Archive for category Culture

Generation Butthurt—How Being Constantly Offended (and Offensive) Costs BIG

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie.

Today we are going to dive back into social media because who we are on-line impacts the odds of our success. Whether we like it or not, engaging on social media and cultivating a following is going to massively impact our professional success (or lack thereof).

In sales we had a saying, Fish where the fish are. Well my darlings, the fish are schooling on social media. When we are online we are not only engaging with the readers of today, we are cultivating future readers. This applies as much to the pre-published newbie as it does the internationally best-selling author.

We are wise to remember that we now have entire generations glued to smart phones and LinkedInInstaSnap, and if we don’t learn how to navigate these waters? Bad juju.

This said. Social media is an extraordinarily powerful tool that is too often treated like a toy.

Would we do that with a chainsaw? Treat it like a toy? Not use safety gear and chase friends and neighbors and joggers with it and fling it around laughing without a care? No, likely not. But that chainsaw only has around sixty teeth when the Internet has MILLIONS of teeth.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Dave Hosford

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Dave Hosford

Social media is more dangerous than a chainsaw when we handle it recklessly. If you don’t believe me, I think there is a position open for a new SNL writer. The Internet is filled with stories of even regular people who acted thoughtlessly on social media whose lives were then upended. They lost jobs, destroyed their reputations, and even had to go into hiding.

Is it fair? No. But fair is a weather condition.

Does this mean we are to be afraid of social media? Well no more than we would be afraid of a chainsaw or a car or a power drill. We don’t need to be afraid of any of these tools, but we do need to respect their power.

Going PRO

Image courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons

Whenever we decide we might one day sell our book, we are making a decision to be a professional. Being a professional comes with certain rules that don’t generally apply to regular people.

Additionally, all authors are in the business of sales and I can tell you that nothing helps sales like good old-fashioned networking. When I was in corporate sales, there was a reason we hobnobbed at golf events and cocktail parties and lunches. We were there to get to know one another on a more intimate level. Learn about each other, talk about topics of mutual interest (business or not and more often not).

It was these loose and casual connections that with time, became long-term business relationships and friendships. Our goal was to cultivate an atmosphere that left others saying, “I cannot wait to give her my business.” Or, even better, “I cannot wait to recommend her to others.”

Simple fact.

Most people buy from who they know and who they like.

They DO NOT buy from people who berate them and call them names.

Whouda thunk?

Social media is supposed to be social and it is governed by the same social rules as any in-person get-together. Feel free to ignore these rules, but they will have consequences.

If we are consistently name-calling, ranting, arguing and trolling, and posting stuff that creates a toxic atmosphere of anger and hysteria? Other people DO have the right to say, “No, not in my space.”

I love Facebook. I am friends with all kinds of people and have zero interest in living in an ideological echo chamber. I feel my diverse group of “friends” is what adds richness and depth to my life.

I enjoy seeing other viewpoints, even if I might not necessarily agree. I enjoy seeing people around me passionate in supporting what they love, even when it is a cause I don’t happen to share.

The problem is, we have become a culture addicted to outrage.

Generation Butthurt

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 10.18.36 AM

It has become more and more apparent over the past several years. Now? It is ridiculous. I see people who have no problem blasting others and going for the throats of anyone who dares have another opinion. Oh, but they all seem to have the skin of a grape.

They are offended all…the…time.

They have two speeds: Offensive and Offended.

So many people have just become a never-ending fountain of some new thing to be pissed off about. It never…frigging…stops.

I’m done.

Would we act this way in a workplace? You know, every day show up with petitions and corner people at the coffee machine and call them names? Utter insults so repugnant that bystanders cannot believe an adult actually said it?

And, if we did act this way, how long before we were fired?

If we were in sales, would be woo a potential client by screaming at him? By calling him a sexist pig?

If we owned a business, would we be able to grow that business if, every time a customer came in to see what we had to offer, we were enraged and yelling? Demanding they listen to our grievances?

Some of y’all might be laughing, but I see this all the time on social media. I just want to pull the author aside and tell them their FB page is their storefront and it is decorated with hate and hysteria. Is that what they were intending?

We all have a right to be offended and we should be offended. Being offended has its place and is it at the heart of all great social change. But offended all the time? Frankly, no one really wants to be around those people long-term. It costs us health, peace, friends and yes, even money. Most people won’t remember every detail of what we say or do, but…

People will always remember how we made them feel when in our company.

So when I post anything I always ask how that might make others feel. That is my litmus on-line.

My Feed is the Adult Table


In the ten years I have been on Facebook I had never unfriended anyone because of their beliefs, even those beliefs that are vastly different than mine. I still won’t. I love your uniqueness and have no interest in making you a clone of me.

The world can barely handle ONE of me, LOL.

But over the past couple of months? I have begun setting firmer boundaries. At first I will unfollow people who are just constantly negative (no matter their beliefs) and only unfriend if I can’t seem to escape any other way.

I don’t want that in my feed. I see too much of this junk already. I go to the gym and every treadmill faces a WALL of nonstop news. I don’t know whether my heart rate is up because I’m keeping a good pace running or if I am furious at the news.

Thus, when I get on social media? I don’t want to be surrounded by relentless rage, a constant stream of negativity and hate.

My FB is the adult table. Adults can discuss and debate and talk without coming emotionally unhinged. Adults talk on a variety of subjects. Children whine and complain. Adults can see something they disagree with and move on. Children rant and rave and stuff digital peas up their noses.

I used to befriend everyone who said they were a writer and still do. But, if this person is then consistently acting unprofessional?  I don’t have time for amateur hour. I am only interested in interacting with other authors who value their own reputation and the reason is simple. If they don’t respect their own name and reputation, why would they respect mine? We can’t give what we don’t have.

Now when anyone sends me a request? I look at their feed first and see if this is the kind of positive and professional energy I want to incorporate into my life.

We Need to GROW UP

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Joel Kramer

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Joel Kramer

I would love for every person using social media to do this, but every human on social media is not my concern. I am talking to authors who want to cultivate a platform filled with either readers, or at least with people who enrich their lives so they can write more books and better books.

Granted, I would love for every person who follows me on social media to buy my books, but selling books is not my sole purpose. I am on social media to reach out. To love and encourage and serve. To bring laughter and education. To brighten a dark day. I am also on social media to be fed and enriched and enlightened by others, but that only happens in the presence of respectful and thoughtful adults.

The same boundaries we place on children? Sadly, sometimes we need those on-line.

For those of you who might be feeling battered and war-weary on-line? You have a right to set boundaries. Gentle at first (unfollow) and if that doesn’t work? You do have the right to unfriend, to remove recalcitrant children and replace them with thoughtful grownups. We are authors not babysitters.

This is not censorship. Censorship is if we reported everyone we disagreed with to FB to get their page taken down. Setting boundaries is your right and it is necessary for emotional health.

Adults don’t mind posts here and there about politics, even when they disagree. They don’t mind a petition now and again. The DO mind a soap box getting planted on their heads every day. They are getting weary of armchair activists and they are quietly unfollowing and unfriending when we fail to be respectful.

I am so honored to serve all of you and I know each and every one of you will change the world. I hope you do and I can’t wait to see you do it!

What are your thoughts? I love hearing from you! What are your thoughts? Concerns?

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, 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).


Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! 

All you need is an internet connection!

NEW CLASS!!!! How to Maximize Your Earning Potential as a Full-Time Author Learn from Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg in your HOME. This series is normally $400 but W.A.N.A. is offering it for $199.

Branding Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE social media classes, ONE low price. Only $99. It is literally getting one class for FREE!!!! 

Craft Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE craft classes, ONE low price. Only $89. One class is FREE!!!! Includes my new class The Art of Character.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 28th

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors February 10th, 2017

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 2017

Blogging for Authors February 3rd

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


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Why the Fashion Industry is Dying—Laughing at Salad & Cleavage Snacks


Today we are going to talk about something a bit different, but maybe this might inspire your fiction, because if the world changes guarantee you a writer was behind it 😉 .

As I was perusing Facebook Friday evening, I came across an article that gave me an odd reaction. It made me want to stand and cheer, yet at the same time, rail at the heavens for the unfairness of it all. Tim Gunn from Project Runway leveled his crosshairs on the fashion industry. OMG I so love him for doing it, too.


A Plus-Sized Problem

According to Washington State University, there are over 100 million plus-sized women. The average woman now wears between a size 16 and a size 18 and yet plus sizes are almost never represented in fashion and if they are, the clothes are…ridiculous.

Most are passive-aggressive jabs at overweight women.

I am no longer a plus size, but I still recall the day I finally had to venture into the plus-sized section at a department store. I remember sinking into a corner and crying. I had always loved clothes but these weren’t clothes.

They were punishment.

In ways I still have this problem. The misogynist attitude of the fashion industry is all around. I am no longer plus size, but I am not a human stick either. I’m a healthy size 8-10-12-14-16.

Women will get that joke 😉 .

And I have…oh dear, this is so embarrassing. I actually have…I can’t believe I am admitting this. I have *whispers* …..boobs.

I KNOW! Right? Who would have thought that women actually come equipped with BOOBS?

And sorry, no, even Barbie would be crying these days because her shirts would runch up over her bust every time she moved her arms.

The fashion industry is not interested in Barbie. She still has girl parts…and cleavage snacks.

Even the mannequins can’t keep up.

Help those with no voice!

Uh-oh. Who gave the mannequin boobs?

The fashion industry is failing to appreciate that most of the women who need clothes actually have hit puberty. Many of us have even had children (sort of necessary for the continuing survival of the human race and all) and we have hips.

And I get well-meaning advice that I should ignore what is being elevated at “beautiful”, but the problem is that this distorted sense of what is “beautiful” affects what I am able to buy.


Shoot me.

Um, when did MATCHSTICKS become sexy?

Um, when did MATCHSTICKS become sexy?

When I have a selection of 42 variations of skinny jeans and shirts that ride up over my bust-line? It makes it tough to buy clothes. Of course, then I catch $#!* for living in yoga pants but nothing frigging fits.

It’s yet another passive-aggressive jab at aging women.

Older women just let themselves go.

All my life I have struggled because I wasn’t “thin enough,” and now I am no longer “young enough.”

Oh dear GOD! The horror! Kristen please stop. First you tell us you are female and now you are getting old? We can’t take it!

I know. I am so sorry.

Where are the Women?

Why can’t I be in a fashion magazine too? A real fashion magazine just for ME and my grown-up gal pals?

A magazine that doesn’t have me standing with a frying pan grinning over “Skinny Fried Chicken?” Or laughing at salad. What the hell is so funny about SALAD?

Maybe a forty or fifty-something woman might have amazing legs and love shoes. We still love mascara and buy it. Some of us even look pretty good in it.


We love hair! Some of us a little too much. We are called Texans 😛 .


Do we all have to be fawning over laundry detergent or adult diapers? Or grinning at yogurt? No wonder women are terrified of getting older. We disappear! Why is it that the only over-60 woman featured on the cover of Vanity Fair in a bustier used to be a man? Why not a sexy cover with Jessica Lange? Why does Lange get a turtleneck (1996) and Jenner get a bustier (2015)?

