The Official Blog of Bestselling Author Victor Methos


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Is Psychic Phenomena Real?

When I was sixteen, my buddy and I visited a psychic. It was on our way to a tattoo shop and we decided to stop by because the sign said it was five bucks for a palm reading. But, being the skeptic I was, I decided that we would go in separately as if we didn't know each other. I went in first.

The psychic was an older woman in a funky scarf. She was leaning back in a chair, the place decorated to the brim with odd trinkets, old bones, and lighting that made the space appear darker than it needed to be. She took my hand and rubbed it with her gnarled fingers and pronounced my future.

I would be successful in business, married not twice but once, have two children, and a host of about fifteen other predictions. When I left, I waited outside and my buddy went in. He came out about ten minutes later and we compared notes: he would be successful in business, married not twice but once, have two children yada yada.

The psychics were bunk.

When I began researching my newest novel, Blood Dahlia, which you can check out on Amazon here if you're so inclined, I studied psychics in earnest. The novel is about a psychic the FBI use to attempt to capture a serial killer copying the original Black Dahlia murder from 1947.

I went in with a skeptical eye. James Randi has done a great job debunking psychic phenomena and his educational foundation at put up a million dollar challenge: anyone that can show true psychic phenomena in a laboratory setting will be paid $1,000,000. No, ifs, ands, or buts. Million bucks. Of course, in the decade the challenge has been out, no one's been able to claim the million dollars.

Harry Houdini was absolutely obsessed with psychics. Since his mother's death, he wanted desperately to find a real psychic that would allow him to speak to his mother. He flew around the world, visiting exotic hard to reach locations in nearly every continent, looking for anyone that had a grain of psychic power. He then worked hard proving them a fraud, in the hopes that they would pass his tests. Of course, no one ever did. And in his later years, Houdini traveled around the world visiting psychics not with hope, but with the sole purpose of debunking them and have them run out of town.

Michael Crichton on the other hand, one of my favorite authors, believed in psychic phenomena. Not because he was a man prone to believing in the supernatural, he was a doctor and man of science, but because he stated he had witnessed it first hand. Both precognition, and telekinesis in the form of an eight-year-old child bending a spoon with his mind.

One of the main criticisms, according to Crichton, that people have of psychics is that if they were real, they'd be playing the stock markets or gambling. Here's Crichton's response to that:

"I often hear skeptics say that, if psychic behavior was real, the psychics would be playing the stock markets or the ponies. In my experience, many of them do. There is, in fact, a kind of secret level of activity in which psychics consult to major corporations and businesses. People seem embarrassed to admit this activity but it takes place, just as you'd expect it to."

This sparked an interesting idea to me: secret psychics at the CIA and Coca Cola, helping them without public knowledge. I wondered if psychics had ever been studied by the government. I doubted it, but looked into it anyway.

And then I found the Stargate Project.

The Stargate Project, which I discuss briefly in Blood Dahlia simply because it's so interesting, was a study conducted by the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA into psychic phenomena to establish if psychics could be used for the purposes of the Cold War.

I'm not making this up, this is not conspiracy theory stuff, we have the documents through GRAMA requests and there's even a Wikipedia page for Stargate. The study was conducted from the '70s through to 1995 and then terminated because the researchers concluded there was no useful intelligence application of psychic phenomena.

But, did they establish that psychic phenomena was in fact true, even if not useful to the intelligence field? Believe it or not, the answer is both yes and no.

Telekinesis, the ability to move objects with your mind, was found to not exist in a laboratory setting. Basically, the people that claimed they could move objects with their mind could do it outside the laboratory but not in it, i.e. they were frauds.

Most of the other psychic phenomena received the same results: all except one. Remote viewing.

Remote viewing is the ability to describe people, places and things from a distance. For example, what the DIA and CIA were hoping for was a team of psychics describing the manufacturing plants and number of weaponry of the Soviets, or listening in on their plans of attacking the United States.

The study concluded that there was a statistically valid result in remote viewing within laboratory conditions.

Let me repeat that.

The most extensive, objective study ever done on psychical research concluded that there was truth to remote viewing. That a man could sit in a room and think of a room half a world away, and describe what was in it.

