Posts Tagged Rise of the Machines Kristen Lamb

How to Take Criticism Like a Pro

Image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of JonoMeuller

Image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of JonoMeuller

One of the greatest blessings of being an author and teacher is I meet so many tremendous people. I feel we writers have a unique profession. It isn’t at all uncommon to see a seasoned author take time out of a crushing schedule to offer help, guidance and support to those who need it. I know of many game-changers, mentors who transformed my writing and my character. Les EdgertonCandace Havens, Bob Mayer, James Rollins, James Scott Bell, Allison Brennan are merely a few I can think of off the top of my head.

J.E. Fishman is another, and he offers a very unique perspective because he’s worked multiple sides of the industry. He was a former NYC literary agent, an editor for Doubleday and now he’s a novelist. His newest book A Danger to Himself and Others is masterfully written. I love books that make me pause, underline and dog-ear. As much as I think I know? I can always learn more. I make it a habit to study those who write better than I do.

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Today, J.E. Fishman is here to offer some of the best advice any of us can get when we’re new. If we’ve been around for awhile, we can always use a refresher. Writers do work an emotional, often isolated job, and it’s easy to forget to chew with our mouths closed be professional when so many of us are writing from beneath a pile of laundry and toys.

I hope this guest post blesses you as much as it has me…

Take it away!

J.E. Fishman

J.E. Fishman

We’re all amateurs at most things, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Maybe we shoot hoops after work or set up an easel in retirement. Perhaps we cook on weekends or spend the morning making an iMovie production of our summer vacation. We are neither professional basketball players nor professional painters nor chefs nor directors. We’re just having fun.

But what if we’re trying to achieve something more as writers? How do we get out of the bush leagues and behave more professionally?

Let’s start by acknowledging that amateurs often have conflicting priorities. They may allow foolish dreams to captivate them, for example, but they can’t always invest the hard work necessary to achieve those dreams. They frequently lean on raw talent when the greater challenge requires practicing craft. And with regard to criticism, they often have thin skin.

I’d like to talk about the thin skin part.

In my experience, professionals are not easily satisfied by their own work, whereas amateur writers take a degree of pride in their work that’s often not commensurate with the accomplishment. And if the person doing the criticizing is not a fellow writer, fuhgetaboutit!

What do they know, the tyro author tells himself. Or, if he’s rude, he says aloud, “What do you know?”

But this defensiveness is a sign of weakness. More important, it turns self-improvement — which is difficult enough in the best of times — into an insurmountable challenge.

Sure, the professional writer who can communicate the technical deficiencies of our work is worth heeding if we seek to improve. But the casual observer’s opinion is just as valuable. After all, most of our audience are just plain old readers, not writers.

Here’s something worth remembering: If we’re creating art, we owe our audience something, not the other way around.

A professional knows this because a professional lives and dies with it. Her skin may be thick or thin by inclination, but she forces herself to respond in certain ways toward criticism because she understands the stakes. To disappoint one audience member is potentially to disappoint all of them.

I was struck last month by a Chuck Wendig blog post in which he called out independent authors, challenging them not to publish amateurishly (“slush pile on display” were his words) — urging them to behave with professionalism, which is to say, to respect their audience. It got me thinking of the people I’ve worked with over the years as an editor and an agent and an author. Over time, you come to know a pro as much by her process as by the work she produces.

Some people think pros just work harder than everyone else. While it’s true that they often do, there are any number of other ways in which a professional distinguishes herself. Acceptance of criticism is among the most powerful. If we want people to take us seriously as a writer, we must take criticism like a pro does:

A pro respects roles. Your editor may or may not be a writer herself. In any case, it isn’t her job to rewrite your novel (unless you hired her specifically to do that, of course). The pro knows where her responsibilities lie.

A pro separates the work from himself — He pushes ego out of it. Even if we’re writing something very personal, we are not our work. The work is a form of communication. It is not what we are, but what we say. The pro doesn’t internalize criticism.

A pro seeks opportunities to learn from criticism. She knows that her art is not static, that a failure to grow with the craft will harm the next work. Every work becomes imperfect the moment it seeks expression. To learn as we go is a means of approaching that ever-elusive perfection.

A pro looks for the source of the problem, not easy fixes. He understands whose job it is to seek solutions. Hint: not the reader’s. Say the reader points to a given scene and asks of the protagonist, “Why’d he do that?” The facile answer might be, “Well, that guy was pointing a gun at him.” The writer here is telling himself that he only needs to clarify about the gun. But in fact, he must ask himself whether he needs to clarify the deeper character of the protagonist that would lead him to choose the action that’s been questioned.

A pro hears what is not said. The amateur too easily dismisses criticism that’s not expressed in the framework of how we think about our own craft. But the pro reads between the lines, asking herself what in the story caused the reader to have that reaction.

A pro accepts challenges. Not every item of criticism calls for a response within the work, but the default should never be a shrug of the shoulders. The pro understands that the path of least resistance, while tempting, rarely leads to great execution.

A pro never argues, never rebuts. The work should be all we ever need to convince anyone of anything. It stands alone. The pro knows that her work will eventually go out into the world defenseless. If a proper understanding of the work requires an off-the-page argument from the author, it’s already failed for that particular reader. There’s no point in discussing it further except perhaps by asking questions to learn.

A pro doesn’t belittle the messenger. Imagine if only architects were allowed to have opinions about the beauty (or utility) of a house. Don’t ever put down critical readers, even in your own mind. Respect your audience, and out of that respect will grow the potential for greatness.

Finally, a pro knows that all the aspects I’ve outlined here are aspirational. None of us is perfect at them — certainly not me. At times I have sniffed at criticisms, failed to read between the lines, not risen to the challenge.

Let’s face it, pro or amateur, criticism of our work always stirs up a measure of disappointment. That’s why we must train ourselves to respond as the pros we claim to be or aspire to be. In the age of specialization, people have high standards for the work of others. We must have those same high standards for ourselves.

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*Applause* Thanks, J.E. I know all of this is tough to do. We are all works in progress. I know I am.

What about you guys? Are you struggling with leaving the role of the amateur? Are you actively seeking ways to toughen your skin? Or have you gotten to the point where you welcome the crucible? Were you always that way? I know I stared crying in my car after critique. Now? A beta can chop my work to the ground, burn it and then nuke it and I don’t take it personally. I LOVE that someone would take the time to give my work the “trial by fire” before the reviewers can. But, I was NOT always this way. I still struggle to remain this way.

I LOVE hearing from you!

J.E. Fishman, a former Doubleday editor and literary agent, is author of the wisecracking mystery Cadaver Blues, as well as thrillers The Dark Pool and Primacy. His Bomb Squad NYC series of police thrillers launches this month with A Danger to Himself and Others and Death March.

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

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Author Branding—Harnessing the Power of Digital Age Storms

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Ahhh, the new buzz word, BRAND. What exactly is an author brand? Great question. Branding has gone through a major transition over the past decade. The globe is more interconnected than ever in human history and this trend is increasing exponentially. We’ve seen the fall of major gatekeepers and a complete shift in consumer buying patterns, making discoverability a nightmare in The Digital Age.

Proper branding is one of THE most critical elements of author success. Brands that are outdated, boring, rigid, abandoned, fractured, negative or nonexistent are not only unhelpful, but they can spell disaster to our career and eating earning potential as artists. An author brand has to fit in the new paradigm. If we live in a world that’s changing hourly, our brands have to be able to bend and move and shift with changes.

