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 She organized and published the schedule on a dedicated website, advertised on all the sites where unpublished writers troll for agents, deployed a reservation system and started collecting money.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.