Posts Tagged Kristen Lamb

Backstory: The More You Know, The Less I Have To

Just in from teaching in Seattle and have NO VOICE. Hubby is a little more thrilled than he should probably show O_o. Anyway, the wonderful Piper Bayard is here for some more writing tips for those who want to NaNo. Even if you don’t? Backstory is ALWAYS a bugger. Kinda like in dating. Be mysterious, yet not weird, yet not clingy and OH DEAR GOD HE IS NEVER CALLING BACK TURNING THE NEXT PAGE…..

By Piper Bayard

NaNo season will soon be upon us. Speaking from experience, it is totally possible to write a solid first draft of a novel in one month, but only if you’re prepared. Now is the time to prepare.

Typical NaNoWriMo Writing Space

Typical NaNoWriMo Writing Space

First, give yourself permission to suck. Accept the fact that your first drafts are always going to suck. Everyone’s first drafts suck. That’s why God made editors. Perfectionism and over-editing during the first draft only make us all suck more in the long run. As Supreme Court Justice Brandeis said, “There is no great writing, only great re-writing.” Your books won’t be great until they suck.

Maureen Johnson says it best. Dare to Suck!

 

Now that you’re keyed in to your sucking, you can get down to work to prevent unnecessary suckage. The best thing you can do to minimize your suckage is to know your story before you write it.

We’ve all read books with page after page of backstory. Okay, we’ve all skimmed books with page after page of backstory. Where does that extra verbiage come from, and why does the author put it in? Easy. Excessive backstory is the visible evidence that the writer is telling herself her story. That backstory is there for her, not for us. It means she didn’t know what she was writing about before she started writing.

I know what you’re thinking. But I’m a pantser! My story must be unsullied by forethought!

Forethought this. Writing is an art, but publishing is a business. Any successful business requires forethought.

We all write for different reasons: therapy, because it’s easier than talking, therapy, because we love words, therapy, because we’re unemployed, therapy, because it’s the closest thing we have to talking to adults while we care for our babies, therapy, because stories are swirling inside our heads and must get out, therapy, because a world where we don’t write is simply inconceivable. And some others write for therapy. Regardless of our reasons, forethought is our most powerful tool for shaping a story and actually getting it on the page.

Canstock 2014 Oct Rabbit therapy cartoon

 Here comes the surprise portion of this dissertation. When I’m talking about forethought, I’m not necessarily talking about plotting, though I personally find plotting indispensible. I’m talking about people. The characters.

(For all you sci-fi folks, you have a little extra work. Read through this article a second time and exchange the word “characters” for “world building” so that you don’t have to tell us how the planet was formed in the belly of a lizard and coughed out in the hairball of the cat that ate the lizard on the night the cat was locked out of the house because it had gotten mad when it’s owner ran out of soft food and only gave it hard food so it had peed on its owner’s clean laundry. In other words, you need to know your characters and your world before you start.)

The single best way to eliminate backstory is to know your characters and, therefore, your backstory, before you ever start your draft.

  • How old are they when the book starts?
  • What do they look like?
  • Where were they born?
  • Where did they grow up?
  • Did they go to school? Where?
  • What is their religion? Do they believe it, practice it, play along with it, or reject it?
  • Are they city or rural? Which city? Which country?
  • What were their relationships with their parents?
  • What were their parents’ occupations and educational levels?
  • Who was their first love? How did it end?
  • What were the watershed events in their lives, and how did your characters change because of these events?
  • How did they meet the other characters?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • What are their inner conflicts?
  • What do they want?
  • Who is keeping them from getting what they want?
  • Absolutely anything else you can think of to ask about your characters.

In other words, don’t just know your serial killer Terrell is a psychopath. Understand exactly how Terrell became a psychopath, what sort of a psychopath he is, and why he is where he is when the book starts.

Do this for your antagonist, your minions, your protagonist, your love interest, your allies, your mentors, and anyone else who has more than twenty lines.

So how does knowing all of this about my characters minimize my backstory?

Thank you for asking.

The answer is summed up in another quote, this time from Hemingway. “. . . you could omit anything if you knew that you omitted, and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood.” In other words, you can leave out anything as long as you know what you’re leaving out.

Ernest Hemingway determining what to leave out. Photo at his home in Cuba, c. 1953 JFK Presidential Library, Boston, public domain

Ernest Hemingway determining what to leave out.
Photo at his home in Cuba, c. 1953
JFK Presidential Library, Boston, public domain

This is twice-true with backstory. So if you don’t know your backstory, you can’t leave it out. On the other hand, if you DO know it, you don’t feel compelled to put it in, because you don’t have to tell yourself your own story while you’re writing it. You can focus on telling your story to your readers instead.

As an added bonus, when you know your characters, they will tell you your plot. You never have to wonder what’s going to happen next, because your characters will behave in characteristic fashion. You avoid moments of “Oh, no! What is Frida going to do now that Gomez has left her?” Easy. Look at Frida’s character profile, and let her do what Frida would do. If she’s a whiny brat, let her whine. If she has anger management issues, let her hunt down Gomez and run over him with her car. If you know your characters, your plot is less likely to leave you hanging.

Frida was here.

Frida was here.

Let me reassure you of this method with a little of my own backstory. My first manuscript SUCKED. No, seriously. It sucked with capital letters. In fact, Kristen edited it and spent five hours (count ’em—five) on the phone telling me just how bad it sucked. It is now being used for enhanced interrogations at Guantanamo, and no one has lasted past page 25. The US Navy sends me thank you notes and cookies for my birthday each year.

Out of 157,000 words (really) I threw out all but five—a, and, the, but, or—and I started over by getting to know my characters. That’s because Kristen didn’t just tell me my book sucked. She told me how to fix it. I highly recommend you listen to her writing advice. She knows what she is talking about.

When I sat down to re-write the book, I discovered something. I naturally left out everything except the actual story. It was an epiphany. As a result, I have a far better story. That book became my debut dystopian thriller, FIRELANDS.

Now, I’m writing spy thrillers with Jay Holmes, who is a forty-year veteran covert operative and a senior member of the intelligence community. Our debut novella, THE SPY BRIDE, is in the Bestsellers’ Collection RISKY BRIDES, where we join USA Today Bestsellers Vicki Hinze, Rita Herron, Donna Fletcher, Peggy Webb, and Kathy Carmichael, and veteran authors Kimberly Llewellyn and Tara Randel to share our unique take on what it means to be a risky bride. 8 novels and novellas—8 genres—8 RISKY BRIDES. RISKY BRIDES releases today for only $.99 and is available for a limited time at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and Kobo.