Being a total history nerd, this makes me think of that definitive battle between the Spanish and the English when King Phillip II made an unsuccessful attempt to invade Elizbethan England. At the time, there were major tactical and technological shifts regarding the way that battles at sea were conducted.

The Spanish Armada was the shining example of traditional sea warfare—towering ships that were more like floating fortresses. The galleons rode high out of the water, making them slow, not very maneuverable and difficult to sail.

On the other hand, the English captains (in particular Francis Drake and John Hawkins) relied on a new form of “race ship”. “Lower in the water, with a long prow and much reduced fore and after castles, these sleek ships carried more sophisticated forms of rigging, enabling them to sail closer to the wind, making them faster and more maneuverable than the Spanish ships.” ~BritishBattles.Com

Long story short, the English ships could take advantage of the elements (high winds, rough seas) and were far more maneuverable. The Spanish fleet was too bulky, and, when battered by North Sea storms? Very expensive gold-plated splinters. Spain lost almost their entire fleet and this defeat of the Spanish Armada marked the rise of the English Empire.

Why do I give this story? Other than it is COOL?

Brands in The Digital Age are encountering the same tactical and technological changes. We are no longer part of the rigid, massive, virtually immobile TV-Industrial complex. We need to be innovative, creative and build a brand that can harness change instead of being splintered by change. Algorithms shift constantly. Social platforms come and go and change tactics. Trends shift. Tastes shift. We need to be able to use these changes to power momentum.

As you know, tonight is the beginning of WANACon (details below) but we always launch with PajamaCon, which is FREE. We are going to hang out in jammies, have fun and I am going to talk about what it means to create an author brand.

• What is an author brand?

• How has branding changed in The Digital Age?

• Outdated and ineffective branding approaches.

• How much time should we invest in branding?

• What are ways to keep a brand flexible?

• Practical ways to grow our author brand.

WANA is all about helping authors, so PajamaCon is our gift to you. I’ve done all the dumb stuff so you don’t have to. There are ways to brand that will make you cry and end up curled in the fetal position with a bottle of tequila. It’s much better to start building properly than to have to rip down to the foundation and start all over. Brands take time to build, so even if you’re just now working on that first book? BEGIN TODAY.

Yes, branding is critical, but a good book is as well. I can tell you as a long-time content editor that it can be VERY costly. This is why I have added in some killer prizes for attendees.

You, me, your book, bandages and suture-kits. Either I can help you fix a book that’s not working or plot one with you that WILL. So if your book is on life-support, DOA or you’re lost and can’t find your original idea? I can help. If your brand/blog makes you want to hurl yourself into a leaf-chipper (been there), here’s your chance to get one-on-one time with moi for some help.

CONTEST DETAILS

So, WANACon is here. PajamaCon is a gift  (CLICK HERE FOR INFO) and gives you a chance to make sure your computer is set up properly if you choose to join us for the conference. If not? Still a fun time and a chance to learn. SIGN UP for WANACon HERE. Also, AGENT PITCHES are available. You can SIGN UP HERE.

Since my goal is to see you guys succeed, I am offering three BIG prizes for WANACon Attendees. Grand Prize is The Book/Brand Combo. I will personally consult to either assist in plotting a new book or fixing one that doesn’t work. I will also consult you personally on your brand and give you a plan for SEO, content, everything. Book Prize is I work with you to plot or fix a book. Branding Prize is I personally consult you on your brand, teach you about SEO and lay out a plan.

EVERYONE who attends WANACon automatically gets ten entries. Encourage a friend to sign up and you earn 25 additional entries and the friend who signs up gets 15. Just make sure to tell us who referred you. WANA is committed to helping you realize your dream.

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Expectations & Reality—Making a Better, Happier, Stronger YOU

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Twig the Fairy

My father loved to spin yarns and tell jokes, and one of my favorite jokes of his was the one about the twins (some of you have heard this before, but it never gets old). One was a pessimist and the other was an optimist. As my father told it…

Scientists were conducting an experiment to study the difference between pessimists and optimists. So, they searched far and wide for parents with twins—-one an optimist and one a pessimist. Finally, they found a pair of boys, and, after all the waivers were signed, the experiment could begin. There were two rooms, both were waist-deep in horse manure. The scientists watched from behind the two-way mirror to see what would happen.

One boy (the pessimist) cried and moaned, “I just knew it. This stuff always happens to me. I should have known that something bad was going to happen. Why can’t I ever get a break?”

The other boy, though, was slogging happily around the room and laughing as he flung horse manure into the air, each time with a healthy giggle. Baffled, the scientists had to enter the room of the optimistic twin and ask, “What on earth are you so happy about? Don’t you realize you’re waist-deep in animal feces?”

The boy replied, “Are you kidding me? Why wouldn’t I be happy? With all this horse sh!% there has GOT to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Meltdown

The past three months have been crazy. October and November were a train wreck when it came to my personal life. Just about the time I was seeing some light, Dallas/Fort Worth was hit with a major ice storm last weekend, which wasn’t so bad until Saturday when every sink, tub, shower and toilet decided to back up water and sewage and flood the floors. We used every towel we owned to keep the walls and carpet from being ruined…and every plumber in DFW was down. They, too, couldn’t get out because of the ice.

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday cleaning the epic mess.

But you know what?

I don’t believe it is any great test of character to be happy when everything is going our way. Anyone can do that. The real mark of a person is how he or she behaves when the world seems to be caving in. Can we be peaceful, calm, happy, and look for the good….no matter what?

Yes, I freaked out for a few minutes and cried about the mess and that no plumber could come help. But, after I had my five-minute pity-party, I worked with my husband to make a plan to endure the freeze. We cleaned up as much as we could then began pouring boiling water with dish detergent down the main sink. Soon, the plumbing wasn’t backing up into the tubs, sinks and showers and we could take brief showers and use the sinks and toilets…carefully.

I set my mind that the ice storm was really a blessing. We wouldn’t have to pay the $250 emergency fee just for a plumber to show up. We made it until Monday and guess what? It was a regular plumbing visit (a clog) and the total was $218. If one of the four companies I’d called when I was freaking out on Saturday had actually been able to come over? It would have easily been close to $500.

Feelings Need Discipline

We train our minds much like we train our bodies. We need to exercise them and discipline our habits. We have a choice how we react and a lot of this is influenced by our expectations. What are we expecting to happen? Are we looking for the good? Or looking for how we will be somehow wronged?

I know that I was born an optimist. I think that is why my father used to rib me with that joke. But, there was a span of about 15 years that I allowed other negative people to convince me that I was a fool, an idiot, an unrealistic Pollyanna. I started expecting the worst, and I wouldn’t allow myself to hope for anything, because if I didn’t expect good things then I couldn’t be disappointed. I became a grouch, a complainer and a seed of discontent…and no one wanted to be around me. My life was full of junk, and why wouldn’t it have been? I didn’t expect good things, so I couldn’t even see them when they sat right in front of my face.

Eventually, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I started being very careful about my thought life. Our mind doesn’t have to be a garbage dump. We are in control of our thoughts, and we don’t need to dwell on every thought that drifts into our brains. Focus on good things, and it is amazing how quickly the tough times will fly by. Life, people, your work will disappoint you. Sometimes, they might even rip out your heart and show it to you.

We can cave or we can change.

Yes, the view from the mountain’s summit is breathtaking, but nothing grows there. The most growth happens in the valleys. Film is developed in the dark and so is character. When hurt, pain, loss, disappointment, frustration come our way we have a choice in how we view the situation. All of us have rough spots, and those setbacks, hurts and trials are the spiritual sandpaper that will shape us into a more excellent version of ourselves.

