Sunday, November 20, 2011

HACK news: early reviews/blurbs comin' in!

Just to whet your appetite a little bit. Don't want anybody gettin' lathered up here but some minor heart palpitations might be appropriate :)

“Perception is more important than reality” is one of the oldest unspoken governing truths of Hollywood. In HACK, Jeb Harrison reveals how this rule also applies to the art world, and its painters, agents, and collectors, with comic and bittersweet results.  Struggling painter Henry “Hack” Griffin’s brief reunion with his long time unrequited love, Hadley Scofield  – and with a complex, charmingly off-beat character like Hadley, the reality is always far more complex – sets in motion a series of ever-escalating ruses that eventually exposes how all the characters in the novel are unable to perceive what is real from that which they so strongly want to be real.  Harrison creates a topsy-turvy carousel of disguises, mistaken identities, lies, half-truths, misunderstood motivations, and perhaps even a fable (in the form of a quasi-mythic homeless man) then sets it spinning until it ensnares all of the characters who inhabit the Bay Area’s “see-or-be-art-scene” – from bisexual ex-wives and Marin County divorcees to gay Scottish make-up artists and a rich music video producer and his ex-WWF bodyguard. Harrison gives each of these characters enough credibility to convey that he’s obviously met and known their real counterparts in his life, and an equal amount of hyperbole that makes them both funny and sad, often at the same time.  Reading HACK is like a weekend getaway in Marin County: a very enjoyable way to spend your time.
                                                                                                                                                                                                   - Stan Chervin, screenwriter of Moneyball
“Jeb’s writing is not unlike his signature sound on the bass guitar; under the melodic surface is a rhythmic, soulful groove, with enough space for the almost improvised narrative to breathe and ultimately tell itself with simplicity, energy and Jeb's trademark twisted humor. Jeb also writes like he paints, creating beautiful pictures that  have their own subtle spirit and direction. Jeb writes a quintessentially male story here, but inserts a couple of strong, independent, intelligent  female characters into his  protagonist's life to keep him honest and, of course, ultimately save his sorry a**.  Jeb's creativity seeps into everything he does, but this may be a pinnacle; he is one heck of a story teller. Read it!” - Bonnie Hayes, award-winner singer/songwriter, producer and performer.

"I applaud Hack not only because it is riveting and brilliantly written, but because the male author has created two believable female leads who are the ultimate voice of reason, and can lead the bumbling Hack out his life-threatening pickle. I have to say I savored every minute of it!" ~ Patricia V. Davis, bestselling author of "Harlot's Sauce" and "The Diva Doctrine."

Are we all getting excited about Jeb's novel yet? 


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Naked in the Rockies: "Budfests" at the Cap-K Ranch Part I

The Cap-K Ranch and I were born the same year: 1955. But, as any good armchair buddhist knows, we each existed in different forms before our current incarnations, I as a trout, no doubt (hence my astrological sign), and the Cap-K Ranch as a cattle ranch on the Fryinpan River, 8 miles up the road from Basalt, CO, under a name that I should, but do not, know. But I do know that Miller Nichols and his partner Joe Gregg bought The Ranch in 1955 and named it after their wives: Cappie Gregg and Katie Nichols (she may have gone by Kay, but as with all my stories I can't vouch for the veracity of anything I say, since I can barely remember my phone number from day to day...). It is here at the Cap-K where the Budfest was born, long before Perry Ferrell's parents even had a glimmer of their little burning man.

When I first started dating Miller's daughter Lynn (known here as The Bud) our first year at CU in Boulder, I had no I idea I was also embarking on a relationship with The Ranch. For the safety of myself, family and Boo the pup, this litte collection of vignettes sticks to stories where The Ranch, not the frisky, steamy, passionate, all-consuming once in-a-lifetime puppy love affair with The Bud (oh dear see I've already gone and said too much) is the glue.  Just imagine that in the spaces between the events desribed here was a never-ending parade of wild group sex, which these days is just another humdrum yawn so I'll just leave all that out. Okay?

