Posts Tagged writers

21st Century Publishing by the Grace of Gluten-Free Jesus

 

WANAs at DFWWWCon

WANAs at DFWWWCon

I shambled in from DFWWCon dirty, tired, with no voice, out of energy but filled with hope. It’s been such a privilege for me to stick with this job long enough to watch it evolve. I’ve even witnessed WANA grow from an acronym in e-mails from my original editor to whittle down typing OUT my first book title (We Are Not Alone) to a binding movement where writers of all levels refer to themselves as WANAs. All genres, all forms of publishing welcome.

We don’t make you dance with snakes until your third meeting *wink, wink* :D .

WANA has always been about love and service instead of self. I believe WANA is the connective tissue that makes writers stronger in craft and spirit—writers knowing they are stronger together than apart. WANA has always had this wonderful mix of sage pros mingling with bright-eyed newbies.

The pros help the new authors become more grounded and educated in the business or craft. Newbies refresh our spirits. They fill us with the wonder and magic of youth, the vigor that reminds us why we write.  I believe we share the same message from different points in a timeline. Keep pressing. Keep going. Keep loving what you do.

We are NOT alone.

Have You Heard of Gluten-Free Jesus?

Okay, I am not meaning to be irreverent but I am living proof God has a sense of humor. I’m from Texas and part of our culture is church (we go shooting after :D ). In other states they might ask where you work, we might inquire where you go to church. Vacation Bible School is a staple of childhood.

We’ve just been through the Easter season and I SO love where we go to church, namely because when we had communion on Maundy Thursday there were two baskets of communion wafers.

So I am standing in line with Hubby. Music’s playing. We are all feeling the love. I lean over to Hubby and whisper, “So do I just ask for the Gluten-Free Body of Christ?” ….and he ribs me and says something about how he can’t take me anywhere which is true so I don’t argue.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you my belief system hasn’t affected how I’ve developed WANA or helped writers. I believe love trumps all. Love of writing will overcome the nagging self-doubt and the legions of people telling us we are fools for trying. Love for each other is what keeps us going when we go through the wilderness, those withering empty times when we start reconsidering Aunt Thelma’s suggestion that medical billing might be a better career choice. WANAs bind together for more than book sales.

We are a family who will love you and be there even when it’s ugly.

But one of the core tenets of WANA has always been we are united by love. Love for each other as human beings and artists. WANA has never taken sides in writing or publishing.

It might have been easier or more sensational for me to blast NY and call for it to be burned to the ground. Conversely, maybe I’d have had more friends in traditional publishing if I labeled all of self-publishing a gaggle of hacks. But, blessedly I have friends I adore and admire in all realms of publishing because authentic love is always balanced with truth. What is the truth?

Stories will live on. Stories are like Mother Nature. We humans could nuke the planet into a shell of itself and I guarantee you something green will poke through a crack in an irradiated parking lot somewhere. Same with writing. The institutions that govern HOW our stories reach those who want to hear them are less important than the art. WANAs are blindly devoted to great stories, not business models.

A Tale of Two Siblings

My POV? Traditional NY publishing is the older child and self-pub/indie is the younger annoying sibling. I’ve loved both and seen the strengths and weaknesses each has offer. If you read my newest book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World I feel I’m even-handed. I praise and chastise both.

Bluntness is my superpower.

Not all artists are wired for indie. It is BRUTAL. The flip side? Not all artists are wired for traditional. It is BRUTAL.

They call me the WANA Mama and it SO fits. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to break up two kids fighting.

Traditional: He doesn’t even have a STORY and yet he can publish!

Self-Pub: She is SO full of herself and won’t let me even try!

Me: Knock it off before I hairlip both of you. Trad, let your brother try. He only learns by doing. Selfie, you have to learn the rules before you can break them.

Traditional: But he is publishing a Zombie-Self-Help!!!

Me: Okay, Trad. Selfie might have a point. Texting? Real Housewives of the OC? Selfie, Trad has a point. Don’t come crying to me when no one buys it. Now both of you go play Battleship before I make you pull weeds.

Dear Gluten-Free Jesus, give me strength to love both these kids and not kill them.

DFWWWCon

So the point of all this, other than being able to use the term “Gluten-Free Jesus” is I am finally, after years of playing referee, seeing both kids learn to play together and appreciate each other. Sure, Trad has convinced Selfie that he can jump off the roof using an umbrella because Penguin from Batman does it all the time. And Selfie still reads Trad’s diary and tells the neighborhood all the best dirt. But, all in all? They’re learning to see the GOOD each has to offer. Combine strengths and buffer each other’s weaknesses.

Selfie has taught Trad that social media is NOT a fad, rather a fundamental shift in human communication. He’s made Trad appreciate some newer and ways of doing things *cough e-books* and to remember writing is FUN. Try NEW THINGS. Trad, however, is the older kid and is teaching Selfie that quality can trump quantity. She tells him to listen to his teachers. Appreciate those who’ve gone before and be humble enough to learn something. Not every thought that flits across our brain makes a book others want to BUY.

Thankfully, Optimism is my other superpower. I’d longed for a day where the lines would blur and the kids would play well together. Trad would stop putting Selfie in a chokehold and Selfie would stop feeding the dog the game pieces in order to win.

This conference left me on such a high. I always believed “the kids” would finally see what they had in common. Love. Love for stories and telling those stories and getting them to people who wanted to enjoy those stories. I always believed this new era would weed out people who are in our industry for the wrong reasons.

Agents who loved great books and good writers would innovate and thrive. Publishers who appreciated great books would evolve. Writers in this for more than a get-rich-quick would endure and everyone would have a chance to prove he or she has the right stuff. With the right attitude, this is the best time in human history to be in this business.

It is still a tough industry and not everything is as clean or just as it could be. But, by the grace of Gluten-Free Jesus we’re getting there ;) .

What are your thoughts? Do you see traditional and nontraditional playing nicer, sharing, and learning from each other? Are you excited about the future? That you don’t have to choose which kid you love more?

I will announce April’s winner after waking from the conference coma in a couple days.

If you want more help with plot problems, antagonists, structure, beginnings, then I have a FANTASTIC class coming up to help you!

CLASS COMES WITH HANDOUTS AND FREE RECORDING.

Understanding the Antagonist

If you are struggling with plot or have a book that seems to be in the Never-Ending Hole of Chasing Your Tail or maybe you’d like to learn how to plot a series, I am also teaching my ever-popular Understanding the Antagonist Class on May 10th from NOON to 2:00 P.M. (A SATURDAY). This is a fabulous class for understanding all the different types of antagonists and how to use them to maintain and increase story tension.

Remember, a story is only as strong as its problem ;) . This is a GREAT class for streamlining a story and making it pitch-ready.

Additionally, why pay thousands for an editor or hundreds for a book doctor? This is a VERY affordable way to make sure your entire story is clear and interesting. Also, it will help you learn to plot far faster and cleaner in the future.

Again, use WANA10 for $10 off.

I’ll be running the First Five Pages again at the end of May, so stay tuned.

 

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38 Comments

Three Important Life Lessons Only Learned from Insomnia

New Bed!

New Bed!

Well, it’s 3:18 a.m. and since sleeping still isn’t in the stars, I am writing…while in a yoga stretch unkinking my back. It’s been a rough week. I didn’t sleep for a week due to pain. We figured out the likeliest culprit (since both Hubby and I have had our backs scanned, X-rayed, massaged and chiropract-ed) was The Bed of DOOM, forged in Mordor in 1994! I had NO IDEA Hubby’s bed was that old. Probably a question us gals should ask before marriage O_o.

Hey, have any ex-girlfriends or wives buried under your porch? No? Cool. Btw, how old is your BED?

Use a polygraph if you must.

Hubby and I got married, bought two cars, a house, a bajillion diapers and we were going to get to the whole “replacing the bed thing” but this past week? Let’s say we hit “critical.” I know the bed is the problem, because I slept last night. In fact, I slept AWESOME.

Want Sleep? Ah, a “Kink” in The Plan

My back was still a mess so I went to take a nap at 11 a.m. this morning…yesterday morning? Sunday morning. The plan was to sleep two hours since The Spawn had me up just after 6:00 am. I’d sleep until around lunch, then we’d eat, I’d put dinner in the crockpot and Hubby and I could play video games all day.

