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.

Celebrating Light and Warmth and Peace and Quiet

One of my favorite days is coming up this Sunday, the winter solstice. I’ve never formally celebrated the shortest day of the year, but I’ve always done a little happy dance in my mind that, little by little, the days will now start getting longer. 

I’m not exactly a fan of winter. Around our house I am known as the human popsicle. When the temp hovers anywhere near freezing my hands and feet turn to ice and I feel a chill all the way to my bones. I can lay under a huge pile of blankets and still have icy hands and feet. 

I am a huge fan of sunlight and warmth and spring. Longer, warmer days mean more time to go to my favorite park and walk. Spring means flowering trees. The early ones are the best. I’m thrilled every time I spot a burst of color in all the brown of a just-budding forest.  

So this Sunday I am planning, for the first time, to celebrate the day that marks the turning point back toward light and warmth. I feel a little crazy taking this on. Christmas obligations are barreling down and threatening to run over me already. The news this morning was one frantic reminder after another how many days I have left before I must skid to the red and green finish line, sweating and breathing hard, holding the appropriate number of gifts and cards and dressed in the my ugly sweater, bearing huge trays of homemade cookies and party food, ready to produce a feast for my family. 

Christmas craziness is actually another reason I want to celebrate the solstice–I’m going to declare a one day moratorium from the frenzy and chaos and noise. I’m creating a little celebration where anyone is welcome, but no one is obliged to join me. I’m going to string a few little twinkle lights across a window because they always make me smile. I’m going to add a few springs of pine because the smell will remind me of how great it smells outside. My one project for the day will be to thinly slice and dry and orange in the oven. When finished the house will smell like sunny citrus and when hung in the window the slices look like sunny stained glass–well worth the effort.

Then, the best part–quiet. When everyone else is asleep I’ll plug in my twinkle lights and lay down and watch them. Around midnight, when we turn the corner toward spring I’ll do that happy dance in my mind and I’ll think about the year ahead and all the things I am looking forward to. If it’s a clear night I’ll find a few wishing stars to pin my hopes on them for good things for my friends and family and me.

Whether you decide celebrate or not I wish all of my readers a calm, peaceful longest night and many warm, sunny days to come.

Popstars, Friends & Lovers are Headed Your Way

So, this was me on Friday.

I finished the first draft of Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale. I’ve been writing like a woman possessed for the past month. If anyone has been wondering why I haven’t called or written or texted it’s  because when I set a deadline, I hit a deadline. And because I was dying to share this story with everyone who has told me they are waiting for it. 

There is still some work to be done. I am shopping for a proofreader, working with the goddesses at Deranged Doctor Designs on a cover and having it beta read. But we will get there, my latest labor of love will be available as an e-book (at first) and I’m here to make the big announcement today. 

Mark your calendars.
To prepare you for this sequel to my debut novel I am going to be sharing the first few chapters of Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story on my blog.  Starting next Monday. This might inspire any of you sitting on the fence to read book one before book two (always works better that way). 
Then …. I will also post the first few chapters of Popstars on this blog in the weeks before the release. 
Finally … I will debut the cover for Popstars here, on my blog. 

In other words …. keep an eye on this blog.


Dare to Dream

In a review of Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story the reviewer noted that she didn’t like the fact that the burnouts didn’t seem to have much ambition. It’s true, they don’t. But ambition comes from dreams, specifically dreams that you believe have a chance of coming true. It’s dreams that the burnouts lack and that lack is the theme of my second novel, Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale. (note the new addition to the title!)

One of my favorite scenes in the first book was Ben and the burnouts having breakfast together when he was kidnapped. It’s career day at school and the burnouts don’t feel the need to be there. It’s a traditional skip day for them and that alone speaks volumes about the prospects these kids see for their futures. When they question Ben about his plans the differences become clear. He has a dream, and a clear plan to reach it, and a family that supports him in his dream. 

I Wanna Be a Rock Star …

In contrast Casey hopes to get a job at a local factory and MG has unrealistic dreams of herself and Carrie moving to New York and walking right in to glamorous jobs. Carrie, Gina and Steve have no specific dreams for the future because no one ever told them they could. Dreaming starts at home, in families that tell their kids that they are not only allowed to have a dream, but the family will put time and money and love into helping make that dream come true. I agree that their lack of aspirations is frustrating, but I wrote it that way because it establishes one of the results of their home lives and also opens the door for so much to happen in book two.

