Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Categorized: Culture

Today I have on my sassy pants because there’s a messy task ahead. Oh it will be a TON of fun, but messy. We are going to tip over some sacred cows like how fun is evil and misery is awesome.

Granted I am from Texas and have heard stories of those miscreants who’ve sneaked (snuck? snucked?) in under cover of darkness to traipse across pastures littered with steaming cow poo…for the sheer joy of pushing over sleeping bovines.

I, myself, have never indulged in this innocent mischief and remain dubious this “cow-tipping” thing is even real. But supposedly the boogeyman isn’t real and yet–even as an adult–I never sleep with a foot off the edge of the bed.

#AreUCrazy

I can’t see how tipping over innocent cows could be half the fun we hear it is, but I assure you tipping these sacred cows?

LOADS of FUN.

Sacred Cow #1—Fun=Ineffective Time-Waster

Remember being a kid and it was actually okay to have fun? Then something weird happened in adolescence and everything got super serious. Teens of course have hormones and the whole “forging a distinctive identity” thing to blame, not to mention *ugh* high school.

But what is our excuse?

As kids we longed to grow up, to be ADULTS, so we could be…FREE.

About that. We humans are weird.

Give us anything that might liberate us and make life BETTER, and we will quickly turn it into a soul-sucking chore. It is simply astounding all the stuff that is fun…that we RUIN.

Bear with me.

We might start at the gym because we know going for a walk is good for us. We also know the gym is climate controlled so we won’t be able to use rain or sun or wind as an excuse to not get some exercise.

We start walking and feeling better. Yay, lower back feels great. Thirty minutes. Happy endorphins and we are very proud of what we have done.

We bask in the glow of our one month of walking five days a week for thirty minutes. In fact, we feel this self-discipline thing really isn’t so hard at all!

THEN…

A personal trainer notices we’ve been at the gym regularly and steps in to…help.

DON’T FALL FOR IT! IT’S A TRICK!

Sacred Cow #2—TRUST the “Experts”

Mere moments earlier, we felt AWESOME, only now realize how misguided we were. Oh, thank goodness this expert saved us from destruction!

The trainer, deeply concerned for our welfare tells us with all kinds of statistics and studies that our silly walking is not enough.

No, we must add in weight training. Not just any weight training. No, it needs to be high weight low reps. No, high reps low weight. Scratch that, high intensity!

No! You fool! You are overtraining! You need recovery time. Oh, you took recovery time because you can’t sit on the potty without a Life Alert bracelet? You’re just going to have to suck it up.

Did we mention your diet?

Remember, simplicity is KEY.

If you do cardio, eat carbs 90 minutes before aerobic exercise and protein 30 minutes before weight training. Then protein within 90 minutes after doing cardio.

Post-workout, rub your body in coconut oil (unrefined, of course) and stretch but only when Mercury is in retrograde–and within the 123 minute window after cardio–or the stretching and expensive coconut oil all a waste.

Got it? No. Okay, let’s create a plan for you. Mastercard or Visa?

The next thing we know this FUN time at the gym has now turned into a personal hell where we are prodded by macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients all using pointy vitamin-supplement pitch forks.

We cling to that trainer who saved us from our pointless 30-minute walks and toss money at her if only she can help it all make sense (or she will go away)!

More often than not, we return to our blanket fort…where there are snacks.

We adults do this crap ALL THE TIME. Hey I am guilty, too. We know as adults we should want to be better, do better and we start out well-meaning enough.

Yet we fall for it…

Sacred Cow #3—The More It SUCKS the BETTER!

From books on “simple home organization” to “better parenting” to “eating healthier” to “financial freedom” we generally tend to fall into this bizarre belief that the more it sucks, the better it must be.

Like the crappier food tastes, the healthier it is!

Right?

Soon, we start shackling ourselves to all kinds of bizarre and UNFUN legalism. We wanted to be free (of extra weight, too much clutter, too many bills).

Yet all these books and courses and virtual tools to save time and make life better…kinda just make us want to drink heavily and OD on brownie batter.

