Hey, Writers, Let’s Pretend!

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Hey, writers (of the creative variety)!  Do you remember the simplicity of childhood make-believe?  Your bestie would come up to you and say “hey, let’s pretend that…” and would fill-in-the blank with something delightful, adventurous or silly, and it filled up your afternoon.  Maybe you played “house” (mom, dad, brother, baby, etc).  Maybe you played pirates, princesses, Ninja Turtles or (like me), Rainbow Brite.   But whatever it was, it was easy.  It was creative. It was fun.  And there was no agonizing over character motivation, contrived plots, style, or believe-ability.  It just happened.

I’ve been writing novels for almost four years, and in that time, I’ve struggled with the need to be perfect in my craft.  Clarity and strength is important in writing, yes, but sometimes, it’s a hindrance.  I know, it’s nothing new to be told that, for a rough draft, you “just need to write”–to get it out, and worry about making it look pretty and making it make sense later.  But if you’re like me, there’s still that midget of a voice in your brain,  demanding of you, perfection.  And so you sit and stare at the screen.  You stress.  You look at your outline and think, how did this seem so easy before?  How did this flow so wonderfully, how did these characters pop in my head, and how is it that now, now that I’m attempting to write this thing down, it’s…stagnant?

Now, somewhere along the journey of your WIP, you DO need to concern yourself with character, plot, style, etc, but if you’re working on your rough draft, my challenge to you is this:  Play make-believe.  That’s right: Hey, let’s pretend….!  Let it be simple.  Let it be fun.  Let go and don’t concern yourself with the fact that “as a RD, it’s going to be bad”, because with that kind of negative proclamation, you could be sabotaging your efforts.  Yes, it’s going to be bad, or at least not that great, but would kid you be concerned with that?  Wouldn’t kid you just…play?

(Disclaimer: it could be something else that’s causing your writing woes; this is just one method of troubleshooting that maybe you haven’t yet considered.)

So, for now, be a “kid” again (yes, even if your WIP involves blood, guts and scary stuffs), and just let your imagination run wild.  Go off your outline, sure, but when the words stop flowing, put yourself in your kid shoes again, and go from there.  And, hey, guess what!  If you have a young kid, you have a built-in model.  Watch them play, and follow their example.  Write without restraint. Remember, your profession is creative by nature.  So, Writer, create.  Pretend.  Play.

Time for me to take my own advice and finish my RD!  What about you?  How goes your WIP?

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One Small Step

kittens-step

Guys, I’ve done it.  And it’s one small step for some writers, maybe, but what I’ve seen in the past few weeks has been and continues to be one BIG step for S.E. Eaton.  I’ve reached a big milestone, and I am thankful.  …So, so thankful!

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Over the last year and a half, I’ve published three titles.  In that time, I sold a total of five paperbacks of two of those titles, and the third, well…the third, so far, is a different story.  “The Christmas Beagle” has been groundbreaking for my career.  It’s my stepping stone towards what I know will be more and greater success, and I am just. so. thankful.

Drum roll, please!   …In less than one month, I’ve sold over a total of 104 copies of “The Christmas Beagle”.  Less than a month!  The other two titles haven’t even reached that in over a year! For a more successful writer, that 104 might be small scale, but for me, that number is jaw-dropping wonderful.  Success is measured in small and big steps.   And for me, this is a big step.  It’s a significant sign of my success.

Thank you, everyone.  Thank you.

So, how did I do it?  Writing is part of it, yes—a big part, and not an easy part, either.  The other big part is marketing, and while it’s not necessarily difficult to do so, it is tricky to know exactly how to do it.  And the marketing part is just as much as me as it is all of you!  So once again, thank you!

I’m still a student of all that is book marketing (and will be for the length of my career, I’m sure), but in the past few months, I’ve learned a lot.  From what I can tell, these key factors helped me out in a significant way:

  • Cover Reveal Party—Created hype!  And it was tons of fun!
  • Genre/Mood—Heartwarming themes, family friendly, relatable characters, cute beagle! Much more appropriate for most of my reachable market on Facebook!
  • Timing—A Christmas book marketed in October, released in November…plenty of time for promotion and shopping!
  • Specific Audience—I contacted several admins of “Beagle” Facebook sites and asked for them to promote my book in exchange for a free copy of it.  Only one responded, but according to him, he sold 5 of my paperbacks and 1 digital copy.  Not bad, not bad at all!  (Thanks, George!)