Later researchers looked at the report's results and questioned its findings, stating that the subjects must've been given more information than the study let on in order to make their "hits" (a "hit" being the term the researchers used to describe when a subject was correct in their descriptions). But there were parts of the study that have simply not been invalidated. The CIA has recommended more research in the area of remote viewing, but the study was shut down before that occurred.

On an interesting side note, the CIA did keep three psychics from the study and allocated half a million dollars a year in studying and using them. These psychics, last I have been able to gather, were working full time for the government out of Fort Meade, Maryland. The CIA released several statements that the three would be let go and the project terminated completely, but I was not able to confirm that they have actually been let go. So it's possible that the CIA was convinced enough from the results of Stargate to keep three full time psychics on their payroll for decades.

So what does this mean for us, the common public? Should we go out and consult with Sylvia Brown about our futures?

No, it does not.

Whether you believe in psychic phenomena or not, the fact is that the majority of those proclaiming to be psychic are frauds (here's an interesting little piece about "psychics" that swindled a poor lonely man to give them hundreds of thousands of dollars if he wanted to break the curse of his love life).

The sad truth is, they're almost all frauds and hucksters.

But… the interesting question is, what about those three that are working full time for the CIA? The three that, of all the psychics in the world the government recruited, they were deemed the only worthy ones to stay on. What would they tell us if we spoke with them?

Maybe one day, if the government ever becomes as transparent as everyone in government claims they want to be, we can find out. For now, we'll just have to live with the mystery.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Why I (Reluctantly) Wrote a Legal Thriller

The question I most get asked as a criminal defense attorney is not "How do you defend those people?"Which is, let's be honest, what everybody thinks when they hear about what I do. The question I most get asked is "Why don't you write a legal thriller!"

I'll tell you why.

I hate them.

I spend nearly eight hours a day in the courtroom. Most of my job is going through metal detectors, racing from court to court, and getting yelled at by judges for being late. I've been writing for fifteen years and I love it. It's what I look forward to every day. Why would I possibly want to work in a courtroom all day and then write about it, too?

But, I finally caved with my first legal thriller, The Neon Lawyer. The fact is, criminal defense attorneys and cops have the best stories and I wanted to get some of these stories down.

The thing that most seems to puzzle people about the book is that it's somewhere around 80 to 90% true. Even the whacko characters that seem made up are people I actually worked with. But, of course, I have to protect people's identities so certain key things about the cases and locations and dates have been changed.

And now, the book has gone on and become successful and dang it if I don't have to write another one.

But, for those of you considering a career in law, I probably wouldn't recommend it unless it's something you really want to do. I've been very, very lucky. I was a prosecutor first and myself and another prosecutor jumped ship and opened our own firm at exactly the right time. We mastered internet marketing and are doing really well at a time when most law firms are failing.

The fact is, law practice has completely changed and will continue to change. Companies have realized how much they pay for legal services and they've begun outsourcing. As such, law firms have cut staff or switched to contract attorneys. But law schools are still pumping out lawyers by the tens of thousands with no jobs for them once they graduate. The market is adjusting a little (law school applications are down nearly 30% this year) but not enough to make a difference. A law degree just doesn't do what it used to.

Then again, if it's what you know you want to do, then jump in. Life's too short to go into a career you hate. As I've always advocated, I'd rather fail at something I love than be successful in something I hate.

But, getting back to the book, yes, it's based on a true story and most of the stories in there happened to me. Hope you enjoy it, and drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What Went Wrong with Arrested Development and What Writers Can Learn From It

Arrested Development, I feel, is the funniest show that has ever been on television. Here are just a few of the gems that show has produced:

Michael: "What have we always said is the most important thing?"

George Michael: "Breakfast"

Michael: "Family."

George Michael: "Oh, right, family. I thought you meant of things you eat."

Lucille: Get me a vodka rocks.

Michael: Mom, it's breakfast.

Lucille: And a piece of toast.


Michael: Can’t a guy call his mother pretty without it seeming strange?
Buster: Amen. And how about that little piece of tail on her? Cute!
Michael: I’ve opened a door here that I regret.

