The E Tribe

 The show Survivor is a sociology geeks dream. Not only do they throw people into an extenuating environment, but they also mix things up by artificially creating tribes based on age or gender or race (a very un-PC but interesting season). The new season starts this week with a new twist; contestants will be divided into tribes by the type of work they do–white collar tribe, blue collar and a no collar or entrepreneur tribe. Not only does this excite the sociology geek in me, it calls to me as an entrepreneur too. 

I’ve written before about tribe and ways this social construct is changing and ways it effects our lives. Tribe was a huge theme in my first novel, Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story (hence the title). We are naturally drawn to like people with shared interests and form tribes or social groups. It’s a combination of who someone is as well as mutual benefit that forms a tribe and determines how effective they are at meeting goals. If your goal is to win Survivor the no-collar group might have the advantage.

So what skill sets are we looking at here? What differentiates an entrepreneur from a white or blue collar worker? 
1) Risk taking – the no-collar worker is the only one who is not counting of the safety and security of an already existing company for pay and benefits. They would rather sink or swim on their own than work by another’s rules. And although many sink, they also tend to pop back up and try again, using lessons from their first try to do a better job the second (or third) time around.
2) Resourcefulness – Working from your own shoestring budget or seeing where every penny is being spent in a business forces entrepreneurs to make do and find creative ways to make things happen. This is a skill that white collar and blue collar workers don’t develop when they are given the funds they need to do the work they are assigned. 
3) Planning – poor planning is what sinks most first endeavors for entrepreneurs, so they learn the value quickly. And when creating the big-picture plan is completely on your plate, you take the time to look at all the factors: outside and inside forces that can impact your game plan. 
4) Learning – owning a business is not only about creating something to sell, but also about marketing and finance. Successful entrepreneurs naturally search for more information; the best way to do something.
5) Passion – TGIF is the moniker of those who might like their jobs on some days, but they will never love their jobs the way an owner does. Even if they aren’t at work, they are often thinking about work and ways they can make it better. And they bring this passion to anything they commit to. It’s part of their nature. 

Does this guarantee that someone from the no-collar tribe will win this season of Survivor? Not really. Entrepreneurs are also solitary by nature. They like to do things alone, their own way. If you’ve watched the game before this can equal disaster for a player. The one who steps up as leader first is often the first shot down because he or she is seen as too much of a threat. The one on the outside of the groups, bonded to no one is seen a suspicious and possibly untrustworthy. And the social element isn’t the only factor. Personally, I would be a whining ball of jangled nerves after maybe a week of sleeping with bugs and creepy-crawly things and subsisting on half-cooked rice. And then there’s the challenges…horrible memories of grade school gym class surface anytime I think of me competing in one. The final wild card that keeps me from predicting a winner is that while these people are supposed to represent each business type, they were all actually chosen for their TVQ ratings or how much a TV audience will react to them, good or bad. Survivor, after all, is a business too, one that survives on ratings. 

For past posts on tribe see: Finding Your Tribe or What Your Tribe Says About You

Who is your money on to win this season of Survivor? Comment below and make your predictions now.

Bad Boy Burnout

One of the questions I get asked most often about Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story is who Ben is based on. Did I know a Ben in high school? (Answer: I wish). Ben is actually a combination of several men I know but the main idea for his character came from a case of bad-boy burnout.

A total Boy Scout who will steal your heart.

Bad boys have been standard fare in romance for a long time. The romance novels I read in high school were full of scoundrels and rogues who led sweet-innocents astray. I gave up on the genre around the time I started college. Fun reading was replaced with text books (I swear I did read some of them) and I got tired of the predictability of the novels. Before the days of self-publishing there were fewer choices and fewer retail outlets where you could find different options. If it wasn’t on the paperback shelf at Target, I probably didn’t read it in the 1980’s. 