Anyway, just as I drifted off, my mom calls me bawling and hysterical. Her washing machine overflowed in the middle of the night and her living room was in two inches of water. She couldn’t reach my brother and had no one else and was in a panic. Even though I knew my back was still screaming, Mom just had major hernia surgery and no business moving furniture at her age. So Hubby and I went and lifted all her furniture—heavy furniture—out of the water so it wouldn’t ruin.

Kill. Me. Now.

I love that I could help my mom, but right now my back is seriously pissed I love my mother more than it.

Thing is…

Unusual Suspects

Beds are the most likely culprit for insomnia or back pain, yet we tend to think of them last (probably because they are expensive and we shop for them every decade). I’ve spent the last two years doing Bikram yoga, focusing on my core (or lack thereof), going to chiropractors, taking herbs, Ibuprophen, Voo-Doo Chicken Wing Therapy all to gain little relief. I blamed it on my old back injury (broke it in 1995), changes in weather, age, and still? Never thought of my mattress until this week when nothing else had worked.

Went to the doctor. They did X-rays, MRIs. Not once, did they ask if my bed was bought when gas was $1.09 a gallon.

My bed was as old as the OJ SIMPSON case and as dead as Tonya Harding’s career after she had her loser boyfriend kneecap a fellow skater…in 1994! Don’t get me wrong, I figured the bed was old. I just never dreamed it was from the Clinton Administration. 

Yes, I am a little flabbergasted. I figured maybe it was eight or even ten years old, but almost TWENTY? Why do guys not mention this stuff? I “get” you don’t buy new underwear until nothing is left but an elastic waistband, but the mattress? Was I supposed to sleep it to the springs before we considered replacing?

What I’ve Learned About Being Up All Night

#1 DO NOT get on Web MD.

In fact, they should just not allow people to log into that site after midnight. It took me less than twenty minutes to diagnose myself with:

Prostate cancer? Wait, do I have a prostate?

DWARFISM! I KNEW IT! NO WONDER I CAN’T BUY PANTS THAT FIT!

And the holistic medicine sites aren’t any better. Took less than ten minutes to determine I needed to be dewormed. Should I do the cats at the same time? *scratches head* Crap! Do I have fleas?

#2 Social media friends ARE REAL friends.

I couldn’t have made it through this rough patch if kind people hadn’t kept me laughing and offered advice and even help. People I have never met in person. You guys have put up with my whining for a week and made me smile and that’s why I love my followers so much. I’ve met some of the best people, people on the other side of the world who I wouldn’t call “friend” if I hadn’t been up with back pain.

I SO apologize I am still whining :(. I totally didn’t see the “Moving Mom’s Furniture And Lifting It Out of Water Curve Ball.”

#3 We can’t control circumstances, only our attitude.

I am in terrible pain right now. In fact, if the Air Force hadn’t goofed up our insurance (found that out when I caved and tried to see a doctor Friday) I might be in an all-night-Doc-in-the-box instead of here. But, I take my mind off it. I laugh, have fun and know “This, too, shall pass.”

***And FYI, I’m very ADD, so Benadryl, alcohol, Tylenol PM and all the crap that normally knocks people out? WIRES ME FOR SOUND. I can’t take any pain medication known to Man because they all make me itch. I’ve taken Valerian, B Complex and D and been doing yoga since 1:00 a.m. and nothing is working.

Yeah, sometimes it seriously sux to be me.

But tomorrow is a new day on a new bed with new friends…

…wait that sounded wrong. Y’all know what I meant O_o.

Anyway, so I focus on the good stuff because life is all a choice in perspective. It’s now 4:15 a.m. Hmmm. Maybe I should check back with Web M.D. I’m seeing glowing spots. Wait. Whew! False alarm. That’s the modem.

Going to try the “sleep thing” again and forgive any typos. I’ll fix them later. Got ice and a heating pad. In the meantime, check your mattress and see if maybe it’s the problem. Don’t wait like I did, because now I am paying for it. What are your thoughts? Mattress horror stories? Do you just find your bliss when you can’t sleep or do you discover your “previously undiagnosed” case of Malaria per advice from Web MD? :D Have you met any cool people on social media you might not know otherwise if you hadn’t been up all night?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

ANNOUNCEMENTS: I have a class coming up August 21st, I am running a Your First Five Pages webinar. Bronze is $40 and Gold is $55 (I look at your first five pages) and use WANA15 for 15% off.

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68 Comments

What’s Ahead in 2013–Predictions for the Future of Publishing and Authors of the Digital Age

Writers, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Writers, there is light at the end of the tunnel. (Thank you Scotty 00 for the image via WANA Commons).

Ah, 2012 is coming to a close and the world did not end. The Mayans were wrong *shocked face* which kinda sucks because I was looking forward to not having to clean out the garage after all. But, in keeping with tradition, I am going to make my predictions for the coming year. Using a magic eight-ball and alcohol a highly scientific method, I will postulate what I believe will happen in the publishing world in the next 12 months.

Yes, I am posting this blog on a Saturday. Gives us time for a healthy (and courteous) debate before the ball drops. That and I plan on sleeping most of Monday and Tuesday before I have to go back to being an adult :P.

So what’s in store for 2013? I have a lot of predictions, but you guys only have so much time, so we will only hit the big ones.

2013 and Traditional Publishing

Too little too late. Sorry. I believe that traditional publishing has maybe another five years, but lot of the implosion will be seen this year. They could have been AT&T, but they made choices that doomed them to be MCI or Sprint if they are lucky.

Before anyone gets mad at me, I am very sad about this. Those of you who have followed my blog for any length of time, know that I was rooting for NY to get with the changing paradigm and remain a viable force. The problem is multifaceted, but here is some of what I believe we will see in 2013 (and I will pick on the indies equally later in the post):

a) Too Much Overhead Catches Up

Traditional publishing is centered in the beating heart of Manhattan, which would be great if that wasn’t some of the priciest real estate in the world. NY publishing is carrying a crap load of overhead their competition doesn’t have. There are high rents, salaries, and electric bills all being 1) factored into the price of the book and 2) taken out of the author’s pocket.

This wasn’t an issue so long as digital publishing was in its infancy and there were no other viable options for authors. Unfortunately for NY, now there are other options and these options are leaner, meaner, and faster. This means that consumers get good books cheaper and the writers get paid better (and faster). This all adds up for a WIN for authors and consumers, but NY is finding itself less and less competitive. The market is in a recession and most consumers cannot justify $24 for a hard cover book, when they can get digital books for $4.99.

Expect traditional publishing to continue to merge, shrink and downsize. We saw the Big Six go to the Big Five to the Not Too Shabby Four in the span of six weeks. This trend will continue. It has to for them to have any hope of taking on Amazon.

Again, this all reminds me of all the little phone companies back in the 90s that eventually all folded against the onslaught of AT&T. Who remembers MCI? Anyone?

To take on a giant, NY will need to become a giant. I mentioned this type of consolidation in my July post Big Six Publishing is Dead—Welcome the Massive Three.

b) Hemorrhaging the Mid-List

Mid-list authors have always been where traditional publishing groomed the next mega author. The mega authors are who help pay the bills. Yet, mid-list authors have had a heck of a time even making a living. I have met NYTBSAs who still weren’t making enough money to write full-time.

These types of authors are already accustomed to being very self-sufficient, expecting very little support from NY. These authors blog, tweet, run contests, have a social platform, and do everything an indie author does…except make money. As I have said before, writers are bad at math, but we aren’t that bad. Hungry small presses are going after these authors and luring them away, leaving NY with less and less emerging talent.

c) Bookstores are Losing Power

Bookstores have light bills, rent, and employees to pay. Yes, we will still have bookstores, just not on every corner. NY’s ability to get an author into bookstores was one of its aces in the hole, but now that ace doesn’t go as far as it used to. Authors are making six and seven figures selling indie and on-line. Sure, we writers would love to see our books at a Barnes & Noble, but most of us would trade that warm fuzzy for the ability to actually make money.

