Venturing Outside

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Something that can be hard to remember for a book-loving introvert, is to go outside, everyday (and walking between your car and house, work, store, church, does NOT count). I do remember to send my kids outside every day. I’m a big believer in the many valuable effects of playing outside. And living in the Mountain West, we get plenty of days of sunshine, so I can send them out all but 1 or 2 days a month.

But while my kids are joyfully playing in the sunshine, I’m usually seizing the moment to clean or prep something, or to write, budget, email, anything I need to do to get caught up. I have a few precious moments not being taken by the kids, so I usually keep them to myself.

But not today. Today I tackled a mountain of weeds in my garden that were taller than my kids, and I conquered them. I ventured out into the sun and the heat (it’s not bad today, only 83 degrees, with a nice breeze) with my sunhat and my pink gloves, and I waged war with that mountain. And I won! The best part? I got them before most of them went to seed, Yay!

I’m feeling good, and maybe I’ll have some autumn vegetables planted in a few weeks. I should really go outside more often.

Now back to my desk and that blog…

Blessings,
Sarah

Letting Go of the Reins


Hi there!

So I’m learning a lot about how to publish a book in a very short amount of time. The whole topic is worth it’s own professional certificate, there is SO much to learn!

One thing I’m learning is to trust the experts; the agents, the publishers, the editors. I haven’t started working with them yet, but I’m seeing the impact Not listening to them has. One of the hardest things to do is to let someone else tear apart your hard work. To hear them criticize it and tell you to change it, can be a painful process. 

I hope I can be ready to let go of the reins when I find my team. I hope I can listen to their advice, and respect it as the voice of experience that it is. I hope I don’t take it too personal when they tear apart my little creations. I hope I have learned enough to trust them.

I have dear friends and acquaintances who’s books never got off the ground (even really good ones) because they didn’t have the knowledge to learn how the industry works. They didn’t understand that asking for changes is a good thing, it means you passed the first hurdle. They didn’t realize that they are the rookie, and the editors, agents, publishers, etc. are the experts. A wise Second Leutenient won’t tell an Sergeant what to do, even though he has the higher rank. He will listen and learn as much as he can, regardless of whether or not he agrees with the Sergeant.

I always thought that writing the book was the hard part. But I’m learning that’s just the first mountain. Behind that is the whole range!

Good Luck and God Bless Friends,
Sarah

Wickedness Never Was Happiness

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At 8 years old, I was told I was going to Hell.

It was Christmastime, and I was going to church with my Grandma (I had this opportunity once or twice a year). I don’t remember anything else that the pastor said, only that we were all sinners and were going to Hell. Unfortunately I didn’t remember the point of the sermon, which undoubtedly was about accepting Christ’s Atonement. And unfortunately still, my grandmother’s comforting words were not quite enough to put my fears to rest. Perhaps her own frustration (unrelated or not) added to my not being convinced of her comfort. To further the misunderstanding, when I got home, my dear mother explained to me that that attitude was why we don’t go to church.

So I turned my back on Christ for decades.

When I finally was ready to listen to the words and teachings of God again, it was because the message was full of Mercy and Grace. The passage that struck me deeply was thus:

Adam fell,

that Men might be,

and Men are,

that they might have Joy.

‘Original Sin’ and Sin in general are part of our process, that we might have Joy!

Sins are the tools that propel us to grow. If you have seen Mulan, there is a scene where the soldiers in training are told to climb to the top of a pole to fetch an arrow. Before they can try, their trainer gives them 2 heavy weights, one on each arm. The soldiers groan, the weights are a “curse,” a burden. The weights are “unfair,” the soldiers grumble and complain. Imagine with me the conversations that night:

  • Some of them would ask why they are being punished.
  • Some would say it was too hard, and not even try to overcome the “curse.”
  • Most would blame Mulan for putting them in this situation.

After the first few soldiers tried, they all gave up. For days or weeks no one even tried to solve to situation or overcome the burdens.

This was where I was for decades. I looked at the challenge to overcome my natural sin and turned away. I said, “No way!” It was too hard, and I wouldn’t even try. As I grew into adulthood I gave in more and more to my carnal nature. I made choices that hurt myself and others. I pushed my family away. I followed charming personalities off of metaphorical cliffs. I experimented with almost anything and anyone that was offered, and I had a wake-up call with the police.

I was in Hell.

I was miserable and empty. Lost in the dark.

And I wanted to be left alone in the darkness. I wanted to rot away, guilty, miserable, and trapped. The adversary led me willingly into a prison, because it was away from the difficult challenge placed before me at 8 years old.

Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.

11 And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.

In the example of Mulan (for those who haven’t seen it, or need a refresher), the challenge was eventually overcome. Mulan realized that the weights she was given were tools to help her reach the top of the pole and retrieve the arrow. She was humbled and finally looked up. Her curse became a blessing, and she grew closer to Our Loving Father in Heaven.

When we allow ourselves to be humbled by our sins, we can finally turn to Christ (Repent) and go forward doing good.

Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.

