Surrendering Fear

It’s a new year with a new focus, but the old fear hovers nearby.

What’s with that anyway?

I mean, I’m determined to trust in God and let love banish fear and then…wham, something unexpected ties me in emotional knots.

Could it be that I’ve lost my focus so quickly?

Or maybe I haven’t truly opened my hands in surrender.

After all, this is spiritual warfare. And it a war, there’s struggle and death and fear galore. Until one side says “enough” and seeks peace.

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Here’s some wise words from life coach Holley Gerth:

I tried to control everything so that I could get a specific outcome. Tests and temperatures, appointments and articles. I held on as tightly to my goal as I did to the one-lined pregnancy tests at the end of every month.

Then slowly, slowly I felt like God brought me to a point where I finally said, “Whatever.” Not “Whatever” (with the sarcastic tone and eye roll—although some days I did indeed want to say that). But “Whatever, Lord. I am surrendering my expectations. I’m surrendering what I’ve been demanding.” I waved the white flag and I let trust win.

People would ask, “How do you feel about your infertility?” And I would say, “I have a peace about it.” And they would look at me like, “Yeah, yeah, Sunday School answer.”

And I said, “No, it’s the kind of peace that comes after war. And I fought for it. I will surrender everything else but not that peace.”

It was that peace that replaced my fear, that set me free.

To read the rest of her post, click here.

So, are you still trying to defeat fear on your own terms?

Did something ugly sneak up on you and wrap your peace in chains?

You can be free from fear. It begins by surrendering to the Commander in Chief of the universe.

Remember, he’s the one that has mad lion taming skills. His is the heel that crushed the head of our enemy.

Let go of the anguish caused by fear. Wave the white flag. Let the peace that passes all understanding flood your heart instead.

What’s making you afraid today? Can you surrender it to the Prince of Peace?

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.
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Happy Birthday to The Man

Happy birthday to the man…

Born June 27, 1965
Born June 27, 1965
  • of the hour
  • I’m married to
  • of my dreams
  • who puts up with me day after day
  • who proposed to me 29 years ago and married me 28 years ago
  • who is the best father my boys could have
  • who I’m glad to grow old with
  • who spoils me
  • I love…still…after all this time
  • who looks at me with awestruck eyes
  • who loves me…still…after living with me for nearly three decades

Okay, the man’s a saint! I admit it. I’m the one who calls him “Mr. Wonderful” after all.

Back in 1982 when two cute seniors flirted with me the day before school started, I never would have imagined one of them would be my husband. And it wasn’t the one I dated first, either.

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This is a man who stood beside me through the births of two sons (well, there were those few moments he was nearly passing out, but I hardly remember that).

After the birth of son #1
After the birth of son #1

This is the man who taught our sons to shoot hoops, ride a bike and drive a car.

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Yes, he’s an amazing father. My boys are blessed.

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He spoils me with great trips

Caribbean 2016
Caribbean 2016

And I let him spoil himself with Mustang convertibles

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He has a sense of adventure that parallels mine

Ziplining 2016
Ziplining 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not to mention a sense of humor

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And didn’t he help me make handsome children?

Now we’re blessed with daughters, and our family is complete.

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Happy birthday, Mr. Wonderful. I’m glad you let me talk you into dating me and then trick you into marrying me. I hope I make you half as happy as you’ve made me.

Here’s to another 50-some years, right?

 

Author Interviewed: It’s ME!

I hope you’ll click through and check out the interview author Mercedes Fox did with me. She ran it on her blog on Thursday, February 18.

Why do I write in the genres I do? When did I start writing? What sort of things inspire me?

Click here to read all these answers and more!

AND…there’s a preview of the novel I’ve been slaving over for the last few months. This is the novel I wrote for National Novel Writing Month at the request of my publisher, Month9Books. Read that story here.

Check out the interview on Ms. Fox’s site to read an excerpt of this never before seen snippet from that young adult dystopian novel. Go ahead. Click the blue here. Do it. You know you want to.

Did you learn anything new about me from the interview?

What’s for dinner – when I’m eating alone?

In an empty nest, there’s no need for a four-course meal served on fine china. In fact, sometimes grilled cheese and tomato soup are exactly what’s for dinner when I’m cooking for two.

