A Good Villain Energizes Your Story

 

 

 

 

Nothing infuses energy into a story like a powerful and grotesque villain.  If you ardently hate a villain in a book you’re reading or a story you’re viewing then you’re hooked!  You’ve invested emotion in the battle between good and evil, you’re waiting for justice to be served.

            These wicked characters must get under your skin.  They have to arouse a visceral sense of repulsion and fear, the way spiders and snakes evoke primitive terror, the way decaying fecal ooze repels the senses.  Villains are difficult to write because we instinctively recoil from the dark sides of life and the more grotesque aspects of our selves.   That dark side, that shadow, is the only place from which a truly compelling villain can emerge.  We can’t  tear off evil like a number at the grocery meat counter.

            “Number Twenty Two!”

            “Here I am.  Let’s see.  What have you got that’s horrible and scary?”

            A good example of a well written villain came in the film CYRUS.  The cast consisted of John C. Reilly, Marissa Tomei, Katherine Keener and Jonah Hill.

 

 
Jonah Hill as Cyrus

            The emotional engine of the story comes from the dark portrayal of Cyrus by Jonah Hill.  Cyrus is twenty two years old.   He  lives with his mother, played by Marissa Tomei.  Their relationship is what the shrinks call “enmeshed”.  Mother/child/husband/wife/lover and beloved, all have become confused.  Cyrus wants to be with his mother forever.  She’s his best friend, his only friend and he expands his presence to fill her life nearly to the exclusion of other men.

            Nearly.

            John C. Reilly, playing a decent shlub  named John, meets Molly (Tomei) at a party.  In the usual sequence of events, John starts dating Molly and soon enough  comes to her house, where he meets Cyrus.

            Like many evil characters, Cyrus is a charmer.  He exudes a disarming “honesty”, he’s well schooled in modern therapy-talk.

            Let us pause and consider this concept, Evil.  What is it?

            I’ve parsed my own definition of evil to a simple formula: Evil is the inflicting of pain to avoid pain. This inflicting is often done in the name of Good, i.e. Hitler was saving Germany and the Aryan race from humiliation and contamination.  I exclude those beings who enjoy causing pain because it’s their nature.  Such creatures exist but not for the purpose of this essay. 

            Cyrus is going to destroy the relationship between John and Molly.  He’s a smart, tubby man-child who can easily read John’s psychological roadmap.  This gives him power.  He also gets power from his mother’s uncritical support of his efforts.

             Evil characters have malice and they have power.  Many of them are concealed behind a facade of charm or apparently benign goodwill.

            Evil people are trying to wriggle out from under a burden of pain by forcing others to experience pain.  What is the pain that Cyrus wishes to avoid?  He doesn’t seem to have any friends.  He isn’t engaged with a community of his peers.  He creates techno music on a bank of keyboards and electronics.  The music quickly devolves into sterile monotony.   Cyrus is a twenty two year old loser,  a lonely fat kid.  That’s pain enough.  If we follow the formula that evil is pain inflicted on others to mute the suffering of the self, we find Cyrus’ motivation.  He will obstruct any of Molly’s efforts to be happy.  If she’s happy, she will elude his possession.  She might become attached to another man.

            John quickly understands the game that is being played.  It’s impossible to carry this information to Molly.  She won’t believe him.  Cyrus is too clever.  Cyrus quietly stands behind Molly in a hallway as she talks with John about their burgeoning relationship.  Cyrus faces John while showing cardboard signs over the back of his mother’s head.  Cyrus has printed phrases of malice and contempt.  “You don’t have a chance.”  “I’ll get you.”   “You’re out of your league.”

