A Vocation – by William A. Bouguereau

The definition of vocation is a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.

A prolific painter, Bouguereau himself has painted over 800 paintings in his lifetime. He is considered the master when it comes to depicting the human body. He is particularly famous for his beautiful hands and feet. I adore the way he had romanticized his subjects, painting them in the best possible way. This is quintessential romantic realism.

This beautiful painting adorns my wall. I feel as though I can gaze into this young artist’s eyes forever. It encapsulates the artist’s focus in a sublime way. Her resolve helps fortify my author’s resolve, her beauty nourishes my soul, inspiring me to continue doing my best writing.

I hope you enjoy gazing at her, too.

A Vocation

How I Facebook – 1- Beauty for the Soul.

Many people struggle to derive beauty from Facebook among a clutter or negative news or memes their friends share. As a result, many give up on Facebook.

Not me. I love Facebook, but only because of the way I manage it.

First of all, I’ve downloaded FB Purity, which helped me hide tending news on the right column and much more. You can hide any word that’s a trigger to you, for instance.

Then I chose what I want to see first. This is crucial for my sanity and benevolence. One of the pages I see first is called Romanticando Charme Chic. All they do is post beautiful photos such as this.


A photo likes this makes me pause, take in a deep breath, and imagine myself sitting in that field of lavender on that beautiful day, sipping a cold or perhaps a warm beverage.

Sometimes they share beautiful images of cities like Paris or the Amalfi coast. Sometimes they share pretty images of cozy rooms and table settings which give me a cozy feeling and also some great ideas, like this photo.


I would never have thought of combining the warm tones of autumn with Delft Blue, but it looks so beautiful and inviting and the colors complement each other perfectly.

After this page, I see a few international friends who only share similar images. One’s in Italy, another is in Australia, one’s in England. They share nothing but pretty photos or jokes and give a wonderful start to my day.

I hope you give it a try and have a wonderful experience, too.

Reasons to Read Travel Secrets – 2 – Transformation

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” – St. Augustine.

I used to think I knew what poverty was, but when I backpacked through South America in my early twenties, I had realized I was way off. The poverty in Peru and Bolivia was far worse than I had ever imagined.

But travel has astounded me even earlier than that. When I was nineteen, I first traveled to Rio de Janeiro to visit family. I wasn’t thin nor fat, but I definitely had quite the curvy butt, for which I was teased my entire life. So when I visited my aunt Renata, a plastic surgeon, I asked her if she could operate to reduce its size. To my utter amazement, she said Brazilians love big butts like mine and she refused to operate on it. This was my first encounter with a fundamental difference between cultures. Here were people who accepted you the way you looked and even, heaven forbid, thought you were beautiful!

In Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro, my curvy travel writer, Rachel, is just as astounded as I was to learn this fact. After years of self-critiquing the image in the mirror, she begins to question the convention of thin equals beautiful. The fact that she is forced to come up with a scoop of she’ll lose her job and that she has to star in every story speeds her transformation.

Rachel is transformed thanks to the Brazilians, but her newfound outlook on life is tested amongst the sophisticated French women in Travel Secrets: Book Two – Paris and Bordeaux (to be released this November).

Have you been transformed by your travels?

Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro is available on Amazon at http://www.tinyurl.com/travelsecretsrio Send yourself the free sample and give it a try! Also free on Kindle Unlimited.



Reasons to Read Travel Secrets – 1 – Insight

Lots of people feel they’ve seen and read it all. Such a person might pass up on Reading Travel Secrets because it’s “just another novel about a transformation of a shy woman into a confident one.”

Other than the fact that I love books about transformations like these, today I’d like to focus on a different value my novel offers. Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro offers the reader a window onto the heroine’s mind, brightly illuminating her thought processes in great detail.

This means that I didn’t let my heroine, Rachel Moore, get away with anything!

Rachel is thoughtful about her relationship with her hot, tour guide Otavio, and about relationships in general, the  nature of sex, loving, and even kissing. If you stick with the trilogy, you will witness Rachel forming a solid idea of what femininity and masculinity are all about, views developed mainly after her eye-opening journey in Paris and Bordeaux in book two. She also delves into the nature of friendship with women, which includes two very different New York besties, to which I’ve added and contrasted Brazilian and French women. Rachel’s women-only tour in France’s wine country also helps shed a unique light on the nature of womanhood as well as stress the fact that the driving force behind Rachel’s actions is her career.

