Meet Vivienne: A smart,sexy, boss babe heroine

I loved Bridget Jones’s Diary. It was a cheeky nod to the ups and downs of being a modern single woman but throughout the story I kept wanting Bridget to be just a little less bumbling, a little sharper, and a lot less interested in her boss, who did not deserve her attention. I wanted her to represent the best that women can be while also being real, having struggles, and overcoming them.

My frustration with that story was just one of the catalysts for my latest series, The Vivienne Series. I wanted to read more books about modern, career women, but I wanted the woman to represent the new breed of boss babes and girl bosses–sharp women who, while not perfect, generally have their shit together. These are women who know their skills and their value. They work hard and reap the rewards.

The heroine of my seven-book series is that woman. She’s uber-organized, knows what she wants and has no fear about going after it. But if that was the whole story it would be, well, dull at best. She wins, knew she would from page one…yawn.

So just like in real life, it’s those exact traits that make Vivienne’s love life and sometimes her work life, chaos. Knowing all the answers isn’t always easy when others don’t want your help and advice. And to this that our girl, Viv, is an introvert. She’s quiet (because she’s thinking) but that makes her easy to overlook in a world full of center-of-attention extroverts. When  opportunity comes knocking this heroine has to fight her fears and figure out a way to make life in the fast lane work for someone who prefers quiet, steady and predictable.

Book one is titled Fearless Flying. (It’s a nod to Fear of Flying, Erica Jong’s 1973 groundbreaking novel that featured a blatantly sexual woman.) The title also refers to Vivienne’s job, a secretary at a private jet manufacturer. It’s a high pressure job at an exciting company that she handles with grace and ease. I love this industry as a setting because it’s generally male dominated and it puts her in touch with the rich and famous.

I’ll be releasing Fearless Flying this July but you can sign up to get a FREE copy before the official publication date. Follow this link and let me know what email address you would like me to send it to. I’ll also keep you updated on my progress on the series, give you some behind the scenes info, as well as information about what I’ll be working on next.

So, let’s talk about chick lit, women’s fiction, whatever you want to call it. What’s your favorite and why? Share in the comments below.

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Rocking Sales As An Introvert Entrepreneur

Would you hire an introvert to sell your eighty million dollar airplanes? Aren’t introverts too shy and quiet to be in sales? Is it possible for introverts to succeed as entrepreneurs if they have to go out and sell their ideas?

I love these questions because they lead to myth-busting. As an introvert, entrepreneur and writer I get to create a character who shows that the exact traits that some see as a detriment to selling are what can make introverts rock stars in sales.

I’m currently writing book five in this seven book series which features Vivienne Ramsey, a quiet, hard-working, super-organized young woman who climbs to the top of the private jet sales industry by using her introvert traits. It wasn’t hard to image how it could happen. Her transition from a secretary to jet sales might surprise her and some others but I knew she could do it from the beginning. (It helps when you’re the writer ;-)).

The idea for the story came from my  own business experiences. I’ve failed at a few sales jobs. I was hired to work commission sales in a boutique dress shop and was run over by all the more outgoing sales staff. I tried opening a home-party based business where I had to call on all my friends and family and their friends and family and so on, and so on. A year after starting my manager was still trying to explain to me how easy it is to approach women in the grocery store to discuss their make-up and set them up for a party. I thought there was something wrong with me because I felt so uncomfortable doing it. It took me a long time to figure out that it wasn’t that I couldn’t sell, it was that those particular types of sales were not where I could shine.

Cold calling isn’t an introverts best skill but there are a lot of business that require no cold calling and rely on strong, long-term relationships to make sales. This is where introverts shine. This is how my character, Vivienne, is selling the hell out of those jets (at 1% commission on eighty million–you do the math). Vivienne is quiet, not because she has nothing to say, but because she loves to study people. She learns a lot about her clients by keeping her mouth shut and letting them do the talking. She has no problem keeping the spotlight on them because introverts naturally don’t like to be the center of attention. Once she knows what they need she follows through on every detail, often giving them more information than they even asked for. Finally jet sales in particular lets her shine because she is a female in a very male-dominated field. Introverts are used to being the odd man out and Vivienne knows how to work this to her advantage. She brings all the traits that her male, extroverted competition doesn’t have.