            This is the moment in the film where I truly grew to hate Cyrus and to fear for John.  This is where the bad guy engaged my emotional investment in the film’s outcome.  Cyrus’ mask slips and he shows a chilling blankness, as if John is simply beneath consideration.  John may be a shlub but he’s a decent shlub and he steps up, steps up to the dragon, willing to fight for Molly.  That’s the narrative counterpoint to hating the villain.  It offers an opportunity for the hero to draw upon courage he doesn’t know he has.  Hate the villain, love the hero. It all sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

            Unless we’re writing comic books or cartoons, it’s not so simple.  Each of us is a composite personality.  Our inner child is really a little car filled with squabbling midgets.  The steering wheel passes from hand to hand, the brakes are fought over, the car veers crazily.

            A villain takes advantage of the muddle of human nature by having a clear point of focus.  A fixation, an obsession, a purpose.  This purpose empowers the villain at the expense of ordinary people.  Bad guys know who they are and why they act.  In many narratives the hero struggles with doubt and obscurity of motivation.  His struggle isn’t just with the villain;  it’s with his own confusion.  When he sees clearly, when he knows what he wants, he obtains the weapons he needs.

            All through this essay I’ve been thinking of two characters: Adolph Hitler and South Park cartoon nasty Eric Cartman.  Hitler annihilated millions; Cartman is a fictional character in a television show.  Yet they have attributes in common.

            My emotions regarding Hitler are an historical abstraction.  He’s become a universal symbol of evil.  Cartman, on the other hand, keeps my guts in an uproar.   I HATE the fucker, I loathe him!  It’s a very personal engagement.

            The lessons of Cartman are numerous.  All of his actions are manipulations.  He is completely without sincerity.  He’s a bigot.   There is no minority group who escapes his ire. When he’s told that white people have become a minority group, he simply doesn’t hear the message.  This may be Cartman’s greatest signifier: his inability to hear anything with which he disagrees.  Intellectual and moral deafness is a widespread symptom of evil.  Cartman, and villains in general, like to blame other people for their own emotional discomfort.  This profound moral choice, to blame others,  is a basic step into the world of evil.  When writing a villainous character, it’s useful to give him someone to blame. Give him a scapegoat.     

            A villain can’t be frightful without power.  It may be supernatural power, political power, military power, physical power, but a villain cannot elicit fear, revulsion and anger without significant power.  It’s the abuse of power that sparks the reader’s anger.  Most of us see power as a privilege that entails responsibility.

We get angry when power is used for gratification of the ego and the appetites.

            Cartman’s power comes from several sources.  He’s clever, inventive, without moral scruple and completely selfish.  His mother gives him everything he wants because it’s easier that way.  Cartman is a fatherless boy.  His mother always takes the lazy way out; she gives in to her son’s demands.  If I take South Park as a microcosm, a model for the larger society in which we live, Cartman’s mother represents economic power.  She makes him rich in comparison to the other kids.  He has all the latest toys, the best video games and a total lack of supervision.

            To further amplify Cartman’s power he has a follower: Butters.  This sweet but witless innocent will go along with any outrageous scheme Cartman dreams up. Cartman generates momentum.  While Stan, Kyle or Kenny may have qualms about Cartman’s ideas, Butters is always there to support him.  The plan, the idea, the scheme always seems to run away with itself before it can be thought through.  Its consequences are never anticipated.  The only brakes on Cartman’s destructive power are the other boys’ common sense and lack of malice.  In the end, Cartman always brings himself to destruction, but he will never admit defeat.  In some people this is an admirable trait.  In Cartman, it’s merely irritating.

            In Hitler it cost millions of lives.  If Cartman were a real adult person he would be a frightful monster.  Think what Hitler and Cartman have in common.  Scapegoats.  Blame.  Moral and intellectual deafness.  Unwillingness to take responsibility for errors in judgment.  A will that generates great momentum,  and attracts followers who are willing to obey without question.

            In the episode called “Breast Cancer Show Ever” Cartman takes a schoolyard beating by a mere girl, by Wendy Testaburger.  She played the righteous avenger when Cartman mocked breast cancer and persisted in telling hurtful jokes on the subject of breasts.  When she established the time for the duel, when Cartman realized that Wendy was serious, he tried to buy her off.  She would have none of it.  In spite of the fact that Cartman was pounded to a bloody mess, he twisted events in his mind so that he won the fight, that he was still “Cool”, or “Kewl” in the eyes of his compatriots.  Kyle and Stan told Cartman “You suck, you’ve always sucked.  We hate you.”  Cartman can’t hear these declarations.  He is still Kewl.