I see all these magazines geared toward the thirty and younger crowd, but the industry is virtually silent when it comes to the largest population in the country.

The one that is AGING.

In fashion, it’s no challenge to design clothes that flatter a teenage underweight flat-chested giantess. There are no “obstacles” *wink, wink* to work around. No wrinkles or a wider middle from having children.

Is it because us older gals might actually pose a challenge? We might make them think creatively, beyond sticking a bird cage in an up-do or a lampshade on our a$$?

Same with the articles. Seems to me it is far simpler to advise a twenty-something who’s never been married about sex and dating, than a forty-five-year-old who is out-earning her male counterparts and has grandchildren and an elderly parent to take care of.

Dare we talk about the fifty-something woman who likes sexting her…husband?

Oh no, Kristen. You have just gone too far.

Yes, I Want to Be Like Barbie


Untouched photo. I’m almost 43…and love shiny things.

The world is obsessed with giving young girls role models, which is awesome. They need dolls that aren’t all about fashion, that are astronauts and police officers and doctors. GREAT! They need different body types. The New York Times was all gaga over Mattel creating dolls of different shapes and sizes and heights and ethnicities.

Okay, fashion industry. Could you take a hint from a DOLL company? Yes, I want to be like Barbie. She is finally allowed to be short, tall, fluffy, skinny, busty, or even have glasses. Maybe one day she will even be allowed to grow old (Hey, I can dream, right?).

We don’t grow out of needing role models.

Would women be Botoxing and cutting on themselves until they resembled a missing cast member of The Muppets if they had a healthy selection of women who were aging well to model after?

Most of us have no frigging clue how we are supposed to look for our age. We are surrounded by teenagers or models Photoshopped to resemble wrinkle-free teenagers. We are sold anti-aging serums by models who aren’t old enough to be using the product.

Hollywood will keep casting Jason Statham as an action hero until they have to use CGI to conceal his walker and orthopedic shoes, but what about Lucy Lawless? Why do we have Rocky XVI but no remake of Xena?

You want to see BEAUTIFUL women of all ages? Check out my Pinterest board Old Women Dressing and Behaving Badly.

MORE is Less

Want a good laugh? Peruse the magazines that are supposed to be speaking to mature women. Initially I was excited about MORE Magazine, because it was supposed to fill that gap and give women over 30 their own fashion magazine.

Unfortunately, when I picked up a print copy (among their first), I was crushed to realize it was just a Good Housekeeping retread. Lots of pictures of gardens and decorating and food and the only articles with actual older models revolved around how we could look younger and thinner.

I’m not kidding. And it hasn’t changed.

Check out the on-line Beauty Section. All kinds of articles about how to braid hair! Aaaand it’s just a bunch of twenty-year-olds with braids. ALL the articles have young models…unless you count the article about how to reverse aging naturally.

Bite me, More Magazine. Just bite me. Because anyone old enough to buy a house no longer wears braids.


And O Magazine offers more of the same. Articles about all the best plastic surgery or how to dress around my “problem” of being too short or too busty.

Why is it MY problem and not the fashion industry’s problem?

Industry in Crisis

But then magazines complain, “No one is buying magazines anymore and the Internet and Pinterest and whine whine whine” Retailers complain and are closing stores at a record pace (I.e. Macy’s).

Is it the economy? Or are department stores and malls now ghost towns because retailers have nothing to offer us. They are all clamoring for the attention of the group with the lowest disposable income who are on Instagram instead of at the mall?

Tim Gunn is baffled at why designers are ignoring plus-sized women, and a potential 20+ BILLION dollar industry, but I am even more perplexed why they are ignoring women over 40.

And for those of us over 40 who are plus-sized? We…are…doomed.

We older women (all sizes) need more than the three currently available looks: Tragic Pole Dancer, DMV Employee and Woman at Church Who Brings Casseroles.

But it IS Changing

Part of why I wrote this blog is I saw THIS over the weekend and I am now madly, deeply in love with H&M. I want to be HER when I grow up.



H&M is also featuring a 60 year old swimsuit model!!!! Because apparently someone has figured out that women over 30 still wear SWIMSUITS! I am hoping this marks a meaningful shift because aging is a gift denied to many. If we take care of ourselves, we will spend DECADES being considered “old” unless we change things.

I want to be in love with my older face and older body. I want to embrace the curves I earned with bringing a son into the world. Pregnancy didn’t “wreck my figure,” it evolved it.

I want to enjoy my laugh lines not be attacking them with needles and lasers. I want to be able to look up to more women like Gillean McLeod who show me I will one day still be beautiful, just a different kind of beautiful.

Above everything, I want little girls to grow up and one day have permission to be women & to love being WOMEN.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel invisible? Are you excited about what H&M is doing? Would you love a Xena remake with Lucy? Would you love more fashion models who were mature women? Do you struggle with cleavage snacks? Are they considered calorie-free?

Can you think of some stories or characters who give us grown-up women heroes? I miss Golden Girls, personally. Hey, erotica authors. Y’all could give new meaning to “Hot Flash” 😀 .

And I know they do this crap to the men, too just differently. But if it makes the guys feel better, check out this Japanese runway model who is ALMOST EIGHTY! Hubby was ecstatic.

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Check out the other NEW classes below! Including How to Write the Dreaded Synopsis/Query Letter! 

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes


Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS

You’ve written a novel and now are faced with the two most terrifying challenges all writers face. The query and the synopsis.

Query letters can be daunting. How do you sell yourself? Your work? How can you stand apart without including glitter in your letter?


Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

Most writers would rather cut their wrists with a spork than be forced to write the dreaded…synopsis. Yet, this is a valuable skills all writers should learn.

Sign up early for $10 OFF!!!

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 16th

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

Log-lines are crucial for understanding the most important detail, “WHAT is the story ABOUT?” If we can’t answer this question in a single sentence? Brain surgery with a spork will be easier than writing a synopsis. Pitching? Querying? A nightmare. Revisions will also take far longer and can be grossly ineffective.

As authors, we tend to think that EVERY detail is important or others won’t “get” our story. Not the case.

If we aren’t pitching an agent, the log-line is incredibly beneficial for staying on track with a novel or even diagnosing serious flaws within the story before we’ve written an 80,000 word disaster. Perhaps the protagonist has no goal or a weak goal. Maybe the antagonist needs to be stronger or the story problem clearer.

In this one-hour workshop, I will walk you through how to encapsulate even the most epic of tales into that dreadful “elevator pitch.” We will cover the components of a strong log-line and learn red flags telling us when we need to dig deeper. The last hour of class we will workshop log-lines.

The first ten signups will be used as examples that we will workshop in the second hour of class. So get your log-line fixed for FREE by signing up ASAP.

Blogging for Authors

September 17th

Blogging is one of the most powerful forms of social media. Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.

The best part is, done properly, a blog plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers write.

The problem is too many writers don’t approach a blog properly and make all kinds of mistakes that eventually lead to blog abandonment. Many authors fail to understand that bloggers and author bloggers are two completely different creatures.

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



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Lighten the HELL UP! Combatting the Plague of Self-Importance

Jester Baby from Scarborough Faire

Jester Baby from Scarborough Faire

There is a lot of “stuff” going on in the world and many of us are hiding from our Facebook feeds. This is a scary blog to post (and is actually a repost) but I think maybe people need to hear what I am going to say…again.


It’s life and none of us are getting out alive.

This blog started when I ran across a post from Yahoo, Is America Starting to Target Thought Crime? In the past two years since I originally posted this, the emotions of our world have hit a boiling point. Remember that violence isn’t the only way to let off steam (though some unimaginative people seem to think it is). The other and preferable?


Too Dangerous to Laugh

First, a little bit of history. In the days when monarchies were all the rage, there was one very powerful position some might not be aware of…the court jester. Every ruler had at least one jester and the jester was allowed to mock, poke fun and joke about those in power without repercussions.

The role of the jester was to offer honesty and perspective. Monarchs knew that being surrounded by too many Yes Men who feared reprisal was unwise and dangerous. The jester’s job was to ground rulers and keep them from getting too full of themselves.

I’ve been blessed to travel more than most people ever will, and not all my destinations were nice places. One thing every police state has in common is that no one has a sense of humor. Even innocent comments can be twisted into something dangerous because one is in a world where everyone is jockeying for even the slightest wedge of importance, even when it means bending the truth. Those closest can become “whistle-blowers” against crimes imagined or real. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Charlie Chaplin. Image vie Wikimedia Commons

Charlie Chaplin. Image vie Wikimedia Commons

Public Pool Politics

Sadly, I’ve been at the other end of this. I love to laugh and relish in making others smile. Put me in a room and I’ll have them in stitches in less than five minutes. My teaching style has been compared to “If Robin Williams had taught writing.” When I was a kid I studied every comedic act down to the timing and tone of voice.

In 1999 I traveled with my best friend to live in a Palestinian refugee camp. Since my Arabic was less than stellar, it was tough. Syria, like all places, has its beauty. I loved the food and people and believed I’d made some friends.

One day, my guides took me to enjoy some recreation at the women’s pool where the hijab can be set aside to splash around and let loose. Being the only blonde many of these women had ever seen off a television, I was soon surrounded by eager friendly faces asking questions about my home, wanting to know about Texas and if I had a job.

In my broken Arabic I made jokes and got them to laugh. We parted ways and I was happy as a clam. The next day, my hosts warned me that it was too dangerous to return to the pool and to stay away. Apparently, one of the women had spread through the camp that I was talking smack about Assad Sr. (the ruling dictator of the time).


I’d never even mentioned Assad. Yes, I was a naive Westerner but I wasn’t THAT stupid. My last weeks there were pretty scary and I’ve never been so relieved to be on a plane.

One pivotal lesson I took away from this experience is this:

A nation is only as free as its sense of humor.

When innocent remarks, observations or disagreements can be used against us? This is a MAJOR warning we are no longer in a free country. When certain groups are immune from criticism, jest or commentary? Houston, we have a problem.

The PC and EC Divide

I know the original purpose of political correctness was well-intended. I’m sure EC (empathetic correctness) has good intentions as well. But the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I was a child of the 70s and 80s and often think it was a really golden time to grow up. My best friend from the age of six was an Egyptian Muslim (and we are still friends almost thirty years later).

Our neighborhood gang consisted of Charo (Mexican), Ngyuen (Vietnamese), and Regina (African American), Veenah (Indian), Cathy (Jewish), Elizabeth (Mexican), and Erica (Choctaw)…and none of us were aware of that.

We were friends who karate fought in the yard because Ngyuen was Asian and so he was supposed to be a Kung Fu master, right? Veenah helped with science and Charo taught us soccer, because Indians were smart and Mexicans were good at soccer.

Regina made us laugh because she was black and loud and fun and could Double Dutch so well we were sure she was a cyborg. Erica could decorate our hair with feathers and we could play Navy SEAL Indian Princess. Cathy declined to join us for Vacation Bible School because she was going to Jewish Camp (and we never understood why we couldn’t go to Jewish camp because the Jewish pool was AWESOME).

And all of this is racist and utterly politically incorrect.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stephen Depolo.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stephen Depolo.