The Spy Bride Risky Brides Boxed Set final Cover

 To celebrate our release, Holmes and I will give away one copy of RISKY BRIDES to someone who comments below. To determine the winner, I will put the names of everyone who comments below in a hat and have my daughter draw one out at random on Friday, October 24, at 9:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

And to celebrate going from super-suck to published authors, Holmes and I will also be giving away three prizes—a Secret Decoder Ring, a stash of Ghirardelli chocolate, and a bottle of Mumm Napa sparkling wine—to three randomly selected subscribers to our newsletter on November 27. Sign up now for the Bayard & Holmes newsletter to enter.

What are your issues with backstory? Do you develop your characters before you write? Do you have any questions for me?

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Piper Bayard is an author, bellydancer, shooter, SCUBA diver, and a recovering attorney with a college degree or two. She writes spy thrillers with Jay Holmes, a forty-year veteran covert operative and a current senior member of the intelligence community. Piper is the public face of their partnership.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

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8 Elements to NAILING Your Plot & Owning NaNo

Attack of the Killer Plot Bunny. That rabbit is DYNAMITE!

Attack of the Killer Plot Bunny. That rabbit is DYNAMITE!

I promised not to leave you guys hanging with my last post. Now that I have a lot of you beating your shields ready for NaNo, I’m going to give you battle tactics to come out victorious (or maybe at least alive).

Sure, NaNo is great to just learn to turn off the Inner Editor and get those 50,000 words DOWN. But, if in the end, all we have is a gelatinous ooze that eats people and attacks the city? They call in the National Guard to take out our WIP, because no revision can tame it.

What to do? This post is incredibly redacted, but it’s a blog. So roll with it ;) .

These tips will work for any novel, but they are SUPER important in NaNo, lest we write ourselves into the Corner of NO Escape by November 10th. These tips will ward off plot bunnies, keep the muse cooking, and hopefully help you finish.

Last I checked, finished books sell the best.

Anyway….

Active Goals

Our WIP can feel a little like THIS...

NaNo can feel a little like THIS…

A lot of time when I’m called in to repair critically injured plots, the main problem is…well, the problem. It’s passive. If your story involves “protecting” something, “escaping” something, “avoiding” something? Not going to work.

Think of it this way. I want to write a story about protecting the princess or the world will be robbed of all glitter and chocolate and all the people will be super sad. Oh-kay. What’s the plot? Stick her in a giant human-sized hamster ball and make sure it’s heavily guarded? Guarding is not ACTIVE.

A teenage boy inherits the power to time-travel but he will rip the space-time continuum if he does. He must never learn he can time-travel or use his powers.

Again, oh-kay. So does the book involve distracting him with video games for 65,000 words?

I call this The Containing Communism Conundrum. Didn’t work in the Cold War, likely will be equally ineffective/frustrating in a novel.

And yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I will get a bunch of comments with, “But Such-and-Such did this and it was a TOTAL HIT in 1875.” Have fun storming the castle. I won’t stop you.

I will, however, wager that the stories one might be tempted to cite, really DO have an active goal.

Core Story PROBLEM

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Novels are simple. Solving a PROBLEM. Why do we dig reading novels? Because of life. Life is just one problem after another and it never ends…EVER. Don’t believe me? Come check out my laundry room or peek at your e-mail. We like it when characters go up against something seemingly insurmountable and WIN. It FINISHES.

Maybe it takes 20 books to finish, but it does eventually END. As a caveat, within the series, the problem of that episode book will be SOLVED.

Lately we’ve been watching the series Grimm. And yes, I’m slow to series namely because I like to binge and also, if I watch something in the first season and LIKE it? Surefire way to kill it. Still sorry about Firefly.

Anyway, for those who’ve not watched Grimm, it’s a take off the old Grimm’s Fairy Tails and the Grimms are humans with special abilities to spot and stop the beasties living among humans and causing problems. Granted, there is a BIG problem involving seven keys and world domination, but this is obviously not solved in ONE episode.

Now, the werewolf that robs the convenience store in the opening scene? He’s apprehended or killed by the end of 50 minutes.

ACTIVE: Wow, who/what ate the poor QT clerk and took all the Snicker’s bars and stole the Slurpee machine? This person/thing needs to be stopped.

Interesting Problem

Self-explanatory.

Stakes

And Grumpy Cat

What will happen if your protagonist fails? The bigger the stakes the better the story. These can be outward or inward stakes but there must be stakes. Oh, and inward stakes need an outward manifestation. They also need to be BIG or…who cares?

For the literary folks, I like to cite The Road. Man and Boy have an ACTIVE goal. Reach the ocean. No idea what’s there, but seems like a good idea. Here’s the kicker. Humans somehow did something that killed every living thing on the planet, except people (and I’m really ticked McCarthy never divulged what that was). Thus, humans have devolved to cannibalism.

The point of the book is less about making it to the ocean and more HOW they make it. If they stop to snack on some fellow travelers? They fail. The stakes are Would you die (stave to death) to protect what it truly means to be human, OR would you resort to the animal state?

Weakness

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Perfect characters are boring. Good story problems force the protagonist to do what he or she would NEVER have done in a GAZILLION years had the problem never surfaced. The inciting incident rattles the character’s cage and the first turning point is when the protagonist steps out of the comfort zone. The comfort zone is also a coping mechanism that has worked great up until said story problem.

For instance, in The Labyrinth Sarah is doing just peachy hiding in her room with her toys and costumes and refusing to grow up. It’s easier to resent her parents and baby brother. She calls on the Goblin King to take the baby away and WHOA! He shows up, takes the a baby and offers her all her dreams.

And any preteen girl who saw this movie took another 20 years to figure out why she didn’t take the deal.

But, since that would have made for a seriously short movie, Sarah has to go face the Labyrinth lest she be grounded FOREVER for selling little bro to the Goblin King. She must leave the safety of her carefully constructed world and see her flaws. Life isn’t fair and love is about sacrifice, not control.

Blind Spot

Oh, Scarlett

Oh, Scarlett

Every strength has a counterpoint. The very thing that makes ANY character good at what he or she does is also the Achilles Heel. Most characters are not evolved enough to know what their blind spot is and that’s okay because that would make them boring. Heck, it takes years of expensive therapy for most of us to pony up to what we always knew our biggest problem was/is.

I HIGHLY recommend the Positive and Negative Trait Thesauri for help. If a character is funny and charismatic, they can also be flaky and undependable. Show me a great leader and I’ll show you a control freak. Give me a loyal person, I’ll show you a sucker. Scarlett might have been a spoiled brat and a pit-bull, but she had what it took to keep it together when $#@! got REAL.

The plot serves to help the character see, then face, then overcome the blind spot/weakness and harness the counterpoint (the strength).

Secrets

RESIST THE URGE TO EXPLAIN. You may need to know why such-and-such is a certain way as WRITER-GOD, but that might not be good for the story and the reader. Keep secrets. Reveal slowly. Ever been on a date with someone who told you every intimate detail of their lives and the waitress had yet to bring the Bloomin’ Onion? Don’t be THAT date writer.

