Monday, February 3, 2014

I've figured out the final element in selling a lot of books!

It's funny, I came to this site today to write a blog saying that I finally figured out why I don't sell as many books as my fellow authors, and I happened to see a list of posts that visitors have most recently read. 1 of the 3 most recent read was one called: I found out why I'm only doing moderately well as a writer.

I read it and it was posted 18 months ago and was written right after I did a sales experiment that told me which genre to focus on. In the post I said that I had 40 titles and that if I could just do 16 to 26 more, I would make 10k a month. I thought that I could do it by Dec 2012. Ha!

Well, 18 months later I hit 56 English titles on Amazon. And this month I hit 10k for the first time. Woohoo! Man, how the hell did I guess that?! Granted, it took me a little longer than 4 months to do it. But, at the time I had 60 titles in all languages, and today I have about 210. Clearly I have spent a lot of time doing translations. Also, many of my books had to be yanked from Amazon because of their whole censorship thing.

But yep, I called it. I thought that if I focused on books the average American woman would like, I would sell more. I did.

Today I'm blogging to say that I have finally figured out the dichotomy which has allows bewildered me. Why is it that I sell so few books in English while getting such glowing reviews from readers. It would seem logical that if readers really like my books, I would have taken off by now. If you are a reader of my post, I'm sure that you've read my endless pondering about it.

Well, I've got it. I've figured it out. As I accurately stated in my last post, there are only three things that a reader users to determine if they will buy a book; the title, the cover and the description. As stated in the other post, readers I've never interacted with say that my writing "good". Readers think that my titles are "great". And in the other post, I just glossed over my book descriptions. What I said was that 2 of 3 is pretty great.

I'm here to tell you that the authors doing really well are getting 3 out of 3. The reason that I'm doing so badly in English is because my book descriptions are severely lacking and I didn't know how much.

Today I posted a thread on my erotica author forum exploring the analysis of successful book blurbs. I then threw myself into heavy analysis of the descriptions for books that became the breakthrough hit for an unknown author. It turns out that there are patterns. And the reason why I know I'm correct is because now that I've seen the patterns, successful description writing seems pretty obvious. Yet, even my very successful author friends were blown away by my discover.

Here's the gist of it. The main thing that readers look for in any book is conflict and plot twists within familiar tropes; the Pretty Woman trope, the Fish out of Water trope, the Found Baby trope. But this isn't brain surgery. Commercial writing is very formulaic. And the book descriptions that sell the most books... here it comes... clearly states what the book's trope is then identifies the conflicts and plot twists in the story.

That's it. That's the big secret. That is what separates a book from it's true potential. Now, knowing that doesn't guarantee a successful book. The trope still has to be one that appeals to the masses and the plot twists and conflicts still have to be interesting. But that simply formula is the secret to helping your book reach it's full sales potential.

See, I told you that it would seem obvious after I said it. Yet, I made up a scale to evaluate books and test the formula and applied it to my past books. Apparently none of them pass. Zero! That's 0 out of 210. Well, it's possible that one of them did pass. It would be the one that reached #1 in humor on Amazon. I haven't analysed it yet, but as I think back on it, that book's description could met all of the criteria.

I would beat myself up about it except it seems that no one else realized this either. I have had a number of successful authors try to help me with my book descriptions and not once did anything like this come up. But please, it's so simply, don't you think that if this was well known, someone would have mentioned it?

Anyway, I have the formula now. So from now on, not only will my wonderfully-titled good books have great covers, but the books will be described in the most interesting way possible. So it turns out that I didn't need a writing class after all. What I needed was to spend an afternoon applying my mind to figuring out the last marketing deficit that I knew I had. Boy I'm glad that I dropped UCLA extension class.

On another topic, I dropped the class I was taking at the UCLA extension. I went to 2 classes and then realized that I didn't belong there. The class ended up being for those who wanted to write the first 50 pages of their first novel ever. That is clearly not me. And being a veteran, I talk about writing differently than beginners do.

Did I gain anything from the classes I attended? Yes, the class gave me confidence in the fact that I knew what I needed to know to start my YA book. I also got a hand out to help me flush out my main character  little more. I did find that helpful. But, seriously, that was not a class for me.

So now I'm going to finish off my werewolf story. With it I will be doing a few things that I have never done before. I was feeling insecure about the stories for a couple reasons. The first reason was that my stories are about werewolves and no one transforms into a werewolf in book 1 which is 60 pages long. The second issue I had was that the second book in the series only had one sex scene. I usually do 3 or 4 per book. It's just how I do it. The third book was fine-ish.

Well, I was reading a post on my forum and saw something about what the best marketing technique is. The best one, which is also the one that has worked best for me, is to write a series and release the first book for free. What I also learned is that the sweet spot for sales is a book with about 25k words.

Well, my first book makes a questionable werewolf book because it ends right before the protagonist transforms, but it makes a hell of a teaser that I could give away for free. And instead of stretching the series out into 4 books, I could combine what is now book 2 and 3 into one book that equals... you guested it, exactly 25k words. This is all working out perfectly. Now book 2 will have lots of sex and werewolf fun. And book 1 will be the the perfect lead in for it.

