Posts Tagged Rise of the Machines Kristen Lamb

Free Falling, Ground-Fighting & Learning to Start Over

Image courtesy of Morgan Sherwood via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Morgan Sherwood via Flickr Creative Commons.

Like all of you, okay most…all right maybe only one or two of you, I kinda wish I had a Delorian so I could go back in time and slap myself. So many things I have done wrong, and still do wrong. I swear sometimes it is a miracle I make it to bed in one piece. This is the great thing about WANA (which stands for We Are Not Alone). We’re a club…or probably a cult.

***Note: We don’t make you dance with snakes until your second third meeting.

WANA is about being smaller than yourself, thus making you greater than you could ever be. When we focus on others and loving others, life is bearable and even kinda awesome, because there are a LOT of un-awesome times we all have to go through. But what I always longed for WANA is it is our safe-haven where we know it is okay to cry, dust off and start anew.

Writing has, historically, been a lonely business and I started WANA because I knew what it was like to have a dream and no one be there.

I was mocked, hated, ridiculed and very, very lonely. And that was just the writing part. Here I was, struggling to do what others thought was a foolish hobby and then life used me like one of those punching clowns that all kids of the 70s got for their birthday that SCARED THE CRAP OUT OF THEM bobbing in the dark at night. The one you punched over and over and it popped back up…until it ate you in your sleep (or deflated).

WANA as a movement has made great strides, binding weirdos great creative people across the globe via a common love for writing. As a business? I’ve tried a lot of stuff and kind of feel like Wile E. Coyote, but am still here. Have some cool ideas in the pipeline, namely WANATeens. There are a lot of kids who suffer from having writer parents and have inherited this madness to combine words into something others might want to pay to READ.

HELP THE CHILDREN

I believe WANA is the best place to cultivate this budding talent, since we used to be those kids…scribbling away on stone tablets beating off Stegosauruses (Stegosaurusi?). I am creating some curriculum specifically for teenagers, since word on the street is that I have the mentality of a 14 year old boy, ergo am PERFECT for the job :D .

The crux of what I want to say is I have been down A LOT over the past months. Ever have one of those days weeks months years? I kid you NOT, we have had FIVE deaths, three major (MAJOR LIFE-THREATENING surgeries) in two years and my beloved grandmother is suffering dementia and has had two small strokes in the past month. I take care of her tomorrow.

On top of this, I FINALLY took a couple days off to get my head screwed on straight and we came home to water leaking through our living room ceiling from a clogged AC unit overflowing. Thank GOD we caught it before the ceiling caved in and the damage was eh…not catastrophic? W…T…H?

All this to say, please feel super sorry for me…wait, no. Um. All this to say LIFE STILL GOES ON. This is what WANA is about. All of us have good times and bad and the bad times can be very dangerous for artists because the first thing to go is the dream. We tend to put the dream on the shelf and dig in to fight the wildfires. But truth is? There will always be wildfires and WANA is here to remind you that you aren’t alone.

Even me. Maybe mostly me.

I love the moniker WANA Mama because it fits. I LOVE all of you and want all of you to realize your dreams. I KID YOU NOT, I sometimes wake up at night with ideas for YOUR novels (Antagonist Class). It’s a JOY to see these cool but amorphous, gelatinous ideas become….a NOVEL. A GOOD novel. A GREAT novel! It’s like being a literary midwife and helping all these cool babies be born into this world, each one with its own unique fingerprints and your DNA. Babies that we will love and maybe who will one day change the world.

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A Little Side-Story

Due to the freakish amount of stress, I finally made the plunge to go back into martial arts. Part of this was instigated by Spawn being fired from nursery school at AGE FOUR because he loved zombies too much (yes, I am NOT kidding and am framing the dismissal letter because that is SO my kid and will blog more on this later bur for the original rant, GO HERE). I’d always pondered homeschooling but it seemed this amorphous thing in the future that suddenly became the PRESENT.

AAAAGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

So, I did what any (Texas) mother would do, I got pissed and put him in karate where they would appreciate his need to fight the undead and save the day. Long story short, I used to teach Jui-Jitsu and only quit because of a fractured back (was testing for my brown belt). I have been in martial arts on and off since age 5 and studied at least four forms of martial arts and never made it to BLACK BELT.  Which makes me twitch because I am OCD.

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Anyway, I signed up for Brazilian Jui-Jitsu and guess who is a WHITE BELT ALL OVER AGAIN? And there was a time this would have bothered me and ruffled my ego BIG TIME, but now? Eh. Whatever. See, being successful has a lot to do with how well we can begin anew. How humble can we be? Can we let go of the old to embrace something new and maybe even better?