My oldest son still lives with us, but since his girlfriend has moved to the area, he doesn’t come home for dinner every night anymore. That means my days of cooking for two can continue. *Twirls around, humming and laughing*

Recently, my husband had to travel for work. My son was at his girlfriend’s house for three of those five days. If you think cooking for two is easy, here’s my menu when I cooked for one.

Dinner One

A bowl of Raisin Bran with milk and a bunch of grapes.

Dinner Two

Twelve Wheat Thins with a slice of cheese, half a red pepper and a bag of popcorn an hour later.

Dinner Three

A six-inch sub from Subway.

Better yet, the dinners when I cooked for my son and I weren’t too challenging either. Quesadillas anyone? They happen to be one of his favorite things. A Mexican grilled cheese sandwich is what that is. No need to add tomato soup, a cup of salsa works.

I wonder if people who live alone eat this simple fare. Or do they cook a single portion of something gourmet? I’m certain I wouldn’t live on cold cereal and popcorn if I only cooked for myself. I can see making a pot of navy bean soup and cornbread. Eat it for three days and then freeze the leftovers for later. I don’t know how gourmet that is.

I do understand that eating out is hazardous to health and waistline. Even if you get one of the “under 6 grams of fat” subs from Subway. It also loses its appeal when I eat out too often.

What do you eat when you’re by yourself for dinner? If you live alone, enlighten me to the way of cooking you use.

Five things that make a Book Riveting

Some books skyrocket to the top of the sales charts. I’ve read a few and wondered why they were so popular. I’m sure you have, too. Most people agree on the ingredients that keep readers reading once they open a book.

I’m a voracious reader. If you’ve followed this blog long, you’ve seen a number of book reviews. You’ll notice that I don’t love a book just because it’s a Pulitzer Prize winner. Nor does the fact something was penned by Shakespeare guarantee my adoration.

On the other side of my brain, however, I’m a writer. As a writer, I need to know the elements of a breakout novel – so I can pen one. If it’s so subjective, how can I ever be sure?

It’s not really all that subjective

The truth is: nearly all best-sellers share important qualities. A truly stellar book will have all five: character, plot, tension, voice, and turn of phrase.

Character

A story is about someone. This someone should never be perfect, but whatever their flaws, they have to gain our sympathy. We need to care about them.

I read a book for one of my literature classes about a middle class boy who had a rough upbringing, so he ran away. And became a total juvenile delinquent: breaking into houses and trashing them, living in a bus, and growing weed.

My professor swore this guy was an anti-hero, and I needed to learn how to see that. I still don’t see it – for one reason: The reader must care about the hero (or anti-hero). The author of this book never convinced me that this boy was anything more than a selfish jerk. Did he have reasons? Don’t we all? But there was nothing to redeem him or make me feel his pain. The writer didn’t do their job and deliver a character to care about.

Plot

Plot is simply the story. The events that happen to make the characters reveal themselves and their problems is the plot.

It’s more than that, too. There needs to be a problem introduced early in the story that will be resolved by the end. Each thing that happens and every choice the character makes, moves him closer to (or usually further away from) solving the problem.

If there isn’t a problem, there isn’t a story. If the problem isn’t resolved by the end (it doesn’t have to be a happy ending), the plot isn’t complete, and the reader will walk away feeling cheated.

Tension

Once we have a character who has a problem to solve, something must stand in the way.

If this is just a collection of random bad things that happen on the way to the prom, the reader is going to yawn and close the book. No writer wants a reader to close her book.

Every scene in the story must have tension. It can be tension caused by two characters wanting the same thing. Tension comes when bad things deliberately happen to the characters: chased by bad guys, beat up by the school bully. These things need to be directly related to the character’s attempt to solve the problem.

Secrets add tension. Major reversals add tension. Personality conflicts add tension. Romance can contribute to tension.

Stressed out characters are great. As long as your reader cares about your characters, they will not stop reading while your character is on the edge.

Voice

For me, this is one of the things that might keep me reading if I don’t like the character, and the story seems weak.

Voice is the ability for the reader to hear your character. The words on the page aren’t written by someone else, they are the embodiment of your character. The way he describes things is consistent with his fifteen-year-old vocabulary and world view. He probably isn’t going to describe the colors of the walls, but he’ll notice the gaming system in the corner.