            This amazing deafness made me want to jump through the screen and pound the fat twerp to a pulp.  My emotions were completely engaged.  When a writer can raise the emotional stakes to such a pitch, that writer has succeeded in creating a compelling villain.

            I have used a silly villain in a silly cartoon show to highlight the power of a villain to propel a good story.  Ignore Cartman at your own risk.  He’s a first class little asshole.

            People ignored and dismissed Hitler as a buffoon.  We know what happened to those people.  Monstrous villains  have arisen throughout history.  We are writers;  we deal in fiction.  The  most frightening villains in fiction draw resonance from history’s tyrants.  Lazy writers may imitate these tyrants in their narratives.  Good writers draw villains out through themselves, knowing that each of us is capable of monstrosity.

Five Writing Questions From a 13 Year Old

 

The Road Has Eyes: A Relationship, An RV and A Wild Ride

My Blood Is In Every Word

I’m using a promotional service to market my book, “The Road Has Eyes”.  I was asked to write a brief intro about the book and then to answer any five of the twenty five questions posed by the book promoter’s daughter.  I was charmed by the very concept.  So, below, is my response to this interesting request.

This book is a travel-adventure memoir. Some of things that happen in the book seem   impossible but they actually happened.   My wife is part Apache, a Medicine Woman and healer. Being in her company seems to provoke an element of the weird and the miraculous.  

Ten years ago we were living in a rented cottage in Marin County, California. The monthly bill was incredibly expensive.   We were dropping $2500 a month for a one bedroom house. It was a nice house, I’ll admit. It was out in the woods, it was quiet and the deck gave a view of the night sky.   It was a very pleasant place, but we were going broke maintaining that life style.

We had bought a little pop-up trailer to tow behind our Jeep. We made our first trip to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. This is where the book starts, with the statement “How could you be so stupid?”

In spite of making incredibly dumb rookie mistakes, we were bitten by the camping bug. Soon we were driving a thirty year old RV. Our adventures in that broken-down camper, which we named Yertle, form a big part of the book. It was during a second trip to Arches that we met a couple who were living full time in a Class A Motor Coach. Living full time in an RV? Was that possible? Sure it was! Bit by bit we acquired RV experience until we got ourselves out of that $2500 a month hobbit house and bought a 38 foot Class A Motor Home. We’re still living in this RV.   It has saved us vast amounts of money and has provided backgrounds for a variety of adventures.

          That, dear readers, is the book, “The Road Has Eyes: A Relationship, An RV and a Wild Ride.”

 

Below are the five questions I answered for my young interviewer.

 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

 

The most surprising thing I learned in creating my books was that I could do it. I could actually write books.   They have mass, structure, character, dialogue, action and they make sense. The first book I wrote was absurdly juvenile, yet I completed the story.   It was a big story, about three hundred pages worth of story.

There is a phenomenon that I call the “Where Did That Come From?” syndrome. My imagination is like an extensive cave system where I don’t know what’s around the next turn. I’ve learned that if I unleash my imagination, it’s bigger than I expected it to be.   It’s an inner process that takes practice. The more I use my imagination, the more fertile it becomes. I am always surprised at what emerges from my own mind. I’ve learned to rely on my faculties as a resource that always comes through with the resolution I’ve been seeking. Warning: imagination can turn against you. Creative people can be led by their imaginations down some ugly corridors. So, take care of your mental and emotional health. Surround yourself with friends, people you can talk to.

Apart from writing and reading, what are your other hobbies or interests?