Everyone has their own favorite lines and I think each time we go through them, we find new ones that we missed before. So I ask this question:
Season four, the newest season only found on Netflix, has been torn apart by critics and fans alike. So how could the funniest show in history (I'm not alone in this by the way) fall to what it was in season 4? 
Granted, there were sections of season 4 where the old brilliance shined through. But it was more like a diamond buried in dung that you just catch a glimmer of. Mostly, the show was a long stretch of boredom and crassness. My novels certainly don't spare on the profanity and sex, but Maeby whoring out her own mother for a few bucks? The quaint sweetness the show had for me died right then. 
The plot, for those of you that haven't seen it, is enormously convoluted, guest appearances are all over the place to the point that it feels like some celebrity telethon, and the jokes are  just not funny. 
Every show, just like every series of books, has an engine. It has a method and formula that works and that we crave. If done well, we barely notice the formula. 
Want examples? 
Every episode of Gilligan's Island is Gilligan screwing up somebody else's attempt to get them off the island. 
Every episode of Who's the Boss? is putting Angela and Tony in a situation where we ask will they or won't they? 
Every episode of Three's Company is based around a situation where one or more of the characters misunderstands the context of what's happening. 
See the patterns? For a fun game if bored at work, try and figure out the central engine for all your favorite sitcoms. 
So why do TV writers use engines/formulas? Are they lazy? No, definitely not. They work their tails off. But the fact is they don't have a lot of time to write each episode so they can't start from scratch each time. They must have a framework and a formula. 
What was Arrested Development's? Give up? 
It was Michael and his son George Michael. 
Every episode revolved around Michael and his attempt to save the company and his family or to leave them, and his family's antics in screwing that up. 
His relationship with his son was the central relationship and all the other characters were ancillary. This made them even funnier when they were put against the backdrop of everyday-Joe, Michael Bluth. 
George Sr., Lindsey, Lucille etc. are only funny in relation to Michael. So what happens when you take Michael out of the picture? Season 4 happened. 
There were entire episodes I sat painfully still without cracking a smile. I compared this with my near-peeing-my-pants-with-laughter in the first three seasons. And certain other writers I know share the same feeling. In fact, I haven't personally spoken with someone who enjoyed season 4. I know, I know, it's anecdotal. But the social media feeds were abuzz with disappointed fans for weeks after it came out.
Formulas work. They're there for a reason. If you have something that's working, that readers are responding to, why on earth would you change it? I understand pushing boundaries and trying new things, but if people love what you're doing, don't mess with it. Stick to it until right before they grow bored and then switch to something else. 
This goes back to what type of writer you wish to be of course. I wish to be the writer that entertains my audience and writes what they want to read. If you prefer to be the type of writer who writes what they personally want regardless of what their audience wants, that's fine too. But why publish your books at all? Just do what J.D. Salinger did and write them and stick them in a safety deposit box so the public will never read them. 
I wanted so bad to love the new season of Arrested Development (on a sidenote, huge mistake releasing all 15 episodes at once. Everyone was on different episodes when talking about the show. If one episode a week was released, everyone would have been talking about that episode the next day). But the show just didn't do it for me. Alas, unless the formula goes back to what it was, I probably won't watch more than one episode of season 5. 
So, don't be that writer that disappoints the fans that made you successful. Stick to what they want and always keep the audience in mind when you want to make changes.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Slow Goodbye of Barnes and Noble

I had a really interesting experience today. 

I had some time to kill in between court appearances for some cases I was handling and there was a Barnes and Noble nearby. Liking the written word as I do, I thought I'd pop in. I haven't been there in several years so I thought why not. I could browse the poetry sections, check out Anne Rice's new books, and if there's any new thrillers out that look interesting that I could later buy on my Kindle. 

I walk in, and I'm awestruck. 

About 40% of the store is children's toys. Another 20% are children's books. Considering that 10% of the space is the cafe, that leaves less than a third of the store for actual books. 

In the front of the store, the first thing you see and the last thing you see as you walk out, is the Nook display with promos on ebooks. To the left are cash registers with a clerk standing behind them, I kid you not, reading an ebook on a Nook. 

I ambulate around the store and look at the shelves. Only the biggest and most famous authors in any genre remain on the shelves. There simply isn't enough room for anyone else. I walk to the Westerns and a thick layer of dust is on most of the books. I flip through a few of the pages of a short story collection and the book, kind of, stinks a little bit. Not like mold or anything; just a stale smell like it's been sitting in a warehouse for the past five years. 