The Force was better before it was EXPLAINED. Metachlorians?

Really?

Secrets drive great fiction, and for more on that, check out this post on being a great secret-keeper so that THIS post isn’t uber-long.

Restoration

Photo courtesy of JM Powers WANA Commons

Photo courtesy of JM Powers WANA Commons

Books must eventually end or they are called Days of Our Lives. Is Stephano still around?

When we create an ACTIVE goal for our character(s), our ending should be far clearer. I’m not a plotter. More of a plotser (I know my main story points and riff from there). But, though I don’t do outlines, I will tell you that it seriously helps to at least have an idea where you’re going.

In The Labyrinth we KNOW the ending. Sarah solves the Labyrinth and has baby bro home before she’s hauled away by police yelling, “The dingo Goblin King got the baby!”

The Death Star is blowed up. The Ring of Power is melted. Buffalo Bill is stopped from making more human-skin-lady-suits and senator’s daughter rescued (and has to have even MORE therapy about being a size 14). The Deadites have to be defeated, the portal closed, curse broken, disease cured, wedding stopped, Voldemort destroyed, Amway stopped, etc. etc.

These are the broad strokes that should help tremendously. They’re simple, but NOT easy. Despite what others may very mistakenly believe, writing a novel is HARD. Most people cannot do it. And just remember that the same folks who are telling you writing books is “easy” are the same people who were willing to pay you a hundred bucks to write a 500 word paper for them in college ;) .

What are your thoughts? Do these tips help? Make you want to go run in traffic? Have you skipped one or all of these steps and ended up with a plot so complicated you didn’t even understand it? Hey, I’ve been there.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

September’s Winner: Taylor Grace. Please send your 20 pages (10,000 word WORD doc to kristen at wan a intl dot com). You an also choose to instead send a one page query or synopsis. Congratulations!

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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10 Tips to Organizing a Kick Ass Online Book Event

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Today, one of our WANA instructors is here to talk about a topic that makes most of us want to throw ourselves in traffic. BUT Angela Ackerman, our marketing maven is here to demystify Sasquatch the book launch party….

The Book Launch—WTH? What AM I THINKING?

The book launch. The discoverability blog hop. The big Christmas sale. You know you need to do it, that it will be good for your book, but the MOUNTAIN of work looming makes you want to run for Netflix and Big Bang Theory reruns.

After hosting many successful online events, I’ve learned a few tricks to making it through them alive. It involves a lot of coffee, frozen pizza for the family, and these ten steps.

1) Pick a Theme

Via Tumblr

Via Tumblr

Every event needs something jazzy to make it stand out. Pick a theme for your event that makes it fun and different. Think about your audience, and what they might find entertaining or valuable, and then pair it with a unique element from your book.

Is your book about pirates? Create an online treasure hunt. Is your hero a safe-cracking thief? Host a bank vault break in (Becca and I did something similar HERE.) The goal is to attract YOUR IDEAL AUDIENCE by tailoring your event to something they specifically will enjoy.

2) Marshall Your Forces

#PARTY

#PARTY

Put a call out using your blog, Facebook feed, twitter and email–anywhere you have a platform. If you want to run a successful event, you can’t do it alone–you need your friends and connections to build an Awesome Street Team. I find what works best is to blog about the event well in advance and request help (& share links to the post across my networks) and then to supply a simple Google Form for interested people to fill out so I can contact them with details.

This works well if you need a few different “types” of helpers…people can sign up for what they want to do. Here and here are some sample forms I have created in the past.

3) Outline How the Event Will Run

What needs to be done in advance? DO those things.

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Need a blog banner or badge for your event? Create one. Need to drum up prizes? Secure them. In advance, prepare the book launch/book event day post for your blog (and one for your street team to use on their blogs if needed). Gather any links you need (Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook page, etc.), craft tweets to use during the event, and create an event #hashtag. Doing these things now saves you time later.

4) Email Your Volunteers

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Send a group email, thanking them for stepping up to help–make it personal and genuine. Then, clearly describe how the event will run and what you would like them to do. Explain how long the event will run, when you need their blog posts up, and when you will announce winners or simply end the event.

Give people a chance to ask questions, so everyone understands what the plan is. I recommend creating a distribution list for your team so you can keep emails private. (I learned that lesson the hard way when my first event someone got upset that her email was exposed to other members of my street team.)

5) Stay in Touch

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Once it gets closer to the date, let everyone know you will soon be sending them an email package with “cheat sheet” instructions (to remind them of how the event will run and their role in it) and everything they need for the event. Tell your team that if something has changed and they can no longer participate, you understand but now’s the time to let you know.

You don’t want to be sending out a lot of email so people feel spammed, so try hard to be very organized. If you did get questions about the event from multiple parties and they are valid questions or concerns, answer them in a Q & A in this group email so everyone is on the same page.

6) Send Out the E-Mail Package

Setting Party Operational Tempo

Setting Party Operational Tempo

A week in advance of the event, give everyone a package that contains a “cheat sheet” of instructions, an image of your blog banner or badge you will be using, and an attachment “template post” that they can cut and paste onto their blog (short and sweet, so all they have to do is write up a quick intro). I send 2 versions: a Word document, and the HTML code that has the blog badge, pictures and formatting already in place.

Bloggers who can support HTML can just cut and paste, and the work is done. I always tell people they can write their own post if they prefer, but it’s my goal with events to make life as easy as possible for my team, so I give them everything they need to save time if they wish. (Here’s the blog post I sent to my street team for our event, The WHW Amazing Race.) Also, remember to tell them the event #hashtag you picked for their tweets.

7) Be Present

WANAs RULE

WANAs RULE

When your event launches, stuff might go wrong. Make sure you are available to help your team in any way they need. Tell them to email you if they need help and monitor your inbox. Check everyone’s blogs to make sure the posts are up and that links work.

If you can, interact in their comment sections as well as your own. On social media, drive traffic to your street team people. With a large group, I create a Pinterest board of participants (like this one), and then tweet links to it during and after the event, telling my followers that these are really great people & to check out their blogs. This is a nice way to say thank you to them for participating.

8) Be Enthusiastic

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For this event to be memorable, your energy needs to be up. Try to engage people, encourage them to participate, and make it super fun. (This is where having a kick ass theme comes in.) Make sure your high level of positivity is in every email you send to your team.

Be pumped, let them know how excited you are to be doing this event with them. They in turn will spread that high energy along.

9) Wrap It Up

Publish your closing post for the event (if there are winners to draw and announce, do this) and thank everyone for joining you in the event. Send out emails to winners, and distribute any prizes. Keep a list of the winners so if you don’t hear back from someone, you can try again.