A strong voice keeps the reader snared in the fictional world. A friend is in trouble, and they have to find out what happens.

Turn of Phrase

This is strongly related to voice. Words exist to paint the view an author sees. If the writer chooses the best words and arranges them perfectly, the reader will share the vision.

Some prose makes me laugh. ”The truth? That would earn her the boot and a restraining order.”

Some prose makes me cry. Some draws me completely into the story world.

Some keeps me thinking for days after I’ve closed the book. “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience” (from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee).

Any hack can write a story with an interesting character. A few can write this story with so much tension a reader can’t turn the pages quickly enough. A few make the voice of their character stay in your head for days, weeks and months. The true minority, who write a riveting book, can accomplish all that with words that sing the story into memory.

No, I can’t quote lines from books I loved. Not many, anyway. But I could tell you the story and why I liked the character. I could tell you about a scene that made me laugh or cry.

If the writing is average (like most of mine), I probably won’t even be able to tell you the character’s name. Even if I like her.

Do you agree with these essentials? Is there something else you feel is more important? Can you rank these in order of importance to you?

In Search of Home

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This place isn’t just a house. Memorable moments of laughter and sorrow meld together to make it special. My boys grew up here – in our home.

Home is not just where the heart is or where a man hangs his hat. It is a haven of peace, safety, rest and love. Get bullied on the school bus? Come inside, shut the door, cry out the tale, have a cheese stick and move upstairs to play some World of Warcraft.

Your girlfriend broke up with you? It’s okay to cry on Mom’s shoulder, stare at your ceiling and push your food around on your plate.

Home is more secure than the Tower of London. The key on this door keeps troublemakers and judgment locked out and love and acceptance locked in.

It’s the very essence of home that makes many aspects of selling this property difficult. I’ve mentioned the price issue before.

There’s more.

Welcome to one really bad weekend

It was probably easier for hubby and I to agree on names for our children than it was to settle on a single house plan. We had to, though, in order to get a builder to give us a bid.

I already mentioned the worthlessness of open houses in my neighborhood. Our realtor advertised a drawing for a $100 Visa gift card for everyone who viewed our property that Sunday. It was sure to draw the crowds.

First call:

The bid from the builder is a certain amount. Said certain amount puts the combined lot and house to $400,000. That is $50,000 or more out of our budget. Even if we sell our house at full list price, we aren’t in the market for something that expensive.

Second call:

No one showed up for the open house. People aren’t coming to look at other times either. What this tells us is that the property isn’t priced right. Can you consider dropping the list price another $15,000 to get it in the next price bracket?

Hubby feels stressed that we have no place to move when our house sells. He feels cheated because all of our labor and improvements to the house mean nothing in the current market (or maybe it’s the neighborhood).

Now, he needs to come up with $50,000 more for the new house while getting $15,000 less for the old one.

This whole “it’s time to scale down to a one-level home” isn’t working out so well for us.

It’s bad enough to leave seventeen years of memories behind. But do we have to give the place away? It there any way we will be able to purchase the home we wish to inhabit until we die?

Maybe I don’t want to sell my home after all. I certainly don’t want to be homeless.

Can you put a numeric value on home?

An Update on the Progress of my Manuscript

I hope someday to connect with my readers on this blog. As of this moment, I know most of my faithful followers are family, friends and other writers. Thank you for your support.

According to Jedi Master of Social Media, Kristen Lamb, I shouldn’t write about writing on my blog. My readers don’t care about it. In theory, I agree with her expert advice and follow it to the best of my ability.

However, I’m breaking her rule today. (Just this once, Master! I promise!) As an unpublished author, I don’t have the type of “readers” who only want to learn about the writer behind the story yet. In fact, some of you have actually asked how the manuscript was coming along.

