Boost My Bio – PitchWars

The advice most given to writers is to write what you know. For that reason, I think it is every writer’s job to go out and experience as much as you possibly can. When I look back at my life, I’ve done my job. It’s been quite a ride.

The first 17 years were spent on a farm in a very rural part of South Dakota. Books and my imagination were the things that kept me going. My mom says she taught me to read at 4 because I kept trying to do it on my own. Books let me know there was a big, wide world out there, and I couldn’t wait to go see it.

My senior year in high school I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark. Living an hour from a theater meant I hadn’t seen many movies. This one had an impact. After the movie, if I didn’t do it physically, I did it in my head – I stood, pointed at the screen and said, “I want to do that.” When I found out screenplays were only 120 pages long, while novels were 200-400 pages, my long diversion away from novels began. I decided I would write screenplays.

I wandered the earth a bit, fulfilling my writer’s job of exploring life. I spent a couple of years in Hawaii, a summer in Yellowstone National Park (best summer of my life), a winter at The Grand Canyon, a spring in the San Bernardino Mountains teaching city kids about the outdoors, and then finally, I made my way to Hollywood. With luck, hard work, and some talent I started working as a teleprompter operator.

The first five years were freelance, and were enough to make any farm girl’s head spin. I worked with celebrities I had seen on my TV for years. One day I was doing a PSA with The Fonz. The next day I’d be on the set of Home Improvement. Another day it was Murphy Brown with JFK, Jr. standing next to me at craft services. I worked with Michael Jackson at Neverland Ranch. I prompted Presidents Reagan and Clinton, and Vice Presidents Gore and Quayle. Sydney Poitier asked to speak with me privately in his sitting room, and I asked Meryl Streep to get off my cases so I could pack up and go home. I’ve been kissed on the lips by Bob Hoskins and Connie Chung, and slapped on the ass by Kevin Costner. Neil Simon once asked my thoughts on rewriting his speech. Every day was a new adventure. It was also an adventure on how to make ends meet in LA on very little money.

That struggle to earn a living led to the biggest wrong turn in my writing career. I traded all the excitement, and opportunities to meet new people doing freelance work for the good money and security of a long-running studio show – The Late Late Show. The problem was, I wasn’t connecting with the kind of people who could further my career. If I wanted to do standup, or be a comedy writer, it was the perfect place. For someone who wanted to write dramatic TV or film, it was an absolute dead end. My scripts piled up, unread, un-submitted. Even trying to further my career within the network went nowhere, because I was too valuable to them where I was.

After 20 years of watching celebrities parade across the control room monitors, and seeing there was no future for me writing in Hollywood, I walked away, sold my house, and moved to a spot in the middle of the country where I had good friends, the weather was tolerable, and the cost of living was low. I have a job where it takes me a month to earn what I used to make in a week, but it is one that makes my heart sing, and not one that kills my soul. I have found the balance that has allowed me to write.

I’ve completed my first novel, though if you count the pile of screenplays in a box somewhere, it’s not like it’s my first attempt at writing. I’d like to think it’s not your typical first novel. I’m focusing on MG at the moment.

The final book will have a dragons vs. jet fighters battle.

The MS I am submitting to PitchWars is Fear Unleashed, which takes place 2000 years after mages and dragons filled the land. They still exist, but now, technology has replaced the need for magic, and kids just want the latest gadget. 13-year-old Opal’s mom was working in the space program when she was killed. Now all Opal can think of is fulfilling her mom’s dreams and heading into space. The only problem is, her magic ability score is even higher than her science scores. The placement board has other ideas for her, and on her first day of school she summons a deadly karuk. In the midst of all the danger and adventure, Fear Unleashed explores spirituality vs. science, and by the end of the trilogy, love vs. fear. I hope to find a mentor to help me fix some structural problems, and give the MS a boost in finding its way into the world.

I was part way through book two of the trilogy, when I decided it might be better to have a more stand alone book to offer. I have nearly completed that book, but can’t come up with a name for it. It follows the adventures of an 10-year-old girl named Daisy, who finds a magic stereoscope in her great-grandfather’s attic. When she presses a button on the side, it sends her back to the exact moment the picture was taken – Buffalo Grass, Oklahoma just a few days before Black Sunday, one of the worst dust storms the country has ever seen. While this book is a stand alone, it also has the potential to be a series, with Daisy traveling to any number of historical events between 1835 and the present day.

