Tag: SL Hughson

Shopping – Caribbean Style

On our recent cruise, we went shopping.

Apparently, this is something everyone does in the Caribbean. And, according to the shopping expert for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (yes, they have a crew member whose only job is to tell you how to shop), people go to the Caribbean to buy one thing.

Diamonds.

I never did fully grasp WHY the Caribbean was such an awesome place to purchase diamonds. After all, they don’t mine them there. Maybe they cut and finish them on those pretty little islands.

In any case, the cruise line has some sort of agreement with a large diamond wholesaler (and retailer), Diamonds International. They promoted them at every turn, to the extent that cruisers get a free, unique charm at the DI store on each island.

“Don’t forget to get your charms” one of my friends told me as I prepared for the cruise.

I was a noob. I had no clue what she was talking about.

Now I do.

Ignorance is bliss, they say. Well, for sure it is CHEAPER at times.

Diamonds are Forever

You know this old saying, right? I think it was probably a marketing slogan for a jeweler at some point in the past.

We know it was the title of a James Bond movie. It may have originated before that time, but it’s been around since 1971 (pretty much my whole life).

Question: if diamonds are forever, why do people get new diamond jewelry?

Silly me.

Because they need a pendant and earrings to complement their stunning wedding ring.

Or they need bigger earrings. Or a larger diamond carat weight on their finger. After all, who will notice that little chip their husband could afford back in the day, when they were both poor college graduates.

Diamonds are hard. They won’t lose their value (much- depending on the jeweler you try to pawn them to).

Not only do they sparkle in sunlight and glitter under bright lights, diamonds are the traditional stone for wedding and anniversary rings.

Because diamonds are forever. Like love should be. Like marriage is supposed to be. A perfect symbol for those enduring institutions.

Diamond Rings

I’ve had three different wedding rings in my life. I never planned it that way. In fact, I never thought much about a wedding ring at all.

Until I got engaged.

Here’s the rundown on my rings:

Ring #1: An heirloom wedding set from my grandmother. I wore this on my wedding day and for several months because my husband wanted to get me the “perfect” ring I wanted.

Ring #2: A custom made ring wrapping the diamond solitaire with a flower of rubies and diamonds.

Ring #3: Another ring, similar to ring two, with the one difference being a larger (half-carat) marquis cut diamond as the centerpiece.

In the Caribbean, my husband bought me wedding ring number four, and I won’t be looking for anything different for another 27 years (or more).

Diamond Love

I didn’t go to the Caribbean to buy a diamond – regardless of what the cruise line tried to tell me. My planned purchases: gifts for my kids and parents, a few souvenirs to help me remember the trip.

So, it goes without saying that we didn’t intend to purchase a new ring when we walked into DI to pick up our “free” charm. (You see how this is a huge marketing trap now, right? Consider yourself warned.)

In fact, I wanted to look at upgrading my diamond stud earrings. Not because I needed bigger stones. The posts make my ears break out. Since I leave them in my second piercing all the time, this creates problems.

Painful ones.

crown of lightHowever, the shopping guru on the ship had dazzled me with her engagement ring. It was a special cut called Crown of Light. The diamond has 90 facets to showcase all the brilliance hidden in its depths.

It’s unique to DI. They even have a website dedicated to it. Don’t believe me? Click here.

Innocent me walked into the den of diamonds.

What happened next?

Read about this epic shopping adventure in the next post.

Rewrite, Revise, Repeat…Is it Done Yet?

Rewrite_revise_repeatGood writing is rewriting. I’m not the originator of that wisdom. It seems like I might be a poster child for it, though.

When did I finish this young adult fantasy novel again? Oh, right, before NaNoWriMo last year.

It was ready for a little polish and then off to the beta readers.

Or so I thought. Until I got a critique on the first 20,000 words from the amazing Jami Gold.

It had major character arc issues.

So, I spent December tweaking things, getting a little feedback on the opening from my online critique group.

In January, I went through it all again, trying to spiff it up slightly. I don’t like sending mediocre writing out to readers.

Off it went to four beta readers in February.

And only one of them loved it.

The non-genre readers had issues with some of the fantastical happenings (it is a FANTASY after all), but thought the characters read fairly well. He wasn’t impressed with the ending.

The fantasy genre read-aholic thought the premise was great. He didn’t think the characters arced very much. Everything happened for them too easily – even though the stakes couldn’t get much higher.

Months later, the soon-to-be-published YA Fantasy writer returned the manuscript. Shredded. (No need to mention my writing confidence was also ripped apart. But that’s part of becoming a professional writer.)