For those of you who want to be “in the know,” here’s a rundown of my novel’s life:

  • Book one in the series started the beginning of September 2013.
  • Book two was written in 23 days during NaNoWriMo, November 2013
  • Book three was finished by the end of January 2014 (which was a miracle as far as I’m concerned, considering what was happening in my life at that time)
  • Read-through and rewrite of book one took most of February
  • Stage one revisions were completed by March 21
  • Manuscript sent to six beta readers for return by April 15, 2014 (Tax Day: a happy coincidence?)
  • First week of May spent making changes to the manuscript based on feedback from the beta readers (They improved the story so much. I love them!)
  • Stage two revisions finished by May 21
  • Read-through and final touch-ups
  • Manuscript to proofreader by May 30
  • First query letter to top agency of choice with sample pages sent June 6, 2014
  • Submit first 20 pages (and a synopsis) for critique by Alex Hughes at Willamette Writer’s Conference by June 18

What I hope happens next in this process:

  • An agent asks to see the whole manuscript
  • When I meet with Katie Reed of the Andrea Hurst agency at the conference in August, she asks me to send the manuscript
  • One of these agents loves my story and signs me up
  • They help me edit and perfect the manuscript (Yes, I know it isn’t perfect)
  • A publisher picks it up by the end of October, and I see my first book in print by October 2015

I know that’s a crazy long timeline. This arduous process is one thing that makes indie publishing look more attractive and self-publishing amazing. I need the traditional route for my first book. If it gets picked up, I know I’m ready to be read by the general public.

When the time comes, this website will light up with release dates, promotions and events. My life will get crazy because the publisher will be demanding the next two manuscripts in the series. Hopefully, I will be able to get them perfected in the year it takes for the first one to find the shelf at your local bookstore and on Amazon, of course.

Thank you for encouraging me to stay the course toward seeing my life-long dream come true. I couldn’t have done it without you!

Defining Hard Work in an age of Sit-down jobs

I’m a writer. I sit down while I work. And I hate it. Really.

Before this, I was a teaching assistant, and I sat down for my 30-minute lunch. Every day. Five days per week (except for summers – such an awesome benefit). You can bet I was happy to take a load off once I got home.

In process of writing my latest novel and getting it reader-worthy, I’ve worked so hard my back ached, my head ached and I saw spots dancing before my eyes. All of this while sitting in front of a computer.

Isn’t hard work defined as physical labor?

I raked a load of bark dust over my flower beds. Thankfully, I wore gloves and spared myself blisters. I dripped sweat, got a first-class kink in my lower back and suffered from stiff shoulders the next day. Must have been hard work.

When I watch movies of life in the pioneer days or earlier, I shudder to think of living in such a time. I like having time to sit on the deck and read a book. Those people sat down and fell asleep because their bodies needed to rest.

What constitutes hard work in an era when most of the desirable jobs involve a high-percentage of sitting and utilizing brain power rather than brawn?

This is my take on this subject. Five things that might mean you’ve worked hard:

Something gets accomplished

It might just be all the clothes washed, dried, folded and put in their appropriate spots. This is one task I would have despised as a pioneer. Washboard anyone? I’ll pass.

Visible results

Some people might say this is the same thing, but I think there’s a difference. After all, anyone who’s done laundry knows that all the clothes are never done. What happens when you get ready for bed on wash day? Right. You throw a bunch of dirty clothes in the hamper.

I wrote three blog posts today. Then I put them up on my website, programming them to automatically post on the appropriate day. I can show you this using the “All Posts” tab on my WordPress dashboard.

You feel it physically

Let’s face it, they don’t call that hour-long kickboxing class a workout for nothing. You will work your body. You will sweat. You will grunt. If it’s been awhile since you did it, you will groan for a few days to come.

Things like accounting and marketing don’t require the use of the same muscles as your cardio class. They do, however, make your brain sweat. My eyes feel like crossing after looking at the computer screen too long. I’m feeling it in my body.

Someone pays you to do it

Okay, I personally hate this one. I don’t consider some things people are paid for “work.” For instance, sitting at a front desk, smiling at people and showing them to the right room.  I know people who get paid to do this. I do consider revising and editing my manuscript brain-straining labor, and no one has yet to pay me for doing it.

Satisfaction follows on its heels

This is the biggest indicator. Labor for hours and finish a project. Afterwards, you can sigh and say, “That’s done.” (If you’re a mother, you will have to do the same exact thing again tomorrow.)

Work should bring with it a sense of accomplishment. I have had jobs that gave me nothing more than a paycheck. Some of them were physically demanding, and I worked quite hard while on shift. Afterwards, I just left tired.

