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Good To Know

A Violent Society

Revisiting a blog I wrote in 2012

 

Guns seem to be everywhere lately and though innocent people, people who don't carry guns, have been dying, no one wants to do anything about it.

 

But violence has a long history in this country and many believe that to have freedom we have to accept risk.  But does it have to be at the point of a gun?

 

They say there have been 700 anti-Muslim attacks since 9/11.  But we can look farther than that to see images of intolerance in this country.  The real problem seems to be people that are lunatics can get guns.  These are smart lunatics, too, for I'm told they can outwit the psychological evaluation questionnaire they are supposed to complete before getting a weapon.  Maybe they're just smarter than whoever evaluates the questionnaire.

 

Smart.  Like Mark David Chapman, who gunned down John Lennon by shooting him five times in the back.  In the back.  I don't know a more horrifying act than killing peaceful people, like the Sikh recently in Wisconsin.  But we understand, at least, the anti-Muslim sentiment and how a whacko can make a turban-esque mistake.  

 

Be different in America at your own risk, right?

 

No, shooting innocent people because you're mad at a few radicals is never an answer.  And yet it seems the chosen outlet in this country, one that no one is trying to do anything about.

 

What was Lennon's crime?  It's hard to imagine that this happened to him, even today, 40 years later.  World-class peacemaker who wanted everyone to live together, completely accepting each other.  But Chapman, whose name I wish I could forget, was a born-again Christian who took offense to Lennon's utopian sentiment in Imagine.  

 

Chapman was a Beatle fan until Lennon's innocent comment about Beatlemania being too big in 1966.  Many Christians took offense—at 13, I was one, and that allowed the emergence of the Monkees who recaptured that innocence that the Beatles outgrew.

 

I had to mature into John Lennon myself. As I rediscovered him with Imagine, I learned that most of my favorite Beatle songs were Lennon songs.  One of my wedding songs was his, but I didn't know he sang it when I picked "Love is Real."

 

But it's interesting, now that I think about it.  It seems Lennon's "anti-Christian" comment was a defining moment in time in many ways.  It allowed John to reach out beyond the Beatles.  But it also made early Beatle music my favorite, and I never could figure out why my husband, who is older than me, preferred late Beatle music.  It's because he became a fan after that comment, when he wasn't before.

 

Chapman, on the other hand, turned away from the Beatles and never looked back.  He became Christian.  He allowed the song Imagine, and the man, eat away at his soul.  He wanted to make a name for himself and he thought Lennon was bad for the world.

 

Did he take a psychological evolaution to get a gun?  Doubtful.  How about Oswald or Ray or Sirhan?  Why was violence seemingly born in the 60s?  Because the hippie movement that blossomed also gave birth to its opposition.

Unless we realize we have a real problem in this country with racism and religious intolerance, this violence will continue.  Who will be next?  You?  Me?

 

I'd like to see guns completely purged from the U.S.  Barring that, the FBI profilers need to sit down and create a fool-proof questionnaire … problem is, can we really deny someone a gun because he answers questions wrong?

But then what can we do?  Just keep putting up with the freedom to be killed by a lunatic?  What terrible new event awaits us?

 

They like to say guns don't kill people.  People kill people.  But how will they kill if you take that gun away?  Bombs?  Maybe.  Knives?  Doubtful.  You won't kill too many in a theater with knives.  

 

Guns are easy.  Too easy.  Just ask Yoko Ono.

 

Update: I post this as Trump's Proud Boys are roaming the streets with guns, looking to create the violence that could start another  Civil War. Because do not doubt that Trump's only way to save his own skin is to at least have a part of the country he could still be president of. Fortunately, for all his blow-hard words, so far, are all empty. DO NOT give them something to shoot at. We only have a little more than a month before we have a new president.

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Taking No For an Answer

Writers write what they know.  Editors reject what they don't know.  How do the two manage to find compatible ground?  The answer might be in figuring out when they're not rejecting you, but testing your response to criticism.  Maybe sometimes their 'no' is checking your passion.

 

I used to accept rejection. I'm sure I don't know anyone who's been rejected more than I have.  I once thought that if someone said no to one of my novels or queries, that's the end of it.  They said no and there's no bargaining anywhere.

 

They would say things like "not for us," and I'd say, "Hey, but I studied the market and I'm sure you take this kind of stuff so what gives?"  And then I started to think that they were only saying nice things so that I didn't shoot back one of my dreaded "you're an idiot" emails -- you know, the one frustrated writers can't resist sending, especially after the coffee pot breaks and the computer eats their latest Pulitzer worthy article.

 

Yeah, I used to send angry email responses. But I have evolved into a more compliant being --just shed a few tears, file the rejection and move on.