Also as more talent goes indie (Barry Eisler, Bob Mayer, Joe Konrath) and more true indie authors gain huge followings (Theresa Ragan, Aaron Patterson), bookstores will become increasingly friendly to those who are not traditionally published, because, again, money talks. Bookstores want to stock books that sell, so eventually they won’t be as picky. Also, as better writers emerge from the indie ranks, the stigma of self-publishing will grow fainter until it disappears.

I see more bookstores closing and being replaced by machines like these (image below). Yeah, Blockbuster thought people would always want to browse a video store, and they were wrong, too. For more about this, I recommend my post The WANA Plan to Save Bookstores and Revive Publishing. I think kiosks like these and creative independent bookstores (with Espresso Machines) will pick up traction in the new paradigm.

If Best Buy will do this, why not B&N?

If Best Buy will do this, why not B&N?

d) Partnering with Crooks

I’ve been on the bandwagon for traditional publishing to open divisions for self-publishing for YEARS, and, because I don’t believe in criticizing without offering solutions, I even offered a plan to do it in such a way that it would not tarnish their brand. NY apparently has been hesitant to enter the emerging market in self-publishing out of concern for their brand. That is a viable argument and I can definitely appreciate their reticence.

But then Simon & Schuster partners with Jimmy the Tire Iron AUTHOR HOUSE? This company has a long history of ripping authors off, and it doesn’t look like much has changed. According to a recent New York Times article about the new partnership:

Authors can buy packages ranging from $1,599 for the least expensive children’s package, to $24,999 for the most expensive business book package.

All I have to ask is, “What are these people smoking?”

Any author who’s taken more than a minute to do her homework knows those prices are RIDICULOUS. That might have been competitive pricing…in 1994! Now? This is just…just…insulting.

Author House has a long history of complaints, so I find it interesting that traditional publishing would not delve into self-publishing because it was worried about tarnishing its brand, but once it finally decides to join the 21st century, it partners with AUTHOR HOUSE.

Really? Just…really.

Writers, do your homework! Come join WANATribe. Make an educated decision about your career. If you want to be traditionally published, do so, but do it for the right reasons and be informed. WANATribe has plenty of professionals who can offer sound guidance.

Those of you who want to self-publish or go indie, we also have all kinds of tribes dedicated to indie and self-publishing. Network with people who know the ropes and who can mentor you about all your options. The cool thing about indie authors is we are all about the love. We are not alone! Most indies are generous with time and advice. There is no reason you can’t have a professionally edited book that is designed beautifully with a cover as good as anything out of NY for a fraction of that $25,000 dollars.

For further analysis about the problems traditional publishing is facing, read Bracing for Impact—The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm and An Industry on the Brink—5 Mistakes that are KILLING Traditional Publishing.

Moving on…

2013 and Indie Publishing

Meets the Threshing Floor

I feel we are going through a time which is very similar to the dot.com boom in the 90s. Everyone suddenly was a dot.com, but most were paper giants. Time weeded out the weak, and the same thing will happen here.

We have seen an explosion of indie publishers in the past two years. Everyone is a publisher. Like the dot.coms, a lot of these “publishers” won’t last. Too many people think being a publisher is easy, or they are in this business to make a quick buck. Yet, being a publisher is A TON of work and requires a certain level of commitment, education, capital and sweat equity.

Human nature dictates that most will quit in the next year.

As better books emerge out of the indie ranks, the competition will grow steeper. Sure, two years ago people were downloading all kinds of FREE! books and .99 books, but consumers have grown tired of downloading crap they never read. Gatekeepers exist for a reason, and throwing out a bunch of cheap books no longer works as well when everyone does it. The good news is that consumers are willing to pay more for e-books, but the bad news is that people won’t just download anything these days. Writers will have to write better books and be active on social media creating relationships.

As far as 2013, I don’t see the number of indie publishers shrinking. If anything, we might have even MORE of these publishers. As some close, new ones will quickly fill the vacuum. But, we will see a trend toward consumers not just buying anything, and this will bankrupt/discourage those who thought their fortunes would be made .99 at a time.

The Strong Will Survive…then Start Recruiting

Those indie publishers who rise to the top will be on the lookout for new talent. I predict that they will go after mid-list authors and make them offers they can’t refuse. These publishers will also be on the lookout for authors with extensive back-lists. Old books will be given new life and writers who were barely scraping out a living will now be able to enjoy new fruits of their labors, as in ALL of them.

Traditional publishing continues to grab up author’s rights to back-lists…only to sit on them and do nothing. This only makes authors even more willing to defect, and frankly, can we blame them?

Scams Will Abound for the Foolish

Do your homework. Author House is a racket, but it ain’t the only racket in town. I see all kinds of new services popping up to help new writers…as in help themselves to a bunch of your cash. Ripoff publishers, scammy social media “gurus”, PR phoneys, and fake “editors” will be popping up everywhere.

Caveat emptor.

These days, with the Internet, there is no reason to be taken for a ride. Vet people first. Ask around for recommendations. Part of why I created WANA International is so that you guys could have access to the best services from legitimate sources. Being a writer is stressful enough without worrying about being conned.

2013 and Amazon

E-Books Go Mainstream

Amazon reported record sales of the Kindle Fire this Christmas. Tablet sales have exploded and as the price point drops, this trend is likely to continue. Remember, cell phones were once considered a luxury item, too. Digital reading devices crossed from the Early Adopters into the Early Majority this year (as I predicted this past summer) on the Diffusion of Innovations Curve. This means the fat part of the bell curve owns or wants to own one of these devices. This is AWESOME news for writers, in that people who normally would not consider themselves readers are now buying books.

Every publishing mega-success has been created by the fat part of the bell curve falling in love with a book or author.

J.K. Rowling became a billionaire selling books to people who normally don’t read. The fact that the fat part of the bell curve is now plugged in and looking for good books is SUPER exciting.

E-Readers are now going mainstream. Even my 87-year-old grandfather asked for a Kindle Fire for his birthday. He loves the convenience (not so easy to browse a bookstore when you’re almost 90) and he also loves that he can make the font larger. Baby Boomers are older, have more time, more disposable income, and are becoming more and more tech-savvy as interfaces become more user-friendly.

Amazon banked on e-readers becoming a staple item and that gamble has paid off.

Amazon Will Get Into the Brick and Mortar Business

Amazon has become a name to be feared when it comes to e-commerce, but there are still limitations to selling on-line. Also, in my opinion, Amazon Publishing is the woman in the red dress who finally wants a ring. She wants to be legit, and the only way to do this is to have a physical presence in a bookstore. Back in the summer, I predicted that Amazon would get into the brick-and-mortar biz.

The age of bookstores all selling the same books is over. Amazon has a wealth of new talent along with a treasure trove of back-list to offer. I feel Amazon redefined publishing in the Digital Age, and they will also reinvent the bookstore. Give us a B. Dalton for the 21st century. I feel they will learn from the mistakes of their competition and bring a leaner, meaner bookstore to consumers. This physical space is ideal for selling their Kindle Fire and for taking on Apple.

This is all good news for consumers and authors, but there are dangers with Amazon. Amazon is NOT a panacea. For more about this, read Amazon–Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts.

Amazon Will Move More into Being a “Legitimate” Publisher

Amazon wanted NY to burn, but namely so it could take the Big Six’s place. This trend will continue and Amazon will keep signing bigger and bigger names. The traditional publishers have cut the size of their sales force, have radically cut author advances and they are taking on fewer new authors. Thing is, agents need to eat, too. Thus, I believe that agents will become more open to pursuing non-traditional publishing paths for their clients, which means Amazon wins.

2013 and Authors

Good Times Ahead

More readers, more options, and better pay. Sure there is more work, but suck it up, Buttercup. We all want to “Just write” but that isn’t reality and it really never has been. Authors who “just wrote” historically had a 93% failure rate (according to BEA statistics). Nowadays we have a lot better odds of success. Great writing combined with a solid work ethic is a ticket to being able to do what we love…and get PAID.