So that’s what I’ve been up to during my years on this planet. Thanks to my wandering, there’s a lot I know and a lot I can write about. Hopefully some day all those experiences will make it to print.

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Dipping a Toe in Social Media

For years I’ve avoided most social media, because, well, it is the devil.

The most engaged I’ve been with it is Facebook, and that is just for friends and family I know. Even that has its myriad of downsides, and the more engaged I am in the real world, the less I’m interested in Facebook.

I have a Twitter account, but for years I mainly followed breaking news, celebrities, and friends. It was also an excellent place to vent my anger or frustration at a variety of companies that failed in putting the customer first. I never cared about gaining followers, and in fact, was more comfortable having few people listening to what I said.

I have an Instagram account. Can’t tell you the last time I posted.

However, all that is changing. It has to. There is a wonderful podcast called Write or Die, and many of the guests talk about the supportive writing community they discovered online. Twitter seems to be the hangout for the literary set – agents, editors, writers, publishers, all hanging out around the #writingcommunity water cooler.

I started following a few writers and agents, attempting to jump into conversations here or there, but never really connecting. I continued as a Twitter wallflower.

Last year, I discovered a mentoring contest called PitchWars, just before it began. There was time to enter, but I missed out on the socializing that went on beforehand. This year I’m using PitchWars as an excuse to finally dip my toe in the social media pool.

Downside: It is a time sucker, and I hate that I’m spending more time in front of a screen.

Upsides: I am connecting with other authors pursuing publication, as well as published authors, editors, and agents. In the last month I’ve gained 30 followers, which I know isn’t many, but for me it’s a lot. Quality over quantity. Not only am I following authors and agents, a few are following me. I’ve met a new CP (critique partner). It’s starting to feel like I’m finding my community.

Writers have vibrant worlds and stories in their heads, but we alone can see them. Then we spend years alone, putting them on paper not knowing if anyone will join us and fall in love with them too. Writing is a very lonely and often disheartening endeavor. Social media can help. Struggling with writer’s block? Tweet your frustration and you’ll have a chorus of suggestions and encouragement. Confused about the query process? Ask the #writingcommunity and get advice from industry professionals. Search #MSWL to see which agents would love to see a book just like yours. Social media can bring you inside the #writingcommunity and out of the wannabe cold.

Even if it’s not your thing, make it your thing. At least try it.

You can follow me at @LynnieDN I’ll give you a follow back.

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Content

So, you ask, does the title refer to the content of a book, or being content in life?

It is both. You see, I’ve discovered some things about my writerly self. It is easiest for me to write when I am happy. It is harder for me to write when I am unhappy. But, it is hardest to write when I am content. In other words, being content means I produce little content. See? Both.

I began the new year with the determination to turn off the screens and read more. I have done that. I set a goal of 50 books this year and I’m almost to 40. The free time also set my mind to niggling at problem areas of my book, which along with feedback from critique partners, helped me delve back into a rewrite. Success on that front.

Already feeling a slower pace of life from reading more, I then discovered a meditation/breathing technique that calms anxiety and finally allowed me to sleep well after over 20 years of interrupted sleep and constant weariness. It’s amazing how much more manageable problems seem when you’ve had a good night’s sleep.

The biggest problem I have to manage is my finances, and I can’t say all the worry from that is gone. I’m slowly depleting what’s left of my savings, but all the things that truly matter in life are in place. My work is fulfilling, I’ve found my tribe, and I’m strong and healthy. And with better sleep and less anxiety I can appreciate all that even more. Thus, I am content.

Yes, being a published author is an unfulfilled goal, but since I’m content, I’m happy to keep journeying. If the road leads to a career in writing and I don’t live my senior years trying to figure out how to keep a roof over my head, that’s a bonus.

The down side to all this contentment… it’s hard to find the motivation to spend hours a day carefully reading each sentence of my manuscript, making sure it says exactly what I want it to say. There’s just no rush.

Pitchwars is coming up, so I have that as a deadline, but it’s still far enough away that I don’t feel the pressure. And I wonder, should I just start querying again and skip the mentor contest? That would give me a more immediate goal and keep me rewriting. After all, I now have a killer query letter and I think the first 10 pages will grab the reader. Do I just go for it? However, I see so many Pitchwars mentees get book deals after having a mentor help them.