 

And along the way I've learned to notice the potential "yes" embedded inside the "no."

 

Sometimes editors write nice things.  Sometimes they mean the nice things they write. It's up to us writers to become confident in our work as professionals so that we can see the difference.

 

Here's my suggestion: Find encouragement in every kind word used in a rejection, and follow up with a nice thank you specially worded to give them a chance to reconsider, even if you don't believe there's a chance they will reconsider.

 

Because there's a chance they might.

 

Recently I got a rejection on a novel that ended with how they liked my writing but didn't feel they could do the marketing that would guarantee its success.  I immediately responded with "Tell you what -- publish the book and I'll do all the marketing."

 

This brought them back, encouraged by my passion, to request the novel. They were confused by the genre, or the way I had positioned it, and with their response I realized I may have been marketing the novel wrong all along.  

Of course, I still want help marketing.  More on that in a minute.

 

Does this mean you should follow up on every "no"?  I wouldn't.  A lot of rejections come in the form of form letters, and that means the submission had nothing for them.  

 

Once I asked one of these if they could share a reason for the no.  One publisher happily responded with:  "I don't like your writing."

 

We know writing is a subjective business.  But there is always the possibility that some rejections that are nicely worded came really close to being acceptances.  I had another publisher request a series of six changes to my novel, and five of them I agreed with.  He rejected it again because I didn't agree with the sixth. That's okay, too. There's only so far we can go when changing our vision to match someone else's, after all.

 

Another publisher that responded to my "passion" may ask for changes. They may still reject it.  I had a rejection recently that "the main character was boring." Okay, fine. I told them maybe I should make her a reflection of  me, and I offered him my vampire series. He's now looking at that. As writers we have to be open to change, to realizing that we are sometimes too close to our work to see its flaws. That boring character is getting some shots of adrenaline.

 

But we also have to be sure enough in what we've written to know when a suggestion crosses the line.  

Once I got a contract for a novel that said that I was going to allow them to make so many changes that the book's copyright could be taken from me.  I had another contract that said that if I backed out for any reason (i.e. didn't like the cover), they would expect me to pay them $1,000 for their trouble. Both contracts were rejected.

 

Once I signed with a publisher for my second novel with them and they proceeded to put out a badly covered novel -- one guaranteed to keep its readers away. I didn't criticize the cover of my first book with them enough. Now both books are unpublished.  

 

A contract I signed for a nonfiction had a clause guaranteed I'd have an editor in six months. Then he said he couldn't find an editor for such a large task. So yeah, that got cancelled, too. 

 

All kinds of things can go wrong with a yes, but getting that yes and finding out if you can work with them is 3/4ths of the submission battle.  Maybe this new publisher for my vampire series won't do any marketing.  But maybe they do.  I'll never know until I get a yes and see a contract. And I'll never get anywhere, in my mind, if I'm just a self-published author.

 

Taking "no" for an answer keeps a lot of fledgling writers away from traditional markets.  Most self-published authors I know could not bear up under repeated rejection, and did not recognize the slightest encouragement.  One did not realize that they could have been testing her when they told her not to set her novel in Brownsville because it wouldn't attract a big enough readership.  Had she responded with all the reasons it was the perfect location, she might have ended up with the contract.  She could have said: "But I wanted to write what I know and love passionately.  And Brownsville, so close to Mexico, really is an exotic location."  She could have made her readers love Brownsville, but first she needed to make an editor love it.

 

I'm going to be making that big change in my 3rd vampire book. It'll be set, not in a fictional town outside of Madison, but in Sauk City. It'll bring a lot more realism to an already realistic vampire.

 

Be realistic.  Following up on a query like this might help, and it might not. If it doesn't, just cross them off your list and move on. There is not harm or foul in the follow-up, if done with respect and care. You can sense if it was the wrong market. Don't pester, because someday they could be the right market.

 

Publishers like to see if we're going to be an author they can work with. They test our passion.  Rejections can be part of that test. So if there is any kind of personal note in the rejection, more than just a form letter, respond.  You have nothing more to lose.  

 

Your goal as an author should be to find someone who believes in you.  Take every rejection seriously, and be proud of yourself for putting your work out there.  

 

The end result is a better book.

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Driving Tips of the Distracted

We know texting during driving is dangerous because you have to look down a lot.  It's similar to reading a Kindle while driving.  Who does these things?

 

But distractions while driving has a long history.  Back when we were still riding horses, falling off and being dragged with a foot caught in the stirrup was the number cause of cowboy deaths.  These were good riders and probably felt infallible.  Were they distracted? Sure! Swimmers only drown because they know how to swim. People who don't know how to swim don't take chances.