Writers—More of Them

This new explosion of self-published authors will continue. It is estimated that 75% of all Americans believe they want to write a book, and now they are doing it. The new paradigm makes it possible for all writers to share the stories they have inside of them. The downside is that “inside” is exactly where a lot of these books should remain, sealed behind some Aztec seal foretelling doom if opened. To be blunt, a lot of amateurs are entering the market with no clue how to write a novel. For more about this, I recommend my post, Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors.

WARNING!!! Bad Books Ahead

Just because we have command of our native tongue in no way means we possess the skill to craft a work spanning 60-100,000+ words. It is shocking to me how many writers publish their books, but they can’t even define “antagonist” or “POV.” There are a lot of people interested in shortcuts these days, and unfortunately they are dumping countless bad books in the laps of consumers. Terrible writing, no understanding of narrative structure or POV, poor formatting, major typos, grammar issues, the list goes on. The poor reader has been handed the slush pile.

Emerging Gatekeepers

This deluge of bad books will necessitate the rise of new gatekeepers. In the face of sock puppets, phoney reviews, endless spam, and fake recommendations, we need some form of a legitimate resource to act as a guide in this information glut. Book bloggers and authentic social media word of mouth helps, but the need for effective gate-keeping grows by the day.

I feel that the growing indie presses will help. Eventually readers will catch on to what presses offer quality books and they will stick to favorite presses and favorite authors like glue. Thus in 2013, I see the successful small indie presses enjoying more success simply because consumers are using them as gatekeepers.

Surge in New Types of Writing

In the new paradigm, we will see a surge in works that traditionally could not be published due to the depressing ROI (return on investment). We will see more short stories, novellas, books of poems, memoirs, screenplays, etc. We will also see the creation of new genres, such as fiction targeted specifically to Baby Boomers (I have seen this recently and it is brilliant). Instead of YA, BBA.

Additionally, the technology affords us the ability to offer books of different ratings. Say I write a romantic thriller that has lots of cursing and sex and is easily an NC-17. I can offer that book to an adult market, but I can easily create a PG-13 version. Do a word search for profanity and edit it out. Instead of hard core sex scenes, do a “cut-to.” Now my fans can read the version they feel most comfortable reading. Also, if they like the book, they can feel good about sharing the story with teenage children.

The technology allows books to be longer, offer a “director’s cut” and even offer up alternate endings. Technology offers a lot of creative ways to get our product to consumers the way they want to have it.

2013—The Year of the Writer

Overall this is an AMAZING time to be a writer. Writers aren’t all the same, so why should our career path be the same? We all have different goals, different works, different dreams and finally we have a paradigm that is favorable to our kind. Our kind has been telling stories and teaching since humans huddled in caves, but now we are finally being rewarded for our hard work.

In 2013, we will see an emerging “creative middle class” as the old paradigm fades away. In the old days, a handful of creative aristocrats held most of the wealth while the “creative majority” lived a starving life of artistic serfdom. That is going away.

There are good things ahead. The world is uncertain. The world is scary. But, just remember…

We are not alone.

So what are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Why? I don’t mind people disagreeing with me so long as you are polite :D. Remember, guessing is NOT science. What are your predictions? What did I miss?

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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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 also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of December I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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142 Comments

All Work and No Play is No Fun and No Good

Take time to watch the sunsets. Photo courtesy of Dana Ross Martin WANA Commons

We live in a world that is rushing, rushing always rushing. Always busy, busy, busy. We feel as if every small segment of our lives should be scheduled. In America we glorify the workaholic. Many people even brag about how many years they have gone without a vacation, wearing their stress illnesses like a red badge of courage.

We live this lie that it is possible to have it all. We can work 100 hours a week, and be good parents, spouses, and stewards of our community and suffer no consequences with our health.

Recently I read CBS Steve Tobak’s blog about Marissa Mayer. Yahoo scooped up Mayer to inject new life into it’s lagging business. For those unfamiliar with Mayer, she is the hot-shot from Google. Her workaholism is legendary and various articles have cited how Mayer was known to work 90-130 hour weeks with as many as 60 meetings. And Mayer proudly proclaims that 130 hour weeks are doable if one is willing to shower strategically and sleep under one’s desk.

Ok. Yeah, I’m right on that.

I confess that I have a hard time not feeling lazy in the face of this. Granted, I look at Mayer logically and think, Is she out of her MIND? Yet, I admit that I have a hard time relaxing and I feel guilty if I am not doing something productive. The fact that my mother is Scandinavian does not help.

Scandinavian women are legendary for their ability to properly clean a sink.

A Brief History of Me

When I was little, my mother ran our home like a well-oiled machine. It was not uncommon for me to come home and see my mom on a ladder painting or wallpapering. She cross-stitched everything. She baked cookies for my school and made homemade lasagnas for the church. One year, she sewed dozens of dolls by hand to give to underprivileged kids in our community.

On Saturdays, my mom would play The Best of Dolly Parton as my brother and I wiped all the doors, cabinets and baseboards with wood oil. To this day I can’t hear the song, Jolene without feeling the need to dust something.

Then, in about the mid-80s my family was torn apart by a thief. We owned a small custom furniture shop. We made beautiful tables, desks, chairs out of fine hardwoods like cherry and African teak. The secretary and one of the craftsmen embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars, bankrupting my family. Of course there was a lot of blame. Everyone felt betrayed, humiliated and foolish they hadn’t caught this woman earlier. My parents began to fight and then a couple years later, divorce.

We lost our home and had to move, then move again and again and again. My mom was trying to make it through nursing school and I was put in charge of running much of the house, including the cooking, cleaning, laundry and helping little brother with his homework. I remember being eleven years old, still finding comfort as I mopped and sung along with Coat of Many Colors.

Those years were hard for all of us. We lived hand to mouth, crammed together in rental homes far too small for us. It seemed that if I kept busy, I could keep looking forward and not mourn what had passed. But now I feel like all that hard work, while good for me, created some bad habits and I need to relearn some vital lessons for a happy life.

Fun Should Be a Priority

I find it very difficult to just have fun for fun’s sake. I am really happy I have a job I love, and that I get to serve all of you because it is a great joy. Yet, I know I need to work on just having fun. Not having fun while I work (though I think we all need to learn that), but just playing.

Ever notice how little kids can sleep anywhere? And they sleep so deeply and are always rested? Yes, well it is probably from all that playing. Many of us would do well to learn to just play. Play is good for the spirit and recharges creativity, something all humans need but most especially writer-humans.

I know I am working on playing more.

Yes, I was actually INSIDE the bouncy house with The Spawn.

Value Rest

I feel as if I am always on the go. Even though I was gone almost all of July on the road, I just haven’t been able to bring myself to take time off. I panic that everything will get too out of control.

There is just too much to do!

Granted, I do have to multi-task if I have any hope of not looking like an episode of Hoarders. I have a toddler, and society frowns on you crate-training your kids.

Oh, don’t call CPS. It was Halloween and he climbed in there. We let him out…eventually.

Often, when I take a break from writing, I call my mom or a friend and talk while I fold laundry, do dishes, etc. Yet, lately, I find myself multi-tasking to the point of stupidity.

True story. I was talking to my mother, cleaning the kitchen and then I felt a tickle in my throat. Well, I didn’t have time to be sick, so I grabbed the Vitamin C (while talking and cleaning). I grabbed up some trash to throw away…and tossed the Vitamin C in the garbage…while keeping the trash. I can’t count the times I’ve ended up with keys in the freezer, cell phones in the cabinet, or ice cream in the pantry.

Yes, I know. Madness.

I think this country values the Marissa Mayers a bit too much. I don’t know if people who work 130 hour weeks are good heroes to have. So today, I am declaring a new hero. Johnny Pocket. He has no trouble playing and no trouble resting. Rest is good for all of us. It gives us time to refill and refresh. Johnny is always refreshed.

Why don’t you just take a nap?

Learn to Be Realistic

I know this urge to multi-task is coming from my own unrealistic expectations. I live each day believing that I am going to have a clean house that looks like a magazine and that isn’t real life.

Didn’t I just WASH these?

This thinking is grossly flawed. Just like women can’t expect to look like airbrushed 22 year-old poofy-lipped models with the body of a prepubescent boy, we can’t expect our homes to look like a print ad from Good Housekeeping.