We soon find we avoid the gym we once loved like Ebola, are afraid of our mailbox, and with our spouse and kids? We turn into the HULK only meaner and in yoga pants (because those won’t split when we “turn”).

THIS IS A SPONTANEOUS SCHEDULED FAMILY FUN SESSION AND SO HELP ME YOU BETTER START SMILING OR I…WILL…END…YOU!

Hmm, maybe just me.

Why DO We DO This?

Much can be blamed on Western culture (Americans being the most guilty). Many of us are taught from youth that FUN=BAD.

We’re riddled with guilt about pleasure and fun (and sure, we can probably blame those sour-faced Puritans for laying the groundwork).

*stabs Plymouth Rock in my mind*

Yet kids are robbed of recess, daydreaming is forbidden, and only school-sanctioned imaginative activities are allowed (refer to why my son was kicked out of preschool for liking zombies). Put a kid in sports, gymnastics or dance and see how long it takes for all the fun to get sucked right out of THAT.

Why does all this happen?

Because fun-stealing is big business if we allow it.

Cruise lines can sell us a package of joy and harmony and relaxation. Then, the pharmaceutical companies step in to sell us the anti-anxiety meds required for taking a whole week off to have…*gulp* fun.

We return to our day jobs and 547 unread emails is our penalty for being so selfish as to believe we might actually need to rest now and again.

Maybe we should buy that app to check messages at sea.

Many Americans proudly wear the “I Haven’t Taken a Day Off Since Y-2K” badge of honor…even though we all secretly hate them and know if they took a little time for fun, they might actually not be such frigging jerks.

*breathes deeply*

And Ms. I Never Take Vaca is there to sneer at us for our “weakness.” She embodies FUN! Because the sheer joy of leading the PTA, baking a zillion nut-free GF cookies, and zooming her kids to every social event imaginable is fulfillment in and of itself and all the “fun” required for “good mothers.”

*stabs her in our minds, too*

And Mr. I Never Need Holiday is there at work (where else?). He recommends the Intensive Weeklong Fasting and Time-Management-Leadership-Be-Your Best-Self-in-Less-Than-Nine-Minutes-a-Day-Retreat…which is of course, conveniently offered on-line.

Also, he can reach us every minute of the day via text or email…unlike when we were so naughty as to take that cruise.

It’s madness. I know!

Yet here we are. All staring at each other on the crazy train wondering how the heck we keep meeting again.

Follow the Money

Honest truth is authentic fun is not near the moneymaker as the “shill” of fun. Look at all those “activities” I mentioned that should be fun and who’s there to step in? Experts.

Who happen to make money.

Who can help us with our exercise, diet, meditation, and train our kids for the Olympics!

***Even though little Mackenzie just liked doing cartwheels and we thought gymnastics class would be fun—silly us!

When we were kids who simply had FUN, we didn’t count how many minutes of cardio we’d done riding bikes four hours straight. We gave no thought to the carbs or lack of macro-nutrients in that giant cherry Slurpee we inhaled.

Then we grew up and used our larger and more highly developed brains to think all the fun out of well…pretty much everything.

I see this over and over in social media.

The greatest tool writers have been handed to become free, is being used to enslave us.

“Experts” tell us that an author platform is serious business. If we’re having fun, then we aren’t being professional.

We need automation and vlogs and podcasts and to be everywhere on every site all the time contributing mind-blowing content for exposure!

*feels dirty inside*

Then there is the gathering emails, decoding analytics, sales strategies, promotional tactics, targeting our market…

Call me crazy, but does any of that sound like ANY FUN? SERIOUSLY! We all started this writing journey because we are the dreamers and find imaginary people more interesting than real ones (because they are). We wanted to write to be FREE!

To have FUN!

Granted, a brand is important and social media is vital, and selling lots of books way more fun than selling no books. But anyone who’s shoveling out manure from one of those sacred cows we tipped?

RUN!

Refuse the Kool-Aid

On social media FUN is SUPER effective. People are drawn to it. The world is a dark and dreary place and getting gloomier by the second. Fun stands out.