To say that the Cap-K is a magical place, or was back in the 70s when we did the most damage there, would be an understatement and not entirely accurate. It still smelled of leather and cow shit, the requisite flies were always close by, the ponds were cattle tanks and irrigation holding pens as they were originally intentioned, and Miller Nichols, the grand patriarch of it all, was alive and kicking in his powerful and determined way. It was and still is a working ranch, though today the cattle are grass fed and go to market as "organic" beef, and the big trout in the ponds are edible after being "poisoned" by brine shrimp for years. But we didn't fish when we visited there in the seventies, not in the ponds or the river (which is "gold medal water" for it's fly fishing characteristics). We did a little horseback riding, but the majority of the time we used the ranch as a staging area for adventures into the high country, either day trips or several day backpacking soirees. In the winter we either cross country skiied in the high country or headed to Aspen Mt. (Ajax) to destroy our knees in the bumps under the Bell chair or Ruthie's Run. (Seventies skiing = short skis, dull edges and "avalement", the opposite of today's carving culture.)

After everybody had graduated from Boulder and the California contingent had been introduced to the Kansas City contingent, and "The Bud" (our hostess) had been through several boyfriends and was basically living alone in a circa 1907 log cabin (that was once the bunk room for the hay hands), we initiated the "Budfests". "Bud" in this case refers not to the sticky wad of skunky purple vegetation (though it was liberally employed at the Budfests), nor to Spuds MacKenzie and the King of Beers, but to "Buddies", or friends close enough to be referred to as "Buds". So, a "Budfest" was generally a Central (Bud's high school buds) meets West (Bud's college buds) which ultimately proved to be a test to see which breed grew the bigger schlongs or bouncier boobs.

The test was initiated by the boys from Kansas City (except for the one who went to CU Boulder who had been adopted by the West Coast buds, which also, by the way, included a bud from Chicago and a bud from Dallas). It isn't clear what drove them to initially disrobe - perhaps growing up in an area where cow-tipping consitituted a letter sport, or that an accepted invitation to group sex was to prance around the living room naked, or that beer and nudity were just part of the cornfield gestalt (who knows what those boys could do with a cob of corn and a couple of sixpacks.) Let is just be said that one midsummer night's eve, as all the buds were gathered in The Bud's living room after dinner, drinking wine and passing the other kind of bud, three of the KC contingent came bounding down the stairs from Bud's modest sleep chambers, completely naked, and simply pranced around the group, practically inviting those of us who thought it was a rather chilly night to let the big dog eat, to get down and get naked. They ran out the front door onto the lawn, joyously leaping through the garden, then back into the living room for a quick dosie doe and then up the stairs, leaving some suppressed giggling and a few jaws seriously dropped. They were soon back, fully dressed as if nothing had ever happened, and joined in with a rousing good-night "kum bay ya" before everybody headed off to their tents on the lawn.

What were the West Coasters to think, if anything? Nobody had appeared to be that drunk or stoned, and the next morning hangovers were not in evidence. But clearly the gauntlet had been laid - unless you had something dreadful to hide, it now seemed that getting naked had been established as a condition that would make a "budfest" something more than a run of the mill Big Chill post-graduate get together (which had not been released yet) raising it above the level of heart-to-heart chats with old  friends during hikes above the timberline to a barnburner the could perhaps result in "Budfest" babies of mysterious origins. But at this point three thirty-something midwest fellas jumping naked on the furniture was, at least in my mind, a temporary aberration of summer camp pranksterism. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The very next day, in the middle of a convoy (there were several carloads of buds to be ferried about) to a hike to a high alpine lake in the Holy Cross wilderness east of the Roaring Fork valley, I rounded a corner above Reudi reservoir with 4 other buds in my Toyota Corolla wagon to find five naked midwesterners in the pullout, prancing around their vehicle like Arapahoe at a buffalo barbecue. Lest we cause a high altitude rear-ender that might result in a pileup, I pulled off the road. When the next car in the convoy rounded the corner and the nudists were assured that their jiggling genitalia had reached the broadest audience of buds, they piled back in the vehicle and continued to lead the convoy, I assume with their naked bottoms sliding side-to-side on the vinyl seat cushions as they rounded every mountain curve, to the trailhead almost an hour up the road.

