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.

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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.

Powerful Introvert Marketing: Collaboration

I don’t know about all other introverts, but I hate being the center of attention. My wedding was torture! I seriously wanted to stop the service and ask everyone to just talk to each other and stop looking at me. So you can imagine how difficult promoting myself is. The idea of contacting people I don’t know but would like to (double whammy unnerving) and then telling them about my writing (triple whammy) then asking them to read it and review or promote it in some way (we’re up to quad whammy now) is crazy hard for me. I’ve done it, but I’m sure I came off as the awkward, quivering fool that I felt like.

I’ve tried all sorts of ways to market my books with some success, but I know I could do better. Ironically, I’ve discovered a way to reach people, the movers and shakers I want to know, and do it in a way that I am completely comfortable with; I can do it with ease when I promote other people.

Twice recently opportunities have fallen into my lap where I wanted to tell the world about someone else’s work and how it influenced me in a positive way.

The first was a very cool lady who calls herself The Suburban Monk. She created the adorable smiling, thumbs-up Buddha statue shown above. I ordered two recently and she accidentally double sent my order (because she is a business owner who truly cares about her customers!) When she realized her mistake she told me to keep and share the extra two. My mind immediately went to doing a giveaway through my blog because I wanted to share my windfall and let others know about my little Syd (that’s his name) statue and how much it makes me smile. So, if you would like to win a perriwinkle or purple Syd, please follow this link to my Facebook page and enter to win him! Tell your friends and family to sign up too. I gotta tell you it’s hard not to smile every time you look at him. He comes in a bunch of cool colors so if you want gold or orange or another color check out her site.

The second opportunity came when an author I love and follow all over social media grabbed on to last week’s post on strong, silent women and added to it. I mentioned Lavinia Collins in my post so she read it (but that’s not why I mentioned her). As a history scholar she then wrote a post on her blog that added to mine. Here’s a link. If you are a history buff or feminist it is a must read. I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to connect with another author and work off each other. For introverts, collaboration feels fantastic. The chance to shine along with another person feels so much better than being alone in a spotlight. My mind is still awash with places I want to share our combined article. I’m stoked to promote it in a way I would never be if it was me alone.

Since we are talking about marketing here, lets look at the nitty gritty–will I sell any books because of these two events? Truth–I have no idea and that really isn’t my point. Then how can it be marketing, you say. It is marketing because it’s a chance for me to meet new people and connect with them. I truly believe that people buy from people they know and like. So maybe some of the people I meet through these others will decide to look up my books. I’m listed everywhere as Karen Gordon, Author and hopefully it’s easy to find my books. If not, they may remember me when they are looking for a book in the future or want to recommend one to a friend. It’s not direct marketing, it’s not aggressive, it’s probably the very slow way around, but it works for me. I’m having a fantastic time. I’m juiced up about promoting others and my excitement is genuine. People can feel when you are promoting out of obligation and need, just slogging through it, or doing it with true fun and passion.

What marketing technique is working best for you? Do any feel better to do? Share your experience in the comments.

Be sure to stop by my Facebook page to win your own smiling, happy Syd to put on your desk or nightstand. Mine is cheering me on right now as I pass along the love.