I know that life is about seasons. There are seasons of joy  and abundance and it seems that everything is going my way. In turn, that isn’t all of life. Gotta have the sour, or the sweet isn’t as sweet. And, if I have to endure the sour, I choose to do it with a smile, with great expectation of the better Kristen those trials will make me.

With all this horse sh*& there has GOT to be a pony in here somewhere :D!

What do you guys think? What are your opinions? Thoughts? Ideas? Have you ever experiences something that appeared to be a disaster, yet was a blessing in disguise? I love hearing from you guys! Btw, the above image is Twig the Fairy if you want to follow her on Facebook. I’ve met her and she is seriously NEAT.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

I hope you will check out my newest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World onAmazon or even Barnes and Noble.

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Killing Time is a Crime–Embracing Speed by Redefining Life, Play & Work

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yosi Lazarof

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yosi Lazarof

I do a ton of reading and research for all my books and blogs. Recently, I discovered a GEM of a book that I highly recommend; The Age of Speed—Learning to Thrive in a More-Faster-Now World by Vince Poscente.We all feel overwhelmed. It seems the more time-saving devices we have, the more that’s expected of us. We dash between e-mail, text, social media, housework, work, writing, family and feel like we’re drowning.

The WANA Way has always striven to be unique, unlike any other social media/business approach. Our focus is quality, not quantity, community, not “customers.” I recognized early that if writers (or businesses) weren’t having fun on social media or with work? They either wouldn’t do it or would do it poorly.

Time Redefined

In my newest book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I go to great lengths to explain how changes in civilization not only alter the biological structure of the brain, but they also shift our values. Any significant advance transforms how we order space and time and what we find important. As society evolves, we must also evolve or we’ll be left behind (or our heads will metaphorically explode).

For instance, if we could access a time machine and go back to the year 600 A.C.E., we wouldn’t be able to communicate the same way with fellow humans. The clock wouldn’t be invented for a few more hundred years and we “time travelers” would experience lives governed by seasons and the sun (not a wristwatch).

Time had not yet been sliced, diced and parceled out. Thus, if we said, “Meet you in an hour” or “See you at 1:30″ we’d likely get a blank stare…then be burned as witches.

I just said meet me for coffee at 9:00 a.m.

I just said, “Meet me for coffee at 9:00 a.m.”

Changes in the Life-Time Pie

Poscente brought up a remarkable point I hadn’t consciously seen. How we order time has been changed with technology. When we shifted from an agricultural society to an industrial society, humans began to define work in spacial terms. Work was a place we went. Home was the place we relaxed. The garage was the place for chores and the TV room was the place to chillax.

This was all well and good before the advent of the Internet, cell phones, texting, social media, and e-mail. Now we feel guilty when we text an I love you to a spouse or partner at work or when we answer a business e-mail or check Facebook at the park with family. It’s like life just got thrown in a Vita-Mix and whiiiiirrrrrrrrrr……

As Poscente says, “The framework that gave us discipline over our time and kept work in a neat little box has been rendered obsolete.”

This is one of the biggest reasons many author social media campaigns fail. Many well-meaning marketers advise writers to keep public life (authorly stuff) and personal life (fun/human stuff) in two separate spaces—a work space (fan page) and a personal space (profile page). They recommend multiple Twitter accounts—one all author and one as a human.

Then what happens is this…

The fan page grows at glacial speed and the author gets discouraged and, even if she pays to promote? The ROI (Return on Investment) is dismal. Then, discouraged, the writer grudgingly posts (rarely) because the fan page is no fun when only spam bots and digital crickets are there for company.

Depressed writer then defaults to spending more time on the profile page because it’s fun, active and dynamic…and subsequently feels guilty and levels the Christmas fudge like a biblical plague. Why?

Because she feels she is goofing off and not “working.”

Same with Twitter. The “Author Identity” gets ignored or reported for spam, while the “Personal Identity” is having a blast just chatting with others.

***This applies to most social media, btw.

Work and Fun Play Well Together

We can take a lesson from the corporate world. If we study the businesses that have thrived the most in recent years—Pixar, Google, Patagonia, The Boston Beer Company, Think Geek, NING, Best Buy (you can check some of these companies out HERE)—we see they are doing well because they’ve released the serfs employees and given them loads of freedoms.

There are businesses who haven’t caught up to the changes in our culture. Cell phones are turned in at the door, outside Internet use is prohibited and even punished. Computer keystrokes are measured and outgoing and incoming calls are monitored. Why? Because these businesses value metrics more than people. Employees are reprimanded for taking sick days or vacation (even when allotted), because any time away from “work” adversely impacts The Almighty Metric.

My husband used to work in the defense industry. When he took three days off because we were having a baby, he returned only to be written up (even though he had two weeks of sick time and had never used any of it).

O_o

Companies that are stingy with lunch breaks, benefits, and fun are missing out by not understanding the new way we parse time (and how it can benefit their business). Google encourages play, new ideas, engaging with family, and rewards innovative ideas. They appreciate that time has blurred and if we don’t blend work and fun and leisure?

We suffer.

When we try to keep work, play and home in neat, separate compartments? We waste time. Yet, when we merge these areas, we become more aerodynamic and can harness speed because we are zooming along like a kid riding a bike down a steep hill. Faster doesn’t have to mean harder if we embrace a new way of thinking.

Image via Google.com

Image via Google.com

WANA has been founded on the principle of being HUMAN above all else. Engage and connect authentically, and the sales will eventually follow. WANA never has to pay to promote our fan page because we talk about stuff other than writing. We aren’t the Try to Sell Stuff All the Time Channel.

Do we have stuff for sale? Sure! But we also post funny memes, start silly conversations, and share kitten pics :P.

If people wanted only to shop, they’d be on the Shopping Network not a social network.

The failure to appreciate how our ideas of work-leisure-home-time-ratio have changed is one of the main reasons why building an author platform feels like SO MUCH WORK to so many authors. If we are trying to part out work and fun? We just feel chopped in half, and last I checked? Being chopped in half was the definition of “un-fun.”

Learning to BLEND

I don’t multi-task. Multi-tasking is stupid and inefficient. I DO, however blend. I can talk to a writer friend on my cell phone about a plot problem while folding towels. One activity needs attention and the other I can do on auto-pilot. I talk to my mom while I dust. I listen to an audio book while on a Stair Climber. When I’m writing, I’m writing, but then I reward myself with a quick Facebook or Twitter break…then back to writing.

This keeps me passionate about work because it is filled with play and meaning. I’m streamlined. 

In short, never kill time. Time is the only non-renewable resource. Use it wisely and learn to blend. Carry a book and, when stranded at the bank or the doctor’s office? Relax. Read a good book or my blog ;). If we embrace the notion that strict spaces no longer work? We are free to have fun and pair work and play, making life far more rewarding and speed shifts from enemy to ally.

Do you feel guilty having fun? Are you struggling to stay focused on writing because all these beeping devices are driving you nutso? Did you know you were allowed to be human and have fun on your fan page (and actually, if you do that, you won’t have to pay to promote)? Are there activities you blend and it helps keep you supercharged and balanced?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And, if you get a chance, please check out my newest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World. 

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Life’s Unseen Blessings—Are We Really Thankful?

Pippa claims she is "helping" with laundry, but I KNOW she is hiding her mouse friends.

Pippa claims she is “helping” with laundry *head desk*

I make it a point to begin every day with an attitude of gratitude. I think it is important, especially these days where it seems like every commercial tells us we aren’t thin enough, rich enough, successful enough, happy enough. We always need more “stuff” to be enough.