10) Say a Heartfelt THANK YOU to Your Street Team

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Don’t be afraid to show your emotion–let them really know just what it meant to you that they shared time with you and made it so much fun. In the days ahead, remember to tweet them, and tweet or link to your Pinterest board from time to time. If you can help them get exposure in return, do! Some people offer a prize draw or give small gift to members of a street team. This might be something you may wish to do as well.

BONUS TIP: Buy a nice bottle of wine, or expensive box of chocolate (or both!) and take some “me time.” Relaxing and recharging after an event is important too!

Thank you ANGELA! I know this blog is a HUGE help, but need more? Angela and Becca are holding a WANA class The Marketing Marriage: Creative Social Media Solutions to Help Get Your Book Noticed. And all our instructors teach the WANA WAY, which is devoid of creepy, spammy, try to make you into a marketing Pod Person tactics.

Angela will be around for questions and I hope you guys show her some love. What are your greatest challenges? What makes you panic? Why? What have you tried that worked? What have you done that was in your comfort zone? What is keeping you from stepping out into the “unknown”?

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Angela Ackerman, MARKETING MAVEN

 

 

 

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The First & Most Crucial Step to OWNING NaNoWriMo

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No Spawn left behind!

I love all of you, so it might be best to hear this from me. Sit down. We need to talk. Writers are….”different.” This might not be news to some of you, but I imagine others of you are in denial. I know I was for ages. We try SO HARD to be normal, but normal is just so, so, so…BORING normal.

Our “differentness” weirds normal people out, because they’ve been trained by TV what the writer’s life should look like.

Just like DNA analysis takes less than 10 minutes on an episode of Rizzoli & Isles and the bad guy is caught and in cuffs in less than an hour, what “looks” like writing and the creative process in movies? Kind of isn’t. Not even CLOSE.

Too often, pop culture paints authors as caricatures instead of pros. We mainline coffee (okay, that’s accurate), are barely functioning alcoholics who dither around instead of writing. At the last moment, we are visited by the genius fairy, type for a full  week 24 hours a day to turn in a masterpiece (last minute) to our agent who’s been calling over and over worried sick about us.

*clutches sides laughing”

Um, sure.

***Though I will cop to being a functioning yarn and video game addict.

New Kindle cover…..

New Kindle cover…..

There are a lot of activities we must do to write great stories that, to the outside world, look a lot like goofing off. We aren’t goofing off (though without discipline it can become that). Lately (namely because of Shingles) I have traded Jui-Jitsu for crocheting until my doctor clears me for beating people up.

But there is a LOT of thinking and pondering going on while I work on my projects. I watch series and deconstruct plots, characters, etc. I note dialogue. I contemplate ways one could kill people with crochet needles and if I could write a series called The Etsy Murders (no stealing O_o).

…and have a nifty Kindle case to show for it :D .

We must fill our creative well before we write, or we have nothing to draw from.

Creative people are a lot like tigers. We do a lot of what looks like laying around and warming our bellies in the sunshine. Yet, what we’re really doing is powering up because, once we go after that first draft, those words can be more elusive than a gazelle that’s doping.

Regular folks who clock in and clock out of jobs in cubicles are grazers. They do the same routine day after day. *munch, munch, munch*. I feel this is often why creative people feel so stifled in these environments. We’re tigers stuffed in a non-tiger role.

TIGER BLOOD! *giggles*

Strong writers are apex predators who lurk, plan and power-up until go-time.

I spent two and a half years researching for my last social media book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. I read stacks of books on neuroscience, sociology, communication, the history of communication, leadership, sales, etc. This probably didn’t look (to many others) like working. Yet, it was. I was filling my mental reservoir. When my hands met the keyboard, I wrote almost 90,000 words in six weeks that needed minimal revision.

Same in fiction. I knew I wanted my series to involve Mexican drug cartels. What did I do? I watched A LOT of documentaries, read books, articles, blogs, collected images, and played video games.

Yes, video games.

Take Time to Fill Up

Too many writers fail to finish NaNo because they haven’t fueled up properly. If one studies any endurance athlete, what do they do before an Iron Man or the Tour de France? They EAT. A LOT. Endurance athletes know they need the extra weight because it isn’t uncommon for participants to lose as much as twenty pounds by race end.

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

Yet, how many of us go into writing a book with a malnourished, anemic muse?

Feed the Subconscious

Part of why I love NaNo and Fast Draft is it does a number of things. First, it tires out the analytical side of the brain that wants to edit and make everything “perfect.” REFUSE TO EDIT. If you’ve taken time to feed the muse, your “Boys in the Basement” could be doing some seriously cool mojo, and if you edit that out? You can benevolently tank your story.

Often a lot of the subplots or cool twists and turns come from all the stuff we fed the muse ahead of time. For instance, there is a scene in the first book of my trilogy book where the two main characters find an old drug house and of course teenagers and addicts have been in there and there’s a ton of graffiti. There are the usual pentagrams, devil-worshipping symbols, goat heads, gang signs, profanity, etc. but my fingers typed (seemingly of their own accord) that there was also a veve of Papa Legba.

Veve of Papa Legba courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Veve of Papa Legba courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Huh? Voo-doo in southwest Texas? Where did THAT come from?

Probably a documentary. I began to backspace over it, but then let it ride. My FBI agent notices the veve, recognizes it, and finds it odd and “out of place.” This is all that is mentioned of the veve in this book, because my subconscious already had the plot for Book Two which involved…Santeria.

My subconscious must have pulled up the multiple news stories of bodies with hearts removed (or headless) who were presumed to have been killed in ritualistic fashion by cartel leaders for otherworldly protection over their operations. My muse was placing the perfect bread crumb in the story to lead to the next one.

But what if I hadn’t “wasted” all that time reading and watching documentaries? What would my muse have been able to draw from? A bag of stale Goldfish or a 10 course meal?

Another reason I love NaNo is that once we tire out the analytical side of the brain, we can fall into a sort of trance, much like a runner’s high. This is where the muse hits overdrive, and, since we are SO immersed in the story, we become part of that world.

This means we’re less likely to lose ideas or make major mistakes because we’re hyper-familiar with the terrain. If we start writing, then put a book away for a month and try to pick it back up, we need to do a lot of refreshing and the story can become jaunty and incongruent.

I recommend checking out another of my posts: Write FAST and Furious! Learning to Outrun “Spock Brain.”

My recommendation before writing ANY book is total immersion. I read a lot of submissions and many of them have a bunch of fluff and filler and that could have been avoided if the writer had more research to draw from.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of FromSandToGlass

It’s easier to use setting powerfully if we’ve researched the terrain ahead of time. What do people in certain roles or regions talk like? The more facts, images, and stories (even news stories) we have in our head? The richer the work and the easier to give our writing texture.