We never knew we might offend Charo by asking him to teach us to bounce a soccer ball on our knee. We never realized how we might damage Ngyuen by assuming he’d trained in a Shaolin temple and that we didn’t even have the right country.

I didn’t know I should have been ashamed to play Indian Princess with Erica or that I might hurt Regina by offering to share my slice of summer watermelon. I should have been aware that I might harm Veenah by asking for her help with my science project. In high school, perhaps I shouldn’t have asked my best friend and date to the Senior Prom, Donnie (gay), for fashion advice.

I was blissfully uneducated about how offensive I was.

We just loved each other, grew up loving each other and still love each other. Gihan (my Muslim friend) and I are still good friends and have been since 1981 (when Kristen had no Gaydar and was in love with George Michael *sighs*).

I still talk with Charo on FB and meet ever so often for dinner with other members of our gang. Erica invites me to birthday parties for her children. I was Ngyuen’s prom date when I was a junior and we only lost touch when he joined the Marines. I still go by his father’s house when I’m in the area even though his English hasn’t really improved since 1983…but he still loves me. Donnie and I talk long into the night when he isn’t exploring the world.

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, Loyal, Friendly, Resilient MUTT

We grew up in an America of Mutts. I’m not saying that everything was roses and unicorn kisses, but we were American and America was stronger because we could blend all these cultures and races together. Children had this strange appreciation that we all bled the same color when we fell off the monkey bars. We cared less about the color of your skin and more about the color of your bike. They have BLUE????

We could tell the difference between a joke in love and someone being a racist bigot and Lord help the kid who crossed that line.

We were kids who wanted to roller-skate and who constructed ramps, guns, and swords out of every discarded piece of wood. In the glow of a streetlight everyone was pretty much the same color.

Bullfrogs ran from all of us.

No One’s Laughing Anymore

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

These days, I find myself less prone to joke or make conversation with others of a different ethnicity or culture because, bluntly, it’s exhausting and I always seem to screw it up. I find myself hedging everything I say, backpedaling, and struggling to remember my proper and approved PC vocabulary.

I once was trying to be polite when I referred to someone as Hispanic…only to be razed for the next half hour how this person was from Argentina and NOT Hispanic and I was a jerk for not knowing this. I referred to someone as African American only to get my tail handed to me that this person was from Jamaica and didn’t like that term and it figured a white girl would be so insensitive.

If someone is mixed race? *breaks down weeping*

When others make comments about me being a racist simply because I’m white and I point out that I actually have probably the most diverse group of friends anyone could ask for…well that’s precisely what a racist would say: “I have black friends.” But *stammering* I do have black, I mean African American I mean…oh, hell I give up.

This Affects ALL of U.S.

This isn’t a phenomena exclusive to “white people,” either. I remember my husband coming home from work distraught. He worked in Corporate America at the time. One of his team members was Mexican (as in her parents immigrated from Mexico and happily embraced the American Dream). Well, on Cinco de Mayo a fellow employee (also Mexican) asked her if she was going out to celebrate with “her people.” She gave him a genuinely confused look and said, “Huh? My people? I’m American.”

The next day she was being written up by Human Resources for being culturally insensitive. Her coworker found her offensive and turned her in. My husband was having to write out her defense. A MEXICAN female was in trouble for not being Mexican enough?

How does this make any SENSE?

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The real crisis in the country is we are laughing less and less. Everyone is special and fragile and needs to be handled with care. PC was to make us more sensitive and BOY did it work. Our nation has the skin of a grape. Self-importance is taking over like a malignant cancer. We walk on eggshells to avoid “offending” someone. We no longer can make mistakes. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

For anyone reading this who is a “person of color” please try and talk to a “white” person. They probably aren’t a racist, they’re simply terrified they’ll say something stupid. And then being terrified we will say something stupid…we say something stupid.

So if we do say something stupid, just forgive us.

I AM the Reason for Many Blonde Jokes

Actual image of Kristen's Guardian Angel

Actual image of Kristen’s Guardian Angel

As much as I read about theoretical physics, math, politics, economics, I can be…well, an idiot. I drove my Honda for three years and all the while heard this weird whistling that I couldn’t get rid of. One night, I’m in a drive thru line and accidentally hit a button near the steering wheel and discovered my car had a sunroof *head desk*.

I once accidentally drove to MISSOURI.

Kill me now and keep me from breeding.

Just leaving all of this to say we need to laugh more. Because, come on, white people…THIS IS FUNNY!

I mean *sniffs* we do love cheese, but insensitive MUCH? 😛

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 11.17.08 AMThe world is amazing and fun but we have got to lighten UP. Yes, seek out legitimate injustice and crush it. I’ll be behind you a thousand percent.

But in the meantime….

Maybe we should all go outside and catch lightning bugs and make the longest Slip-And-Slide EVER. I get my lawn bags from Costco, so maybe we could make it reach DC ;).

I love all of you and thank you so much for blessing me with your thoughts and stories. I am a better person every day because of you. And know I was scared to write about this and that should speak volumes in itself.

But, I miss just being a kid. I don’t want to be an adult anymore.

If anyone reading this is an Ecuadorian Hassidic Jew, can we be friends? I don’t have an Ecuadorian Hassidic Jewish friend. Yes, you can dress me up but you can’t take me anywhere 😀 .

What are your thoughts? I love hearing from you, unless you have no sense of humor. Then might I recommend posting on AT&Ts Facebook page…

What are you? I’m a Scandinavian-Scottish-French-Huegenot-Sami-Cherokee. ADD THAT to your diversity portfolio!

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).

May’s winner will be announced next time 😀 . I know I said this time but life happens and I am a writer and we lie.

Upcoming Classes

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Again, I am trying something new and offering an open and interactive workshop. Is your first page strong enough to withstand the fire?

Battle of the First Pages

June 16th, 7-9 EST. Cost $25

This is an interactive experience similar to a gong show. We will upload the first page and I will “gong” when I would have stopped reading and explain why. We will explore what each writer has done right or even wrong or how the page could be better. This workshop is two hours long and limited seats available so get your spot as soon as you can!

So You Want to Write a Novel 

June 17th, 7-9 EST. Cost is $35

Just because we made As in high school or college English does not instantly qualify us to be great novelists. Writing a work that can span anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000+ words requires training. This class is for the person who is either considering writing a novel or who has written a novel(s) and is struggling.

We will cover the essentials of genre, plot, character, dialogue and prose. This class will provide you with the tools necessary to write lean and clean and keep revisions to a minimum.

Character & Plotting (NEW CLASS!)

June 24th, 2015 7:00-9:00 P.M. EST. Cost is $35

All great plots are birthed from character. The core plot problem should be the crucible that eventually reveals a hero in Act III. This means that characterization and plot are inextricably linked. Weak plot, weak character. Blasé character, blasé plot.

This class will teach you how to create dimensional characters and then how to plot from inner demons and flaws. Get inside the heads and hearts of your characters in a way that drives and tightens dramatic tension.

This is an excellent class for anyone who wants to learn how to plot faster and to add layers to their characters.

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


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Advantages in DISadvantages—Does Our Culture Really Value “Normal”?

Image via Amber West WANA Commons

Image via Amber West WANA Commons

Last time, when we talked about Barnes & Noble, I mentioned a book by Malcolm Gladwell David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.  This is a really interesting book because Gladwell peels apart our common perceptions of what an advantage really is. Sometimes, that which others claim is undesirable really isn’t.

It is merely different.

Right now I am at a weird crossroads and admittedly I am a bit scared because I am deviating outside the “accepted.” For those who don’t know, my son The Spawn (Age 5) has had an interesting road. When he was two and a half, he had all four front teeth knocked up into the maxilla and had to have them surgically removed. Twenty thousand dollars in maxo-facial surgery later, we had a little bat.

This created some problems. Obviously, his speech suffered the most. His third word was dinosaur. Before the accident, I figured he’d be like I was and be speaking in full sentences before the age of three.


The best laid plans of mice and men and all. Anyway, his speech has obviously been delayed. Then, on top of this, he is incredibly analytical like his father.

When Spawn was a baby, we had a family friend living with us for a time. I’d discover advanced puzzles all over the house neatly solved and tucked away. I assumed she was picking up after Spawn (the toddler). Only later I discovered that he was solving them. Though they were meant for far older children, he solved them with ease.

Spawn writing his memoirs.

Spawn writing his memoirs.

He also plays XBox and can beat a game at the most advanced level in about two days. The same games it took his father and I weeks to unravel.

But good luck understanding him.

When he was barely four, he was “fired” from preschool because he liked zombies too much.

Teacher: We had an incident on the playground. Your son was pretending to be a zombie and it was freaking out the other kids.

Me: Was he biting them?

Teacher: No.

Me: Was he grabbing or touching them?

Teacher: No.

Me: Well then what exactly was he doing?

Teacher: Wandering around with a blank look and moaning.

Me: Sounds like every bureaucrat I ever met. What’s the problem?

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Anyway, he is supposed to go off to Kindergarden this year and I am going to homeschool because I feel our culture labels anyone who does not fit neatly into a standardized bell curve as “disabled” or “disadvantaged” or with a “disorder.” The reason I know this is that my own school years were hell because of this type of thinking.

Before we continue, know that these are MY opinions and MY beliefs from MY own experience. As I stare at my baby bat, all I can think of is the nightmare that school was for me.

Kristen was/is NOT Normal

Before it went BOOM!

Before it went BOOM!

Though I was gifted verbally, I was in trouble all the time. Seriously. ALL the time. I don’t even remember my third grade classroom. I remember the HALL. I had a terrible time paying attention to one thing at a time and sitting behind a desk.

Guess what? Thirty-five years later nothing has changed.

My mom was rather revolutionary in her parenting. She didn’t care if I did my homework hanging from the curtains wearing a tutu so long as I got it done. Results were all that mattered. Typically, I would spread all my books on my bed, play Tchaikovsky really loudly (over and over and, yes OVER), and do all my subjects at one time. I would do a math problem or two, then flip over to science, then color, then more math. I was most productive when I was doing a lot of things all at one time and I always made perfect scores.

I found that if a math problem was giving me a fit, that shifting subjects helped. I could do something right-brained (write an essay) and my subconscious would often sort out the answer to the math problem (a left-brained dilemma).

Then I would get to class. *head desk*

Kristen talks too much.

Kristen doesn’t use time wisely.

Kristen doesn’t pay attention.

Kristen Circa Third Grade

Kristen Circa Third Grade

I had to be moving in order to think. I still do. My brain doesn’t work as well if I’m still.

I asked “Why?” too much. In fifth grade, when the other kids were content to gulp down that no life could possibly exist in the Hadalpelagic Zone of the ocean because there was no sunlight for photosynthesis, I questioned

What if there are creatures that don’t need sunlight? Creatures that have some other source to convert into usable energy? If various combinations of salts can power a lightbulb, why couldn’t a living organism do something similar?

***Yes, I was ten at the time of this debate and ended up in the hall….yet again.

Imagine how vindicated I felt when years later, scientists discovered there were lifeforms that used volcanic vents and employed chemosynthesis to survive in such an extreme ecosystem (converting chemicals into usable energy).

I remember later in the fifth grade I got into an argument with the same teacher who gave me an F. She’d handed us a maze and the object (per the instructions) was to solve the maze. I began at the end and worked to the beginning and solved it in less than ten seconds (while the rest of the class had barely begun).