Authenticity is priceless! We know it when we see it because joy shines bright!

It creates genuine connections (code for relationships). But here is the kicker! Friendship, trust, care, hope, joy and fun cannot be measured in metrics 😉 .

And when stuff is fun–as in truly fun–we ENJOY DOING IT. When we enjoy it, we don’t have to outsource it, set reminders or pay people to do it FOR us.

I am not completely eschewing all experts because um…that would be dumb. Experts who empower us are great! Who teach us how to set up properly to avoid injury, waste or pain? Yay!

But experts who make us into permanent revenue streams because they’ve overwhelmed us and made us hysterical?

RUN!

Because many will convince us the more something sucks the better it works…but they (benevolently) have an affordable plan to deliver us from this suckage.

Yep.

Blunt truth is if we don’t tip some of these sacred cows, it just leaves us the cash cow.

In the end, life is short. Enjoy it.

What are your thoughts? Are you like me and struggle with fun? Then try to do something fun and overcomplicate it and wreck it? I know I do. Hey, I am a work in progress too!

Do you feel like “experts” are constantly there to pounce on you and wring cash out of you? Do you fall for the “It only works if I am miserable”?

Hey I write this blog for FREE and constantly look for experts, but to stay on top of scm, trends, business, craft, I have to be SUPER careful. I strive to be better to help y’all be better and that is not always easy *deletes 765 unsolicited emails from experts*

I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU! And I am NOT above BRIBERY!

What do you WIN? For the month of OCTOBER, for 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).

To also prove social media is and should be super fun and that while you might need a little training, you DO NOT need a team of professionals paid to “manage your brand”:

I have two upcoming classes Social Media FREEDOM–Harnessing Passion & Creativity to Cultivate Fans & Harnessing Our Writing POWER–The Blog

I highly recommend you sign up for one of our upcoming classes listed below. ****Note, those who subscribe by email, the visual gallery doesn’t show, so please click through and sign up! We look forward to seeing you and serving you in class! Helping you be the best you can so your work can stand apart 😀 .

Blurb - Cait Reynolds
BLURB BOSS: Writing Blurbs that SELL BOOKS. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 10, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
BRAND BOSS! When Your Name Alone Can Sell. $45 USD. Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
PLOT BOSS: Writing novels readers want to buy! $40 USD. Thurs., Nov. 16, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Bad Boys. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 17, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!

It’s Squatter’s Rights Wednesday! Though, at this point, it’s more of a sublet than anything. I was planning on writing something snarky and funny today, but I woke up with the first sentence of this blog screaming in my head. Clearly, someone forgot to give my muse her decaf.

Naturally, though, we begin with the obligatory Denny Basenji picture.

Dear Leader is pensive this morning.

Please don’t worry that I am about to abandon the magnificent and wonderful tradition of this blog in staying the f*ck away from politics, etc. However, I found that the recent ugliness that claimed the life of an innocent woman raised a truly poignant, pertinent question for writers:

How do we as writers properly use ugly things?

Sure, a lot of us stay away from these topics or avoid writing in the genres that might land us in cultural minefields. But, we all reach a moment when our fingers pause over the keyboard as we wonder if we really should use that word, or describe a character with a particular label, or hint at a certain belief. It’s universal and unavoidable, really. Because when we are telling stories that mean something to us, that meaning is by nature complex and reflective of the entire spectrum from white to grey to black.

What are your intentions toward my novel, young man?

Writers are sneaky. We like to explore our vulnerabilities, controversial or dark thoughts, and unpopular opinions using the cloak-and-dagger of “plot” and “characters” and especially “the antagonist.”

This is absolutely the right thing to do. Our ability to slip in and out of disguise, to inhabit other lives and other worlds, is the Promethean gift to writers. Actors are similar to us, except they do it in a way that is physical and immediate. Whereas, we writers sip our tea, smile a little, and ponder if gutting the host with a cheese knife would leave enough forensic evidence for the pathologist to know that we were served camembert instead of brie.