Of course when we had all hiked to our destination lake (which if I recall was Savage Lake that in retrospect couldn't have been a better name given the circumstances) even the shyest among us got naked for the mandatory heart-stopping dip in the icy alpine waters.  That we remained naked, all 15 or 20 or us, sprawled across a huge boulder that jutted out into the lake for all the other un-indoctrinated hikers to uncomfortably see, was perhaps the beginning of a deeper sense of camaraderie between the West and Midwest buds, plus it allowed for detailed studies (since we were all hiding behind our Vuarnets and Ray-Bans with caps pulled down low against a more proximate sun) of nipples and penises of varying varieties. I don't recall that genitalia at this or at any point in the Budfest became a point of conversation (as in "wow that's one fine set of hooters you have there Alise", or "it must be uncomfortable packing that much meat around between your legs, Bob"), despite all the obvious opportunities. Too bad. I guess we really weren't that liberated after all.

Later that same day we had the unforgettable naked volleyball game on the lawn in front of Lynn's turn-of-the-century authentic rough-hewn log cabin, which faced the Fryingpan Road and famous Fryingpan river just beyond. Not that it was particularly unusual for motorists to slow down and pay extra care passing through the ranch buildings on either side of the road, but on this Saturday evening the buds gave the passersby extra reason to slow down, honk, wave and hoot when they saw the group of young nudists batting the volleyball about on the lawn. Ironically the buds grew uncomfortable with all this attention (as if we expected the passing drivers to simply take a group of 20 or so attractive young folks in the buff in stride like they were another pod of cows by the road) so we all started to "hit the dirt" (which was luscious lawn) every time someone drove by. Of course this caused even more curiosity, though none of the motorists actually stopped or got out of their cars to get a closer look I imagine it would have been pretty obvious that there were a bunch of naked people on the other side of the fence just paces away from the road. In retrospect I'm surprised nobody called the sheriff, since this was after all off the beaten path from Aspen where real ranchers, foremen, their wives and their Bibles still roamed the down-valley roads. Then again this was pre-cell phone, pre-PC, pre-digital anything...).

After that wild weekend the buds began to pack up, a few more with each passing day, and head back to the Midwest, SoCal, NorCal, the Great Northwest, Vermont, and even the Big Apple, scattered in their various post-college career pursuits to eventually start families and settle in far-flung places. There have been a few Budfests since then. Lynn's wedding, of course, and most recently the 50th anniversary of the Nichols/Gregg ownership of the CapK (both Cap and K having moved to their ranches in the sky), which coincided with the 50th birthdays of most of the buds and was an incredible multi-day party complete with real fireworks blasted from an island in one of the trout-laden irrigation ponds near the expanded and remodeled log cabin that was once the site of naked volleyball. To the best of my knowledge there has been no spontaneous nudity since that particular celebration of genitalia back in the mid-eighties. (One of the buds I'm sure has photos in fact I recall seeing a few or maybe those are just images indelibly etched into my memory. There is one I know of the author atop Snowmass Peak in hiking boots, wool gloves, a wool knit cap, a bandana around the neck and nothing else, posing like Charles Atlas some 30 lbs lighter than today. I imagine if a sculptor to a chisel to this damaged and corpulent frame they might discover that guy hiding several layers underneath.)

We recently vacationed at the Cap-K with a few of the original buds, staying at the newly remodeled main house which was is now more comfortable and inviting than ever. My 23 year-old son Jack discovered the joys and frustrations of fly fishing in the Fryingpan River and the famous ranch ponds, and I'm happy to report that we all caught a lot of beautiful big trout (releasing them of course). We did not, however, get naked. I regret to say I did not even get the urge, though I have to say I would not have minded if some of our female companions took it all off on one of our hikes. As I mentioned to the original Bud, Lynn - you can take the boy out of the hike but you can't take the hike out of the boy! (How's the for a complete non-sequiter to end this nonsensical ramble? Fitting.) And now I think I'll take my clothes off and go for a walk. :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 in Somers, NY: vivid memories in a letter to a colleague.