 

Let's face it. We're human beings.  If we can't handle one horse power, how are we supposed to cope with 40-hp or more?  Human beings don't belong behind a big metal machine on wheels that allow us to travel 80 miles an hour or more.  Because we're human and incapable of focusing on any one task for more than ten minutes without becoming distracted.

 

It doesn't matter if it's texting or staring off into space thinking about what you're going to do when you get home. Did you ever have a day driving the same old route where you couldn't remember having gotten from one road to the next?  You do it so often that it becomes automatic. That's distracted driving.

 

That doesn't mean we should approve of things like texting.  Absolutely not.  There are some things that we humans have to do while driving -- texting is not one of them.  I don't think peeing into a Coke bottle is necessary either, because one should be able to hold it until the next rest stop.  Nor do I think we should have a coffee cup in one hand and a Danish in the other.  Use the cup holder at least, to always have one hand on the wheel.

 

Some say they have to text while driving to let someone know they're going to be late, or to get directions because they can't find the place. Really? So be late. Or pull over. Logic should not be that hard to come by.

 

Some things are related to driving and should be allowed, lest we get too carried away and remove all activity behind the wheel except our brains.  Drinking coffee.  Okay.  Many people get up too early in the morning and need that extra jolt on the way to work.  Smoking.  Sure.  Look, we've already taken nearly every other place away from smokers, and I for one don't want a lot of angry jittery drivers on the road.  But for heaven's sake, put out the cigarette before tossing it into a drought-ridden corn field.  Phone calls.  Now I know there's no way to regulate this, but responsible people limit them to the necessities.  I'll be late for dinner because I'm stuck in traffic.  Did you say to turn right or left at Lombardi? Call instead of text. Newer cars make this easy. But phone calls should not be used as a way to kill time.  (Guilt as charged, officer!) GPSing.  I am a big breaker of this one—our GPS says do not use while driving.  I do.  But I find it to be a legitimate driving excuse.  You can tell when drivers who don't know where they are.  They make sudden lane changes, lunge onto the off ramp at the last second and drive too fast because they got lost and were late.  Yes, I do set the directions before I leave most of the time.  But there are some odd times when where I was headed wasn't where it said it was; I'm always aware of the traffic around me if I have to set it while driving. Or I pull over. The nice thing about phone GPS, as opposed to my old Garmin one, is that I can tell it where to take me, rather than having to enter the address by hand. Handy!

 

What to do if human beings get distracted?  Say you want to talk to the passenger in the seat next to you.  Or sing a song with the radio.  Or even just think about … something. These are human activities that are impossible to control while driving. We have to find ways to stay alert to the road. I find singing helps. But listening to news on the radio is distracting. Having someone in the passenger seat to talk to helps. It's a second set of eyes. But talking on the phone doesn't help, unless you are also sharing road patterns with them so they know where your eyes and mind really are.

 

Very few new drivers can afford the distractions.  Once people get used to driving they get cocky and think they can drive no-handed.  But driving always requires a certain amount of attention.  One hand always on the wheel, both is better.  A good distance between you and the car ahead of you for better response time. NO TAILGATING! You need breaking distance to pull yourself out of that distracted mind.

 

And always know where you're going. Always be aware of how many cars are around you.  

 

Distracted drivers don't notice people trying to merge onto the highway.  Remember the MERGING rule -- if the merging car is ahead of you, slow up a bit and let them in, or be aware if you can move into the faster lane. You can only do that safely if you know what the traffic pattern is around you.  Is there a semi next to you in the fast lane?  Then you can't move over.  If the car is behind you while merging then they have to fall behind you. The driver in the right lane is the one that likely has cruise control on and should maintain their speed, letting the merger adjust. We don't read minds, people!  If you're merging, it's up to you to adjust. Sometimes they expect you to move over, and sometimes they try to force you to. But they will be at fault if they hit you, and they know it.

 

Being distracted is being human.  Give everyone room to drive safely.  You know what causes rush hour traffic? People who drive bumper to bumper. That's right -- tail-gaters. Traffic slows up because there are those in the left lanes who need to exit and no one in the right lane wants to let them in. Rush hour is like a construction zone. Tail-gaters are selfish drivers.

 

Listen, we have enough problems this holiday season. Staying safe is the main one. Don't crowd, don't speed, don't text, don't drink and drive, but telling us not to be distracted?  We're not robots. Keep that safety area around you at all times when you drive, and hopefully you'll be human a little while longer.

 

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Yeah Yeah Yeah: Rights to Song Lyrics


(new edit of a 2013 blog - as I'm doing a final edit on Dinner at Marshall Fields)


I entered the world of usage of song lyrics in a novel as a babe in the musical woods. Could they object to a line or two? Or even a whole stanza? I couldn't imagine why, and in fact really didn't give it a thought when I started writing Dinner at Marshall Fields.