As the story progresses Vivienne is learning more about herself and about the skills she’s naturally great at and those she will always struggle with. In the scene I wrote yesterday she is attending her first business lunch as a female entrepreneur. The pre-lunch social hour is a struggle, but once she is in a smaller group, during the meal, she listens and learns that all the women at her table struggle with some aspect of their business. No entrepreneur can be good at all parts of running a business and these women remind her that its smarter to  hire someone to do the things you can’t.

Ironically (or maybe not because introverts are intuitive) I got a perfect infographic this week about introverts in sales from the lovely and charming Emily Parker. I’m sharing it with you because it’s a concise visual that explains exactly why Vivienne is a quiet honey who is makin the money.

Introverts in Sales
Source: CollegeMatchup.net

Introvert entrepreneurs, share your sales stories. Have you found a way to make your introversion work for you? Reply in comments below and help others see all the ways being the quiet one can be a benefit.

And keep an eye out for Vivienne. I’ll be publishing the first book in the series, “Fearless Flying” in a few months. I’m working on some covers and writing all the way to the end of her fantastic journey so I can release the rest of the series quickly.

 

 

 

 

Can Women Learn Better Negotiating From Men?

It doesn’t matter if you’re Jennifer Lawrence or an Economics Professor at Harvard or a self-published author working from her kitchen table, we all do it. Women,that is–we all play it small too often. And we’ve been doing it so long that we don’t realize it. It’s ingrained in us. We settle for less, demand little, back down, undervalue ourselves. We don’t want to appear pushy or rude or, god-forbid, so pompous that we think our work is worth a lot of money. So we just don’t ask for more.

It’s an issue that has caught my attention several times lately. It started with Jennifer Lawrence and her essay in Lenny. I loved it that she owned her mistakes in negotiating her contract and earning much less than her male co-stars in the movie American Hustle. She didn’t blame anyone but did note that in hindsight her reasons were not wanting to appear greedy or troublesome, two pejorative adjectives often hurled at women who know their worth and ask for it.

Her point stuck in my head but didn’t really hit home until I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast about the gender pay gap. The guest expert was Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard University who specializes in studying gender economics. Dr. Goldin presented some fantastic data that showed that most of the gap in pay is not due to outright discrimination, but to the choices that women make, usually in favor of family over career. But it was the closing segment of the podcast that really got my attention. In it Dr. Goldin told a story about doing some consulting work, which she doesn’t normally do, and assuming she would not be paid. The company needing her help offered to pay her $2,000, which she agreed to. Before finishing the project she was told that the other two consultants, both men, were paid two times what she was, because they asked. The lesson is about how we see our work, all work, and how much we value it.

Unless we value our work no one else will.

The men who did the consulting work with Dr. Goldin valued their time and skills more than she did. They didn’t think to offer either for free. No matter what work you are doing, value it–Harvard professor, actress, writer, stay-at-home mom. All our work is valuable.

It’s pretty hard to get paid for mothering or volunteer work, but you can still understand and acknowledge your value by respecting your time. Evaluate each request for your time and feel free to say no. Teach your children that mothering makes an important contribution to society. Note to yourself and your family all the ways that their quality of life is better for the mom things you do.

Women also tend to think they have to be an expert to ask for top pay for their work, men generally don’t. It’s hard to say when you are an expert. Just being in a field puts you ahead of those just entering and means you have something of value to offer. This week I will be teaching a class on how to self-publish, something that is a huge leap forward for me. I’ve actually been teaching for years at a university, but this is the first time I didn’t wait for someone else to tell me I had enough skills in a subject to teach it. Being only two years into self-publishing the lessons I learned as a beginner are still fresh. I vividly remember feeling lost and searching for answers. I can’t tell you how excited I am to offer all those answers to others just joining my field and developing a new revenue stream for myself.

There is an art to negotiating, one that can be learned. While it’s true that you might knock yourself out of the game by quoting too high, it doesn’t look like women are in danger of doing that anytime soon. This is one area where we need to learn a lesson from men. They are taught that they should play big and value their contributions. They know to ask for more, because that’s the only way you are going to get it.

Are you guilty of not asking for more? I am. This topic hit home because I saw myself in those stories. Like Jennifer Lawrence I want to be seen as nice and not make waves. Like Professor Goldin I’m too often willing to give my time and knowledge for free or take whatever money is offered. Comment below and share your stories of when you wish you had asked for more or when you did.

