Thursday, March 26, 2020. It’s more than a little weird that as I’m describing my entrepreneurial adventure with indie publishing I’m concurrently posting the doomed story of my previous entrepreneurial fiasco, nine years apart from each other. As if they’re somehow happening in a crazy, retro-causational type of manner, at the same time, or as reminders to themselves or me or, I don’t know. How many fiascoes does it take to break through? Is the first entrepreneurial flop somehow an omen on behalf of my latest venture? Am I fool to think otherwise? Or am I finally upon the cusp of success if I can just somehow manage to forge ahead, to keep the energy moving? I don’t know for certain. We’re forced to proceed without all the information. Life is like this, a mysterious predicament in this way; it’s strange and ironic and, well, so be it.
Meanwhile, as I need $3,000 to pay for the audiobook narrator I’ve been once again looking for paying work, laborer type stuff close to home, which makes me feel miserable, diminished, vaguely insulted and otherwise so schizoid that I can’t even properly proofread a silly cover memo before attaching it to an application and sending the thing. Crazily horrible typos. Which only tells me, based on my past experiences with the world of employment, that my psychology, which is to say my biology is taking over. Again. I’m a novelist and an independent scholar of comparative mythology, mythography (the historiography of mythology) and the psychology of religion.
This is, of course, the cover blurb from Time Crime, and when I reread it I’m at home in my mind and heart. It’s the place where I properly reside and the only place I have the experience of being properly alive. Too bad it’s only in my own head. Because I can’t manage to get paid, let alone paid commensurately for my efforts, for my legitimate work. And then I resort to seeking to do somebody else’s job or live somebody else’s life – to compromise myself into unworthy employment – and I become a personal mythological wreck and ultimately a physical wreck, too. I’ve already experienced the symptoms of acute personal mythological schism more than once and the story is all there in the DOP.
I’m not the only one who suffers in this way. In fact I’m convinced that most of us do, perhaps it follows the 85/15 percent rule – eighty-five percent of us around the globe are not doing the work intended for us, we are not living out our vocational destiny and we’re denying our personal mythology. We are not having the experience of being properly alive. The other fifteen percent? Their work fulfills them, it bestows the Gladwellian trinity of autonomy, complexity and commensurate reward. The Buddhists refer to it as right livelihood.
It sounds so simple and indeed it appears simple, beautifully so in its way when you encounter it in someone. Angie is within this fifteen percent. She works and is fulfilled. Me and folks like me? We can only sporadically, after much self-haranguing and fraught self-induced humiliations, manage to land the jobs we don’t want and then we contrive, by way of our unconscious which is trying desperately to help us, to lose them. Rinse, repeat, as my brother would say. And it is one-hundred percent our own fault. There is nobody to blame and the reader is advised that, as such, I am not complaining or whining about my predicament but rather attempting, once again, wholeheartedly to write myself out of the schism and get on with my proper personal mythology, my veritelically authentic personal mythology, my VAPM. We all just require a little help on behalf of the world-of-action, a little meshing of the cosmic gears and things work out fine.
How then to escape the death spiral of wrong or improper livelihood, as it were? Don’t seek that wrong work, first of all. Do more of what you want to do and less of what you don’t want to do. This is how people, as far as I can tell, create their best life. This is how they express their VAPM. It happens. Folks accomplish it. Some even make it appear easy. As the swan appears awkward on land and graceful in water, so it is with our right livelihood and our VAPM: we lead graceful, self-possessed lives that lead by example. Because VAPM has nothing to do with being selfish. Getting what you want in life, and you see this, allows you to contribute to the well-being of others in their own struggle to individuate. There is no sacrifice of any magnitude required on behalf of anyone. Utopian? Perhaps. But, again, look around and you will see people, everyday types of people not just the outlier exceptions to the statistical rule. There are people, as I’ve discussed elsewhere within the DOP, who die with a sense of completion, of having done their work, of having not missed a thing. My work is done, they say, and I’m ready to go. Others? What, they lament in their last moments, have I lived for? I’m choosing the former over the later if it kills me.
Meanwhile, I struggle to manage my own bad energy, the shadow portion that feeds on fear and the worst in things. Energy itself, I believe, is a neutral thing that neither begins as a type or quality either positive or negative. The Cosmos does its thing in a condition best described as beyond good and evil. It is we who assign qualities to things, to energy as good or bad, right and wrong. Energy as ethics, what have you. So that the Hindu concept of karma, or the additive nature of good or bad expressions of energy is merely a psychological construct, a human thing that we do to help right us, to help us find our way, to help focus our influence on behalf of the good. It’s a choice, not a mandate.
