Skip to content

Author: Troy Lambert

Troy is a freelance writer, editor, author, and blogger who lives, works, and plays in Boise, Idaho with the love of his life, his son, and two very talented dogs.

Passionate about writing dark psychological thrillers, he is an avid cyclist, skier, hiker, all around outdoorsman, and a terrible beginning golfer.

Give it Away: Inspiring Others to Ride

The Human Powered Summer Part 4:

_DSC6848The cycling as transportation process, and the whole point of this exercise is not only to get myself in shape, reduce my impact on at least my local environment, save a few bucks, and write some interesting articles, but to at the same time inspire others to do the same thing.

As a kid, a bike was my transportation. I didn’t have a driver’s license (too young) and my mom worked as a Christian school teacher for nine months out of the year, and odd jobs all summer. My brother and I were often left on our own.

_DSC6844The zoo, the park, Longfellow Elementary school (which had a good basketball court), and King’s (a variety store with a huge toy department in the basement) were all miles away. Not walking distance, but biking distance for sure. So we threw a leg over the saddle, got our pedal on, and rode.

This week I went to an annual bike giveaway sponsored in part by Boise Bike Project. Over 100 kids signed up through Boys and Girls Clubs and community centers all over the Treasure Valley to come down and get a free bike. The looks on some of the faces were priceless. These were families that for whatever reason, whether a parental job loss or economic hardship couldn’t afford bikes on their own. Bikes were donated, and Boise Bike Project did what repairs were necessary to get the bikes ready for the kids. It’s an even  that I hope teaches the kids and us at least a few things:

Compassion and Charity are alive and well. A down economy means a drop in charitable donations. People just have other priorities. However this event showed that even for something as simple as a bike for a kid, people are willing to donate time and treasure. It sets an example for the kids, the parents, and frankly all of us that cycle.

Thankfulness for what we have. I undertook this summer project on a relatively new Jamis Exile bike. Comfortable, new, with some of the latest gadgets: a cyclometer, headlights, tail lights, personal hydration systems: I have a lot of gear these kids will never see. Yet they are thankful just to be able to ride any bike. Every day we have more than what we really
need” we should be grateful.

_DSC6870Sharing Passion. Many of us have passions: maybe yours is not cycling and skiing. Maybe it’s golf, swimming, basketball, or knitting. There are those around you every day who could share your passion given the chance to try. There could be many reasons they haven’t, including just not being exposed to the enjoyment that comes out of certain activities. You could be the one to expose them to that passion and ignite that spark.

Kids’ eyes light up over the simplest things. Small toys, bikes, even someone just spending a little bit of time with them. Not everyone shares our advantages and our wealth. I’m trying a human powered season, just to see the difference it makes in me. It’s good to realize that it can make a difference to others too.

Click here to see an album on my Facebook author page containing more photos of the event.

Click the links below to read the first three articles in the series:

Part 1: Anywhere is in Walking (biking) Distance if you have the Time.

Part 2: One Jelly Doughnut. . .

Part 3: Dogs, Physics, and Helicopters

Comments closed

Dogs, Physics, and Helicopters

The Human Powered Summer  Part 3:

I quickly discovered at the beginning of this season that there are issues biking for transportation. One of them is my wife declaring (over and over) how inconvenient it is to ‘make do’ with only one motorized vehicle. Guess my minimalist bent isn’t rubbing off. Don’t get me wrong. It is inconvenient at times, but only because we have made it too inconvenient to have transportation readily available whenever we please.

Despite this discouragement, I moved on, and discovered (or rediscovered if you will) some things about biking as transportation.

Military_dog_barking

The issue of the week: Dogs There are areas where it is posted that you should keep your dog on a leash. This is especially true when bike riders are known to be present.  Take the small section of green belt in Kuna on an admittedly early morning.

I came around a corner, and a dog started chasing me. The owner called after it, to no avail. The dog seemed friendly. I doubt it wished me any harm, but up ahead I saw something else. A panicky owner struggled to hold three dogs by their collars at the side of the trail ahead. The park was a cacophony of barking now. Of course, one of the three slipped free, and ran, not at me, but at the dog chasing me.