Once out of the cocoon of high school outside forces start to define their lives. If you don’t have a specific plan and people to help you keep on track, you tend to drift with the flow and hope for the best. Even Ben finds his dreams changing as life happens to him in book one. 

I’m spending most of the day on most days writing Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale (again, cool new addition to the title) and I love the complexity of this theme. Popular culture tends to show dreams as a one size fits all kind of thing. We are told we should dream and dream big; then we should relentlessly go in the direction of our dreams and never, never give up. Until you have a movie star’s body, face, spouse, house and paycheck you have not made it. 

I can’t wait to dispel that myth. Through MG and Steve and a bunch of new characters I’m turning that cliche, Disneyesque idea on its head. Because its only when we grow up and figure out what we truly want from life that daring to dream becomes powerful. Book two is all about those dreams, the ones that when they do come true bring peace-of-mind, contentment and love (cause it’s a love story – after all). 

Mommy Porn

When the 50 Shades of Grey trailer was released last week the controversy started again. Is it porn? Is it porn specifically for women? Is it (lets go for the worst thing possible here) mommy porn? (cue the doomsday, horror movie sound track)

50 Shades 50 years ago

Personally, I would say it is not porn. I would call it a romance novel with an erotic element, and compared to other erotic romance novels, its kind of tame. If you took out all the sex scenes you would still have a story, specifically a romance about a girl and a guy who change in order to become a couple. (Pretty standard romance stuff).

So why the mommy porn moniker? Media hype. The phrase manages to combine two elements that our society believes should be diametrically opposed. Based in the antiquated madonna/whore idea is the belief that any woman who has given birth simultaneously erased all hints of her sexuality. Unfortunately women have believed this myth, bought into it, then shut down the sexual part of themselves. (Which was equally unfortunate for the men they were married to.) Fear of bucking the social norm still keeps so many women from admitting that they have any interest in anything sexual.

Would it really be such a bad thing if a married woman with a few kids managed to turn off the incessant stream of grocery lists and school agendas running through her head and instead remembered that sex can be exciting and fun? I argue that sexy novels do more good for marriage than harm. 

I saw an old man attempting to thumb through a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey at Costco once. He was so nervous and immediately stopped and walked away when he saw his wife approaching. I wanted to tell him to buy the book plus a nice bottle of wine and something that didn’t need to be cooked for dinner. Then go home climb into bed and read it to his wife. Something tells me that, love the story or hate it, they would have had some fun, exciting and interesting conversations (and probably much more) that night. Opportunity missed. 

One of the arguments against erotic romance books (especially this one) is that it has women fantasizing about someone either than their husband. I can see where that could be a problem … if Christian Grey was real and living in your neighborhood. But he’s not. He is pure make-believe and guaranteed to never show up and lead someone astray. Even the real-life movie version, Irish actor and underwear model Jamie Dornan, is highly unlikely to be out trolling your neck of the woods looking for a middle-age woman driving a minivan full of kids.

Actually, romance novels can bring discord to a marriage. Women who read about men who work at staying in shape, know how to dress and have a working knowledge of female sexual anatomy and desires, often do start wanting some of that in their own lives. But being the eternal optimists we are (and really loving souls) we more often than not

try to get more of what we want from within our marriages. 

I’m not sure how many couples will go see the movie on Valentines day (the release date). Through the books and movie and others like it, women are just starting to acknowledge that they are still whole people, still sexual beings and we quite often like to take those baby steps in the safety of a group of our peers. Like the man at Costco, there is a risk (oddly enough) in admitting our desires to our spouse. But the benefits … 

I’m not specifically recommending these books, but I am recommending more romance reading (which works out well since I am a romance writer.) There are so many sub-genres within romance: historical, western, vampire, etc. I guarantee there will be one that will curl your toes and make you go “squeee”; that will wake up (or possibly start) all those wonderful dirty thoughts that will have you packing the kids off to bond with grandma so you can “review the finer plot points” with your spouse.  

Torrenting is Stealing

I dread the day my teens move out. I might run out of topics for my blog. I started this morning with a lively discussion on torrenting (pirating) music and movies with my teen. As an author of an e-book I take pirating personally. I’m amazed at the cavalier attitude of teens in general toward this practice.

The most popular argument, and my personal favorite, is that since teens don’t have enough money to purchase all the music and movies and e-books they would like to own, that justifies taking free copies from sites that haven stolen them. I love this idea and I kind of hope it holds up in court because I can’t afford any of the Christian Louboutin shoes I want. How awesome would it be to just saunter in to one of their stores and take a few pairs since I’m too poor to buy them. I’ll post a pic of my new shoes when this idea becomes a legal precedent.