“[W]ithin Shalya there lived a demon who fed on bitterness, animosity, hate, and violence. The more aggression the demon was faced with, the more its power increased.
“Yudhishthira was not naturally aggressive at all and when faced by his uncle [Shalya], he found it difficult to summon up even the smallest feeling of animosity. Even on the battlefield, his heart was filled with peace and love for his uncle, rather than hate and violence.
“Confronted with such love, Shalya’s demon lost its power. Yudhishthira’s gentle demeanor overwhelmed the demon, and its power kept dwindling instead of multiplying. Finally, the demon ceased to exist….“
And now that I’ve written my way through this stuff, venting my anxieties and communicating my preferred outcomes, I find that I’ve been contacted by both the grocery and the home improvement store for further consideration. I had to work myself up to replying to both – my initial reaction was one of anxiety because of the nature of the work; namely, in the meat and fish department at the grocery (which will require working in refrigerated environs, wearing a smock and PPE (gloves and now probably a dust mask), complying with religious food safety nonsense and of course cleaning and for the home improvement store job, working nights and driving a fork truck and operating other material handling machines – it’s a so-called stocker job, part time and temporary/seasonal.
Over my many years of employment, I’ve worked versions of each these types of positions. None of this is work I would do for nothing. None of this work is part of my plan for being an indie author. But it’s come to pass that my indie publishing vocation costs me money instead of earning it, as yet, and I need money to move forward with my entrepreneurial vision. So that, once again, I must be prepared to discard my plans. And these jobs pay. Poorly in comparison to some of my past careers and jobs and a little better than others. The grocery is a permanent job, ostensibly full time, within walking distance from my house and the stocker is seasonal part time and a ten minute drive west (no cross town traffic). The pay scale at the grocer is higher than the stocker job, no surprise, the meat/fish department is what I would consider a semi-skilled position whereas a stocker just requires showing up. I’d make my $3,000 more quickly at the grocery even if it were part time but we’ll see. Given the virus bullshit, there may be significant competition for these positions now. The bull market for employees is over.
It comes down to what’s most important to me, namely, moving forward in whatever means possible with Time Crime. Akin to the manner in which Krishna promotes dharma over all else, then, I’m promoting my own dharma, which can be equated in Western terms with VAPM in the sense that I am born to do certain work. I’m not born into a certain class but we can set that cultural idiosyncrasy within the Hindu mythology aside and still avail ourselves of a useful philosophy or lesson regarding how to live, how to have the experience of being properly alive.
That is, sometimes, in Arjuna-like fashion, we are tasked with doing things that may not appear to immediately align with our dharma or that of the cosmos, which we would like to believe ought to be one and the same. Part of Krishna’s lesson, of course, is that they are: our true work is indeed commensurate with that of the order of the cosmos, with honoring, as it were, the way things are. But I don’t need to attain such a high level of philosophical or spiritual distance from my life to make this work. I’m not in survival mode. Rather, I’m attempting to engineer my “thrival,” as I call it. I’m neither a butcher nor a stocker at heart. I am a writer. Butchering and stocking pays. My writing, the true work in my life, unfortunately costs more money to further than I currently possess. Hence, logically, I must utilize other, less desirable means than writing to pay for my writing, an unfortunate but cosmically, mythologically legitimate solution, a way forward. In short, if we possess a goal, we can tolerate virtually anything, meanwhile, that leads to the attainment of it.
ALLi posted the following https://selfpublishingadvice.org/finding-the-right-readers-for-your-book/ in an attempt to help the indie author identify their niche audience: Answer, they suggest, the following questions to get a picture of your readers:
- Race / Ethnicity / Nationality
- Education level
- Hobbies and interests
- Class: aristos, upper-middle, middle-middle, lower-middle, working-class, unemployed? (most readers are middle class.)
- Urban or rural?
- Married or single?
- Parent or childfree?
- Spirituality or religious affiliations?
- Which generation are they: Boomer? Gen X, Y or Z?
- Where does your right reader live: with their parents, alone, with their own family?
- Where do they vacation?
- Attitude to health and fitness
- Describe their lifestyle.