Like I said, I’m still learning how to do this.  But I couldn’t have done any of it without any of my fans buying my book and supporting me!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I look forward to providing you with more great books in the coming months!  And, there’s still time—who knows, maybe I’ll break the 50 mark by Christmas!    …What a step that would be.

For more about “The Christmas Beagle”, click here.

Buy “The Christmas Beagle” on Amazon here.

⇒  Writers and non-writers alike: Do you recall your first big step of measurable success?  What was it?  How did it make you feel?  Share in the comments below!

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The Middle Grade Character

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Pictured: My niece, Chloe

My title protagonist from “Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment” is, at the start of the story, eleven years old.  But eleven years old was a long time ago for me.  …Too long.

And as a writer, if I come off as condescending or not relatable to my target audience (middle grade), all is lost. I know that if I want to write a character from a age group different from mine well, if at all possible, I need to spend time with someone or lots of someones from that age group.  And I’m lucky enough to have a niece the same age (or close–she’s ten) as my protagonist.  I’ve also observed Girl Scout troops and youth groups of the same age, but it’s time with Chloe (said niece) that I love the most.  The reasons for that are twofold: One: it’s quality time with a smart, funny, sweet, creative girl whom I love with all my heart, and two: “Belinda”—courageous, blue eyes, freckles, plays basketball, loves animals—is modeled after Chloe.  It works well.

Today, after a breakfast at Applebee’s to support my nephew’s youth group fundraising, I had the honor of watching Chloe’s volleyball game and then toting her along to Christmas Gifts on Broadway.  This lovely shop is a traditional Christmas destination for our family, though it’s been years since I was last there, and this was Chloe’s first time. She was enamored with so many of their wonderful items, and it was a joy to see the look on her face as she buzzed from room to room, taking it the Christmas splendor.  I got to see it through her eyes, and the more time I spend with her, the more of her “middle-gradeness” will ingrain itself into my thought process.   Sometimes I take notes of what I see–sometimes merely mental notes—and sometimes I just enjoy the moment.   It all makes its way to my brain, and more importantly, to my heart.

…The moments where she acts silly and makes me laugh, shows her crafts and collectible toys, amazes me with her thoughtful insights about how the world works, and makes me proud with how hard she works at her sports and how much she loves her family and pets…gah, I love it.  I am in awe of her, and thankful to have her as a prime example of her age. She reminds me that middle-graders are, or can be hyper, child-like,  imaginative, goofy, intelligent, gross, thoughtful, loving, cranky, wise beyond their years, helpful, eager, frustrated, passionate, and adventurous.   On their best days, they’re bundles of chaotic fun, with waves of gentility, humility, and spurts of smack-you-upside-the-head wisdom. No wonder it’s such a fun and eventful age to write!

I love spending time with my niece.  When “Belinda” is finally published, I will owe (and already do owe) a big dose of gratitude to this girl.  So, here’s to you, Chloe Rhiannon.  My favorite (and only) niece, and forever my inspiration.  And to my readers, for another heart-warming article about inspiration and encouragement, click here.

What cute/endearing/funny/overall nice stories do you have about the kids in your life? Share in the comments! 

Psst!  Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and be sure to check out my novella “The Christmas Beagle“, available for pre-order soon!

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What’s Your Stinky?

Emmie puppy

 

What’s Your Stinky?

In honor of National Puppy Day, this blog post will be inspired by Emmie Lou the beagle and her Stinky.   Emmie loves her Stinky.  If I’m not wrong, you have a Stinky, too.  My Stinky is the Belinda Starr series.   It’s the thing in my life that takes up most of my time, has been loved to pieces, and possibly, maybe just a teensy weensy bit, interferes with other aspects of my life.

Emmie and her Stinky:

Emmie and Stinky

 

Emmie’s Stinky got her name because as often as we’ve had to wash this thing, still the stench remains.  That’s how much our beagle loves this toy.  She’s played and slept with it so often, it has a perma-smell.   Stinky is Emmie’s  go-to chew toy and utensil of choice for of tug-of-war.  She’ll spend hours chewing and playing with Stinky, and when she’s ready to collapse, she’ll fall asleep with it under her paw.  Generally speaking, we don’t discourage Emmie’s playing with Stinky, but when she chews holes through her, we take Stinky away for mending and replace her with one of Emmie’s other toys.

