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How To Write &
How Not To Write

Sorry for any errors on the tips & how to pages. I'm doing this fast.

The most important tidbit I can give you is this one

Always think disaster. Theft of your laptop. Fire at home. You do drugs and suddenly everything gets confiscated. You're on a yacht and your laptop goes deep sea diving without your permission. You have a jealous child or spouse. You have an enemy lurking in the shadows.

It would not matter if you write well or you're just starting, what you need to do is this: KEEP SAVING YOUR WORK and ALWAYS BACKUP YOUR WORK.

If you think you're going to change the world with the messages in your book, and you're at the bus depot, waiting for the scheduled bus to arrive, and you needed to use the bathroom, take your laptop with you to the bathroom.

If you're drunk and in love with life, and you think you're going to change the world with your writing, and you or your friends suddenly spill their drinks on your laptop, then, hopefully, you will find a lesson to be learned there. Through time immemorial, it is always the writer writing his or her manuscript who loses the work. It is not the erupting volcano, the tidal wave, the alcoholic spouse, the fidgety children and thieves with guns and knives that are the constant characters in the loss of manuscripts.

Every once in a while, hit the save button to save your manuscript. You might think you have a complete chapter, only to have your battery run out and the computer start to turn off on its own.

One writer always had a flash drive. He saved his work in the flash drive and separated the flash drive from the laptop. He placed his flash drive with his car keys, so if someone steals his backpack, his flash drive is still with him.

Another writer saves his work in a storage cloud online. Google drive has a free online storage service. If you have a google email, then you already have an online drive. Research on this. If you have an editor or proofreader, you or that other person can share the same drive so you can write your chapters separately, and the other person can edit the other chapters you've finished writing.

My suggestion is write chapters separately and store them in a folder, "My Original Writing." If Maria volunteered to edit your work, copy your files and paste them in "Maria's Folder," so she can edit your original writing while you still keep your originals. If you're not happy with Maria's editing, copy your original files, make a third folder, "Robert's Folder," and give him copies of your original files.

I'm assuming that your associates have their own laptops and their own internet access. Use a Google Drive or some other cloud storage, and give separate permissions to your collaborators. You should be the only one permitted to change or view your first folder where you have your original, unedited files.


My tried and true method of chaptering my files

Before I teach you how to write, I want to show you how I prepare. On a piece of paper, I will diagram my book. First I randomly list the chapter titles or topics, which will become titles. Then I number them or rearrange them. Then I open my laptop.

I make a readily accessible folder in my laptop, call it the tentative title of the book, and inside the folder, I make text files, calling them a number and a title. Example: 01 Moving to the Farm, 02 Farming, 03 Discovering the Cats, 04 Meeting Charlene at the Store, etc. The numbers will help arrange your files inside the folder. If I decide to add two new, unplanned chapters in the book, for example between 01 and 02, I simply name them 011 The Old Lady and 012 The Dog. When I am fnsihed with the entire book, I return to all the chapters and rename and redo the numbers again.




Self-publishing vs publishing misconceptions

For most of us, we will write and then self-publish. Self publishing means that you would not have a publisher who may or may not give you an advance based on future sales of the book. It also means that you would be the one to give the go signal to write your book. This is good, because you can now begin to write and publish your books even if they were badly written. You can write as many books as you want to write, even if you're mentally ill and the only person who can understand your writing is yourself.

There is a phrase you should understand. "Print on demand" or P.O.D. The online printer will print and deliver your books to the customers as they are ordered. No books will be warehoused.

Do not think small about self-publishing. If you noticed, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books pretty much have the same sizes and same types of paper for the cover and interior. This means they come from the same method of printing, most probably from the same type of machine that print on demand printers use, except that instead of pressing 1 for one book, the operator woud press 30 for 30 books to be sent to a particular bookstore.

There is also something else you may not know. In the bigger US cities, there used to be a lot of black bookstores, with books written by black authors. I've talked to some authors. They mostly have novels. Most of them are self-published even then. They were and still are, the ones who call the stores and take the orders for their own books. One lady told me she makes 5 figures a year and she comes out with a new novel every year. At that time, she said she had 5 titles.

You will notice that the playing field has been evened out. Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online bookstores will not tell their customers that certain books are self-published.