 

 

6 Things To Ask Yourself Before You Become The Chick in Charge

I’ve pointed out in the past that I pretty much had no idea what I was doing when I hit publish on my first book. I mean, I managed to get it up on Amazon but beyond that I was delusional, believing that books sell themselves, that all I had to do was bring my product to market and the rest would be riding the gravy train. (I’ll pause for a minute for all the authors out there to finish laughing.)

It didn’t take long to realize I had not only become a published writer but I had also unknowingly launched my own business; a business that exists in a market that I didn’t understand and requires skills that I did not have. If I had to do it over again I would because I’m actually really enjoying this process, but there’s definitely a few things I wish I would have thought through first.

Most of this occurred to me as I was reading Taylor Pearson’s article, “Why Product Market Fit is Overrated (and what to focus on instead).” In it he hit on several key points that I think a lot of women don’t factor in when they start a business, especially one with very low start up costs. It’s so easy to jump in the game that we often don’t exactly know what game we are jumping into.

Once my book was out there I started to look for blogs who might review it and I was shocked by the sheer number of self-published romance authors. Do you know your market? —the number of people in it and how those people were doing business? Most of us start with the idea stage, we’ve got a cool product, then skip the research and take the leap. In hindsight this is both good and bad. On one hand we don’t know what we are up against so we are more likely to take the leap, but not knowing can also make the first few years so much more frustrating. No matter what the business its always wiser to do the research first, not necessarily to squelch your dream but to give you a better idea of what will be involved in working in that field. Even for home franchise business (like selling makeup or kitchen goods at home parties), it’s good to know how many other vendors of the same line are in your area then look at their online presence.

I didn’t ask, is this business a good fit for my life? I’m a mom first, a job that I’m slowly being phased out of, but one I still hold at least part-time (sometimes full time). Running a business, especially in the first couple years can be time consuming. Everything is new to you. I’ve spent countless hours reading how-to books and articles and listening to podcasts so I can learn more about my business. So far I’ve made it fit, squeezing writing time in between driving my kids around and dealing with standard teenage issues, but there are times I’m cramming in a blog post or rushing to meet a deadline, burning the midnight oil to make it all work.

Another part of not knowing the business in advance was not asking what will I be doing on a daily basis? Being a self-published author is half writing but also half marketing, especially online. This is another area where ignorance may have worked in my favor because I’m not naturally drawn to social media. I’m much more of a lurker than a poster, preferring to see what everyone else is doing and keeping my own rather dull life out of the spotlight. That has changed. I still don’t take photos of my meals to post them but I’ve worked to steadily to remember to include others in my business life; what I’m working on or my latest passion (hello, Taylor Pearson and End of Jobs), generally sharing my journey (like this post!) It’s probably the hardest and most unexpected part of being an author for me.

Do I know my audience? It’s another important factor to consider when deciding if a business is right for you. Social media and marketing becomes so much easier if you know who you are trying to reach. You need to understand and relate to their problems if you are going to solve them with your product. As Taylor Pearson points out, one of his business ventures failed because despite the fact that it was a hot market he didn’t really understand the needs of the clients.

Equally important is, do I know at least ten people in the industry? The old saying, “it’s who you know” still holds true. It’s vital to be involved in your industry, even better if you do this before you hang your “open for business” sign. You are going to have millions of questions (not exaggerating here) and you will need several people to turn to for answers. Being connected also helps you to know industry changes, something that can change almost daily in self-publishing. It’s never too early (or too late) to get involved with industry groups.

The most concise and profound question from Taylor’s article is: “How do you want to spend the next four years of your life?” Because your answers to the questions above will show you what it will be like to spend the next couple years building a business. No matter how prepared you are there is a steep learning curve, and you will be deeply invested, emotionally and financially in making your business work. The more you know about it before you start the better.

One final note, while I now realize that I jumped blindly into my business and I’m paying the price, running to catch up, it’s never too late to ask these questions and in doing so improve your current outlook and knowledge. You will never get it all exactly right. Part of the fun (?) is learning and growing and challenging yourself.

So I’m asking any Chicks in Charge to share their story. How prepared were you to start your business? How has that affected your business? What do you wish you knew in advance? Share in the comments below so maybe we can help other women entrepreneurs learn from our mistakes–pay it forward.

 

Is 2016 The Year to Realize Delayed Dreams?

My oldest son is sixteen and he’s in the middle of the frustrating process where the whole world starts to ask him what he wants to do for the rest of his life. He has to start thinking about a career, so he can plan on a college, so he can plan his high school classes, etc. Like most kids his age he doesn’t want to think past the next comic con.