My teacher claimed that was cheating and failed me. I told her that the instructions never said which WAY I had to solve the maze, only to solve it.

Anyway, long story short, I am the reason for the current Texas truancy laws. My teachers were nothing short of cruel to me. Rare was the teacher who appreciated my energy. I was a high school drop out twice and labeled as a person with a learning disorder. I scored so low on my SATs they had to check me for a pulse.

A learning disorder.

So because my brain doesn’t work like everyone else’s I have a “disorder”?

Advantage in the “Dis”advantage

What was fascinating about Gladwell’s book, is he talks about the staggering percentage of successful “geniuses” who suffer from dyslexia. A recent study puts it at about a third and the list includes people like Richard Branson, the British billionaire entrepreneur, Charles Schwab (financial genius), Craig McCaw (cell phone pioneer), the founder of JetBlue David Neeleman, John Chambers the CEO of tech giant Cisco, etc. Einstein was a dyslexic, so was Walt Disney.

Y’all get the point.

Toss in ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, etc. and I would venture to say that “normal” isn’t very “normal” among the extraordinary. What I find so perplexing is that it seems every parent wants a “child genius” but the second it looks like the kid might not be “normal” in come the meds and therapy.

Two hyper peas in a pod.

Two hyper peas in a pod.

Which leads me to ask: Are we medicating out the very genius we say we value? I know in my late 20s I conceded to meds to “control” my “disorder” and it was hell. All my creativity evaporated and I was lost. I fell into deep depression.

Finally, I just accepted I was Abby Normal and rolled with it. I left Corporate America because I simply did not do well sitting behind a desk. Instead of staying in a traditional job (where I was also in trouble ALL the time), I changed tactics and became an entrepreneur.

I am the person who wrote almost a half a million words in one year. I’ve written almost two million words in blogs alone. I run two businesses and blog and write and teach. I also am almost a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and I help teach the kid’s BJJ class three days a week (Mommy-Spawn time). Rumor has it, sometimes I even clean my house 😀 .

Yet, I appreciate that while my “Disability” comes with a number of advantages (high energy, high creativity) it has some downsides. I have to be extra careful to be more self-disciplined and finish what I start.

Anyway, when it comes to The Spawn, I hope to give him the same freedom to be uniquely HIM that my mom did for me. Frankly, had she not been so free with me at home, I probably would have grown up believing I was damaged (like the schools told me). Ergo my decision to homeschool.

What Does the Future Hold?

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This does make me think. The public education system was created in the Industrial Revolution to create educated workers for the future. But the system was educating future employees of a factory-model system. Now that factories have gone to China and Mexico, how wise is it to discount those who are nonlinear thinkers? How much advantage do we gain retraining them to think in “accepted” ways because it is easier?

We live in a multimedia society that demands multitasking. In fact, most jobs require that we do more than one thing at a time and that we be able to shift tasks quickly and easily. So what exactly do we gain by claiming something is wrong with a kid because he/she can’t focus for an hour or more on ONE thing?

And I am not saying there is anything “wrong” with “normal”, only that maybe it is idealized too much. Also, I more than resent being told I have a “disorder.”

Our culture is biased against introverts the same way. Because a kid isn’t super social and chatty and prefers to be alone, something is “wrong.” We encourage all this talking when the world would be a far better place of people did more listening. We idealize the extrovert at the expense of the introverts. Similarly, we idealize “normal” and anyone who is outside this model has a “disorder.”

Which is utterly ironic because the most valued innovators in human history were anything but NORMAL. In fact, I wonder if “normal” won’t go extinct in the next 20 years.

Before the advent of the printed word, humans had prodigious memories and learned orally and kinesthetically. Then, sure, once we ventured into a print paradigm and an industrial model, paying attention to ONE thing for long periods of time and thinking/learning linearly and via print were advantages.

But what about in a multimedia world?

Are we seeing a rise in learning “disabilities” or are we seeing evidence of the human brain’s amazing plasticity? That the brain is simply adapting to drastic social change?

We try to make kids “normal” but we VALUE those who are different. We also say we value creativity, but then label or medicate anyone who is different. Seems we are conflicted, to say the least.

Definitely food for thought.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a learning “disorder”? Does it bother you to be labeled in such a way simply for being different? Do you think our culture is Janus-faced? We “say” we want innovators but then we label them as something undesirable?

Quick Announcement: Due to popular demand, I am rerunning my Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages at the end of the month and I am doing something different. Gold Level includes me looking (and shredding your first five) but I have added in some higher levels and will look at up to 20 pages. This can be really useful if you’re stuck. I can help you diagnose the problems. It’s also a great deal if you have to submit to an agent and want to make your work the best it can be.

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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). 

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

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Truth, Lies & Social Media




We live in a wonderful world. We are connected more than ever. Through Facebook, I’ve connected with friends and family that I couldn’t even FIND before 2005 without hiring a P.I. Through this blog, I am able to help authors all over the world and that is wonderful. I’m able to keep up with all kinds of news and world events and be a better citizen.

But all this technology has a steep price and we are wise to remain vigilant. Lately some things have me really overwhelmed (verklempt) so let’s chat.

Tawk amongst yuhselves. Just do what Barbara does….


Social media sites like Facebook now keep us abreast of all the horrible happenings in the world. In a way this is good. In the “old days” news and opinions were filtered through media gatekeepers. And sure, news is supposed to be unbiased, but so long as humans are relaying the news, that ain’t ever going to happen.

Thus, social media does bring attention to problems that might have been missed by the mainstream media. I support freedom of speech (even for those I don’t agree with), but I would like to talk about what information we are sharing. And, yeah, yeah, I am opening a can of worms, but someone has to do it…

The “Truth” About Statistics

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 12.04.07 PM

I have a degree in Political Science. Few things will ruin you more than taking a class on Political Statistics. Just let me tell you Mark Twain was right when he said, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” Put this way, I can make a poll or study say anything I want. All I have to do is:

Change the wording of questions, the number of questions, the order of questions. Adjust the time the poll or surveys is taken or the place. Adjust the number of people surveyed. Adjust the pool of people surveyed. Adjust the definitions.

For instance, (and forgive me for relying on memory here so this is just an anecdotal example) when I was taking a Women in Politics class, there was a survey at a California university that came to the conclusion that over 90% of women had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by the time they reached 25. Of course, when one peeled back the survey, those conducting this research defined sexual assault very broadly to “any unwanted advance” which included any unwanted hug, shoulder/arm touch, compliment or comment.

Under that definition? How 10% of women escaped “being repeatedly sexually assaulted” is nothing short of miraculous.

Of course, one can get an idea of how “accurate” the poll is by looking at the fine print as to how the “study” was conducted, but how many people actually do that? How many people know to do that?

Thus, when stuff gets passed around on social media claiming that” 75% of all people who licked frogs later used heroin and thus frogs are clearly a gateway drug that should be stopped”…I stop to think it through before sharing.


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Keep in mind that there will always be a study to counter another study. The same American Heart Association that told us I Can’t Believe It Ever Came From Nature was the cure for heart disease now has studies that led to removing those exact same trans-fats from the shelves.

So take “studies” and “polls” with a grain of salt (or salt-substitute).

Lack of Info in Info-Graphics

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 12.09.27 PM

Info-graphics make me twitch, namely because most of the time they are grossly misleading, have an agenda and are often inaccurate. More often than not, the only purpose they serve is to tick people off and make them emotional.

For instance, there was some info-graphic comparing the number of people killed by police in the U.K. versus the U.S. All right. Problem was, it used a whole number and not a per capita percentage. Thus, when people get a look, they go, “OMG! American police are so AWFUL! Why can’t they be like the U.K.?” How many take time to go?

“Um, wait a minute. We aren’t comparing equal things.”

This info-graphic was like comparing the number of car accident fatalities in Montana to Los Angeles.

OMG! Los Angeles is murdering people with CARS!


They have a lot more people driving a lot more cars. Los Angeles has a far higher population density. This is akin to comparing the number of deaths by bear attacks in Canada with those in Mexico.

Mexico clearly handles bear attacks way better than those “polite” Canadians because there are NO bear attacks in Mexico. What is Canada HIDING? 

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Thus, anything that uses a whole number to compare X to Y? Be wary.

Yellow Journalism

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As a blogger, I love that I don’t have to query gatekeepers to express an opinion. Problem is, I don’t have to query gatekeepers to express an opinion. This means I can say whatever I want and pretty much be immune from the rigorous fact-checking standards traditional journalists are held to.

What bugs me is there are all kinds of sites that use “journalistic titles” to seem like they are legit, when all they are doing is spreading propaganda bunk. Our job is to use those critical thinking skills to call foul. Often these sites will post “articles” on emotional events (namely because they get paid for advertising and every click-through is a ka-ching!).

I don’t care for these sites at all, even those who might be people I agree with ideologically. The reason is that when we read a blogger, we know we are getting an op ed piece. When a site puts “news” or “journal” or something similar in the title, this is misrepresentation.

This is a long way to say, “Consider the source” 😉 . Remember, we are the new Gatekeepers.

False Logic

One tool I see passed around social media is the False Logic to rile people up. I’ve grown up in the Bible Belt and wasn’t allowed to play with other kids because we watched Scooby Doo and wore pants and that was proof we were bound for hell.

Yeah, whatever. Different strokes for different folks.

One of the reasons I didn’t go to Baylor University even though they had a premium debate team (and debate was my thing) was because it is a Baptist university. Being a Baptist University (and a PRIVATE university) they didn’t allow dancing and required females wear skirts, which they have a right to do.

Guess what? I like to dance. I also hate skirts…namely because my thighs rub together. In that case, I didn’t have to GO there. I went to…*GASP* another college.

Last week, I saw all these stories passed around because a school sent a 5 year-old home for wearing a dress that showed her shoulders. At first glance? OMG! Religious HATERS. Slut-shaming a CHILD!

Here’s the thing, the parents were likely given a dress code at the beginning of the year. FOLLOW THE DRESS CODE. It is simple. If you don’t like it? Challenge it, change schools or homeschool. And I don’t care that your kid “wore it to church and the church had no problem with her showing her shoulders” because that church likely…had a different dress code.

I also don’t care that there were no “male-specific” rules that were similar. When it becomes chic for boys to wear tube tops, I’m sure that will be addressed in the code and you completely missed the point. Follow the RULES.

Also, the school might not be shaming your girls, they might just be concerned that if she plays on the monkey bars, a dress like that might just come OFF and, while she might nail that dismount from the monkey bars, she might also be missing her dress and standing there in nothing but sneakers and Wonder Woman panties.

…which happened to me in third grade and I still carry the hurt.

I’m really not that motivated to rally behind people who can’t follow basic instructions.

Sometimes stories really aren’t political. Really.

Ad Hominem Attacks

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I don’t like any kind of blanket personal attack. That is my personal purview. I think that when we resort to name-calling and personal attacks, what we are essentially saying is that we are insecure with our belief/position and that we need to resort to bullying to make a point.

Memes love to lump all kinds of groups together to promote an agenda and use false syllogisms to make a point.

