’s on your list for 2016?

Release Day! Get your FREE copy here!

May 5th and Reflections from a Pondering Heart is being released into the wide world of readers.

Today, I’m offering readers of my blog a chance to win a copy of the book. I will give one eBook copy and one print copy (signed, of course) to randomly drawn commenters on today’s post.

Now, for the excerpt I have been promising for awhile.

What a welcome home! I bolted outside and heaved into the waste bucket until I thought my stomach might rend in half. I vomited until all that came out was a thick green slime. It burned my throat as it erupted from my mouth.

It was beginning. I pressed my sleeping shift against my stomach. Elisabeth warned me to expect as much as a month of nausea, usually just in the mornings. She kept flat bread beside her sleeping couch, claiming it helped to have something in the stomach before trying to stand up in the mornings.

I didn’t know if I would be able to convince Anna to let me leave food beside my bed. Even if she allowed it, my brothers might eat it before I did. Those three were always hungry.

I clutched my stomach and returned inside. Tonight, Father and I would meet with Joseph.  An honorable man like Joseph bar Jacob would find infidelity an unacceptable breach of contract. How could I defend my virtue when my body told a different story?

Darkness fell early. Father and I walked to the village and down a small street far from the town’s center to a sturdy brick building. Joseph’s house (would it ever be mine?), a simple two room box, had sturdy wooden furnishings. Two pillows were nestled together near the hearth. Father lowered himself onto one of them. I stared toward the ground and nearly missed Joseph’s gesture for me to sit on the other pillow.

Father shook his head.

“Thank you,” I said, raising my eyes as far as Joseph’s beard, “I will share with Abba.”

Joseph nodded. “Would you care for wine, Father Heli?”

“Not at the moment.”

I squatted beside Father on the edge of the pillow, my back resting against his side. Joseph folded his legs beneath him and nodded to Father respectfully.

In the light of the candles flickering on the nearby table, I studied this man, my betrothed. A few gray hairs dotted his dark brown beard, which he kept closely trimmed to his face. His skin was sun-darkened and weathered.

Pale brown eyes, flecked with amber and green, stared at Father. The planes of his face were broad and masculine, accentuated by his neatly trimmed hair, which hung to the collar of his robe in the back but was brushed away from his face in the front. It wasn’t a traditional haircut, but it made sense for a man who bent over wood and stone, working with tools all day.

The two exchanged greetings and small talk, while I watched Joseph from beneath my lashes. I pulled my shawl further forward to camouflage the inappropriate staring.

“This is more than a social visit,” Father said.

Joseph nodded. “Of course.”

I felt Father glance toward me. I clenched my skirts with suddenly cold hands. Tightness in my chest made breathing difficult.

“Something unexpected has mired our betrothal agreement,” Father said.

Joseph tilted his head toward Father, but his eyes swept in my direction. Heat clawed up my neck and burned my cheeks.

“Just over three months ago, Jehovah’s messenger visited Mary.”

A whisper of wind could have knocked me backward at that moment. Father said we would keep the truth from everyone, and yet he was telling Joseph. I glanced toward my future husband, wondering how he would react to the unbelievable account.

His face didn’t change while Father repeated the angel’s declaration. A calloused brown hand smoothed his beard. He cupped his chin in one hand, a finger straying to cover his strong mouth.

Father’s direct approach shouldn’t have surprised me. Of course he would tell Joseph. How else would he explain my condition?

“Mary is with child,” Father said. “Although she has done nothing to violate the marriage contract, the law gives you the right to divorce her.”

Joseph’s hazel eyes filled with emotion. I guessed it was disbelief. My experience spotting Anna’s disapproval and condemnation made it easy to rule out those emotions. He rested his gaze on me, and I tried to shrink into my robe, wishing for a larger shawl to hide my embarrassment.

If he spoke to me, what would I say? The whole thing sounded absurd when Father admitted it aloud.

“You realize how incredible this sounds?” Joseph drew each of his words out, as if carefully selecting them.

“Yes. Precisely why no one outside this room knows about it.”

“You are claiming she is carrying the Messiah,” Joseph said.

“I claim nothing. I am simply repeating what happened.”

“I’m expected to believe my wife is pregnant but didn’t have marital relations with another man?”

Father’s silence made my stomach clench. Bile burned the back of my throat. I gritted my teeth, keeping the churning acid from making an escape. If I vomited here, I would die.

“I expect you to accept my word, one honorable man to another.”

Silence filled the space around us. It was so complete I could hear the fire hissing against the lard on the candle nearest to me.

Father expected too much.

In order to be entered into the special drawing I’m running on my blog, comment below. When have you experienced the uncomfortable situation of sharing unbelievable news? OR what should Mary do to convince Joseph of her innocence?

I will draw a name in one week and contact the winners via email. Thanks for visiting. Share this page with any of your friends who might be interested in reading this book.

To purchase your copy, click here.

Or for another chance to WIN a copy, sign up for the Goodreads giveaway.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Reflections from a Pondering Heart by S.L. Hughson

Reflections from a Pondering Heart

by S.L. Hughson

Giveaway ends May 15, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

Cover Reveal for the Upcoming Book Release

Amazon PH Cover

 

 

Recently, I talked about finding and working with a cover artist for your independently published novel. Didn’t my cover artist nail my story and genre?

Oh, you don’t know, because you haven’t heard about Reflections from a Pondering Heart? Let me remedy that.

 

One girl chosen to fulfill ancient prophecy faces death and family turmoil on the way to the greatest heartache a mother can face – followed by transcendent hope.

 

In the beginning, I herded goats on father’s farm when Jehovah’s messenger visited me. He claimed “Blessed art thou among women.”

Blessed? The speculation about my untimely pregnancy turned to shunning and isolation. Caesar’s decree forced a grueling trip to Bethlehem during my final weeks of pregnancy.  And then, under cover of darkness, I fled Herod’s murderous wrath. Is it any wonder I questioned the angel’s claim?

Yahweh blessed me with a quiver full of children. But love brings sorrow. Torn between two sons, my heart bled. Like old Simeon said, a sword pierced my soul – again and again. And the killing blow was yet to come…

If you need a cover artist (or a photographer or graphic designer), check out the work from my masterful art guy, Beau Hudspeth. This is his business site and here you can check out his photography.

I’ll try not to inundate this blog space with too much about this book. I don’t know enough about using my platform to launch my independent title into the Amazon top ten, but I’m learning.

I do know that I wouldn’t want to read post after post about the same subject *clears throat* (moving, for example), so I’m not going to subject my faithful followers to torture of that nature.

However, if you’d like to learn about the release date and any upcoming events surrounding it, please sign up for my newsletter. Just click here to be redirected to that page.

What do you think of the cover? What does it tell you about the story on the pages inside it?