Thomas Wictor

A letter to Mom and Dad, Part Two

A letter to Mom and Dad, Part Two

My letter to Mom and Dad continues.

28. On April 14, Mom, you came home. You refused to eat or exercise, even though you’d been told over and over that you needed to do so in order to be a good candidate for chemotherapy. We fought about it, and you accused us of criticizing you. Then you played really dirty pool.

“Well, then just put me away somewhere, since I’m obviously crazy,” you said. “I’m obviously too much of a bother for you.”

We were trying to save your life, and you despised us for it.

29. On April 17 we had to readmit you to the hospital, Mom, because you had pneumonia that you didn’t tell us about, and your surgical incision had become infected, which you also didn’t tell us. You never came home again. Gradually, I realized something: Whenever I visited, you became less cooperative.

Tim and I had to make the decision to keep me away from you as much as possible because I reminded you too much of Dad. After you died I discovered why you and Dad had such hostility toward me. All I can say is I’m sorry. You should’ve given me up for adoption.

30. On April 26, Dad, I took your urn of ashes to a Mother Hips concert and introduced you to Scott Thunes. He was very glad to meet you. I know that pissed you off, but Scott was respectful, and it was funny.

31. I then spent as much time as I could finishing Chasing the Last Whale. My plan was to turn Ghosts and Ballyhoo into a trilogy.

32. On May 13 I signed up with CreateSpace to publish Chasing the Last Whale and Hallucinabulia: the Dream Diary of an Unintended Solitarian. This publisher is…lacking. It has trouble with proofreading, formatting, getting the colors of your cover right, and meeting deadlines. Every person I spoke to was an up-talking young woman who sounded like a broody hen-parrot.

“Haa, Taam? Gaad taa haar fraam yaa? Haaw’s aat gaan? Aabaagee? Aaabaago? Aabaagaa?”

33. On May 15 the Brazilians hadn’t finished my Website, violating their contractual obligations. They swore that they would be finished before the June 15 publicity campaign began. Since I didn’t want to start all over again from scratch, I agreed to let them try.

34. On May 22 the temporary Website that the Brazilians built went live. It wasn’t what I wanted, and the admin panel was in Portuguese. Later they tried to switch my domain-name host without telling me, and my hosting company said it was the first step in identity fraud. Those of you still alive should check out the Website. Click here and run your cursor across the photo. Why the hell did they do that? I gave up fighting them after a month. They wanted to do things their way, regardless of my desires.

35. On May 31 I got my first “Publicist’s Tip” from the LA publicity firm. I was told for the first time that I would be required to write my own press kit and pitch to radio shows. This was news indeed.

We constantly advise clients that the media likes the seven tips type format… You must always be creating new and fresh interview topics for us that the media will find exciting, timely and highly entertaining.

I didn’t understand. The book was written. I couldn’t change it into something “new, fresh, exciting, timely, and highly entertaining.” The book was what it was. It seemed that my publicists had no idea that I was a failed music journalist, not a life coach and exotic dancer. It was as though the president of the company had forgotten that he’d spoken to me for an hour about my book.

My first two attempts at writing a seven-point pitch were rejected. I was told to be more bold, exciting, new, fresh, and original.

36. June 15 was the date my publicity campaign was supposed to start. Nothing happened. I wrote to the publicists and got no response.

37. On June 21 I got a form e-mail from my publicists announcing that the company had changed its approach, and now I had to write a “Power Pitch” that consisted of only a hook, a teaser, and a brief description of who I was and why I should be interviewed.

I sent in my “Power Pitch.”

Hook: You’re not a failure until you’re dead. And I can prove that even then, you aren’t.

Teaser: It’s a win-win, no matter what.

Thomas Wictor is a former music journalist and the author of five books. He is an expert on overcoming every failure imaginable, having experienced them all, including death.

38. On June 25 my publicist responded to my “Power Pitch.”

Ran this by a few producers — not working. Take a few days and really create something that is cool and original, and pegs on to what’s trending (got to be timely), and be sure to make it entertaining and fun. Currently, the feature media, morning shows, etc., are booking entertainment over information.