I spend an insane amount of time working on Belinda Starr at the Metallic Enchantment.  I’ve drooled all over that dragon enough times that no amount of detergent will get my smell off of it.  There have been times where Steven has to smack me on the head with a rolled up newspaper because I’ve chewed holes through Belinda Starr and have left bits of fluff around the bedroom (please note: we do not smack the beags with newspapers or any other object).   Anyway, as hard as it is, sometimes I must put my Stinky aside and focus on other projects. Sometimes it’s a short story.  Sometimes it’s writing in a journal.  Sometimes it’s not writing at all, but other tasks that engage a different part of my brain; painting, walking, household chores, etc.

If you’re a writer, chances are you’ve been neglecting your physical health in favor of your Stinky.   I’ve been making changes to incorporate an exercise regime into my busy schedule, because as much as I love writing, I also love being alive.   It’s hard to step away from Belinda  Starr, but here’s the thing:  not only does my body need to move, doing so can actually help produce the solutions to whatever current writing dilemmas I’m facing.

So before you chew any more holes in your Stinky, step back a moment and ask yourself…what in your life are you neglecting?  What is out of balance?  And here’s a good one, have you moved much in the last 24 hours?  What is your Stinky?  And is it about time to let it take a rest?

Stinky

What’s your Stinky?  Is it full of holes (out of balance life)  or is it pretty much intact (in-balance life)? Let me know in the comments!

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What Writers Want

hope despair sign

 

“It’s the difference between letting the ache push me forward and letting it push me down.”

 

Today I wrote.  A lot. Being so, I have a nasty case of brain-mush.  So much of my life is dedicated towards completing Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment, and as I’ve said before (and in case you didn’t know), writing a novel is HARD.  Someday soon I hope to see Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment become a best-seller, but tonight my mind, heart and soul are just plain tired.

It’s trying, to say the least, to put so much effort into something like this, especially when there are other things for which I long.  This longing is at times, an all-consuming ache.   I ache for writing-related, J.K. Rowling-level fame.  I ache to visit Ireland, New Zealand, and my brother in Arizona.  I ache for financial stability. I  ache for my husband and I to have a child.  The ache for all these yet-to-be-obtained things can be useful in that it pushes me towards completing my goals, but the ache can also be so painful that it borderline undoes me.  That’s when I need to stop for a moment and remind myself of all the things for which I am grateful, the things I already have now,the things for which I once ached:

  • Christ, my Savior.  The One who solved mankind’s biggest ache of all.
  • My husband.  What a man!  My kindred spirit, my sweet Bunny, the love of my life!
  • My mom.  She’s been such a blessing to us!
  • My beagle.  A furry blessing, what could be better?
  • A loving and supportive family.
  • Good friends, old and new
  • A great middle-grade fantasy novel in the makings, Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment. 
  • Three completed works available on Amazon.
  • Time to write!  What every author wants and needs!
  • Food, water, shelter.  For real, these things ought not to be taken for granted!
  • The freedom to write what I want.  Another blessing not to be taken lightly.

And,

  • Confidence

This last one is the difference between letting the ache push me forward and letting it push me down.    I’m still tired.  My brain is still mush.  And while the ache has not subsided, I am confident that with God’s help (and God willing), that ache will be manifested into a wealth blessings yet to come.  For now, I think I’ll take advantage of another one of life’s many blessings:

  • Rest.  Specifically, rest in Him.  Resting in Him means knowing that even though I ache, I am never alone.  He’s heard my heart’s desires, and although I can’t be sure my plans will align with that of God’s, even if the  Belinda Starr series never sees the shelves of Barnes and Noble, through the storms of my aching, one thing I can be sure of is His divine peace.  What a blessing.

 

For what do you ache?  What blessings do you already have in your life?  Let me know in the comments below!

Success for the Struggling Writer

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“This blessing reminded me that rewards for hard work sometimes come in the most unexpected, touching and wonderful ways.”