I have been attending publishing conventions since 1996. I noticed some publishing trends at the annual conventions. From 1996 to 2005, I remember overhearing convention attendees saying they cannot imagine print on demand machines from becoming accepted, when the traditional way of publishing is printing thousands of copies of books at a time. Those machines were printing sample books of copyright-free titles like Frankenstein and Moby Dick and giving them away so I always checked them out.

In 2006, there was buzz that self-publishing and print on demand was finally accepted. Lulu.com announced that their sales jumped from $1 million dollars around 2004, to $10 million dollars around 2005. Besides Lulu.com, Amazon came up with The Book Vault, their self-publishing arm. Around that time, Amazon's Book Vault was so new, they had nightmare complaints. Now, Amazon has CreateSpace.com, which now has a more efficient system. I believe that TheBookVault.com was taken down so they can proceed forward and redo their self-publishing arm as CreateSpace.com without wasting resources to clean up the past mess.

As you can see by the dates, self-publishing has been around for more than a decade.

I encourage all artists, investors and art collectors to write memoirs, biographies (if you're more accomplished), artistic essays AND art books in book-length form - not just artists, because self-publishing now has come of age, and it is very unapologetic. Anyone can do it.

This is also why I would still highly respect a person who simply tears up sheets of paper, photographs them and sells them as art that cannot be faked. The famous UFO abductees who have authored books that include their drawings can sell drawings to the public. Their drawings may look ugly, but if each drawing were published in their own art book, so that they cannot be faked, then the drawings can become collectible.

Our biggest secret word: Metaphor

Look up the word "metaphor." See how it is used in writing. What we are actually writing about are lessons in life that other people can read and apply in their own lives. This is why people read, they want to discover the lesson to be learned. Our presence in our own story becomes secondary. When you describe the sunrise, for example, you describe it in a way they have never done for themselves. So without telling them directly, you introduce to the reader how to see things differently, and that's just the beginning. Then you move on to talking about yourself, but you really are prepping them for the next lesson, and the next and the next.

I can't tell you how to write in a single web page. Read books on how to write. However, if there is one single how to write lesson that I can share with you, it is this thought about metaphors. Make your life story a metaphor for something else, preferably a series of lessons and a few huge lessons. You might find it difficult to talk about yourself. It will be easier to talk about the life lessons. Your life becomes the vehicle for the story to progress.

Tips on mindset are more important than tips on technique

Would-be writers tend to focus on writing technique. You might like doing that for writing novels. However, when you write about yourself, you should also be prepared for very intense mental anguish. Be prepared for depression and occasional tears, because you will discover that the most touching stories tend to be the saddest, most dissapointing events of your past - the ones you care to forget.

Do you know about the ENDORPHIN TRAP?

When you make an announcement to your friends and family, and even coworkers, that you will be or are writing a book, you will experience a rush of PREMATURE CONGRATULATIONS. That's a funny term I invented for myself, which I am now sharing with you.

Do not do this. Why? For a few reasons.

First, the mind does not distinguish real from imaginary. The same rush of endorphins that makes you feel exhilarated, excited, admired, loved, envied and accomplished is released whether you have already been able to produce a book or not. That rush is the same. Once you have felt it, you will feel lazier, with less need to finish writing and publishing one or all of your simultaneous book projects. Your subconscious mind just showed you how it feels to be accomplished even without yet having accomplished anythhing.

The thing that I tell myself all the time: The book will not write itself

This is what I always tell myself: Get up, the book will not write itself. Before that, I would tell myself: Get up, the book will not outline itself. Later on, I tell myself: Get up, the book will not edit itself. Get up, the book will not publish itself. Get up, the book will not promote itself.

Do not share your plans with non-professionals

The reason I encourage all of us meeting together is that we want to get real, direct support from people who plan to have marketable, profitable, collectible art. This means that most of our relatives and friends do not count.

I once had a friend who came up to me and said, "Hey, I'm retiring soon and now I plan to write movie scripts! I'm going to begin writing my first script!"

I said, "That's great! Then you and I can talk about writing."

He asked, "Do you have any advise for me?"

I answered, "Yes, here is your first advise. Do not ask friends for advise. I don't advise friends, and since we're friends, I'm not advising you. So my advise to you is, do what you should do and don't ask me nor any friends for advise."