Which leads to the argument that shoes are a physical item where there is cost involved in producing each item. Teens say it’s different if it is something that you can make infinite copies of. “But, doesn’t your favorite band have a right to make money from their work?” I contend. “Yes, but they make tons of money so they can afford to have some not paid for (notice an avoidance of the word ‘stolen’). These teens have no problem playing judge and jury with the unseen finances of musicians and authors they claim to love. It left me wondering exactly how much the band, actor, author is allowed to make before their fans decide that they have enough and the rest should be free. I guess they reference the communist manifesto for a precise number.

I’ve also been told that those who are stealing wouldn’t pay for the stuff anyway, so they should just be ignored. This problem is huge and growing worldwide but that isn’t a reason to ignore it. I’m not sure how this will play out as these teens enter the work force and send their lovingly-crafted work into the internet ether. My guess would be that those who work in creative industries will see the value of their work has diminished and along with it their ability to earn a decent living. Having helped themselves to free music, movies, books, photographs, etc. since childhood pirating could become the standard rather than the exception. 

The other thing I can’t see is the new business model that will probably spring up to replace the current one. I’m not one to subscribe to gloom and doom predictions. I do believe that an enterprising musician or marketer or some kid who knows how to make a buck will find a way to both pay the piper and allow the listeners to feel like they are accessing it all for free.The never-ending evolution of making the almighty buck has never let me down.

Until then I will continue my campaign. It will take frustration and anger on the part of all who produce electronic intellectual property to bring about change. It will take drawing attention to the problem and not allowing the value of our work to be diminished to nothing. I might not still be writing when a new business model evolves, so until then, I need to make money from my work. I’ve got a more shoes to buy.

Popstars, Friends & Lovers Sneak Peek and Timeline

I’ve been remiss and sporadic with posting on this blog lately. My only explanation is that summer happened: summer travel, summer camps, summer weather. I’m not sure if I am happy or not that it will be coming to an end soon. School starts in our world in three weeks. 
Writing on my second book “Popstars, Friends & Lovers” is the other thing that has been too sporadic this summer. I am determined to hit my October deadline, so I revised my end-of-summer schedule to include more time for novel writing. In order to accomplish this, I will only be blogging on Mondays. I still have a lot to share with my readers so I don’t want to let it go completely, but I need to dedicate more mornings to MG and Steve. 
After a rocky start, I’m really happy with the direction things are going in for my favorite couple/noncouple from “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks.” Here’s a sneak peek at chapter two – Steve after graduation and after MG left him to go to New York.  Enjoy and follow my progress on social media with #♪☺♥.