As a historical writer who put together a huge nonfiction book complete with quotes and photos, many of which need permission or at least complete footnoting, I'm not sure why this would escape my attention. Songs are still an artist's creation, even if the artist doesn't always retain their own copyright. But since I lift quotes from other works, with proper recognition, why couldn't I do that to songs? Well, for one thing, if you use more than a small percentage of an author's work, they could come after you for payment. So okay, what about just a line? And who do I ask?


That's the rub. I didn't have to ask John Lennon's widow for right to quote a few of his lyrics in my book. I had to ask Sony/ATV Music, who owns the Michael Jackson estate. My publisher, Arline Chase of Write Words, Inc., told me of an author who talked to John Denver personally, who said he'd be honored to have her refer to his song, and so she did, only to find out he didn't own the rights.


I find this process to be quite arbitrary. For one thing, I am not playing the song without permission on a radio statio, and making money. Or recording the song and claiming it as my own. Do DJs who play at weddings have to get permission for every song they play? Why not? They're making money. I'm going to ask next chance I get, unless someone here knows the answer and can fill me in. I am merely quoting a few lines of lyrics, by far not the whole song, and giving proper credit. What is the problem?


The problem is someone wants money. And it's often not the person who created the piece at all. We're not paying for the literary endeavor, but yes, in a round-about way we are, because they had to sell their rights and did so, we might expect, willingly for some monetary need.


But these creative artists feel they should get something off my work, if it includes a clever reference to theirs. They might make money off my reference if it gains them another fan through that reference -- someone who finds a quoted lyric intriguing, or likes the way I used it. But aren't the lyrics you find online owned by someone who paid to own them, not the one who wrote them? Same difference. No matter who owns the rights, they stand to make money on them through my reference, even if just a digitized copy sells.


How does Amazon do it? I could pay for a music subscription and get to listen to all kinds of music, most of which I'm sure I wouldn't like. Do they buy a blanket approach?


Odd business, music.


I don't know all the details as to why the Beatles would have sold their copyrights to Michael Jackson in the first place. Were they not making enough money from the songs anymore? And I'm just talking about the use of a few lyrics, not the whole song. You can find complete lyrics online to just about any song you want. That enables you to sing the song out loud, and you can do that karaoke without paying a fee, as long as you don't make money doing it. Or don't get caught making money on it.


Why would I begrudge these copyright owners a use fee for these lyrics? Few writers, unless they're of the Stephen King category (and I bet even he wouldn't attempt to write a novel that involves the evolution of music from the '40s to the '60s) can afford to pay an exorbitant licensing fee.


Even with my nonfiction, I only paid for a few photos I felt it had to have. Otherwise, I sought out the free use ones, and got permission wherever I could. In a few instances, I couldn't find the permission holder and published them anyway. You have to take a chance in this business sometimes.


So my first stop is to find out how much a few lines of lyrics will cost me, and then let the publisher decide if they think they are worth being used in the book. Because I do not want to self-publish anymore (I'll save that for my death bed). I figured this kind of research should be up to me, because it might be hard to find a publisher if I haven't done this research. They might be leery of any book that relies on music lyrics to help tell its tale.


And that could be the problem I've had with submissions. So finally I cut the lyrics down to just the title. Which is a shame, because some will not be aware of how well that song fit the situation. In "Legend of a Kiowa Son" I used Shakespeare quotes. That's fun, and no copyright to worry about! But it wouldn't fit here, because Holly Day was a singer in the 40s, while the story is set in '68. In some places I used made-up lyrics for her. (See cover and blurb for novel somewhere on my website.)


I have purchased rights in the past. I paid $200 for a map that's in my Pensaukee environmental nonfiction, now making the circuits. Another $200 for one I used in the Civil War book. I became the only authorized Bonanza novelist by gaining permission to publish two novels direct from creator and producer of the series, David Dortort—permission that some people to this day believe I never got. I didn't pay anything up front, but Bonanza Ventures gets 20% of my net royalties—only 10% until I decided to use the official licensed map on the cover. (It hiked up higher in my 2nd and 3rd editions recently published.)


A major goal for this new novel ws getting the rights to the Beatles song, "In My Life." With an online search and a phone call, I learned that Sony/ATV held the rights. I found an email and they responded promptly with a form to return with the contextual pages of the book where the lyrics would appear.


The form wanted me to name the publisher.


