The Art and Grace of a Gratitude Journal

Previously on this blog I’ve written about the benefits of keeping a journal. Today I’d like to expand on that.

There are many types of journals–diaries, travel journals, food journals, etc, but there’s another kind of journal that does more than keep track of your life. There’s a journaling practice that’s been proven to reduce stress and improve happiness. It’s known as Gratitude Journaling.

There’s no doubt that every day we’re bombarded with negative images and messages. Everything in the world is (and always has been) dire. Everyone is stressed. And all of us eventually have to do things like pay taxes and attend funerals. If we only listened to the world around us, we’d never believe that anything good ever happens. We’d only believe that life is hard and then it’s over.

But there’s another way to look at life. Despite all of the difficulties found in adulting, there are also good times. There are weddings and comedy clubs and birthday parties. There’s the surprise reunion with an old friend and a last minute cup of tea with your neighbor who just happened to bring over homemade cookies warm from the oven.

A Gratitude Journal is one of those things in life that’s simple yet not easy. (Like dieting!) It’s nothing more than a daily record of your blessings, of things you’re grateful for, or even just the things that made you smile. It’s an accounting of the good things and people and moments of your life. Keeping a gratitude journal takes you out of the chaos in your head and allows you to clearly see the truth of your life, not what the mass media want you to believe.

There are no rules to keeping a gratitude journal. On simple way is to start by keeping a notebook by your bedside table and every night, before you go to sleep, write down five things you’re grateful for. It could be as simple as the fact the leftovers you had for dinner tasted better the second night. Or the unexpected text message with smiling emojis you received from a friend. It doesn’t matter what the five things are, just that you mentally review your day and record them.

Here are a few ideas to help you succeed:

  1. Write frequently, at least three times a week. Daily is even better. Regardless of how often you journal, pick a time of day and a place in which to work and be consistent. Do you want to journal in bed before going to sleep? During lunch in the patio behind your office building? Before dinner while your food is in the oven? Just pick one that works for you!
  2. While you’re recording these five things, be as specific as possible. When you read the entry over later, you don’t want to just remember the event or moment. You want to remember the emotions associated with it. Being specific amplifies gratitude. Saying you’re grateful that your neighbor brought over homemade cookies after she heard about your horrible day at work brings forth more emotions than just saying you appreciate your neighbors.
  3. Record events and moments that were complete surprises and how grateful you are for what happened. I don’t mean just surprise parties. It’s more about unexpected moments like someone paying for you coffee or a pretty card received in the mail.
  4. If you find yourself being grateful every day for the same thing (and that’s okay!), try to focus on a different aspect of this thing so you can elicit a different emotion. When good things happen, we often experience multiple emotions. See if you can describe the hidden ones.
  5. Treat all of these recordable events as gifts. Not like birthday presents, but like small gifts you weren’t expecting. Treating these moments like gifts helps foster gratitude.
  6. Don’t be afraid to list negative things that you’re grateful for. Sometimes negative things are a blessing in disguise, although it may take us time to realize that. But when you do suddenly realize why you didn’t get that job or why that person you dated once didn’t call you back is actually a good thing, write it down!
  7. Keep it pretty. This is not a rule, just a suggestion. By using different colored pens and washi tape and adding in small photos and postcards, etc, the journal becomes even more personal. Besides, sometimes it’s fun to write in different colors! For those who don’t like to decorate, choose a journal with paper you love and the perfect pen. When you love what you’re writing with, it becomes a joy instead of a chore.

Do you keep a gratitude journal? I’d love to know in the comments!


 

Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

Her second book, ONE DARK WISH, will come out September 24, 2019 and is available for preorder here: Amazon |  Barnes and Noble Books-a-Million | iBooks |  Google

EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google

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2019 Mid-Summer Middle Grade & Young Adult Book List

It’s that time of year again! It’s time for the 2019 Mid-Summer Middle Grade & Young Adult Book List!

This is not a best-seller or new release list. This is an ongoing, cumulative list of books the kids in my reading army have read that is updated twice a year. I want to thank my teen readers for their help and suggestions, as well as my blog readers who’ve made this list such a popular download. You are all awesome!

This bi-annual compilation offers a good cross-section of genres for teens and tweens. We’ve added a lot of new YA Romance and Fantasy books as well as new Middle Grade Action/Adventure and non-fiction stories. There are books on the list for all readers just in time for the second half of summer!

Below are a few highlights (in no particular order), but for the entire printable list, click here: 2019 Mid-Summer MG/YA Book List.

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YOUNG ADULT FICTION

All covers and blurbs courtesy of Amazon.

A new generation. A new kind of love. A new Hidden threat…
The Hidden Saga comes full circle back to Altum as its citizens— and its king and queen— prepare for a very special arrival.
It should be the most joyous of occasions, especially as the new heir is expected to make an appearance during the holiday season. But things are never simple in the Fae world, and not everyone is who they seem to be.

~~~~~~~

How can the wrong guy be so right?

Paige Locklear has prided herself on her perfection: first chair violinist, straight A student, well-behaved daughter of Cedar Oaks High’s principal. The last thing she needs at the end of her senior year is to get distracted. Enter Liam Harwick.

For his entire life, Liam’s been known as Cedar Oaks’ resident bad boy. Rumor has it he’s been kicked out of more schools than he can count and has a penchant for all things mischief. But when he meets Paige Locklear, a different, sweeter side of Liam is exposed. But can others see past his reputation?

~~~~~~~

They are Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette.

A classical pianist from London, a British would-be architect-turned-soldier, a Harlem-born ragtime genius in the U.S. Army, and a Belgian orphan with a gorgeous voice and a devastating past. Their story, as told by goddess Aphrodite, who must spin the tale or face judgment on Mount Olympus, is filled with hope and heartbreak, prejudice and passion, and reveals that, though War is a formidable force, it’s no match for the transcendent power of Love.

~~~~~~~

Here is what happens when your mother dies.

It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.