Put that together with my truly awesome title for a werewolf erotic romance (seriously, I can't believe that no one has thought of this before), and my very, very cool looking cover and all I need is the right description. And now that I know how to write an awesome description, this book, being in the hottest current romance sub-genre, should be my best seller to date. Oh, did I mention that the story is actually really good as well?

It's all kind of exciting. I finally feel like I have a full grasp on my profession. Now, if I could just figure out the plot of the final book in the series, my professional life would be perfect... and all I'll have to figure out is my personal life. But one impossible task at a time. I don't want to overwhelm myself. I'm too much in a good mood to go there tonight. :-)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Creatively I have hit my pinnacle

For the past week I've been doing something that I might have said that I would never do. I'm taking a writing class/workshop. The reason why I decided to do it was that I didn't fell I was a good enough writer and that was why I don't sell as many books as my peer in English. To address that, I signed up for a couple of UCLA extensions.

Combining this with my constant planning on writing my New Adult series, I decided to take a class where the goal was to write the first 50 pages of a novel. That seems perfect, right? I thought so. I figured that I would finally take the time and start the books that are supposed to be my legacy.

There have been a few hangups though. The first occurred about a day after I signed up for the class. I signed up for the class because of my insecurity that I wasn't a good writer. Well, right after signing up, I got this review for one of my books featuring large women: "I enjoyed all the series it made me think there is a guy out there that would love a big girl the way she wants to be loved...."

It seems pretty basic, right? Wrong! It was for a series that I actually mentioned on one of my blog posts. I had blogged about this book series because I was very proud of myself for figuring how to shape the way people viewed life using the context of erotica. I was convinced that with the first book in the series I could reshape the way that heavier women viewed who they were.

That's not a small challenge. Let's remember that the primary purpose of erotica is to get people to masturbate. Comedies fail if they don't make you laugh; mysteries fail if they don't keep you guessing; and erotica fails if it doesn't make you want to have sexual release. So while I was writing a story that made women want to touch themselves, I managed to strategically insert something that also shaped the reader's view of themselves, their life and the world in general. 

Do you know how incredibly hard that is? I have always thought highly of myself, so I didn't doubt that I could do it. But thinking you could do something and actually having proof that you have done it is two completely different things. 

Now let's look at that review again. My goal was to reshape the way that the reader viewed herself. The person who wrote the review said " made me think there is a guy out there that would love a big girl the way she wants to be loved..." There it is. I did it. I changed the way that she viewed herself and the world. 

Do you know how difficult that is? It is hard enough to do it within a self-help book, and people who buy those books are predisposed to want to change their thinking and life. It is hard enough to do it with a spiritual book, yet, again, the people who buy those books are buying the because they are in search of answers and change. But I did it within the framework of erotica.

So, what do you do when you meet your own objective criteria for brilliance? I'm not sure.

The reason why I signed up for the class was because I felt insecure about not being a good writer. I no longer suffer from that insecurity. Perhaps I could get better at describing scenes or creating characters. But in my mind, there are a few definitions of "good" when it comes to writing, and I'm good at the thing that I care most about; using writing to reshape the reader's view of life.

Now, having said all of that, I'm not sure which book I will actually work on in the class. I'm still not done with my 4 part werewolf novella series. I going to try and at least finish book 3 this week. If I do that, I will probably write the long awaited novel for the class. 

I would like to say, though, that being a good writer isn't really correlated to making sales. And I'm really starting to introduce real complexity into this werewolf erotic romance. These characters are getting really emotionally rich, and I'm going to be using some very interesting plot twists to achieve the standard 'will they or won't they get together' troupe. 

This sucker is getting really quite worth while. Add that to the realistic way I deal with race, and the fact that the story is about a heavy girl who experiences what it's like to go from the reject to the girl who all of hottest guys want, and you really have a unique story. 

Is it as good as the first erotic story that I ever wrote? Probably not. That story was unadulterated romance with a protagonist who would do anything for their love. This new story is not that pure. But what it is is a well told interesting story. It's less romantic, and much more relate-able. Will it sell as many as my first story? Who knows. I guess I would have a better idea if I actually read books in that genre. We'll see though.

On another note, one of the things that the class has done for me so far is that it helped me to see that I actually know enough about the long awaited story to start writing it. And more than that, I have the most awesome opening scene.  The protagonist and her crew are being chased by a dragon made of fire. The protagonist is running under a canopy of trees and the dragon is flying through the air, so the dragon explodes into thousands flames. These individual flames fall in among the trees looking for the girl. When the flames find her, they swirl back together into the firey beast and the chase is on. 

I love that opening. I absolutely love the way the final book ends. I love the message of the series. I love how the character changes throughout the series. And I love, love, love love the construction of the series. In another blog post I had referred to the construction of the story as genius. I still think that it is. 

Is it Issac Asinov genius? Geez, probably not. But if I ever finish it, it would be my greatest work. The "brilliant" accomplishment that I mention above would be child's play in comparison. And again, no one may ever read the long awaited series, but god damn, it would be proof to me that I lived up to my greatest potential. Maybe I will fail to change the entire world for the better. But I will be able to say that I wrote that, and that books series would stand as a testament to the best of who I was. 