“She won’t bite him,” declared the owner of the second set of dogs loudly.

“It’s not my dog,” I reply, riding on, and leaving the two sets of dog owners to sort it out. A humorous scene, it turned out, but one that could have ended quite differently.  Keep your dogs on leashes, not to be mean (I love dogs) but to prevent the unpredictable. It helps those of us cycling too. I don’t have to wonder if your dog is friend or foe if you are in control of it.

DCI PosterThe fun of the week: Physics? Adult night at the Discovery Center of Idaho focused on one thing: cycling and the physics (science) behind it all. Fascinating? Yes. An entertaining lesson about helmets, unicycles, and balance. To top it off, the guys from the Boise Bike Project were there, giving classes about bike tuning, changing a flat on the trail, and bike fit.  These guys are transportation cyclists: fine examples of what I am trying to do myself. I’ll be interviewing them later in the series.

I learned a ton, had a good time, and saw an entire array of bikers from the Lactic Acid crew to weekend warriors to guys like me who want to learn and do more on a bike.

Finally this week you may have heard that a human powered helicopter flew for the first time. (watch the video here) It lifted off, flew for a mere 68 seconds, and landed safely. It may not be the next thing you park in your garage, but that fact that people are trying and succeeding at these things makes us wonder: what is the next Human Powered Season?

Did you miss any of the series? Find Part 1: “Anywhere is in biking distance if you have the time” here. Find Part 2: “One Jelly Doughnut. . .” here.  Keep following along!

Comments closed

“One Jelly Doughnut. . .”

The Human Powered Season: Week 2

Camp before Borah
Camp before Borah

I’m 43. There, I said it. I’m not 21. Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter (if you don’t, just click the links, because you should) know that since November I lost about 60 pounds. It changed my skiing game, my running game, and even how I handled the heat for a month in the desert. With moving and the rest though, my diet suffered recently. I took a week off the exercise regime, and then embraced the idea of a more human powered approach to transportation.

I started riding again, and thought “Hey this isn’t so bad.” Then I took some uphill rides. Okay, maybe I’m not in quite as good of shape as I thought. Then this week I hiked Borah Peak, and discovered some more truths:

Diet is Fuel: Food is your fuel, and just like your car, it’s important the type of fuel you run on. Those sweets you grab really quick? The corn dog and fatty burger? That ice cream? It all comes into play later. If you are going to add more human power to your life, you need better fuel. One goal? To get my diet back on track. Remember the line from “Full Metal Jacket?” The one where private pile gets caught with the jelly doughnut in his footlocker? Yeah. I’m paying for it alright.

SAM_1765
“Like climbing a 5000′ staircase.”

Pacing: Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and don’t start too fast. Keep a nice, even, I can do this all day pace. It will save you. Otherwise, your muscles have no time to recover. If they don’t recover, you just can’t go on. Borah was a quick lesson in this for me, and the last two mornings, I have applied it to my rides as well. It works: slow is smooth and smooth is fast. It pays to remember that.

Distance: Last week? Anywhere is within biking distance if you have the time. (Read that post here) It’s true. Scheduling time is important, as is choosing a route and increasing endurance. I watched a documentary this week about people who ride in L.A. and put in 50 and 60 mile days in traffic. It is doable.

So today when I needed five pounds of sugar and a few things for dinner? I hopped on the bike, lock in the backpack, and rode into the wind. It felt good. Really good. Now, start my engine has a different meaning.

Comments closed

“Anywhere is in walking (biking) distance if you have the time.”

The Human Powered Season Week 1:

A poor, but serviceable bike rack at the local grocery.
A poor, but serviceable bike rack at the local grocery.

Remember the formula from school? Distance equals rate times time. So if a bicycle leaving Chicago travels at … Wait. Don’t go. Just kidding. No word problems, just some observations from week one of this experiment.