**This excerpt and the novel are recommended for readers age 17 and older.**

Steve’s afternoons with Carrie were the highlight of his week.  Since his dad refused to get a phone for their apartment (Don’t wantanyone to call me) he had to just hope he would see her pull up in Ben’s jeep on Tuesdays and Thursdays at three.
They watched reruns together, she brought him food from the restaurant where she worked, and being around her reminded him of high school, and MG.  There was no way to justify how much he missed MG.  She was never really his girlfriend so she never broke up with him, but she left him behind, just the same.  Now she was in New York, with her mom, chasing some dream of big money and a big life. And he was here, hanging out with her best friend, clinging to the way he had felt when he was around her.  
His dad wandered into the kitchen, which could easily be seen from the living room.  He and Steve worked the night shift together at Tricon, so he was just getting up and, as usual, he hadn’t bothered to put pants on.  
“Put some god-damned pants on,” Steve yelled.  He had to tell him this every time Carrie was coming over.  
“Why, that lil cutie comin over again?”
Steve glared at his dad.  It almost seemed like he wanted Carrie to catch him in his underwear.  Like she’d be interested in some sorry-assed, middle-aged man.  Steve looked at his dad, slumped over the door of the refrigerator, searching the contents for anything edible.  He was tall, lean and lanky; just like Steve.  And like his son, he was also a lot stronger than he looked.  Steve had seen him heft some seriously heavy boxes at the warehouse.  But time and bad living was definitely taking a toll on him.  He had blotchy skin on his face, some from too much sun, some old scars.  His hair was starting to recede from his forehead, particularly on the sides.  And he had the nastiest smoker’s hack when he woke up, like now.  Coming up empty on his search of the fridge, he scoured the cabinets, lungs rattling, working up to a vile-sounding coughing fit.  
Steve snubbed his own cigarette out in the overflowing ashtray on the floor next to the couch, “Her name’s Carrie and she doesn’t want to see you in your underwear.”
“How do you know? She smiled at me last time she was here.”
Shit!Sometimes his old man just drove him insane, maybe because they were too much alike.  At one point in time, Jim Shrader was a charmer and a flirt and a ladies man.  Then he met Steve’s mom, his waterloo.  He fell hard for her and was actually thrilled when she got pregnant their junior year of high school, the result being Steve’s older brother, Tony.  To this day he kinda wondered if Tony really was his full brother.  They were nothing alike, in looks or personality.  He wondered if his mom had just decided Jim Shrader was most likely to marry her. A marriage that lasted all of 10 months before she bolted, leaving Jim with a newborn.  The other thing Steve never understood was why his dad took her back five years later, when she had Steve then left again.  His best guess was that his mom was a drug addict and Jim thought he could save her, or she was reformed briefly, or something like that.
Not that he would ever know those answers.  Neither he nor Jim was much for talking.  They were both so laid back they could be home together for days and never say more than two words to each other.  Yep, him and his dad, two mellow-assed saps for women.  It depressed the hell out of him how much his life was starting to look like his dad’s.
Carrie knocked on the door.  Steve pleaded with his eyes for his dad to go in his room.  Jim reluctantly complied.  
“They were out of chicken fried steak, so I got you meatloaf.”
She spoiled him.  She went out of her way to do things to make him happy.  With her boyfriend Ben away at basic training, it was like she needed someone to dote on as much as he liked being doted on, so it worked.
“Meatloaf’s great, thanks.” He held the door then closed it behind her.
“I grabbed a bunch of plastic forks and knives from the take-out bin too.”  
The first time she showed up with a meal for him they had to look under the couch for one of the three forks he and his dad owned.  It took a lot of hot water to get the gunk off it.  She had been bringing plastic utensils ever since.  
“Good idea.” He dropped his voice a little, “My dad’s here and awake, so let’s just go in my room.”
Carrie set the bag containing his dinner on the floor and plopped on his mattress, which sat on the floor.  Her Swiss-themed uniform skirt poofed out in a circle around her.  Steve shut the door, retrieved the bag of food and propped himself up against the wall, sitting on his pillow, to eat his meatloaf.
“You will not believe what I heard today.”  Carrie laid down, her head on his out-stretched legs.  This was something new, touching each other – nothing sexual, just touching in some way, filling the gaping affection void in both their lives.  
“Rat-boy got busted.”  Rat-boy was their nickname for a kid from their class who, well, had a rat face.  He opened a pizza place right after graduation, but everyone knew it was a front for his drug dealing.  
“Fuckin’ moron, probably sold to a cop.”
Carrie smiled and nodded, “if he names names, would you be in trouble?”
Steve popped another chunk of meatloaf in his mouth and shook his head no.  He never bought from Rat boy because he was a stupid fuck who cheated his way through high school. He doubted he’d changed much in the seven months since they graduated. 
Carrie rolled onto her back and picked at a torn cuticle.  Steve finished his dinner.  He set the plate on the crate he used as a side table, almost knocking the card off of it.  It was a graduation card from MG and her mom, the only one he got.  He set the card upright again.  
“Are you going out Friday night?” It would be New Year’s Eve, 1999.  People were going crazy all over the place with big parties or fears of the world ending.
He shrugged.  “Party at Chuck’s house.  I might go.  You?”
“Probably just stay at Casey’s and hang out with her and Gina.”  Carrie looked up at him and smiled, “So tonight I’m gonna party like its 1999,” she sang.  Steve chuckled softly and tugged at a tendril of her hair that was lying across his knee.  He stretched and grabbed an ashtray with a half-smoked joint in it.  He lit it, held the smoke in his lungs then blew it away from Carrie.  
“I definitely thought life after high school would be more exciting than this, didn’t you?”
He shrugged.
“Is this what you want to be doing? Ten years from now?”
He shook his head, “But I don’t have a fucking clue what else I could do.”  He thought about his old man, 25 years at Tricon, hefting boxes, moving crates, night after night.
“What do you say we just take off, start driving, see where we end up?”
He smiled at her, “In what?”
She smirked, “Good point.”  Neither of them owned a car.  He used his brother’s motorcycle while Stony was in jail and Carrie was using Ben’s jeep while he was in basic training.  

Carrie thought about asking him where he would want to go, if they could just take off, but she pretty much already knew the answer, New York.