Now the only question is, will I finish book 3 of the werewolf series this week so that I can start the long awaited series? I guess the way that my life keeps slipping by me, I'll find out soon enough.

Oh, and on another positive note, the software that I've been developing is really close to being done. Barring some other crazy unexpected thing, it is finally days away from completion. After all of this time it almost seems unreal.

And I have to say about the software, I think that it will me my masterpiece. This software will be my 'Wordperfect'. Decades ago, someone said 'you know what? I'm going to make a software that makes it easier to write letters and memos.' No one had ever thought to do it before, and he did it reshaping the world as we know it. 

My software is no 'Wordperfect', but it's my masterpiece. I'm thinking that it's safe to say that I am in the creative prime of my life. I don't know how long anything that I'm creating now will last in the consciousness of the world, but I will feel proud to allow the things that I'm doing now to represent me and to justify my existence. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Do you want to read a few of my emails from fans?

I don't have any big ideas tonight and I don't really have anything to say. But I played Touch Rugby late tonight and I can never get to sleep before 3am when I do that. Therefore I have decided to write an update on my new life direction.

In my previous post I discussed how I was going to start asking myself what I can contribute to others and various situations instead of simply thinking about what I can get out of a situation. Well, I have to say that it has been a lot easier to make that transition than I thought.

What's hardest about making these types of changes is remembering that you have made these changes on a day to day basis. But, so far in every situation, I have found myself asking what I could selflessly contribute to this person's situation. So far it hasn't led to anything too drastic. But it is beginning to change my attitude in a way that is undefinable at this point.

Also, I had mentioned how I got that message to contact that person who I shouldn't have contacted. Well, I contacted that person, and they ended up responding really well to my message. They didn't know what the hell I was talking about, but it did seem to make them feel good that I had reached out to them in this way. So if nothing else, I was able to bring a little joy to their life by following through with the message.

And I really thought that after contacting that person I was going to turn into the kid from 'The Sixth Sense' and I would have a line of dead people waiting to deliver their messages. That hasn't happened. I have gotten no new messages. I'm quite pleased with that fact. Yes, I'm at 'their' disposal, but let's not over due it, right?

The other that was going on with me right now was that I had decided to write a book series that I didn't think would sell. I was going to write it for the sole purpose of becoming a better writer. My plan was to give myself as much time as I needed to finish the stories. I write erotica for the money, so that means I need to get them out ASAP. And I was hoping that more time would allow me to write a fuller story.

I'm not sure whether that has been my experience. In fact, I'm not sure if this series is improving my writing at all. Tomorrow I will finish the 2nd story out of 4 and I almost feel like these stories cover even less story-ground than my normal stories.

I think that I have really gotten the art of the short story down pact. You get in, get out and you're done. Now, I don't know. The series that I'm working on now is a werewolf romance and the first book is more than twice as long as any of my recent stories, yet no where in these 20,000 words does anyone transform into a werewolf... except the last chapter... as a cliffhanger. That's really weird.

The second book has it's own oddities. For example, I like to put at least 3 sex scenes into every story. The 2nd book has only one. Now, the character do spend almost the whole book walking around naked and aroused... it's the wolf in them... but there is only 1 sex scene.

The other odd thing is that after spending the whole first book focused on certain characters surrounding the protagonist. The protagonist spends the whole 2nd book trapped on an island with a whole bunch of new character who were introduced in book 1, but were barely given any face time. I mean, these are just really odd things.

Maybe my subconscious has some sort of plan for this series that it hasn't informed me about yet. That happened with the first erotic series I ever wrote. I started off writing really graphic sex stories. But, by the end, some readers actually cried.

I don't think that this new series has that sort of emotional weight because these characters are less sympathetic. I think that this is much more of straight forward Twilight sort of romance. I could be wrong though. I have noticed a strange fixation on race in the first 2 stories. It could end up being some sort of commentary on race in the Bahamas (the books are based in the Bahamas). And it is about a full-figured ugly duckling who, when turned, transforms into the object of every wolfman's affection. So there is a whole self-esteem subplot that might be developing that I don't realize.

But I guess I'll have to wait to see what happens with the story just like my readers would. I've learned to not second guess my subconscious on these things. But I'm saying that I don't think that I'm learning how to write a fundamentally better story by doing this. And that was the only goal for doing this. I need to become a better author so that I can change the world with my "big 5 book series". Remember?

Anyway, it has felt good giving myself time to write. Apparently, writing can really be enjoyable sometimes. And even though this story is erotica, it's actually kind of fun to write. It does get me all hot and bothered while I'm writing it... especially this book... god damn I find this book hot... and I'm not a big fan of getting aroused at work. I mean, how many times can you change your shorts in a day. But still, writing this series has been kind of enjoyable. I'm very gratefully that my life is currently gives me time to write.

And since one of my task today was to reply to fans' emails, I thought that I would share a few of them with you. I think they mess with my mind because I know I'm not that good at writing. It takes kind of a effort to read them and then immediately forget them. But here are a few lines from the ones I read today:

Dear XXX,
You are a great writer and I love you books, especially the menage books.