I wrote a blog ages ago about focusing on success, that we tend to drift where the eyes focus. Race car drivers learn that if you want to cross the finish line, never ever take your eyes off the goal line. Look at the wall and you will hit the wall. I believe everything is that way. If we focus on where we are lacking, we run the danger of being ungrateful for what we have, and that can be an extraordinarily defeating way to live.

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The Spawn is “helping” me edit….

Lately, I’ve had a hard reality to face. I’m so busy potty training the toddler and teaching him and correcting him, but have I taken enough time to ENJOY him? There are the dishes, the laundry, the dusting, but am I ENJOYING the home I have? I love serving writers, blogging, teaching, but am I taking a moment to ENJOY all of you? I have the world’s best husband. I make it a point that, when he gets home from work, a fresh, hot meal is made and his clean pajamas and towel are laid out next to the shower, but am I ENJOYING him?

Am I truly giving thanks?

I don’t know about you, but I know this is an area I can ALWAYS come up higher. Grateful people are happy people.

Thanksgiving seems to be the middle child of holidays. Halloween is fun and glitzy and exciting. Christmas is cute and we adore it and look forward to seeing it…and oh yeah, there’s Thanksgiving. Hey, do we even have decorations for that? Christmas is this magical time, and we often hear how we need to keep Christmas in our hearts all year long. Well, that is a great idea, but we would be wise to keep Thanksgiving there too.

We have all kinds of ways to be thankful and many things to be grateful for that we might not even notice. The next time you go to complain, I challenge you to think of the blessing that inconvenience really is. I do this myself when I hear complaints and grumblings coming out of my mouth. I’ll show you what I mean…

I am thankful for all the laundry I have to do, because it means I have clothes to wear.

I am thankful for the dishes that need washing, because it means I didn’t go hungry.

I am thankful for the big electric bill, because it means my home has lights and heat.

I am thankful for the sheets that need to be changed, because it means I own a bed.

I am thankful for all the reading I have to do, because it means I’m literate.

I am thankful for the car that needs all new tires because it means I don’t have to walk miles and miles to get what I need.

I am thankful for that parking space waaaaayyyy out in the back, because it means I don’t have to park in a handicapped space. I can walk.

I am thankful for the garage that needs to be cleaned out, because it means I am blessed with plenty.

I am thankful for the chores to be done, because it means I have family who love me enough to travel to see me.

I am thankful for the litter-box that needs cleaning and the dog blankets that need washing because it means I have pets who love me unconditionally.

I am thankful for the split ends I have, because it means I haven’t lost all my hair to chemo.

I am thankful for the Christmas cards I need to send, because they could as easily be funeral announcements.

I am thankful for the traffic snarls that catch me, because the body the firemen pulled out of the fatality accident could have been me.

I am thankful for the gutters I need to clean, because it means that I have a home.

I am thankful for all the Christmas shopping I have to do, because it means I’m not alone.

I am thankful for my less than perfect thighs. It means I didn’t lose my legs in a car accident or to diabetes or an IED.

I am thankful that I sometimes have doubts and confusion about my future and my purpose when I think of the lives cut short before they ever had a future.

I’m thankful for the government I like to gripe about, because I don’t fear going to prison or being shot if I disagree with my country’s leadership.

I am thankful for my freedom and the amazing men and women who put their lives on the line to protect it.

I am definitely thankful for all of you who bless me on this blog by giving me your time. Time is the most precious commodity we have and we never seem to have enough, but all of you are so generous to me. You share the very thing we all need more of….TIME. Thus, I’m immensely grateful you guys give to freely to me. I’m WAY thankful for my amazing WANA community. You guys are the bright spot to each and every day in my world and the world around you. It is such an honor and privilege to serve you.

What are you guys thankful for? I’d like to hear your comments (which I am super especially thankful to get, by the way).

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

Make sure you check out all the awesome WANA International Classes. You take care of your family, why not yourself? Sneak away. We won’t tell. And Dollar Store Bags make AWESOME wrapping and they will all get better gifts once your book is a best-seller, right?

Yes, I am an enabler. But we are more fun :D .

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73 Comments

Santa Claus Recruited to Improve NSA’s Public Image & Head Intelligence Operations

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Kevin Dooley

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Kevin Dooley

Lately, Brave New World has become one of the hottest selling novels, and many of us have become even more suspicious of that white panel van that passes our homes daily. Sure it has ice-cream and plays tinkly music, but that cover is so thin Stevie Wonder could see right through it.

After the whole Edward Snowden whistle-blowing debacle earlier this year, the Obama Administration and the Intelligence community have been up to their ears in hot water and bad press. Spying on regular citizens with no cause or warrant? Invading privacy and throwing the 4th Amendment out the window? Reading our e-mails? Monitoring our Internet? Those activities are just the sort that create an image problem.

Thus, sources tell me (sources being the voices in my head) that, in order to get back in the good graces of the American public, the current administration has decided to appoint Santa to head up any future intelligence operations. Come on, Santa IS the perfect fit.

Santa Knows Everyone and Everything

He knows when you’ve been sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake…

Revised for the Intelligence community:

He knows what you’ve been surfing. He knows the shows you hate. He knows if you vote red or blue, so be good if you know what’s good for you…

Alright, maybe a little clunky, but still a clear warning for all of us to behave. Santa can spot all kinds of terrorist activities like 1) putting the roll of toilet paper with the paper feeding under not over, 2) paying retail 3) wearing white shoes after Labor Day 4) listening to too much any Justin Bieber and 5) possessing lukewarm appreciation for the sheer AWESOMENESS of Grumpy Cat and more…

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All I’m saying is why didn’t they recruit this guy earlier? How much time and money could we have saved locating Osama bin Laden? One would think that being omniscient is an automatic YES! for being hired to the NSA. Um, duh?

He Travels Beyond Light Speed

This guy travels the world faster than Google. Think of how much more efficient spying would be if we could do it as fast as Santa. Santa can hop down a few hundred million chimneys, eat cookies, take time to nicely stack presents with an appreciation for presentation and then LEAVE with no proof he’s been there other than missing cookies and that new iPad we asked for beautifully wrapped and left under our Christmas trees.

Which brings me to my next point…

He’s Untraceable 

People have been searching for this guy for CENTURIES yet he still leaves no evidence…even after the invention of DNA profiling. IN, OUT, GONE. Perfect recruit for the Intelligence world. He’s never even been located on radar. Maybe Santa could instruct our government how he makes the sleigh the perfect stealth aircraft. Maybe we’ve been underestimating “Reindeer Technology.” We could TOTALLY use that kind of help.

Image via Flikr Commons courtesy of Mark Dumont...

Image via Flickr Commons courtesy of Mark Dumont…

Who knew these things were so FAST? Why aren’t physicists in Cern running THESE guys through the Hadron Collider?

Enemies Would Underestimate Him

Santa shows up, and all the bad guy is thinking is one of two things:

1) Why is some guy from the mall dressed as Santa at my house?

2) OMG! It’s TOTALLY freaking SANTA!

Nobody expects to be capped by SANTA. No one pulls out a weapon or thinks of self defense when faced with this cherub-faced man known for his superlative gift-giving skills. Santa could double-tap any ruthless dictator before they could ask, “Hey, did you bring me that nuclear device I asked for in my letter?”

Santa Has More Doubles than Castro

Even when the bad guys (known as the American public) catch on that Santa is in charge of the NSA, what can we do about it? He has doubles EVERYWHERE and thing is?

