A letter to Mom and Dad, Part One
January 16, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
Dear Mom and Dad:
Today I got some really good news, which I’ll keep to myself for now. In case you hadn’t heard, I signed up with a fake publicity firm that stole almost $40,000 from me. The guy who runs the company has no background in the publishing industry. What happened was that Tim and I were out of our minds with stress, grief, and horror over the way you and Dad killed yourselves, so I didn’t do enough checking up.
Dad, you’d already died when I signed the contract on July 5, 2013. It was a bad year that ended quickly for you, but now that we’ve discovered how you knew about, hid, and ignored your cancer for five years, I realize that you were in hell for a very long time. I’m sorry.
We’re long past the point of discreetly withholding truths, Dad, so I’ll tell you that the suffering you endured your entire life was unnecessary. Much of your pain was genuine, but most was you milking your health problems for dramatic impact. You got used to playing games. When you finally learned that your death was real and imminent, it was too much for you.
Mom, Scott Thunes alerted me that my publicists were frauds. I felt about three minutes of gut-churning shame, lightheadedness, self-disgust, and despair, and then I accommodated this latest assault. After investigating and finding out that Scott was right, I contacted the publicist, who sent me a semiliterate, panicked reply, assuring me that all was well and that my success was guaranteed.
I responded that I didn’t believe him, and later I asked him to refund my money. He didn’t reply but he took down almost all of the Internet evidence that we’d worked together. Almost. It was a useless gesture, since I have more than enough e-mails full of lies and broken promises, and I have the contract I signed on July 5.
See, Mom and Dad, it was—and how I hate this term—a “perfect storm” of events that allowed me to make the worst choice in my now-dead literary career. It all began in December.
1. On December 14, 2012, a book project I really, really wanted to do fell through because my co-author got cold feet.
2. On December 27 I signed up up with the first Web designer who ripped me off. He was a fan of my work, so it didn’t enter my mind that he’d do what he did. His ethos is that of the mafia: It’s just business. Nothing personal. The contract was carefully worded in such a way that they were legally able to justify signing me up for a blog instead of building the Website they promised.
3. On January 16, 2013, both of you, Mom and Dad, got your cancer diagnoses.
4. On January 22, Dad, we had to go through the charade of you having your double hernia operation. They were going to do a biopsy to see if your mass was malignant, and if so, they’d postpone the operation. You knew all the time what they’d find, but you kept us in the dark. That same day, Mom’s doctor told me that she had metastasized cancer and that he’d told her that she had—at most—a year to live.
Mom, you denied knowing how ill you were. I’m not sure if you lied to us or blocked it out. Probably the latter.
5. On February 3 you lost your mind, Dad. We had to take care of you around the clock. You forced us to choose which parent to save. Since you could no longer be treated, we chose Mom.
6. On February 15 my publisher’s marketing director revealed that they had no “killer marketing plan” after all. Instead, Ghosts and Ballyhoo would be publicized the way my other books had been—meaning nothing would be done. To get me to do the book, I’d been promised that Ghosts would be the first mass-market book of the publishing house. Mine would be the first e-book too. None of that was true.
7. On February 17 my publisher’s marketing director said that she wouldn’t work with an independent publicist. I wrote to the publisher and told him he’d reneged on everything he’d promised.
8. On February 19 the publisher said he’d talk to the marketing director. Four months later she was gone. Did she jump or was she pushed? Don’t know and don’t care. Like almost everyone I’ve dealt with concerning Ghosts and Ballyhoo, she was a fraud. I did some research on her. She couldn’t market spinach to Popeye, as her record showed.
9. On February 20 I queried a huge publicity firm in LA. They responded in the affirmative. The same day, Dad, we had to put you in hospice because you were completely unmanageable.
10. This whole time, Mom, you refused to seek treatment. You kept saying, “Let’s treat Ed first,” when there was no reason that you both couldn’t be treated at the same time. We begged and begged, but you simply refused.