Why it should work: I’m working mostly at home, freelance. So I really don’t need to go that far, right? Sure, we live out in Kuna, Idaho far from the bustle (and bike friendly trails, sidewalks, and streets) of Boise. Most of the time, I don’t need to go there, right? I may want to, but those things can wait.

For some reason, not this week. When I am determined to drive less and bike more, urgent errands come to the fore that are time sensitive. No, I can’t bike 30 miles in an hour, then bike back, pick up my wife, etc. The Durango I want to park carried my bike farther than I rode it this week.

Disclaimer: I am more of a conservationist than an environmentalist. But less driving means less emissions, even if just locally. It also means less money on gas, and better health for the person doing the riding. I’m not going to go deep into the issues here, another blog on that later, but suffice it to say this is a personal goal and decision. I’m not trying to save the planet here. That seems too noble, and too hard.

Issues so Far:

Security: Bikes are worth money, and they are relatively easy to steal. You can’t roll up the windows and set the alarm. Some businesses (there will be ratings provided later) don’t even have bike racks, let alone modern and security conscious ones. The bike rack is often out of the way, not even visible from the main door. We want to give the thieves some privacy to do their work, I suppose. Even the best locks can be defeated. One immediate decision: when riding, I’ll only frequent businesses who are actively bike friendly. More on this later as well.

Weather: I’m not a fair weather cyclist. I have cycled in all kinds of weather, both on motorized and pedal bikes. However, the week I begin this experiment starts a heat wave in the west. The 12 mile ride doable at 5 a.m. becomes quickly untenable at 3 in the afternoon in 100+ temperatures. Especially for an Idaho boy more used to winter and the cold.

Services: Public transport? There are no routes out here (yet). Some stores are just not within reasonable riding distance when you are trying to catch up on freelance work after a month of intense full-time day job stuff. I’d pay twice as much for office supplies if I could find them anywhere close. The distance is doable, but not in the time frame I have.

Change needed: Clearly there are changes I will have to make in my lifestyle to make this work. I never expected it to be easy, but I’ve got some good ideas. I’ll report back on those next week, and let you know how it is going, but for now I need to ride downtown and get some things for a BBQ tonight.

Backpack, lock, and water bottles ready. Independence from the car on independence day? Priceless! Happy Fourth!

Comments closed

George and the Achievers Part 2:

What Authors (and others) Can Learn About Marketing from the Achievers and George Takei

Part 2: Make the Connection

lost puzzle pieceIn part one of this series we introduced The Achievers and George Takei, two completely different types of internet phenomena. We looked at their core audience. You can read that post here.

So they had a solid fan base: core fans. You have them too, whether you are an author, or a business. How do you connect them? They may be scattered all over the world. What tools do you use to bring them together?

Internet Forums. The achievers used the birth of social media: an internet forum to share the word about their passion. Fans gathered around a little known film released in the late 1990’s, and found they had more in common then they at first realized. Some even made love connections in the group. More modern forms of these include Goodreads, Kindle Discussion Boards, and Facebook Groups.

Facebook. Originally a social media outlet similar to MySpace, Facebook took off and became an advertisers dream: millions of reachable customers and fans all gathered in one giant stadium. The problem is, you are one hot dog vendor among thousands, and your customers are scattered throughout the seats. How do you get them to come to you, to “sit” in your section? Once they sit there, how do you make them all want to buy your hot dogs? George has used this with amazing success. He has over 3.8 million “likes” and 3.5 million of those talking about and sharing his posts!

Twitter. In 140 characters or less, you need to get a message out there. A message that compels, that speaks to a specific group, and a message that they will see and share. George has over 600,000 followers. And those who say you have to follow to get followers? Look at George’s balance here: 622,000 followers, he follows 57. He may be the exception to the rule, but you don’t have to follow those you don’t want to follow to glean followers.

These are the tools: Now how do you use them? In part three we will discuss this, but here is the basic premise, and therefore your homework. Have a message. Every day have something new to say. Pretty tough? Yes, tougher than it looks.