He laughed, "Really? Why not?" he asked.

I said, "If you ask me for advise, I will treat you like a professional writer. I will no longer consider you a friend. I don't care if you're just starting, I will tell you things that can hurt your feelings and I don't want to do that to a friend. Writing to me is a profession, not just something I do for fun."

I told him never share your writing with friends and relatives. Only share it with professionals who can do something about it.

There is a bad side effect when telling friends and relatives about writing and art. When you attend parties with friends and relatives, they will approach you and ask how you are progressing. You will feel irritated and pressured. They won't see it your way. You opened up a topic of conversation and that's how they will treat it.

Guess what he did? He had worked out of state for more than a decade, so he finally retired, at a relatively young age, and he flew back to Chicago. Before his plane even landed in Chicago, he scheduled a coming home party. He emailed his script to a lot of our more outgoing friends and assigned them roles. Within a week or two of arriving and staying permanently, he had his welcome back party and during the course of the party, his friends gathered round to do a reading of his first ever script. I heard 150 people came. I was not invited, but I'm still alive.

My friend approached me around 2013. He was diabetic, and scared of doctors. In 2016, within the course of about four months, he allowed a leg infection to reach his crotch. Amputation to survive was no longer an option. Gangrene set in. He was hospitalized for only about a week, and then he passed away.

I'm not fully blaming writing for his death, but I told him people around him will consciously or unconsciously pressure him to produce and produce well. I warned him that each gathering he got himself into will no longer be fun because they will constantly ask about his writing progress. I warned him that the slighest unintentional but bad comment produced by these unprofessionals can affect any writer. In my mind, even now, I feel he let death become his cure and escape for his internal depression and external pressure brought about by his new choice for a profession, which was writing.

Back to our group. We are using writing as an excuse to become collectible as artists. Even though we might consider our writing attempts as a level lower than our visual art, we are still expected to produce good books. This way of looking at writing might help us survive, but as you become a better professional(!) writer, you will ease into expecting yourself to deliver great work.

I had been volunteering in theatre since the early 90s and some of my best friends come from theatre. I have a friend who had written at least three scripts, and at least two of them were used by our theatre group. I said "at least" because I don't care to correctly check it right now. I just want to tell you that he and I and many of us pretty much just take our decades of theatre experience for granted.

Writing can kill you

The thought of death came to me many times, and I'm almost sure that it will return to me in the future as I write more books.

I felt a sense of accomplishment writing, to the point where I was telling myself, if I died the next day, I would go to heaven. This thought occurred to me even when I had only finished my first draft, and had not yet even taken a look at my writing to begin editing it. I thought that writing was a religious experience, God knew what I had done so far, and my relatives will continue my "legacy" once they discovered my unedited draft in my laptop. It isn't healthy, but there is a huge chance you will experience this as well.

You now have the luxury of support. This #valzubiriagenda occurred to me many years ago, and I did not have anyone to act as a buffer. At least now you have other people in our circle to guide and support you.

How I compare writing with figure drawing

This can be a long story, but I'm just going to give you the gist of it. A naked body is one single surface of skin. Remember the Moebius strip? If you twist a stip of paper once, and then tape the two ends, you will have paper that will only have one continuous surface. So the challenge I had for myself during figure drawing sessions was presenting that one single surface of skin onto the paper, which is also one single surface.

When it comes to writing, you are faced with the single surface - the sheet of paper or the screen monitor of your laptop or desktop. Your challenge is making the sheet represent your story.

We are arrogant as visual artists and it doesn't make sense

When I was in grade school, I discovered a few galleries near public transportation. I used to have a routine, where I went to the botanical garden, marvel at their collection of orchids, and then head to the gallery next door, and admire the works.

When I decided to pursue art, I began avoiding galleries, because I wasn't too happy with the art I was starting to produce, and I was telling myself I should be in a gallery. I had also heard other artists avoid galleries because they are afraid the art they see will influence the art they make. Then something occurred to me.

All the authors on how to write say the same thing: Read other people's works. It also occurred to me that singers sing other people's songs. We artists should look at works by other artists.

Returning to writing, read!

Do not ask nor let friends critique your work

I want to tell you how protective I am of writing.

A friend approached me and said, "I read your work." Then he gave me a look of concern and a friendly smile. Then he asked, "Can I offer you some advice on your writing?" Then he added that he actually critiques the writing of another friend of ours.