Clean this dresser off AT LEAST once a week. Sigh.

One of the biggest challenges we all face is learning to play, to give ourselves grace, and to learn to be realistic. We don’t have to have perfect bodies and perfect homes and we don’t need to write 5,000 words a day to be real writers. The theme of my teaching is always we are not alone. We are all imperfect. We all struggle, even me. Every day is a new opportunity to start fresh and give it another go. We all judge ourselves too harshly and we all, likely, need to learn to lighten up.

SO I commend Marissa Mayer for her work ethic, but while she is rescuing Yahoo…I will be in the bounce house :D.

What about you? Are you too hard on yourself? Do you place unrealistic demands on yourself? Do you have a hard time resting and playing without feeling guilty? How do you make sure to get enough rest? What ways do you play? How did you overcome your perfectionism? Do you struggle with perfectionism? Do you think we value workaholics too much?

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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 also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of August I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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91 Comments

Unlocking Your Great Future—5 Keys to Writing Success

The gateway to your destiny lies within.
(Image courtesy of Maddelena on WANA Commons)

Happy Monday! Okay, since I have a LOT more responsibilities on my plate, I am, once again, working on brevity. *sounds of cheering* I love teaching you guys and talking to you, but there just are not enough hours in the day to accomplish all I want to do. Also, I have yet to locate a cloning machine. I know one exists, because someone is using said machine to clone dirty dishes and laundry in my house. I can only assume this is in an effort to cloak the location of the cloning device. This said, we are going to make another try at short and sweet!

….and there was much rejoicing.

Okay, you can stop cheering now.

Today, I want to talk about some fundamentals to writing success. We can have all the talent in the world, but without these five ingredients, we will be hard-pressed to ever reach our dreams.

Passion—This should be a, “Yeah, no duh,” but, sadly, it isn’t. I meet a lot of people who say they want to be a professional author, but the second they face any opposition or criticism they give up. Here is the thing, if we really LOVE it, we won’t give up.

One of my favorite stories is about a music master who traveled village to village in search of proteges to train. A young boy who played the violin practiced extra hard in anticipation of being chosen. On the given day, he played for the master and, at the end, the master said, “No, you don’t love music enough.” Heartbroken, the boy ran home.

A year later, the same master came to the village and spotted the boy. The master asked if he was going to audition. The boy crossed his arms and replied, “No. Your comment hurt me to the core. I put the violin away and haven’t touched it since.” To which the master replied, “I told you you didn’t love music enough.”

If we love writing, NOTHING can stop us. My motto in regards to writing comes from Hannibal:

Aut viam inveniam aut facial. 

I will either find a way or I will make one.

Self-Discipline—Again, writers write. One of the main reasons I am such a proponent of blogging is that it trains writers for a professional pace. It trains us to meet deadlines. Disciplined people work no matter what, and they finish what they start. Amateurs and the immature flit from thing to thing. Professionals and genuine artists dig in and complete the task.

Will all of us have this self-discipline in the beginning? No. Most of us don’t. Self-discipline is a muscle of character, and it needs to be trained and built just like biceps. Every time we stick to something when the siren’s song of a new shiny tempts us to start something new, we get stronger.

Humility—Great writers know they always have more to learn. Read, find mentors, and learn to admit shortcomings. None of us are perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Those who readily admit flaws and seek help and training? They stand far better chances of succeeding long-term.

I used to have a problem with deadlines and self-discipline. I had the attention span of a crack-addicted fruit bat. That was why I began blogging. I knew that those character flaws would always limit me. Even though it was embarrassing to admit I had some deep flaws, it would have been impossible to ever combat that weakness if I hadn’t mustered the courage and humility to recognize where I fell fatally short.

It is okay to be imperfect. It is okay to be new. It is okay to not know everything. When we are humble enough to admit we need help, that is the first step toward authentic growth and change.

Healthy Relationship with Failure—I have said this many times, If we aren’t failing, then we aren’t doing anything interesting. Expect failure. Better yet, embrace failure.

Image courtesy of David Farmer WANA Commons.

Scientists once tried to do a biome experiment where all the plants lived in a perfect world. There was the perfect amount of water, sunlight, and nutrients. Sealed beneath the benevolent dome, there were no droughts, no diseases, no thunderstorms, no high winds, and no floods.

They expected the trees in the bio dome to be much healthier and grow much taller than those poor trees exposed to the outside world. But, to their astonishment, the trees never grew very tall. In fact, they looked downright pathetic, whereas the trees in the hard, cruel outside world grew far taller, were more resistant to disease and were, overall, much healthier.

Baffled, the scientists investigated, and they discovered that, every time a tree faced drought, it dug its roots in deeper. When it experienced disease, it developed resistance. When wind broke off branches, the trees in the outside world were forced to channel more nutrients to reinforce the affected areas. This made them stronger…so they grew taller.

The sheltered trees had never been tested, thus they never had to become stronger. Sadly, they never grew to their full potential.

Failures=storms. Embrace the storms. They make you grow ;).

Yeah, I promised 5…but then I also promised to make it short. And I am tired and a writer, ergo bad at math.

What are some character traits that you might add? What do you struggle with? What area gives you the most trouble? What have you done to make it better? What is some advice you would like to share?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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 also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of August I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

July’s Winner is Heather Wright. Please e-mail me your 5,000 word Word document to kristen at wana intl dot com. Or, if you choose, you can send your query letter or novel synopsis (no more than 1250 words). You have until August 30th to send me your submissions.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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90 Comments

How Self-Publishing has Helped All Writers–Welcome to the Revolution

Author Kristen Lamb, social media writers, author platform, WANA, We Are Not Alone

Yes, I have more books in my car if you need.

Writing is a very different gig. In most jobs, we don’t need years of external validation to prove what we “really” are. We don’t have to save so many lives before we are a “real” doctor” or close so many mortgages before we are a “real” banker. But with writing? With the arts? We struggle. When are we “really real”?

For the answer to this question, I advise, Don’t Eat the Butt!

A lot of us want that traditional publishing stamp of approval, but there are a lot of recent red flags in the industry that demonstrate this might not be the best path for those of us who want a long-term career. Traditional publishing is also very slow, and there are huge gaps they cannot fill. For instance, technology.

When I was at Thrillerfest, one of the old guard teaching a class announced that, “Self-publishing was only good if you were a breast-feeding truck-driver who wanted to write a book for breast-feeding truck-drivers.” I have zero clue what is meant by that statement, but the comment speaks volumes, and highlights a problem in the industry.

Writers, for some reason, seem to be at the bottom of the food chain. We are the ones who produce the product, yet we are the last to get paid and seem to be treated the worst. It seems any 24 year old with a degree from NYU can hang up a shingle and call herself a literary agent and suddenly she is “real.” Author Joe Konrath has talked about this problem at length on his blog, which I highly recommend.

Yet, even after two #1 best-selling books, I still cannot get Barnes & Noble to shelve my books, because I am not a “real” writer. B&N literally has turned customers away trying to order my books in the store and they will only sell my books on-line. My books are returnable, so there shouldn’t be a problem, yet conference after conference I have to lug in a suitcase of my books because B&N won’t stock them, even though my books almost always sell out.

*shrugs* More money for me. And I am supposed to feel sorry for booksellers who are suffering. Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

I was even invited to speak at a conference and then, after my classes, they refused let me sell my books inside with the other authors. I had to go out into 112 degree heat to sell social media books in the parking lot because I wasn’t a “real” writer.

So I can appreciate the feeling of wanting and needing validation.

What I love about the new paradigm is that it seems to be finally earning writers the respect they should have had all along. I know back when I was querying, I felt agents were gods who stepped down from Mt. Olympus to see if they could find a champion among the unwashed masses. I so wanted to prove I was the one who could bring home the golden fleece best-selling numbers.

I recall typing my queries, hands shaking. One time, I was so nervous I misspelled “query” in the header of the e-mail and was instantly rejected. Though agents have demanded perfection and professionalism from me, I have received rejection letters with typos, my name misspelled and even the wrong name. I have received form-letters and sticky notes. We aren’t supposed to send a mass-query, yet I have received many a mass-rejection.