Later, we’ll discuss some ways to fill the muse. And yes, a lot of it might look like goofing off, but runners preparing for a mega-marathon do a lot of what looks like eating a ginormous bowl of pasta or downing special protein drinks. Not especially glamourous, but essential for success.

How do YOU fuel? What things do you do to enhance creativity that looks like slacking? Are you afraid to watch TV or movies because you fear you aren’t…GASP…writing?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Will announce September’s winner later this week. Have to tally :D.

Super Cool WANA Announcement!

WANA has a super cool class coming up October 4th. VERY RIGHT BRAIN and a cool and unique way to envision your story and prepare a rich, textured novel with deep and dimensional characters. Rachel Funk Heller is teaching Prepare for NaNoWriMo–Writer’s Coloring Book. Give yourself and your brain a play date. It’s good for BOTH of you!

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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76 Comments

Cyberbullies, Trolls, Mobs & Haters—How to Protect Yourself & Others in a Dangerous World

Image via "The Terminator."

Image via “The Terminator.”

As the WANA Mama, I am fiercely protective of my writer peeps…like Giant Kodiak Mother Bear Protective. I will and have gone to the mattresses for fellow writers who’ve found themselves under senseless attack.

Yet, as a counterpoint, I choose my battles. I love Sun Tzu, and have read his Art of War until the pages were falling out. When it comes to dealing with a formidable enemy, Sun Tzu is the master tactician. One of my favorite quotes?

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. ~Sun Tzu

A few days ago Psychology Today posted an article I found interesting in that 1) this article gives data to support what we all know deep down but 2) don’t want to believe. We know there is something different about trolls. They exhibit what is called The Dark Tetrad Personality—Machiavellianism, narcissism, sadism, and psychopathy.

Yet, this is where we can get in BIG trouble. We often try to deal with trolls the way we would rational people who are not deeply disturbed. Trolls remind me of the Terminator, and the hero (Kyle Reese) has the best explanation of what an Internet Troll truly is.

Kyle Reese: Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

Kristen Lamb: Listen, and understand. Trolls are out there. They cannot be bargained with. They cannot be reasoned with. They do not feel pity, remorse or fear. They take tremendous joy in our suffering. Suffering and pain is their subsistence, the very thing they LIVE to create so they can FEED. They will not stop ever until we are dead (spiritually/emotionally/professionally)…unless we take a stand.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 12.05.59 PM

This blog is called Warrior Writers for good reason. We are in a multi-front war. War with our bad habits, our fears, our insecurities, our family or friend’s disapproval. We are fighting and training to grow to be better writers than the day before. Battling to become better business people (yes, writing IS a business).

We also must appreciate we are targets. We can believe the enemy isn’t coming, but that doesn’t mean they won’t. Preparation is paramount.

To be clear. Everyone has a bad day. Some people might strongly disagree with us and might not use the best words because they’re emotional. Or they might disagree respectfully and that’s okay. I don’t want Pod People Commenters. I don’t have to agree with others to support their freedom to have opinions.

Some people might believe (have the opinion) I don’t know what I’m talking about and have the intellect of a brain-damaged garden slug.

They have the right to be wrong :D .

THESE ARE NOT TROLLS. Trolls are a unique life form with a VERY different psychological makeup. Trolls feed off pain and strife. They seek it. They create it. They need it and they CRAVE it. They are addicts who also need higher and higher doses of suffering to get the same high. KNOW THIS.

Know Thy Enemy—Levels of Trolls

Image via the movie "The Purge"

Image via the movie “The Purge”

Not all tactics will work equally because not every enemy is the same. There are little trolls and often they’re the “easiest” to deal with by simply setting a boundary and refusing to budge. Recently, I had a guest post about grammar, thus I wrote a funny intro for my guest. I used the term Grammar Nazi, which is a common term and a humorous one, likely inspired by the Jewish comedian Jerry Seinfeld in the episode with the Soup Nazi.

One commenter scope-locked on that single term and razed me. He informed me that using the word “Nazi” was never funny and that I needed to take down my post and write a public apology. I replied with a professional version of, “Pound sand.”

I informed him that I refused to be PC or let one commenter dictate how I wrote my blog. If he didn’t like my blogs, there was the digital door and don’t let him hit it in his digital @$$.

There was a time I would have apologized for offending him and tried to reason and explain and that is BUNK.

POUND SAND.

If I’d catered to his bullying, I assure you that would have emboldened this person to only become a more powerful troll because his comment would have been enough to make me rewrite, revise, and cater to what HE wanted. Oh the surge of god-like powers he could have felt, but I denied him what he wanted.

When we appreciate that trolls are wired differently this makes early intervention make more sense. Serial killers don’t start out kidnapping, torturing then butchering people. Research has shown these “creatures” begin small with tormenting animals then escalate. If early deviant behavior is not recognized, dealt with or cut off, it then will continue to grow into a malignant evil with a body count.

Trolls aren’t after your flesh, they want your soul. They collect broken dreams and broken hearts. Trolls often hunt in packs because bullies are small insignificant people who need cronies to help them do their dirty work. But, hopefully this post will train you. If you are attacked? It will be instantly and painfully clear they picked the wrong writer to mess with.

The following tips will help handle even the most sadistic and highly motivated trolls.

What To Do—Writers and READERS

Go Sherlock—Scrutinize and Discern

Image via "Sherlock Holmes" with Robert Downey Jr.

Image via “Sherlock Holmes” with Robert Downey Jr.

If a book catches your attention and you think you might want to read it, take the ratings at face value. If there are a gazillion one-star reviews, take a moment to look at them. Troll swarms are fairly easy to spot because of all the fecal matter they leave behind.

Other signs?

One-star reviews with no commentary, no picture, a moniker, etc. Reviews with ad hominem personal attacks. Reviews that are psycho-emotional. Often trolls will have their reviews hidden. If they don’t, and you’re uncertain if this person is a troll, look at their other reviews. Does this individual ever give a good review?

Then, ignore the reviews and look to the sample pages and use those to make your decision. Later, if you LIKE the book, leave a good review and then go back to the one-star reviews that are clearly trolls, and, when Amazon asks if the review is helpful? Do a BLAST NO BLITZKRIEG. If Amazon gets enough of those on certain profiles, these folks will be banned from reviewing. On Goodreads, hit the dislike button. Same deal.

Refuse to tolerate bullying. When we do nothing, we are enabling.

What to Do—Writers

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Be YOU—Don’t Let Trolls Steal Your Peace or Your Book Sales

First of all, use the name printed on your books. A moniker or a pen name won’t stop the hate. It’s still you. If someone called me names and ruthlessly attacked my character it wouldn’t matter if it was Kristen Lamb’s Blog or Penelope Fluffernutter’s Blog. It’s still me behind the computer. When we try to hide behind a moniker to protect against the inevitable, all we do is make it harder to sell books.