Dear Boss/Pal/Comrade,

I imagine you were in your corner office, surrounded by wild turkeys and Canadian geese on the lawn, pileated woodpeckers and black-capped chickadees in the woods and red-tailed hawks on the treetops. Or maybe you were in a morning meeting with Dupaquier (aka "Dupe a Queer". I think Little Lou D. had already been dismissed?), maybe Sandy Carter, Jocelyn "Queen of Mean" Attal, Nancy Pearson (with chocolates) or one of the other power ranger executives. I recall that I was in a user-testing session for some internal app with about 20 other randomly-selected folks in building 3. Somebody came in and whispered a message to the coordinator, who briefly stepped outside, then returned to announce that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, and that we would be updated as necessary. We half-assedly continued with our testing. Then a few minutes later someone came in and announced that another WTC building, along with the Pentagon, had been hit, and that we were all dismissed and encouraged to go home to our families. I said to the guy next to me "sounds like somebody is trying to pick a fight." In retrospect it would have been so much easier had some country decided to start a war with the US, instead of the country-less network of Islamic radicals it turned out to be. (I never could buy the Saddam theory).

By the time I got back to building 1 the place was pretty much deserted. Our hall mates: Scully, Teresa the schwag lady, Laure Dunne, Jolene Hall, Rocky T., the Tursimeister, Bob Doran, Charlotte Sjoberg, Jim Kennedy (I think Sharon Hinton had already died of brain cancer or was at least already gone), Waugh might have been in the city, and perhaps Anne Rubin too though I don't think she worked for you at the time. At any rate it was very quiet, except that you were in your office with the radio on. I wasn't gonna leave you there because 1. I've never been sure of what really effects your performance rating, and going home certainly would indicate a lack of "passion for the business" and 2. we quickly found out that Manhattan was closed, you were at loose ends and I had a guest room. So we kind of sat out most of the day as events unfolded and the normally busy skies became suddenly empty of planes and even bluer than usual, listening to the radio in your office, checking in with family at home and in the west, and, for me anyway, pretending to give a shit about my IBM "to-do" list.

Plowing through the "to-do" list, making priorities out of trivial, inconsequential activities so as to avoid confronting things like a terrorist attack just a few miles down the road, or Mom slipping away into Alzheimer's land, my own true career desires, a growing family and so many other "real" priorities. Even on such a day, threatened by planes masquerading as bombs, or it could have been a hurricane, famine, disease, whatever... I always found a way to hide in my "to do" list. But on that day I think both you and I realized that we couldn't even do our "to-dos" because everybody else in the company had gone home. Of course your home was inaccessible so I think we piled into my black Saab and headed to Ridgefield to watch the towers come down on the tube, over and over and over. I imagine my kids were wondering if it was all some kind of video game, but at the same time serious enough to warrant an overnight guest.

I think we made something simple - a pasta with red sauce, perhaps. I poured myself into a bottle of sake as I usually did back in those days (can't even pour myself into a cold beer these days but that's another story), you and Holly had a glass of red, I think mindful that this was no time to get shitfaced. The kids may have stayed up a little later than usual but overall it felt like a quiet evening at home made a little extra special with an important (Dad's boss!!) house guest. I can picture us so clearly, huddled by our one TV in it's age old bookshelf in the corner, talking of who we might have known in those towers, for once perhaps thinking that our President, the village idiot, could inspire something like confidence in the strength and safety of our country moving forward, while at the same time leaving us wondering how we ever allowed such an unprecedented breach of security in the first place. I remember feeling overwhelmed with questions and suddenly unable to articulate them, knowing that there were no answers, just conjecture.

The next day you had stubble on your chin and were itching to get back to Tamara and your Manhattan apartment. At some point the trains started running, I think, though the roads remained closed? I just remember the both of us driving somewhere that next morning, and that you had found a way to make it into Manhattan and I was going back to Somers. A "to-do" list was waiting, and what else was there to do in between the breaking news reports but to continue pretend that somebody better tend to the "on demand" business of IBM. Not much has changed, and everything has changed, in the decade since that day. I still live in constant fear of getting "resourced", my "to do" list is really quite absurd, and after all these years I have started to get a little recognition for the creative skills that I keep so well disguised by my corporate charade: my debut novel, "Hack", is getting published by Harper-Davis in the spring, and you Mr. Rosen are guaranteed to get a few good belly laughs out of it. It'll take you about 3 hours to read - a couple of train rides. Plus there's the "stranger than fiction" true story of my agent Melanie Mills, which happened I think when you were still in the corner office:

So. Shit. Ten years ago. I guess I'm thankful to be able to close my eyes and see the events of that day so clearly, and be reminded that I spent it with a guy for whom I have a tremendous amount of affection and respect, my corporate "protector". Even in the face of some profoundly irrelevant trivial shit, we managed to have some fun, and even though I'm glad you've shed that oily and acrid corporate costume, I miss having you around to mentor me through the frustrating nonsense that makes up my job.