When you do the work you’re meant to do, a sense of satisfaction rides on the bumper. Even in the midst of the project, you can look at how far you’ve come and feel good about it.

Why do people want to avoid work so much in this era? I have never gained the same flood of joy from playing a game or watching a movie as I do from writing a single scene in my novel. It just feels good to finish a job.

What’s your definition of hard work? Do you think a strong work ethic is being emphasized in today’s American culture?

Take a Trip to the Moon! Series Review: The Lunar Chronicles

Fairy tales are for children. Or not. I’m pretty sure I never imagined Hansel and Gretel the way they were portrayed in a recent film.

If you’ve read the Grimm brother’s tales, you know a dark side exists. Fingers and toes being hacked off. Blood and gore. Not happy bedtime story material.

Not that I’ve read a ton of them, but I haven’t been too impressed by the books based on these tried and true tales made famous (and sappy) by Disney. After all, isn’t an author supposed to think up their own story line?

Enter The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I put off reading them for a couple years even though my students rated them as engaging. “You would like this, Mrs. Hughson.” Sometimes those kids are right.

Cinder

Not the tried and true Cinderella story here. I never imagined Cinderella as a cyborg. I don’t think even the Brothers Grimm could have come up with that one.

Of course, that makes her less than human according to society. She’s even bought into the lie. She has no rights but to serve her wicked stepmother (not really even that- just a legal guardian).

There is a handsome prince. There is a ball. Even the promise of marriage hangs over the story. But not in any way similar to the original fairy tale. All of it fresh and new with a dash of fantasy and a boatload of science fiction.

Yes, there are aliens and spaceships. The series is named The Lunar Chronicles for a reason. And “don’t call it magic because it empowers them” gives you a hint about the mysticism involved.

I was happy I had checked out the first and second book. Last page read in Cinder led directly to opening the cover and reading the first page of Scarlet.

Scarlet

Once again, this isn’t the Little Red Riding Hood story your mother told you to scare you away from talking to strangers.

Unless the wolf was really a mutant alien. Maybe the grandmother in your tale was former military with a secret that’s about to threaten her life? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Scarlet wears her red hooded sweatshirt all the time. She hates that people think her grandmother’s crazy and is beyond irritated when the police decide she just ran off. Scarlet knows someone has kidnapped Grandma.

Enter the Wolf and an alliance that leads to much more than either Scarlet or the mutant alien could have imagined. Fight scenes, romance scenes, chase scenes and the revealing of a diabolic plot designed by the Lunars.

The story switches between what is happening with Cinder and Scarlet’s quest in a nearly seamless timeline. The reader knows they’ll meet up in the end. And they do, but that isn’t what anyone expects either.

I wanted the next installment but it was spring break and the librarian was on vacation. I had to wait before reading Cress.

Cress

“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair.”

Or in this case, Crescent, Crescent, your satellite is going to fall out of the sky. And her long hair will wind her up tight with the Prince Charming sent to rescue her.

This girl stranded and nearly forgotten in a satellite seemed the most vulnerable of the three heroines. She’s a programming genius and has been spying for the Lunar Queen for seven long years. No outside contact with anyone but the cruel woman who locked her away in the first place.

As before, Meyer weaves the stories of the other characters in seamless timelines along with Cress’ discovery of Earth and love. For those who think Carswell Thorne is a crack up (I laugh almost every time he opens his mouth), you’ll be happy to see him as the object of Cress’ desire.

My favorite part: Cinder finally gets her kiss from her Prince (now King Kai). Things get rough for Scarlet. People we’ve come to know and love (or hate) die in this book. You can’t have a violent manhunt without someone paying the ultimate price.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment – Winter. We get to meet the little princess at the end of Cress. I think it’s going to be a Snow White story unlike any we’ve ever imagined.

Five stars across the board for this series. Find it. Read it. You won’t be sorry.

Any readers of this series checking out this post? What did you think of the books?

Seldom is Heard an Encouraging Word – Hear some Here!

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela

DO IT Quote

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength. ” Corrie Ten Boom

Maya Angelou quote“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C.S. Lewis.

Negative Thoughts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Every mountaintop is within reach if you just keep climbing.”  Barry Finlay

I hope these quotes inspire you to encourage others today.

What are your favorite inspirational quotes?

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