Dear xxxx,
I would love to give you feed back. I love to read [your books] I'm a fan fan fan fan fan. lol

I also left you a five star review for your complete set of xxxxx series on Amazon. (They are talking about the first erotic series that I ever wrote)  That series was sooooo good,   I found myself crying at times during the books because I was rooting for them to get together.   The ending was priceless.   I love it!   I just wanted to let you know.   That series was so good!   Thank you for your talented writing.

I truly love reading your books. They take me to another place and I get lost in the characters. I wonder at their decisions and why they made the choice they made. I can lose myself in them for that short while.

I have reviewed this book. Again, absolutely amazing.

Those are the emails I responded to today. My god I love these people! I so wish that I was as good of a writer as they think I am. But I can tell you this, I feel so exceptionally privileged that they, and others, allow me into their lives and their imaginations in this way. It is an honor that I never forget.

Sometimes I think about taking a writing class somewhere so that I could truly live up to their praise. But I fear that the demands of a class would take me away from actually writing. Maybe it'll be worth it, though. After all, I do need to get a lot better if I'm going to do justice to that non-erotic series. I'll have to think more seriously about the idea.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I've decided to give up and give in

I might be punch drunk tired, but I just had a crazy thought. What if I stopped looking at situations and people and thinking what I could get out of it or from them, and instead considered what it is that I could give to them? And I'm sure that you're reading this and saying, yeah, no kidding. It's called being generous you self-centered bastard. But is it such an automatic thought?

It is one thing to look at a person and situation and not want anything from them. And it's a completely different thing to actively look at a situation and say, "what is it that I can contribute to it."

This is kind of an old thought for me. This is the way I used to live my life back when I was "good". I was such a giver. But then life beat me down pretty handily and I shifted my focus on just trying to survive. The result was that I shut down that generous aspect of  my spirit and just looked after myself for a while. It resulted in a few nice personal achievements that I'm proud of. But what if I returned to that generosity of spirit for a while to come?

And I'm not talking financially. Lord knows that that will never happen. But, there are other things that are much more valuable than money. I have written about how I believe there is a flow to the universe. To me, the universe is a big Rube Goldberg machine and things affect you to bring about a certain action in you that affects others in a way that will in turn create another affect in others still.

I've experienced this in my life a number of times. A simple example was the time when my dead grandmother told me how she would use the fact that she was dead to give me something that I had asked her for. I thought it meant that nothing but good things would happen. But what instead happened was that a series of events occurred that pretty much destroyed me emotionally. Those events caused me to act irrationally and I packed up my clothes and took a crazy trip.

But it was on that trip that the thing that I had asked my grandmother for had happened. I would not have gotten what I had asked for if I hadn't entered that crazy mental state. Something had to force me out of my comfort zone and my near emotional breakdown did exactly that. And if it didn't happen on the exact day and time it did, I wouldn't have ended up in a certain spot 500 miles away when the other specific event occurred. It was like I was living in a giant Rube Goldberg machine. It's sort of like the thought that a butterfly flapping it's wings in America could cause a tidal wave in Japan.

So, since I know that this is how the universe works, since I have experienced these Rube Goldberg moments numerous times, and since I have these "psychic" impressions which have proven themself to be correct time and time again, maybe, instead of thinking that every psychic impression that I have is meant to benefit me in some way, maybe I need to ask myself, how can I contribute to the situation. Maybe I should ask myself how I could play my small part in someone else's Rube Goldberg machine.

And since I have had incident after incident that tells me that the world works like this, maybe I should not worry about how crazy people think I am when I play my part. Maybe I should just let go and give in to my crazy knowing that I'm actually pretty sane.

I remember right after that same grandmother had died. One of the first things that that grandmother said to me post-life was that she wanted me to tell my aunt, the woman who took care of her until her death, that she, my grandmother, had visited her after she had died and that my aunt had seen her. Well, for a long time I refused to relay that message because, you know, I'm not a crazy person.

But after a while I broke down and relayed that message. And instead of my Aunt looking at me like I was crazy (a look that I have gotten quite familiar with) my Aunt said that my grand mother had come to her as a cat that wouldn't leave the window sill of the window of the room that my grandmother lived and died in. My aunt said how it was so like my grandmother to come as a cat because my aunt was allergic to cats. And my aunt said that at the time, she had spoken aloud to the cat acknowledging that the cat was my grandmother.

So not only did my Aunt not think I was nuts, but I validated her so that she wouldn't think of herself as nuts. And now that I don't really have to live my life in fear of not surviving, maybe I could be this vessel which I have often gotten the impression that I should be. And as I think about it again for the first time in years, maybe I should have delivered the message that my dead father wanted me to relay to my brother. If only I could now remember what that message was. Oh well, hopefully it wasn't important.

The reason why all of this is coming up now is because yesterday I got the very clear message that I should contact someone that everyone in their right mind would tell me that I shouldn't contact. But I know what I was told by that voice in my head. I was told to contact them. I did and I understandably got a very cold response. And reading it tonight I thought, why did I even contact this person?