~~~~~~~

As one of the Queen’s elite assassins, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and permission to hunt down the lords who killed their family.

But Sal still has to figure out who the culprits are. They must enlist the help of some old friends and enemies while ignoring a growing distaste for the queen and that the charming Elise is being held prisoner by her father.

But there’s something terribly wrong in the north. Talk of the return of shadows, missing children, and magic abounds. As Sal takes out the people responsible for their ruined homeland, Sal learns secrets and truths that can’t be forgotten.

~~~~~~~

No one knows death like Tea.

A bone witch who can resurrect the dead, she has the power to take life…and return it. And she is done with her self-imposed exile. Her heart is set on vengeance, and she now possesses all she needs to command the mighty daeva. With the help of these terrifying beasts, she can finally enact revenge against the royals who wronged her—and took the life of her one true love.

But there are those who plot against her, those who would use Tea’s dark power for their own nefarious ends. Because you can’t kill someone who can never die…

War is brewing among the kingdoms, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.

~~~~~~~

Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11.

On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka “Baby Hope”) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing.

Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope.

Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers?

~~~~~~~

The perfect addition to the #1 New York Times bestselling Red Queen series, this gorgeously designed package features three brand-new novellas, two previously published novellas, Steel Scars and Queen Song, and never-before-seen maps, flags, bonus scenes, journal entries, and much more exclusive content.

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Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto.

Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…

~~~~~~~

As a child, she committed unforgivable acts to free Grace Loray from King Elazar of Argrid.

Now Elazar’s plan to retake the island has surpassed Lu’s darkest fears: He’s holding her and his son, Ben, captive in an endlessly shifting prison, forcing them to make a weapon that will guarantee Elazar’s success.

Escape is impossible—unless Lu becomes the ruthless soldier she hoped never to be again.

Vex failed to save Lu and Ben—and that torments him as much as his Shaking Sickness. With the disease worsening, Vex throws himself into the rebellion against Argrid. The remaining free armies are allied with the stream raider syndicates—and getting them to cooperate will take a strength Vex thought burned on a pyre six years ago.

Imprisoned, betrayed, and heartbroken, Ben is determined to end his father’s rampage. Watching Elazar sway the minds of Grace Loray as he did those of Argrid, Ben knows he has to play his father’s game of devotion to win this war. But how can a heretic prince defeat the Pious God?

~~~~~~~

They say your destiny is carved in stone. But some destinies are meant to be broken.

The only curse Jesse Lachlin believes in is his grandmother’s will: in order to inherit his family farm he must win the approval of his childhood best friend, the girl he froze out his freshman year.

A fortuneteller tells Scarlett she’s psychic, but what is real is Scarlett’s father’s controlling attitude and the dark secrets at home. She may be able to escape, but only if she can rely on the one boy who broke her heart.

Each midnight meeting pushes Jesse and Scarlett to confront their secrets and their feelings, but as love blooms, the curse rears its ugly head…

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MIDDLE GRADE FICTION & NON-FICTION

Become Awesome at (almost) anything

Getting good at stuff is not as hard as it seems. In fact, anyone can get (much) better at almost anything. With colour illustrations throughout, You Are Awesome is an easy-to-follow guide for children to discover their potential.

Follow the story of kid average vs kid awesome and discover how practise, hard work and the right mindset can help anyone achieve success. Whatever the awesome goal is, this book is packed with strategies, hints and tips on making it happen!

~~~~~~~

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he?

As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator?

Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if Will gets off that elevator.

~~~~~~~

On the night of February 18, 1952, during one of the worst winter storms that New England has ever seen, two oil tankers just off the shore of Cape Cod were torn in half by the force of the storm.

This middle-grade adaptation of an adult nonfiction book tells the story of the shipwreck and a harrowing Coast Guard rescue when four men in a tiny lifeboat overcame insurmountable odds and saved more than 30 stranded sailors.

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They thought it was dead. They were wrong.

Two years ago, a virus hit London, killing thousands of people and driving the rest into hiding. But Leon has somehow survived, making it through two harsh winters. Now he’s living on the fragile hope that the freezing snow and ice of the English climate wiped out the virus for good. Word even reaches Leon of a rescue boat on its way.

But all is not as safe as it seems. The virus has been busy…

~~~~~~~

The most important rule of Unicorn Day is to have fun, fun, fun!

The unicorns are celebrating their favorite day of the year, complete with rainbows, cupcakes, butterflies, and all sorts of joyful things. But when it’s revealed there’s an impostor in their midst, the party comes to a screeching halt…

Will the unicorns welcome all and continue their fun in all its glittery glory? A clever, colorful, and over-the-top picture book about unicorns, celebrations, and most importantly, friendship.

~~~~~~~

Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.

Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.

Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.

~~~~~~~

Aru is only just getting the hang of this whole Pandava thing when the Otherworld goes into full panic mode.