I think I will wait and submit again, because if I submit and get no requests, I will know I still have work to do, and won’t have burned through any agents. Sadly, that decision won’t speed up my editing process, and it will be even longer before I start querying again.

That’s okay. What’s a few more months when you’re content and enjoying the scenery.

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Once More Unto the Breach

Four years ago today I arrived in Springfield, MO – my spirit nearly broken, exhausted, and clinging to a small bit of hope that my life wasn’t irreparable. It wasn’t, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful for the leap I took.

Looking back, I have to laugh at my naivety. I had done the math, knew the cost of living in Springfield, knew the profit I made from the sale of my house, and figured I had 3-4 years to get a book published before it all fell apart.

It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know that the journey to publication can be a very, very long one. Many authors don’t get published until they’ve written 9-10-20 books. Each of those books might go through 6-16 rewrites. 3-4 years! HA!

Of course there are always the wunderkinds – the ones who get published right out of the gate. There are the self-published who can claim the title of published author, but can’t claim to have many readers or earn a living. But the vast majority of authors who want to publish traditionally, toil away in the trenches for years, learning to write, learning to tell stories, and learning to deal with rejection.

This is what I’ve gathered the path to publication is: write – celebrate – edit and polish – celebrate again, imagining agents thronging to your brilliant book – rejection – rewrite – test the waters – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rejection – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – agent – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite – publisher – rewrite – rewrite – rewrite. Publication!

I’ve been stuck in the rewrite process, floundering. Not sure what direction to go. Since form letter rejections leave the author blind, and my writer’s group has disbanded for the time being, I needed to get some pertinent critiques from authors who write and read similar books to what I’m writing. I got a couple of critique partners online and we are in the process of reading each other’s manuscripts and giving feedback. I’ve gotten one back already and it has given me so much to think about. Many areas that I had problems with, but my early readers assured me were fine, gave them problems too. I wish I could learn to listen to my own instincts more.

I am heading back into the rewrite breach. What will follow is analyzing the already written story for structure. Breaking each chapter down. Examining plot. And most daunting… possibly rewriting the entire novel from a different POV. Right now each chapter is told from each of the main characters point of view – rotating through to tell the story. I am considering switching to third person omniscient. It seems overwhelming to even attempt it, but I may give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, I still have my original.

So for those who ask where I am with my writing… that is where I am. Once more unto the breach.

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Boredom Update

By this time each year, most people have let their new year’s resolutions slide into oblivion. So, it made sense to wait six weeks before reporting on how my boredom experiment is going.

It’s been an abject failure.

Let me explain.

My life has improved dramatically in just a few weeks. Last year I read 16 books over the year. More than one a month. I considered it acceptable, though for a writer, less than stellar. This year, on Goodreads Reading Challenge, I committed to reading at least 50 books. With largely TV free evenings and weekends, I read 9 books in January. (So far, Beneath a Scarlet Sky – a true story of a 17 year old Italian boy during WWII, is my favorite.)

With more free time away from screens, I began meditating regularly again. I decided on the schedule of 20 minutes, twice daily. Yes, it meant getting up earlier, which I am loathe to do. There have been many mornings when I thought about going to just 1 evening session a day, but I wanted to stick with it until it was a habit — give it a fair shot. I’ve reached that point. I look forward to the time on the cushion, and am reaping the benefits of a regular practice, though some mornings, I would still rather sleep another 20 minutes.

It’s great I’m reading so much more, after all, I recently heard that every hour of reading is like an hour of studying writing. But, I also have a shelf full of writing books, many of which I’ve never read. It made sense to add more academic endeavors to my reading regimen.

After looking over the titles, I picked The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass, of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. In just the first chapter I saw things I could do to improve both books I’ve been working on. It felt like my opening chapter of Fear Unleashed didn’t grab the reader like I wanted it to. My intention was to create a slow build of getting to know the main character, but I don’t think that helped sell the story. It has inspired me to rethink much of my first novel, and since I have a lot of passion for those changes, I think I’m jumping tracks and letting my current work in progress go for a moment while I rewrite Fear Unleashed.

The truth of my boredom update is this… I have failed miserably at being bored in 2019. I now see that I already was bored and screen time was just a lazy way to fill the boredom. So I guess I am sort of breaking my resolution. I no longer resolve that 2019 is the year of boredom. Instead I resolve it is the year I switch boredom off and reengage with the things that give life meaning. It’s an easy resolution to keep.