- Describe their childhood and family history
- Describe their relationships
- Describe their beliefs, goals and values
- Any noteworthy attitudes?
- What occasions, feasts, celebrations are important to them?
- Pet peeves or irritations
- Political leanings
- Fears, worries, and frustrations
- Secrets or fantasies
- Anything you want to add?
“And as a reader:
- What outcome do they most want from their reading? Information, education, entertainment, inspiration? Romance, adventure, thrills, shock, awe? To laugh, cry, be scared? To learn, transform, grow?
- Emotion or intellect?
- Mac or PC?
- Amazon or Apple?
- Favorite format: ebook, print, audio?
- Favorite device: reader, phone, print books only
- What are their buying patterns? How price sensitive are they?
- Where are they in terms of readiness to buy? (Already read the first book in your series?)
- Types of books they read (other than the type you write)
“The answers to these questions need to be more than guesswork. Take time to consider them and find evidence to back your hunches. If you currently have an email list, even if it’s small, poll your readers and ask them to complete a survey to better understand what they need and want from you. Ask questions: in your emails, in comments on your own blog and others. Join forums and clubs that discuss your topic or genre. Learn from other writers in your genre.”
It all amounts to good, solid wisdom. And they provide examples of authors who have struggled mightily with the concept and through hard work and experience – and time! – they have eventually won through to finding their audience, as modest as it may be. My only criticism with this stuff is that, when I read the stories and objectively consider my own circumstances, the answers to these questions cannot, for the most part, be obtained in any other manner than trial and error. I’ve gone through some exercises already to speculate as to who my niche audience is and I come up with, well, speculative answers, opinions, guesses. I don’t arrive at a target market, at my niche audience but rather at a guess: they are SF fans who prefer, as far as I can tell, an established series (where the books are not pending but already available). That I’ve only the one book without reviews sitting out there, well, that’s all I’ve been able to discern regarding the lack of sales. Pondering who and what my readers are as a niche so that I can better target them remains a catch-22 type of conundrum – I can’t get more readers until I managed to snag at least a few readers and I can’t get at least a few readers until I manage to snag at least a few readers, blah, fucking blah. No amount of pondering the nature of my niche reader will get me closer to knowing who and what they are: at least a few of them have to present themselves. I have to find some readers in spite of myself.
Interview at 2pm tomorrow at Plum Market, I just heard back. The more I allow myself to focus on paying for my narrator the more jazzed I am about tolerating, for whatever limited amount of time it takes, whatever it takes. I need that money to empower myself. I’d rather just take it out of our savings but that’s not fair to Angie. Earn what you need and it greases the wheels of the cosmos, of one’s VAPM. My only option is stand pat and I’m too compelled now by the idea of getting an audiobook out to do that. Unless of course the cosmos decrees that my little interview tomorrow is to fall flat. I’ve fallen flat at Plum Market once before, interviewing there when I was still working the holiday night shift at Zingerman’s Mail Order. I was looking to get out of night shift work. They didn’t hire me. Which was unbelievable to me at the time – I’d just come off my food cart and food production business, having sold my headcheese into the same damn Plum deli (a DOP1 Vintage Post yet to come on the blog) and they wouldn’t hire me?
Virtually everyone, I know, has had the job interview weird energy thing happen; when it goes bad it’s bad, it’s a bust, but sometimes it seems to go well enough and you get stiff armed anyway. Why? Who cares? It’s not worth discussing. I’ll just suggest that a hiring manager has to like you, it’s that simple (and then everything else is irrelevant), and moreover they have to be capable of imagining you in the role. Otherwise, all kinds of biases will get you fucked out of a job. From lack of experience (then why did they interview you?) to too much experience (likewise). Frankly, it’s been my experience, pun intended, that only when whomever it is doing the hiring is between a rock and a hard place – when they’re as desperate as me – do I get the fucking job. It doesn’t matter if it’s eight bucks an hour as a laborer or my $82,000 salary as a so-called environmental engineer. Blue collar work, white collar work, the dynamic is always the same: This guy? Too this, too that. Not enough this, not enough that. But, fuck, he’s the only one available. Or he’s the only one we can afford. Nobody else will take the fucking job. You’re hired.