Through him I’m remembering that time in my life when I considered so many options then had to discard some as unreasonable, too expensive, out of reach. Each career path I considered spoke to some part of me; my creative side, my logical/planner side, my feminist side, etc. I eventually aimed in the direction of advertising and PR then wound up in special events and teaching. (Because face it, very few end up where they thought they would at sixteen.) But some of those dreams never died. The part of me they represent never got a moment to shine or at least step up to the plate and try. It’s those delayed dreams that I’m tapping into now as an entrepreneur.

Now, this point in time in history, is a unique time that is perfect for so many people to be able to keep their day job (or not) and try something new, something they’ve always wanted to do.

Writing novels is that for me, and I get to combine it with owning my own business, another path I’ve always been interested in. I met a woman today who had always thought being an editor would be great. She’s a librarian (a great job for a lover of words) but we talked about how she could easily do side work editing books for self-published writers. It was such a fun conversation. I loved seeing the wheels start spinning and the lights go on that long-forgotten dream. It was fantastic being the person who is already on the path getting to point it out to her.

So, what are your lost dreams? Did you write them off because in the past you had to open a brick and mortar store and start-up costs would be too high? Did someone tell you that you didn’t have the skills to compete in a particular market? Did you hear scary stories about how little creative people make and that you might end up living in a cardboard box if you take that career path? Well, the world has changed. You, my friend, and I are lucky enough to live in a time when anyone can open an online “store” and reach customers world-wide. You may not be an expert but you are still ahead of someone and they could seriously benefit from your knowledge. And creative work is still hard, but it’s easier to go around the gatekeepers and find your audience than ever before.

Next month I’m going to teach a series of classes on how to self-publish. Am I an industry leader? Hell, no. But I’ve been there and learned a lot of good lessons along the way. I’m green enough to remember what it’s like to be starting out with no clue what to do. Industry leaders are great but they can be so deep in an industry that their advice is too complicated for a beginner. It’s just another way that I’m following those dreams, going back to the what-if’s and exploring all the possibilities I saw when I was sixteen.

Why I’m no longer satisfied working for someone else and what I did about it.

For the past nine years I’ve been an Instructor for a major university. It’s been a fantastic ride. I’ve worked part-time, often from home, doing something I love. But times, they are a changing. Like so many industries higher education is having to reorganize, revise and restructure to try to keep pace with post-internet society. The result has been chaos. Seems the Titanic can’t turn on a dime and I may have been thrown overboard in the process. As the need for Instructors has dwindled I’ve had fewer and fewer contracts. I’ve been sitting by the phone like some spurned prom date, waiting for it to ring, until I finally got sick of it. Luckily I’ve developed a strong entrepreneurial bent in midlife so I’ve taken matters into my own hands.

End of JobsIn his book “The End of Jobs” (my latest read, review coming soon) Taylor Pearson examines this exact scenario. My job is ending. But the book isn’t a doomsday dissertation, it’s theme isn’t “be afraid, very afraid.” The theme is “wake up, pay attention, there are opportunities out there. Go get em.” I felt this way before I heard Taylor speak on Joanna Penn’s podcast “The Creative Penn” but he gave me the numbers to back up my theory and the cheer leading I needed to get started.

So what am I doing about my lack of teaching contracts? I’m teaching. This April I am joining together with another local self-published author to teach anyone interested how to self publish and how to market your self published books so you can actually sell a few. It’s a process I learned the hard way and I’d like to save others some of my frustration.

I can’t tell you how good it feels to be proactive. I’m juiced. I can’t relate to any of the Monday-sucks memes because I I love any day I make progress toward making this happen. I can’t wait to teach again. I feel like I’m flipping the bird to my absent prom date and going off to create my own dance. And it’s a hundred times more fun! I get to make it mine. I no longer have to worry that the energy and passion I’m investing might be for naught, overlooked on some annual evaluation.

Ok, so the downside, because there is one. I will not make as much in my first year as I did when I was getting one contract after another. But I will make more than if I continued to wait for another contract or if I spun my wheels hoping another University isn’t in the same boat (I’ve looked, they are.) I might not make as much in year two, possibly year three, but eventually I will. And in the mean time I will be a much happier person. I’ll no longer beat my head against the wall in frustration over inane rules and endless red-tape and paperwork. Being in control, having agency, is one of the greatest thrills in life. Another is making a difference in the lives of others. I’m killing both those birds with this stone.