The god of love’s bow and arrow have gone missing, and the thief isn’t playing Cupid. Instead, they’re turning people into heartless fighting-machine zombies. If that weren’t bad enough, somehow Aru gets framed as the thief. If she doesn’t find the arrow by the next full moon, she’ll be kicked out of the Otherworld. For good. But, for better or worse, she won’t be going it alone. Along with her soul-sister, Mini, Aru will team up with Brynne, an ultra-strong girl who knows more than she lets on, and Aiden, the boy who lives across the street and is also hiding plenty of secrets. Together they’ll battle demons, travel through a glittering and dangerous serpent realm, and discover that their enemy isn’t at all who they expected.

~~~~~~~

A heartwarming story of a friendship-seeking moon that also celebrates the extraordinary 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing!

From high up in the sky, the Moon has spent her whole life watching Earth and hoping for someone to visit. Dinosaurs roam, pyramids are built, and boats are made, but still no one comes. Will friends ever come visit her?

One day a spaceship soars from Earth…and so does her heart.

Includes bonus educational pages about the moon mission!

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Disclaimer: Some of these books are (or once were) controversial. Some older YAs have closed-door or open-door adult situations, and others (YA & MG) deal with harsh issues such as suicide, bullying, war, poverty, and loss of a parent. As a librarian, reader’s advisor, and mother, I’ve learned that tweens and teens tend to read within their comfort zone, both emotionally and reading-level wise. All of these books offer a chance for parents and kids to discuss which topics are appropriate now and which books are best left for another time. But I hope you all find books that will give your family new adventures and imaginary friends.

See you next winter for the 2020 Mid-Winter Young Adult and Middle Grade Book List!

*The books listed in this blog post and are in no particular order.

Do you have any books you’d like to add to the list? Please leave a comment and let me know!

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Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

Her second book, ONE DARK WISH, will come out September 24, 2019 and is available for preorder here: Amazon |  Barnes and Noble Books-a-Million | iBooks |  Google

EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google

ONE DARK WISH and a Recipe for Strawberry Pie

JUNE BRINGS A PRE-ORDER LINK FOR ONE DARK WISH AND A RECIPE FOR STRAWBERRY PIE!

“Twisty plots, fantastic characters, and pitch-perfect pacing. Fabulous!” ―ALLISON BRENNANNew York Times bestselling author

Her life must be forfeit for his to be redeemed

Historian Sarah Munro is not used to being shot at, but that’s just what happens while she’s poking around cemeteries on Georgia’s Isle of Grace, searching for the key to a centuries-old cipher. Her quest has unwittingly drawn the attention of two deadly enemies intent on destroying each other―and anyone who gets in their way.

Ex–Green Beret Major Nate Walker is on a mission of his own: to restore the honor of his men. To do that, he is required to stop Sarah―or one of his own men will die. Caught in the middle of a deadly rivalry, Nate can’t afford to trust the woman standing in his way. But his heart says he can’t afford not to…

ONE DARK WISH, the second book in my Deadly Force series, is a fast-paced story filled with all the staples of a romantic suspense, including a race through the historic city of Savannah and discovering hidden tombs in a long-forgotten cemetery, as well as sexy times. Yet Nate and Sarah do have a few moments to pause, reflect, and figure out what to do next. I guess you could call these “dates”. lol

On one of these dates, Nate buys Sarah a slice of strawberry pie. Being from Boston, Sarah has never had a fruit pie that includes cointreau, kirsch, and whipped cream. And she falls in love. 🙂

I’ve included the recipe below for Sarah’s Strawberry Pie. I hope you love it, and ONE DARK WISH, as much as she does!

Strawberry Pie

1 9” pre-baked pie shell

2 pints fresh strawberries, washed and hulled

1 envelope plus 1 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin

¼ cup cold water

¾ cup warm water

1 cup sugar

¼ cup kirsch

1 Tablespoon Cointreau

Slice each berry into 3-4 lengthwise slices. Blend enough of the berries to make 1 cup of berry puree. Chill remaining berry slices.

In a small bowl, combine gelatin and cold water, stirring to dissolve. Set aside.

In a saucepan, add ¾ cup warm water and berry puree. Stir until mixture boils. Add sugar until dissolved and transfer puree to a medium bowl.

Add gelatin/water mixture to berry puree and stir until dissolved.

Strain berry puree through a fine-meshed strainer to remove seeds.

Partly fill a large bowl with ice and put medium bowl on top. Stir until mixture thickens into a syrup.

Stir in Kirsch, Cointreau, and the remaining chilled berry slices.

Mix well but gently and turn into the prepared pie shell. Chill for at least 4 hours.

Serve with whipped cream.


Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google

Adding it to your Goodreads TBR list is also always appreciated!

How to Write a Love Story

He wept.

Standing in my kitchen filled with the warmth of baking sugar cookies and the scent of a cinnamon candle, I pressed the phone harder against my ear. Every one of his ragged breaths spears my heart. His wife, my dearest friend, has died.

And I have no words.

How do you comfort a man who’s lost his wife, his best friend, the one person in this entire world he counted on always to be there, always to love him?

Deep in the hard pit that used to be my stomach I realize you don’t. I can’t.

I finish the call and six teenagers, some mine and some borrowed, race in to find the cookies. I hand them out, present in person but not in heart, as his last words swirls around me.

“Why is this so hard?”

My answer was, “I don’t know.”

Does anyone know how to say goodbye and survive?

I pour milk for the chattering masses worried about Fall Out Boy concerts and cross country rankings. Yet all I can think about is it’s not the letting go that’s hard, it’s the leaving behind.

While her struggle is over, his is just starting. The world will expect him to grieve quickly and properly, take care of his children, go to work, accomplish things. Face the world with courage and strength and a smile stretched across his unnaturally thin face. Yet some accommodation will be made since he is the widower.

For her friends, those who sent cards filled with love when they couldn’t send themselves, those who sat by her bed, read her books because she lost her vision, we said goodbye at the proper time and now struggle to move on.

But I’m afraid. Afraid when I do move on it will be as if she never existed, never counted.

Yet she did and she does.

With her middle-grade mysteries and women’s fiction novels, her great scarves, white flowers, and endless cups of grande lattes, she brought her warmth and light and laughter to a new home. An act that has left our home darker and colder and quieter.