Best of luck to you and Tamara and my sincere hope that you all are in best of health and you've still got that irreverent twinkle in your eye,

Big Fat Love from The Hairy Family Singers,

The Jebster

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Was a Client of Melanie Mills - Part V The Grand Finale

Well I 'spect it's about time to wrap this puppy up as I fear I have lost the patience of my readers with my lame attempts to create suspense with my none-too-subtle foreshadowing that basically gave the story away. I imagine everybody had it figured out by Part III and went on to read more important blogs about the new bottled water brand, Arab Spring (not to be confused with Lech Walesa's Poland Spring), the economic melt up and down, and the inspiring field of Republican presidential contenders. Of course Melanie Mills didn't really die in a car wreck in Germany, as I learned on the writer's watchdog website, "", and neither does Hack (but that is not positioned to be a swift kick to the nuts a la Melanie.) No, not only did I learn our little house elf was quite alive, but that she was the owner of roughly 15 aliases, the most popular being Lisa Hackney, also a literary agent but also a published novelist. I learned that her real name is Elisabeth Von Hullesem and that she is the descendent of Germanic royality - Countess Von Hullesem, and that she was wanted for real estate fraud across the south (including Myrtle Beach!), and attempted murder of her own mother, who she tried to run over in her car, utltimately pinning her to a wall so hard she couldn't fall down to be properly finished off.

So how did our Countess get caught this time? As it turns out, before she died she organized a high profile writer's conference in Banff/Lake Louise, an historic lakeside resort from the railroad era high in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta. The conference was to feature some big name authors and publishers, and was expected to be crawling with literary agents just drooling to make a six figure deal. She organized and published the schedule on a dedicated website, advertised on all the sites where unpublished writers troll for agents, deployed a reservation system and started collecting money. When she was sated she took off for Germany and got unrecognizably mangled in a bloody wreck. Of course the planned conference attendees, touched though they were by little Ms. Von Hullesem's death (this was the name she used as the conference sponsor), wanted their money back. And when the authorities went to look for it, they found not a trace: no bank accounts, no real estate, nothing to indicate that Ms. Von Hullesem had ever existed!

But...thank the Gods of Justice that this was all happening in Canada. Had one of the bilked authors been named Nell, you would have heard Dudley Doright's voice echoing across the alpine meadows of the great white north: "Coming Nell!" The Mounties were on this. Meanwhile the authorities in Arkansas and Myrtle Beach, where Lisa Hackney was wanted for real estate fraud and attempted murder, started to follow the case. But even the Mounties were buffaloed by this one - there didn't seem to be any connection between Mr. Von Hullesem and Lisa Hackney. Months passed.

Now here's where the details start to get a little vague, even to those that have been following this case and are waiting for Von Hullesem/Hackney/Mills to get extradited to the states so they can get a little piece of her moth-eaten wig. From what I've read, there was a scam going down in Vancouver. Somebody was purchasing assisted-living properties on the behalf of addled seniors and making off with the loot. Imagine your granpa and granma showing up at The Golden Vista apartments only to find that there was no reservation in their name and their deposit had gone up in smoke. When the Mounties finally found her, they noticed an uncanny resemblence to Elizabeth Von Hullesem, whose picture was on the website of the Banff writers conference and was, as this point in time, expected to be pushin' up daisies with the Von Trapps near the Austrian border. Sure enough, Dudley made the connection, and Von Hullesem/Hackney/Mills spilled the beans in the fashion of someone who had been the protagonist in their own reality TV con-man expose and was damned proud of it! Last I heard the Mounties had yet to extradite her to Arkansas to face attempted-murder and fraud charges. I also heard that a judge had declared her unfit for trial, and she tried to shed her orange jumpsuite in the courtroom and was going completely commando underneath. She was, in fact, diagnosed with acute schizophrenia and is unlikely do be doin' hard time Martha Stewart-style any time soon.