So I head up to the clerk and the two of them are sitting there literally trying to find stuff to do. I think there were perhaps six people in the entire store and four of them were in the cafe sipping drinks. I ask her to see if they have one of my favorite books, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and she flips through her computer. They don't have it, but they can order for it. It will take five days to get here. I passed. 

The only reason I asked at all is because the publisher of that book won't allow it be published as an ebook. And then I'd have to wait five days? I'm used to Kindle where I read what I want when I want. It used to be nothing to wait that long for a book you wanted to read, but now it seems as outdated as the horse and buggy. 

I realized something just then: Barnes and Noble is an antiquated business. Like typewriter stores and VCR repair shops (and yes, they did have those in California and parts of New York in the 80's. Not sure about the rest of the country). 

The reason they're antiquated is they, and the Big 5 publishers, are trying to push an ancient technology on us: paper books. If you're one of those that like paper instead of ebooks, I would dare say you just haven't given ebooks a shot. Objectively, they are better in every respect. The environmental impact of paper books alone is reason enough to switch to electronic. Not to mention built in backlights, dictionary, highlighting, voice, and font and color control. 

The publishers and Barnes and Noble refuse to adapt to the new environment. They treated authors terribly for so long, and milked the public for everything we were worth for so long, it's like they're addicted to crack. They don't want to give it up. And so that's why publisher's ebooks are sometimes more expensive than the paperbacks, and even the hardbacks: they want to deter this whole ebook thing. 

The thing is, the new technology has already taken over. Amazon announced in 2011 that they were selling more ebooks than print books, and now, it's not even close. 

Ebooks are the future. And they allow the writer to reach the reader and the reader to get great deals and find books they couldn't before. It's a win-win for everyone, except the drug dealers selling us overpriced paper. 

When Barnes and Noble goes out of business, and it certainly will with news like this, announcing that their stock dropped 17% and that they're thinking of starting a new company to handle the Nook, it will be a great day for book enthusiasts. 


Easy. First, those big publishers will realize they can't charge the same for an ebook as for hardback and the ebook prices should fall. 

Second, all those little mom and pop bookstores they have all over Europe might pop up here in the U.S. without the major chains to gobble them up. Print books can then be a little niche, like vinyl. 

All in all, the future is looking bright for writers and readers. So instead of mourning their loss, we should all say our farewells to Barnes and Noble, thank them for the years they helped us read, and wish them well in that long goodnight. 
By Victor Methos


Monday, December 3, 2012

Are UFO's Real?

I've always loved Napa, California and spent my summers here as a kid on my cousin's ranch. So trekking through the mountains at one in the morning and looking down over the city wasn't a completely new experience for me. We used to go to this platform we had on his ranch that overlooked the whole town. It was a perfect place to take girls to when I was a teenager: scary enough that they wanted to cuddle, but not so scary that I would be wondering if we were about to be attacked by wolves or bears.

But we were here for something else now: UFO's. Not that I believe in them. We, as a species, are hundreds if not thousands of years away from interstellar travel. If a civilization has achieved interstellar flight, we are the equivalent, technologically, of what the amoeba is to us. How often do humans study amoebas? Not very. They lose their fascination quickly. So I simply do not see any logical reason why such an advanced species would visit us.

And that's not even to mention the problems with interstellar flight; the nearest star system being 400 light years away, if we assumed this advanced civilization could travel the speed of light which is impossible for an object of the size needed, it would take them 400 years to get here. 400 years to study amoebas. It's simply too far-fetched for me to believe.

But, I was convinced by an acquaintance named Jim that something strange had been going on in the hills surrounding Napa and so I drank a liter of Diet Coke and tagged along.

Talk about a motley crew. Two of the guys there were so stoned they could barely walk. One of the women there was young and flirtatious and kept asking me what kind of car I drove. I think she might've been about 16. And Jim was hitting golf balls off the side of the mountain into the valley below.

We started walking and I was impressed by how black the sky looked and how the stars sparkled like jewels. Napa, from this peak, has almost no light pollution so the stars look unlike anywhere else in Northern California. We trudged up this trail for about half an hour and began going around the far side of the mountain.

"What are we looking for?" I asked.
"Black helicopters. You'll see them coming up here."