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Fact: There were (are) Christian members of the KKK.

Fact: The KKK is a race hate group who used/uses domestic terrorism for their agenda.

Meme: Christians are KKK members who are domestic terrorists and racists.

*brakes screech*


Though I am wholly against censorship of any kind, we do need to be vigilant about idiocy because it can spread. We had a saying in sales: Say it once, say it twice, say it three times, say it four times and they will believe.

Maybe we don’t want to call out idiocy logical fallacies when we see them, but we can at least think before spreading them.

This said, I am a writer. I believe there are no sacred cows.

Freedom to Joke/Criticize

Jester Baby from Scarborough Faire

Jester Baby from Scarborough Faire

I blogged about this a while back The Disease of Self-Importance, but here is a refresher to the point.

In the days when monarchies were all the rage, there was one very powerful position some might not be aware of…the court jester. Every ruler had at least one jester and the jester was allowed to mock, poke fun and joke about those in power without repercussions.

The role of the jester was to offer honesty and perspective. Monarchs knew that being surrounded by too many Yes Men who feared reprisal was unwise and dangerous. The jester’s job was to ground rulers and keep them from getting too full of themselves.

I’ve been blessed to do a lot of traveling and not all my destinations were nice places. I can honestly say, show me a country that cannot joke or criticize and I will show you a police state. Trust me. In Syria? You don’t joke. It’s a good way to disappear and have your family disappear as well.

When any leader, idea, religion, government is above being lampooned? That’s dangerous ground. I am not particularly fond of all the flamboyant ways the writers of Southpark kill off Jesus, but no faith is a sacred cow. Not even mine. Granted, I have the right to be upset, to blog, to express an opinion, to vote, to use my purchasing power to influence, but stringing people up for blasphemy is a treacherous slippery slope.

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We should not shelter one belief over another. At least in my country, I think you have the right to believe in whatever you want and will defend your right to do so. Want to dress in track suits and worship a comet that’s “really a spaceship”? Go ahead. But I also have the right to question, disagree with or even make fun of that 😉 .

With Great Power…

…comes great responsibility. Social media is a wonderful tool, but like all tools, it is a tool. The tool alone is inert. How we wield it is all up to us. I know all of you guys are passionate and have beliefs and I support that. But I will say it is also easy to get depressed and overwhelmed on social media. A good dose of critical thinking, however, can counter some of the effects.

And, sometimes? We just need to scroll on by. We cannot be passionate about everything equally. Remember, we are not the Jackass Whisperer. Jerks and bullies really have no intention of engaging in a thoughtful debate or even changing their positions…so just move on.

You will thank me later.

Social Media is SOCIAL


At the end of the day, social media is social. If we wouldn’t rant about politics, sex and religion at the workplace or a cocktail party? Why on Facebook? If we’d check out facts in life before spreading something, why not on-line? If we wouldn’t call people names in person, why on social media?

In life, there are consequences for being a jerk. Same on social media. Be passionate, care, change the world! I hope you do. But in the meantime? I hope to carry the torch of critical thinking, common sense and basic kindness. Someone has to set the example, might as well be the writers.

What are your thoughts? And feel free to disagree, I only ask that we be civil/respectful. Do the info-graphics make you cray-cray? Do you often avoid social media or unfollow people because it gives you a stress headache? What litmus test do you apply to information before “ingesting”?

Do you think the world is really that more of a crappy place than it was 20 years ago or is it because every time a dictator farts, we hear about it on Facebook? Do you get overwhelmed by all the things you should CARE about? Do you find yourself becoming more desensitized?

I love hearing from you!

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. 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).

April’s WINNER! Stan R. Mitchell. Please send your 5000 word Word document in an attachment to kristen at wana intl dot com. Congratulations!

Will announce the Dojo Diva winner on next post.

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

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Parent-Shaming & Mom-Shaming—Has Our Culture of Guilt Gotten Out of CONTROL?

Image via Hyperbole and a Half

Image via Hyperbole and a Half

It has been a weird couple of months. We had our family business move and then Spawn (my 5 year old) was REALLY ill back in March. Ill to the point of a middle of the night ER visit. Hubby and I didn’t sleep for over a month. And now, I am trying to get back in the groove and I just don’t want to.

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I don’t want to be a grownup. I want to color and make a blanket fort. And YES I feel guilty for being a horrible wife and a bad mother.

On some level, I believe all women struggle with guilt, and, when we become mothers, I think the condition only worsens. I was a very different person before I married and had my son. I was always dressed impeccably, had my hair done once a month, and never missed a pedicure or manicure. I knew I’d worked very hard and believed I’d earned these simple indulgences.

In short, I thought like a man.

Trust me when I say my husband does not feel guilty about relaxing in front of the TV when there is a sink full of dirty dishes. Rare is the man who puts aside getting himself dressed until he’s fully satisfied his toddler’s clothes all match. Most of the time, my husband isn’t even bothered if the Spawn’s clothes even fit. And that is an awesome talent and I’m jealous because I know I am being neurotic.

Just an aside…

I have NO idea how my husband does this. I regularly cull through The Spawn’s clothes and pull out what is out of season or no longer fits. When I would delegate “dressing The Spawn” to Hubby, he somehow managed to dress our toddler in the ONE 18 mo shirt I missed and swim trunks…for church. I love my husband, and have THE BEST husband in the world, but seriously????

Mommy! I'm ready for picture day!

Mommy! I’m ready for Sunday school!

Believe me when I say that “clothes not fitting/matching” DOES NOT BOTHER A MAN. Neither do a handful of other things…


When Mommy makes dinner….


When Daddy makes dinner…


***By the way, Men. I am NOT picking on you at all. I am seriously, seriously envious. Your focus is the kid having some FUN, not worrying is his outfit is trendy and that the other dads might “judge” you.

I recall, years ago, being a bit judgy when I’d see some frazzled mom, her hair (much in need of a dye job) pulled back in a scrunchee. I’d think, Good grief. Yoga pants and stained t-shirt? Does this woman even TRY? Her kids aren’t even wearing clothes that match. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Be careful how you judge, and, as my mother warns…NEVER WONDER.

I Deserved It

I look back at the way I used to judge struggling moms and I now know that I deserve this. I recall thinking, She’s married. Why doesn’t she just get her husband to dress the kids while she does something with THAT HAIR?

Now I know. I didn’t listen to Mom.

I wondered.

NOW I know that this mom probably did delegate. She probably managed to get her hair in a scrunchee just as she caught sight of her husband dressing their kids for church in their bathing trunks and part of their Halloween costumes. This mom then likely stopped doing her hair to intervene and at least get the kids in regular clothes.

Actually, this mother likely would have even had her child’s clothes all matching, but she forgot to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer. Why did she forget? Because she heard the crash from her toddler unsuccessfully trying to scale the cat’s scratching post. And, by the time she stopped the bleeding, she’d long forgotten about the clothes…and this is why she is in yoga pants and the kids are still wearing their Halloween costumes…in MARCH!!! So just back the hell off!

Look at ME!

Mommy! Look at what I did!

The Guilt

I never feel like I am doing enough. Though I practically live in an apron, I can’t seem to ever feel caught up. My house isn’t clean enough, and I don’t read for an hour a day to my child and teach him Italian and art appreciation.

Then we have the magazines full of starlets posing in bikinis three days after they give birth. Despite the fact that I do 6-8 hours of grueling Brazilian Jiu Jitsu per week and eat gluten-free, dairy-free, almost carb-free, I still can’t even wear my pregnancy pants. At a size ten, it is easy to feel like a lazy slacker because I’m not a size 0.

When did 0 become a SIZE?

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I need to get the gym more *scribbles on list.*

Regular Guilt is Bad Enough

Okay, I admit that I need to work on the guilt thing. I should be able to wear makeup without thinking that those 15 minutes would be better served sorting the recycling.

Crap! I threw away that jelly jar in the REGULAR trash. I’m destroying the planet! Worse, I am teaching The Spawn that it is OKAY TO DESTROY THE PLANET!

Most women (okay, maybe just me) already feel like we are not doing enough. If we have a choice of a day at a spa or a day baking for the church or school, donating stuff from the garage to the needy, or volunteering to shuttle Great-Great-Great-Aunt Thelma who’s 97 to CVS for discount butt cream, you can count on us for the cheapest butt cream in town.

Walmart will price match.


The world is a REALLY different place. I know men face their own unique challenges, but I don’t think they experience near the same amount of parent-shaming.

Now that Spawn is five, I feel at such a loss. We have a little boy who lives across the street who is a year older. When I was a kid, if there had been another kid within bike-riding distance, we would have been BFFs.

But, no. They aren’t.

Me: Hey, can your kiddo come over and play? I got Spawn some new NERF zombie guns.

Other Mom: Sure! Wait, my kid has tutoring and then guitar lessons and then we go to karate. But the free hour before he attends Kid Yoga he needs to study his French vocabulary words. We’re getting him ready for Child Entrepreneur Camp where he will learn to build a business. Oh, and ride horses. He’s going with his friends Jackson, Madson, Grayson and Harrison. They met at Kid Chef School making allergen-free puff pastries…

Me: Nice. Um, does your boy like to roller-skate? 

Other Mom: He knows how to, but hockey lessons don’t start for a few months. Been using his off time to catch up on my reading. I’ve been reading all these books on alternative educational theories. Have you read that last one by Dr. Snooty Pants who never had a kid but feels comfortable judging? Why Your Child Will Kill You in Your Sleep for the Insurance Money if You Don’t Stimulate Enough Creativity?

It’s a best-seller. We read it in my book club.

Me: I missed that one.

Other Mom: It is so fascinating. We love all the exercises in the companion workbook. Rebirthing is extra fun if you make the blankets together. I can send you the pin on Pinterest…

Kill. Me. Now.

And this is why Spawn calls me his best friend. I am the one who hikes with him and plays video games and goes to martial arts with him.

Sorry, Spawn. All the other kids were booked, but I think I can call their agent…



Can I Donate My Kidneys? I Have One Extra

I feel like a SUPER terrible mother. This HAPPENED. My mom came over and was helping me clean after Stomach Bug from Hell.

Mom: Why can’t he go outside and play? It’s a beautiful day.

Me: He can’t unless we sit outside with him and we need to be in here cleaning.

Mom: Huh? Why can’t he just go outside and play?

Me: Um, CPS?

I kid you not, we had a woman in the area who was out front with her 5 year-old and ran inside to get the phone. In the 5 minutes she was gone a “Good Samaritan” called CPS on her for neglect. And this is happening more and more often. Of course, I don’t like calling these folks “Good Samaritans” because a Good Samaritan would just have kept a helpful eye on the kid while frazzled mom ran inside to get the phone.

And these are the SAME people who will also call me a bad mom because Spawn is being exposed to way too much time with electronics. That unless I am running my kid to every activity available and scheduling every second of his waking life for “educational opportunities” I am a jerk.

If I pay thousands of dollars for “Educational Software” I’m a great mom. But, if I teach my kid to play XBox and his reading is advanced because of his love for Transformers, I’m negligent. Does anyone else spot the crazy here?

Yes, my Kirby is an educational toy…. :P

Yes, my Kirby is an educational toy…. 😛

And this is a long way of saying that there is a LOT of pressure on parents these days. Look at all it entails!