This is all well and good.

Things become sticky when we fail to be honest with ourselves about our motivations. The ability to “shape shift” into our fiction comes with an equal measure of responsibility. We need to look at what we are saying and why we are saying it. Not just the general theme or message. We have to ask the hard questions of ourselves:

  • How did we get to this point in our lives where we need to write about this theme?
  • Could my message be seen from a different viewpoint? Can I accept that? Why or why not?
  • What does this message say about me as a person and what I believe and value?
  • Am I doing this to work off a grudge? Against whom or what? Why or why not?
  • Am I doing this so I can say things I am not normally allowed to say in society? Why or why not?

Notice that little phrase I keep using? “Why or why not?”

We can’t just stop at the first level of answers we give ourselves. If we are going to be authentic, honest, and meaningful, we must push ourselves to look unflinchingly at the truth – good, bad, ugly, and bad hair day – of who we truly are.

It is only when we are truthful about our own motivations that we can be meaningful…and careful when we handle ugly things.

You have the right to remain silent.

Writing difficult, ugly, and controversial things is a privilege, not a right. I mean, technically, yes, we have the First Amendment on our side. But, the moment we write something carelessly or thoughtlessly, we forfeit our alibi with our readers…and ourselves.

This is not about political correctness, identity politics, or anything like that. Those are incendiary labels that get shot back and forth in society like flaming tennis balls at the Wimbledon from hell.

This is about being honest with ourselves and doing the work to think through not just why we are writing something, but also tapping into our empathy to see if we are carelessly or thoughtlessly saying something that is needlessly hurtful to others.

That’s not to say that as writers, we can’t use stereotypes, prejudices, etc. We absolutely can – and often should. The difference is in our motivation and the care with which we do so.

Please note the second half of that sentence: the care with which we do so.

Because if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, thoughtful writing craft is the GPS of salvation. 

Handling ugly things requires the care and skill of a Ming dynasty vase collection curator. When we we use an ugly thing, we need to slow down, maybe even come to a full stop. This is a moment for analyzing what we are about to say, why we are saying it, which character/POV is saying it, why we chose that character/POV, what are that character’s motives and beliefs, and is this truly necessary to the story at that moment?

Ugly things are powerful. Ugly things evoke a visceral reaction in a reader that few other aspects of fiction can do. Ugly things can bring up ugly memories, traumas, deep fears, blistering rage, and gut-wrenching sorrow. Ugly things can turn the reader’s world upside down or make them face a world they had been hiding from.

This would be a moment to insert that old chestnut about absolute power corrupting absolutely. Sure, we as writers may not be making the kind of bank that a hedge fund manager or anesthesiologist makes, but we have the ability to haunt someone’s waking moments for weeks – if not months – after reading our words. That, my friends, is absolute power.

If we cannot or are unwilling to do the work to use our power responsibly and respectfully, then perhaps we should remain silent…

Speech therapy.

I have been toying with the idea of offering a class on this subject. I’d want it to be something where we really get into the weeds of how/when/not to use specific words, stereotypes, etc. However, it’s all too easy for a class like that to degenerate into a session of everyone complaining about the wrongs done to them as a person or as a writer. I include myself in this worry because this topic is a slippery slope. No, wait, it’s a glass slope covered in ice, with a layer of oil poured on top, and paved with banana skins for good measure.

Still, I think it might be something worth trying out. If you’d like to be part of this experiment, leave a comment and let me know!

***

For the month of AUGUST, for 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).

***

CATCH THE LAST CLASSES FOR AUGUST AND WATCH HERE FOR OUR WHOLE NEW LINE-UP OF SEPTEMBER CLASSES!

All classes come with a FREE recording!

We’ve added in classes on erotica/high heat romance, fantasy, how to write strong female characters and MORE! Classes with me, with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds and award-winning author and journalist Lisa-Hall Wilson. So click on a tile and sign up!