We sat on some rocks and pulled out snacks. I didn't talk much since I just kept steaming about the fact that I could be sound asleep in a warm bed instead of out here with stoners and a horny kid.

As I was contemplating leaving, I heard a thumping in the distance. It grew louder and louder, and sure enough, a helicopter spun around the mountain and disappeared on the other side. The people I was with started snapping photos and mumbling to each other in hushed tones.

"See," Jim said. "Why would there be helicopters out at one in the morning? There's nothing up here, it's all just ranches and homes."
"It could've been a news copter," I said.
"That thing was black. The news copters all got their logos on the sides."

I couldn't disagree with him. It was a black helicopter out at one in the morning flying over a mountain that was filled with nothing it could be interested in. I waited for it to come out from the other side of the mountain, but it never did.

"See," Jim said again, excitement in his voice.
"Dude, there's tons of ultra-wealthy people up here. It could just be some private copter."
"No way, man. No one has black copters up here."

We started walking again and this time, I was actually a little spooked. I knew this area well and knew most of the people up here. No one had a helicopter. But it had to land somewhere.

As we ascended to near the top, we all took positions on a grassy knoll and watched the sky. I put my backpack underneath my head and stared up at the night sky. It was one of the most peaceful moments in my life and I contemplated the universe and other planets and where fate had brought me in my life. I noticed the 16 year old inching closer so I quickly moved over next to Jim and made sure his hulking, sweating, beer-soaked body was between us.

"It's coming, dude," he said. "You'll see it."
"What am I gonna see?"
"Just wait."

So we hung out another hour.

"How long are we gonna be up here?"
"I dunno. We're sometimes here till daybreak."
"What? Jim you didn't tell me that. I got stuff to do tomorrow."
"Chill out, man. It'll be worth it, I swear."

So another hour passed. I was just staring absently at the sky when I felt Jim lean in close to me. "There it is."

Far up in the sky, well past where planes could go, I saw several blinking lights. They seemed like they weren't moving but that could've been an optical illusion because of how far they were. I closed my eyes, and like a cartoon, rubbed them again to make sure I could see clearly. The blinking lights were still there.

"It's just lights, man," I said.
"You've never seen lights up that high. There's no planes that go up that high."

I watched the lights as long as I could but before long they zipped to the right at what seemed like an incredibly fast speed and were gone.

That incident never really settled well with me. The lights and the helicopter and the speed with which they moved. Maybe it was just too late at night and it started affecting my vision? One thing I can say: perhaps there's things that we haven't quite fully come to understand that have perfectly logical, almost mundane, explanations? I'm sure the aurora borealis was a mystical, unexplainable experience to the first Alaskan explorers but as science and our knowledge progressed we came to understand that it's just light particles reflecting off of electrons in the atmosphere. Knowledge seems to take the magic out of existence.

I don't know what those lights were. But to be honest, in this science-technology driven world where myth and magic are becoming less and less relevant, I have to admit I get more than a little pleasure from having experienced this mystery. And nothing adds spice to life like a little mystery.

Monday, November 12, 2012

How to Get Rich with Kindle Direct Publishing

Kindle Direct Publishing

When I began this blog, I really wanted it to be a journal of various issues and anecdotes that I felt like writing about. But many of the emails I receive are from young writers wanting tips on how to make it as an indie author. 

I go out of my way to help my readers with whatever they need help with, and this blog is no exception. Personally, I hate writing about writing, but I'm happy that I've reached a level of success that others reach out to me for advice. So, here's a few more tips:

Getting Rich: The Non- 4 Hour Workweek Style

Before you can even think of becoming a successful writer, you must adopt a successful mentality. Our culture seems to value the "get rich quick" scheme. It has taken various forms throughout the ages and has manifested in modern culture with multi-level marketing. And to some extent, the 4-Hour Workweek mentality.  

Now don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the 4-Hour Workweek. In fact, I think Tim Ferris is a genius. I've used his principles in several of my own businesses, including my law firm and my career as an author, and there's invaluable information in the 4-Hour Workweek. I would highly recommend checking it out if you haven't yet (and for those of you struggling with weight loss or body image, his book The 4-Hour Body is also excellent.)

But it isn't for everybody. I believe that for many people, the system of shortcuts he's selling will simply not work. The reason I believe this is detailed and can be discussed on another post if need be.