DOP1 (2010-11) VINTAGE POST:
May 2, 2011. Still no concrete pour – the possibility of rain today, which never really developed except in the morning, killed today’s plan. Mark H. was pushing hard for this Thursday to have our carts set, but it’s now scheduled for Saturday. That’s if they can pour on Wednesday, but it’s supposed to rain again that day. The week or two delay of course means nothing in the long run – if HH survives this first season, the stumbling beginning will be forgotten, like all stumbling beginnings. Along with me, I think at least some of the cart folks are pacing the cage, and probably everyone is, even the experienced carts like Eat and People’s Perogi Coop – we want to get started. I ran into Jay (Debajo Del Sol) picking up odds & ends at Gordon Food Service. All of us cart newbies are in the same boat – we remember something that we’ll need or find out something that we’ll need and forgot to get, so it means another trip to whatever store to get it. Like Jay says, “I feel like all I do is spend money.” Me too. Even starting a baby biz like a food cart has a lot of up front costs and seemingly never-ending bits and pieces to pay for.
My meat is finally scheduled to show up tomorrow thank Thor. I need to blast out some cooking and get some product ready and just get the cooking juices flowing – just get shit on the stove and in the oven to get some feel for what the hell this in going to be like. The experienced cart folks probably don’t have such anxiety. But hell, I’ve learned that it’s times like these, when you’re naïve and new at shit, that seem so poignantly meaningful later on. I’m writing to keep from getting too caught up in the what-ifs, to try to stay mindful and keep myself from freaking out with all the unknowns. It’s exciting, but I suppose I’m suffering from pre-game jitters. When something meaningful and important that’s only existed in your head for months and months begins to become reality, it’s stressful. Anyway, meat: my Sherwood Foods sales guy says the order is complete, including the twenty-four pig heads, except for the beef bones. Weird. I had to run down to Sparrow Meat & Produce today to pick up bones and got gouged for $3.00/pound, but Bob knew I needed ‘em. I can’t wait until next time and I didn’t want to have Jerry (Sherwood sales guy) throw on some bones of unknown heritage – these guys will sell you any quality – low or high – so you have to ask questions and say no if it’s not what you want. Unless, like I’ve learned about so many other food service businesses, you just focus on food cost and don’t give a shit about quality. So I’ll bang out some stock tomorrow and get it in the freezer. Then, when my pork, beef & lard show up tomorrow, I can start working on headcheese. Had I not been forced to wait around for my meat order to arrive, I could have the beef stock done. But these snags don’t matter, shit will work out. Or not. At least I’m living a life that jazzes me so it feels like destiny, like there’s nothing else I should be doing – my efforts can be applied 100% to this life, mindfully, and whatever the hell happens, or doesn’t, I can say we went for it.
Avalon delivered some awesome tasting bread samples today – their 313 is very eggy, almost like brioche. I think it’s too heavy as a bun or roll. I hate that I haven’t got this important component nailed down but hell, I haven’t been in town and like I told Angie, I don’t want to treat the bread like an afterthought – it needs to be memorable. But I just don’t like the huge, chewy, bite-into-it-and-everything-squishes-out type of sandwich bread. Nor do I like the cheap, flavorless, gooey stuff that just tastes of bitter flour and oil. We’ll work it out. I know what I want, I just haven’t found it. I’ll get a zcob hoagie bun from Plum Market, a local grocer, tomorrow and the Millpond “country white” hopefully on Wednesday from the A2 famers market. I also might keep the Avalon 313 or get it in a loaf and slice it so I can toast/grill both sides and keep the thickness the way I want it. I’m holding the line until I get what I want – it may be a last minute thing, but so be it. I like the Fever Tree product for drinks – I’m thinking of their club soda and their ginger ale (made with cane sugar and real ginger). Or maybe their ginger ale but also White Rock seltzer, which is just carbonated water, no bicarb or anything, to use for the maple soda.
May 6, 2011. I’m tired. But I’m learning a lot about Union Hall Kitchen, about my provisions and my equipment. I made pork cheeks in my 19 quart brazier and they’re interesting because I expected jowl which includes more of the neck and resembles belly. Siouxpreme shipped me just the cheeks – a round muscle, about the size or your fist, without the layer of fat and skin from the jowel. So, dealing with ordering food you haven’t seen is something to get used to and relying on suppliers is nothing new to me, it takes time and practice to work things out. Anyway, I can talk all day about the technicalities of having to move to “professional” food service and dealing with a new commercial kitchen and scaling up recipes. But I don’t feel intimidated by any of it; all the challenges related to food production seem like good problems to have; I’m confident that I can handle them.