The bullies win. They can steal your peace and maybe even success. If they take your NAME, they can steal your book sales.

When we get off the Internet because of these cretins, they win. It’s a “blaming the victim” mentality. If your skirt wasn’t so short blog wasn’t there, you wouldn’t be raped harassed by trolls. This is why I DO recommend a WP based site. There is this marvelous TRASH function.

Illegitimi non carborundum…

I’m not naive. I KNOW these comments hurt. I’ve had comments that reduced me to tears. But we have control how much power we give these thugs and for how long. It isn’t easy, but it is reality.

Keep Records

If you get hateful, threatening messages take screenshots. Save e-mails. If the troll is motivated enough they can easily slip into an area that can give you power legally. But, proof is what will help your case.

Manage Your Blog

I don’t allow hate. I am always open for respectful disagreement, but if someone gets out of control? I politely pop them on the snoot and remind them to behave or delete their comments. You guys need to feel safe to comment on my blog (others need to feel safe to comment on yours). Trolls will shred the fabric of your community. It’s our job to keep them in check. Set boundaries and refuse to tolerate abuse.

NEVER hide your blog or shut down comments. It’s what they want. The trash function is your friend and you can block them from commenting.

Stand Up for Friends

If you have a writer friend who’s being bullied, gather together and, when Amazon asks if a review is helpful? Click NO. The WANA Community is massive. Let us know. We are happy to stick up for you, and a troll might be able to harass one or two pals who come to your aid, but a few thousand is a tougher challenge. Bullying is something that can only be beaten with the power of friends and community. Trolls have their gang? Bring it. We’ll be your Huckleberry ;) .

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.19.32 AM

Report and Block

Report abusers on Facebook. I’ve been on Facebook since 2005 and only had to block three people. These trolls weren’t just harassing me, they were harassing all my friends who commented on my wall. They were PSYCHO. I went to Facebook and had them banned. I blocked their comments and profiles (until FB could take them down).

DO NOT ENGAGE

Don’t feed the trolls. Negative attention is still attention. Often trolls will leave seething comments to upset people SO much that they HAVE to go to their blog/website to see WHO this JERK IS. It’s the only way they can get hits and comments and they feed on negativity. Starve them.

Hire a Professional

If you’re worried about your safety or your family’s safety because someone has gone THAT nutso? Contact Jay Donovan at TechSurgeons. Jay is an amazing human being, a tireless champion for writers and he IS The Digital Dark Knight. He’s a computer genius who can have said troll chasing his own @$$ down a hole of frustrated nothing.

There are ways to protect yourself digitally and Jay is a master of security. Even if you want to take some preventative measures, talk to Jay.

Many of you know I am NOT a fan of pen names. What you may not understand is I’m not a fan of pen names, because a different name alone isn’t enough. Worse, it can provide a false sense of security. Writers are locking the screen door thinking that’s going to keep out the motivated ax murderer.

There are sound reasons for having a pen name. I advise against it most of the time because friends, schoolmates and family can be powerful mouthpieces and very helpful. A pen name limits how much of that energy we can harness and dilutes focus. BUT, if you DO need a pen name for safety, security, etc. TALK TO JAY. Again, a different name alone isn’t enough. An eight-year-old with decent Google skills can find who you are without the skills of someone like Jay helping you.

Speak Up

Image via Demi-Brooke Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Demi-Brooke Flickr Creative Commons

In the end, trolls (sad to say) are often a sign we are doing something right. Get ten trolls and I think we are officially a celebrity. Learn to un-see. Focus on those who love you. Join our WANA Community (WANA stands for We Are Not Alone, information here). We are a great refuge and support system. You can join us on Twitter at#MyWANA, on Facebook or even WANATribe (a social network for creatives). I have ZERO tolerance for trolls and have smiting powers.

I know it can feel very defeating sometimes, but a great circle of loving friends who have your back is a great start. Refuse to feed the trolls your peace, success and happiness. They exist, but together we are stronger.

Trying to reason with trolls is wasted energy. Trolls need professional help and we aren’t being paid NEAR the kind of money to required treat these kinds of people. We’re writers, not shrinks and not the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit.

And just remember…WE ARE NOT ALONE.

What about you? Have you been bullied? Did you find any tactics that were effective? What are your thoughts? Do you check the one-star reviews to make sure they are legitimate? I am no expert, so I would LOVE any suggestions.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of SEPTEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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115 Comments

Want to Reach New Heights as a Writer? Learn to QUIT

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month—November) is just around the corner. Many new writers take this as an opportunity to test if they can do this professional writing thing “fer realz.” Some of us dust off an old story and see if we can toss it in the crucible of peer pressure and FINALLY finish. This is a good plan…most of the time.

We have to be careful. Never giving up might keep us from ever succeeding.

Want to know the secret to success? Quitting. Yes, you read correctly. And, if you’re a creative professional, it is in your interest to learn to get really good at quitting. Maybe you’ve felt like a loser or a failure, that your dream to make a living with your art was a fool’s errand.

Ignore that junk and understand…

Winners Quit All the Time

I posit this thought; if we ever hope to achieve anything remarkable, we must learn to quit. In fact, I’ll take this another step. I venture to say that most aspiring writers will not succeed simply because they aren’t skilled at quitting.

Ooooohhhh.

Learning Discernment

One problem many artists have is we lack discernment. It’s easy to get trapped in all-or-nothing thinking. If we defy family in pursuit of our art and something stops working properly, out of pride often we will persist even when the very thing we are attempting is the largest reason we will fail.

We keep reworking that first novel over and over. We keep querying the first novel and won’t move on until we get an agent. We keep writing in the same genre even though it might not be the best fit for our voice. We keep marketing the first self-published book and don’t move forward and keep writing more books and better books.

If you are tangled in a book that isn’t working, never ends, keeps getting rejected, ask for help. Sometimes the story (plot) is there only we can’t see it. We’re too vested and emotionally blinded.

This is why I do consulting. Yes, it’s $160 for three hours, but I’ve yet to meet a book I couldn’t wrangle and make behave. A skilled outside perspective is priceless and will save time and money (and good content editors are NOT cheap). People like me can help you quit the book that isn’t working and start writing the book you originally had in mind.

(***If you need help, e-mail me at kristen at wana intl dot com)

Learning to Quit is the Surest Insurance Against Failure

I like to say, “Persistence looks a lot like stupid.” The act of never giving up is noble, but never giving up on the wrong things is a formula to fail. We have to learn to detect the difference between quitting a tactic and quitting a dream.

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

If I am trying to climb Mt. Everest, but I am repeatedly failing at climbing the one side, which is a sheer rock face with no way to get a footing, then it is suicide to keep trying the same thing. If, however, I regroup, hike back to the bottom and take another way up the mountain, I am a quitter…but I am NOT a failure.