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Have you also tried less screen time? How is that working for you?

Read any good books lately? Please tell me about them, as I’m constantly looking for my next book.

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I’m bored.

I remember whining “I’m bored” from time to time when I was a kid. Most of us over the age of 30 did. Apparently kids today are saying it less and less often, because they’re never bored. They pick up their phone, their tablet, their game controller, or the remote control.

Back in the olden days, you know, the 70s, do you remember what happened shortly after uttering those words? Our parents would either suggest something to do, which sounded good, and we did it. Or, they would threaten us with chores if we continued to complain about boredom. And with that, we would evaporate from their presence before chores could be unleashed. Out on a farm, 12 miles from a town of 400 people, there didn’t seem to be a lot of choices, but the sheer weight of boredom would force out some creativity. I would go work on my fort in the trees, maybe build something, or pretend I was on some adventure in the barn or pastures. Much of my love of writing comes from being bored and losing myself in a book, or being bored and playing out some story I’d invented in my head. Obviously, being bored isn’t fun, but it makes me sad that today’s kids aren’t enjoying the adventures that come out of boredom.

The problem is, I now feel sad for myself, as well, and doubly so, because I’m trying to launch a creative career. You see, I, too, have ceased being bored. There’s always something to watch on Netflix, or Amazon, or Hulu, or Sling. And if that’s not enough to entertain me, I’ll play a game on my phone while watching. Then there’s Flipboard, which lets me read all the news from so many sources and viewpoints, that it’s a black hole that can suck me in, leading me from one story to the next. I might sit down to write, but then YouTube seems infinitely more interesting than pounding out the next chapter. I mean, you can tour abandoned sites, learn about cults from those who’ve left, hear inspirational Ted Talks, watch a video on history, telling yourself it’s research for future ideas, watch music videos… again, a black hole that can suck one in for hours.

And then I complain that I just don’t have time to read. I just don’t have time to write. LIAR! I do have the time for both those things, and if I were bored, I would be clamoring to do them. My mind would be filling the boredom with ideas, just like it did when I was a kid.

So, I am doing something I don’t know that I’ve ever done before. I am making a New Year’s Resolution.

I do hereby resolve to be bored in 2019.

Often and frequently.

I will be getting rid of several of my streaming services. Not all of them. I am not a troglodyte, after all. I will be removing the games from my phone. The iPhone OS now lets you monitor your screen time, and I will keep an eye on that, perhaps creating time limits if I feel that’s necessary. Anybody have any other suggestions?

How often are you bored? What distracts you from boredom? Want to join me in my New Year’s Resolution and get your boredom on in 2019?

Let’s get bored!

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Fit For Office

Remember all those teen movies in the 80s? We loved them. They fueled our youthful hijinks. The role of boys was to try to get drunk and try to get some from girls. The role of girls was to get tipsy, get kissed, yet keep the boys at bay. Remember Porky’s? Basically a bunch of boys spying on naked girls showering. Or 16 Candles, where a major subplot was the boys trying to get a girl’s panties to prove they’d been with her. Recently Molly Ringwald talked about a scene in The Breakfast Club where a boy was under the desk basically trying to look and touch her under her skirt. She admitted that by today’s standards that scene is troubling. They all are. They should have been troubling then, but women were still being taught to blame themselves and not to embarrass the boy.

Troubling or not, those movies reflected the world I grew I up in. It reflects the world Brett Kavanaugh grew up in. Coming from a background of wealth and privilege, he actually had the status to live out those films. Despite his protestations that he was focused on schoolwork, fitness, and his many platonic friendships with girls — his friends, his yearbook, and his personal letters tell a different story. In other words, he lied.

So here’s the deal. There are parts of Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony I believe. I don’t believe he was bragging about a threesome when he mentioned a Devil’s Triangle. I do believe it was a drinking game with cups set up in a triangle. It’s typical that a kid hears a term and then morphs it into something in their own world. Threesome’s aren’t much of a part of a teenager’s world… drinking games are. Boofing? I have no idea what that really means. Again, I’m leaning towards a dumb teenage phrase. I remember us. We were stupid. I think Michael Avennati’s accusations are false. I don’t think BK ran a rape ring. But, I do believe the college story… again, fits the times and I could imagine it happening, exactly as she said.