And I will continue writing a novella that she loved and believed in yet is suffering under the weight of my sadness and loss. She was my critique partner and head cheerleader. Without her wisdom and wit, I’m desperately making deals with God.

I’m determined to finish my novella but I want to read it to her, let her know how much I valued her attention and insight, let her know she was loved. I’m struggling with the hard.

“More cookies?” my daughter mumbles with a mouth filled with sugar and pink frosting. “Peesh?”

Assuming that was a “please” surrounded by pink sprinkles, I hand her the second plate and take another tray out of the oven unaware of the imminent danger.

One of the cookies is crooked, a bit overdone, and the frosting is smeared. And for some reason the frosting looks more red than pink.

“Eww!” My son points at this anomaly. “It looks dead. It’s a bleeding heart! Gross!”

They are heart-shaped cookies because that was the only cookie-cutter I could find. The others are probably hiding in the piles of laundry or empty flower pots that have yet to be filled for the season.

“I’m not eating it,” the other boy says.

“I dare you!” My daughter, the fearless one who wants to attend Hogwarts, be picked as a Tribute, and join the Dauntless Faction all at the same time, waves it in front of her brother. “I’ll give you my time on the Xbox.”

“No way,” he says, grabbing the milk container. “If I eat it, my heart might break too. And I haven’t even fallen in love yet!”

“You’re too scared to fall in love.” With a shrug, my daughter smiles, takes a bite, and leads her tribe of three girls back outside.

Left alone with my son and his friend, I say, “Don’t believe your sister. You’ll fall in love when the time is right. And when you do, you’ll feel no fear. All you’ll want to do is fly.”

He nods, but I realize I said the wrong thing. Where his twin would take off without wings, he would want to know ahead of time there was no risk. And he’d want that reassurance notarized and posted in public.

I apologize, but he just looks at his buddy and says, “It’s cool, Mom. But when I fall in love, I want it in writing that I won’t get hurt.”

He and his friend pack up the rest of the cooled cookies and leave for the part of the house as far away as possible from the girls.

And for the second time that day, I stand there with no words to offer.

If I can’t explain the benefits of love–and why it’s worth the risk–to my own son, what business do I have writing romance novels?

Suddenly, my daughter reappears. “Where is he?”

“Upstairs,” I say. “You hurt his feelings.”

“I know,” she says. “That’s why I’m giving him my Xbox time anyway. And tomorrow I’ll make his favorite pancakes.”

I am not surprised by her sudden reversal. It seems to be a teenage thing. But I am happy she’s making amends.

“And Mom?” She pops her head around the corner of the kitchen. “I’m also scared to fall in love. But don’t tell him. He’ll think I’m weak.”

She disappears, leaving me in the center of the kitchen with a dirty mixer, pink-stained cookie sheets, and a dog who would love to lick up all the dropped sprinkles.

Weak.

Is that how my children see falling in love? As a weakness?

My heart breaks a little. How can I prove to them that falling in love–and staying in love–takes a lifetime of compromise, kindness, and courage? That falling in love is the antithesis of weakness? If talking to teenagers has a fifty-percent chance of penetration, how do I explain that falling in love–in spite of the dangers–is the most important thing they will ever do?

I look over at my desk covered in manuscript pages, note cards, highlighters.

Why is this so hard?

Why did I have to say goodbye?

Why can’t I finish this novella?

The birds outside my window fight for seeds in the feeder, and I realize the truth. Life is hard because it’s a struggle to meet basic needs. Loving one another is hard because it counts on two people being vulnerable, taking risks, willing to lose the other to a breakup, debilitating disease, or death.

But writing about love? It’s more than hard. It’s devastating.

Love stories are written in the midst of the tears and suffering of real life. And while living through these emotions is difficult, reliving them through your characters is nothing more than a brutal reminder.

So why do I do it? Why do I force myself to sit down every day and throw words on the page? Because of the Happy Ending.

Yes, all romance novels have happily ever afters. And yes, I know, real life doesn’t. But that’s where the beautiful comes in.

Reading love stories, with their Happy Endings, allows us to revisit the most horrible of emotions in a safe, secure way. In a way that teaches us not just to survive, but to thrive. In a way that helps us heal, maybe even enough to try again.

And that means something.

Our words, our characters, our stories, mean something. This alone propels me back to my computer, my notes, my charts. If I finish this story with the care and passion it demands, I’ll find words of comfort for my friend and teach my children that love is not a sign of weakness.

That love, especially after a loss, takes enormous courage.

That love, if you’re willing to take the risk, allows us to fly.

All photographs courtesy of Sharon Wray.

_____________________________

Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beretdetermined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google

Her second book ONE DARK WISH is available for pre-order here: Amazon

The Secret Art of Journaling

“Everybody allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female. Nature may have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal.” ~ Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey.

Despite Miss Jane’s quotation above, what do Marcus Aurelius, Louisa May Alcott, Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Epictetus the Roman Slave have in common? They all kept extensive journals, recording their wistful desires, their secret needs, and the history going on around them. Journals that historians have found, read, and preserved for future generations.

While it’s fun to read other people’s words, especially those written during epic historical times, the beauty of these scribblings  is that they were never meant to be public. They were private conversations between the writer, his head, and his heart. I’m sure if Epictetus knew one day, over two thousand years after his death, that his journal would be one of the most important primary historical sources regarding Ancient Rome, he probably wouldn’t have bothered searching for ink and papyrus.

But if people didn’t journal for posterity, why did they bother?

To heal the mind.

A 2011 study in Science  found that students who journaled about their upcoming math exams had less anxiety about their tests and received higher grades. Why? The researchers believe that “…by acknowledging their fears, students were able to tame distracting emotions.”

Perhaps because writing slows down the mind, it’s a perfect way to examine your day, your worries, your joys, and all of the things going on around you. Journaling offers the writer a chance to lay out the disparate points of her life and make sense of it all. Often, when journaling, I realized I was happy/mad/annoyed/etc about a certain situation that on the surface seemed trivial. Writing things out by hand can be the best form of therapy, it helps you find patterns in your life that are both helpful and hurtful. Journaling releases unresolved or repressed emotions and fears.