When I was a kid, we were thrown outside after Sesame Street to PLAY. We made ramps out of every discarded piece of trash on the curb. I had a tetanus shot every YEAR. My mom’s idea of “fun and educational opportunities” involved teaching me the multiple uses for lemon oil and a deck brush.

Want to learn about nature? Let’s go pull weeds.

I’m unsure how this helicopter parenting is healthy for our kids. How it is healthy for us parents. Are we parents or entertainment directors? How will our kids fare when they have to be adults and the world isn’t interested in entertaining them every waking second?

I feel much of this Parent-Shaming/Mom-Shaming is consumerism gone crazy. Shame me because I am not a Size 0 and I buy diet stuff and gym memberships. Shame me because my house isn’t a photo spread out of Good Housekeeping and I hire a cleaning service. Shame me that I am not being a good enough MOM and sell me all kinds of apps, games, camps and activities because OMG! My child might get…BORED.

What do you guys think? Has the Mom-Shaming/Parent-Shaming gotten out of control? Do you run non-stop and never feel like you measure up? Do you have days you simply don’t know where to begin because you feel like a failure at everything? Have you drank the Kool-Aid? Any tips to detox from it?

Guys, do you get Parent-Shaming or Dad-Shaming? I’m curious to know what your experiences are.

I love hearing from you!

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

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

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First World Problems—When Do We Have a Good Reason to Cry?

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We all have those moments when we feel like tapping out, but when should we complain and when are we being self-centered? I would love to say I have all the answers. Just get me talking (or typing) and I sometimes am good enough to fool myself. But I simply do not know.

I struggle with boundaries, with saying I need help or that I am having a rough time. Then what happens is because I didn’t acknowledge the small problems early? They pile up and hit me like an avalanche. *whiiiiinnnne*

Bear with me…

Last week was one of those that seemed to just KEEP COMING. It started out well enough, then sucker-punched me. It took three appointments to get the cat, Odin neutered. I’ve never had a cat I waited so long to neuter, but have learned some valuable lessons.

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Lesson #1 Never name your cat Odin. I think he might just have kept a few ice giants around because every time we had a vet appointment? Texas got smacked with another ice storm.

Lesson #2 Wait to neuter a cat too long and you will never sleep…ever. He will howl all night long bemoaning his lack of opposable thumbs to escape and find a girlfriend. He will wail how he hates you because you keep “forgetting” his Axe body spray.

Lesson #3 Revenge will happen. Expect it.

After ice storm early in the week, I finally got Odin into the vet to be neutered. Get him home and Spawn (my 5-year-old boy-child) and I get a simultaneous stomach flu. I’m so sick I can’t move. Meanwhile, Spawn managed to puke all over every surface of the home. Carpets, furniture and anywhere that was not a bucket, a toilet or TILE.

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By the way, Hubby now knows why you don’t buy red Gatorade for a sick kid.

Granted, Hubby was a ROCKSTAR and took care of both of us and didn’t sleep for days. But today? As I was gazing across the mountains of biohazards that used to be clean blankets, clothes, sheets, towels, pillows…I notice this bad smell that just has been around for days and so I go hunting.


Apparently, as some point during the fugue-like state of having a stomach bug, one of us must have shut the door to the guest room and not realized Odin was…in it.


…with no litter box.


Thus, today I am cleaning. Okay, right now I am screwing off and whining to you guys, but after this I am totally back to cleaning. I am Norwegian. I live in an apron. I’ve also now witnessed what my house looks like after I have been too weak to tidy for a few days and it ain’t pretty. I’m overwhelmed.

I go to clean the carpet, but the sink is full of dishes we were too sick to wash. So I try to wash the dishes so I can fill the carpet cleaner but then I can’t find garbage bags, because I need to scrape off the leftovers. So I try to get a trash bag, but then the spice rack falls and breaks glass all over the floor. So I try to find the broom to sweep the glass and remember it is likely in the bathroom, where I find more clothes Spawn puked on, so I gather those into a…

*breaks down weeping*

Thus, the whole time I am in this spiral, I keep saying, “It isn’t cancer. It isn’t cancer. Breathe. Others have it far worse and you are so blessed.”

I guess the point of this blog is that I really didn’t want to clean the guest room and would rather hang out with y’all. Wait. Okay, a little too much honesty. No, really. I know I am usually the one offering advice, but today I am tired and my ponytail is crunchy 😦 .

I know I should focus on the good stuff. I am amazed at single parents. What a tough, tough job. I was so frightened when I was too ill to move. We don’t really have any family nearby and it could have ended really badly had we been alone. I am tremendously grateful I have a husband willing to hold my hair out of my face when I get sick. I am grateful that Spawn is well now and that it wasn’t as bad as Web MD said.

We DO NOT have Dengue Fever.


But aside from all my “gratitude” I am more than a little ticked off that I was stupid enough to want to be a “grownup.” And yes, I do want some cheese with my whine. I am whining so badly today, I want to slap myself. But what is the fine point between whining and complaining or genuinely having a good reason to cry?

I can always think of someone having bigger problems than mine. Hey, be grateful you badly injured your leg in Jiu-Jitsu, some people don’t even have LEGS to INJURE. I can also think of events in my life that makes this seem ludicrous. Well, Kristen, at least your father isn’t DYING.

But when is this “attitude of gratitude” healthy and when is it just more than a little cray-cray? I try to not complain, but then how can other people change or correct what we don’t communicate? How can others offer help if they don’t know we are struggling?

How the hell did Spawn get Pepto all the way up THERE O_o ?

Anyway, when I am feeling myself having a pity party, I watch these to cheer me up and give me perspective.

I really DO want to hear from you because y’all are way smarter than me and I can put off cleaning for “work.” What are your thoughts on complaining versus having a real reason to be down? Do you have to remind yourself to get perspective? Or do you go a little too stoic-smiley and almost end up in Stepfordville?

What are some First World Problems you struggle with? I’d like to hear, before the battery on my Apple goes dead because I misplaced the charger in all the stuff I own…. 😛

I love hearing from you!

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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Also, for more help on how to use characters to ratchet anxiety to the nerve-shreding level, I am finally back teaching and offering my Understanding the Antagonist Class on April 18th and YES, it is recorded in case you miss or need to listen again because this class is jammed with information.

I LOVE teaching this simply because our antagonists are pivotal for writing a story readers can’t put down. Yet, too often we fail to harness characters for max effect. I look forward to seeing you there! I also offer the Gold level for one-on-one. Maybe you’ve hit a dead end. Your story is so confusing you need a GPS and a team of sherpas to find the original idea. Instead of wasting time with misguided revisions, I can help you triage your WIP and WHIP it into fighting form 😀 .

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

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Does Fiction Matter? Fiction, Fantasy & Social Change

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala

We had a very lively and interesting debate over the 50 Shades cultural “phenomena” on Friday. I’m deeply grateful for all those commenters who posted such thoughtful opinions, even those who didn’t agree with me. I actually am not afraid of people disagreeing with me andhave zero interest in my blog simply being an ideological echo chamber.

Yet, there are a few things I’ve “heard” in the comments or even on Facebook which leave me flummoxed and I believe these assertions call for a closer examination.


Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

One argument that baffled me was this idea that 50 Shades is just a book and only fantasy. I do not begrudge James her success nor am I lambasting anyone who likes the books. To each, his or her own. I never called for banning, burning or censoring.

Since I never read the book in totality, I never left a review. I also didn’t review the film because I am not a reviewer. I never commented on the quality of the prose, film, actors etc. etc. only the message.

And, as an abuse survivor and someone who has spent years working with battered women? I feel my opinion is more educated than, perhaps, many who finished the books. Grey exhibits all signs of a sociopath by Chapter Three (which is right about when I quit reading). More on sociopathy HERE.

I didn’t want to go there. Lived it. Don’t need to read it. I’ve also read many novels and watched many movies I would not recommend because I had to put down the book thirty pages in or walk out of the film in the first half hour.

In my opinion, that is as viable of an opinion as someone who gutted through all 90 minutes of Showgirls to know it was crap.

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***If I were a reviewer then it would be my professional duty to formulate an opinion based on the entire body of work…because that would be my JOB.

Yet, the reason I did feel a need to discuss this work is because it has gone beyond being a book and has become a cultural force. With over 100 million legitimate copies in circulation (not counting for borrowed copies from friends and libraries, pirated copies or used purchases) that many books will make a societal impact by sheer volume.

It’s the equivalent of a literary comet strike.

Add in a possible hit movie? Could be an extinction event.

THIS was when I felt it necessary to step in and state my analysis and at least posit the hard questions.

Fiction is NEVER JUST a Story

Hubby. Sigh.

To assert that any book that’s sold that many copies is just a story, in my POV, is naive and ignores almost all of human history. Societies have always been defined and redefined by its stories. Fiction IS NOT INERT. Why do you think dictators shoot the writers and burn the books first?

To claim that fiction is mere fantasy is to ignore the impact of every transformative work ever written. “A Christmas Carol” was not merely a sweet tale of a redeemed miser at Christmas.

It was a scathing piece of literature that eventually led to the establishment of children’s rights advocacy organizations and protection for children in the legal system (and also impacted the treatment of the poor and infirm).

During the time Dickens wrote this, children were considered property. The government regularly imprisoned and hanged small children, many of whom were orphans, for relatively small offenses from vagrancy to begging to petty theft.

Neil Postman, in his book “The Disappearance of Childhood” cites one of the first legal cases where an adult was censured for hurting a child. It was a woman who gathered orphans and fed them, but put out their eyes with knitting needles then planted them on the street to beg. Apparently, blind kids made more money.

When the woman was finally brought to court, she was not punished for cruelty, rather fined for “destruction of property.” In fact, animal rights organizations had been established a good ten years before anyone thought children might require similar protection.

A Christmas Carol was one of the many literary works that led to society establishing legal protection for children, which didn’t exist until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Oops, Did I Do THAT?

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Sometimes the author even misses the mark. Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle to highlight wage slavery and the horrific treatment of immigrants in the Chicago meat-packing industry. The story, however, had a very different impact than the author intended.

Readers were horrified about the conditions of the FOOD. Public outrage and political pressure led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906; the latter established the Bureau of Chemistry, which was renamed the Food and Drug Administration in 1930.

Sinclair later bemoaned that his work had ended up helping the very institutions he’d rightly demonized and issued that famous quote in the October, 1906 Cosmopolitan Magazine—“I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”

Thus for us to say that fiction is only fantasy is to say that “Red Badge of Courage,” “Grapes of Wrath,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and others are equally fantastical and benign.

And before anyone says, “Well, E.L. James is certainly NOT a literary master and no one will hail this work as a classic” we are wise to appreciate a couple factors.

First, what we today view as a classic was often mass market pop fiction of its time. It’s often only in retrospect that we can witness how a novel, a play, a movie, a whatever, shifted the trajectory of a culture. Secondly, “literary classics” aren’t the only transformative works.

Pop Culture



Star Trek only ran three seasons before being canceled in 1969, and yet I feel it did more to impact race relations and redefine women’s roles than any piece of legislation. Though as Trekkie, I FEEL Star Trek a classic, I have yet to see it on any syllabus at a university.