Much of the stuff she address was tight writing, which I address most in my editing and polishing phases (which happen once all the revision and rewriting is finished).

The story had so much potential but was weighed down by wishy-washy characters and too few moments of accelerating tension.

So, I spent the next two weeks slicing and dicing the beta manuscript.

Here are a few examples:

  • The first scene was completely scratched and rewritten (for like the fourth or fifth time)
  • The order of the first two scenes was switched (suggestion from my target audience beta group)
  • Several scenes were tossed into the “cut scenes” file (making it a hefty 15,000 words)
  • A few new scenes were added
  • Nearly every scene was intensified with more emotions (teenagers = drama)
  • The end was completely rewritten (for the second time)

In short, anyone who read the original story probably wouldn’t recognize it in the pages of the rewritten story.

Next stop, revision with a red pen.

I print out my manuscript and read it aloud. Every sentence comes under fire.

I’ll address grammar issues if I find them. Obvious word repetition will fall beneath my sharpened editor’s blade.

But mostly, I’m cleaning up the language. Clarifying meaning. Focusing on the individual voice of each passage.

Does that SOUND like something my seventeen-year-old heroine would say? Would a fifteen-year-old surfing science geek think or talk that way?

good writing meme

After that, the manuscript will get two more rounds of edits. It’s during these final polishing rounds that I will search for obvious areas of “telling” rather than “showing.” Major word repetition will be rooted out.

After that, will it finally be done?

Nope, but it will be ready for marketing to agents, editors and publishers. Once they buy it, it will go through several more rounds of editing.

Because every writer knows – a story is never done.

Merry May with Sharon Hughson

Time for a Merry-go-round of fun and prizes.

Yes, there are free books. Romance is in the air.

There’s also a bit of historical fiction up for grabs here on my site.

I recently released Reflections from a Pondering Heart. Check out this blurb:

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 would be interested in winning an eBook of this title, please leave a comment below. Tell me your favorite thing about the month of May and make sure your linking profile has an email address where I can contact you.

*Congratulations to Lissa (first to comment below) whose number was selected by random.org to receive the eBook.

Now check out the rest of the blogs and have a hopping-good time!

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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.

Book Sale! Get your books this month!

All of Roane Publishing’s paperback titles are 25% off over at CreateSpace for the entire month of May! Click on the covers below for more information.

 In order to get your discount, use the following code at checkout:

7PWJ7ZKL

Stock up all month long and enjoy!

Offer good until May 31st at 11:59 p.m.















Road to Self- Published – Promoting your Release Date

release date

This whole “promoting” thing just isn’t my thing. It feels like tooting my own horn. Or going door-to-door with a case of encyclopedias.

Sure, I mentioned every stage of writing this book on my Facebook page. I posted about my release date on social media forums, but it felt superficial.

How do you promote your release date? What do the pros have to say about it?

The most important thing to do, they say, is build up an email address list. When they time is right, blast these people with information about your new work in well-timed increments. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

Or not.

As of this writing, I have seventeen addresses on my email list. Yes, as in NOT EVEN TWENTY.

And I’ve done everything the experts recommend except create a pop-up for every visit to my site. (I hate pop-ups. Don’t you? I don’t want to be that person.)

Creating an Email List

Every page of your website should have a prominent display for signing up for a newsletter.

I can check that off. Except…I fear I may have confused people because I have a space to follow my blog posts (and 200 people do follow it) right above the newsletter sign-up.

Whoops!

The newsletter sign-up is a relatively new addition to the site. I’m getting ready to mail out only my second newsletter this Friday. It announces – you guessed it – the upcoming release. And offers links to my site and the purchase pages.

The logic behind collecting email addresses is that people are asking YOU for something. They WANT to hear about your upcoming books and events. You aren’t spamming them with information they never asked for in the first place.

Social Media

I hear mixed things about using social media to promote your book’s release date.

First of all, you should have a presence on your media sites of choice BEFORE you start slamming everyone with requests to purchase your book. Show up and talk to people about things that interest you.

Share their Tweets. Like their posts and pages. Be authentic.

When you’re ready to release your book, don’t hammer your feed with the same link over and over again. I’m aiming for once per day for ten days leading up to the release. Then once per day for the first week.

After that, I hope people will be Tweeting or posting reviews about my book. Then I can share their comments, keeping the subject alive without looking like all I ever do is shove my book in people’s faces.

There might be a science to this, but I don’t know it.

Street Team

Okay, I failed at this.