One of the things hardest on Rachel is confronting her automatic thinking habits, admitting they’re flawed, and changing them. For instance, when it comes to addressing the issue of body image, Rachel has to question her habit of criticism of her own or others’ bodies, a habit she’s learned from her mom at a very tender age and is hardly realizing she’s doing. Here’s a quote about what she thinks of her new, Brazilian girlfriends during a bachelorette party, one in which they’re each required to perform a striptease:

“Thinking about these women’s sweetness made me feel bad at the judgmental way I’d just looked at them, the way I’d learned from my mother over the years. I’d scanned their naked bodies like The Terminator, noting any little flaw, like cellulite or acne, in some sort of an inventory in my mind, all to be filed in the feel-good folder called Nobody’s Perfect.” 

Travel Secrets brims with insight into women’s psyche. As one of my male readers phrased it in his review: “Travel Secrets is a fun and insightful personal growth story about a young woman that men can enjoy too! The protagonist is a young woman, and one thing male readers can gain from it (especially through the first person narration) is to better empathize with women by seeing her struggles and how she responds

In part 2 of Reasons to read Travel Secrets, I will address the issue of transformation through travel. Rachel’s encounter with a different culture helps open her eyes to new possibilities of existence and adopt a calmer, more benevolent state of being, whether with herself or with others. I hope you pick up Travel Secrets and let me know what you think.



Travel Secrets Rio Book Review

I always get excited when I get a stellar review like this one:

“Adventure and Romance in Rio”

“This was a delightful read about a young woman who decides to leave her comfort zone geographically and spiritually, discovering along the way that she is stronger than she’s given herself credit for, and more desirable. With an emphasis on her awakening sexuality, Rachel’s story immerses us in the city of Rio (vividly described), the female friendships she forges with the locals (refreshing and sweet), and her Brazilian flame, Otavio, (sincere and gorgeous.) Unlike so many of the cringe-worthy stories that are published these days, Travel Secrets is an adventure-romance that rings with benevolence and psychological health. Thankfully no depravity here! Look forward to reading more from Shar Lemond.”

To read more about Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro go to http://www.tinyurl.com/travelsecretsrio




The Saga of Self-Publishing Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro.

Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro is now available on Amazon and on IngramSpark (to be released July 31st). But getting here was not easy. Leaving the most arduous task aside (the actual writing of a novel/trilogy), I wanted to say a few words about self-publishing in general.

Learning the ropes is like learning another profession. After agonizing what publishing platform to choose (Amazon KDP with or without Kindle Unlimited, IngramSpark, Barnes and Noble, Draft2digital, etc.), an author has to decipher how to publish in the chosen platform.

I decided to publish on Amazon KDP (and not on their older platform, CreateSpace, which is another option. This was after careful research and comparison made by other bloggers). I also chose to be a part of Kindle Unlimited, which means my eBook is exclusive to them for the moment.

When I began working with Amazon KDP, I only saw their Kindle Create tool and I’ve worked with it, but it has many limitations. I found that major changes in my Word document necessitated starting afresh, which was exasperating. After a while, I suddenly discovered that Amazon also offers a Kindle add-on tool for Word itself. And that tool is awesome! It let me configure the document precisely like a book should look, it let me correct mistakes along the way without having to start over every time, and at the end, it let me see the book just as it will look on a Kindle, iPad, or cell phone. Travel Secrets was thus published in May 2018.

Today, I have finally finished another arduous process of publishing a print version of Travel Secrets on IngramSpark. They are supposed to be the biggest publishers on earth, with the ability to reach global markets, libraries, and Barnes and Noble, which  I definitely wanted. I was going to enable returns on my novel, which is supposed to encourage bookstores to order your book since they can return unsold copies. I feel very fortunate to have learnt in time that that’s a terrible idea that leads to gluttonous purchases and returns of dilapidated copies that can bankrupt an author, so I did not enable returns on purchases. Still, once the book is available on Ingram, I can try to interest local, independent bookstores in it, and even Barnes and Noble themselves.