Well, now I'm starting to think that perhaps I wasn't supposed to contact them because I was supposed to get something out of it. Maybe I was supposed to contact them because they were supposed to get something out of it with no emotional payoff for me. Maybe what I should do is ask them if there is something that I could do to contribute to their life and just accept the fact that I will come off sounding like a crazy person. After all, shouldn't I be used to that by now? I pride my self in being completely nuts. So why should I lose my courage now?

And maybe this should be my policy moving forward. I really have accepted that I have failed at what I wanted to accomplish with my life. So, now that I know that I won't accomplish it, maybe it's time for me to give in to my life. Maybe I should just stop trying to be the man I wanted to be and just make my life about others. Wow, I can feel a part of myself dying a little just thinking about it. But maybe that's what I should do.

Hmm... I think I'll start with the situation in front of me and then take it from there. Maybe I'll again embrace the dude that I used to be. Well, I did really like that dude, so maybe it won't be all that bad.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I remember that time I was taken hostage

I just came back from watching Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It's better than the first movie. Where as the books got worse and worse to the point that I could barely stand them, the movies started out pretty good and is only getting better.

And walking home from the Grove I walked around a little. Man is that place beautiful this time of year. I kept thinking how lucky I was to be living near there. And for some reason, it reminded me of the time that I was held hostage. I'm not sure why I thought about that for the first time in years, but I did. It's an interesting story.

When I was 25 I was living in Dallas, Texas. It was just before my move to Los Angeles and I was working at an AT&T telephone directory distribution headquarters. I was doing data entry, but my boss really like me so she kept giving me more work.

At one point she is complaining about how people are falling behind. I'm sitting outside her office and I heard her talking to her right hand woman about how she's withholding payment to certain people because they're behind. I don't think much about it until one day when she asked me to take a trip with her out to one of the distribution centers that was behind.

I'm in the minivan and as we're arriving she says to me, Cristian, I want you to do something for me. I need someone to seem intimidating, so I want you to stand quietly behind me. I'm going to introduce you as an efficiency expert that we brought down from California and I'm going to use your presence to get them back on schedule. She tells that I'm not to saying anything, just stand there looking unimpressed. I agree.

We get there and I play my role and they seem a little intimidated. But at one point, they leave me alone in their office as the two women I was with went off to chat with someone. Alone in the office, the distribution center's assistance tells me that what we're doing is right. I ask her what she means. She tells me that they haven't been paid in 4 weeks and that her trailer is about to be repossessed. I don't say anything. Someone else tells me how they are months behind on their mortgage because of how slow AT&T is paying and the bank is calling them threatening to foreclose on their home.

I'm listening to this and I'm a little shocked because I overheard my boss talking about how the money is sitting in their account but she is withholding payment. I start to understand that I am on the wrong side of this battle. I begin to understand that my boss is the bad guy.

I leave the office thinking about what I was told. My heart completely went out to those people and I come up with a plan. I call aside the manager of the facility. I say to him, "I want you to do something, and I promise you you will get the money to pay your people. But you have to do exactly as I say." He agrees.

I tell him to take his van and block our van in. After that he is to come back to us and tell my boss that he blocked our van in and that he won't let us out until she takes him to the bank and gets the money that they're owed. I told him to tell my boss that they would be keeping me there until they came back, and afterwards they would let me go. I asked him if he under stood me and I could practically see his heart stop. I asked him again and he shakes his head. We both walk back to the group separately and I could see his hands shaking as he lights up a cigarette and walks away.

About 10 minutes later he walks back up. The poor man is practically crying. His hands still shaking he delivers his message and my boss is just shocked. She yells for a second and he doesn't budge. I could see her mind swimming because she had just dragged me, her temp, to this place and now I was being taken hostage. She began to think about how I could potentially sue AT&T over this. So very quickly she relents. She asks me if I'm ok waiting there and do my best to reassure her that I am.

The group leaves for about 20 minutes while I chat with the workers in the office. It's all pleasant and when my boss gets back, they collect me and we all leave. My boss apologized profusely for that and later on bumped my pay. She said it was for my hard work, and I certainly was working hard, but it probably also had something to do with being held hostage.

I'm not sure, but I think that was the thing that I've done which I'm the most proud of. I don't think that I'm that good of a person anymore. It seems that as the years go on, I get more and more jaded and self-centered. I really used to be a good person, but ever since I decided to see what it would be like to live my life if there wasn't a god, I've never quite been the same. Certainly I've taken more of an ownership of what happened to me, but I think that I've also been a little more protective of what I have and have been less willing to be generous of spirit.

As I think about it, it was probably the theme of self-sacrifice in the Hunger Games books that made me think of that. Self-sacrifice that doesn't count as martyrdom isn't easy and doesn't happen very often. I guess that I used to be a better person than I am. And I guess the truth is that the longer I live, the worse of a person that I'll become. Luckily, I probably won't notice the difference. And since the majority of the people I know only know this current version of me, they won't notice much of a change either.

Hmm... I guess I'm just grateful that there was a time that I was a better person.