And I am not here to gripe about how I am being mistreated, because I really don’t care about anyone’s behavior other than my own. But this does raise an important point.

As the industry shifts and writers gain more power, will the industry as a whole benefit?

As more and more self-published and indie authors start earning a really good living, will we still get those “self-publishing is only for freaks” comments? As writers band together and blog and build platforms capable of driving sales, we become more powerful. Will this then force agents and editors to behave better?

Are we part of the women’s writer’s liberation movement?

I have been to conferences where agents didn’t want to take pitches or would walk off in the middle of a writer talking. I know I had an agent I finally had to fire because she just never returned e-mails. Finally, after six months without a peep I assumed my agent was dead or had been abducted by aliens. But I posit this question.

Would an agent stand for a writer who didn’t return an e-mail for six months?

As a social media person, I’ve witnessed agents tweeting lines from rejected queries, openly making fun of writers. Yet, when they google a writer to represent, what do they demand? Professional behavior. What if we were tweeting and making fun of literary agents?

Make no mistake, I feel we as writers need to come up higher as professionals and set the example. Frankly, as NYTBSA Bob Mayer has stated, “Writers are in the entertainment business.” Yes we are artists (entertainment), but we are also in business. It is incumbent upon us to know our craft. We cannot assume that command of our native tongue qualifies us to be best-selling authors, and we also need to understand our industry and business.

And here is where I feel self-publishing has greatly benefitted writer-kind.

I feel that self-publishing, oddly enough, has been a massive benefit to all writers. Why?

It has forced writers to understand the business side of the business.

I feel it has helped many writers embrace this business side of the equation and step up their game as professionals. Writers who are pursuing or even considering going it alone suddenly take social media and platform-building far more seriously. There is something transformative about finishing the story, then digging in to create the product. Many self-published authors understand the new publishing paradigm better than the Big Six editors, and I feel this is a real advantage.

Many of us have learned about web sites, accounting, formatting, and even cover design. The new publishing paradigm is constantly changing and forcing us to learn, grow, adapt, change, and ship.

The new paradigm forces writers to ship.

If you read Seth Godin’s Linchpin (which I highly recommend), he says one of the marks of a true artist is real artists ship. We let go. We sell the painting, burn the CD or publish the book and then move on to the next. Saturday Night Live happens no matter what. Good or bad, they ship.

One of the biggest problems I have seen with writers is they keep working and reworking and reworking the first book. In the new paradigm? They publish. If it is a super stinker they pull it and pray people forget. If it’s so-so, they leave it, but best of all, if they are smart, they move on and write more books. One of the largest barriers to becoming a successful writer is trying to be a perfect writer. The new paradigm gives new writers a way to ship so they can move forward and write more books and better books. 

It has encouraged writers to become empowered by building a platform.

Also, since there have been some real successes from the indie and self-pub fronts, it has forced traditional authors to realize how social media can give them control of their careers. As traditional authors build viable platforms, they suddenly have options. Many are realizing that NY is no longer the only road to Rome and they have the power to walk away (Barry Eisler).

Social media and self-publishing has given authors bargaining power and, with that, respect.

True story. A friend of mine couldn’t get an agent to even listen to a pitch (and the same agent had been a real toad to me). My friend self-published and was doing really well. Next conference? This agent wanted to represent him. Suddenly thought his books were awesome and brilliant. My friend comes to me and says, “There is no way I can go traditional. I make way too much money.” Then he asks me, “You think I should e-mail him a rejection letter?”

The story makes me chuckle, but it is just proof of what I have been saying all along. It is a WONDERFUL time to be a writer.

Writers are no longer satisfied with being publishing fodder. We are stepping up and demanding the respect we are owed. Now? Agents. We are googling you. We are watching what you are tweeting and we are reading your blogs. We are not expecting anything from you that you aren’t expecting of us—professionalism and respect.

It is a wonderful time to be a writer. No matter what road writers now choose to take, traditional, self-pub or indie, I feel writers will finally enjoy the success and the esteem they deserve.

Welcome to the revolution!

So what are your thoughts? Opinions? Are you happy that writers now have more options? Do you feel overwhelmed? Excited? For those of you who have gone indie or self-published, what are the greatest lessons you have learned?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So 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 also, winners will now have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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117 Comments

The Top 5 TSA-Friendly Zombie-Killing Weapons for the Apocalypse

Fail to plan and plan to fail.

Today I am frantically packing to go to New York City. I will be speaking on a panel at Thrillerfest, and all I can think is, Gee, I hope the Zombie Apocalypse doesn’t start when I’m in NY and away from Hubby, Spawn and all the guns. I know normal people don’t think things like this, but you guys are writers, so you totally understand.

Come on! If it hits NYC, then I need a plan to get out of the city, which likely will involve going by water—only suckers try to get out of town on the highways—or the underground tunnels. Then I have to make it cross country, and who knows if the outbreak is contained to just NYC? And then I have to figure out how to ride a dirt bike and we all know how well that went last time. Then I have to find gluten-free-dairy-free food (I am SO screwed) and stay alive long enough to make it all the way home to TEXAS to rendezvous with Hubby because he is NOT doing this without me!

Hubby & I have waited for this day…

Am I wrong to be a little freaked out about leaving home? In Texas, I HAVE a plan. We have weapons, ammo, a fallback point and lots of GF food. We can also raid the burned out shells of Central Market, Sprouts and Trader Joe’s as we flee to the ranch. But to leave out of town? I can’t bring nail clippers on a plane, so this presents a new challenge.

This is what always happens in the movies. The protagonist leaves for some innocuous business trip, and that is precisely the moment that some corporation trying to create a new kind of permanent Botox screws up. Then the protagonist is in for a cross-country zombie-fest with only the hope of being reunited with loved ones to cling to.

YES, I do have an overactive imagination. It is why it was better I become a writer than an accountant.

I am a really odd duck. Yes, that’s a nice “shocked face.” Thank you for being polite. No, seriously. I think these things through. I am the person who gives SAS Survival Guides as Christmas gifts. But I am in a bit of a conundrum since the terrorists ruined travel FOREVER. What can I pack in case of the Zombie Apocalypse?

The people in the movies are never prepared, which is why I am then required to shout expletives at the screen to make-believe people who can’t even hear me.

Anyway, since my life is not a movie…yet :D…I’ve had to get creative. Here are my Top 5 TSA-Friendly Zombie-Killing Weapons. Make it through airport security and rest assured that you will be prepared should the Zombie Apocalypse strike when you are on vacation or business travel, because you just know that an apocalypse never strikes at a convenient time *rolls eyes*. I think AAA and the airlines should give these kinds of travel tips, stuff we can actually use.

Top Five TSA-Friendly Zombie-Killing Weapons for the Apocalypse 

1. Justin Bieber CDs

Being attacked by a horde of brainless freaks? Play some Justin Bieber and they are guaranteed to start dancing and crying and believing that Justin like seriously like looked right at them! SQUEEEEEEE! This method is guaranteed not only to distract the zombies, but it might even attract some Justin Bieber fans to give the zombies a snack so they aren’t busy chasing you.

The TSA isn’t crazy about Justin Bieber CDs, but they aren’t yet officially listed as weapons of terror.

Yet.

2. Cheap Hairspray

I would go for the industrial size can if you check a bag, but also at least 40 bottles of the travel size. They are under 2.5 ounces, so the TSA can’t exactly stop you, and if you wear big Texas hair they might not even bat an eye.

Hairspray, of course, is easy to make into a flamethrower, and also to do your hair. Duh.

Everyone has camera phones these days so it is a pretty safe bet that people will be taking pictures of the Zombie Apocalypse. And on any footage captured? Naturally, you want to be looking your best.

3. Bubble Wrap

To the TSA, bubble wrap just looks like you are OCD about packing your stuff and making sure it doesn’t get jacked up. What they don’t realize is bubble wrap can serve as a Zombie Early Warning System. Scaling fences and cars running from mindless monsters can be tiring, so you need to get your rest. Just use the bubble wrap to form a perimeter. When they step on it? The noise can wake you up and then, when they are distracted playing with the bubble wrap–because, seriously who can resist freaking BUBBLE WRAP?—you can bust  cap in their @$$. Not exactly a weapon, but the zombies end up dead–er, so who cares? Close enough.