The important part, for the record, is that my heart feels young. My body too, despite some minor aches and pains. I’m staying true to my six vocations and since writing is one of them, I’m up early doing it. Then, I’ve got to get going on getting HH ready for next Monday, May 9th 2011 – opening day for the food court. Tomorrow, we stage the cart. So there you have it, we’ve almost come all the way from out-of-work in the Texas gulf coast, to our own small biz in A2. I’ve not compromised my vision for the menu, and I’m proud of that. The ingredients are paramount, and I’ll fail or succeed by using the stuff I believe in.
When my Niman order came in earlier this week, it was pure joy. Seeing those pig heads actually made me feel happy and like my friends, my guides, had arrived. It reminded of my trip to Paul Willis’ farm in Iowa, the pigs in the fields and the tour of the slaughter facility. These are all good memories and they give my confidence. It probably sounds crazy, feeling sentimental or something about pig heads, but they are in good hands with me, I’m going to respect and take care of what they’ve provided, the lives they’ve given to us. It feels right. These pigs remain my guides, I cannot explain why, I just know that I feel the spinning in my chest when I’m working with them – the biophycomythological “mojo.” I believe in what I’m doing now. If I can keep the “mojo” in HH, maybe we’ll have something – we’ve got to make a buck eventually, but hell, this has been great, and Angie and I will never forget it, in a good way, not the crazy, fucking miserable fucked up mess kind of way every single other fucking job I’ve ever had has been. And I’m not blaming anyone but myself for that.
I’ve got to get going this morning, we cooked until midnight last night so we’re tired. We braised pork cheeks and they came out o.k. so that’s going to be one of the Monday opening day items. Getting some food made and recipes tested and feeling my way through this is difficult, but I’m enjoying it. I can do this. Whether the public gives a shit; whether the world gives a shit about the “boon” (Campbell) that I’m bringing back from my hero’s journey, remains to be seen. I’m glad I have my guides, I need them to sustain me. Ari’s writing is great because he captures the long road involved and gives advice on the timeline and how it’s going to take time to “go for greatness.” I’m trying to remember that as I struggle along. It’s already been a rewarding challenge and I told Angie that I’m proud of what we’ve done now no matter what happens.
Maybe our house in Texas will sell or lease this weekend. Maybe not. We’re going to keep moving forward. I’m expecting to complete my first headcheeses today – two heads at a time, and I’ll see how well that procedure works. The cart gets staged tomorrow, then we can do practice runs on Saturday & Sunday and hopefully be ready for the Health Department inspection on Monday, get our license, and finally be ready to do some business. I’m nervous about actually serving food to people, but that’s going to happen. We’ll get some intial press and attention – the court is curiosity – and that will fade after a week or so, then the official grand opening at some point will happen after those first ‘couple of weeks of hopefully working the bugs out, Health Department pun intended. Some carts will be instant hits, and then others, maybe HH, might take some time to catch on. I’ll givee the cart some time to settle in, I don’t know how long, until changing a menu item out – I’m not in this to nail a trend or ride any food fashion wave – this is about food from my heart, and I believe in it. If it doesn’t sell because folks don’t like it, then I’ll have to see where to go after that. If it doesn’t sell because they won’t pay the prices I need to charge to be sustainable, even though they like it, then that’s also something that might kill us, but I’m trying to follow ZCoB’s guidance, charging what I need to charge, and then living with the consequences.
By the way, it turns out, after testing Avalon and Millpond product (these are good folks) that I like the “Pullman” loaf, otherwise known as “Bakehouse White” from Zingerman’s. I like the flavor, texture and the shape of the loaf – I can hand slice it fresh with each order (or stack up a few in advance) – and save what I don’t use. Whereas a bun will be done (stale) after one day, this bread can be wrapped and still be good for grilling the next day. I’m going to slice it and serve an open-faced sandwich and still call it a hoagie. I told Ari, if folks ask why it’s called a hoagie and it’s not served on a hoagie bun, I’ll say because this bread tastes better. It’s still a hoagie, it’s just on a slice of great-tasting grilled bread.
 Bushra Ahmed, et al., eds., The Illustrated Mahabharata: The Definitive Guide to India’s Greatest Epic, (New York: DK Publishing, 2017), 331.