But, you know what? I was thinking the other day that it's possible that my journey of spiritual evolution didn't stop when I stopped meditating and believing in god. Some of the most profound psychic experiences that I've had have been since I've "lost my spiritual way".

What I was thinking the other day was that maybe spiritually has nothing to do with meditating and acting moral. Maybe spirituality has solely to do with a person's ability to connect with the secret workings of the universe.

I have long believed that the "spiritual path" that religions speak of and that connects to the god that they speak of, is actually more about connecting with the flow of the universe. I've always believed that we are all swept up within current of the universe and like an insect floating on top of it, we could choose to fight the current, swim to the edge of the cosmic river or let go and go where the universe takes us.

Granted, if we let go, we are still going to get sick and hurt and die. There's no preventing that. But if we are flowing at the same pace of the universe, from where we float everything would seem to stand still and there's wonder to be found in those seemingly still moments. I've always believed that knowledge becomes more easily accessible in that seeming stillness. And the universe seems much more open with that knowledge if we just stop fighting the flow.

So, having said all of that, I'm starting to believe that it's possible that even though I no longer meditate and I no longer go looking for things that i can do to change people's lives for the better, maybe all of the things that I do now have put me in better contact with the universe than I have ever been.

That's a tall order though, because at my peek, knowledge seemed to flow to me like a tidal wave. I was talking to the dead and simple meditation made me feel like I was high every day. I don't feel like that now. But I seem to have a much more open channel, not to the dead people I spoke to, but to the secrets hidden in the natural folds of it's spaces. At least that's what I'm starting to think.

Certainly meditation has various physiological changes on your body that can't be overlooked. But my ability to learn things that only an outside observer could see about what's going on in the lives of others, has increased dramatically. At least it seems that way. But perhaps it only seems like that because I've forgotten the details of my life, much how I had forgotten about the time I was a hostage.

Hmm... That's a tough one. One day I have to re-read 'The First Day After Life'. Something tells me that I will remember a number of things about my life that I had forgotten. I wonder if it would be an interesting read or if it would just make me cringe. Well, maybe one day I'll find out.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In France, I'm selling as many books as John Grisham

Holy Crap! Well, my intention for this blog was a lot different a few minutes ago. I will get back into what I was going to say, but just now I decided to find out the ranking of my lastest release in France so that I could reference it here.

Apparently my latest release has entered the top 100 at Amazon France. And I don't mean the top 100 erotica books, or the top 100 romance books. It has entered the top 100 best seller list on all of Amazon. My 30 page short story is just below John Girsham's latest 466 page, month old release and above Hunger Games... even with the latest Hunger Games movie just out. (Holy crap, did I just write that?) That's um... that's a new achievement for me.

That makes what I'm about to say even more tragic. A few days ago I decided to do something that I never do; I read a few pages by 2 of my bestselling colleagues. Both are stories that made it to the New York Times bestselling list. And you know what? I now understand why my stories don't make it to the bestselling lists in English. My stories lack something that I can't give them.

And you know what else is true, they lack something that I could never give them. I could probably write for another 10 years and never be able to give them what I read in those stories. Authors have styles and that style is outside of my capability... mostly because I'm not a woman.

But at least I understand it now. At least I get that I will never be great at what I do. I understand that I have the ability to do fine. After all, one of my short stories is one of the 100 most popular books in all of France. That's not nothing. But at the same time, that same story has only sold 13 copies in English this month. That certainly doesn't represent the beginnings of greatness.

But now that I have accepted my own lack of potential greatness, I feel a little bit more at ease with myself. I am barely more than ordinary. My writing is barely more than ordinary. Ok, fine. I accept it. And I think that I am reinforcing my ordinariness right now with the current story I'm writing.

It's interesting, with my new development team and their schedule, I have managed to return to the life that I had back in 2009 when I first started writing. I wake up in the morning and don't check my email until after I've completed my writing for the day. I'm not even writing that much, but it feels kinda good.

But what I am writing... Ok, a little background. I am in constant search of a hit in English. One of my bestselling friends told me that I should write a longer erotic romance with shape shifters in it. It is all the rage right now. I decided to do that. That is what I've been working on. But even as I'm writing it, I see its flaws.

It's not that the flaws are that I'm a poor story craftsman or that I'm not constructing great sentences. The problem is that my subject matter is not bestselling subject matter. I'm writing the equivalent of literary fiction for erotica, and lord knows nobody wants to read literary fiction.

But I can't help it. Either I can write erotica, or I can loosen my constraints and let loose what's in side of me. Does this current story have enough twists and turns? Yes. Am I filling it with enough real life experiences to round out its emotional breath? Yes. Does it hit the sub-genres that are popular? Yes.

But as I wrote the scene where the main girl is being beat up in the locker room by a group of thug girls and then is being bloodied by her mother, I wonder how I can expect anyone to want to read this. Granted, I'm writing a New Adult story and one of the defining characteristics of New Adult is that the main character is troubled, think Hunger Games. But the abuse that the characters usually experience doesn't appear on screen. Yet here I am putting the abuse front and center for all of my readers to squirm at. This is not good, but this is the story that is waiting to come out of me.