It would appear that this is a job most publishers undertake, but undaunted, I told them I didn't have one but might have to re-do the work if the cost was prohibitive. While waiting for a response, I went through a movie script I'd written and noted that I was using lines from other movies. So in this draft, I removed them, thinking it could be stopping the script from getting noticed. I thought the same could be true for this novel.


Sony/ATV responded later that day, though I wasn't sure they would. They said it would cost me $300. That's not bad, I reasoned. Until I saw the next part. For 500 copies. I thought maybe they missed a couple of zeroes. Okay, so this means they think I'm going to self-publish. And while 60 cents a copy doesn't seem so bad, really, it's only for one song. What if the book needs 20 songs? It can become exorbitant.


In my major nonfiction, back in 2013, I got a publisher and then set out to get all the rights to the photos, before the publisher asked me to because he didn't even read the book before accepting it. In that process I found there were some photos I could do without, many that could be replaced with something that was free, and then the ones I needed to pay for I got the prices so that the publisher could decide if they were worth buying. But I cancelled the contract from lack of work on his part, because I felt he didn't have a clue what to do with all these photos and maps.


I wrote back to Sony/ATV asking for a third option, because the only options they gave was either to pay the amount or remove the lyrics. I told them I just wanted an idea of cost, and that I will keep this form and have a publisher decide if I need the lyrics. Then I went through the book and removed whatever lines weren't needed to tell the story. "Yeah yeah sigh." Well, there's at least one potential lyric problem I solved.


Just mentioning the song title by name, which is legal, had to be enough.


The nice thing is that with lyrics, as with photos, you can say that all attempts were made to find out about licensing, and if they don't ever respond, you can go ahead and use the lyrics.


But keep a paper trail, just in case.


The good thing about working with Sony/ATV is how prompt and reliable they are. She also told me that they approve the context use of the lyrics in my novel, but I still have to pay the licensing fee. At least now I know, and will be careful not to be frivolous with lyrics in a novel that depends a lot on how music changes from the 40s to the 60s.

 

But something will be lost in the transition, and that's too bad.

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An Anti-Gun Post from 2012

I wrote this in 2012, and it's disturbing because we see the forces that elected Trump emerging.

 

A VIOLENT SOCIETY

Guns seem to be everywhere lately and though innocent people, people who don't carry guns, have been dying, no one wants to do anything about it.

But violence has a long history in this country and many believe that to have freedom we have to accept risk.  But does it have to be at the point of a gun?

They say there have been 700 anti-Muslim attacks since 9/11.  But we can look farther than that to see images of intolerance in this country.  The real problem seems to be people that are lunatics can get guns.  These are smart lunatics, too, for I'm told they can outwit the psychological evaluation questionnaire they are supposed to complete before getting a weapon.  Maybe they're just smarter than whoever evaluates the questionnaire.

Smart.  Like Mark David Chapman, who gunned down John Lennon by shooting him five times in the back.  In the back.  I don't know a more horrifying act that killing peaceful people, like the Sikh recently in Wisconsin.  But we understand, at least, the anti-Muslim sentiment and how a whacko can make a turban-esque mistake.  

Be different in America at your own risk, right?

No, shooting innocent people because you're mad at a few radicals is never an answer.  And yet it seems the chosen outlet in this country, one that no one is trying to do anything about.

What was Lennon's crime?  It's hard to imagine that this happened to him, even today.  World-class peacemaker who wanted everyone to live together, completely accepting each other.  But Chapman, whose name I wish I could forget, was a born-again Christian who took offense to Lennon's utopian sentiment in Imagine.  

Chapman was a Beatle fan until Lennon's innocent comment about Beatlemania being too big in 1966.  Many Christians took offense—at 13, I was one, and that allowed the emergence of the Monkees who recaptured that innocence that the Beatles outgrew.

I had to mature into John Lennon myself.  Many fans had to.  As I rediscovered him with Imagine, I learned that most of my favorite Beatle songs were Lennon songs.  One of my wedding songs was his, but I didn't know that when I picked it.

But it's interesting, now that I think about it.  It seems Lennon's "anti-Christian" comment was a defining moment in time in many ways.  It allowed John to reach out beyond the Beatles.  But it also made early Beatle music my favorite, and I never could figure out why my husband, who is older than me, preferred late Beatle music.  It's because he became a fan after that comment, when he wasn't before.

Chapman, on the other hand, turned away from the Beatles and never looked back.  He became Christian.  He allowed the song Imagine, and the man, eat away at his soul.  He wanted to make a name for himself and he thought Lennon was bad for the world.

Did he take a psychological evolaution to get a gun?  Doubtful.  How about Oswald or Ray or Sirhan?  Why was violence seemingly born in the 60s?  Because the hippie movement that blossomed also gave birth to its opposition.