May you seek after Good and receive Blessings,
May you seek after God and receive His Blessings,
Sarah

Photo by Mar Newhall on Unsplash

Cloudy Head Day

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If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

If horses were wishes, the West would never be won.

 

I feel like Hiro (from Disney’s Big Hero 6) today. “Nothing! Stupid, useless, empty brain.” Guess I need to change my perspective…

Actually, my brain is not empty, it’s so full of thoughts and ideas, and half completed posts that I can’t focus on any one long enough to complete it. It’s just a low energy, head-achy kind of day. My kids feel it too, they are cranky and arguing more, restless and difficult today. So no good advice today, no epiphanies, no well-researched articles are going to get finished today.

Just an honest admittance that everyone has these days. Mama said there’d be days like this…

Author Interview — Heather Choate

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A few days ago, I had a great conversation with Heather Choate, a self-published author with over 250K books sold, here’s the advice she had for me:

1)      What made you decide to self-publish?
After completing my first novel, Blackwing Angel, I sent out query letters to over 120 agents.  I had only 3 request to read the manuscript.  All came back with rejections.  120 rejections was a lot to take!  I felt pretty low and doubted myself as an author wondering if I could even do this.  I remember sitting at my computer and thinking, “Is this a good story.”  I still thought it was, despite what the “industry authorities” were telling me.  I knew I loved writing and I wanted to keep going.  I determined I could keep the book on my desktop where no one would ever see it or I could look into publishing it myself and if anyone enjoyed reading it, then all the better.
I spoke to a friend who had independently published his own books and had been successful doing so.  He gave me some great information and I dove right in.  I published my first book in 2012 and have published over 15 books since, hitting the #1 Amazon Bestseller’s list over 27 times!  I had no idea when I made the decision to keep going anyway that I would be where I am now.
2)      How did you find a printer? I publish through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) which is Amazon’s affiliated Print On Demand (POD) publishing service.  It is free to set up an account and get your book onto Amazon.  There are no up-front publishing costs.  So, when someone orders your book, you make money.  Amazon takes 70-35% fee (depending on your price point) and the rest is yours after that.

a.      Editor? I have a great editor I knew in college, Josh Levitt.  He has edited the majority of my recent works and has done a fabulous job.  I’m a writer, not an editor and it is a MUST for anyone wanting to publish their own works to hire a good editor.  You want your work to be as professional and polished as possible.

b.      Illustrator? I used Elance.com to hire a great illustrator for my Jonas Flash Chronicles series.  I used Photoshop to do several of my covers myself (not recommend though unless you are proficient at graphic design and formatting- best bet is to hire a professional).

c.      Distributer? KDP does this.

3)      How many books did you have printed?  Again, POD means I didn’t pre-print any books.  I have since sold over 250,000 copies.
4)      How much did it run you? $300-$400 per book for editing, $80- $400 for graphic design.  $100-$300 marketing (this is optional)
5)      How did you cover the initial costs? First, my husband agreed to pay for it, then I rolled over profits from books to cover the other book expenses.  Now, it completely sustains itself.
6)      Did you make a profit? Recoup the costs?  Not initially.  But now, 5 years into it, it covers its own costs and has a small profit.  Most books do not make a lot of money, so you have to have realistic expectations going in.
7)      What would you do differently if you could do it again?  I would have researched more about how to market it and built up my social media following sooner, but really, I’m very happy with how it all went and how I grew.
8)      What was the worst part of the process? Rejections from agents and nasty reviews.  I would get dozens of positive reviews and then get a handful of negative reviews and those were the ones that stuck in my head.  These played with my doubts and fears.  I had to quiet those voices and choose to go forward anyway.
9)      What was the best part?  Having control over the creative process and doing what I loved.  It was great to know that others appreciated what I do and that I was able to help inspire, uplift and entertain people with positive messages.  There is a great need for clean, positive and uplifting literature (especially young adult) and I feel like I’m serving my purpose and on my path when I create stories and books that can fill that need.
Heather has a new book coming out, Fighting For Our Lives, about her experience being diagnosed with breast cancer while 10 weeks pregnant. I haven’t read it yet, but here’s the synopsis from the website:

True stories of survival: Mother and unborn child beat cancer through faith and determination

One of the truly remarkable Mormon stories of faith and determination: At age 29, Heather Choate was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was ten weeks pregnant with her sixth child. Her unborn baby became victim to the fast-spreading and highly dangerous cancer in Heather’s body that already spread to her lymph nodes. Doctors told her she needed to abort her baby to save her life. Heather told them, “I’d rather die than take the life of my baby.” Heather and her husband set out to find a way to save both mother and baby. The journey pushed them to the fringes of their stamina, tested the strength of their familial relationships and found them clinging to their faith like it was the last bit of thread on a lifeline.

I’ve been following Heather’s story for years, it’s such an inspiration. Her family is all doing well and growing strong. She stood up to her doctors and stood up for her beliefs. Even if she would have lost the battle with cancer, her whole family would be stronger because of her faith. But she even beat the cancer and now she is able to be an inspiration to so many more.

I hope her story can strengthen your Faith, and I hope that her advice can help you write your stories as well.

Blessings!
Sarah