I can't stop writing it though. I can't just turn my attention to a sequel to the latest French bestseller because there is something deep inside of me telling me that writing this current story is a part of my greater path. For years now I've been planning on writing the story about the abused girl who in a moment of weakness abandons the only person who lovers her to explore the universe but then can't get back home. And in part, the erotic Werewolf story that I'm currently writing is practice for that.

My big future story is from the perspective of a young woman. I've had real hesitations about doing that considering I'm a man, and my current story is just that. I've hesitated because I didn't know how I would handle the fact that the girl is abused and in the current story I'm practicing handling that.

Of course, it's not like anyone will want to read my future story either. But I've been planning my future story for years. I am really trying to make those stories my legacy. I consider them my only real shot at immortality. The story line is grand enough to be loved, but there is no telling if I have the special something it takes to breath that unique flavor of life into it to make it wonderful.

There might not be anything I can do to make that series wonderful, but the story that I'm writing currently is at least an attempt to give my future project what it takes to thrive. I would like to think that by writing my current story, though it has no chance of success, I'm increasing the probability of future success.

You know what, after writing all of this, I'm actually feeling better about writing this Werewolf story that no one will read. I am not a great writer. I accept that. I need practice if I'm going to perhaps be better than I am right now. People usually spend money to attend school to become better at stuff. But not only do I have enough money coming in that I could afford to take this break, but there is a chance that I could make a few bucks when my current story is done. All of my stories make some money even if it's just $500.

So yeah, I actually feel good about what I'm doing now. The rest of this year I'm considering as time off to better my craft and better prepare myself for my shot at glory. And perhaps the software I'm creating will sustain my finances as my income dips due to lack of releases. Who knows. But hopefully when I end my current story, I will be a better writer because of it and my future story, the one that is supposed to make me immortal, will be better because of it as well. But, who knows.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Today I got one of my best compliments ever

Writing is an interesting thing. I clearly have a complex relationship with it. Because I grew up with a form of dyslexia I have a natural bias to think of myself as bad at it. The fact that the only class that I ever failed in my life was a class called Writing when I was 7 years old, gives me a certain bias against it. 

But yet, even before I became an author, I had made more money as a writer than anything else. I was a producer for many years, but even then I was a writer/producer. Logically I have to think that I don't suck at it, but in reality do believe that I suck?

I wrote an article today about what the erotica you purchase says about who you are. I had done it because I knew that I would get a minimum of 4,000 "reads" and that would mean 4,000 free, and targeted commercials for my erotica books. But I am surprised how good I feel about what I've written. It's very smart. I genuinely think that those who "read" it will learn something about themselves that could help to make their life better. I think it's really insightful while being quite effective marketing. 

So rereading that, I have to ask myself, 'could a bad writer write that?' I have to ask myself how bad of a writer do I think I am.

I guess the reason why this comes up is because of what I wrote the last time and the email I got this morning. The email was from someone who I'm sure did not read my blog post. It was a fan of my erotica work. She had written me before, but she wanted to write me again telling me that she had just gone back and given one of my books a 5 star review. It was the book that I described in the last past as the first erotica story that I ever wrote. It was the story that I described as being 'good'.

In the letter, the reader repeatedly told me how good she thought the story was. She mentioned how she cried hoping that the 2 main characters would get together. And she concluded it by literally thanking me for my "talented writing". 

How does one respond to that... especially since it's clear how I feel about my level of ability. It seems that there are a lot of great things that I can accept about myself. Lord knows that I'm not modest. But it kind of makes it hard to breath to think about what she wrote. 

As I think about it, this kind of reminds me of something else I used to experience. Up until a few years ago, I used to have the equivalent of a panic attack every time someone would gush about how good of a person I was. And believe it or not, I used to get it at least once or twice a year. See, I told you that I wasn't modest. 

But the last time I had a panic attack, it was after a Christmas party. I was with this woman who I was hanging with at the time. This was our 2nd party for the season and the first party had a few of the same people attending. 

At the first party I had done what I would often do back then. The conversation would turn to someone and their quibbles about life, and I would defend life. I would try to reshape the quibbler's understanding of their circumstances by giving them information about the way that the world works. But, like I said, this wasn't anything new for me. This was my standard routine.

But when I attended the second party, there was a woman there that I had had one of my talks with. She and the woman I came with, at one point, cornered me and proceeded to rehash our conversation. They both tell me how each of them had left the party and thought about everything I had said. They then proceeded to tell me how it changed the way they looked at life. And then they "gushed" about how great and wise they thought I was.

I did my usual response which was to smile and nod and do my best not to hear it while hoping it would stop, but it continued. But soon it came to an end and a little while later I left for home. Driving home I started to have my usual panic attack. I try to block out the memory of the situation but it won't go away.

When I get home, I sit in the chair I'm sitting in now and I can barely breath. Once my breathing returns I think about how ridiculous my response was. I then decide to do my little thing I do to reconnect emotions with difficult memories and I figure out why people telling me I'm a good person sends me into a panic. 