Ultimately, he's selling a dream and it's a nice dream to partake of. But I've started more businesses than I can remember and what I can tell you is that if you want success you must work for it. Very, very few people can make vast sums of money without putting in the correct amount of work. And submitting to the correct amount of failure (in my own life, I've had twenty businesses fail for every one that succeeded.) 

Writing is no different. There are no shortcuts. You must learn your craft. You must learn characterization, plotting, grammar and syntax. Of course this doesn't mean you should write like an English professor. Once you put in the time and learn the correct way to write, break all the rules. My favorite writers ignored the rules of proper writing and wrote how they felt, which is what I try and do. But don't think that this comes easy or that you can just plop out a few books and get rich. It took me fifteen years of writing nearly every day to get where I am, and all the successful writers I know have put in similar time. 

If you want to get rich using Kindle Direct Publishing, first realize you will have to work hard. The one rule I've learned in becoming a successful author is that content is king. And for that you have to learn to actually write. 

Getting Rich with Kindle Direct Publishing

Once you can actually write, the rest is the fun part. My favorite part of business is marketing and sales. I've spent years perfecting my pitch at my law firm in order for my clients to appreciate my level of experience and feel comfortable enough to hire me. My pitch was developed by studying psychology, not business per se. Because business is psychology; the cornerstone of all business is marketing and sales and those are based on simple behavioral models that anyone can learn. 

So, with the psychology of your target audience in mind, think of these next few steps and how to apply them yourself: 

1. Pick Your Genre:
You want to get rich selling books on the Kindle but you like writing literary fiction? You're probably more likely to win the lottery. It's good to take bets sometimes but you have to take calculated bets. The odds are that the genres you can make real money in are not the ones with shrinking markets. Science fiction/fantasy, mystery, thriller, romance, erotica, horror and contemporary fiction are all good genres to pick. Leave the poetry and literary fiction for once you're established and can play around a little.

2. Pick Your Market

Before you put a single word to e-paper, consider your market. In every business I own, this is the secret of my success. Think of your market first before you act. This requires some serious research. Does your chosen genre have many female protagonists and that's how the readers prefer it? You'll have to develop that female voice. Does your genre require knowing esoteric scientific knowledge? You better brush up online or get a subscription to Scientific American

I write some science fiction but I come from a mathematics and philosophy background; two fields that help me enormously in that genre. I wouldn't even attempt to write sci-fi without at least some scientific context. 

So know what your market wants, do the research and put in the work, and cater to that. 

3. Ignore Bad Reviews

Some authors I hear from tell me that they have received many bad reviews and are discouraged from writing. Let me be clear about this: IGNORE REVIEWS. Just ignore them. To a point. 

We all come to the table with different ideologies and prejudices and who the heck really knows why people leave the reviews they do?

To give you one example: a reviewer gave one of my books a one star review because they were upset that my protagonist used an iPhone and Mac and the reviewer preferred android. I'm not kidding, that really happened. 

So ignore the bad reviews on a personal level, but learn from them if there's something to learn. It's a fine line you have to walk, but occasionally reviewers leave constructive reviews. You just have to separate them from the nut-balls and you might actually learn something. 

4. Write Like Crazy

There is no form of marketing as efficacious as a previous book someone enjoyed. I list all my books at the front and back of all my other books. I want to make sure all my readers know about all my books and nothing has led to more sales. 

Write as many books as you comfortably can in a year. I wrote six novels and a novella in 2012, adding an additional $3500 per month to my income from Kindle Direct Publishing. Many of you may not be able to write as quickly as I and that's fine; but whatever you do, don't take the publishing industry's advice that each book should take two years to perfect. If you're trying to get rich from KDP, then you need to think of each book you write as a roll of the roulette wheel. I took seven rolls this year. Do you really want to only take one roll every two years? Forget that and write as much as you can. 

I should say a note on writer's block here: I have never gotten it. I don't even understand really what it is. Are the words just not coming or can the writer not even articulate the ideas in his head? I think the reason I'm blessed with this is that I just treat writing like any other business. I sit down at the Mac every day and write and that's all there is to it. No ifs, ands or buts. You'll need to develop something similar. Too many writers spend too much time contemplating writing rather than actually writing. 