A few tid bits to make your life easier while self-publishing:

  • Find a professional cover artist who’s good, affordable, and patient. We went back and forth so many times, designing the cover for Amazon, Ingram, the eBook, and banners for Facebook, Twitter, and this website. No one is more patient or more affordable than Dawn Grimes! http://dwcreations.online/
  • Get the latest version of Word or pay $10 a month for a subscription to Word.
  • Once the book is written and you start getting the file ready for publication, start by choosing the aspect ratio (the size of the print book), then choose the font and size of font. Even with the Kindle add-in tool I sometimes found it difficult to choose my own font for book title, chapter headers, etc. (I suppose that the heading you’ll see on top have their own automatic font). I would deal with that stuff first.
  • If you have bullet points in your text, that and your table of contents are treated differently by the program. One little mistake in one of them was very difficult to later correct, so I would look at that first.

Good luck on your self-publishing saga. Remember to enjoy yourself, too. We writers now possess the kind of power never before experienced by authors at any point in history, and that is absolutely amazing! I hope you also understand that the man to thank for giving us this power is none other than Jeff Bezos himself for forever changing how we read – and publish.

Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro – http://www.tinyurl.com/travelsecretsrio


Travel Secrets: Book Two – Paris and Bordeaux – an Update

I have been waiting to write this for years! My heroine, Rachel, has just spent a very emotional week in Bordeaux with a lot of ups and downs. Now she is going to Paris and I get to write one of the most romantic, amazing scenes of the whole trilogy.

Here’s the photo of France’s wine country I had as a background on my laptop these past few weeks. If you’ve read the first installment, Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro, you know that Rachel doesn’t look like this tall, slender lady, but is a petite, curvy one instead. But this photo was just what I needed to invoke the mood I had set for book two and the closest one I could find online to what I had in mind.

Note that whatever your wine knowledge is, I am 99.99% certain I can teach you something new. For the wine novices among you, I hope to shed some light of the sometimes perplexing world of French wines. But first and foremost, this novel is about femininity. Rachel’s newfound resolve will be tested amongst the fabulous and sophisticated French women. I can’t wait to share this story with you!


Author Shar Lemond discusses her newly-released novel: Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro – part 3

Q. “How did you come up with the idea for the bet? And where does the inspiration for his character come from?”

A. “As I said before, I had the Rio scoop many years before I’d even started writing. By the way, this is a bona fide scoop, which is yet unknown to the American travel industry. When I started writing Travel Secrets I knew I was going to have a travel writer discover this scoop, and I knew she was going to illustrate a different perspective on body image, which today is called Body positive, or Bo Po for short. In the first version I gave my editor, T. Greenwood, there was no bet. My editor said the manuscript needed a “call to action,” or higher stake to bring about the tension. So the bet was born. As for the inspiration for Ryan, I can’t discuss that in detail without giving away too much of the following books.”

Q. “Was there anything this editor encouraged you to remove?”

A. “I took out a lot of small things, but I took out something huge thanks to the feedback of a New York agent who said she was interested in Travel Secrets. You see, the first four chapters were in America, and then the action continued in Rio. This agent said it felt as though the story was cut up and that a second story was beginning in Rio. It broke my heart, but I took out those four chapters and the prologue. I did it because of a question a blogger had asked: “Are you sure you started your book at the beginning?” (I’m sorry, but I can’t remember the actual blog or blogger, but I’m very grateful to whomever it was). I had to admit to myself that starting right in the action, when Ryan is about to fire Rachel, and then she bets him, is the place to start. Now I’m also an avid fan of showing things in real time and avoiding flashbacks, unless you can’t do without them, and if they serve a purpose in advancing the plot (I thank my second editor, Sione Aeschliman, for that). So almost everything happens in real time, which puts the reader right in the action.”