Whether you’re new to journaling, or an expert, here are a few tips to up your diary game:

Best Time:

It may take practice to figure this out, but finding your optimum journaling time is key to making this a successful habit. In Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, she suggests morning pages. The writer writes first thing in the morning and fills three journal pages without stopping. The sentences can be non-stop, there can be off-color words and thoughts, it can even be a grocery or to-do list.  On the other hand, the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote every night after his wife went to bed. Supposedly, Seneca once confided, “I examine my entire day and go back over what I’ve done and said, hiding nothing from myself, passing nothing by.”

Best Journal:

Since this is a notebook where you’re going to bare your soul on a daily basis, it’s important you love what you’re writing in. That doesn’t mean it has to be fancy or expensive. It could be a legal pad or a college-ruled notebook. What it looks like doesn’t matter. What matters is it fits who you are and your writing style. The same goes for pens. Use what you love, not what’s in style.

Write Fast:

What this really means is as soon as you start writing, write as fast as you can to kill your inner editor.  If your inner critic can’t keep up as you skim along the pages, he’ll go away. The same advice works on your handwriting. If it’s messy, let it go. This is for your eyes only. Some writers I know say they never reread what they’ve written in their journals. They write their souls onto the page and move on. Neatness doesn’t matter.

Be Kind.

…to yourself. Your journal is your friend. If all you have to say one day is “I’m tired”, be kind to yourself and say “that’s okay.” Keeping a journal isn’t a race or a competition. It’s a private collection of thoughts that help you make sense of all the good and bad things you’ve experienced in the last twenty-four hours. The great thing about friends? They don’t expect you to be perfect. So let the perfection go.

Be Creative.

You can journal morning pages, or night-time reflections. Or you can keep a gratitude or prayer journal. I know others who keep vision journals where the write about the things they hope for in their lives. Then there are those who track their mood and health. What that Science journal found was that it didn’t matter so much what you were writing about. It was the act of writing that subdued a person’s anxiety.

It was the act of writing that brought peace.

And who doesn’t need more of that in their lives?


Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beretdetermined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google

Adding it to your Goodreads TBR list is also always appreciated!

Book Lovers Con ’19: Come to New Orleans to Meet Your Favorite Authors!

In a few months I’ll be headed down to New Orleans for a huge reader event known as Book Lovers Con May 15-19 2019. For those of you familiar with the Romantic Times Conference, this is the new version of RT Con.

Photo courtesy of Marcho Mameli on Unsplash

According to the Book Lovers Con website“Book Lovers Con is the place to meet your all-time favorite authors, discover new-to-you authors and forge relationships with fellow Book Lovers. From our Jazz Festival Kick-Off Party to our Brunch & Bubbly breakfast, our program provides ample opportunity for readers and authors to connect!”

Photo courtesy of Jason Blackeye on Unsplash.

“We want BLC to be a valuable experience for attendees, one that will create cherished memories you’ll reminisce on for years to come. Readers will enjoy many opportunities to interact with their favorite authors and connect with new authors. Because we want to make sure everyone has a chance to meet, author registration slots will be limited. It’s the perfect environment for book lovers to mix and mingle, affording authors the opportunity to sit and chat with a new group of fans each day!”

Photo courtesy of Joaquin on Unsplash

As a participating Book Lovers Con author, I’m excited to attend author-led events such as:

Jazz Festival Welcome Party
“We’re planning a BIG welcome for Book Lovers! Our kick-off party will emulate New Orleans’ famous annual Jazz Festival. A Second Line Band will gather all of our guests in the lobby and escort them to a jazz fest designed with Book Lovers in mind! Of course, you can’t have a jazz festival without live music! A local jazz band will play tunes guaranteed to get your foot tapping. All that dancing will make you work up an appetite. Book Lovers who are feeling hungry can step outside to enjoy a taste of New Orleans’ food truck scene at our very own food truck area.

Three Truths & a Lie: Romantic Suspense, Horror, Mystery, and Thriller Signing
“Amateur sleuths wanted! Play Three Truths and a Lie with authors in an attempt to win a prize! Then join your favorite authors for a book signing!”

Wags, Whiskers, and Pet Swag
“Like animals? Read books? So do we–and we write them, too (books, not animals).  Get to know 10 “animal authors” in a rousing game of FETCH! Qualify for 10 raffles.. and pick up some swag for your pet!  We’re PAW-sitive you’ll have fun!

French Quarter Ghost Tour
“Take a walk through history (and spooky legends) with a Ghost Tour to the French Quarter. Readers will join several Sourcebooks authors on the trek with a professional guide, gorgeous swag, goodies and whatever ghosts decide to tag along!  Transportation provided to the start the tour. Please wear comfortable shoes.”

Book Bash Signing
“Join over 230 of your favorite authors for our Book Bash Signing! You can buy books on site or bring some of your dog-eared faves to get a signature. Many authors will be holding raffles so you might also win some prizes as you browse the aisles!”

Sourcebooks’ Bookseller, Librarian, and Blogger Reception

“Booksellers, Bloggers, and Librarians come to rendezvous with Romance Reads! Enjoy sips and sweets and chat with Sourcebooks Casablanca authors over yummy food, delicious reads, and tantalizing giveaways!”

As a reader, there are tons of events, booksignings, and chances to meet your favorite authors. There are brunches, swamp tours, champagne parties, Faery and Fantasy DinnerVoodoo Vampire Club and Dinner Dance, and the Book Bash Dance Party just to name a few.

Photo courtesy of William Recinos on Unsplash

I have no doubt it will be an incredible experience and I’m excited to go to Book Lovers Con not just as an author but also as a reader. Registration is still available and I hope to see you there!
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Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Gracealways defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beretdetermined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google

And adding it to your Goodreads TBR list is also always appreciated!

Planners: The Great Debate Between Paper and Digital (Hint: Paper Wins!)

