The End of Being Chicken Sh*t or Why I Self-Published

To celebrate my 50th birthday I jumped out of an airplane, got a tattoo and self-published my first novel. Of the three, publishing was by far the scariest but they were all part of my midlife journey, my campaign to live my life differently, more deliberately, for the second fifty years (give or take a few).

The night before my skydive a friend asked me why I was doing it. I told her that I couldn’t live as a chicken shi*t any longer. There were so many things that I feared, irrationally, at that time. I was scared to death of heights, but I knew that statistically skydiving was pretty safe. I was scared to do much of anything permanent, because I was scared of making a mistake and scared of regret. My tattoo is permanent and a constant reminder that I can trust my gut and the choices I make for myself.

And I was scared to death of anyone knowing me, who I really was, what was in my heart. Writing “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story” was me leaning into that fear and pushing past it. It was me giving it the finger and saying that maybe I did have something to offer.

At first I was defensive of my writing and the topic, young love. But reviews told me that a lot of people really enjoyed reading the book because it mirrored their own high school experience and they loved reliving it. I began to apologize and back peddle less and own it. I showed up at writers groups and proclaimed that I write romance.

Other fantastic changes also happened when I hit publish. I was forced out of my very small world. I had to interact with other authors and ask tons of questions because I was so incredibly lost. I met amazing friends, people who are stoked about life and writing and helping others reach their dreams. My world expanded and filled up with great people. And I reconnected with others from my past. They read my book and contacted me to say they liked it and played the guessing game of who from our high school inspired certain scenes or characters.

A few days after publishing I created some flyers and carried them around with me (because I was still too chicken to ask to hang them). I had lunch at a local coffee shop and my friend/editorial goddess, Chrissy, pushed me to ask to hang one on the bulletin board. I can still remember how I described my book, with a long list of everything it wasn’t and a promise that the owner didn’t need to read it if she didn’t want to. Leanne, the owner of Pinks coffee shop is one of those really sharp, funny people who read people well. She welcomed my flyer (it’s still there now!) and read my book and recommended it to others. I have lunch there frequently because the food it really good and the coffee and hanging around Leanne reminds me how far I’ve come. I tell her all my writing plans now and I’m open to having a book signing party when I publish the Vivienne series in a few months, something that sounded absolutely painful two years ago.

This past Wednesday, February 4th, was my two year writing anniversary. I realize that in some ways two years isn’t a lot. I hope its the start of a very long career. But I’m commemorating it to celebrate just how far I’ve come. My bravery level is through the roof compared to back then. I do things daily that I would have been absolutely traumatic to the old me. Right now I am planning to teach a class on self-publishing locally starting in April. Going through all the steps to make this happen I still feel fear–fear of failure, fear of rejection. But I’m not the chicken shi*t I was in my 40’s because even if I am afraid, I do it anyway. I tell the negative voices in my head to shut the F up and I do it. And it feels amazing, life-affirming, crazy powerful. I’m pushing forward, past my fears because I want others to get a chance to feel the same thing.

I’m going to end with a quote from one of those amazing, stoked, life-affirming people I’ve discovered along the way. Danielle LaPorte creates Truthbombs, daily smart thoughts. This was one from the other day, yet another that nailed exactly what I was feeling. If you like it you can subscribe to them here.

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A Magic Muse Circle

One way I keep up with the publishing industry is by listening to podcasts about it when I’m in mom-taxi mode. My most recent find is “The Beautiful Writers Podcast” featuring Danielle LaPorte and Linda Silversten (link here). They’ve had some really big-name authors on and grilled them about their writing process, inspirations, and generally ways that make it all work.

Martha Beck was the guest I listened to today. She had a lot of insights and fantastic ideas, but the one that really struck me was how she gets inspired to write–she reads. I wrote a post not long ago about my reluctance to read fiction when I’m writing. I worry that another author’s voice will suddenly show up in my work. Then I read “The Siren” by Tiffany Reisz. I fell in love with her writing style and her strong, complex female lead character, Nora Sutherlin. Reading “The Siren” (then “The Angel” and “The Prince”) actually strengthened my writing. The main character of the Vivienne Series that I’m currently working on is a smart, strong woman, but after reading Tiffany Reisz’s work I saw how I could make her more complex and stretch my writing in new ways.