Q. “If you’ve made these changes, why isn’t that agent representing you now?”

A. “It turned out she was a predator out to scam new authors into paying huge sums in advance for possible future representation. There are many traps new authors can fall into, and I’m relieved I’ve avoided it. I chose to do the changed version with T. Greenwood, who edited the book before I showed it to the agent. She knew the novel and I wanted her to see my improvements, plus she gave me a discount for the second editing. But when I proudly showed the editing to the agent, her representative vaguely said we need more changes, without any specifics. The agent has an editing company (which is a conflict of interest), and she would offer to edit it for thousands of dollars in advance. New authors are often desperate for representation, which is how some people take advantage of them. Writers want to write and for someone else to take care of the publishing and promoting. But I couldn’t afford more editing. I’d told her I need to think about it, but knew it was an impossibility. After a few weeks I realized that the good reviews I had read about her were from authors she had actually represented , but there had to be more. I wanted to know more about what writers thought about her. So I changed my Google query and found a website called Glassdoor. There I found reviews by ex-employees. And my goodness! I’d definitely hit the mother load. Every single employee had complained about her, but the review that stood out the most was the longest and most detailed. What’s more, it was written by a girl with the same name as the one who used to be this agent’s personal assistant before she mysteriously disappeared. She was so sweet to me in our correspondence, I’d actually missed her when she was replaced. Then I saw this chilling review about how this agent treats her staff and about how she takes advantage of writers to make money, but it was worse than that. This ex-employee claimed the agent’s main source of income was the money she charged writers for editing, not from profits she made from promoting her clients’ books. In short, I’d dogged a bullet there, but my heart goes out to the authors she’d scammed. I don’t understand how her public image is still untarnished!”

Q. “That sounds like an awful experience. Is that why you eventually chose to self-publish?”

A. “That was one reason. Another was that, in spite of exhaustive research into many agents’ wish lists, no one seemed interested. Even though Travel Secrets ticked many of their boxes, no other agent had asked to read it. Seventy percent of them got back to me with a polite no, while the rest didn’t even bother with that. I have no doubt they’re all very busy, since the market is inundated with books, but it’s still somewhat of a mystery as to why someone asks to read women’s fiction, contemporary, body image, or self discovery, and yet was not interested in reading my book. Finally, I got tired of trying. But as I learned the craft of self-publishing (a stressful, self-taught, two-month crash course), I’d realized this is the path for me. I want to maintain full control of everything. An agent would have probably wanted further editing, changed the cover, and maybe even the title, all of which I had no intention of doing. I plan on blogging about the process of self-publishing soon, in the hopes of saving other authors some time in trying to figure it all out.”

Q. “So are you going to do it all yourself?”

A. “Only at first, because of financial constraints. After all, I’m a homeschooler married to a historian. But I plan on crowd-sourcing this summer for book promotions, to make an audio book, and to be able to hire tutors next year so that I can write books two and three full time. Without homeschooling, I know I can finish each book in under a year, since they’re all planned out. Furthermore, I’m going to try and get a company to represent Travel Secrets in Brazil. There are companies who work with Indie authors and I suspect/hope Brazilians will fall in love with it. After all, Travel Secrets unravels the essence of Brazil.”


Author Shar Lemond discusses her newly-released novel: Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro – part 2

Q. “Where did you get the inspiration for your heroine, Rachel?”

A. “There is so much of the young me in Rachel. I was bullied extensively for my curvy body and I was as shocked as she is to learn that not the whole world thinks that skinny is the ideal. I was also considered an oddity for my positivity and for my refusal to curse all the time. But even though I grew up as a quiet, imaginative wallflower, I changed myself into a punk by fifteen, and into a confident woman by nineteen. So when I sat down to write Rachel, I wrote her as having been transformed already, a transformation I was going to show via flashbacks. But then I realized that starting with a transformed heroine is not as powerful as illustrating how she changes and grows before the reader’s eyes. So Rachel starts out as being shy and insecure, which I’d based on similar types, but it mostly came out of my imagination.”

Q. “Does this have anything to do with writing Travel Secrets in the first person?”

A. “Absolutely! Even though first person perspective is limiting, I had to write the book that way. It was imperative to show the reader what it’s like to be inside an active, questioning mind.”

Q. “Why is it limiting?”

A. “Because I can never show anything that didn’t happen to Rachel. I can never show any conversation or event that she’s not directly involved in. For example, if I want to show Chantal and Kevin conspiring against her, I can’t, because that would have to be written in the third person, and I wanted consistency. Still, I love writing the book this way. I think that affording a glimpse into someone’s thought process is one of the best gifts an author can offer his readers.”