I’ve got several great passions. I love playing and composing music. I’m a drummer, keyboard player and songwriter. I’ve recorded one CD called “Out Of This World”. Most of it is on Youtube at http://bit.ly/1AUhHVG . I’m deeply involved in photography. I have an obsessive love of astronomy, the night sky and the leading edge of scientific investigation into the nature of the universe. You can see my photography at https://500px.com/artsdigiphoto. Writers need to have a wide range of interests. I study history, anthropology, politics, archaeology, all kinds of things. You never know what you might need in some future plot or world-building project.   Turn your mind into a giant filing cabinet loaded with facts on many subjects. Of course, you can always turn to the Internet if you need to do research. The Internet is a wonderful tool for writers!

How do you define success as an author?

I would like to have enough readers that they would talk to each other about my books, and correspond with me. I would enjoy feedback about my writing, especially as I have been completely obscure for so many years. Success would simply be what is called “buzz”, that is having my work capture the interest of a few thousand people (though I wouldn’t mind a few million).   I believe that my books are original and convey strong emotion. I write with emotions that may lie buried deep within the psyche. It’s my way of bringing to light the emotions that the reader may have experienced without knowing it. I would feel successful if readers responded to me about their emotional experiences in reading my work. I want my work to be useful, entertaining and inspiring. If I could make a living writing? Of course. That too would feel like success.

What do you think makes a good story?

The basic architecture of narrative implies conflict. Usually the conflict is one between good and evil.   A compelling story needs to embroil the reader emotionally in the outcome of this battle. A story is only as good as its villain. The energy of a story comes from putting a lovable or heroic personality in jeopardy.   The danger, the jeopardy, is supplied by an antagonist, a villain. A really good story has characters who are complex, flawed or just plain crazy. Villains often are more certain of themselves than are heroes. Their purposes are not tainted by doubt. They have a solid ideology or philosophy that they seek to impose on the hero’s world. I often look to history for inspiration in writing my stories. One of my favorite historical events is The Battle Of Stalingrad during World War Two. It serves as a model for many story situations. Imagine that the Good Guys have fought valiantly, used every ounce of courage and resource to stave off defeat. Yet, in spite of their effort, they teeter on the brink of annihilation. We can call this “the last ditch”. The heroic team has one final effort in them; they are teetering on the edge of defeat. They don’t know that their enemy has been weakened by the sturdiness of their resistance. They fling themselves into this last ditch effort.   To their surprise, the enemy collapses.   It seems miraculous, but it’s no miracle. It’s the outcome of the effort that our protagonists have sustained. It’s an EARNED victory. That’s important. The term DEUS EX MACHINA translates as “God’s Mechanism” or “the hand of God”. In other words, a miracle happens, God acts from on high and sees to it that the good guys win. God provides a storm, a fuel shortage, or a sudden epidemic of the flu, to weaken the enemy. There’s an emotional let-down when the writer must resort to Deus Ex Machina. A good story has a logical outcome that derives from true heroic effort.

          Let’s break it back down to the basics: A story is generally a representation of the conflict between good and evil. Characters are avatars for one or another of these principles. The evil character is arrogant because of an iron-clad belief that he/she is working for the right idea. Arrogance is a source of energy. It makes the villain more dangerous.   Good stories generally proceed by placing the protagonist in increasingly dangerous situations. The hero escapes danger by a combination of intelligence and physical prowess. Sometimes strength of character plays a major role in the hero’s victory. One way or another a successful story provides emotional release for the reader by having the hero overcome the villain and seeing that justice is served.

          Sounds simple, doesn’t it?   It is, in fact, simple. Good fights evil. What keeps a story interesting are the false leads, red herrings (or misplaced suspicions) and last ditch efforts. The more the characters resemble actual human beings, the better the story. A hero isn’t just fighting an external danger. A hero is fighting internal flaws, personal weaknesses of character. A convincing hero is one who triumphs on the inner battlefield of the Self. A hero’s soul becomes more virtuous as a result of the internal conflict that has been waged in the course of the story.

 

Who do your stories appeal to?