The true mark of a great person isn’t how big they can be, but how small they can be and still have joy.

See, I used to believe I was this uber-talented editor-writer and was so full of myself X-rays demonstrated I had a cranium up my own @$$. Then, I grew up and learned that small stuff matters. Beginning matters and it is OKAY to be NEW. In fact, that is the best time because it means someone is being BRAVE.

I do this Antagonist class and it is my FAVORITE, especially the Gold Level where I work with people one-on-one. And yeah it costs more, but trust me it is a LOT of work on both sides. But why I love it is because there is such a high rate of success.

Most of human history was based on being an artisan. You became an apprentice to a master who guided you. None of this throwing stuff against the wall and hoping it sticks stuff.

Gry is one of my favorite examples. She was a student out of DENMARK and is 19 and brilliant. Anyway, she won the Gold Level from attending WANACon and came to me with this high fantasy that was so complicated it took three meetings (2 hours a piece) to even understand what the hell her story was about. Problem was she’d gotten bogged down with world-building and her core goal was fatally flawed. But, after several sessions, we peeled away the Literary Bond-O and she finally could see the story she originally wanted to tell…and had a viable log-line and PLOT. And her new and improved story ROCKS.

The hardest part? Letting go of all the other “stuff.” Her story was still in tact. This wasn’t a Kristen Lamb retread. It was the story she originally wanted to share, but didn’t understand how to construct. And the coolest part is the excited letters I get from her now that she “gets” the process. I am immensely proud of her and can’t wait to hear she has a book deal. She worked her tail off and I know it was heart-wrenching letting go of a lot of what she’d already done.

Been there.

***Note: That is actually one of the coolest parts of what I do. “My writer baby has a BOOK DEAL!” Even had a writer baby who now can put NYTBSA in front of her name ;) .

Anyway, a great editor takes your lump of shiny coal and chips and polishes until you have a diamond. A great teacher teaches you how to do this yourself.

Free Falling

One of my favorite Bible scriptures talks about how God will give us beauty for our ashes. Thing is, we have to let go of the ashes to get the beauty (which is VERY contrary to our nature). Maybe this is a book that we have been working on far too long. We need to let go, start over, or even let a pro look at it to show us how to reconstruct. Maybe it is an idea of who we were, that maybe we DON’T want to be in sales, telemarketing, ferret-grooming because we want to be a WRITER.

Maybe it’s realizing the public school is going to crush the joy out of your kid, so you now need to figure out how to not damage him permanently teach him from home…and still WRITE.

Change Your Thinking and Change Your LIFE

One of the weird things I’ve had to overcome in Brazilian Jui-Jitsu is to reset my thinking. See, in Judo/Jui-Jitsu, being on bottom was generally BAD. It meant being pinned and GAME OVER. In Gracie, this is not the case. The person on bottom has just as much if not MORE power. And in Gracie, falling to the ground offers the best advantage. Watch any MMA tournament and many fighters have one goal, “DON’T GET ON THE GROUND OR IT IS OVER.” Why? Those skilled in ground-fighting know most people aren’t and they can dominate the game.

So when life throws you to the ground? Breathe. You’re a WANA. You got this ;).

I do want to hear from you guys!

Do you have kids who might like to become WANATeens? Some thoughts on classes? Have you ever had to scrape yourself off the pavement and try again….and again? TELLL us your WAR STORIES! We LOVE to hear the encouragement! Are you going through a rough time. too??? Ceiling fall in?I KNOW how you feel.

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JUNE, 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).

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

If you feel you might have the vapors after reading all of this, no worries, I offer classes to HELP.

TONIGHT is my First Five Pages Class  and use WANA15 for $15 off. If you can’t make the time, no worries, all classes are RECORDED and come with notes for reference. Upgrade to the GOLD level and I will look at your first five pages and give DETAILED analysis. This is NOT simple line-edit. This is a detailed, how to start your story in the right place and in a way that HOOKS analysis.

Also my Antagonist Class is coming up on June 27th and it will help you guys become wicked fast plotters (of GOOD stories). Again, use WANA15 for $15 off. The GOLD level is personal time with me either helping you plot a new book or possibly repairing one that isn’t working. Never met a book I couldn’t help fix. This will save a TON of time in revision and editors are NOT cheap.

For more help with your social media/author platform/author brand, please check out Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

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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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50 Comments

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.

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 9.18.48 AM

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…

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 7.52.32 AM

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

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