But now we have options, tons of options. Not only do we have Amazon, but with the advent of the e-reader, it’s possible for local libraries to carry thousands more titles than their brick and motor buildings can hold. When I jumped back into romance reading a few years ago I started searching for the best novels that were published during my missing years. I found Outlander and Twilight then 50 Shades of Grey and Beautiful Disaster. I was devouring these and loving them. Internet searches also brought me the “If you loved (name of book) then try…” lists. So if I loved 50 Shades of Grey then I will love This Man or Bared to You. Ummm, no. That’s where I hit a wall. For me the follow-up novels were way too close to the original.  I felt like I was reading the same story but with different character names.  I tried other suggestions and kept running into more and more bad boys, who were starting to feel more like colossal a-holes.

But frustration is a good thing for a writer. The more I hated the “heros” I was finding the more I wanted to create my own.  I was dying to read about a smart guy who was going somewhere in life. I wanted a story where there wasn’t a “good girl” out to save some misogynistic loser–so I wrote it. 

Ben was created to turn the current standard for romance writing around. He is the antithesis of the previaling bad boy. He is smart and geeky and driven. And like most real people his assets are also his deficits. He is also a controlling, rigid perfectionist. The final piece I added to make him real was that he was a virgin, but sexual. Logic tells me that just because a teenage boy isn’t having sex doesn’t mean it isn’t on his mind, a lot. Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks is a broody, angsty, bad-boy free zone. 

So, how about you? What type of romance books are you drawn to? Have you reached bad-boy burnout or are you ready for more? Who is the best hero you’ve read lately? Comment below and let me know.

A Gutsy Business Plan

Last year I started a business. The crazy thing is I didn’t really realize that I was starting a business when I did it. When I clicked on the publish button on Kindle Direct Publishing I was not only sending my first novel (my baby) out into the world, I was also launching my own company, Karen Gordon – Author. 

I was aware that self publishing would mean that I was self promoting but I had a tip-of-the-iceberg view of what I had just jumped into. I would image it’s the same with starting almost any business. There are always hidden aspects, things that weren’t on your radar when you got your initial spark of genius. The good news is that the same internet that allows so many of us to start a business is also replete with guru’s to help you keep going after that first plunge. 

I found my first business mentor when I was writing Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story. Danielle LaPorte was (and still is) the perfect combination of business-savy entrepreneur, spiritual mystic and blunt friend who will tell it like it is (with a few choice cuss words thrown in for emphasis). Her Firestarter Sessions book was exactly what I needed to light a fire under me and push my novel out of my head and into kindles around the world. I recommend her to anyone, but especially women, who have a dream they want to turn into a business. 

I also found a lot of great advice about ways to use social media to grow my fledgling business. I found apps and sites that I never knew existed or had never ventured into, but each promised to be a great way to connect with my audience. So I LinkedIn to Wattpad. I Google+(ed) a Pintrest pin. I Instagramed my FB posts. I tweeted my Reddit quotes and reposted my blogs on Goodreads.

 I scattered myself; my time, my message, my energy so far and wide forgot the reason I was doing it in the first place–my writing. And to make matters worse, I wasn’t good at or entirely comfortable being that social. It’s really not my nature.

Then I found Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran. The author was featured on a self-publishing podcast where he spoke eloquently to the introvert in me that was finding it harder than I thought it would be to put myself (and not just my work) out there in social media. The book not only had great ideas for those who might be a little social media adverse, it helped me bring my focus back onto who I am, what I do and what I offer. David Gaughran helped me get back to where Danielle LaPorte started me–following my gut.

I slowed down and backed off. I stopped chasing every possible social media stream and took the time to figure out those few that worked best for me. (Turns out it’s the ones I was already drawn to before I was a business.) I focused on and studied the four forms of social media I enjoyed: FaceBook, Pintrest, Goodreads and Twitter. I learned amazing things about each that I never knew as a casual user and it never felt like a chore. Following your business gut guarantees more fun and less drudge. 