4. Lady Gaga Meat Dress

It’s like a Ghillie Suit for slaying zombies. Just make sure you wrap this in the bubble wrap to keep it from leaking on your other stuff. And I might advise freezing your meat dress.

Not only will freezing your meat dress keep it fresh for the flight, but wearing freezing cold meat can a) help you stay cool while running for your life b) serve as a cold compress for any injuries you might sustain c) makes excellent body armor d) will keep anyone of the opposite sex from remotely hitting on you, thus preventing the sexual distraction that normally comes before a zombie rips your skull open.

The TSA might be iffy on this one. I know we can’t transport produce across state lines, but no one at the airlines would answer my questions about the meat dress. And now my phone is clicking. I think it’s been tapped.

5. A Bag Full of Legos

Need to trip up a pursuer? Toss a bag of Legos on the stairs and listen for the scream. To the TSA agent, you look like a loving family member bringing a child a toy, but little do they know Legos have a dark side and sharp edges.

The Spawn claims he “Zombie-Proofed” his room.

Well, those are the Top Five TSA-Friendly Zombie-Killing Weapons.

For me? Back to packing and finding pantyhose. Haven’t worn those since Christmas! I’m totally bringing my Batman shirt, this way if the Zombie Apocalypse does ensue, when rare footage makes it out of Manhattan, I can be captured slaying zombies dressed in style. Though I am a bit out of shape, so that same footage might at least have me mindlessly searching for brains in style. You guys will know me by my poofy blonde hair and Batman shirt.

Any TSA friendly weapons you would like to add? I have to pack for the potential Zombie Apocalypse Thrillerfest and right now, to be honest, I can’t think much past great shoes for running and hair utensils that can be sharpened to kill. I’d love some additional suggestions to add to the bag.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So 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 also, winners will now have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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67 Comments

There is a Season

The Lamb Ranch May 2012

My parents were confused hippies. They both served in the Navy during Vietnam, but despite being military, they grew long hair, loved rock and roll and distrusted the establishment. I think the only real holdover from their hippie days was the music. I grew up listening to Hendrix, Janice Joplin, John Lennon and all kinds of classic anti-war 60s tunes. One tune popped in my head today as I was working in the yard. Turn, Turn Turn by the Byrds which was an adaptation of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.

To everything, there is a season.

I love to work in the yard. Maybe its because I come from many, many generations of farmers (Dad’s side). I am only one generation removed from picking cotton. In fact, my grandfather is 87 years old and he still works in triple digit heat doing backbreaking work that would flatten a 20 year old. We Lambs are just hardy stock who love to get our hands dirty.

There is just nothing more meditative than spending a few hours digging in the dirt and letting the mind rest and play.

We have a family ranch that is just shy of 200 acres. I go there to rest. Of course “rest” often consists of sitting on a tractor mowing or cleaning out the seven million black widow nests in the barn or chopping up deadwood to clear the trails. But I enjoy hard work, physical work. It lets my mind have time to make sense of things.

Texas experienced record droughts last year. We experienced wildfire after wildfire. Trees, cattle and people died. This year? We have been blessed with more than enough rain, but with that rain came the 7 foot weeds I got to mow over with a tractor all last weekend. I mowed until Hubby kicked me off the tractor when the sun went down, despite my well-formed argument that we had night-vision, ergo could invent a new sport…Night Mowing!

Yeah, he didn’t go for it. I’m glad too because I slept all day the next day.

The view from the front of my John Deere. Hubby was marking the trails w/ the ATV so I’d know where to mow.

Bionic weeds.

No reason for this pic other than it is totally BAD@$$! Lots of rattlesnakes and wild pigs on the ranch.

Back to our topic…

The land can’t be farmed all the time. There is a season. There is a time to plant, a time to grow, a time to harvest and a time to rest. Skip any one of these seasons and the penalty can be steep and the effects long-lasting. Writers are no different than farmers. We have seasons and we need to respect them. There will be time to write, time to edit, time to promote and time to rest.

Yes, rest.

Our brains are fertile soil for ideas, for imagination to take root and bloom and produce the good fruits of our genius. But we need to rest. In our Western culture, we are world-renowned for never resting. Yet, we are equally renowned for being morbidly obese and medicated for all kinds of psychiatric disorders. We are renowned for being frazzled, fried and stressed.

Don’t misinterpret what I am saying. I believe that a lot of psychiatric disorders are real, but many of what ails us is due to the go, go, go, go nature of modern society. For hundreds of thousands of years we humans guided our lives by the sun. Artificial light was the glow of a lamp, a fire or a candle.

Yet, now we keep awake using artificial light until the late hours of the night. We artificially wake ourselves using alarm clocks and caffeine. And when we used to sit and rest or nap, we now chug a Monster drink full of herbs we can’t pronounce so we can keep going. We take maybe a week off a year and feel guilty for even that.

It isn’t healthy.

We aren’t balanced. We wear our minds out until we are numb, but the body hasn’t moved all day. We are stressed out and tuckered out and our biggest problem is we have ignored that everything has a season.

Even us.

I find it beautiful how nature is so reflective of how we should be, too. We could take a lesson. Even nature has a season of rest, of dormancy, of hibernation. The dormancy is vital for growth and for life.

When I go to the ranch it is DARK out there. We are so remote, we only have the noise of coyotes or the rattle of insects in the undergrowth. I work hard and find I  go to sleep earlier, sleep deeper, rise with the sun and feel actually rested. I always come home with a new explosion of creativity.

Yet, I still have to remind myself to rest. Just sit. Relax. Don’t…do…anything. Harder than it looks.

I love writers, and I will be the first to kick you in your tails to get you moving (I kick my own tail, too). But today my lesson is different, yet equally important. Take time to rest. To sleep. To just “be.” Go all zen wit’ yuhself!

There is no easy way to success in what we do. Whether we traditionally publish or indie or self-publish, there are NO shortcuts. Publishing success is a lot of work. Those who will succeed are the ones who can do this writing thing day, after day, after day, after day, who can keep blogging and tweeting and writing books and more books and more books even when it looks like nothing is happening. I have been blogging for three and a half years and have almost 800,000 words invested into my career. But I keep showing up, and keep showing up, no matter what.

We have to have endurance to be successful at writing. Whether you listen to Barry Eisler, Joe Konrath, Bob Mayer, Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory, James Rollins or Sandra Brown, they will all tell you the same story. Success took work, years of it. 

To have this kind of endurance, we need to get good at resting. And I will tell you, as I have a finger pointed at you, three are pointing back at me. I need a lot of these lessons, too so if you don’t need them, I’ll take them. If I hope to be on top of my game, to keep the word count I keep and do all the things I do and take WANA to the next level (more on that next week), I need to be well rested.

I can’t over-farm the soil. I need to let my mind and my imagination rest.

Lately, I have thrown a lot of intense and deep (and, yes, long) blogs out there. I have so much more to do and say, but I need to rest. I am teaching three classes at the DFW Writers’ Workshop Conference this coming weekend. Please sign up if you haven’t already. This is a WONDERFUL conference and they actually are a very forward-thinking group. They gave me my first break to teach social media and I don’t believe I would be where I am today without them. They are an amazing group and have THE best workshops.

Anyway, conferences are a lot of work and also this surprise I am working on for all of you is a lot of work. So I need a break. I am taking a week off from blogging, so you won’t hear from me (blog-wise) until Wednesday of next week.

Might give y’all a chance to catch up on the recent posts, LOL. Been throwing a lot at you guys, I know. But times are changing and it is all happening so quickly. I work my tail off to make sure you guys are prepared, that you are educated so you can enjoy this Digital Renaissance.

I am taking a few of my closest peeps out to the ranch. No cell phones. No blogs. Just talking, laughing and maybe even get a bit of a tan. Tan fat totally looks better than white fat. I will miss you guys, but you need some rest too.

I will also announce the winners of my contest when I get back.