My work appeals to creative people. I’m always exploring the process of making Art. My work appeals to the intellectually curious, the spiritually adventurous, the psychologically perplexed. Let’s call my audience Seekers, or Sensitives. I like readers who are honest, smart and confused. I write psychologically, as if my basic position in life is one in which I’m wondering how I got the way I am. How did I get to this state? How did I get into trouble and how am I going to get out of it?   I write to expose the emotional pain that I’ve experienced. There’s a process of healing that happens when I live through my characters. Even when I write Science Fiction my characters are working through childhood trauma.

It’s said that in one’s dreams one is ALL of the characters. I think the same thing is true in fiction.   We would not be able to portray evil with authenticity unless we had that experience in our own selves. All of my characters emerge from myself. My evil characters partake of aspects of my own personality.

I joked once that my audience is comprised of anyone who has either been to or wants to go to a Burning Man event. It really wasn’t much of a joke. I was serious. Though Burning Man represents an extreme phenomenon in our culture, it is filled with people committed to experimentation and the exploration of art and consciousness. Those are my readers!

My Father’s Love Of Words

My father liked to play with words. He was a great punster. His humor was dry as salt, so dry that  it wasn’t even funny unless you were another person obsessed with words.Like me.
I like to call Facebook…un…Basefook. Dad wrote books, too. In his eighties he wrote books on American History, just to have something to do. They were very dry, very boring, but that wasn’t the point. His command of facts, and his memory, were awesome. He didn’t know how to connect the facts into the emotional architecture of a story. His History Of The American Presidency is unreadable. I asked him if he used the internet for research. “Not much”, he answered. Which meant that he knew, in his memory, who ran for Vice President with Franklin Pierce, and how the campaign unfolded, who betrayed whom, what the dirty tricks were about..all of that! He was a walking encyclopedia. Dad passed at age 93 this last October. He was a good dad, though I had to convince him of that during his last week on earth. He blamed himself for not seeing what my mother had been up to. He SHOULD have seen, but it was the 60’s and no one knew about dysfunctional families, child abuse, all that stuff that has emerged in the last fifty years. I like to think that I did my father justice in the character of Max Kantro in my novel, “Confessions of An Honest Man”. He was a man of his times confronting a family mess of bi-polar disease, sadism and terrible depression. There was no tool box for him to use!

The pic shows dad, his beloved second wife, me and my beloved wife.

 

 

51group copy

 

 

 

 

About The Novel, “Confessions Of An Honest Man”.

 

About “Confessions Of An Honest Man”

john_coltrane
John Coltrane

 

            Old School. That’s what this is, this book about a dysfunctional family that begins in 1957 and carries the reader through to the present day. I started this book in 1976. In ’78 I made a splash by winning Best Short Story Award from Playboy Magazine. I signed with an agent and there was a lot of interest in this book. I had lunches with my editor in New York City. It was classic author-stuff, from another era. I had an opportunity but I wasn’t ripe, the book wasn’t ripe and I didn’t finish it until 2014. I had to do some living before I could write the stories in this book.

            I’ve drawn a lot of autobiographical material into this narrative. I was the kind of kid that Aaron Kantro is in these pages. I was still in grade school when I first heard jazz on a recording by Louis Armstrong.   Can you imagine a twelve year old closeting himself in his bedroom and listening to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane? Can you imagine that today, or fifty years ago? This is a precocious lonely child.  He doesn’t fit in well with his class mates.  He gets bullied but he doesn’t cringe easily, doesn’t give in.  

            Aaron’s mother, Esther, is horrified. She regards any deviation from her plans as personal attacks. Her sons will become professionals.  They will be doctors or lawyers. Her daughters will marry socially prominent men of wealth and have two or three grandchildren apiece. She gets, instead, a dreamy musician who listens to what is called, in Yiddish,”Scvhatze music”. She is convinced that her oldest son will become a bum playing at Bar Mitzvahs and her younger son…well…he’s crazy, he goes into trances and hurts people and then he can’t remember what he’s done. Esther’s dreams are fueled by a pathological insecurity that develops into full-blown Manic Depression, today’s bi-polar disorder.  On top of her clinical disturbances, Esther is flat-out mean. She’s sadistic and clever.