Blurb - Cait Reynolds
BLURB BOSS: Writing Blurbs that SELL BOOKS. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 10, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
BRAND BOSS! When Your Name Alone Can Sell. $45 USD. Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
PLOT BOSS: Writing novels readers want to buy! $40 USD. Thurs., Nov. 16, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Bad Boys. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 17, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!

It’s Cait again! The coup might be over, but I have now assumed squatters rights on Kristen’s blog. The fun part is that you never know when I’m going to pop up and come at you with stuff that is unusual, unsettling, and occasionally unnatural.

Today, I’m going to talk about writing young adult (YA) fiction. In the past decade, YA has experienced a renaissance and earned ‘theme park money’ for some lucky authors (I’m looking at you, sparkly vampire lady). Some YA has become incredibly sophisticated and gone to really challenging places both with its characters and subject matter (hello, dystopian-commentary-on-society and too-young-and-in-love-to-die-from-cancer books).

On the other hand, there is some really, really, really bad YA out there. Bathetic. Trite. Cringe-worthy.

The question is, how do we avoid all the traps and pitfalls that lead us to commit atrocities (i.e. write books) that are doomed to dwell in the 400,000 rankings on Amazon?

When Writers Need to be Grounded

When I wrote Downcast, I periodically went through my old yearbooks, notes I used to pass back and forth with my friends in classes, my old diaries from the time, and even a few of the papers I wrote for classes and kept for whatever reason. There was a method to my madness, because it’s absolutely madness to want to go back and torment yourself with looking at your yearbook photo from freshman year. (Note: if I get ten comments or more on this post, I will upload a copy of my freshman year photo…that is how much I believe in the cause…or something like that…)

The reason I delved not once, but multiple times into the memories of the micro-dramas and nostalgic optimism of my own high school experience was because it forced me to be realistic about teenagers, even the smart, responsible ones like myself. No other characters come with so much conflict and so many interesting limits already built-in simply by virtue of their age.

Let’s just list out the ways in which we are constrained as writers in working with teenage characters:

  • Teenagers live at home with their parents or other legal guardian figure;
  • Teenagers attend school Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.;
  • Teenagers must face and deal with the same people every day (other students, teachers, etc.);
  • Teenagers may or may not be able to drive;
  • Teenagers have curfews at night;
  • Teenagers generally have a limited income (after-school job, chores, etc.); and,
  • Teenagers have only had so much life experience in their 14-18 years and therefore almost everything can be and is new for them.

Of course, as writers, we get to break all those rules and constraints if we want. However, as every teenager will tell you, breaking the rules has consequences. The convenience of doing so is a slippery slope of permissiveness, and each exception pulls the character a little further away from reality and being easily identifiable with by the reader. There has to be a really good reason to change one of the baseline constraints for a YA character, and just because we are too lazy to figure out how to work within that particular restriction.

One of the early beta critiques of Downcast complained that it was boring to have the characters going to school every day, that it was…wait for it…repetitive. While I took that particular critique and beta reader with a grain of salt, I didn’t entirely discount her opinion. I knew that given my plot and world-building, there was no reason for these students not to be in school. Instead, I took the idea of repetitiveness and pushed it, turning the school week into something that was inescapable and claustrophobic. The protagonist had to face her tormentors every single day. There was no reprieve, no “I don’t feel like going to work so I won’t” choice. Thus, when things break down the structure and routine, it’s not just a variation. It’s cataclysmic and amps up the tension in the plot.

Like OMG!

So, we’re writing YA. We need to be au courant with the vernacular, the fads, the apps (Vine is sooooo 2015), and the fandoms. However, we run the danger of forgetting we are the grown-ups in this situation.

What does that mean?

It means don’t dumb it down.

Just because we are writing for young adults, we are not automatically required to use words of only two syllables and simple sentence structures. We obviously want to hit the right balance between clarity and casualness, eliminating a lot of the ‘like’s’ and ‘um’s’ that pepper both adult and teenage conversation. That doesn’t preclude the use of a broader, richer vocabulary or taking advantage of the full range of grammatical tricks to create provocative, evocative prose.