…..We never know which one is real.

This man is the perfect spy.

Uparalleled Work Ethic

Santa delivers billions of gifts and is paid in MILK AND COOKIES. This guy not only works cheap, but he’s FAST, so he could work for ALL our security agencies—NSA, CIA, FBI, ICE, and Facebook.

…and *spoiler alert*

He Isn’t REAL

This is really key because I’m pretty sure that imaginary creatures can’t violate the Constitution. Also, since he’s apparently immortal, the taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay for dental, health care or retirement planning. This dude works FOREVER and he’s got roughly 363 days of the year free, since everyone knows that his elves do all the shopping, building and wrapping.

PROBLEM SOLVED.

The government could keep spying on regular citizens because we just accept that Santa’s been doing it for centuries and we never griped before. He’s not only been reading our mail, but our THOUGHTS.

I mean right now, we’re looking at our government through Huxley-an glasses. What better way to improve their public image than have SANTA as the face of Intelligence?

HE GIVES GIFTS!!!

At least we’d have a trade-off for losing our Constitutional right to privacy. PRESENTS!

The Administration needs to recruit Santa NOW before someone else does.

What are your thoughts? How else does Santa make the perfect choice for spying on the entire world? Who might be a better choice? And, if Santa DOES spy on us, shouldn’t we get presents more often than just ONCE a year? Maybe people like me who left their Christmas trees up until MEMORIAL DAY aren’t just lazy white trash? MAYBE we were onto something. MAYBE it was really just to appease the guy spying on us. Bet you feel super silly now taking your trees down before MARCH.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

Make sure you check out all the awesome WANA International Classes. You take care of your family, why not yourself? Sneak away. We won’t tell. And Dollar Store Bags make AWESOME wrapping and they will all get better gifts once your book is a best-seller, right?

Yes, I am an enabler. But we are more fun :D.

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37 Comments

Martha Stewart or a Tinsel-Covered Train Wreck? What’s Your Holiday “Style”?

Nothing says HOLIDAY like a NERF BATTLE AX....

Nothing says HOLIDAY like a NERF BATTLE AX….

Thanksgiving is this week, but we ALL know Christmas is zooming right behind. If you’re anything like me, you make this super stupid promise to yourself roughly December 24th that you will buy gifts throughout the year, so you aren’t pressed and stressed and ready to stand on a roof with a shotgun holding the entire dish of rum balls hostage…and ALL the rum. No, this year will be different. I will be PREPARED.

*clutches sides laughing*

Yeah….

Sort of reminds me of finals back in college. Next time I am going to read all my chapters AHEAD of time.

Christmas is a magical time of year, but all of us handle the season differently. So what is your Holiday Style? Here’s a helpful little quiz:

1) When cleaning before the holidays, you:

a) Might give the mantel a light dusting just so you don’t look like a show-off. The gleam from your spotless fixtures could cause retinal damage. Eloise is a rank amateur next to you.

b) Make a plan to go room by room and whip your house into shape. Once this baby is clean, you KNOW it will stay that way for good. In fact, you’ve vowed to stab your husband in the face if he leaves his towel on the bathroom floor, and have threatened your children with a tell-all e-mail to Santa if they don’t put their clean clothes away properly.

c) Get a little excited because you haven’t seen your floors, counters or pretty much any of your home’s flat surfaces since the party last New Years. In fact, you are pretty sure the Christmas tree is still up under one of the piles of laundry and unopened mail. Hey, why take down decorations you know you will need every year?

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Yes, this is um…ME *hangs head*

2) When it comes to holiday shopping, you:

a) Are already finished. You made a long, detailed list last January and have spent the year buying the perfect gift for all your loved ones. All that’s left is to enjoy the season while those ill-prepared dopes fight over the last Holiday Barbie.

b) Wait until Black Friday. Technically, you start three days before Black Friday. What better way to use all that camping equipment you got last year for Christmas, than to stake out the front of Apple, Ikea or Best Buy?

c) Dig through your closet for all the unopened crappy gifts you got at the office Secret Santa party last year and then re-gift them to your distant relatives. Sure, Aunt Edna doesn’t know who Justin Bieber is, but who wouldn’t want a singing toothbrush?

Well, other than you, of course.

3) When it comes to gifts, you:

a) Spare no expense. The holiday season is a season of generosity. All your gifts are thoughtful, beautiful, lavish, and better than everyone else’s.

b) Believe it’s the thought that counts, and most people will think you are cheap if they see the Clearance sticker on their present, which is why you LOVE black Sharpies. They can be counted on to fully black out the $4.99 on the bottom of that seashell vase from Anthropologie. Hey, we don’t have to pay retail to still give an awesome gift. You just make sure the gift recipient can see part of the original price of $89 so they feel like you “shelled” out a lot of cash.

c)  Make one trip. Dollar General has everything you need for Christmas gifts. What could be a better Christmas gift than cans of Lite Vienna Sausages (Now Made with REAL Meat!) or Low-Sodium Spam?

4) When it comes to holiday memories, you:

a) Love capturing every moment on video, then editing the clips to music using your MacBook Pro. Then, of course you order prints from SnapFish so you can scrapbook together all the holiday magic. You have the cutest little snowman stickers that will add the perfect touch to the family newsletter you send out early morning December 26th.

b) Have them all in a big box that you will organize one day…once you locate the box.

c) Just get drunk on Jack and Coke then watch Jerry Springer reruns. The effect is pretty much the same.

5) Of all the Christmas carols, you:

a) Know Handel’s Messiah is your all-time favorite, and you know all the words. Why wouldn’t you? You sing in the choir every year.

b) Can’t get enough Silver and Gold, sung by Burl Ives. It reminds you of being a kid and waiting all year to see Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

c) Think Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is the funniest carol EVER, next to the Three Kings who tried to smoke a rubber cigar. In fact, you can’t even sing Deck the Walls with the correct lyrics.

6) As far as wrapping Christmas presents, you:

a) Use the tips you saved out of Martha Stewart Magazine. You bought the heavy duty paper and lavish bows last year at the Container Store After Christmas Sale and expensive ornaments 85% off at the Dillard’s After Christmas Sale. All your gifts look so beautiful, they might as well be considered Christmas decorations. No one ever wants to open your gifts until they’ve taken a picture of the wrapping.

b) Thought you were saving money when you bought the wrapping paper from Wal Mart. Of course, you didn’t foresee that it was as thin as rice-paper on a crash diet. After tearing the corners on every box you wrapped, you had to wrap everything AGAIN. This means ten gifts took 42 rolls of paper. You lost the tape, only to later find it stuck to your butt. The dog ate all the ribbon and is now pooping tinsel, and your husband has found it HYSTERICAL to put tape on all the cat’s paws instead of helping.

You make a note to buy big bottle of Maker’s Mark for next year’s wrapping.

c) The gifts you bought came pre-wrapped. It’s called a Dollar Store bag. DUH. You love the environment, so why cut down more trees when THIS Christmas wrapping paper can later be used to pick up the tinsely dog poop?

7) When it comes to dressing for holiday parties you:

a) Buy smashing outfit ahead of time so you have time to find the perfect accessories and shoes to match. Then you make sure to get an appointment with a hairdresser and makeup artist in October before the slots fill. Why trust those holiday pictures to anyone but a professional?

b) Buy an outfit ahead of time, but completely forget about shoes and earrings…and eating less. You bought the dress even though it was too small, because it was supposed to make you be “good” this year and not overeat. Ah, but that was until the dog started pooping tape and Christmas ribbon and you leveled the fudge like a Biblical plague (Baby Jesus would have been duly impressed).