            This is starting to sound a little depressing.   I promise you, it’s not. The book has darkness, of course. But it tracks the development of two creative children who get no support. They need determination and strength to follow their dreams.  The other two children are interesting in their monstrousness, their violence and greed.  By splitting the four children into two teams I’ve created a laboratory, showing the corrosive effects of parental abuse.  The outcomes depend on the child’s innate moral nature.  Aaron and Sarah survive and become productive only through enormous courage and tenacity.

            This is the Kantro family. A father, a mother and four kids.  Two of the kids are sweet and two of them are monsters. Max knows that something is wrong in his family. It is the 60’s and he has few tools available.  He’s trying, but it’s hard to maneuver through the family’s emotional problems.  There’s always trouble.  Aaron may be experimenting with drugs.  Somehow that’s not so bad as Mark’s propensity to collect weapons and lurk on the outskirts of thuggish mayhem.  The world  has yet to fill with more sophisticated knowledge. There are few books to be had  about family dynamics. Eating disorders are unknown. When Sarah dives into Bulimia, she hasn’t a clue, nor does anyone else, about this compulsive behavior.  It’s a total mystery and the only option is to put her in a mental hospital for a month or two.  

            In “Confessions Of An Honest Man” we travel the Hero’s Journey with Aaron. He’s brave enough to defy his mother. He goes to New York City at the fresh age of sixteen. He’s searching for his jazz hero, the legendary Avian Coulter.

He finds Avian.   The man is Avant Garde, a polarizing figure in the jazz world.  He’s also an addict.  Avian takes Aaron under his broken wings and turns him in the direction he needs to go.   He introduces Aaron to the successful blues n’ bop saxophonist, Zoot Prestige.  Aaron needs to play Black, Aaron needs to be in Chitlin’ Circuit clubs in Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis.  Avian trusts his friend Zoot more than he trusts himself.  Zoot will watch over Aaron and keep him from getting into too much trouble.  The gigs with the Zoot Prestige Trio are wonderfully goofy.  

            This is a fairly large book and it goes a lot of places. We meet Jimi Hendrix and we fight the Soviet Army with the Mujahiddin in the Eighties. Read the book.  F’god’s sake, it’s $2.99. Then leave a review.   Every author needs reviews.   Thanks for being here.

 

About my fantasy novel, THE GODS OF THE GIFT

Gods WP

It was in the late seventies. I turned right onto Third Street in San Rafael and my inner vision exploded with a scene. I was seeing a huge monastic building like a Tibetan lamasery. Think of The Potala. Here was this enormous structure flying in the air, floating away from the ground trailing roots and boulders. It seemed to be headed towards a moon that was chartreuse and hovered above the monastery in a kind of leering way, sinister. Then a voice began speaking. Never mind what it was saying. It was talking inside my head. Like dictation. It was describing things like Destiny; the way Destiny is determined by the thoughts of the one who thinks. Yes yes, very metaphysical.

I drove home listening to this voice describing a system of discipline, a system that corresponded to what I know of Tibetan Tantric practice. I know very little about Tibetan Tantric practice. I have a clue, that’s all.

A book grew from this vision and this voice. At the time I was flush from my recent award from Playboy Magazine and my agent gave the manuscript to an editor and when I was in New York we discussed the book. The agent, Scott Meredith, moved the book around from publisher to publisher for a year. There were no takers.

Lucky me. It would have been a tragedy to have published that book in 1980. I take decades to write my books. They are like big oak trees. They need time to develop.

The Gods Of The Gift has changed so much over the years that it has become a real grown-up book.   It’s a book for grown-ups. It’ a book that will be most enjoyed by people who’ve spent some time reading esoteric stuff like Rudolph Steiner, Madame Blavatsky, Annie Besant. The old school mystics. Gurdjieff, Ouspensky. Most of those books are dense, turgid and old fashioned. The Gods Of The Gift should be fun, even though it’s loaded with obscure information and the science part of it is completely crazy.