I answered, "No. First of all, I know my writing will always have space for improvement, but I need to discover that for myself. I also make sure that friends stay as friends, and I tell everyone not to offer me advice on my writing."

Then I added, "I'm pursuing writing as a profession. Think about this: If I were a brain surgeon, would you approach me and offer me advice on how to do brain surgery?"

We're back to acknowledging the "hierarchy of who knows more," I just didn't want to begin that with my friend. At the time when he offered to give me advice, I had already written a draft of 170,000 words. The acceptable memoir to me would have 55,000 to 70,000 words. He was offering to critique what I considered my fourth full-length book. I would listen to someone who has already been published by a big publishing house, or a professional editor. He and I wrote for free for a free monthly community magazine for a while, so I respect him for that, but beyond that, we were personal friends and not professional friends. I didn't want that dynamic to be altered.

Of course all this is my point of view. I may have lost him as a friend. If you're going to do all this serious book-length writing, your professional writing comes first. You will get introduced to professional friends and you might ask them for advice. Personal friends come later.

Do not announce your writing progress as you move along

There is someone I know on a social media website who posted his chapters as each one was written so his friends can read them prematurely. He has since stopped doing it, but he also hasn't finished his novel. Once again, he kept getting energized from other people's praises, but they were too soon. Once again, the mind experienced the sense of accomplishment prematurely.

How to produce more than one book

When you finish writing a book, you will get to a mental zone of relieve and relaxation that can be a trap. It will feel good to have accomplished something that it actually will not feel good to return to tackle writing another book.

Here is how to write a few books without time lost for relaxation and recovery.

Write all the books at the same time. When a chapter occurs for one book, then write that book. Delay finishing one book by working on all the books you want written. When you're done will all the books, edit them all at the same time. Then publish them all at the same time. Then relax.

Read books on how to write memoirs and more

When you write your books, ask yourself, for example, "Can my story become a movie?" This means that it would be good for you to read on how to write screenplays.

I joined a theatre group way back in the early 90s, so I can safely say I have had theatre experience for more than 20 years, even though I was just volunteering. Before that, I made my first few attempts at writing pop songs and a musical. My dad sent me and my siblings to music schools and he took my brother and I to a relative who taught me bass guitar and my brother lead guitar. I joined the school choir.

I started getting into making porcelain dolls in 2009. It occurred to me that making dolls can become a nice musical onstage, so I toyed with the idea for 3 years. My question was, how can I produce an autobiographical musical.

In 2011, I saw Milk, the movie about Harvey Milk, who was a real person. In 2012, the writer won the best screenplay Oscar and he got interviewed about his writing. He said you have to allow yourself to make artistic decisions. You have a real story, but you also only have 2 hours to tell the story in an entertaining way. Thanks to him, I was able to relax my mind to write Dollman the Musical, A Memoir of an Artist as a Dollmaker. I now tell myself, it would be nice and funny to see my works in galleries, while Dollman the Musical is playing on Broadway or the West End. If this happens, you now know I envisioned it happening years ago.

Ask a professional to write your books for you

Attend the meetings in your area and invite everyone, making sure that writers who are willing and available to write are there. Remember that you are not there to attend a picnic. You should aggressively show that you are seriously pursuing all this. Barter what you can offer with the skills of a writer. Compromise if you have to. Once again, just because someone claims to be a writer does not mean he or she can finish writing a book. Ask for samples of his or her writing and decide.

To ensure that you will have a book about you written by someone else, contract with more than one writer. Meet with them separately. Remember the movie, Throw Momma from the Train? The two writers came up with a children's book and a novel from the same idea.

Each book can be a phase of your life

Once again, return to the question: Can my book become a screenplay? A screenplay has one single storyline, with all the events supporting that main story. You can concentrate on one aspect of your life per book. You can talk about the time you were a movie usher while pursuing art. Then you can have another book about the time when you just got married and pursuing art. Then you can have another book when you became bank president while still pursuing art.

This means that you can meet with different writers so they can write about you at different times in your life.

Writing versus getting others to write for you

I want to tell everyone that if you have never been into publishing until now, I have been into it for years. Getting others to write for you is an accepted practice, unlike music, where a person should use his or her real voice on the track.