Last week, you started to follow George on Facebook if you weren’t already doing it. You were supposed to pay attention to what he posted and when. This week? Do the same with Twitter. Follow George here and just observe: What does he post? When? What gets Retweeted? Favorited?  Let’s see what we can learn from those who are already doing something well.

Comments closed

Select a Charity

Another of my stories has been accepted in an anthology. It is titled “The Angel.” It is different than my usual stories. How is it different?

Here are the guidelines given for the anthology: the story must based on a fairy tale, have something “undead” as one of the characters (i.e. ghost, angel, zombie, etc.), and it had to have a happy ending. My stories don’t always have a happy ending. In fact, I’ve been accused of writing dark fiction. I’ve been accused of worse too, but that’s another story..

My story is based on the less known fairy tale “The Angel” by Hans Christian Anderson. He based that story on his poem “The Dying Child.” My characters, of course, are angels. So far, everyone who has read the story has wept.

So I decided quite awhile ago that if the story was accepted, I’d donate half of the proceeds from my royalties from this story to a children’s charity.

This is where I need your help. I’ll take suggestions, we’ll narrow it down with a survey or two, and we’ll take a vote. Comment with suggestions and website links, or e-mail me here.

T-shirts, prizes, and fun will accompany the release and the charity choice. An event page is coming to Facebook, but for now follow my author page here, and I’ll post the details there. Follow me on Twitter, and share with your friends and family.

Below is the poem, “The Dying Child.” Stay tuned for more!

The Dying Child

Hans Christian Anderson

Mother, I’m so tired, I want to sleep now;
Let me fall asleep and feel you near,
Please don’t cry–there now, you’ll promise, won’t you?
On my face I felt your buring tear.
Here’s so cold, and winds outside are frightening,
But in dreams–ah, that’s what I like best:
I can see the darling angel children,
When I shut my sleepy eyes and rest.

Mother, look, the Angel’s here beside me!
Listen, too, how sweet the music grows.
See, his wings are both so white and lovely;
Surely it was God who gave him those.
Green and red and yellow floating round me,
They are flowers the Angel came and spread.
Shall I, too, have wings while I’m alive, or–
Mother, is it only when I’m dead?

Why do you take hold of me so tightly,
Put your cheek to mine the way you do?
And your cheek is wet, but yet it’s burning–
Mother, I shall always be with you . . .
Yes, but then you mustn’t go on sighing;
When you cry I cry as well, you see.
I’m so tired–my eyes they won’t stay open–
Mother–look–the Angel’s kissing me

Comments closed

George and the Achievers

What Authors (and others) Can Learn About Marketing from the Achievers and George Takei

Part 1: Your Core Audience

ent37How does a star of a television program that aired in the late 1960’s rise in social media to have 3.8 million followers, sell out a musical performed at the Globe in San Francisco about Japanese citizen interment in the United States during World War II, and influence opinion nationwide about marriage equality and LBGT rights?

How do Will Russell and Scott Shuffitt go from tattoo vendors at a convention in 2002 to international sensations by 2009, hosting conventions centered around a movie released in March of 1998 with minimal success and a small cult following?

You’ve written a great book. The people who have read it that are not your

 mother, father,

 brother, sister, cousin . . . you get the idea, have told you so. Not enough of them have read it though. How do you get it noticed? How do you go from a small book with a

small cult following to an international sensation? What can we learn from the two examp

les above?

 

Disclaimer: I am not a master marketer. I am just learning some of these things myself. I don’t have 3.8 million followers, and I haven’t filled a convention center in Las Vegas with 4,000 people to watch an old movie together and quote movie lines. I’m just a writer like you, trying to tap into the mystery.

102_4735

What George and the Achievers have in common:  Both started with a core group of fans, gathered around a single idea. George started with Trekkies. Basically a core group of geeks who followed one television series. (Yes, I am one. So what?)