However, the majority of Kavanaugh’s testimony was not credible. He dodged questions. He lied throughout, downplaying his drinking. Downplaying the culture of the time. And he portrayed the classic behavior of someone privileged who is being held accountable for his actions for the first time in his life. He believes he is owed the Supreme Court. It will be the perfect ending to his wealthy, privileged life, and when he might be denied the thing he thinks is his, he threw a tantrum. He was rude. He was partisan. He was biased.

Dr. Ford was calm. She was collected. She did not dodge a single question. Despite the Conman-In-Thief mocking her testimony, she actually did provide details about the things he said she didn’t know. She was even able to provide scientific backup to questions. Her story rang true. I could put myself in her position, and see it all happening.

Do I think Brett Kavanaugh intended to rape her? No. Am I sure he even remembers the incident? No. Perhaps he honestly doesn’t. Because to him, I’m sure it was nothing. He was drunk, and he was doing what boys his age did in that current culture. He and his friend probably thought everyone was having a good time, partly because it didn’t really matter how she felt, and partly because he meant it in fun, so it was fun. He threw her down, copped a feel, covered her mouth when she resisted, and then his buddy jumped on top of them in a goofy drunken moment, breaking it up. Then, in an alcohol haze, with nobody to have fun with anymore, he moved on, probably forgetting the whole thing in moments. Maybe it was more sinister, I don’t know, but the scene I painted is plausible for the times and both parties could come away with the version they tell now.

Would those actions make him unfit for the office of the Supreme Court? Nope. Not if he had responded something like this:

I testify before you, a humbled man. I did many things in high school and college I am no longer proud of. It was a different time and a different culture. I think back, and wish I could undo some of the things I did. I drank too much, and I was underage. I probably did and said things under the influence of alcohol I would never have done or said if I had been sober. It shames me, but I have learned so much in the past 36 years. I no longer drink to excess, because I know that will alter my actions. I no longer see women as a means to and end. Having daughters myself, I understand how I disrespected girls at the time. I don’t want them to have that experience. I don’t remember that evening, but if Dr. Ford’s testimony is true… even if it’s only partly true… I humbly and sincerely apologize for the pain I caused. I was a stupid boy, and I did not mean to hurt you. I am sorry. Deeply. Please forgive me.

Had that been his response, I, and millions of women across America, would have sighed a deep sigh of relief. Finally, a man would have been a man, owned his actions, and apologized. While I still wouldn’t like that this man is on the Supreme Court, I could have relaxed knowing that he was an honest man. Instead we now know that his is a liar, completely partisan, and will do anything to protect his ego. He doesn’t care what his nomination does to the country. He deserves it. It’s his and he’ll take what he wants. So, in other words, nothing has changed in his life since that night in a bedroom at a party.

We also know that the Republicans in office have insured that for the rest of many of our lives, we are going to have a proven liar on the Supreme Court who hates Democrats/Liberals/Progressives, and now has an axe to grind with women. Until the day we die, most women will no longer feel we have access to justice in this country. The fair and independent judicial branch on our tree of Democracy will die when he is sworn in.

Bruce MacKinnon’s editorial cartoon for Sept. 29, 2018.

Brett Kavanaugh does not have the temperament, and is not fit for office. Only one party nominated him, rushed him through the process without full disclosure, and then covered their butts with a phony 5-day FBI investigation that only interviewed 9 people. Years and millions of dollars were spent investigating Hillary without a single charge, and they’re still screaming for more investigation, but one week and 9 interviews, none of who were principal players is just fine for a lifetime appointment. Hypocrisy much?

 

As a woman, you must vote in 2018 like your life depends on it. Because it does.

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A Slight Detour

The podcast Write or Die has provided an excellent window into the world of publishing. There was so much I didn’t know, that I didn’t even know I didn’t know it. My newfound knowledge has led me to understand that an unpublished author is going to have a hard time selling a series. You might have delivered one good story, but can you finish? Will they like how you finish? You have no track record. A stand alone book is a much easier sell.

When I first conceived of this Fear trilogy, my ignorance led me to believe that I would be offering them something great — not just one book, but three! What a deal. Oy!

It has also become clear that many authors have to shelve much loved books and move on to something new. They might write 4 books, 8 books, 10 books before they finally make a sale.

While I’m not shelving the Fear trilogy, I am going to start a new project. There are several other book ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for years. I’ve landed on another middle grade series idea, but each book would be a stand alone, so it carries no risk. And since it is a lower middle grade book, it will be about 1/2 the length of my upper middle grade book.