Writing is tough.   The actual writing part is hard enough, and then of course there’s marketing, which when it comes down to it, is how you become a financial success.   If you don’t know how to market, even through a traditional publishing route, you’re likely to not see the higher numbers.  Even though I don’t write solely to make money, it is one way of measuring success.  For me, as I’m sure it is for many of my colleagues, money from sales trickles in at a rate not even suitable for a five-year-old with a lemonade stand.   And if reviews were dollar bills I’d have just enough to rent a Red Box movie.

But this past week has shown me an amazing a blessing.  This blessing reminded me that rewards for hard work sometimes come in the most unexpected, touching and wonderful ways.  This blessing has some serious writing chops himself and  I’m proud to call that blessing my eleven-year-old nephew.   When the numbers aren’t there and you’re starting to question whether or not you have what it takes to make it, remember…you never know who might be paying attention.  I submit to you, this uplifting piece of wonder:

Keaton's Report about Sarah censored

 

Can’t quite make it out? The report my nephew wrote for school reads as follows:

Have you or one of your family members had a dream and followed it? My aunt has, she did not back down from being an author.  Someday soon she will have lots of published books.  As a young senior in high school, she read books like Harry Potter, Bridge to Terabithia, Chronicles of Narnia, The Princess Bride, and Holes, etc.  She has written Compulse, The Voiceless, The Christmas Beagle and Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment.  These four books are only the start to her writing career.  

Sarah Eaton is my aunt’s name.  She lives in (city, state), taking care of my grandmother. She is married to Steven Eaton.  They both live in an RV with their dog Emmy Lou.  Sarah might look like any other woman you see, but she’s a fast thinker and is usually writing. If she’s not doing that, she’s reading or spending time with her family.  

My aunt is like the funniest, most interesting books you’ve ever read.  She loves animals and enjoys the outdoors.  As a young child, she was home schooled by her parents Judith and Donald Miniken.  Since there were only two channels on their TV, my aunt usually read out in their backyard/forest, or in their garden.  When she was bored, my aunt Sarah would play with sticks, pretending they were wands from Harry Potter, with my aunt Amanda.  

Thanks to my aunt, I want to become an author.  As her nephew, I’ve read her first chapter book, Belinda Starr and the Metallic Enchantment.  It’s a really good read! Wait until it gets published and you’ll maybe get to read it.   Don’t forget to check out her other books, like Compulse, The Voiceless and The Christmas Beagle.  Sarah got her inspiration for The Christmas Beagle from her dog, Emmy Lou. 

That’s all the reasons I chose my aunt as my role model.  I hope that she, as well as other authors inspire you to write a book.  When you want a dream you should never give up.  Whether writing a book or making a song, try your hardest like my aunt did.  If you try that dream is yours.  

I melted when I first read it.  Little else could remind me of my importance in such a meaningful way.  I am beyond lucky to have this kid in my life, and as though this homework assignment wasn’t enough of an honor, a friend and former college classmate of mine wrote a blurb on my Facebook timeline yesterday:

“Both Keith and I are feeling distracted tonight. We’re working on separate projects, both at critical junctures in the plot, and both of us are like squirrels. Or really excited dogs. Or something. And I was kind of getting down on myself for my lack of self-discipline when the thought occurred to me, “You know who knows what this is like? Sarah knows what this is like. And she doesn’t beat herself up, at least publicly. She knows it’s part of the process, and she sticks with the process till there’s a breakthrough. Okay. I can do this.” And that was a very comforting thought. And I thought I should tell you.”

Commitment speaks volumes to those around you.   Keep at it, writer.  Keep at it.   And while you’re at it, forward some of that encouragement to other writers.  It could be just the spring in their step they needed to keep at it themselves.

So, fellow writers, I wish you success.  I wish you writing friends who remind you that you are indeed making a difference. I wish you truckloads of cash and ample constructive reviews. I wish you fatty contracts, literary awards and film rights.  And, especially when you’re doubting your abilities, I wish for you a kid in your life. …A kid who has been paying attention to your writing habits, who looks up to you and has deemed you worthy enough to call you his role model.  To be called such is an incomparable measure of success.   It’s a reward worth more than any amount of money, and I think it’s one of the most important thing I’ll ever be.