While being careful to avoid the verbose pomposity of obstreperous troglodytes, there’s no reason we can’t use words that teenagers might be unfamiliar with, provided we do so naturally and with context that suggests the meaning of the word in a way that mimics the organic process of learning language. YA shouldn’t just be engaging and challenging in the concepts it presents. Teenagers that read YA are at an age where reading should be both a pleasure and a learning experience, driving emotional and intellectual growth.

Also, we need to make sure that the emotions, motivations, and decision-making processes of our characters are easily relatable but not carelessly simplistic. A lack of life experience doesn’t mean that teenagers don’t have complex psychologies (just ask anyone with a teenager), even if they don’t have the vocabulary yet to explain fully.

We must respect our readers, no matter their age, and in return, they will respect us…even if they are teenagers

The Bell May Have Rung, but Class is not Dismissed!

Well, actually, class hasn’t even started yet.

Not surprisingly, I have SO much more to say on YA fiction. Therefore, I am teaching a W.A.N.A. class on it. Here’s the class description and where you can sign up. It’s gonna be totally fun.

Class Title: OMG, Like How to Write Fleek YA
Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $40 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY July 7th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

As long as there are teenagers, there will be a demand for angst-ridden, unabashedly romantic YA fiction. Whether the story is paranormal, dystopian, fantasy, or everyday literary, YA demands the author walk a tightrope between realistically capturing the young adult voice and meeting some very grown-up standards in terms of plot, characters, and style.

Who wants to sound like a tax-paying grownup with a minivan pathetically trying to sound like a teen? Yeah. No one. But it happens ALL the time.

This class will discuss some of the critical issues in crafting a story and characters that truly resonate with the YA audience. Topics include:

  • Talking like a teenager without describing like a grown-up (or sounding like a dumb@$$)
  • Tip-toeing through the minefield of sex and swearing
  • Tropes, types, and technology
  • Techniques for getting in the mindset to write a YA POV
  • Teenage-level decision-making skills vs. Too-Dumb-to-Live decisions
REGISTER HERE!

 

****Just FYI, in an effort to combat spammers your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Talk to me! And MAKE SURE to check out the classes below and sign up! Summer school! YAY!

For the month of JULY, for 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).

NEW CLASSES WITH CAIT REYNOLDS!

Obviously, I have my areas of expertise, but I’ve wanted for a long time to fill in some gaps on classes I could offer.

Cait Reynolds was my answer.

She is an unbelievable editor, mentor and teacher and a serious expert in these areas. She consults numerous very successful USA Today and NYTBS authors and I highly, highly recommend her classes.

      

  

OMG, Like How to Write On Fleek YA July 7th $40 with Cait Reynolds

Research for Historical Writing – Or, How not to Lose Six Hours on Pinterest July 8 $35 with Cait Reynolds

How to Dominate Your Sex Scenes (No Safe Words Here) July 14th $40 w/ Cait Reynolds

Shift Your Shifter Romance into High Gear July 15th $35 Basic/ $75 GOLD/ $125 PLATINUM

Gaskets and Gaiters: How to Create a Compelling Steampunk World July 21st $35 w/ Cait Reynolds 

Lasers & Dragons & Swords, Oh MY! World Building for Fantasy & Science Fiction July 28th w/ Cait Reynolds $35/ GOLD $75/ PLATINUM $125

Classes with MOI!

Plotting for Dummies July 13th $35 ($250 for GOLD)

Blogging for Authors July 20th $50 ($150 for GOLD)

Branding for Authors  July 27th $35

Classes with Lisa Hall-Wilson

Growing An Organic Platform On Facebook July 22nd $40

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

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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

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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.

Courtesy of https://www.parentcoachplan.com/parenting-memes.php
Courtesy of https://www.parentcoachplan.com/parenting-memes.php

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).

SIGN UP NOW FOR MY UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

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!!!! 

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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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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.

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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.

Seriously???
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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

OMG! YES!
OMG! YES!

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

NEW CLASS!

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?

***NOTE: DO NOT PUT GLITTER IN YOUR QUERY.

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