But, I still love hearing from you. Do you feel guilty about resting? Does taking a vacation make you feel guilty? have you found ways to overcome this? Do you feel like you must always be productive and you wear yourself out?

To prove it and show my love, for the month of May, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

***IMPORTANT MESSAGE–For those who have not gotten back pages. My web site fiasco has been responsible for eating a lot of e-mails. Additionally I get about 400 e-mails a day and the spam folder has a healthy appetite too. It is hard to tell since some people never claim their prize, but I could have very well just not seen your entry. Feel free to e-mail it again and just put CONTEST WINNER in the header so I can spot you easily. (especially if your message is kidnapped by the spam filter).

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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82 Comments

The Age of the Artist–Time for a Revolution

I’ve said many times before that it is an amazing time to be a writer. Yet, I think this age, this new Digital Renaissance might actually be more than we can imagine, and age of empowerment artists have never before experienced. We just need to be open to the future.

First, the Technology Problem

Many artists feel threatened by social media, computers, iPads and e-readers. I will admit that I used to be one of those people who refused to learn how to use e-mail. I used to write long, detailed letters to friends and family with stickers and pictures and pretty handwriting. I felt computers were too cold and impersonal, especially compared to expensive stationary from my Hallmark store.

Yet, now?

Now, I no longer send frilly messages to a handful of friends and family. I actually interact with them daily on Facebook…more of them. I see their kids grow up even though they live half a world away.  I share the daily triumphs, and can be there to support them in the trials too. It isn’s as fancy as my letters, but it is very, very personal in a way I hadn’t imagined possible 15 years ago.

Digital books are not the first technological advance that has left artists feeling threatened. I’m sure the dude who was in charge of recording all the stories and history on the cave walls felt threatened by the smarty pants who invented papyrus paper. Then there were all those monks who got downsized when the printing press came along.

Great, thanks to that Gutenberg jerk, everyone can be published.

When the Lumiere brothers invented the first cameras, people believed that artists would be obsolete, that photographs would take the place of paintings. When moving pictures were invented, many thought stage actors would also fade away into history. As we have seen, paintings and plays have endured and actually the technology invented brand new forms of art—photography and cinematography.

What no one accounted for is that art is the very essence of creation. We can’t stop it. The technology isn’t responsible for making the art, it is a vehicle for the art. Art will always remain and will always find a way to be expressed. Humans have a guiding imperative to create.

And that is awesome news for us.

Artists have had a Rough Road

When I gave up my job in sales to become a writer, my family didn’t speak to me for three years. I might as well have come home with a handful of magic beans and a tale about a castle in the sky and my pet unicorn.

What I find interesting is that, since the Industrial Revolution, we increasingly became a society that valued the artist less and less and less. In the 50s during the Space Race, schools started valuing the children who excelled at math and science and the arts were seen as something fluffy and unsubstantial.

Schools were set up to create new generations of factory workers, engineers and scientists who could support the military-industrial complex. Schools taught neat skills like sitting still for eight hours, coloring in the lines, and listening to authority. I think this is one of the reasons that teachers rail against all this “teaching to the test.” Teaching is an art, and few things can steal that art like a standardized test.

Art is the Essence of Humanity

Children are natural artists. They color dance and sing with abandon. Yet, some time about the age of 9, we are told it is time to get serious. One day we will need to go to college so we can get a “real job.”

I spent 15 years trying to fit myself in that straight-jacket mold and it just made me ill, depressed and angry. I was a child who’d immersed herself in ballet. When I wasn’t dancing, I was drawing art and writing stories on every spare scrap of paper or playing a clarinet. This creative creature then grew into an adult trying to work in corporate sales. Was it any wonder I was chronically ill with a sickness no doctor could name?

When I started pursuing my art, I became more myself than I’d been since the age of ten. I went from being a misfit, an ill-fitting cog in an alien machine to feeling my life fall almost magically into place.

The Funny Thing About Artists

Yet, what I find interesting is that artists are the intuitives that birth the science. Mary Shelley envisioned the human body as a bioelectric system before the scientists. Proust intuited that taste and smell were hardwired to memory before science proved that he was correct; that those are the two senses are uniquely sentimental because they are connected to the hypothalamus, thus the most strongly tethered to memory. George Eliot understood that the brain was a regenerate organ a hundred years before Dr. Elizabeth Gould discovered that brain cells actually did renew themselves and pioneered neurogenesis. Jules Verne envisioned a man on the moon and even intuited almost every detail of how we could do it…of how we actually did do it.

When artists create wild fantasy we lay the groundwork for the future. Artists envisioned a world with equal rights, a world with women in leadership, a world where humans traveled through space.

Artists take the impossible and make it real.

A society that embraces art is at a distinctive advantage. We have been a society working on a half a brain. We have valued the rational logical left brain at the expense of the imaginative, intuitive right brain. With technology we finally have an opportunity to become a world using its brain…all of it.

Technology and the Digital Renaissance

Technology will bring a Digital Renaissance simply because it is adding value to the artist. We are the only job that can’t be downsized, outsourced or automated. Machines can’t create art. Legions of cheap labor in China will not replace us.

As more people own computers and e-readers, the demand for art will only increase. Also, each of us has an artist inside, and technology allows all of us to express that nature. What is wonderful about the new paradigm is it is finally possible to make a living—a good living—as an artist. Sure, it is a lot of work and hard work, but is being a doctor easier? Any profession that is lucrative is a lot of work…only now we can do what we LOVE, so it is never work. Give me a fifty hour work week of writing and I will be HAPPY!

I actually am typing this sentence at 3:59 in the morning. I woke up at 2:00 and could’t sleep so I am working…and I love every second of it because I am doing what I was born to do.

Vive la Revolution!

I call WANA the Love Revolution. WANA (We Are Not Alone) is based on service above self and community, but it is poised on the fulcrum of LOVE. Love for our art, love for each other, and love for the world we are serving and changing. WANA is bigger than writing, so please recruit all the creatives you know. Our time is NOW!

Every revolution needs a leader…someone rugged, handsome, and stylish. There are exciting things ahead for the WANAs, so today let me introduce you to the spearhead of our movement. Meet, Francis…

I met Francis early this past March and his story was heartbreaking, so I had to find the dust-covered art supplies, put marker to paper and bring him to life so his story could inspire all of you. But, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Francis will be starring in a feature film that shows how WANA changed his life, and I believe you will be moved, that you will see how all of us are Francis. His debut film will be released soon, so stay tuned for the date. His feature is going to be part of the surprise I have in store for all of you. It is too big to give you at once, so I am giving it to you a taste at a time.

WANNA Be a WANA?

If Egypt can have a revolution using Facebook, then why can’t artists? This is OUR time. The more art we create, the better we become. We can use social media to find our future patrons, those who are dying to hear a good story, listen to a new song, dance a new dance. We can cultivate the love for our art and our art only gets better with time. We won’t have to worry that our job will get replaced with a 20 year old intern willing to work for half the pay. We won’t be told we are too old, the we need to retire because some college kid can do what we do.

We are artists and we are indispensable, indomitable and immortal.

It is the 21st century, a Digital New World and it is an awesome time to be an artist. Grab your pens and paintbrushes, your books and easels, and join the WANAs for a Love Revolution! Currently we are hanging out at #MyWANA on Twitter, but I have another surprise in store. A land where the WANAs roam free to create and be themselves.

It’s gonna be like CHRISTMAS! …which means you have to wait to open your presents :D.

So what is your story? Are you an ill-fitting cog in an alien machine? Do you long to create, but you are chained to the day job? Have you broken free from the “real job” and are now living your passion? Tell us your story!

By the way, for a really fantastic book about how artists have defined science, I recommend Jonah Lehrer’s Proust was a Neuroscientist.

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of May, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

***IMPORTANT MESSAGE–For those who have not gotten back pages. My web site fiasco has been responsible for eating a lot of e-mails. Additionally I get about 400 e-mails a day and the spam folder has a healthy appetite too. It is hard to tell since some people never claim their prize, but I could have very well just not seen your entry. Feel free to e-mail it again and just put CONTEST WINNER in the header so I can spot you easily. (especially if your message is kidnapped by the spam filter).

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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91 Comments

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