            You don’t have to be an Adept of The Secret Doctrine to get enjoyment from this book. It follows many Fantasy and Sci Fi conventions. There’s the Pinocchio Theme. A race of Androids yearns to be human.   But these androids, or as I call them, Robiots, know they’re not human. They call themselves New Sentients. They were originally made to perform work but somewhere along the way a few of them started tinkering with their own nervous systems and found that emotion was possible and even desirable. That’s one of my classic Sci Fi themes. I’ve got astrophysics galore, Black Holes, all that stuff.   The book is as much influenced by Kurosawa films as it is by metaphysical lore. There are sword fights, kidnappings, cosmic gangsters and quasi-immortals called Planet-People. These are avatars from the Starwind Communion. When their civilization was doomed they decided to emigrate by squishing all the individuals from each planet into one body.   So one hundred eight worlds became one hundred eight Planet-People. One of them, Calakadon, was a rogue and a murderer. He is the book’s main bad guy. He’s murdering the other one hundred seven of his kindred and stealing their Puzzle Pieces.   These objects are precious beyond knowing. They will some day be assembled into The Puzzle Of The Endless Gates. Here is another Buddhist concept, in case you’ve never heard that mantra: Gate Gate Beyond The Gate Another Gate—-Bodhisattva.  It refers to the endless nature of the progression of Consciousness.  A Boddhisatva is one who has achieved enlightenment but chooses to reincarnate in order to be of service to the universe.  A compassionate and difficult choice.  Life in a body, physical life, is challenging.  

I refer to this book as a Sacred Monster. I’ve been at it so long that I have no objectivity with regard to it.  I only know the work that I’ve done.  In most things I’m a lazy human being.  Not in writing.  When my writing engine is engaged I have a work ethic that makes me proud. This book has been part of my life for decades.  I had a glitch, a narrative problem that baffled me for fifteen years. Three years ago  I resolved that problem. It was like a seam on a garment.  The dang thing wouldn’t hold together until I figured out that seam.  Now it works and i’m satisfied.  Relatively.

The Process Of Becoming A Successful Author

The Process of turning myself into a successful author: right now, it’s guess work. It’s like getting b—ch slapped daily by the world. I’m a dummy for checking my stats every day. How many downloads did I get last night? I shouldn’t do that; it often leads to a feeling of leaden discouragement, a visceral inner plummeting of my hopes. I get different messages from different “experts”. Most common: Be Yourself. Well….duh.

Phodopus_sungorus_-_Hamsterkraftwerk
Almost There, almost there!
I don’t know who else to be. Other frequent advice: Lie. pretend you’re already a big success. Or….be totally honest, totally transparent,share your story with your potential audience. Oh my god! This IS a story, it’s like Don Quixote on the internet. The only happy news is that this page keeps growing. Not by huge leaps, but by small increments. Okay. I tweet maybe twenty times daily. I work all my social media, refreshing with new content as often as possible. I’m broke. This would be a very different operation if I had some shekels. But I don’t. Even if I had some cash, I wouldn’t be ready to spend it on Facebook advertising. The latter requires expertise, though F’book wants you to believe that anyone can do it. Their top-o-the-line ad platform is called AdEspresso. It costs $150/month for the middle level functionality. This monthly is BEFORE I pay for the ads themselves. The AdESpresso is a targeting instrument. Like, who’s my audience? I would say that my audience is comprised of well educated baby boomers who have been through some kind of therapy experience and have an interest in the nuts and bolts of spiritual practice. Or, to express it another way, my audience is comprised of smart people who feel broken by their upbringing and their culture and want to do something to be more alive and vibrant. AdEspresso allows me to target recipients of my ads by occupation, education, interests, taste in books, music, movies. Wait, wait….MY AUDIENCE IS ANYONE WHO HAS EVER BEEN TO OR PLANS GOING TO BURNING MAN!
Yeahhh…….