 I’m writing slower too, which really seems to go against prevailing wisdom. I’m not sure how so many authors are producing four or more novels a year, but my quota is closer to two (some years, one). While I can write like the wind once I get going, I need to do a lot of research and pre-planning and outlining before I can begin to think about daily word quotas. I could feel each character and knew each deeply as I wrote my first two novels. Until I get to that point I can’t officially start writing on the next. 

I don’t think my new business plan is so much brave as it is perfect for me. It comes from my gut. What about your business plan? Or life plan? Have you found your guru’s? Have you found the mix of producing and marketing that’s working for you? If you have, please comment and share.

5 Reasons to See 50

We are still two weeks away from the premier of 50 Shades of Grey and the controversy is already heating up. Twitter was abuzz this morning with giggling-behind-my-hand, junior-high level salacious comments about guys getting some action if they take their date to see it. The purveyors of outrage porn have started the ground-swell of indigent (and mostly completely misinformed) anger. (But hey, if it gets you retweets, why bother researching before you speak.)

I didn’t feel the need to tell the world that I will be going to see it, with a date, and plan on enjoying the hell out of an interesting love story featuring two beautiful people, a great soundtrack and some beautiful scenery. But the level of crazy already surrounding this movie has me wanting to at least throw my perspective as a romance writer into the mix. 

What is it about elevators?

Before I explain why you might want to see it, let me add a few disclaimers. This film is based on the books that are not great literature. Public success and great writing usually have an inverse relationship especially when it comes to writing about sex. It also isn’t a how-to primer on BDSM. If you read one of those you would see that E.L. James did some research, but she barely touches on this complex, widely-varied sexual community. It also isn’t supporting the abuse of women. The main female character is a willing, albeit naive, participant. It’s really a pretty simple story with no political or instructional agenda. 

So, why dedicate another blog post to it? Why am I going to see it?

1. It’s a love story–a sexy love story, something we are so sadly lacking in America. I love to go to the movies and I can’t tell you how many times I have had the time and desire only to find that my choices are either Hot Tub Time Machine 2 or more death and gore in two hours than I want to see in a lifetime. Reading a book or seeing a movie is all about how it makes you feel. Personally, I want to feel sexy rather than moronic or grossed out.

2. I like that these books and this film are at least opening up a dialogue about different types of sexuality. The BIG news that emerged from these books is that not everyone likes their sex the same way. Reading about it and learning doesn’t equate with signing up and joining in. Half the stuff on social media is misinformed or childish, but at least we are talking. And it has couples talking and possibly admitting that they might want more than decades of rote sex with each other.

3. The movie might lead to more couples having more sex and I can’t see that as a bad thing. I am all for women and couples finding the books or movies that turn them both on. It can’t be repeated enough that the way to turn a woman on is through her brain. We need to think sexy thoughts, a lot of them, in order to push the massive, running to-do list that we all carry out of the front-and-center position in our brains. Two hours of beautiful people talking and acting sexy just might do the trick.

4. If this movie does well in theaters then we might get more sexy love stories in the future. I like the idea of us being a more sexy and less violent nation. I would love to see a steady stream of different types of love stories pouring out of Hollywood. (And a steady stream of writers getting big, fat checks for their romance novels being made into movies. Self-serving, but true.)

5. This is sexy done for women by women on a big budget movie. I teach a film class so I can say with authority that Hollywood has not often been open to the idea that women are sexual beings and not just the reluctant or exploited objects of male lust. The female lead character in this film may seem to be an innocent led astray, but the outcome of this romantic tug-of-war for power says otherwise.

So there it is, my two cents worth. And as I do with all my blog posts I will now tweet, post and pin it; hoping to add a slightly authoritative (or at least well thought out) voice into all that crazy. 

Join me and add your two cents and comment. Will you see the movie? In theaters or at home? Did you read the books? Are you ready for more sexy and fewer violent films?