Now bend over so I can smack you on the head with the 9" iron fry pan of irony, and so you can avoid reading all this blather again just to see why you started reading it in the first place. First, Melanie Mills, con artist extraordinaire though she was, never charged me a nickel for her services. She even gave me a free Sprite when I visited her in Myrtle Beach. And she did shop the book, in retrospect at least several revisions prior it being ripe, but, ever after the quick buck, she was willing to roll the dice with Hack.

So am I, or was I, surprised by all of her criminal behavior? Well, now that I know she's a card carrying schizophrenic, not really. But I'll admit barring any coincidental communications (I guess I wouldn't be surprised if she tried to contact me after Hack is published) I will probably go to my grave wondering if Hack's fake death, and his return as a swingin' Harley-ridin' Mexican with a ponytail and pencil-thin mustache, coupled with his agent's plot to rip off their most reliable patron by finding "old" Hack paintings in far off places - I can't help but wonder if the far-fetched plot of my first novel somehow got little Dobby thinking - got those little elf synapses firing -- maybe to prove that such a plot is not so far-fetched after all. I can't say, but I do hope that somewhere in that schizophrenic stew bubbling between her ears she's had a good time.

Jeb Harrison

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Was a Client of Melanie Mills - Part IV

Okay I've got it. Picture Dobby the House Elf with an over-the-hill beach-eaten face hidden by Scarface sunglasses and a platinum fright wig, and you've got Melanie Mills. While that image comes into focus in your addled brain, let me apologize. I know I've treated this riveting story with almost criminal negligance and it's not because I don't know how to describe what happened because I do. I was there. By now The Hairy Family Singers (a moniker I had given our family to give them that team spirit but mostly to embarrass them in public) had retreated to our 100 year-old carriage house in Ridgefield, CT., me with a few pages of hastily scribbled notes (I guess you can imagine why I was more than a little eager to expedite my little editorial meeting with my agent) and promises to make a few fixes to the novel in the next month. Which I did and more without too much trouble. When I was satisfied with the edits I called Melanie's office, only to get a voice mail that she was traveling in Europe and wouldn't return for several weeks and chances are she wouldn't get my message until her return. Which struck me as odd for I was under the impression that a writer's conference/Harley biker rally was being hosted by her in Myrtle Beach. Maybe that had already happened, I thought. I must of had my dates wrong. So I let several weeks pass and tried her again - I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was sitting at my desk in my office on the IBM Campus in Somers, New York, overlooking a lovely verdant lawn rolling into the distant woods to the north, wild turkeys scampering among the Canadian geese and the occassional red-tailed hawk diving for a meal of field mouse and greens. I got her voice mail. Or, more accurately, I got a recorded message from her assistant, Kat Baker, informing me that Melanie Mills had been killed in a car wreck in Germany, and, that if the caller was an author, all bets were off. Never mind that she looked like Dobby with a fright wig. I had sipped Sprite at her table on her deck overlooking the slough in Myrtle Beach just a few weeks ago, had shared a laugh about how she accidently applied hair spray to her face thinking it was sunblock, and had talked about my story, Hack. A story in which the protagonist, an artist,  fakes his own death and returns under a new identity to bilk an unsuspecting movie producer out of millions. More on that later. Then, at my desk, when I heard this news coming over the phone, I felt as if someone had kicked me in the crotch. I couldn't breath, I lost the feeling in my hands. And I bemoaned my bad luck. Now what was I going to do? My literary agent was dead!

Obviously I could no longer work that day, plus the IBM campus was already like a ghost town due to the wave of "work at home" knowledge employees who simply didn't bother to come to the office anymore. (My boss, unfortunately, was not one of these.) I couldn't exactly tell my boss about my literary agent, any more than I could tell him that I was playing in a rock band and had to set up early. No, at IBM, work/life balance means you eat, sleep, exercise and do what's necessary so you can work 12 hour days. So I made something up and went home, in too much shock to really contemplate what I should do next, and just generally sad that Melanie Mills, a stand-out character on her own account, was no longer roaming the planet.