So Christmas Eve you find yourself wandering the mall searching for the last pair of Spanks in the free world. Speaking of tinsel, you can’t help but wonder what the tinsel-strength of spandex is. In your mind, you imagine a Catastrophic Spanx Failure that takes out three innocent bystanders.

And is it considered an act of domestic terrorism if you survive?

c) Just wear yoga pants and a maternity top for the extra “give.”

8) As far as decorating for the holidays, you:

a) Hire professionals. Can’t be Yard of the Month without a little help. Your Christmas lights can be seen from space. The folks at NASA and the Soviet Space Station are your biggest fans.

b) Were going to avoid it altogether until it became evident that you were the ONLY house on the block without lights, and now you have been shamed into putting out some last-minute effort. Of course, everything was sold out, so you were forced to decorate with the Halloween lights.

Orange works, right? Hell, just put Santa hats on all the skulls. Make it a Goth Christmas.

c) Just plug them in. You left them up all year :D.

9) When it comes to your children and Santa, you:

a) Bake cookies for Santa with the kids, and Christmas Eve you take the little ones out into the yard and spread some “Reindeer Food.” Your husband dresses in a Santa costume and you “sneak” some iPhone footage of Santa at work in your living room to show the kids the next morning. Childhood is a magical time and you want to fuel your children’s imaginations.

b) Take them to Cabela’s. Free photos with Santa, fishing gear is 50% off, and they FINALLY have your ammo in stock.

c) Let your neighbor take your kids to Cabela’s. You still have to find the Christmas tree…after you level up on Halo 6.

10) When your kids question how Santa can make it to all the boys’ and girls’ houses in all the world in one night, you:

a) Tell them that Santa is the spirit of generosity and love, and that spirits have powers we mortals cannot comprehend.

b) Point the pizza kiosk in the mall and yell, “I’m buying!”

c) Inform your kids that Santa has been cloned, and reference the Star Wars Clone Wars.

11) When sending out holiday cards, you:

a) Buy cards for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukah, and just general holiday cards and then send them to the appropriate recipients.

b) Buy generic reindeer cards, then write it “Happy Holi-Chrisma-Kwanzaa-kuh.” Your friends all know you’re weird anyway. Frankly, they are all shocked you got the cards sent at all.

c) Holiday Cards? *laughs hysterically until can’t breathe*

12) When someone gives you a dreadful gift, you:

a) Know they meant well, so you make sure they see you wearing that horrendous purple mohair vest at the church bake sale. You would never want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

b) Send a nice thank you note then return the gift for something you prefer.

c) Stockpile the crappy gifts away for next year, so you don’t have to do as much Christmas shopping. Hey, waste not want not.

Tally Your Scores!!!

Amazing Alice/Awesome Alan

If you answered mostly As, you get an A+++++ in Christmas. You, Amazing Alice/Alan, are the star of the show with the prettiest EVERTYHING, the one who has everything in order and who pulls out all the stops…which is probably why most of us secretly hate you and want to stab YOU in the face.

Normal Nancy/Typical Ted

If you answered mostly Bs, relax. You’re normal. While you probably could try a little harder, why bother? Amazing Alice and Awesome Alan are going to outdo you anyway.

Slacker Sarah/Lazy Larry

Hey, life is too short to be organized. There are video games to play.

I hate to say it but I am almost an even mix of Normal Nancy and Slacker Sarah. Every year I promise to try harder. ONE DAY I will be an Amazing Alice…yeah, no. My brother and sister-in-law are Amazing Alice and Awesome Alan, which is why I love them, but am secretly jealous. Even why I TRY to make my Christmas packages look all awesome and professionally wrapped…they just look more like a roll of wrapping paper and Scotch tape had a drunken one-night-stand.

Sigh.

What is the worst Christmas gift you’ve ever gotten? My Aunt Iris once bought me a bright purple sweater that was so small, I think it was made for a Barbie, a child or a circus midget…then loudly commented on how fat I’d gotten when I couldn’t “try it on.”

So what about you guys?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

Make sure you check out all the awesome WANA International Classes. You take care of your family, why not yourself? Sneak away. We won’t tell. And Dollar Store Bags make AWESOME wrapping and they will all get better gifts once your book is a best-seller, right?

Yes, I am an enabler. But we are more fun :D.

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51 Comments

5 Ways Authors Abuse Their Facebook Profile Privileges

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 10.52.17 AM

Today, the fantabulous WANA International Instructor, Lisa Hall-Wilson is here to share to sage advice about Facebook. She knows ALL things about Facebook, which is why she not only teaches for WANA, but she manages our WANA International fan page. We don’t need to pay to promote and Lisa gets MAD traction on our fan page, so she is THE GAL to listen to in these matters.

Also, I have been a victim of many of these “marketing strategies” and they make me see RED. We know you guys are trying hard to be responsible professionals and there is a LOT of bad advice floating around out there. We have all oopsed, so don’t worry. But Lisa is here to set you straight and tell you the WANA Way…which works, btw ;).

Take it away, Lisa!

Lisa Hall-Wilson

Lisa Hall-Wilson

I feel a bit like the soup nazi with this post – no Facebook for you! But some people seriously need a time out. It’s promote promote promote all the time in a one-channel informercial. Hands up – have you been a victim of these people?

I wrote this post for Jane Friedman on 5 reasons why you should use your Facebook Profile (not a Page) to build platform. What I need to make clear is that with freedom comes responsibility. There are key rules about Facebook etiquette that many are either unaware of or ignore.

Stop!

Using your Profile instead of a Page to build platform gives you the ability to spam people in a way Pages cannot. Pages cannot join groups or group conversations. Pages can’t comment on or post a Profile, they can’t send private messages to Profiles. Pages can’t force-add people to events. The list goes on. Just because you can, because Facebook doesn’t explicitly say it’s against the rules – doesn’t mean it’s not icky, annoying and spam

1. Do not post your own content on another’s Profile wall (timeline).

This is a pretty personal one cause this recently happened to me. First, if you goof on this one, apologize, remove the post and consider it a lesson learned. Don’t argue. This is considered personal space. Anything posted on my timeline is seen as endorsed by me. It’s akin to going to a friend’s jewelry party and bringing along samples to your own soap business and handing them out uninvited.

Great way to never get asked back.

If people are posting their content on your wall often, you can decide who can post on your timeline if necessary. I know some Indie authors who have been forced to do this because the spam is so bad.

2. Do Not Tag People in Unrelated Status Updates or Photos

What do I mean by unrelated? If I quote another blogger or author in a blog post, I might tag them. If they inspired that blog post, I might tag them. But I might not. And I’m not going to do it more than once or twice a year. If you’re just doing it to get noticed it’s considered spam.

For the love of cookie sprinkles….STOP.

I strongly recommend you turn on approvals for all tags. People can tag you in a photo or status update, this requires you to approve those before they show up on your timeline – because people use this to spam your friends but your friends might not realize you were spammed, which makes life seriously awk-ward.

3. Do not bomb conversations with blog links.

I see this all the time. Do not find a lively conversation thread and drop a link to your blog there. That hit and run tactic is super annoying and is spam. If you are an active participant in the conversation and you have a blog post that directly relates to the topic at hand, go ahead and share that link in the spirit of no-reciprocation-expected.

You’re sharing this because it adds value – no strings attached. Dropping a link into the conversation you’re not a part of is spam regardless of whether the post could remotely be relevant.