In fact, in order to “win” I must “quit.”

Learn to Quit from the Best

Most of us are lousy at knowing how and when to quit. This is one of the reasons it is a good idea to surround ourselves with successful people, because successful people are expert quitters. When I started out, I had all the wrong mentors. I had writer pals who quit writing when it was boring or who quit querying after a handful of rejections. They quit attending critique because they got their feelings hurt when people didn’t rave their book was the best thing since kitten calendars.

All this wrong kind of quitting is easy to fall into. Excuses are free, but they cost us everything.

My Life Changed When I Changed the Quitters in My Company

It all started with the DFW Writer’s Workshop. I attended and met people living the life I wanted to have…the life of a professional writer. They were the same as me, and yet very different. When I attended my first conference, I found myself being pushed to yet a higher level.

I met and stalked Candy Havens. Candy is an excellent quitter. She wrote her first bad book and didn’t spend the next six years trying to resurrect it. She sought training and experts and moved forward. She quit outside hobbies and friends that took away from her goal of becoming a professional author.

Theresa Ragan was rejected by traditional publishers for over twenty years. She finally self-published and has now sold hundreds of thousands of books. NY tried to offer her a contract and she turned them down. 

I turned in a hundred page proposal for Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World in the summer of 2011 to a premiere agent, a DREAM agent. But, after NY ignoring it for over two years? I thanked my agent for his efforts and published it myself. We need to always be moving forward, and sometimes pressing on requires letting go. We can’t grab hold of the new if we are hanging on to the old.

If something isn’t working QUIT. Move on! If we have to defend and justify what we are doing there’s something wrong.

Everything is Our Enemy

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It’s hard to know when to quit. I’m a loyal person. I’m loyal to a fault and I struggle every day with this lesson. But I’ve recently come to a conclusion. People who reach their dreams don’t get there by doing EVERYTHING. Everything is dead weight. Everything will keep us from focusing. Everything gets us distracted.

Everything is the enemy.

Sometimes we need to let go of inefficiencies or false trails, and if we don’t let go, then failure is just a matter of time.

Artists Actually Need More Quitting

Quit your day job. Today. This moment. Now, by quitting, I don’t mean you should throw your laptop in a waste can and take a bat to that copy machine that’s eaten every presentation you’ve tried to photocopy since the day you were hired….though that might be fun.

No, I mean mentally QUIT, then hire yourself to the dream. Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for pansies. It takes guts to be a writer. It takes guts to be any kind of creative professional. Hire yourself to the job you dream about. TODAY.

No aspiring writers, only pre-published writers. If you want to be a professional author, you must quit to win. The day job is no longer the ends, but rather the means. The day job is just venture capital funding the successful art-making business…YOU.

You are a pre-published author…who happens to also be a stay-at-home-mom, a computer programmer, a salesperson, a whatever.

Learn to Quit Being “Everything”

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Again, Everything is the enemy. Friends and family will want you to keep being the maid and the taxi and the babysitter and the buddy who can spend all day shoe-shopping. Many of us will try to keep being Everything to everyone and we’ll just try to “fit in” writing, but that is the lie that will kill the dream. We can’t be Everything!

A new quote I have etched in my brain is, I can be respected or popular. I can’t be both.

We must learn when to quit and to be firm in quitting. Others have the right to be disappointed, but they’ll get over it. And, if they really love us they will get over it quickly and be happy for our resolve to reach our dreams. If they don’t? They’re dead weight and it’s better to cull them out of our life sooner than later.

Yes, this is hard stuff. Reaching our dreams is simple, but it will never be easy ;).

So what are some of your quitting stories? Did it work? Were you better off? Tell us your quit to win story! Do you need help sticking to your guns? Hey, your family doesn’t get you, but we do! Do you have a problem and you don’t know if you should stick or quit? Put it in the comments section and let us play armchair psychiatrist!

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of SEPTEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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101 Comments

Young Entrepreneurs, School Fundraising Fiascos, & Parental PTSD

The Dork Side

Image courtesy of The Dork Side

I was a BORN entrepreneur, and blessedly was a child of the 70s and 80s. I always had a business from the time I was four. My first venture? Selling my “art.” I got a Spirograph for Christmas and two types of paper, regular and legal. I’d spend hours crafting my original designs and then set out door-to-door (after cartoons and Sesame Street ended). Legal-size art was .15, regular was .5. Or you could buy all I’d made and I’d promise to go away for $1.

You KNOW you had one...

You KNOW you had one…

Once little brother came along, this increased my workforce. We washed cars, weeded gardens, trimmed hedges, picked up dog poop and at the end of the day, I’d split all we’d made 50/50. Our most profitable venture involved hoeing up crabgrass for $5 a bag. There is a LOT of crabgrass in SW Fort Worth. Was pitiless work in triple-digit heat, but everyone eagerly paid up.

I knew my market. Our neighborhood was working poor or elderly and we offered excellent work for a fair price. My mother and grandfather had taught us how to slay crabgrass properly by the time we were tall enough to hold a yard tool. Get those babies at the ROOTS. First rain will even the holes. Beautiful yard will soon ensue.

My little brother and I were also the precursor to the ATM. Mom and Dad knew we were always flush with cash. It wasn’t uncommon for us to have $50-$100 or more. Back then the banks were open three hours a day at the worst time, so if my parents needed quick cash? We were there…for a small service fee.

Family is family, but business is business.

What makes this extraordinary, is my little brother was legally blind. God help the kids who picked on him. They had ME to contend with (only I could call him a dork). I remember him being 5 and crying when he got his first glasses. He didn’t know trees had leaves.

I was a tough boss, though. You can feel the crabgrass. GET IT!

Everything is possible. Though Little Bro attended the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, Florida, blessedly, his vision drastically improved once he hit adulthood (so did optics/lenses). Now he’s the owner-CEO of his own successful company (and a devoted father, husband and involved in his City Council). In college, even though his vision was corrected, he volunteered countless hours translating books into braille and became fluent in ASL.

My first business partner...

My first “dorky” business partner…

Today's C.E.O.

Today’s “only slightly-less-dorky” C.E.O.

The Elementary Enigma

Okay, back to 1980 when I began grade school. I recall being baffled the day I entered the class and there were stacks of these cardboard boxes with a handle. We were all required to take at least one, sell all the contents then turn in all money to “support the school.” Problem was, no one in the educational system knew about a SWOT analysis.

Strengths—Cute kid selling candy.

Weakness—Over-saturation of cute kids concentrated in the same geographical area selling an unwanted/unnecessary product for an obviously inflated price. Our market was working poor. Yes, they’d pay $5 for some kid to hoe up crabgrass for two hours, but $3 for a candy bar that cost less than $1?

