“The Better Feeling Thought”?

book cover of Set In Stone by Keith Aaron GilbertThis is a guest post by Keith Aaron Gilbert, author of “Set In Stone“.

My name is Keith Aaron Gilbert and my current series contains three books, Set In Stone, Waiting For Normal, and Finding Forever. This work follows characters Jamie and Kalim as they reconnect after decades of lost time while they reinvent themselves as social vigilantes and pirates in the modern world. Jamie owns a bookstore that turns into a clubhouse for the disenfranchised. Kalim leads an underground activist group from his college days that has bitten off much more than it can chew. Jamie has a mobbed-up ex with sadistic friends. Kalim’s ex is a recovering addict and he can’t even look at her face. Jamie and Kalim fight their demons while biding their time until they can be together, not realizing how connected they have always been. Together, separately, the excitement ratchets up through the books as they go for a wild pirate ride while otherworldly visions and fantasies flesh out their days and nights.

Keith Aaron Gilbert


When I read that this guest-blog was supposed to be “useful” I chortled, because I gave up being useful when I gave up marriage. Out with that bathwater went also mowing, painting, plumbing, owning, and caring about anything that didn’t fit my new idiom of feeling good whatever the cost. I can’t read another post of lists about Five Ways to Polish a Cantaloup, or The 12 Best Android Apps, or Nine Ways to Take Off Nine Pounds. Good god, it makes me sick.

There is only one thing about which I am serious: following the better feeling thought and feeling good. I have been training myself to shunt away negative thinking and cleave to the tiniest scrap of positive for dear life. Maybe I will write about it one day. This guest blog is supposed to be professional, which puts me at odds since I gave up professional cubicles and professional bosses and professional meetings because they didn’t feel good; my profession is doing what I want. It is more fun being a struggling author than I could have ever imagined while being flush and married to Harpy MacBeth.

A distant second through fourth in things-about-which-to-be-serious are writing, writing, and writing. I should squeeze parenting in there, but that is too much a fun to discourse upon as serious. So many people are screwing it up with seriousness that hundreds of millions of serious words have been written upon it for hundreds of years and this place is still a trainwreck.

I am serious about writing strong women leads. I have found writing them the most enjoyable part of authorship. By “enjoyment” I refer to the fun of sculpting a book out of a refrigerator with an ice cream scooper; but the joy is no less real. I know I am doing it right when a tingle blooms in my sternum that travels up and down my spine, when I can feel it deep in my nether parts as if I am standing at a great height. I don’t have to look down but that I know the precipice. Writing male leads is not without its fun, but for some reason I second-guess with my guy characters, as if I am over-thinking them.

It would be disingenuous for me to say that characters pop out of my head fully developed. I get to know mine a line at a time, a bit of dialogue here, a paragraph of prose, in their spontaneous actions and reactions to which they commit when confronted by an antagonist, by an errant thought, by love, or to the thick hot breeze of the setting. I write from multiple points of view in a narrative cycle and when I get back to my female lead my heart thumps. She surprises me in every scene with her strength, strength built upon vulnerability, fire born of ashes. It is common enough in the modern world and yet always fascinates me.

My penchant is for dark things. Even in a Romance, where love might bloom in swirls of color from the first words, my subtext always seems to be flaming wreckage. I resist it rising up out of the mouths of the characters because I want to read the story where genuine redeeming love-of-self shows starkly against the malignant narcissism that plagues so many souls in the world.

Maybe I should make a list: “Ten Ways To Destroy A Narcissist In Fiction”. Doing my best to rip the ground from underneath them in my work and watch them tumble has been my super-secret pleasure. You can hardly throw a bag of oatmeal these days without hitting a narcissist in the head and because of this we become inured to them. It is easy enough to pepper a novel with antagonists for which the souls of others, the needs of others, the wants of others, do not exist at all, and show these creatures for what they are as their victims rise up the fiery heroes of ordinary life to expose the insecure compensatory void inside the monsters.

Sculpting a refrigerator into a book with an icecream scooper is only a slight exaggeration, and it is not even my exaggeration. I read it somewhere. I use it, though, just as I didn’t create narcissists or female jiu-jitsu ninjas, or love rekindled, but use them, because who doesn’t love reading about narcissists getting just desserts?

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