Additionally, Horror was once an extremely popular genre, giving us such classic tales as Frankenstein (which greatly impacted science) and H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau where Moreau crafts humanoid-animal chimeras via vivisection. Yet, The Island of Dr. Moreau also addressed deeper issues of pain, cruelty, moral responsibility and scientific tampering with nature. It was instrumental in forming our modern scientific standards of ethics.

But, one movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre redefined what the public viewed as “horror” and almost single-handedly laid waste to the genre.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Granted, there were probably slasher flicks like this before TSM, much like there were rape fantasy books before FSoG. But THIS one was the one that HIT and served to alter the genre.

Soon, there were no longer “Horror” sections in bookstores because the silver screen gore porn (and public demand for these movies) had tainted the genre.

Horror stories then had to be hidden under such categories as Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, etc. so that these works could distance from the stain left from the plethora of slasher films that became so popular after Vietnam. Horror, as a genre, has never fully recovered since “horror stories” are too often held up next to Saw Part 15 or Friday the 13th Part 26.

How did this happen?

Follow the Money

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If no one bothered with the early slasher flicks, Hollywood would have never bothered making more. They also wouldn’t have felt the need to keep upping the ante with every movie. More blood, guts, and shock. Soon we were anesthetized to suffering because it became all too common.

And, before anyone laughs, remember those early bad 50s horror movies scared the bejeezus out of people. Now? We laugh at giant spider puppets that, at one time, had people fleeing from the theater to calm down.

Tarzan was criticized because Tarzan and Jane were living in the jungle together without being married 😉 . Today, audiences would laugh at such a puritanical notion. Just watch HBO for an hour and tell me times haven’t changed.

But It’s So PRETTY, How Can it Be BAD?

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How could it be harmful? Often some of the most dangerous substances don’t show consequences until later. It reminds me of the Radium Girls who painted watch dials with radioactive paint during WWI. The glowing paint was pretty and harmless and “cool.” Their employer told them they could just lick the end of their brushes as they worked, so surely it was harmless.


The women, thinking radium was safe, painted their nails and faces so they could glow in dark for their men at home. And they all died slow horrible deaths years later.

Ideas (books) can act similarly. They can seem no big deal until they are. AGAIN, I am NOT for censorship, only critical thinking. Appreciate and RESPECT the power of art. Handle with care 😉 .

The Coming Generation

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

As I stated in the last post, my concern is less for the older reader and more for the youth who will go see the movie. I am a social media expert and we have an entirely new generation that is completely immersed in multimedia.

Young people have all the impulses, hormones and emotions of an adult, but lack maturity, experience and a fully developed frontal cortex that governs critical thinking and discernment. They have a far more difficult time separating fantasy and reality.

Young people do a LOT of dumb stuff. Hey, I did. And as a teen I argued with my mother that Me So Horny was “just a song” and now as an adult, I can see why she sat down and had a LONG talk with me.

Teens or even tweens don’t see that sexting can come back to bite or that pic in lingerie on Tumblr might affect them getting into college.

My bigger concern is that, when we package sociopathy as “romance”? Sadists as Alpha male heroes? That is a confusing message (and a dangerous one) for everyone, but most especially for those still forming opinions and identities. In fact, I probably would have had NO problem with FSoG had it been in the genre of psychological thriller or horror. But slap “ROMANCE” on it? Whole ‘notha’ ballgame.

The Bottom Line

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

Read what you want to. Watch what you want to. I have an opinion, you have one. I’m never for censorship, EVER. But, I feel we have to at least own what we are doing as consumers, but most especially as writers. We cannot be Janus-faced over this. Either fiction is vital and transformative and matters…or it doesn’t.

History has proven we have almost no control over what will shape culture or even how it will shape it as The Jungle illustrates. We also have almost zero control over what will be considered a classic in fifty or a hundred years.

And if fiction is ONLY a story and has no power, then why should we care about literacy, libraries and freedom of speech? If fiction is only fantasy and doesn’t impact the world? Why bother? Why does it matter?

Food for thought 😉 .

What do you guys think? And again, I have no problem if anyone disagrees so long as we remain polite. Do you feel we can have our cake and eat it too? That as a culture we can contain the genie? Or do we have to choose? Either fiction is powerful or it isn’t? And if fiction doesn’t change the world, then why are we even doing this job?

Do you hope your characters and stories will create a better world? Challenge ideas? Reinforce what you think is good and noble? Topple what should be done away with? Do you think (as I do) that many people are unaware how powerful writers and artists actually are? That maybe even some writers fail to appreciate the influence they could one day wield?

I love hearing from you!

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

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

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Is Romance Devolving?—50 Shades vs. No One Puts Baby in a Corner

Image courtesy of Lisa Weidmeier WANA Commons.

Image courtesy of Lisa Weidmeier WANA Commons.

I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to go here, but alas, here we are. Today, 50 Shades of Grey the MOVIE will open for…*record screech* Valentine’s Day. Nothing says I love you like predatory emotional manipulation, sociopathy, abuse and non-consensual sex acts.

Find THAT on a Hallmark card.

And yes, I know there have been other kinky books like this, but 50 Shades sold over 100 million copies and the movie (despite ZERO plot) is expected to gross in excess of $60 million which means I just threw up a little in my mouth this “story” has tipped from fringe to mainstream and that scares me more than a little bit.

No, I didn’t read the book. I don’t need to. Nor do I need to watch gang-rape prison porn to know it probably is unhealthy for the future of women (or even men). Guess what? I didn’t have to eat the chicken I forgot in my fridge to know it would probably make me sick.

Some stuff just stinks and that should be enough to warn us away.

And I’ve debated even blogging about this because I try to make it a policy to never talk badly about any story or book. I also hate EVEN MORE attention given to this crap than it’s already garnered, but my conscience won’t let me remain silent. We are playing with fire.

Redefining the POWERFUL Man

Image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of JonoMeuller

Image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of JonoMeuller

I watched the trailer and instantly felt the bad juju *Spidey senses go NUTSO*.

Grey doesn’t choose Ana because she is a confident, assured woman who can emotionally handle this sort of contract, um relationship, um abus…ok, hell I got nothing. A confident woman would have told him where to put his private jet.

What gets me is he sees a woman girl who clearly already has a low opinion of herself and he pounces. Wow, sounds like the beginning stages of a relationship that is going to end with a body bag, jail or at least a restraining order. He smells blood in the water and goes for it, wanting to dominate a woman who, frankly, is just looking for “love.”

And this is my old curmudgeon self coming out. HOW is that a powerful man?

I know they give him all the accoutrement of “powerful.” The surface stuff like custom suits, a job where he never really works, fast cars, etc. But, to me, that isn’t power. That’s actually small man-part behavior (which is actually deep insecurity manifesting in a fancy watch).

Powerful men. REALLY powerful men? They empower women. They don’t prey on and victimize them. It reminds me of my formative years and the movie Dirty Dancing. Sexy? Yes. Push social boundaries? Sure.


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In Dirty Dancing Johnny Castle pushes Baby (Jennifer Grey 😀 ) beyond her comfort zones, but it’s in a way that makes her more whole as a human being. He always makes sure she is truly on board and always makes her safety a priority. Remember the fancy lifts? Practicing the lifts in the lake so if she fell she’d be okay?

And all the older gals go, “Awwww, I LOVED that scene.”

Johnny pursues Baby because he likes her as a human being, and, instead of preying on her, he protects and nurtures her. THAT, in my book is a powerful man. Not some trust fund baby assclown with a closet full of leashes and too much free time.

Abuse is NOT Power

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There are so many things that scare me about this book and it would take more than one post to explore them. But women have faced thousands of years of not being able to defend themselves against victimization and rape and now we have a cultural phenomenon that is redefining sex and blurring the lines of consent (which are already pretty damn blurry, especially after a drunken frat party).

I kid you NOT. I am waiting for the 50 Shades Defense when some poor college girl is brutalized and the guy’s defense is, “Well, she did sign a contract.”

And not only is this a sticky wicket for women, it’s a train wreck for men. When millions of women are fanning themselves over this crap, men are left even more confused and more vulnerable. Pair this with super destructive pop hits like Blurred Lines?

I have a son and pop culture really should be handled with care. I recall being in the car with a family member who has two impressionable sons. Blurred Lines comes on and they are all humming to it. I gasp and turn it off then asked, “Have any of you paid attention to the WORDS to this song? It’s a date rape song and it is unacceptable.”

And now it is clear why Kristen wasn’t invited to the parties in high school and college.

But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature
Just let me liberate you….

Let me liberate you? How about I show you what a TRIANGLE CHOKE is?

Lowering the Standards of Expectations

It’s Grey’s lines like, “I don’t do romance” that kinda more than piss me off. Women used to be worthy of courtship and eventually a ring and a commitment. Then we decided to break glass ceilings and we’ve been fighting a battle of, “If a woman doesn’t want to be married she must be frigid or a lesbian versus any woman who wants a ring and a commitment is just out to trap a man.”

There is also the, “Women who want to be married are settling.” And was already seriously confusing without this tripe.

I remember living across from a young couple and the pretty blonde had been living with this jerk guy for EIGHT years. She wanted to be married and he wanted all the benefits of a marriage without any of the legal obligations (like having to part with HALF his stuff or having to pay alimony if they broke up).

And he’d been dangling a potential ring/proposal in front of her for EIGHT FREAKING years.

Well, I am just not ready yet, but I probably will be…

Later, Dude. Tempus fugit.

And trust me, back when I was dating, that crap was a nightmare to traverse. But, at least I could expect some romance. Now? A man who doesn’t DO romance is…sexy?

In my book he’s selfish and lazy and move on. Characters like Ana have opened a WHOLE ‘notha can of worms when she refuses to tell Grey NO or to stop or even that he’s crossing a line and hurting her because “then she’d lose him” *gags* and tolerates the intolerable.

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No one to HEAR you? How in 50 Shades of HELL is this remotely acceptable?

Ladies, when a man controls what you say, wear or who your friends are? That is BAD.


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Thing is, in the book maybe it can end well. In life? A guy who won’t take no and wants total control, AND has unlimited funds when the woman does not? Watch Discovery ID and we can see the end to this story. Usually it involves an unidentified body found in a cooler in the desert.

Or, feel free to re-watch the sequel to 50 Shades, made back in 2002—“Enough.”

In fact, years ago I knew a woman who was in this sort of relationship. It began as sexy and exciting until he killed her dog (who was trying to defend her from his blows) and then he broke her jaw. She ended up working as a prostitute because every time she moved and tried to work legitimate employment? Her ex found her and hospitalized her for leaving.

The REAL Man

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My husband is a GIANT. At six foot six, he’s well over a foot taller than me. This is the man who was in Special Operations and on a military shooting team, but I’ve spent every summer helping him rescue mice, lizards and geckos out of glue traps. The man even rescues rattlesnakes who want to sun on our porch at the ranch.

And KITTENS. OMG, the KITTENS!!! Kittens are his kryptonite.