Q. “What other gifts, as you put it, can an author offer his readers?”

A. “To me, a huge value is to write a contemporary novel, showing what characters are doing in our time, and how do they deal with problems we as human beings in the 21st century confront. Also, I mostly write about problems of choice, meaning I steer clear of accidents, diseases, tragedies, etc., and if they’re there, they’re not something that happens to the main characters or that shapes the plot. To write about what a character chooses to do, especially in a difficult situation, is what literature is all about. To show us what a hero chooses to do is to take an abstraction like courage and make it directly perceivable to the reader. Take Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables for example. Jean Valjean encounters kindness for the first time in his life after stealing the bishop’s silverware. He is caught and brought back to the bishop’s house, but the bishop not only refuses to condemn him, he also gives him his precious candlesticks. This one act elucidates to us, the readers, and to Valjean that different kinds of people exist, some with incredible good and benevolence in them. That is the moment in which Valjean changes by understanding what good is, and when he himself changes into a good man. And just to be clear, I’m not comparing myself to one of the greatest writers in history, but rather using his great story as an example because it is widely familiar to people today.”

Q. “Can you give us an example of how this happens to Rachel?”

A. “Rachel encounters many tough situations, all brought on by her choices, all of which follow the inciting incident designed to create tension: her bet with her boss, Ryan Brooks, to find a scoop about Rio or be fired. We see her struggle, lose her nerve, shed some tears, but conquer her inhibitions and make the hard choice every, single time. She shapes herself into a different person in book one and this resolution will be tested in book two.”

— Stay tuned for part 3 of the interview with Shar Lemond

Author Shar Lemond discusses her newly-released novel: Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro – part 1

Q. “Where did you get the idea for your book?”

A. “I got it when I first lived in Rio, about fifteen years ago. My aunt was the one who disclosed the original scoop my heroine, Rachel Moore, ends up finding. She’s also the one who opened my eyes to the fact that Brazilians view body image differently than Americans, which is a sub-plot of the novel.”

Q. “So it took you fifteen years to write Travel Secrets?”

A. “Not exactly. I still had some growing up to do as a writer. In the interim years I wrote some short stories and two screenplays. It wasn’t until 2012 that I began writing the Travel Secrets trilogy.”

Q. “So you’ve been working on it for the past six years? That also sounds like a long time.”

A. “That’s true. I homeschool my son, so my writing time is limited. I also had to develop the entire plot for the trilogy that it is a part of, meaning that I had to know exactly what the ending of the trilogy woul be. I had begun writing book one prior to that, but I had to make a lot of changes since. The novel contained over 150,000 words before the first professional editing. It stood at 74,000 before the second professional editing, which is where it remained for the third editing, which was more thematic.”

Q. “What do you mean by thematic editing?”

A. “There are strong romantic elements in the book, but it is primarily women’s fiction. I had to make sure it came out that way, which means highlighting Rachel’s pursuit of her career as her driving force. Her dream—her purpose—which I won’t reveal in advance here—is what guides all her actions. This meant that, at least at first, she had to view her sexy tour guide, Otavio, as an obstacle to her goal of achieving a scoop.”

Q. “Tell me more about Otavio.”

A. “In an attempt to maximize her chances of finding a scoop, Rachel hires both a male and a female tour guides. Otavio is the surly, “hot” Brazilian guide who begins wooing Rachel the moment they meet. She, who’s been bullied for her curvy body and sunny disposition her entire life, including at her current job with Travel Secrets magazine, cannot comprehend why someone like him would want someone like her. When she sees Brazilians’ attitude toward curvy women, she slowly begins believing Otavio. Also, the attitude of Isabel, the benevolent, “mulatta” tour guide, and the rest of the sweet Brazilians around her, expose her to a cultural environment free of disparagement for the first time in her life. And that, too, has enormous influence on her.”

Q. “Where did you get your inspiration for Otavio?”

A. “I started thinking about types of men long ago. I looked at movie stars, especially from old movies, and made some generalizations from there. Otavio came from a poor family, so he feels he has to prove himself, but since he’s not very good with words, he made it his business to be the best at all physical aspects. When it comes to women, he’s the best at flirting, the best at dancing, and the best at love making. This is how Rachel first meets him:

He leaned back on the van and lit a cigarette. He took a long drag as he scanned me openly from head to toe with a cocky half-smile. My heart started beating faster. He was one of those guys who dripped both testosterone and a surly attitude. His muscles were chiseled and tanned, and his light brown curls had blond specks of sun in them. His amber eyes had a feral look about them, which insinuated we both knew the sole purpose for which men and women were put on this earth. I forgot everything else and just hoped I wasn’t salivating.”

Q. “Wow! If you had to pick one actor Otavio is based on, you would choose…?”

A. “Burt Lancaster.”

— Stay tuned for part 2 of the interview with Shar Lemond