And then there was the repeated lecture about how they paid property taxes to support schools and shouldn’t have to buy candy, stale popcorn balls, yada yada yada.

Sigh.

Opportunities—Make teacher happy. Yeah, probably not. Sunburn? Mace? Potential abduction? Okay, I had nothing.

Threats—Other than the blatantly obvious over-saturated market, there were the roving packs of feral Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Brownies to contend with. Highly territorial and taught how to tie knots and set fires. And people waited all year for Girl Scout cookies. They were/are like the crack of the “kids selling stuff world.”

Customer: $20 for Thin Mints???? *twitches and scratches arms* *eyes VCR and tempted to rewire it*  All I have is $19. PLEASE. I can get you the $1 on payday! You gotta help me out, Kid.

Girl Scout: Okay, this time. But the price is now $25 and I want Barbie clothes.

Customer: DEAL!

Girl Scout: I know where you live.

Customer: *nods and shambles off with cookies tucked under coat*

The worst part of it is I was no stranger to working my tail off, but I at least was able to tangibly enjoy the fruit of my labors…with CASH. None of this existential “support your school” crap, a school that I had determined by Age 5 was a front for fascism.

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The Band Candy Bandit

As I grew older, new threats appeared, namely the little brother who’d once been such a loyal business partner. I was in the band and required to sell ridiculously priced Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (again for some nebulous end). Apparently the siren’s song of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups was stronger than sibling loyalty. He couldn’t see them, but his sense of smell was greatly enhanced O_o.

Mom and I woke to an 8-year-old passed out in a sugar coma, surrounded by brown and orange wrappers.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 9.28.13 AM

My poor single mother somehow scratched together the $100 to give to the school, though I felt they should have just locked little bro up and solved ALL our problems. He did the crime and could pay the time…and I’d no longer have to contend with him hiding my art supplies in the field behind out house just to tick me off.

Brave New Parenting

These days, sending your kids off to knock on strangers’ doors all alone isn’t nearly as acceptable. Thus, every storefront becomes a trap of “sad face” where you don’t dare make eye contact. I mumble something about food allergies and skirt past feeling like a jerk.

When Hubby was at a corporate job, every office worker had a kid selling something through their dealer (the poor parent who probably still suffers peanut cluster flashbacks). One year, we had so many Girl Scout cookies I banned Hubby from answering the door. He was helpless in the face of a cute kid. Between everything bought from family, the office and our front door? We were staring down the barrel of a second mortgage.

Kiddopreneurs

I will say that I love supporting kids. I buy what I can, even if I am deathly allergic. I remember being in that position and how hard it was. What I really love are the authentic small business owners. One day, I opened the door and three little girls stood there. They were selling magnets they’d made themselves.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 9.34.09 AM

This one was my favorite. I have three :)

I noticed the tiniest of the girls (she was elf-small) hid behind the others and I coaxed her out. She was missing an arm. Fumbling, she said they’d started their business to make money for extras their parents couldn’t afford. She couldn’t pull weeds or mow yards, but she could help make and sell magnets. She’d hidden because she didn’t want me to see her missing arm.

I bought their entire inventory.

And I’d have done that anyway. It had nothing to do with the one girl’s appearance. She’d done everything she could to support her sales team and NOT use her “disability” for sympathy sales.

I was so genuinely impressed with their hard work. They’d done their research. These were beautiful magnets that cost next to nothing. We all need pretty magnets. Magnets aren’t fattening and there is little competition. I wanted to support these future business owners the way my neighbors coughed up change for my silly Spirograph “art.”

Their grandmother was waiting in the car and I strolled out to praise her, and who was the CFO sitting in the back seat? Big brother. I donated an additional $30 as an angel investment. Big brother (11) ran the numbers and kept track of sales. My heart still flutters when I think of this story.

The Special Circumstances

I love kids. I’d adopt all of them if I could. It’s why I love that I’m called the W.A.N.A. Mama, because I can be den mother for countless writers. Also, we’re more than writers. We are people and many of us are parents. We have struggles and sickness and setbacks, but the cool news is we have each other.

And yes, I have something to sell. I almost never do this even for myself beyond a blip at the bottom about my book or upcoming classes. You’ve been warned, but I think this “sale” is a tad extraordinary.

Last Friday on Facebook, one of the WANAs was terribly discouraged. Her son has Down Syndrome and the school has tasked the kids/parents with selling ninja cookie cutters. His mom, Leona (a WANA) only asked if I could buy some cookie cutters. I was the one who offered to blog and talk to you guys.

I KNOW many of the writers in my community have special needs kids or grandkids and it is one of the toughest jobs in the world. We applaud you for your love and all your tireless work. This is the least I can do, beyond buying cookie cutters when I never bake :D .

Leona sent me this note after I offered to help:

Isaac is five years old with Down Syndrome. He’s recently moved to new school as we were able to get out of bad living situation. He’s doing beautifully. The new school provides many specialized services, like speech, resource rooms for extra tutoring, etc., and not just for the special ed kids.

It’s a good district. Unlike the old schools that acted as if I’d murdered their grandmother when asking for help or asking why something had happened this way or that, they are friendly, helpful, and happy to serve you and your children to getting a better education. All three of my kids have done so well in the new schools. They’re all happier, less depressed, and more focused, so I really appreciate your help in this.

The money is for the Gilbert Elementary PTA. They put on barbeques, and other family oriented things for the children and families to do things. They do a great job. The parents are relaxed and don’t look stressed, the teachers are helpful. I believe they play an integral part to keeping the community relations happily together with the schools goals. 

I appreciate you doing this as it will help Isaac garner some recognition, which though he won’t completely understand the whys of it, he will be happy with the positive attention. I’ve included a picture of him playing at the park before his back to school hair cut (BELOW)…

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How can you help? Maybe buy some cookie cutters or share this blog or the information below with those in desperate need of ninja cookie cutters :D .

To support #TeamIssac go to the Cherrydale Farm site and enter the following information:

Student Name: Isaac Bushman
State: Washington
School: Gilbert Elementary PTA
Group code (It will automatically fill in, but just in case): FRGILYW

And then if you hit continue, you can shop and Isaac will get credit.

Thank you for being here and for your support even if it is a comment or a share. Love and potential are limitless.

I LOVE hearing from you!

Did your school force you to sell overpriced stuff? Did you dread the tins of popcorn? Do you have kids and groan when they come home with candy bars? Is your office crammed with desperate parents trying to offload candles, greeting cards and chocolate? Yeah, sorry to add more peer pressure (ok, not really). Are you a tad shocked you weren’t held captive by that creepy neighbor with the van, but knocked on his door anyway because you had to make your quota?

To prove it and show my love, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner for a a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

All comments today are in a separate contest so less competition and a much greater chance of winning :D.

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