The first chapter flowed out yesterday. Today has been a day of research, as I learn more about the particular year into which my main character gets plopped. Luckily I once wrote a screenplay in this era, so I’m half way there.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to write two books at once. I don’t want to let my trilogy go. That story needs to be told, but my gut feeling is that I can’t do both. My hope is that if I can pump the new one out quickly, I can get back to work on the trilogy.

The other exciting discovery through the podcast, is pitchwars.org  It’s an amazing writing contest that matches published authors (mentors) with unpublished authors (mentees). The mentees submit their query packages to four of the mentors. if they choose you to work with, they spend the next four months helping you revise your book and then it is presented to agents. Usually I hear about these opportunities just after they closed. Submissions don’t happen until the end of August, so I will have plenty of time to go over my query package again, as well as research the mentors.

The most important thing I’ve learned from the podcast is this: Getting published is simply a matter of perseverance. If you stick with it, take constructive criticism to heart and edit, edit, edit your work until it shines, you WILL get published. You just can’t quit. I don’t plan to.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

A Day at Neverland

The first few years of my career in Hollywood were filled with experiences my teenage self would never have believed could happen to me. I don’t really talk about those experiences since moving back to the Midwest. There are so many more interesting things to talk about. But lately, one memory has been popping back up — my trips to Neverland Ranch to work with Michael Jackson. So I think today, I will share.

Like most girls in the late 70s, I had a huge crush on Michael Jackson. I played Off the Wall  until I knew every song, and had a dance routine worked out. I hopped around and sang into my curling iron for hours.

When I got a call from my boss in either late 1992 or early 1993, and heard I was being sent to Neverland Ranch, I remember jumping up and down and screaming with my roommate. 1992 was just before the accusations, so there was no dark cloud. Michael was close to being at his peak in fame. It was an unreal thought that this South Dakota farm girl was going to work with the Michael Jackson.

The crew met up and we drove in a caravan along hilly roads several hours north of LA. I found it amusing that going onto the Ranch, we had to cross cattle guards. I grew up in a place where cattle guards were the norm on entering a rural ranch, but it seemed strange that Michael Jackson’s ranch had the same feature. Once we drove onto the property, it became clear by the roving cattle, that those guards were actually practical.

Before being allowed onto the ranch, we had to sign all sorts of non-disclosure agreements. I have no idea if I’m violating them right now, but I would assume that since Michael is dead, the ranch is no more, and I have nothing negative to say, I’m not going to be sued.

We drove on a tree-lined, winding road past the house, and parked at the movie theater/dance studio. Just across the road was the amusement park. After unloading my gear and setting up the teleprompter, the crew guys who had been here before, showed us around. The theater was attached to the dance studio. We were told to help ourselves to any of the candy behind the counter. And I did. There were three types of chocolate bars and I took one of each, ate two, and still have one. I’m sure the chocolate is inedible by now, but I felt the need to keep one intact. I also kept a few of the napkins. In the picture on the left, there are some acorns from his tree resting on the napkin.

The theater had traditional seats, but in the back were hospital beds for kids who were too sick to sit up. Everything was designed with children in mind.

Michael wasn’t there, so the crew guys passed the time by telling stories about the tours they had gone on with him. Everyone who knew Michael spoke about him with such love. They also told me that once you worked with Michael, and he came to trust you, he would only work with you… thus, there would be a good chance I might go on his next tour with him if this worked out. My head was spinning.

When Michael still hadn’t shown up by noon, his personal chef prepared lunch for us. I seem to remember it was chicken in some sort of delicious sauce, veggies and rice pilaf. As the afternoon wore on, we began to venture further out. I wandered into the amusement park, looking at the merry-go-round and the ferris wheel. Out of nowhere a security guard approached me, and I was sure I was about to get thrown off the ranch. I tried to come up with a good explanation to my boss of how I’d gotten fired from this job. Instead the guard smiled and said, “Want me to start any of the rides up for you?” I mumbled, “No, that’s okay,” and rushed back to the theater.

Behind the dance studio was a ravine with a small zip line over it. Several of the crew had a blast going back and forth, but I was convinced I would fall and break something, so instead I crossed the suspension bridge and went to the massive oak tree nearby. It had a tire swing hanging from one limb, and a winding staircase around the trunk leading to a platform. On the platform was a pirate’s chest full of blunderbusses and swords.