And creating my own classes is only the beginning of creating my brand, my own multiple-income business. This is another theme favored by Joanna Penn, Taylor Pearson and scores of other forward-thinking people because the other huge drawback to working for someone else is the reality of no income when they say good bye. Without a back up source of income it can be devastating, life altering. For many this is the catalyst that propels them into the world of international e-commerce. It was my line in the sand. When I first published I  was still getting contracts and working them. I may still get more, but in the mean time I’m going to keep moving toward self-sufficiency, agency to make my own destiny.

Let me finish by not only encouraging others to read Taylor’s book and figure out their own path in a “jobless” world, but also give you a few resources I’ve found that make this trip so much easier and more fun. It turns out that many of these new e-entrepreneurs also want to help others have the success they do. For the price of a search you can find ideas and support galore. Here are a few of my favorites:

Marie Forleo – Her Marie TV channel on YouTube has over 200,000 subscribers because she delivers sound business advice in an upbeat, sometimes silly, manner.

Danielle LaPorte – Not only is she a business woman with multiple income streams to emulate, on her website she shares her philosophy, successes and failures in a very real way. She’s a fantastic example of succeeding by being yourself.

Sarah Morgan (XO Sarah) – When I add fantastic business advice pins to my Chick in Charge Pintrest board they often come from XO Sarah. Follow her on Pintrest and you will find answers to all your e-commerce questions presented in an organized, easy-to-use fashion. She’s my number one source for badass blogging advice.

Joanna Penn – As I mentioned her podcast, The Creative Penn is where I find not only great advice from a fellow author but guests, like Taylor Pearson, who help me keep growing and learning and motivated.

So who’s with me? Let’s do this midlife (or earlier) end-of-jobs thing together. I’d love to hear about your journey into being an entrepreneur or your hopes and dreams to do so. Comment below with your story or your favorite resources.

**Anyone in the Memphis area who is interest in my self-publishing class can follow this link to my FB page. I’ll be posting sign up information there soon.

 

 

The Black Lace Business Model

Tonight I’m running my business from the bed in our guest bedroom. This is where I’m writing this post, planning a class I’m going to teach and generally working on connecting with as many smart, sexy, supportive women as I can. I’m wearing my new Hello Kitty slippers and the leggings and tee shirt I put on for yoga this morning.

Despite my appearance and my lack of a real office, I know that the work I do is no less important or valid than that of suited men in nondescript glass towers. Because I represent the new business model, the entrepreneur, particularly female entrepreneurs who are rewriting the way business is done and what’s considered true commerce.

I’ve been working on refining the keywords for Karen Gordon, Author. These are terms and ideas I want tied to my work. When you type these words into Google I want my writing and teaching to appear, somewhere near the top of your results. I’m still in the process but I’ve got more direction now. Through this process I noticed that the main continuous thread in all my writing is strong females characters. Even future novels revolve around women who live their lives on their own terms.

I support women’s sexuality in my writing–in all forms. I want women to feel free to choose,without fear of social persecution, to be as sexual as they want to be or not be. I’m creating characters who are solid in their feminine power and energy whether they are sharing that with another or enjoying it just for their self.

My heroines are engaged and busy, making bank, making a home or both; they are not wasting time bringing other women down. Drama sells, but my brand is not cheap drama generated by small people. Believe me there’s enough real excitement in raising children or building a business to fill a thousand novels.

I love the idea that married or single, working inside or outside the home, all women can contribute to increasing our value in society. It’s not only the CEO’s and Vogue cover models, but women’s with much quieter goals too who are erasing old stereotypes. My writing, my business is about and for all of them.

I’m still in the process of fleshing out my exact keywords but along the way I started to think about images and the idea of black lace and my geek glasses came to mind. Alone they represent female sexuality and intellect but combined they create a potent mix. Once thought of as opposites, madonna or whore, smart or sexy, mind or body; I now see them as the perfect combination or balance of all that women can be.

I’m going to be updating some of my artwork to encompass these ideas and honing on the keywords that will hopefully bring more smart, sexy, supportive women into my tribe. It’s one of my major projects for 2016.

So what are your keywords? Whether you have a business or not, what words encompass who you are, how you want to engage with the world. Share yours with me and I’ll share mine as soon as I can pin them down. Black lace is looking good though.