Did I make the connection that the events of my novel had perhaps planted a seed in her head? Of course not. At this point, I had no reason to believe that she wasn't really dead, and that I at some point would have to start scouting for a new agent. Which I didn't think would be too hard - "hey my agent died, would you mind reading a few chapters of the novel she was representing?" And I was right. I had many tire kickers, right away, and within months a new agent with a whole notebook full of new ideas for Hack. Along with that were all the rejection letters, and one of the rejection letters suggested I look at a website entitled "Writer Beware". And it was here that I discovered what really happened to Melanie Mills. You could even go there yourself today, cut this tedious blog short, and find out. You might as well cause I'm tired, my feet hurt, and I'm going to save the ugly truth for the next edition of "I Was a Client of Melanie Mills". Stick around if you can stand the suspense. I will try and make it worth the wait!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Was a Client of Melanie Mills - Part III

I remember all the important things about Myrtle Beach. First, it comes as no surprise that it was named after a gal named Myrtle (which is probably not true, but fitting nonethless.) Big fat Myrtle, who was known to haul herself around the clamshell tracks between the stilted beachfront shanties in a cart led by an irascible 650 lb. crocodile named Big Carl, who would go on to found "Croc Corner" in Myrtle Beach, a popular tourist attraction to this day. And although my family was there for vacation - kadima on the beach, frolicking in the waves, miniature golf multiple times daily - it was all strictly business for me. I was going to meet my literary agent, Melanie Mills, at her beach house, sip chardonnay and talk books. What was selling, were the Knights of the Templar just a flash in the pan?

So one afternoon I extracted myself from the family and drove north of town where the sea channels divide the houses like steets and I imagined Melanie's beachfront estate just sticking out like a sore thumb in the ghetto of canaste-playing seniors in falling down sea shacks. Then just as I was about to pop the Land Rover into four wheel drive there she was, hunched over the deck railing of her own falling down sea shank, without so much as a peek of the ocean, scraping old paint off the deck railing,  a cig dangling from her lips and a blonde wig that might have been stolen off a tired floor mop, then teased and blown into a platinum rat's nest. It didn't take long to realize that she wasn't hunched over at all - she really was a "spuff" (Short Person Under Five Feet") though the cute moniker was hardly appropriate as I would learn . She had this little biafran potatoe sack torso unsteadily balanced atop two gnarled, grisly turkey legs with arms to match. And I knew right then I was going to have a hard time believing anything coming out of this purported woman's mouth.

But then she went on to show me the handful of rejection letters she had received from real publishers, over an endless stream of Dorals and Dr. Peppers, while interjecting that the fact that she had such great legs (she stood up to show me and I wasn't quite sure what to do though I was tempted to baste them with some Rockin Roger's bbq sauce) was due to endless beach walks - six miles a day, which in retrospect was not surprising as it was an effective way to avoid being served, as she was at that particular time wanted for real estate fraud and the attempted murder of her own mother. But I didn't know that yet. There were a lot of things about Melanie that I didn't know, but I did learn that she was hosting a writer's conference/Harley convention in Myrtle Beach the following month and had some fun stories of past Harley invasions of Myrtle beach. She also told me of her lover in Arkansas who lived in a castle, and that is where she would go when she tired of the beach, no doubt to pick up several pounds of crank: her teeth were rotting right out of her mouth. She also spoke of a writer's conference she was holding in the fall in Banff Lake Louise, and it was this writer's conference which ultimately led to her demise. But we're not there yet, patient reader. One or two installments and the story will be told completely, I promise. The last picture I saw of her featured the wig but also an attractive orange jumpsuit, so the next chapter will tell of how she got from Myrtle Beach to prison in Vancouver, even dying along the way.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Was A Client of Melanie Mills Part II