We as artists know that some of our works aren't really made by us 100%. We can be helped by art assistants, and we can also use foundries to make the final sculptures for us.

There are famous people who have the name and you can almost be sure that their books were aided or fully written by a collaborator or even a ghost writer. If you can't write, get someone else to write for you. An advantage to this is that you would be greatly, psychologically detached from your book, saving you a lot of anguish and depression.

We write for the future, not the present

I have a schoolmate from grade school who messaged me on facebook, "Why would I have memoirs at a young age?"

I answered him, "It's my way of marketing my art. I write about my past, which I already have. So in the future, I will write some more."

If I wrote memoirs when I turn 70, which is 20 years from now, we would not have this #valzubiriagenda.

So you want to write a bestselling memoir?

My school friend was the same person who asked me, "So is your book a bestseller?"

I answered him the way I want to tell you why we write. Our books are for the future. Books last 300-3,000 years. We want our art and our books to still be available when we are gone. If all this becomes a trend, and we become able to sell more art now, we are actually borrowing money from the future because it will be a while before another trend in the field of art happens. So, in a creative way, we are borrowing attention and money from the future. If I worried about how many books I will be able to sell as soon as I release my books, I would probaby not produce my 4 current memoirs, and my plans to write 5 more would not be an exciting thought in my mind right now.

When I was a child, I collected comic books. I not only read them from cover to cover, but I also looked at the publishers' addresses. Most of their offices were located in New York City. I dreamt of going there to see the empires that were the comic book companies. When I got older and started reading books, I once again saw New York City addresses. I finally came to see New York City. The offices were nothing but offices. There were no castles nor buildings with grand plazas with fountains.

Everyone has misconceptions. You might think you cannot write a book, but you will come to realize that as soon as you finish writing one, you will know in your own mind, that you can write another.

Imagined pressure you can do without

When I finished writing my first book, I counted the words, and it was about 170,000. I felt accomplishment, but I had yet to edit. I was also a little "depressed" and exhausted. I had entered unknown territory, because now I had to edit and then market the book. I thought I had such brilliant writing that it will eventually become a bestseller. All that pressure was imagined. These are misconceptions we do not need that came from ourselves and the people around us. Return to the 300-3,000 year idea, and you will see a better mission for yourself.

How to come up with two books from one manuscript

In 2008, I opened the portfolio where I stored my nude drawings and paintings. I photographed them one after the other. Once again, I saw the ones with mistakes, the ones I placed x-marks on. I continued to photograh everything, including the ones with mistakes.

As I was photographing them, it occurred to me that even the ones with mistakes told a story. I produced a book of nudes. My goal was not to show perfect work. It was to show my collection. I obviously saved even the bad ones. Even the mistakes became important.

When I finished my first manuscript in 2006, I immediately made a cover and uploaded the pdf files to get two copies printed. I just wanted to see my name on a thick book that I had written myself. I then took the book out of circulation and shelved it for years.

If you had just written a manuscript, you will experience relief and the desire to take a vacation before you return to editing your work. I am suggesting that you upload that unedited, raw manscript and call it your "Artist (Your Name)'s Unedited Manifesto," or "Art Investor (Your Name)'s Unedited Memoir," or or "Art Collector's (Your Name)'s Unedited, First Draft Memoir."

I believe that your mistakes will tell a story. Imagine Pablo Picasso. We know his art, but we do not know if he can spell "accessible." These are added details that can be worth studying 300 years from now.

There is something you must remember. People who read tend to be better educated. I once met a guy who said he was a self-published author. He told me his work was science fiction and he proceeded to tell me what the story was about. I finally asked to see his book. I opened a page at random and started reading. He had so many grammatical errors, bad spelling, punctuation errors, and bad writing in general. I still appreciated his efforts, but it was really bad writing. On the other hand, if he died the next day, I figured having a book out there is still better than not having a book at all.

Once again, I'm just giving you some ideas for the moment to get you started. I can write volumes on how to write and how to write memoirs. I also plan to make some videos on this, but I'm also going to be working on further programming of the site, plus as of this writing, I will see if I can convince some financial institutions and investment planners to join us. Excuse my errors and redundancy. :-)

How to write fast: Measure your typing or writing speed

Decide on you weapon of choice. You can use a laptop or your home computer. If you have control on staying at work and using the workplace computer, then do so.