Unless we realize we have a real problem in this country with racism and religious intolerance, this violence will continue.  Who will be next?  You?  Me?

I'd like to see guns completely purged from the U.S.  Barring that, the FBI profilers need to sit down and create a fool-proof questionnaire … problem is, can we really deny someone a gun because he answers questions wrong?

But then what can we do?  Just keep putting up with the freedom to be killed by a lunatic?  What terrible new event awaits us?

They like to say guns don't kill people.  People kill people.  But how will they kill if you take that gun away?  Bombs?  Maybe.  Knives?  Doubtful.  You won't kill too many in a theater with knives.  

Guns are easy.  Too easy.  Just ask Yoko Ono.

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Why Read about the Civil War?

CIVIL WAR & BLOODY PEACE: Following Orders is an 20-year project that took me around the country into dusty files and hard to read microfilm until I thought my eyes would fall out.  It took me through two degrees, earning me a master's in history in 2006.  If anyone had told me how much work one of these books would take, I would have run screaming in the other direction!

 

But I have to admit, exploring the 20-year army life of an ancestor, from 1862 to 1884, and beyond, was also a lot of fun.  It also enabled me, and I'm sure will enable readers, to see the country in a whole new way.  Already I've made my readers uncomfortable with a very real portrayal of Abraham Lincoln (see Mystic Fire -- my brother hates my writing now).  This discomfort is necessary, however, if we're ever going to be able to make sense of the way our country is.

 

I thought I would share the process of getting this book published. I queried about everyone three times as I went from 173,000 words down to 135,000 words. Traditonal publishers thought it was better suited for the university presses, who thought it was better suited for the traditional presses. In the meantime, I wasn't getting any younger. So with one final edit I self-published (2019) with the expected results. Readers feel it's unvalidated, so instead of acceptance they look at it with a more critical eye. And that's okay except … historical books do need validation. I did not want to go this route. I once singed a contract with Sunbury Press.  It seemed pro-active and not in the least intimidated by footnotes.  Those were the two key ingredients that enabled me to sign the contract.  They promised to get me an editor within six months after submitting it to them.

 

After six months, they still had no one for me. I started getting shade from them, and cancelled the contract. And then I got to thinking -- maybe I should put it out as two volumes. So I started the query process again. That didn't work. Meantime, I kept making the book shorter.

 

Problem is, people still see it as a personal story of a soldier, and that's not the way it's meant. Yes, I follow Henry's orders, but that's to give the book cohesiveness. Yes, I went every place he went, but that was to dig out primary information no one else has ever seen. And that enabled me to solve the mystery of the Little Bighorn. But without validation? Sigh. No one takes me seriously.

 

And that's a shame. Because they're missing a really interesting story. How the story of a soldier IS the story of a country.

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Home for the CAMD is Being Sought

I am asking around for an Amerind organization to take a donation of the entire CAMD. Why would I do that? Because of the negativity I keep hitting against me and this work in the archeaology field.  I've been a member now of the WAS for years and they've never once asked me to present my work. I've offered articles but they've always completely changed the article from what I've offered. Because of people like ***, once on my free newsletter subscription list, now won't tell me why he doesn't want me emailing him. I asked a simple request for a reference, and all he needed to say was no. Not one person I asked for a reference for the Michigan resource manual said yes. Okay, who's badmouthing me? Is it you, ***? Because of Archaeo Press, who thinks they can take an archaeologist's hard work and not pay them anything. Because of a Facebook copper page, where *** kicked me off because I wasn't making photos from museums free for everyone. She intimated that I should just make my entire work free, so now I hope I've found a way to do that.

 

And then there's ***, who is the wrong person to run the Oconto Copper Burial Museum. But I get it -- they can't find anyone else. I curated there for three years, and the only pay I got, for all that I did, was when I gave tours. And I had a tour guide who wanted most of those hours, until Oconto County Historical Society stopped paying even for tours. Then I was alone and there was no pay. In those three years, I opened up the museum with new paint, new shelves, new displays, lots of research, found lost copper hidden away, ripped out old plants and planted new flowers, ran our board meetings, developed a membership and newsletter, hosted open houses, gave presentations -- I lived for that place for two of those three years. In the third year, as an OCHS thanks, they pulled all funding, so I said I was done the end of that season.

 

But ***? Yes, a lifelong resident, former city council member, former business owner, he was on the board. He was supposed to help with the displays because that's the kind of thing he did in his business. But we could never agree on how much he should be paid. Yes, paid. He wanted money from the meager budget I got on the museum. I felt that he should be offering his services, and just get paid for supplies. That was the beginning of the end of that friendship. After that, he stood in my way wherever he could, belittled me and made for a very uncomfortable workplace, which didn't pay a cent as it was.