What I remembered was being 12 years old at a teen camp for young Christians. I remember that even then I wasn't about to follow the crowd and pretend that I believed something that I didn't. And I remember being a really good and moral kid. I used to be the absolute last one to leave church ever night out of respect for the preacher, but I was the only one who didn't pretend that I was being "saved" by what was being said. I was 12, but I knew who I was and what I believed and I wasn't about to fake it with anyone. 

Anyway, at this camp I was in a cabin that shared a wall with the girls shower. So naturally, one of these god-fearing 15 year old boys drilled a hole in the wall so that everyone could take turns watching the girls shower. Of course. And there was once when a couple of the girls I knew was about to take a shower that I subtly walked to the girls cabin, subtly called my female friend over and told her not to react immediately but there was a hole into their shower and that she shouldn't go in there right away.

Her being fifteen, what did she do? She ran from me into the shower and screamed for everyone to get out and get dressed. Further proof that 15 year old girls don't understand what subtly is. 

Anyway, I wasn't about to run from what I did. I did it and that was that. I wasn't going to rat out the person who drilled the hole, but at the same time, I wasn't going to sell out my female friends' integrity for the "respect" of some dudes that I would never see again. And after all, wasn't what I did the Christian thing to do? Hypocrites!

So I did this and I was prepared to accept the consequences for it. The consequences were that every girl from the cabin came out and graciously thanked me telling me how good I was for doing it. And my older brother, who I came with, who I respected, who I looked up to, pulled me aside, looked at me disappointingly and told me that I shouldn't have done what I did. I looked at him hurt asking him how he would feel if his girlfriend were one of the girls being spied on. He said that she wasn't and he left it at that. 

I was 12. This taught me a valuable lesson. It taught me that being a good person resulted in rejection by the people you care about. So naturally, every time from that point forward when someone graciously told me how good of person I was, it would result in me having the equivalent of a panic attack. 

I was able to break that Pavlovian response of praise and panic. And it has also helped that people don't gush over how good of a person I am anymore. Hmm... as I think about it, I wonder if me not being a good person anymore is linked to residual effects of my Pavlovian response. I'm going to have to give that some thought.

Anyway, I write all of that to draw it into comparison with the feeling that I'm having right now about the praise over my writing. I don't know if it's exactly the same, because I have also gotten really horrible reviews about the exact same book. I feel like I should be able to say that the nature of art is it's subjectivity. In fact, the individual responses to work is what defines something as art. I feel like I should know and embrace this, but I just can't grasp it.

There is something in me that says that it's either all or nothing. Either everyone should love it or it has to be considered bad. Yes, I know it's ridiculous. And I would certainly dissuade other people from thinking that way, but that has been ingrained in me in some way. 

Ya know, maybe it's not the Pavlovian response that is leading to my feeling of praise panic, and instead the dichotomy of people loving and hating my work.  

Either way, perhaps I should consider another profession. Maybe I wasn't made to be an author. It really is a bitch of a process, especially the way I do it. My process is to mine every thing of emotional weight in my life and then wrap a story around it and hang it out exposed for everyone to read and critique. Why would someone do that to themselves? How could that not make a person crazy?

I think that at some point I need to pull the cord on my life and say 'this is enough'. I am always chasing after immortality. And I do it at the expense of everything. I have a great life, but man have I had to give up on a lot of things to have it. And the older I get, the more I realize that I will not be able to accomplish what I set out to do when I was a kid. 

Even back when I was 15 I wanted nothing less but to change the world. I wanted to create something that made people's lives better. Even then, when I was a struggling dyslexic, I thought it would have to do with writing. But as I get older and older, I am starting to realize that I'm just not good enough to make it happen. And I'm not talking about writing a hit book. I'm referring to writing something that helps to change many people's lives for the better. 

I know that I'm not out of time, but I feel like I'm approaching the limit of my ability and it isn't good enough. 

Don't cry for me though. My image has been immortalized in a life sized bronze statue of me. I was the first person ever to get a certain type of low budget movie theatrically released. I got to be a national champion at my sport. I have changed the self-perceptions and hence lives of hundreds if not thousands of people with a video I released. I'm about to release software that will reshape the way that self-publishers publish their books. I've done stuff. It's just that I'm going to have to start coming to grips with the fact that by my own definition, my life will be a failure. But I tried though. I think that's the important part. I tried really hard and I did, and will continue to do, the best that I can.

And hey, according to some people, I've already done something special. I've had completely original ideas and I've moved people to tears with my writing. I guess, though, I just expected more from myself.  

Ha! You know it takes a certain level of skill to take the most generous compliment that I've ever gotten about my writing and use it to further the idea that I'm not good enough. I guess I should give myself credit for that as well. I have the ability to stick with an idea in the face of overwhelming evidence. I say that that's also quite the skill. :-)

Anyway, I really do need to consider choosing another profession. This one might make me too raw. And on a positive note, maybe if I ended my all consuming pursuit of immortality, I might actually find someone who I could be happy with and life a happy content life. Ha! Who am I kidding? It would take more like a miracle for something like that. But meanwhile, I will just push on. 

I'm off to have a conversation with my software developer in China. Even at 2:30am, my work day never ends.