Psychiatrists and psychologists routinely recommend patients keep a journal. This is because the process of writing is psychologically different from the process of thinking. They involve different regions of the brain. 

How many NBA players come out one day and say, "I can't play basketball today?" How many television actors/actresses come out and say, "Sorry guys, you'll have to shut down production cause I just can't act today." People in every field have stress but writers seem to think they have something unique that prevents them from performing. It's BS. Just sit down and write every day and I promise you that after a number of months or years you won't even remember what writer's block is. 

5. Use Your Funds to Advertise Your Books

In my other businesses, and as every successful business does, I take much of the profit from my books and invest in new books. I market, spend on editors and book cover designers, travel to various events etc. Many writers take their funds and blow it on momentary pleasures. As a Mormon, for me this would probably be cars, travel and clothing (I love nice clothes). But for others it might be booze or drugs or prostitutes or gambling (writers are not known as a stable group). 

Don't do that. 

Instead, take your money and think like a businessman. Think, "how can I maximize the profit I just made to make even more next month?" Invest in your books and they will pay dividends. Ignore them, and like the books at failing bookstores all over the world, they will collect dust. 

6. Stick to Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing: For a While

I've been successful at all the different book publishing platforms, but none of them are as responsive to marketing as Kindle Direct Publishing. Pubit, Barnes and Noble's publishing platform, can make a tidy sum but you have to forsake the Kindle Prime program which can garner a lot of money for you in loans (Amazon prevents your ebook from being published elsewhere if you join Prime). 

Some authors swear they've had more success on Barnes and Noble or even Kobo, but I've tested various marketing models and none of them responded like Amazon did. This wasn't a double-blind University study, so take it for what it's worth, but in my experience you can make a lot more with Kindle Direct Publishing and Kindle Prime than with anyone else.

Having said that, experiment and find out what works. I have an exclusivity deal with Amazon that expires soon and I'm going to allow Kobo and Barnes & Noble to publish my books in 2014. I'll report on whether market conditions have changed, but you shouldn't take my word for it. Try all the platforms out yourself and see which ones are the most responsive to your type of writing. 

7. Help Other Authors. 

There's just something about helping other people that leads to blessings in your own life. You may not believe in a God, so just think of it as karma or a principle of electromagnetism: What you put out into the universe is exactly what you get back. You be a jerk, you'll find yourself surrounded by jerks. But you be generous with your time and your knowledge and the universe will reward you likewise. So, for  crap's sake, just be a nice guy or gal and help out when someone asks you for help. 

These are some of the principles I've used to sell more books than I could've ever dreamed I would've sold. It's gotten to the point to where I'm not even interested in a book deal with a publisher because there is no way they would offer me as much as I'm making now. 

If you want this type of success, the only thing I can tell you is to treat your writing like a business, believe in yourself, and write as much as possible. Do this, and there's no way you can fail. 

As always, leave a comment or email me with any questions or clarifications. I'm always happy to help out my fellow wordsmiths.

By Victor Methos


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sea Monsters and Megalodons Among Us

The fisherman came into the little bar on the beach near Cabo San Lucas and sat at the corner table next to me and my friends. We were drunk, though it wasn't yet noon (and I was not yet a convert to the Mormon Church), and we shot tequila with lime and dessert beers to sip. The fisherman began talking to us and as we drank with him, I asked an unusual question: alguna vez has visto un monter mar? In my terrible, broken Spanish, that was "have you ever seen a sea monster?"

His eyes went wide and he made a whistling sound through his teeth. My Spanish, as well as the fact that I was thoroughly drunk, did not enable me to keep up with the story he told us afterward, but what I could make out and what was told to me afterward by my friends indicated that yes, he had definitely seen a sea monster and fully believed that massive creatures thought extinct still existed in the ocean.

Do sea monsters actually exist? Since the days when men went out on the water in boats made of little more than sticks tied together with vine, sea monster stories and sightings have been mankind's constant companion. And why are we so fascinated with creatures of the deep?

When I was twelve years old, my cousin Shane and I went surfing in the Bay Area about an hour south from San Francisco. The waves were terrible and we switched to wake-boarding instead because there wasn't even enough force to make surfing worthwhile.