 

And now he's running the museum? When I gave tours, I was often asked what credentials I had. I would tell them about my master's in history and about the focus I developed in my undergraduate work on following an ancient trade network. That seemed to satisfy people. What does *** have to offer? Well, since he was voted off the city council and closed up his framing business, I suppose it was a matter of there's no one else and he needed something to do.

 

I left after three years because I needed a paying job and a little dignity back in my life. That was at the end of 2010 and it took until 2015 before I got one full time that offered the health insurance I needed. But I kept my interest in copper, spent a lot of time and money developing the CAMD, and now people want me to just give it to them - for free? So I decided, if I have to give all this work away, it'll go to the people whose ancestors created those copper artifacts. No one else.

 

I knew when I started doing this that I was in over my head. I didn't have any real archaeology in my background. Oh, I took a class from ***, but then I lost her support, too. Somehow. I developed an archaeology fiction novel that I wanted her to beta read for me, but she's since disappeared. But the more I collected the data, the more a trade network began to appear. It all felt so fascinating to me. But what was I going to do with it? Well, ultimately, publish the data, of course. But how?

 

Yes, what I was hoping to find all along was some support, some help, maybe a partner or two, an archaeologist or student of such who wanted to make the project was progressing properly. To that end, I put out a monthly newsletter, and received comments that way, which were helpful. But no one to say, hey, let me see what you have so far. I suppose that's understandable. Museums felt this was a good project, except for those who wanted nothing to do with it (only a handful, thankfully). One archaeologist in a public forum was asked if it was a good idea, and he said sure, if the right person was doing it. I was right there in the room. Of course, I made him an enemy of my work while I was still curating at Oconto. And for now good reason, I bore the brunt of his anger, though it was the town's decision to ignore his advice. And then he told the state archaeologist, who got down on me, but there was nothing I could do. The state doesn't support the museum, after all, and has no say.

 

And then there's the fellow I had to kick off my newsletter subscription because he professed he just wanted to "steal" photos for his work. Well, I say right in my newsletter that none of these photos are available for use. I didn't have permission for anything but this free newsletter. And yet he has published a huge color book of artifacts. Did he get permission for all of those? I hope so. For his sake. He's being touted now as the copper expert, while my data gets ignored. I should get a copy, but it's pricey (mine won't be) and I can't get over all the ugly comments he's made about me.

 

Self-publishing is always an option but I don't like to because there's no validity. Still, as things have progressed with my newsletter, I lost validity anyway because of my "guesses" in my newsletters -- hey, everyone guesses about the ancient past! I did have archaeologists as subscribers and I always published their responses to my material. There was never any serious challenge to what I wrote, which was basically all about what I was finding, and where. I put out 88 copper newsletters, and I think they were a lot of fun.

 

I waited a few weeks for some responses to some further queries of publisher, and now I'm querying national tribal organizations. I'll still publish the first manual, which is almost done. But I would prefer this research would go to somewhere that can treat it with the respect IT deserves (not me, but I'm used to not being treated with respect anyway).

 

Why would they want this? Here's a list of reasons I think might help them decide:

 

1. CAMD demonstrates a wide-ranging trade network.

2. Dispels misinformation about the ancient past.

3. Gives an accurate record of where artifacts are being kept, so that we can see what was actually found in any one location.

a) Caveat: they will need to sign an affidavit saying they will not go after anyone's collection, not any museum or any collector, and then I will give them the confidential data.

b) I will remain attached to the material so they can get my assistance with interpreting the materials, and correcting any errors, for as long as they need.

4. I will give them my credentials for creating this database.

5. I can continue to develop the books and give them 50/50 proceeds. (Splitting it insures that I have the incentive to continue developing the manuals as long as I'm able.)

6. Lack of a good Amerind home means it will end up at WHS for their online archives. But I'd rather it go to the descendents of the materials' creators.

7. I will give you one complete state's data in advance so you can see what it looks like.

8. It includes 68 folders of copper data, including spreadsheets, photos and resources (Photos are not free use; you'd have to contact the owners to publish.) The folder called "Resource Manuals," which has 23 folders of the various manuals I've planned to produce. The Sources Used folder contains  resources used. Data totals over 84,000 pieces. I have a lot of paper materials that I can ship, too, for a mailing fee.

9. I will retain, if agreed, two things: the ability to produce several resource manuals (not all; I'll never be able to finish) per #5 above; and the right to publish a book about my experiences as an outside in the archaeology world, which will include theories about these ancient peoples as compared to those today who think they know them. This last can be beta-read by someone in your organization for approval before publication.

 

Yes, the CAMD needs a proper home. It's outgrown the home I tried to give it, and if I had been able, I would have known long before that this time would come.