I tried to find some people – even friends and family – who would willingly read an advanced copy of my book and post a review of it.

My sister and three of my writing friends signed up. I don’t know if any of them will actually finish the book (well, my sister did), or write a review once the book is up on Amazon and Goodreads (which it should be tomorrow or Monday, April 27).

I sent them an email offering a link to a private page on my website that listed simple things they could post each day on the social media venue of their choice. I tried to keep these blurb-ish statements short enough for Twitter. Most of them include links to the order page or my website.

Image by Tim Grahl timgrahl.com

The truth is – I don’t want to promote Reflections from a Pondering Heart. It doesn’t feel like the story belongs to me.

It is an important story, though. I want people to read it. I pray it helps them gain a better perspective of people from the Bible we often ideal-ize.

They can’t read it if they don’t know it exists. They won’t know it exists unless the word gets out. Somehow.

Aren’t there some Book Promo Brownies who take care of this sort of thing?

What would you add to this discussion? What do you feel is the best way to promote your book’s release date?

Additional Resource: Book Publishing Guide

Zip lining Adventure

When we traveled to Mexico, I had only two three items on my wish list. It should be easy enough to satisfy three small things, right? And zip lining topped the list.

Okay, it was second on the list.

The list:

  1. Bask in the sunshine
  2. Zip-line
  3. Sunset cruise

Fortunately, everyone shared my adventurous spirit. And there was a discount (of $30 per person), so I took that as a sign from Heaven (Aren’t coupons God’s express permission to purchase an item?)

After a fair amount of grumbling from the kids about having to wake up early, we settled on a day and time. A bus would pick us up at 8:15 and transport us to our adventure. It would start at 9 am and end around noon.

The only instructions we received ahead of time: wear tennis shoes and comfortable clothes. No one told us we would have to leave our cameras behind. After all, the main reason I wanted my husband to have a Go-Pro was to catch this action on film.

Instead, we have still photos taken by the “guides” (and purchased for no small amount) and only our brain’s recollection for moving pictures. So, I’ll do my best to share that here.

IMG_0452The guides were a hoot-and-a-half. By the end of the day, I wondered how many times every day they repeated the same quips. You can be sure a portion of our gratuity was thanks to their delightful acting skills.

Our adventure included ten zip lines and rappelling down a 180-foot rock wall (which was optional). Honestly, the chance to rappel is what made me choose this company over the one with “the longest zip line in Mexico.”

First we needed the gear. This involved an attractive liner tied over our hair under an equally attractive helmet. Most important was the web belt with the solid ropes to clip onto the pulley (which we carried for the next two hours) and zip line.

The safety briefing and instructions spotlighted the silly sides of four of the six guides going with us on this adventure. Can you really get a class in how to ride your pulley with the line is not even six feet long? “Shortest zip-line ever” is my title for it.

DSC_9592The reason for the solid walking shoes became immediately evident. We wound up a narrow rocky trail to a short metal wire spanning maybe 50 feet.

“Lie back and scream like you’re happy.”

Yep. Those were the man’s exact instructions. He may have mentioned something about keeping your knees bent to your chest and not straightening your legs unless you wanted your ankles broken like Kathy Bates’ prisoner in Misery.

It was over before I got the “Geronimo” out of my mouth. (That’s my happy yell. It’s named after an attraction at the OKC theme park.)

I don’t think my heart had time to pick up its speed.

We walked up a longer path to the first “real” zip line. After all, we have to get up high if we want it to be exciting. In the end, I think my heart rate was elevated more by the hiking than the all-too-brief zips along the wires.

My oldest zipping along - having a good time
My oldest zipping along – having a good time

It was fun. I enjoyed watching my kids having a blast, but it wasn’t the thrill ride I was expecting. Maybe it’s because we were never more than 500 feet above the ground. Or that the longest ride was 1500 feet and it took less than 30 seconds to complete.

The best part for me came after all but two zip lines had been conquered. Yes, the 180-foot rappel.

I tried indoor rock climbing once. Mostly because I wanted to rappel. I enjoyed the climbing, but zinging down the smoking rope brought the biggest smile to my face.

My drill sergeant would have been proud. I didn’t even balk when I backed over the edge of the platform (the scariest moment atop Victory Tower). The guy on the ground did his job belaying me a bit too well, so I didn’t get to fly down like I hoped.

Could my smile get any wider?
Could my smile get any wider?

From the platform, there was about forty feet where the wall was too far beneath to reach. So I spent some time dangling with nothing to push off from.

“Release your left hand,” the guide kept telling me.