This past week I discovered Victoria Dahl. I was completely blown away by her latest book “Harlot“. The topic pulled me in. I’ve been fascinated by prostitutes on the American frontier ever since we spent time in Tucson. The book is sexy, in my opinion much sexier that most erotica I’ve read, because the sex scenes are about so much more that tab A meeting slot B. They aren’t repetitious descriptions of how hot and hung the guy is. Her sex scenes are nuanced and multi-layered, incorporating each characters past. Each motion means something and revels more about the characters and further develops their relationship. I loved it so much I’ve spent this weekend reading two more of her books and I’m more enthralled with her writing than ever. Her modern heroines in “Looking for Trouble” and “Flirting with Disaster” are boldly sexual but don’t limit themselves to being defined by their sexuality. They have full lives that include great sex but they don’t immediately toss those lives away when the male leads appear. Reading Victoria Dahl keeps my head in the strong, independent woman mode I need to write Vivienne.

So you might be thinking that reading other authors while writing is nothing new. I agree, but Martha Beck takes it one step farther. She’s created her own tribe of writers who inspire her and who she turns to when she needs a spark. She calls it her magical tribe. Magical because several of her writers are long dead and hence cannot be contacted in person and magical because she calls on this group when she needs illumination and each time she finds what she needs–the passage or quote that sheds light on whatever creative roadblock is standing in her way–like magic.

I love this concept so I decided to create my own magic tribe, my muse circle. These are writers who I will turn to when my creative flame needs some fanning. My own magic tribe would have to include Tiffany Reisz, Victoria Dahl, Elizabeth Gilbert, Lavinia Collins, Diana Gabaldon, and Danielle LaPorte. For some historic spice I’m adding Anais Nin. We’ll meet often, anytime I need a reminder of how to write a strong, complex, sexual female character. The coolest thing about my group is that each of these women somehow appeared on my radar exactly when I needed them. I found their writings when I needed to hear their precise message, told in their unique way–like magic.

Do you have a muse circle? Who do you turn to when you’re stuck for inspiration? If you were going to create a magic muse circle who would you include? Comment below and share the writers who inspire you to be a better writer.

Where the Smart, Sexy, Supportive Women Are

I had a revelation about tribe when I read the above quote; I can choose my own tribe. By using the internet I can chose the five (or more) people who I want to spend the most time with. 
The more I thought about this the more powerful the idea became. I started thinking about who I would want to hang out with every morning as I started my day. Danielle LaPorte was the first who came to mind. She’s a cool combination of smart business sense and sexy spirituality and I could really benefit from having coffee with her every morning. So I subscribed to her her daily Truthbombs (and you can too,here) and followed her on Pintrest and Twitter. Now she’s in my tribe. Boom, done!
I liked this idea and I was on a roll. Who else did I want in my tribe? Who’s thoughts did I want filling my head? Faith Popcorn, brilliant futurist? I subscribed to her newsletter and followed her on Facebook. Boom, done! Now I’m looking at my days with a savvy eye on the future. 
I didn’t have to stop there. I wanted more smart, sexy, supportive women in my tribe so I spent time seeking them out. Here’s a hint…they hang out together. My latest favorite podcast is Pushing Boundaries with T&A. I’m soaking up their ideas on women in general and sexuality in particular. They are a sociology geek’s dream. So, not only did I follow them, I followed the trail of the people they follow and followed along (are you following me here?) I spent hours finding a lot of women I would love to spend more time with and now I get to. 
I may never meet some of these women in person (but then again I might). My point is that whether I do or don’t I can benefit from surrounding myself with them. As I grow as an author and a person these are the women who’s ideas I want filling my head. I want my email inbox, Pintrest page, Facebook feed, and Tweets to be full of insights, cheerleading, sensuality, and spirituality.  The key is making a conscious choice about who you have in your tribe, deciding who will influence your view of the world based on where you want to go and who you want to be. 
I invite you to take a look at your influencers–who are they? What’s their message? Are they pointing you in the direction you want to go? Are these the people you want in your tibe? 
If you found this post helpful I’d love to be part of your tribe of supportive women. I post information about my writing, but also focus on the image of women in the media and women supporting women in business. You can follow my blog and find me on:

or my webpage: KarenGordonAuthor.com 

Fear of Art

This is why so many people don’t finish their half-written novel or bring their poetry or painting or photograph into public view, because it matters. 