The Achievers began as two guys who loved the movie The Big Lebowski and started quoting movie lines back and forth at a tattoo convention. They noticed they weren’t the only ones quoting lines, and decided to have a party at a local bowling alley, where fans could bowl and watch the movie while drinking White Russians. By 2009 there were gatherings around the world, and fans were traveling thousands of miles to “official” conventions.

The secret? They both started with a core group of fans, centered around one thing they had in common. When those people gathered, they found they had other things in common. George expanded his audience by embracing one of his passions. It may have alienated some, but it gained him a great following.

So how do you do the same thing? Ask yourself: what do all of your fans have in common? What is a passion they all share, that would also appeal to other people and draw them to your work?

A hint: the common factor is not your book. Not yet. What’s the theme of your book, the central idea, that would draw people to read it? Why did you write your story, and why does it resonate with others?

Of course, this is only the first step that both George and the Achievers took to build a fan base. We will look at the next step next week. Until then, you have homework. Follow George on Facebook if you don’t already, and watch what he posts and when. Second, watch the documentary The Achievers and watch their idea take off. Here’s a link to the trailer. Now write on!

Comments closed

Suspend Reality (for readers)

RealityTV01-07-11What is the balance between reality and the unreal, between truth and fantasy? As a reader, how much truth do you want? Let’s face it. Reality is boring. We read to escape reality, not to study it. That’s science, another topic for another day.

24: It’s a good example. Jack Bauer drives from Oakland to LAX in ten minutes, something we know to be a 45 minute drive with no traffic and some bending of local speed statutes. But for the sake of the show, we also don’t want to watch Jack drive for 45 minutes while his world falls apart miles away. We root for him to get there, to fix it in time. After all, he’s the hero.

At some point though, the put on drama gets to be too much. We want a dose of reality. Can jack really get the crap beat out of him and an hour later fight a hoard of spies, who apparently, despite their taxpayer-funded training can’t hit a thing with their pistols? Is he the only expert shot in the group?

Balance: One of the keys to keeping you hooked is balance. As a reader, how much can you take? What is the point where you shut off the show or movie, walk out, or put the book down never to go back to it? How much fiction is too much fiction?

Taking itself too seriously: There’s a difference between James Bond or Jackie Chan and Fast and the Furious, Torque, and Biker Boys. What makes one group better than the other? A part is that the latter group takes itself too seriously. (you can say what you will about how good or bad they are). If the unreality is portrayed as “hey we know this is unrealistic, but it’s fun to watch/read” the viewer/reader is more inclined to tolerate suspension of physics (i.e. Batman). As a reader or viewer, what’s the breaking point for you? When is it too much fun, and not enough reality? When is it too much seriousness and not enough fun?

The author’s job in whatever he/she writes is to take you out of reality, and make you believe for a little while that dragons exist, people fly, and the universe is close enough to travel to if you have the right warp drive or worm hole. Tell us readers, what makes these things believable to you? What draws you into a story?

Feel free to leave comments. We love to hear all of your ideas.

Comments closed

Readers, Do you Review?

applauseI can’t count the number of times a reader as e-mailed, texted, messaged, called, or used another means of communication to say “Hey, your book was awesome!” Sometimes I ask them to post a review if they are a fellow author, or I know they have reviewed other things. If they’re not I just wait and see what happens. Most of the time, they don’t post a review anywhere.

Why review? Reviewing is a great way to let your friends know what you are reading, and get them talking about what you are talking about. How do you think that Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code got to be all the water cooler talk? Reviews, and friends telling friends. (Besides Christians decrying its harmful effects on our culture, but that’s another story for another time). If you found something enjoyable, thought provoking, or just a read you couldn’t put down, share that with as many people as you can. An easy way to do that is to review: on Goodreads, Amazon, and elsewhere.

Reviewing sells books. “I’m a reader and you are an author,” you say. “Why do I care about selling books?” Because if the author you like sells more books, it frees up their time from working as a waitress at a truck stop to write more books. Hopefully you will like (and review) those books too. So on the cycle goes, until your favorite author is able to write for a living. Thus, more good books.