Meet, "Odin" my anniversary present and Cat Number FOUR

Meet, “Odin” my anniversary present and Cat Number FOUR

We are one cat short of Hubby being the Crazy Cat Lady. He also works extra hard so his wife can take Brazilian Ju-Jitsu and is almost always in the audience cheering me on. He isn’t afraid of a strong woman and even encourages me to be stronger.

I really hope this 50 Shades phase passes, but…

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I hope that you will spend your Valentines Day doing or watching something truly romantic. If you and your partner want to add some spice and roughness? I recommend taking a Brazilian Ju-Jitsu class together 😀 .

Additionally, I recommend checking out The Atlantic post by Emma Green, Consent Isn’t Enough: The Troubling Sex of 50 Shades.

So *cringes* what are your thoughts? Do you think 50 Shades grossly misrepresents BDSM? Do you see the same perils? Am I overreacting? Feel free to disagree just please be polite. Is this a dangerous trend? First with Twilight making stalking “sexy” and now this?

I know many who’ve read this book and love it are older, but should we be concerned about how this might mainstream for our youth and affect their perceptions of “relationships”? How it might even impact victims in courtrooms? Is this type of story confusing for men and women? Is this even more devolution of what we consider to be “romantic”? Or am I jumping at shadows?

I love hearing from you!

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

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A Country in Crisis—How Pop Culture is Devaluing Men AND Women

Meet the "Facelessbook Friends"

Age and Invisibility

Back when I was in sales, we had a saying, “Say it once. Say it twice. Say it three times. Say it four times. Say it five times and they will believe.” Traditional marketing has hinged on this tenet for generations. The more people see product, an idea, etc. the better chance it will become “sticky” and meld into the collective consciousness.

This is also the foundation of any dictatorship, a concept those of us in political science called a “Cult of personality.” Propaganda is powerful.

Last post, I blogged about how seemingly innocent ads and blogs are anything but. Yes, I agree, some 20-something telling women over thirty they shouldn’t wear sparkles or eyeshadow shouldn’t affect how I feel about myself and frankly? It doesn’t.

She can go pound sand.

The problem is when an idea or attitude becomes SO pervasive that it translates into a socioeconomic or cultural reality. These snipes, jabs, “jokes” and stereotypes seep in and eventually forge the norm. Let’s explore a couple modern examples.

Blondes are Stupid/Slutty



When I bought a red Honda Civic years ago, I never noticed how many there were until I drove one. Thus, being a blonde, I tend to notice how we are portrayed in the media probably more than others. I will NEVER do business with State Farm because of some of their commercials.

In one commercial, there is an African American male documenting a fender-bender on his smart phone while the blonde waits for her date she found on the Internet (because everything you read on the Internet is true). She found a “French model”, who turns out to be a giant doofy phony she saucers off with extra proud of her “find.”

Try reversing this and making a person of color look that stupid and we’d have march on D.C.

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It’s the blonde mother who can’t figure out that Benadryl has single serving portable doses for when Junior is sneezing at the park. The brunette mom rolls her eyes at the blonde mother struggling with a spoon and a bottle.

Or the blonde who can’t figure out teeth-whitening strips. The brunette obviously knows there is the Aquafresh whitening tray (because apparently whitening strips are super advanced technology beyond a blonde woman’s mental capabilities.)

It’s the birth control pills the blonde is too dumb to figure out and on and on. Now that I’ve pointed this out, I’m fairly sure you will see it, too.

In film we’re often portrayed as sluts, morons, home wreckers and villains. I had one author I really enjoyed, but by the third book I read where the blonde was the evil tramp? I was done. Stereotypes= Lazy Writing.

And one might say, “Oh, Kristen, just brush it off. It shouldn’t affect how you feel about yourself.” Here is the thing. It doesn’t. I love being blonde. I’m Norwegian and embrace how I look and am secure in who I am. BUT, it impacts how others view ME.


Case in point, years ago I had a chemist approach me to ghost write a HIGHLY technical book. Why? I have a very strong science background and at the time was a technical writer for firearms, defense, and computer companies.

Anyway, we are in the middle of a critique session when his wife barges in and calls me everything under the sun, certain I was having an affair with her husband even though EVERY interaction I’d had with this person was via copied e-mails and in a large group (um, because I’m a professional and no, not THAT kind of “professional”).

She was certain because of my appearance I couldn’t be a “real” writer, especially NOT a high-tech writer.

Really. I wish I was making this up.

When I was in the business world, I’d come up with a new idea or strategy and no one would make a sound. Then the man sitting next to me would repeat what I’d just said and suddenly it was GENIUS!

One of my cousins, also a natural blonde, and as gorgeous as any supermodel, eventually dyed her hair brown because she found people listened to her ideas and took her more seriously as a brunette. Her career had slammed to a halt as a blonde, then suddenly took off when she changed hair color.

Thus, tell me again how pop culture has no impact on perception. What are we telling blonde little girls about who they will grow to be? Don’t get me wrong, the jokes make me laugh, but when it’s ALL jokes? Eventually, I’m not laughing.

One of the main reasons I LOVED “Frozen”? It was the first time in generations Disney had a blonde that wasn’t asleep waiting for a kiss or for a man to figure out her shoe size so she could get on with her life.

Media and Men

If I had a dollar for every commercial that implies grown men are idiots, I’d be writing this blog on a beach somewhere. Apparently, according to television, men are incapable of feeding themselves, watching kids, grocery shopping, and they need help from mommy when calling in a car accident. Mom, wife, girlfriend, kids and even the dog has a higher IQ than a grown man.

Here’s an infuriating enlightening compilation of what I’m talking about…

I feel the past 25 years has Homer-Simpsonized men. If a man is over thirty, he’s incompetent and needs mom or wife-as-mom. He’s not even smart enough to order a pizza on his own (another commercial that sent me fuming).

Show me a strong, assured handsome older man? I’ll show you an E.D. commercial…with a man sailing off in a boat alone. WTH?

Huh? Wow, apparently older men can’t even think to pack a WOMAN on the trip. Should have called mom first.

As the mother of a boy, I think these media/cultural images are dangerous. I’ve had my own dealings with schools punishing Spawn for what 25 years ago was simply, “being a little boy.” Boys are loud, rambunctious, have a lot of energy and many times, aren’t going to behave like girls unless medicated. As in sit still and be quiet for hours at a time.

I was once called up to school because Spawn was playing Zombie on the playground (age 4).

Me: Was he biting anyone?

Administrator: No.

Me: Was he touching or grabbing anyone or hurting them?

Administrator: No.

Me: Well, then what was he doing?

Administrator: Moaning and wandering around with a blank stare.

Me: Well, sounds like every DMV employee I’ve ever met, so what is the problem?

Administrator: He just…likes zombies. We also think he lacks imagination and he refuses to answer to his name. He will only answer to Zombie-Robot.

Me: I think I need some air.

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And NOW we unschool.

Culture Crisis

Even though society (in REALITY) has changed, why aren’t commercials reflecting this? We now live in a world where both parents work more often than not, and yet the majority of commercials still portray Mom as the one in charge, cooking, cleaning, etc.

Why are dads absentee in reality? I ask why are they absentee in advertising? I was SO thrilled that Cheerios took this on with their new campaign #HowToDad, which portrays a WONDERFUL example of a husband AND father. It made me want to stand and cheer! Why can’t we have more of these kinds of commercials?

Writers Create the Future

Writing forges culture and attitudes, meaning words and images are POWERFUL. If our pop culture keeps implying anyone over 30 is irrelevant (stupid, incompetent, lazy, invisible), guess what happens?

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We are facing a CRISIS in this country. Age discrimination is RAMPANT.

If we can’t see it, we can’t BE it. What does the strong, confident sexy over-30, 40, 50 + person (male or female) LOOK like? What does a great husband, confident and capable father look like? There are a lot of single fathers. Who is speaking for THEM?

We “older folks” are the group with the most spending power, yet how much marketing is directed to those groups who need our credit card to make a purchase? And this affects products created and offered. I would LOVE to dress chic, but when Target offers 15 versions of skinny jeans and super-short shorts in the Misses section? I’m limited what I can buy.

I’m a professional. I can’t wear micro-minis and short shorts and be taken seriously (or be comfortable for that matter).

This means I live in t-shirts and yoga pants, reinforcing the stereotype that women over 30 just don’t care what we look like. It’s a double-bind for ALL of us.

Men AND women.

I can’t say much about this, but right now there is a LARGE group of people suing a BIG company because this company essentially wholesale got rid of anyone over 40 (mostly men) and replaced them with 20-somethings out of college.

There was NO concern for the years of experience these older workers had, the relationships with customers they’d spent years cultivating. They were old, ergo irrelevant and replaceable…which turned out to be a bad move because the newbies required so much training and had no industry experience. This meant they made a LOT of COSTLY mistakes.

Work had to be redone and redone…and redone when the older workers had ten times the output and projects/orders done correctly the FIRST time. So did the company really save money?

Thus, when people say, “Brush it off.” “Move on.” “It shouldn’t affect how you feel about yourself.”

This is true.

The problem is that we’ve been “nice” so long that now we’re seeing these stereotypes become cultural and economic realities. Yeah, sure, I can feel great about how I look and I like a good self-deprecating joke or three. But I kinda like being EMPLOYED, too.

A Country Without a Heart has No Brain

My degree was in Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa. Often when you study third and fourth world countries, what you find is that women aren’t valued. This means a country only has access to less than half of their workforce and intellectual/creative reservoirs (since women typically outnumber men).

The Western World likes to believe it’s “evolved” but we’re seeing major shrinkage in population sizes with each generation while simultaneously mothballing the more mature workers/contributors. If the population over 30 or 40+ vastly outnumbers the young? And we fail to value the more mature generations?

You see where the logic is headed.

Youth is beautiful and wonderful and I LOVE young people. Work with them all the time. They are our future. But I think this is why it is incumbent on those of us in the older generations to speak up. Sure, we can take a joke. But it seems that we are BECOMING the joke, and that’s uncool.

Many of you reading this are writers. Embrace the power you have. Writers are responsible for more social change than any legislation ever passed.

We have the power to change hearts and minds, but we have to confront. We have to write companies and tell them we won’t buy from them because they don’t represent us, or they are demeaning us. We should support companies who value us. Money has a LOT of power as well.

Support companies who empower you. I refuse to purchase anything from a company that can’t respect me as a person. We can be funny without being demeaning and cruel. And if their ad people can’t? Hire better writers. Advertise to make us laugh, but not at our expense (Hello, CHEERIOS ad? Funny and awesome).

This one made me get tears! What a PRO-BOY commercial!

So I am going to go buy some Cheerios 😀  and support the great, wonderful fathers, friends, dads and MEN out there along with the gals.

But first, I have to go do a 3-D rendering of this tooth-whitening strip. I’ve already gotten three stuck in my hair 😛 . I’m all for gal-power, but we are in this together. We are not alone ;).

What are your thoughts? Do you get tired of being the butt of the joke? Have you seen pop culture impact how you are treated as a person? What are some positive ads, commercials, images that you think we need to see more of? How could Madison Avenue do a better job of speaking to us? And MEN, speak up! We love hearing from you, too!

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

***January’s Winner is Nolan White. Please send your 5,000 word Word document to kristen at wana intl dot com and CONGRATULATIONS!

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

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