Art in any form is a reflection of the artist.  My writing is very personal.  When I wrote “Burnouts, Geeks and Jesus Freaks: a love story” I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to ever show it to more than a handful of friends who would recognize some of the scenes and enjoy the characters.  I can’t begin to tell you how nervous I was when I mailed each of them a copy.  I knew I loved it, but creative people always tend to love their work.  We’re a little biased toward the words or images that speak from our souls.  As each reader contacted me and let me know that they really loved it too, I got this incredible rush, a feeling of super connection to them.  As colossally scary as the idea was, I knew I wanted to try to get that connection with more people.  

My favorite life-guru, Danielle LaPorte, is celebrating that her first solo book, “The Fire Starter Sessions” is now available in paperback.  In her amazingly eloquent way she summed up how authors and artists feel about the first creation they bring to the public eye: “I love that book like you love your first love. It was all sweat and fumbling and firsts and I’m grateful for everything that keeps coming of it.”  

I’m still fumbling along with my first love.  Some days are so full of elation I want to turn cartwheels on the front lawn.  When I got two more great reviews on Amazon this past weekend I desperately wanted to go and hug the readers that posted them.  And just like first love, there are scary days too, although most of them are more scary scenarios I have built up in my head than reality.  Either way it is a rush, an addictive one. 

I’m starting on the sequel, “Popstars, Friends and Lovers” this week.  I’ve done some research, but it is time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).  It is so tempting to hold back, to go with safe scenes, to give the readers what I think they want.  But the same muse, the voice from inside that pushed me to finish my first novel keeps screaming NO.  I have to write what is real, what is scary to say, what matters. 

Leaning Into Letting Go

I hesitated to write on this topic.  Not a lot of Joie in letting go.  But letting go has been all around me lately, so I feel like it is important enough to include in my blog.  It’s part of midlife, so it’s part of what brings us together on this blog. 

Facebook has had a rash of postings from friends who are sending their last baby off to college.  The pictures of dorm room decorating and suitcases and packed cars are all bitter sweet.  It is exciting to see your kids head off in a positive direction, as much as it hurts to let them go.  I am years away from this event (with high hopes that it will happen), but I empathize with them.  My boys pull away from me a little more every year, like they are supposed to. 

A close friend lost a parent recently.  We all feel her loss.  Logically we know our parents are not going to live forever, but that does nothing to reduce the sting when it happens. The grieving process from losing one of the most important people in our lives can take years.  Birthdays, holidays and other special events can set off a fresh round of tears and memories. 

This post was also inspired by my own letting go.  My father’s death three years ago started a chain reaction of mourning for me; for the relationship we didn’t have, the one we did, and all the hurt in between.  Most days I don’t think much about it.  I have enough on my plate to keep me busy and I consciously lean toward joy.  But sometimes, I’ll hear a song, or read something in a book and be hit with a flood of memories.  That’s when I need to set aside time to grieve, to let go.  

My favorite life-lesson guru, Danielle LaPorte, tells me to start each day asking how I want to feel that day, then what actions I can take to feel that way.  This plan is fantastic till I come up against a day of letting go.  I don’t want to feel sad or lost, but I do, and there is no getting around it.  So I decided to lean into it, just dive right in.  If I was going to cry, I would really let go; take some time, curl up with my son’s teddy bear, put on a sad song, open a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and really have a good cry.  Those days are just as important to me as the ones where I accomplish 15 things before noon.  They clear the dark places out of my soul.  

As I said, not a happy topic for a Friday morning, but an important one.  Some days that’s just the way it is; not much joie, but a whole lot of vivre.