11. On February 21 the huge LA publicity firm arranged for a phone conference between me and the president. The same day, Dad, your relatives called and began badgering us with an ever-increasing series of demands. They wanted your ashes, then they wanted a funeral, then they wanted a military funeral, then they wanted certified death certificates. They did this daily, all three of them, calling us and e-mailing us separately.
12. On February 23, Dad, you died. Earlier in the day I’d forgiven you at great cost to myself. But it was the merciful thing to do. For all the idiots who think I’m saying, “You must forgive in order to find peace,” fuck you. I forgave Dad so that he’d die. That’s all. If I want your opinion, I’ll ask you for it.
13. On February 24 my first “Web designers” put the blog online without content. It was nothing but blank pages. They sent a link telling me how to upload all the content. It may as well have been in Etruscan. I told them to immediately take down the blog, and I told them I wouldn’t pay them. On the same day, a friend introduced me to the second Web designer who would rip me off.
14. On February 25 the first “Web designer” pointed out that that the contract had specified a WordPress “solution,” not a Website. A blog was a solution. Since he was right, I paid the $2500 and told him he was a crook and ought to be ashamed of himself. He didn’t respond.
15. On February 26 I signed the contract with the second Web designer and paid her $6000, half of the fee. We agreed to nine deadlines; the Website would be ready March 26. She didn’t meet a single deadline. I bombarded her with e-mails that she ignored. When I began threatening her with legal action, she finally explained what was happening: She was so sick from a vitamin deficiency that she couldn’t work.
16. On February 27 I had the phone consultation with the president of the huge LA publicity firm. He was funny and engaging and promised me that he’d make my book famous. His fee was very reasonable. I signed an agreement that the publicity campaign would begin in April.
17. February 28 was your eighty-fifth birthday, Mom. I continued harassing the second Web designer, who never responded.
18. On March 8 we told your relatives to go hell, Dad. There was no reason for them to get a certified death certificate, and under California law, it would’ve been illegal for us to send them one. They had some kind of ripoff scheme in the works, either an illegal life-insurance policy in your name, or a trust in your name containing the money you-know-who embezzled from your mother’s estate.
19. On March 26 I told the second Web designer to refund my money because she’d missed the deadline. Now I couldn’t begin the publicity campaign. I queried a big LA Web designer and asked him how fast he could build me a Website.
20. On March 27 the LA Web designer told me he couldn’t build me the Website I wanted in less than three months. I therefore had no choice but to give the second ripoff Web designer a second chance.
21. On March 28, the second ripoff Web designer swore that she’d be finished in two days. I agreed to let her try. She didn’t even bother. I sent her several e-mails telling her she needed to refund my $6000. She didn’t reply.
I Googled her stupid hyphenated name and discovered that the whole time she claimed she was too sick to work, she was eating gourmet meals at expensive restaurants and throwing parties. She photographed all this activity and posted the images on Flickr. I took screen shots of the photos.
22. On April 1 I signed a contract with the big LA Web designer to build my Extravagumbo Website. This Web designer recommended a fourth Web designer—the Brazilians—who would build me a placeholder Website.
23. On April 2 I asked the LA publicity firm to postpone my campaign. They agreed, telling me it would begin June 15, 2013.
24. On April 3, Mom, you had your cancer surgery and came through it brilliantly.
25. On April 4 I signed a contract with the Brazilians to have a Website ready by May 15. The same day I filed a claim with PayPal against my Web designer and contacted an Australian law firm. The law firm never responded, and PayPal said they couldn’t refund me because a Website was a VIRTUAL product, not an ACTUAL product.
26. On April 7, Mom, you stopped eating and exercising at the hospital. No matter what we said, you simply refused to cooperate. I knew then that you’d die just like Dad did.
27. On April 14 I reported my Australian Web designer to VISA, alleging fraud. I spoke to a very hard-boiled investigator and sent VISA all the documentation. Within a month, they’d put the designer out of business.
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