I wrote back and asked if he’d be willing to write the power pitch himself, since this was my third attempt and he was giving me absolutely no guidance. My publicist said he would, but the price would quintuple. I now understood what he was doing, so I told him to cram it.

That same day, June 25, I queried the publicists who would take me for $40,000 over seven months. What I got for forty grand was one local newspaper interview; one magazine interview (a classical music publication); three radio interviews of ten to twenty minutes each; and three book reviews, one from an Amazon reviewer.

39. On June 26 the Brazilians told me I’d completely misunderstood how my Website worked. A newsletter was supposed to go out only occasionally. If I sent out a newsletter when I updated the blog daily, I’d be blacklisted as a spamming Website. I’d misunderstood because they’d never said a thing about the subject.

On my own I learned about RSS feeds and asked the Brazilians to put one on my site. They agreed, for another $500, bringing the total cost to $7500.

40. On June 27 the second con-artist publicists contacted me and arranged for me to speak to the president of the company on July 1.

41. On July 1 I spoke to the president of the second scam operation pretending to be a publicity firm, and this deep-voiced soother expressed much sympathy for all the problems I’d experienced with Web designers and publicists. Since the book was about overcoming trauma, I told him about your death, Dad, and I told him that you were sinking fast, Mom.

The publicist was very reassuring, and he explained in detail how his company worked. It seemed brilliant. They’d protect me from stalkers and predators. After we hung up, I did an Internet search on his company but found nothing bad. I don’t remember if I researched his name.

The truth is, Mom and Dad. I was desperate. It was any-port-in-a-storm time, so I was careless. In my defense the stress of the year so far had made my brain fog and PTSD-SP much worse. I was constantly dizzy, nauseated, and exhausted. The insomnia returned, and when I could sleep, I had nightmares like the one about Dad sawing off my hand and you, Mom, as a little Mexican girl marching into the Valley of Death, hand in hand with a man in a crummy chimp suit.

42. On July 3 I got an e-mail.

tom you fucking sob DIE ALREADY. You should be glad your criminal father is dead. You should be celebrating. Maybe your internet friends would love a story. In any event, you deserve to be treated like a stable boy.

You are nothing but a loser, always have been, always will be. And you’re still full of rage and self-pity. You are a fucking pathetic, cruel and hypocritical emotional moron. When you die, if I’m still around to hear of that glorious day, I’ll have a party.

43. On July 5 I signed a contract with the second flim-flam publicity firm, and things just got worse from there. Mom, you got sicker and sicker, and my Extravagumbo Website was delayed and delayed and delayed. None of the people at the design company were native speakers of English, even though they all had names like Dan, Phil, and Hayden.

I won’t remind you of what you did to yourself, Mom. These are “things too fierce to mention,” as you liked to say. But you outdid Dad in the sheer horror and self-degradation of your death. Every time I saw you, I was reminded of what I wrote about others; sadly, it turns out I was writing about you too.

The hardest lesson I had to learn was to identify the runners and not go chasing after them… It’s both a game—a form of hide and seek—and a survival tactic. The running keeps the house of cards from collapsing in on itself. And therein lies the anguish for me because in an echo of the dualism word game Carmen and I played in a different era, the runner is like Schrödinger’s cat, dead and alive simultaneously, fleeing you and reaching out, rejecting and embracing his or her circumstances, hellishly aware and in total denial.

Your mere words can destroy a life. The irony is, it’s the runner who gives you such power. The faster they run, the more powerful they make you. And if you chase them, you’ll grow in strength and destructiveness. Without meaning to, you’ll become a tornado, earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, wildfire, and plague all rolled into one. By trying to help, you’ll lay total waste.

So be merciful. Call off the chase and just let them run.

Ghosts and Ballyhoo, page 276

I had to let you go, Mom. And it killed me.

After I signed with the second publicity con artists, I was swamped in publishing-related spam. I get thirty a day, easily.