It was released, but my belayer wasn’t letting me move. See? There’s no danger involved in this sport.

I was smiling at the bottom. The last zip line was a race – my husband won – and anti-climactic after the wall.

I was the only one asking if I could go again. What’s wrong with those people who didn’t do it? I should have been allowed to take their place, right?

If you’re afraid of heights, that’s not a big deal. You don’t have to look down when you zip line. You’re lying on your back.

If you can look around though, you’ll get a great view of whatever’s beneath you. For about five seconds. Because then the ride’s over.

So the next time you’re watching the Amazing Race and thinking, “That would be so scary” as they zip line a few thousand feet, don’t.

It might be a rush – or a thrill – but being dropped from a hundred feet with only a bungee cord to stop you is much more frightening.

Have you been zip lining? Bungee jumping? What is the scariest thing you’ve done? What is something you thought would be scary that turned out to be nothing?

It’s all about the Attitude

positive-attitude quotespositive

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen the daily memes. They’ll stop soon. There can’t be 365 unique quotes about having a positive attitude.

Life should be an adventure. And as I learned on my biking trip in Hawaii, the key to enjoying an adventure is to have the right attitude.

Some people would say there are only two types of attitudes: positive and negative. Or maybe good and bad. But I think attitudes are colored in shades of gray.

Negative

At the black end of the spectrum is the naysayer. You know who I’m talking about. They just won the lottery – and complain about the amount of taxes they have to pay.

Any normal person takes at least a few minutes to jump around like a maniac, shrieking in delight. But a blackened attitude doesn’t see a good side.

It’s difficult to spend more than a few minutes with this person. Why? You feel like crying. Or strangling them. Or jumping off the nearest cliff.

Or heading back to bed – with earplugs so you don’t have to listen to their downer-isms any longer.

It’s Eeyore, but without the cuteness.

Bad-ish

Thankfully, there aren’t too many people with a full-blown negative attitude. At least not as a permanent fixture in their personality.

We can excuse it when they’ve had a bad day, been fired from their job, wrecked their car or lost someone they loved. If they were all sunshine and roses in those moments, we’d question their mental health.

The type of person that bugs me is the dark gray bad attitude. This is the person who takes it upon themselves to rain on everyone’s happiness.

“I just got a raise.”

“Uncle Sam thanks you for the additional taxes he’s getting,” Says Big Gray. Really? How about a “congratulations” before you burst my joy with your sharp words?

This type of person is worse than Mr. Black because I can’t be myself around them. I’m constantly keeping my excitement about life inside because I don’t want it sullied by their caustic commentary.best-quotes-on-attitude

Average

Somewhere at the mid-scale gray is where most of us reside. We have good days when we can spout appropriately positive remarks upon hearing the good news.

We’re quick to agree with those whose day was less than charming, consoling them with a few black comments of our own. All in the name of being there for them.

Good-ish

There is a silver-hued attitude. We know some people like this. They always have something upbeat to say no matter what the situation.

“I lost my job.”

“That’s terrible, but truthfully, you’ve seemed pretty unhappy with it the past few months anyway. Now you can find something better.” Oh the brilliance of their shiny silver-tongued words.

But do they mean them?

Often, the people who are eternally optimistic make me suspicious. It’s not that I don’t believe you can have a positive outlook all the time (we’ll get to that next), but because sometimes turning the tables on a disaster is the wrong move.

Don’t they care that I lost my job? Their positive spin minimizes my anguish over the bad turn I must endure.

Positive

What on earth does she think a positive attitude looks like, then? If it isn’t the person who always has something nice to say, what else is there?

True empathy.

“We had to put my dog to sleep.”

If you try to put a positive spin on this, you’ll alienate that person. Go ahead. Try it. Give me your positive comment below.

Sometimes no words are the most positive thing you can offer. Sharing their tears and wrapping them up in a hug are great ways to fill the silence.

Seriously.

How is this positive?

When that person thinks back on that difficult time, your kindness will stand out. They might even tell you how much they appreciated that you didn’t try to console them with words.

I’m a writer, but sometimes there are no words that are situation-appropriate.

The person with the crystal-white positive attitude exercises wisdom with their tongue. They have upbeat words when that is what fits the moment. Helpful words flow from their lips when a person spews negativity and there is a positive antidote.

Ms. Positive knows that sometimes a smile, shared tears, or physical comfort is the positive “shot in the arm” to remedy truly heartbroken moments of negativity.

In the end, life is all about the attitude you face it with. Where are you on this scale? Or maybe you see it in black and white. Let’s discuss it.