What if the book is bad? Should I review? This is a tough one. As an author, I want to say “No! Only good reviews.” However, as a reader (yes, authors are readers first) you have to ask yourself why you didn’t like the book. Did you just not like the genre or the authors writing style? Then my answer would still be “no.”

However, if the book is poorly edited, has a storyline that just doesn’t work, someone needs to tell the author or publisher, even if they are one and the same. You can do this by contacting the author (if that is possible) or by leaving an honest review. If you are going to be negative, try to include some positive, and state clearly the reasons why you left a negative review.

Don’t ‘Revenge Review.’ I have one negative review on Amazon for my book Redemption. It was written by someone who gave it a five star review, then disliked something I said on social media, and then dropped the review to a one star. If you are going to review, be professional about it. That person had a review site: their credibility as a reviewer is shot now (I wasn’t the only one they did this to). Be polite and kind the same as you would in any other social situation, as if the author was standing right in front of you.

In a sense, they are. They are waiting with breath held as you read, waiting to hear what you think. Okay, maybe not really. They are probably writing. But hearing good things encourages them. Sometimes that’s all they need to make their day, and keep writing.

Meanwhile keep reading. Know that we as authors appreciate you, even if you don’t write a review.

Comments closed

I Wrote a Book and No One’s Reading It!

megaphone-man01I hear writers say it all the time. It starts with the release party, which they expect to be a huge success with a huge draw. I always cross my fingers hoping for their sake that it will be. Unfortunately when it isn’t, the author is usually shocked. “I built a platform,” they say. “I have followers and friends on Facebook. Why didn’t they all buy my book?” We’ve been talking about this in a few writers’ groups and here are some of the common mistakes authors make, and why their books don’t sell more.

Most of your friends/followers are fellow authors. When I first started on Facebook I did the same thing. So while my friends list is well populated, there are a lot of authors’ names there. Those authors are struggling with the same thing I am: finding readers. Because they are connected to other authors. Who are connected to authors. On the cycle goes.

What woke me up was after a media blitz I asked myself the simple question: “When is the last time you bought a book because it was in a promo from anther author?” Other that authors that I have already read their work (and thus become a reader or a fan if you will) I can’t remember. I find new fiction through publishers and friend recommendations, but rarely through a “cold” promo even from a fellow author. Other writers are just like you. Most have day jobs, are trying to write so they’re busy and don’t read many new authors especially outside their chosen genre, and are trying to cultivate readers of their own.

Smart Reviewers, readers, and other authors don’t promote work they haven’t read, or when they don’t know (and trust) the author. “Please retweet” or “share with your friends” works with some readers, but most feel they have a reputation to protect. I want readers to know that if I recommend a book it is because I like it, and I like it because the writing, editing and story are solid. What you recommend reflects back on your writing and your reputation. Don’t promote randomly to get followers, and don’t expect others to either. I’ve read dozens of books in the last couple of years. I’ve left 23 reviews on Amazon/Goodreads, etc. The reviews I do are few and far between (I won’t leave negatives unless the work is totally offensive, but will contact the author and let them know what I think if I know them well enough).

True readers don’t just download a book because it’s free. Okay, Kindle Select can do something for your rankings temporarily. But as a marketing tool from a business standpoint, it only makes sense if you have other “paid” items that your free book drives them to. Those that do download books just because they are free aren’t real readers. They may drive your numbers, but they won’t glean you reviews, and they won’t bring you future sales. There is a strategy to giveaways, and if you’re going to do them, get good advice and follow it.

The best thing you can do to build a stronger reader base is to write more. Read this great article by Hugh Howey and his advice to aspiring authors. Write your book. Send it off to a small press or publish it yourself. (More on the big six another time). Then continue to write and promote your work. No one will market it but you. Keep at it long enough, and the readers will come.

Remember, there is no such thing as overnight success. If it came overnight, likely it came after a long period of hard work that finally paid off. Keep Calm, and Write On.

Comments closed