44. On August 30 my Extravagumbo Website went live. I continued writing Hallucinabulia. There was no sense of time. I’d write; visit you, Mom; and then talk with Tim about how you were determined to die, even though you said you didn’t want to. I’d started drinking coffee again when Dad was dying, and coffee contributes to the brain fog of Meniere’s.

The days and nights were indistinguishable. All I did for the month of September was wake up; write; communicate with my publicists, who expressed such concern for you, Mom; visit you; and hear Tim’s descriptions of the latest agony. In September my publicists got me one radio interview and told me they had another lined up. It didn’t happen.

45. On October 10 Scott Thunes told me that my Extravagumbo Website was invisible to search engines. The $12,000 I paid for it had resulted in nothing. My publicists looked at it and said it was the worst-configured Website they’d ever seen. They had a search-engine optimization (SEO) department that would fix it for me. I knew you were only days from death, Mom. You were unconscious the last time I saw you.

My publicist wrote to me that he’d read this post to his office, and they’d all cried together.

46. On October 11 I contacted the president of the Web designing company and complained that my site was invisible to search engines. He said he’d done everything I wanted.

“But why isn’t it optimized for search engines?”

“Well, you didn’t ask the right questions,” he said. Apparently he figured that I wanted to spend $12,000 on an invisible Web site. Otherwise I would’ve asked him about SEO, an acronym I didn’t learn until October 10, 2013.

Since he’s just another lying, promise-breaking fraud, and since I myself designed the whole thing in mockup form, I took the name of his company off the home page. That same day my publicist and I had a conference call with the head of the publicist’s SEO department. They explained what was wrong with the site and said it would take about four months to fix it. Optimizing the site wouldn’t cost me anything because it was covered in the monthly retainer.

47. On October 13, 2013, you died at 12:00 p.m., Mom. I wrote the publicists and told them. Everyone in the company commiserated, and the boss and his wife sent me a sympathy card.

48. On October 14 the publicists billed me for $2250. I asked them what it was for, and they said the SEO work on my site. It turned out that things were much worse than they’d thought, and they couldn’t ask someone to fix it for free. I barely remember the conversation. At the end of our talk, I paid the invoice, since I’d seen for myself that the Website was invisible to search engines. If the SEO required four months, that would add another $9000 to the cost of my campaign.

49. On October 28 I had a complete mental and emotional collapse. It took me weeks to recover. I wrote about it, and my publicists read it. And used it.

So, Mom and Dad, now you can see why it was so easy for soulless, greedy, evil ghouls to string me along. All it took was kind words and an awareness that I get senile when I’m under a lot of stress.

The problem is that a book has a publicity lifetime of only a year. I had to continue trying to publicize Ghosts and Ballyhoo, as you ordered me to do, Mom. You didn’t want to see me very often because I reminded you of Dad, and since I knew you were going to die, I tried to make my book a success. I had to salvage something from 2013.

Well, you died and my book is another failure. But the good news is that I’ve hooked up with some people who are going to help me annihilate the creatures who used your suicide, Dad’s suicide, our familial tragedies, and my mental illness to bilk me of $40,000.

What rotten lives we all had, eh? Remember, Mom, how every night as I was leaving, I’d say, “Tomorrow will be better.”

“You promise?” you’d ask.

“I promise,” I’d say.

Well, I think you and Dad are happier now, and I can guarantee you that I’m going to be much happier pretty soon. It’ll be the happiness of a berserker during battle, but I have to feel this savage kind of joy for a while. When I’ve completed my mission, I’ll concentrate on reacquiring the quieter happiness I’d achieved before you and Dad killed yourselves and ravenous wolves tore me to pieces.

A young man once told me, “Don’t worry sir. It’s all good.” My faith in that statement has been tested to the limit, but I hope to gradually return to where I was a little more than a year ago. And I know now that this is something I have to do, to try and protect others.

“Who must do the hard things? He who can.”

Take care, and I hope to see you soon.


PS: Mom, how come your hero Scott Thunes always seems to be there to mitigate the worst of my decisions? Is he an angel too? Ask the Big Guy for me.


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