I am a planner girl. I use Emily Ley’s daily half-sized spiral planner for my every day task and appointment list, I use a separate Emily Ley full-sized spiral monthly planner (from Target) for my Social Media/Media marketing schedule, I have a Kikki-K A5-sized ring planner for my writing business, another Happy Planner A5-sized disc planner (from Michael’s) to run my household and keep track of meals and my family’s schedules, and I have a huge, ugly whiteboard in the kitchen that holds shows me the family’s commitments for four months at a time.

I even use an Erin Condren deluxe monthly planner specifically for budgeting!

Yet, I can’t seem to figure out how to use my Google calendar. When I was a kid, I realized that if I don’t write things down, like goals, appointments, or due dates, I can’t remember them. Especially things like when my next manuscript is due! I’ve tried saving things to the calendar on my phone, and syncing up digital calendars with my kids and my husband, but if I have to rely on my digital planner I’m completely lost.

Luckily, I’m not alone. As I was searching for solutions, I discovered the planner community on YouTube. In this day of digital-everything, I found people who are just like me. 🙂 People who, for whatever reason, prefer to write down every aspect of their lives (and decorate with washi tape) and are willing to share their journeys online.

Below I’ve included a few of my favorite YouTube episodes that helped me choose the right planner(s) for my each aspect of my life. If you’re like me, you may have seen these already. If you’re a digital-only kind of planner, maybe these will bring you back to the joys of paper!

First up is Sarra Cannon at Heart Breathings. Sarra is a successful YA author who freely shares her love of organizing and planning. I use her HB90 method (downloadable calendars available in her Etsy shop) for all my business/writing planning needs. Here is her recent Plan-With-Me video of how she set up her February schedule in her Kikki K A5 planner.

Next is Stephanie Anne’s video of how she uses an Erin Condren Deluxe Monthly Planner to set up her family’s budget for the year.

Like I mentioned above, I use an Emily Ley daily planner for my everyday tasks and reminders. Here is a video Emily did explaining the pros and cons of this type of planner for work and home.

Here is a great video (with free printable!!!!) on how to use a Happy Planner to manage your household.

In case I didn’t mention this above, I also have a small personal-sized planner for my Christmas  planning. Since I still host at least 18 people for dinner every Christmas, as well as a week’s worth of guests who spend the night, my planning starts on November 1st! Here’s a cute Christmas planner video just in case you’re tempted. 🙂

What kind of planners, if any at all, do you use. Digital? Paper? Scratches on the back on an envelope (like my mother!)? Or none at all? I’d love to know!


Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Gracealways defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBound| Kobo|  Google

And adding it to your Goodreads TBR lisis also always appreciated!

All About the Podcast

I love podcasts.

I’m not sure why, but when I’m cleaning the house, making dinner, and walking the dog I love to listen to my favorite teachers, motivational speakers, business specialists, and short stories. Since the New Year started, I made a list of new-to-me podcasters, plus one I discovered last year, that I’m determined to listen to (or finish listening to) this year.

I’ve added my list below and have included the descriptions found on the corresponding websites. I hope you find these useful and if you have any favorite podcasts you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

The Modern CEO with Amber McCue

~ “With pieces of your business flying every which way, your to-do list out of control (and possibly sprouting wings) and your brain is scattered across 1400 different tasks, priorities, reminders, emails, tweets, deliverables, marketing ideas, client conversations, customer inquiries AND that one person you were suppose to follow up with weeks ago (whoops), one thing is certain: If it is freedom you want it’s time for a change.”

Detail Therapy with Amy Landino

~ “Are your ready to go after the life you want? Are you looking for specifics on how to make it happen? Join award-winning YouTuber, best selling author, and entrepreneur Amy Landino as she seeks out successful people and digs into the details of their daily lives to find out what they did to better themselves.”

Buffering the Vampire Slayer by Jenny Owen Young & Kristin Russo

~”Buffering the Vampire Slayer is a weekly podcast in which your hosts Jenny Owen Youngs (professional musician and recreational Whedonverse aficionado) and Kristin Russo (professional writer and former goth teen) discuss Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one episode at a time. Every installment of the podcast also includes a new original song recapping each glorious Buffy episode! *wolf howl*”

TED Radio Hour by NPR

~ “A journey through fascinating ideas, astonishing inventions, and new ways to think and create. Based on riveting TEDTalks from the world’s most remarkable minds.”

The Story Studio Podcast: Writing, Storytelling, and Marketing Advice for Business and Writers by  Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, and David Wright

~ “Stories turn songs into symphonies, events into memories, and lives into legends. In our crowded world, “knowing your story” cuts through the noise so you can make your mark — whether you want to sell more books, increase profits, or just make a difference.”

The Creative Penn Podcast by Joanna Penn

~ “Writing, publishing, book marketing, making a living with your writing.”

Story Grid Podcast by Shawn Coyne and Tim  Grahl

~ “Resources and a step by step understanding of the Story Grid for beginning writers.”

Living Homegrown by Theresa Loe

~ “This weekly podcast is all about getting the best seasonal, fresh-picked flavor without having to buy the farm! Episodes alternate between instructional “how-to” and interviews with top authors & experts.”

The Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

~ “Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus help over 20 million people live meaningful lives with less through their website, books, podcast, and documentary.”

Spark Joy by Kristyn Ivey & Karin Socci

~”Spark Joy is the podcast dedicated to celebrating the KonMari Method and the transformative power of surrounding yourself with joy; and letting go of the all the rest.”

Create Your Empowered Self by Jeannie Hall 

(Yes our very own SOS sister Jeannie! I’ve been listening to her podcasts for a while now and I love them!)

~ “This podcast is all about empowering you to live your best life! By incorporating the principles of Law of Attraction, NLP, meditation, and other spiritual teachings, Certified NLP Practitioner and Creative Empowerment Coach Jeannie Hall will show you the way!”

Like I mentioned above, I’d love to hear what podcasts you love to listen to! I’m always looking for more. 🙂

Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Gracealways defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

EVERY DEEP DESIRE is available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBound| Kobo|  Google

 