Measure how fast you type or write. If you can type, then type. If you can only write using a pen and paper, then do so.

Get a timer. Type or write as fast a you can for ten minutes the phrase, "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs" or "Now is the time to come to the aid of the people" or something else, or combinations of familiar sentences. After ten minutes, stop and count the number of words.

Place the average memoir at 55,000 words.

Divide the number of words you have produced by 10 minutes (the duration of time for your typing or writing). This will give you the number of words per minute in fractions or decimals. Example: I typed 745 words in ten minutes. 745 / 10 = 74.5 words per minute

Divide 55,000 by the number you got. The number you get is the smallest amount you need to produce your book. Example: 55,000 words / 74.5 words per minute = 738.26 minutes

Divide the number by 60 minutes per hour. Example: 738.26 minutes / 60 minutes per hour = 12.30 hours. Theoretically, if you were a genius, and the entire book were in your head, and you just need to keep typing, you will have written a book in 12 hours and 18 minutes. Of course this is almost impossible for a normal human being. The point I want to show you is that knowing the shortest time it can take to write a book, you must become aware that it does take time to write a book. Start with an investment of the first 12 hours. Observe the setbacks you encounter and add them into your equation.

How to write fast: Keep typing

Once again, avoid the three evils of speed reading and speed writing: fixation, regression and subvocalization.

Beyond that, be aware that you are typing to produce a draft. You are not typing to produce profound, life changing messages. As you type, your book will start forming, and so will your thoughts. Sometimes, the life lessons that you suddenly realize you want to form in the book will show up later, as you type. This is like sculpture or any type of art. You sculpt the draft, paint the basic underlying colors of the book, then you start adding more and more details later as needed.

How to write fast: Use "xxxx" and find them later

Keep typing and type as fast as you can. As you type, you will remember some general ideas or details that you feel you should add to earlier or later chapters, that are not related to what you are currently writing.

Type "xxxxxxxx" at the spot where you are at. Then type your reminder, like "Mention the definition of this foreign word in an earlier chapter but before the chapter on meeting Stacy."

Then continue typing away until you finish your book. Just keep using "xxxxxx" to make notes to return to. When you are done with the first draft, word find the xxxxxx's. You can have more than 50 of them. If you can imagine, if you kept returning to each xxxxxx's, you will have delayed yourself a lot.

Find your comfortable spot and write

I have a friend who keeps telling me she has to write her memoir so all she has to do is call her friend who owns a cottage so she can stay there for a few days to write. I asked her where the cottage was.

"Oh, it's a beautiful place next to a small river in a clearing in Wisconsin!" she said. If thoughts of the movie, I Spit on Your Grave came to your mind, don't worry. She's in her early 70s. I asked her, what about staying here in your home?

She said she has to psyche herself up to write and that place is the perfect spot. Good luck. She set a barrier between her and writing. Not everyone can write. If you cannot, then find a writer to write for you. Barter or contract with the person.

The comfortable spot, if you can afford it, is a nearby cafe. The bad thing about cafes, most of them close at a certain time, when you are still in the writing zone. Cafes near me had gotten even worse. They used to close at 11pm. Last year, they started closing at 8pm. This year, some cafes closed for good, and the one I go to went from 8pm to 7pm. I had also started walking for a mile to the nearby 24 hour Dunkin Donuts. A few days ago, I had my heavy backpack on, got to the Dunkin Donuts, opened my backpack and discovered that I had everything but my laptop.

If you cannot afford the daily trip to the cafe, then find your comfortable spot at home. If you are inundated by noisy children, and you cannot leave them with other people, then that would be your comfortable spot. Find comfort in the noise and type away.

What I learned from a famous celebrity and bestselling author

There is this author who came to Chicago and I saw him yearly. In his hotel, he had his laptop on, and it was always on the current page he was writing. I had the chance to glance his work during a time when it was raw and unedited. I saw some misspellings. I also know his books are funny, but those raw pages I read were not.

I can tell you that his writing, and everyone else's writing, are never perfect at the start. The possible difference between you and I is that while you may have read in how to write books that writing can never be perfect at the draft stage, I have seen this with my own eyes from the laptop of a famous, best-selling author. I can tell you his name, but I won't.