4. Do not create a group and force-add 2000 people.

Facebook will let you invite a ridiculous amount of people to an event or group. I get event invites all the time. Those can be annoying, but what’s worse is being force-added to a group that’s a 24/7 spam channel! You can go ahead and create a group where two or three people post links to their blogs and courses if you want to – but let people opt into that. I had to remove myself twice from the same group and finally clicked the box that says do not allow myself to be added again.

5.  Any story can be seen by friends and seen as an endorsement.

When you click like, comment or share something, you create a ‘story’ within the Facebook environment. When you share an update or link, it’s seen as an endorsement unless you add an editorial comment stating otherwise. However, what many people using their Profiles to build platform don’t realize is that your likes and comments can be shown to friends, and friends of friends depending. You can’t filter that.

You’re following an erotica author friend because you wanted to support her, even though you write children’s fiction. She posts an alluring pic of a near-naked man and you liked the pic – for whatever reason. You might not have liked the pic or the man, but wanted to support the author say.

Doesn’t matter.

At best Facebook could show that story (that you liked that content) to friends FB believes have similar interests. You have no control whether that shows up in someone’s news feed or their ticker or at all.

Something else to consider is that you can’t opt out of sponsored stories. Sometimes Facebook will recommend Pages to users and they will use your name and profile pic (all public content) by way of public endorsement to your friends. Someone can purchase a sponsored story ad and your face and name could be used to promote that Page.

We can complain all we want, that’s the price of admission. If you are using your Profile to build platform keep this in mind! I can’t stress this enough. Every action you take can spread a lot further than you intend. If you wouldn’t say it to your mother in her living room, don’t say it (or like it) on Facebook.

In the spirit of helping others share my Facebook happy, I started a group for writers who want to learn how to use Facebook the WANA way, not spam people, and build a healthy community or tribe. It’s a closed group so there’s a measure of privacy, but it means you’ll have to request to join. *psst – I’ll approve you.** I’ll post about updates and changes, and answer questions (within reason), but I really want this to be a safe place to ask questions and share experiences as well. Abusers will be removed!! :D

What annoying Facebook marketing tactics have you been the victim of? Share in the spirit of helping not shaming.

On Saturday, November 23, I’m teaching a webinar on Using A Facebook Profile To Build Platform. The cost is only $45, and we’ll look at how to set your privacy settings, friend lists, target posts, create a content strategy, how to brand yourself visually, best posting practices, and more. If you can’t make it sign up anyway. The webinar will be recorded and sent to all registrants.

I’m also offering this class as part of a very special WANA 2Fer. Marcy Kennedy is running her A Crash Course to Using Google+ to Build Your Author Platform the same day and we’re offering a discounted rate of $20 off for people who sign up for both. Click here to register for the 2Fer!

About Lisa Hall-Wilson

Lisa has been using Facebook since 2007, and has been a paid administrator, content creator, and consultant for more than three years. She manages Pages for non-profits and small businesses in Canada and the United States (including the MYWANA Facebook Page). She’s an award-winning freelance journalist, syndicated columnist, and fantasy author. You can find her hanging out on her Facebook profile.

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59 Comments

Lesson of Confession–”I’m Drowning. Help.”

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This past six weeks have been a real beating, including the death of my grandmother. She’d no sooner passed away when I had to step in and care for my sister-in-law who was having major surgery to reattach both retinas. I was in go-go-go mode and I thought, if I could just get some rest, I would be okay.

Well, after taking a week at the ranch, I’m not okay. I didn’t want to move or write or sleep or eat. I felt surrounded by a deep malaise, like blows in the dark yet no idea where the pain was coming from. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but then an old lesson resurfaced.

Confess the Real Emotion—Name It and Claim It

One of the first things that helped me tremendously was when I learned to confess the real emotion I was feeling.

This was over ten years ago, but I recall one day that I just couldn’t seem to get out of bed. It was a really dark time for me. I had lost my career in sales due to a misdiagnosis (doctors thought I had epilepsy), and I was on the verge of eviction and facing having to move in with my mother. I had no energy and no real desire to do much of anything. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and all I wanted to do was cry.

Some of you may be able to relate to my upbringing. I had a single mother who was doing all she could to keep us afloat. Thus, my brother and I were never angry, disappointed, discouraged, or overwhelmed. We only had two feelings; we were “sick” or we were “tired.” Being ill or needing more rest would never make my mom feel guilty. Thus anything negative we ever felt ended up getting pigeon-holed into one of these two categories.

It was a really bad habit to get into.

So years later I found myself still only having two “emotions”—sick or tired. My mother came over to check on me. It was like ten in the morning and I was still in bed. Not sleeping. Just staring at the ceiling and thinking of all the reasons I was a total and utter failure. My apartment was a disaster and I couldn’t bear to ask anyone for help.  I knew I needed to pack, but I just couldn’t seem to move.

My mom stood in the door, crossed her arms and asked, “Kristen, are you depressed?”

I sat up and said something that marked a moment of change in my life. I said, “You know, Mom. I’d like to tell you that. I have every reason to be depressed. I have no job, no money. I am afraid of my mailbox because it is full of all these bills I can’t pay. But that isn’t it.”

“What is it, then?”

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m drowning. I don’t know where to begin. You know what else?”

“What?”

“I’m heartbroken.”

By naming the specific emotions I was feeling, I had unleashed tremendous power. I had opened a way to make a plan. As long as I was sick or tired, there was very little I could do to remedy either. And, to be honest, I wasn’t sick or tired. I was just so out of my depth that it was making me sick AND tired…all the time.

I’d lost a lot in three years—4 deaths in 6 months (including my father), my career, my health, my apartment, my dreams. And it was bad enough that I had lost those things, but then I never properly grieved any of those losses.

How could I? I was only sick or tired.

But this day was different. For the first time…I was heartbroken, overwhelmed, discouraged. For the first time I felt connected back to that intimate part that was…me.

This simple lesson was the first major step. Once I admitted that I was overwhelmed, it was easier to break big problems into manageable bites and get busy—-fix what was broken, grieve what was lost, let go of what needed letting go. Once I admitted out loud that I was discouraged, it freed me to dust off and try again. Suddenly, it was okay to be disappointed. I could grieve, feel the pain and then start anew. I have found that life is lived best in forward gear.

From that point on, I made it a habit to name the real emotion. It was too easy to hide behind, “Oh, I am just tired.” It took courage to say, “I am disappointed. You said you would help me with this project, but you haven’t been doing your share.”

It was scary, and still is. I will also point our this is a lesson we are always relearning.

Again, today, I was talking to my Mom. I just wanted to run away, change my name, hide under the covers. Then I realized I’d fallen into an old bad habit. When Nana died mid-October, I got busy. I stepped in to care for my SIL. I cooked, I cleaned, tended the toddler and SIL’s two boys, the dogs the laundry. I did every thing but…cry.

I was drowning and didn’t even see it.

In our fast-paced world, what is the allotted time for sadness? Do I take a day off? A week? I’d been so caught up being there for everyone else, I’d never stopped to cry, to admit I miss my Nana. I didn’t get to see her before she died. I didn’t get to attend her funeral. And I never stopped for five minutes to admit I was hurting.

Just walk it off….

Anyway, sorry if I have depressed the heck out of all of you. I’m doing better. I think there is just something about the three-week mark when there’s a death. It’s like we are so caught in the shock blast of losing someone that our brains and emotions take some time to catch up.

I know when I broke my arm in two places I didn’t feel any pain. ANY. I recall it being so surreal. My arm was in the shape of an “S” but nothing. Doctors later told me it’s because there is SO much pain, the brain kind of short-circuits. It’s only until the pain starts to lessen and the shock wears off that we FEEL what’s happened. I think death is much the same.