And adding it to your Goodreads TBR lisis also always appreciated!

Fear, Resistance, and Zombies: A Cure For All Your Writing Woes

Photo courtesy of Sharon Wray

E. B. White (author of Charlotte’s Web) said he admired anyone who “has the guts to write anything at all.”

I’ve always loved this quote because I’m a writer easily paralyzed by fear. Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear of zombies. I guess you could say I’m afraid of  just about everything. Added to that basket of worries is a horrible propensity for  perfectionism. So it’s not surprising that when I sit down to create something out of nothing that my stress about writing  books my readers will love turns into a paralysis that I have to fight daily.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Wray

Fear is a terrible thing. It prevents you from writing the books that’ve been pressed onto your heart (or living the life you want) and steals your joy. Add in the struggle with needing to be perfect, and a writer can send herself into a whirlwind of procrastination and sense-of-failure. And that’s just during the drafting phase!

While I’m no where near qualified to talk about these things in a professional way, I thought today I’d offer a few of the resources I use ALOT to get myself out of these cycles of fear-perfectionism-procrastination-perceived failure.

All of these resources are available in book, e-book, or podcast format. There are also YouTube videos and websites. And some of these sources are free!

Photo courtesy of Sharon Wray

Hopefully one of these resources will help, especially if you’re like author Cynthia Ozick who has to talk herself “. . . into bravery with every sentence, sometimes every syllable.”

Books

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

First published twenty-five years ago, The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. Perhaps even more vital in today’s cultural climate than when it was first published, The Artist’s Way is a powerfully provocative and inspiring work. In it, Julia Cameron takes readers on an amazing twelve-week journey to discover the inextricable link between their spiritual and creative selves. This groundbreaking program includes:

–  Introductions to two of Cameron’s most vital tools for creative recovery–The Morning Pages and The Artist Date
–  Hundreds of highly effective exercises and activities
–  Guidance on starting a “Creative Cluster” of fellow artists who will support you in your creative endeavors

A revolutionary program for artistic renewal from the world’s foremost authority on the creative process, The Artist’s Way is a life-changing book. This 25th anniversary edition includes a new introduction from the author.

 

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

The Courage to Write {How Writers Transcend Fear} by Ralph Keyes

In The Courage to Write, Ralph Keyes, an author who has taught writing for more than thirty years, assures us that anxiety is felt by writers at every level, especially when they dare to do their best. He describes the sequence of “courage points” through which all writers must pass, from the challenge of identifying a worthwhile project to the mixture of pride and panic they feel when examining a newly published book or article.

Keyes also offers specifics on how to root out dread of public “performance” and of the judgment of family and friends, make the best use of writers’ workshops and conferences, and handle criticism of works in progress. Throughout, he includes the comments of many accomplished writers — Pat Conroy, Amy Tan, Rita Dove, Isabel Allende, and others — on how they transcended their own fears to produce great works.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

What keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do?

Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid the roadblocks of any creative endeavor—be it starting up a dream business venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece?

Bestselling novelist Steven Pressfield identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success.

The War of Art emphasizes the resolve needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles of ambition and then effectively shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline.

Think of it as tough love . . . for yourself.

Whether an artist, writer or business person, this simple, personal, and no-nonsense book will inspire you to seize the potential of your life.

Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

The follow-up to his bestseller The War of Art, Turning Pro navigates the passage from the amateur life to a professional practice. “You don’t need to take a course or buy a product. All you have to do is change your mind.” –Steven Pressfield TURNING PRO IS FREE, BUT IT’S NOT EASY. When we turn pro, we give up a life that we may have become extremely comfortable with. We give up a self that we have come to identify with and to call our own. TURNING PRO IS FREE, BUT IT DEMANDS SACRIFICE. The passage from amateur to professional is often achieved via an interior odyssey whose trials are survived only at great cost, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. We pass through a membrane when we turn pro. It’s messy and it’s scary. We tread in blood when we turn pro. WHAT WE GET WHEN WE TURN PRO. What we get when we turn pro is we find our power. We find our will and our voice and we find our self-respect. We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and live out.

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

“There is an enemy. There is an intelligent, active, malign force working against us. Step one is to recognize this. This recognition alone is enormously powerful. It saved my life, and it will save yours.” — Steven Pressfield Could you be getting in your way of producing great work? Have you started a project but never finished? Would you like to do work that matters, but don’t know where to start?The answer is Do the Work, a manifesto by bestselling author Steven Pressfield, that will show you that it’s not about better ideas, it’s about actually doing the work. Do the Work is a weapon against Resistance – a tool that will help you take action and successfully ship projects out the door. Picking up where The War of Art and Turning Pro left off, Do The Work takes the reader from the start to the finish of any long-form project—novel, screenplay, album, software piece, you name it. Do The Work identifies the predictable Resistance Points along the way and walks you through each of them. No, you are not crazy. No, you are not alone. No, you are not the first person to “hit the wall” in Act Two. Do The Work charts the territory. It’s the stage-by-stage road map for taking your project from Page One to THE END.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