I was about twenty feet from shore and I fell. The water was cold. The type of cold that makes a man feel not like a man. I glanced around for my cousin when I felt something hit me in the ribs. It was just a tap, not much more, but I certainly felt it. I looked over to see a massive fish, what I now think to be a tuna, partially eaten. Enormous bites were taken out of it and its dead eyes were looking up at me. I found out then that I scream like a twelve year old girl when a half-eaten tuna hits me in the ribs.

It wasn't so much the tuna but what had done that to the tuna that frightened me. I pictured a massive shark or giant squid, but there are much more terrifying things in the sea.

During World War II, an American sub picked up a sound with a corresponding blip on their sonar. The origin of the sound had to be massive, larger than any known biological entity in the ocean. Even a blue whale. The sound registered at such an intensity, that it was determined that no known source, man-made or natural, could have produced that sound.


In 1997, United States Navy equipment picked up an unnatural sound that could not be identified as well. It was ultra low frequency and to this day we cannot identify the origin. It's quite possibly the same type of sound picked up by the sub in World War II. It's simply been named "Bloop" and you can listen to it here.

Sea monster tales have been with us since the beginning. The ancient Greeks wrote accounts of the Hydra, a multi-headed beast that dwells in the underworld. Modern day scholars believe the tale of the hydra to simply be giant squid, tales of which sailors would have brought back to the cities to the amusement of the inhabitants. But even modern day scholars traveling the world find account after account of modern day sea monsters. Take this account by Australian fisherman recorded by naturalist David Stead:

In the year 1918 I recorded the sensation that had been caused among the "outside" crayfish men at Port Stephens, when, for several days, they refused to go to sea to their regular fishing grounds in the vicinity of Broughton Island. The men had been at work on the fishing grounds---which lie in deep water---when an immense shark of almost unbelievable proportions put in an appearance, lifting pot after pot containing many crayfishes, and taking, as the men said, "pots, mooring lines and all". These crayfish pots, it should be mentioned, were about 3 feet 6 inches [1.06 m] in diameter and frequently contained from two to three dozen good-sized crayfish each weighing several pounds. The men were all unanimous that this shark was something the like of which they had never dreamed of. In company with the local Fisheries Inspector I questioned many of the men very closely and they all agreed as to the gigantic stature of the beast. But the lengths they gave were, on the whole, absurd. I mention them, however, as a indication of the state of mind which this unusual giant had thrown them into. And bear in mind that these were men who were used to the sea and all sorts of weather, and all sorts of sharks as well. One of the crew said the shark was "three hundred feet [90 m] long at least"! Others said it was as long as the wharf on which we stood---about 115 feet [35 m]! They affirmed that the water "boiled" over a large space when the fish swam past. They were all familiar with whales, which they had often seen passing at sea, but this was a vast shark. They had seen its terrible head which was "at least as long as the roof on the wharf shed at Nelson's Bay." Impossible, of course! But these were prosaic and rather stolid men, not given to 'fish stories' nor even to talking about their catches. Further, they knew that the person they were talking to (myself) had heard all the fish stories years before! One of the things that impressed me was that they all agreed as to the ghostly whitish color of the vast fish. The local Fisheries Inspector of the time, Mr Paton, agreed with me that it must have been something really gigantic to put these experienced men into such a state of fear and panic.

What's reported here is a megalodon shark, a prehistoric species that is thought to have gone extinct 1.4 million years ago. Is it possible these massive predators still live in the sea?  A species of giant shark surviving deep in the sea undetected by man seems far fetched since the most obvious question is: where are the bodies? Well sharks leave little behind when they decompose. Normally, nothing more than a vertebrae and teeth since their bodies are made of cartilage. Evidence from corpses would be difficult to come by. Also, lets not forget that the megamouth shark, once thought a myth, was discovered to be an actual species of shark. A large species for that matter, and completely undetected by man until recently when they were discovered off the coast of Hawaii.

The megalodon is a fascinating case study however, as some people believe that a megalodon tooth was dredged up from the sea in the 19th century. When the tooth was dated much later, it was determined to be about 10,000 years old. If a shark can exist 10,000 years ago, so the proponents say, it can exist today. The shark would be the size of a ship and lurking far off away from land, looking for any meal that could sustain its girth. With teeth up to a foot in length, it would be the most efficient and monstrous predator that has ever lived.

Next time you go out on the ocean, try not to picture that.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Powered by Blogger