We all experience loss–death of a loved one, a relationship, a dream and this is all part of life. But to everything there is a season, even a season to just sit still, cry and admit we are sad and that it is okay to be sad. I know once I did that today, once I had a good cry, I felt a LOT better.

So yes, I am still here. Still alive. Tired and a bit battered but better :D. Thanks for your love and support through all this mess. It is VERY appreciated.

What about you? Have you ever been through a loss and yet it never dawned on you to just call it what it was? To grieve? To get angry? To cry? Were you so caught up in the routine of life that you had a hard time giving yourself permission to just sit? To mourn? To notice you were drowning and needed help?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

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127 Comments

Author Success—The Laws of Sowing & Reaping

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Zechariah Judy

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Zechariah Judy

Life has many irrefutable truths. One? We get out of life what we put into it. We will get out of our writing what we invest. We cannot expect large returns from a social media platform if we rely on robots (automation) and connect randomly and half-heartedly. Social media is about relationships and being fair-weather friends has limited effectiveness.

Sure, there are flukes, people who run face-first into blind luck. But, one thing I’ve learned is the harder (and smarter) I work, the “luckier” I get ;).

When we take hold of a dream, we are assigned a sort of spiritual plot of land. Depending on the dream will depend on the plot. If we want to grow fresh peaches for our family, we don’t need a thousand acres. But, if we wish to make a living as a peach grower? We’ll have much more land and work ahead.

Same with writing. If our goal is to publish a memoir to hand down to our children, this is a different “plot” than if we desire to be a NY Times best-selling authors.

Some land is more fertile than others. If we grew up as children of famous authors, surrounded by other successful writers, then we have a reasonable head start. We “inherited” a grove and aren’t starting from scratch. Most of us are not so fortunate, so we need to start preparing our “land” early.

The Early Years

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Rene Schweitzke

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Rene Schweitzke

This is when we get our land and realize there are a ton of weeds, crappy soil and a zillion dead trees and trunks that need to be removed. There might even be some junk cars, scrap metal and old toilets that need to be hauled away. We need to form new habits. We need education, training and practice. We need to learn about branding and start building our platform.

When I left paper sales and decided to become a writer, I needed to learn the craft. I had bad habits. I put myself last on the list because writing wasn’t a “real job.” The early years is a lot of clearing away insecurity, fear, and even laziness. We learn to write even when we don’t “feel” like it and come to understand that simply showing up is a bigger deal than most people realize.

Sowing

This is when we start planting. We’ve cleared the fields and added missing nutrients to the soil. We put our butts in the seat and blogged even if the only comments we get are from the BuyCalvinKleinCheap sites:

“I so lick you’re blog. It changed my bruther’s life and bookmarking now.”

Blogging trains us to keep a professional pace. It trains us to show up and not be too dependent on others. Sure, it’s fun blogging now that I get 95 comments, but there were years I blogged to the ether. I didn’t do it for others. I did it for ME, to train me.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Jim Evans

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Jim Evans

Blogging is also the most resilient form of social media and one of the best investments of time when it comes to ROI (return on investment). No search engine will direct people to your witty tweet or clever Facebook post. Search engines WILL, however, start sending readers to your blog (if done properly). Also blogs can be harvested for books and promotion (and if you want to know how, my new book gives a step-by-step plan).

Sowing also involves research, plotting, writing, finishing then revising the book.

The Silent Years

After we’ve planted a lot of good stuff, it’s easy to get discouraged. We don’t plant a peach pit and a week later have a ten-foot-tall tree raining yummy peaches all over the ground. In fact, for a loooooong time, it will look like nothing is happening. It’s because that peach pit is germinating and putting down deep roots before much appears above the surface where we can see results.

We need deep roots to make it in this business, because high-winds and storms don’t stop because we want to write books (as I talked about in yesterday’s post). Did you know that the root system of any tree needs to be as wide if not wider than the span of the branches? What is below (unseen) must match (or even outmatch) what is above, or the tree will fall over and die with the first bad storm.

The Silent Years can be brutal and this is why most writers don’t make it. This is when we suffer a lot of angst. When people ask us what we do and we say we’re writers, we get replies like, “No, I meant what is your real job” or “Really? Where can I buy your book?” We must learn to brush off any insecurity and criticism and simply appreciate we’re growing, preparing for greater things ahead.

This is tough in a world addicted to instant gratification and an over-reliance on luck. Too many people want fruits with no roots (thanks, Joyce Meyer).

Reaping

If we keep pressing and don’t dig up our seeds to check if they really are growing (which is highly tempting), eventually we can reap what we’ve sown. Ah, but here is the catch. Back to my peach example. After a long wait and tender, patient care, we get a tree. YAY! Eventually, we see little tiny fruits popping out. AWESOME.

Not so fast.

The smart grower plucks off all the tiny green peaches. OH NO! Why? So the tree will bear more fruit and better fruit. For us? This could mean writing two or three bad books before we get a winner. It could mean multiple revisions. But, to gain more, we have to sacrifice.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Slgckgc

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Slgckgc

Harvest and Maintenance

In the beginning, we have a lot of back-breaking work. But, if we are patient and consistent we can finally reach a maintenance phase. Once the grove of peach trees is producing, we keep fertilizing, tending, and harvesting.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kathleen Dagostino

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kathleen Dagostino

An author platform is the same. In the beginning, we need to build traction. Yet, there will come a time when we can back off. We need to let the soil rest. We need to cycle in other crops. We need margin in life or we lose that creativity and passion that started us on our path to begin with.

Two Mistakes Writers Make

One writer wants everything instantly. This writer wants a thriving platform and big books sales too early, and maybe resorts to shortcuts. They spray chemicals on green immature peaches (blogs/books) and try to pass off bitter, tasteless content to consumers. Or they just jump into the market too soon.

The other writer overworks the grove and production eventually suffers.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

I’ve been guilty of both mistakes. When I wrote my first social media book, I failed to build a platform ahead of time. My first royalty check was dismal and made me cry for three days. I needed to dig in and keep cultivating.

Now? I need more margin. I’m cutting this blog back to two days a week. I’d rather give you guys two fabulous blogs and more books, classes, WANACons and consulting.

Right now, I’m blogging because I love it. It’s fun. But there are better ways I can serve you and help you learn and grow. We can get so in a habit of doing something, we fail to see when we can (and need to) stop overworking.

And this is a tricky blog to write, because I want to tell you there are times for the back-breaking-put-all-you-have-into-it-work. There are no shortcuts and this isn’t offering excuses. The marketplace is glutted with books and without a platform, our odds of success are better with scratch-off tickets. But I also want to impart on you, that there is also a time to back away. We need balance to maintain. I will still be working my tail off, just in different areas ;).

So what about you guys? Are you guilty of living too much with your accelerator pressed to the floorboard? Do you struggle with knowing where and what to let go of? Do you put everyone and everything ahead of yourself and your writing and it’s making your “creative field” suffer?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

I will announce October’s winner next week.

I’m offering my First Five Pages Class November 14th 8-9:30. The first five pages of any novel are the most critical and I will teach you how to hook hard and early and also how to spot bigger problems in your novel.

I’m also offering my Antagonist Class. The antagonist is the beating heart of the story. If you can’t seem to finish a book or a book isn’t selling or is getting rejected, this class can help tremendously. There are also upgrades where I work with you one-on-one to repair or even create your plot.

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87 Comments

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