With insight, humor, and practicality, Natalie Goldberg inspires writers and would-be writers to take the leap into writing skillfully and creatively. She offers suggestions, encouragement, and solid advice on many aspects of the writer’s craft: on writing from “first thoughts” (keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper), on listening (writing is ninety percent listening; the deeper you listen, the better you write), on using verbs (verbs provide the energy of the sentence), on overcoming doubts (doubt is torture; don’t listen to it)—even on choosing a restaurant in which to write. Goldberg sees writing as a practice that helps writers comprehend the value of their lives. The advice in her book, provided in short, easy-to-read chapters with titles that reflect the author’s witty approach (“Writing Is Not a McDonald’s Hamburger,” “Man Eats Car,” “Be an Animal”), will inspire anyone who writes—or who longs to.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Advice on writing and on life from an acclaimed bestselling author:
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our  family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

On Writing by Stephen King

Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work.

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

Becoming a Writer recaptures the excitement of Dorothea Brande’s creative writing classroom of the 1920s. Decades before brain research “discovered” the role of the right and left brain in all human endeavor, Dorothea Brande was teaching students how to see again, how to hold their minds still, and how to call forth the inner writer.

 

 

Websites & talks

Author Jeannie Hall’s (yes, of my Sisterhood of Suspense sisters) website Writing in you Jammies provides links to articles and podcasts that help you work through fear, procrastination, and anything else that might be holding you back. Seriously, her podcasts are the best! 

Author Steven Pressfields website offers wonderful daily articles about how to defeat Resistance and finish the book your meant to write.

KM Weiland’s website Writers Helping Other Writers has great articles on everything writing related, including Fear and Resistance.

JK Rowling’s famous Harvard Commencement speech on the benefits of failure:

Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on Your Elusive Creative Genius:

I hope if you ever worry about things like fear and failure, or if you’ve ever hoped for the zombies to show up so you don’t need to finish your current WIP, these resources will offer some hope. And maybe a few laughs along the way.

Now I’d love to know if you have any go-to books or advice to help you get out of the fear-induced funk.

(Book covers and blurbs courtesy of Amazon)


Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines retell Shakespeare’s greatest love stories.

Her debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

It’s available on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound

Adding it to your Goodreads TBR list is also always appreciated!

You can find Sharon on:

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads |  Bookbub | Amazon 

2018 Mid-Winter Middle Grade and Young Adult Book List: Updated with 2018 YA Rita Nominees!

As many of you know, I’m a librarian. And although I spent most of my career in Special Libraries (media business, chemical research, and document archives), I’m a huge proponent of getting kids to read. Twice a year, my reading army (made up of 9-18 year olds) helps me compile a middle grade and young adult book list.

This isn’t a bestseller list, or a new release list. It’s a cumulative record of all of the books the kids (boys and girls) in my Reading Army have loved, kept, shared, and even sleep with. This bi-annual compilation offers a cross-section of genres for teens and tweens. There were a lot of new YA Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Realistic Fiction books released this past year. I’ve also added some new Middle Grade Action/Adventure and Non-fiction stories. There are books on the list for all readers!

This year, I published the 2018 Mid-Winter Middle Grade and Young Adult Book List in February. A few weeks ago the Rita Awards, sponsored by the Romance Writers of America, were announced and four of the books on the reading list have been nominated in the Young Adult category. And two of those have also been nominated for Best First Book!

So although it’s April, I’m reposting the link to my downloadable 2018 Mid-Winter Middle Grade and Young Adult Book List. And below are highlights of the four nominated books.

The Thing with Feathers by McCall Hoyle: Rita Nominee for Best First Book and Best Young Adult Book

Emilie Day believes in playing it safe: she’s homeschooled, her best friend is her seizure dog, and she’s probably the only girl on the Outer Banks of North Carolina who can’t swim.

Then Emilie’s mom enrolls her in public school, and Emilie goes from studying at home in her pj’s to halls full of strangers. To make matters worse, Emilie is paired with starting point guard Chatham York for a major research project on Emily Dickinson. She should be ecstatic when Chatham shows interest, but she has a problem. She hasn’t told anyone about her epilepsy.

Emilie lives in fear her recently adjusted meds will fail and she’ll seize at school. Eventually, the worst happens, and she must decide whether to withdraw to safety or follow a dead poet’s advice and “dwell in possibility.”

Seize Today by Pintip Dunn: Rita Nominee for Best Young Adult Book

The third book in the New York Times bestselling and RITA(r)-award-winning Forget Tomorrow series is a thrilling conclusion to an epic trilogy.

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Dresden is a precognitive. Since different versions of people’s futures flicker before her eyes, she doesn’t have to believe in human decency. She can see the way for everyone to be their best self-if only they would make the right decisions. No one is more conflicted than her mother, and Olivia can only watch as Chairwoman Dresden chooses the dark, destructive course every time. Yet Olivia remains fiercely loyal to the woman her mother could be.

But when the chairwoman captures Ryder Russell, the striking and strong-willed boy from the rebel Underground, Olivia sees a vision of her own imminent death…at Ryder’s hand. Despite her bleak fate, she rescues Ryder and flees with him, drawing her mother’s fury and sparking a romance as doomed as Olivia herself. As the full extent of Chairwoman Dresden’s gruesome plan is revealed, Olivia must find the courage to live in the present-and stop her mother before she destroys the world.

Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel: Rita Nominee for Best First Book and Best Young Adult Book

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece―and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

LEtters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer: Rita Nominee for Best Young Adult Book

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

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I want to thank my teen readers for their help and suggestions, as well as my blog readers who’ve made this now-fifty-page-list such a popular download. You are all awesome!

All covers and blurbs below are courtesy of Amazon.


Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines retell Shakespeare’s greatest love stories.

Her debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

It’s available on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound

Adding it to your Goodreads TBR list is also always appreciated!

You can find Sharon on:

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