I can't remember if I finished the first draft of "Hack" before or after I was diagnosed with Lyme's disease. I only remember that I was lit up with fever, at my Connecticut desk in my jammies, with the visuals of those final events coming in faster than I could type. (My current editor noted that the ending seemed "rushed". Well, yeah. In more ways than one. Fortunately the Lyme's has not been in play during the endless rewrites so I have been able to slacken the pace a bit.) Of course I did not package up that first draft and send it off to agent-land. It was to be several drafts and several months later before I compiled that first hit list, and why I included Melanie Mills from Myrtle Beach S.C. was, in retrospect, a strategic oversight.  A literary agent in Myrtle Beach was likely to have a very limited scope (ie: needlepoint how-to books), or be semi-retired with a blue chip client list and simply forgot to mention that new authors need not apply in Publisher's Marketplace. However Melanie Mills turned out to be neither of the above. Before I got to her on the list, I hit up "friends of friends" in the biz - good feedback but no takers. So then I did a fairly targeted "mass mailing" and was encouraged by the high percentage of agents asking for samples and in many cases full manuscripts. So when Melanie Mills officially accepted "Hack" part of me was saying I could do better than Myrtle Beach, but the voice of the bird in the hand was louder, so I signed on with Melanie. At first the relationship felt very dry, impersonal and business-like- almost secretive.  She had a few broad-brush changes (make the female protagonist "less of a bitch" in her words), and asked that I send her a ream of a particular type of paper - and that was the only thing she ever asked me to pay for. She shopped the novel to 4 publishers, and, in her typically quirky fashion, scanned their responses and sent me .jpgs. Everything seemed fairly normal, and completely legit. No reading fees or any other nonsense that the vampires in the publishing business typically use to dupe the unsuspecting author.  So after the first four rejections, she came back with some more broad-brush changes and suggestions, and vowed to go another round. This, as it happened, was around the time of the kid's spring break in Ridgefield, CT. Very coincidently, I found an unbelievable condo rental in none other than Myrtle Beach, which in April promised plentiful rays of warm sun, sand, surf and miniature golf on every corner. So, even though it was a 9-hour haul from the still-snowy and frozen lawns of New England, we packed up the family and set out for a truly spring vacation, and, of course, a meeting with Melanie Mills (details coming in Part III!). It was only a short 6 weeks later, after I had established somewhat of personal relationship with Melanie (despite her undoubtedly oddball demeanor), that I was to get the shock of my life - one that literally felt as if someone had dropped a 40 lb bag of Quickcrete on my chest. And of course it was much later when I realized that Hack's exploits - his story as it were - might have been partially responsible for the chain of events that unfolded in the coming year. So stay tuned! The crazy shit is yet to come!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Was a Client of Melanie Mills - Part I

Here is an honest-to-god "truth is stranger than fiction" story that surely must stand alone in the history of artist/agent relations. Melanie Mills (aka Elisabeth Von Hullesem, her true name, along with almost 20 other aliases, one of which - Linda Ray or something like that - was a published novelist) was for a short year or so my literary agent. Ah but she was so much more! So before I go any further, a caveat: I make no claim that my accounting of Ms. Von Hullessem's expoits are factually correct, nor do I endeavor to chronicle her sordid history. Because what I saw of her, and what happened between us, is plenty. More than enough. And though it may leave you, the reader, wanting more, it won't be coming from me. As I said, I am sated. Perhaps the periphery where I stood was about as much real-life weirdness as I could handle. Perhaps the remote chance that she got the idea to do what she did from the fictional events in the novel she was representing for me is too much responsibility. If I thought just a few of my gentle readers were stupid enough to take my stories as some sort of guide to reaping fame (be it behind bars or otherwise) and fortune , I would put down the pen and stick with the brush and the stringed instruments. But the truth is that Melanie Mills, after having read my novel, "Hack", (to be published Spring 2012, Harper-Davis Publishers) about a painter faking his own death to drive up the value of his work, did shortly thereafter mysteriously die in a car crash in Germany, only to show up in Canada a few years later. Coincidence? Cause and effect? I'll leave that for you to decide after you've heard the whole story. So stay tuned. It just gets more bizarre.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hey Kats n Kittens anybody who's been in hanging near my sphere the last several decades knows that I've been writing novels (as if 6 music CDs and dozens of plein air landscapes in oil were not enough to get me outside my tortured mixed-up self), and blow me in the morning one of them - the first one (though it's taken roughly 12 years to get it right) is being published. Hupdangalingadoo! If you go to the "Funny Stories" section of my website there are extensive synopses of each story, including "Hack", my debut. (I actually need to go in a cut those down so as not to give away the store). So, every week or so I'll publish a snippet from "Hack", and you can see it tickles your fancy. "