It was winter, and by late afternoon it was starting to get dark. That’s when the real magic of Neverland Ranch appeared. The trees were wrapped with lights, turning the whole place into an enchanted fairyland. I sat on that tire swing, surrounded by light, marveling at the beauty, and the fact his electric bill was probably more than I made in a month.

At some point not long after, Michael finally showed up full of apologies for being delayed. Trust me, I don’t think one of us minded. It had been an amazing day.

In the early 90s, Michael still looked like Michael. He had started down the plastic surgery road, but hadn’t gone far. Even so, I found it uncomfortable to look at him… until he smiled. He had an amazing smile. I also found it strange how normal he was. He chatted with old friends on the crew, talking about the Lakers game the night before. He was just a guy, hanging with friends, talking about sports. Weird… yet not.

We did our work. He said goodnight, and we packed up our gear to make the long drive back to LA. I had to have been floating as I drove out through those light-covered trees. It was a job I will never forget.

I worked out there again, because true to the crew’s prediction, once Michael had let someone into his circle, he would rather limit his exposure. I remember very little from that job, other than it involved a satellite link with Jimmy Carter.

Then the abuse accusations were made, the Ranch was raided, and Michael had pictures of his privates taken. He wanted to make a public statement about this series of events, and once again I got the call to go to the ranch for this taped statement. However, not long after, I got another call. My boss explained that Michael would be uncomfortable with a woman running his teleprompter while discussing such delicate matters, and he asked that I be replaced. It was completely understandable.

Once things had been settled, he left the country to live abroad, and my opportunity to work with him was over. I have my thoughts on the accusations that ended his career for almost a decade, and if you ask me in person, I may even give them to you.

It was a most remarkable experience, and one that would have seemed wholly impossible to the kid shoveling manure in oversized overshoes while wearing hand-me-down clothes.

And yet it happened.

Isn’t life strange?

 

 

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Weaning Myself off Amazon

Before I get to the main topic, I want to speak to any writers who read my blog. There is a terrific podcast out there called Write or Die. Authors are interviewed about the road to publication and it is eye opening. I knew it was a long process, but until I listened to these authors, I had no idea how long. A part of me thinks it would have been good to know it can take 8 or 9 years to get a book from written to published before I took my leap. My 3 year financial cushion wasn’t nearly enough. On the other hand, it’s a good thing I didn’t know, or I never would have taken the leap. Give it a listen. It’s great information about getting published.

Now to the title – I’ve made the decision to end my Prime Membership and wean myself off Amazon. It’s something more Americans might want to consider. Let me lay out the reasons.

  1. Brick and mortar stores have long warned that Amazon hurts local businesses. Local businesses employ local people, giving them money to spend, and building thriving local economies. I’ll admit there have been many times I have ordered products through Amazon that I know I could get locally, but it seemed so much easier to have it show up on my doorstep, rather than drive to get it. There was a good chance the price was better too.
  2. Amazon’s policies are impossible for smaller businesses to compete with, and are creating entitled customers who expect the same service. No shipping expense, and if you don’t like it, you don’t pay to ship it back. Package stolen – Amazon refunds it fully or sends another, without many questions asked. When a business isn’t doing the volume Amazon does, they lose all profit with those policies. But if they don’t provide them, they lose all customers.
  3. Amazon is the poster child for corporate greed – Recently, on the same day they announced huge profits, blasting through all expectations, they also raised the fee for Prime Membership citing rising costs. Riiiiiiiight. Jeff Bezos has so much money he’s using it to go to space, but he can’t pay his workers a living wage, and provides horrible working conditions. When Seattle tried to tax Amazon to help the homeless population, which has grown due to the high cost of living in the area, partially due to tech companies, Amazon fought back and killed the tax.
  4. And for me, there’s a final kicker. They broadcast extremist views that are contributing to the deaths of Americans – NRA-TV.

I’ve got until December before my Prime membership renews, but I’ve already begun the process. I can’t get my cat food anywhere in town, but I can get it through PetCo. I’m searching out item after item and am finding it locally, ordering it directly from the manufacturer, or at the very least, another distributor. That doesn’t mean I won’t use Amazon from time to time. In fact, if I’m trying a new product, that’s exactly who I’ll go to, precisely for the free shipping and easy returns. But once I know I like something, I’ll buy it elsewhere.

Greed is not good, and right now neither is Amazon.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

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