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A NEW Bonanza Project Announced

For those who can never get enough Bonanza, how about a nonfiction book, Virginia City & Bonanza: History Fact & Fiction? Sound appealing? As a lifelong Bonanza fan, the research on this project is fascinating. I'm curious is there's a market for this, before I get too far into it and work to get Bonanza Ventures' approval.

 

The Bonanza TV series, as we know, began to air in 1959, one hundred years after the big Bonanza silver strike on Sun Mountain at Washoe Diggings. Virginia City was then established and became known as one of the richest cities in the world. But their big bonanza days ended by 1880. The city's renaissance in 1959 owed everything to the new TV series, said Joe Curtis.

 

Curtis is former owner of the Mark Twain Bookstore and Museum, and the museum was started by his parents around the time Bonanza began to air. Curtis is retired now and is a historian for Virginia City, a stickler in getting details right. I first contacted the Virginia City Chamber of Commerce because I wanted to know if Bonanza had any role in opening up Virginia City to tourism. They forwarded my message to Curtis, who said "without a doubt, if it weren't for Bonanza, Virginia City would be a ghost town today."

 

We worked on an article about this renaissance, and there are some surprises. Hopefully we can find a magazine that will publish it. I've got queries out.

 

It's also part of the larger project. You see, Bonanza didn't just set itself in Virginia City. It had episodes taken from their history. This book will explore just how accurate those episodes were, and will expand on them by showing the real history of the territory. I see this as not only a great resource for history buffs and Bonanza fans, but an amazing look at this period in time and the process of mining in the 1800s, and how this was reflected in the TV series during its 14 year run.

 

For instance, you'll learn that the entire area called the Ponderosa was not settled in 1859. So the Cartwrights didn't kick anyone off their land -- well, except Washoe Indians. Perhaps this explains why Bonanza has usually had a soft spot for the natives portrayed on the show. You'll see the Ponderosa area colored in red on the authentic 1860 map. Joe Curtis confirmed that they didn't start building up this Ponderosa area at Incline Village until the 1930s. The Cartwrights' Ponderosa took over unsettled land. Carson City and Virginia City are east and north of the Ponderosa. And Genoa is down at its southeastern corner.

 

Joe sent me more maps, too, that will be used in the book. Do you know where the Comstock Lode was? I mean, precisely? Do you know where it was first found? I uncovered a mystery about Mark Twain, too, and how the Territorial Enterprise moved three times.

 

A lot of what I've used comes from materials I've picked up over the years from the many trips to Nevada, but there's nothing like the direct conversations that Joe Curtis and I have had. He's a real gem, helping me weed out fact from fiction. "Virginia City is a mining town, not a cowboy town," he noted. Yes, Virginia City did try to accommodate the cowboy fans; however, in this project I note more and more how the episodes related to mining history, such as in "She Walks in Beauty."

 

In disseminating the history of Virginia City, I learned how much the writers of Bonanza got right, which is pretty darned good at a time when VCRs weren't used and episodes were shot out of a gun a week at a time -- a lot more episodes than any series does today. When you buy a DVD of a single season, you're getting as many as 24 episodes.

 

In reading Dan DeQuille's "The Big Bonanza," there is one episode that Bonanza got exactly right. Can you guess which one? Hint, no, not "Enter Mark Twain." That was more to dramatize his time there, a composite of what did happen with Sam Clemens there.

 

The main focus in this book will be on getting Virginia City history right, but I will include information about the Bonanza conventions held here, times that the Cartwrights visited the area, and even more detail on the Ponderosa Ranch Theme Park; information in the article will also be included in the book.

 

I will also straighten out the Bonanza timeline. I used to think that episodes shot in 1959 were reflective of those that happened in 1859. Instead, I will be inserting episodes that can be dated into the actual historical timeline, which is an outlined breakdown of Virginia City history. For instance, Mark Twain didn't get to Virginia City until 1862.

 

What I won't do in the book, though, is dissect the lives of the four (or more) cast members of the TV series. I will go all the way through the DVD series to pull out those historical episodes that deal with Virginia City history. As I've only bought the series to Season 6, this gives me a great way to do what I've never done; study the series after Adam's character left. It's time I do that, and show how historically right Bonanza episodes really were, right to its finish line, which was before 1980 but not a lot before.

 

I think we'll all develop a greater appreciation for Bonanza, and for Virginia City - the little town that would never die. We'll understand that, even though the real geographic distances made no sense, why David Dortort gave Bonanza the best of both worlds.

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The New Normal (updated)

When I first wrote this, back in March, I noted that people were speculating on what life would be like the remainder of this year, and into next year. Well, here it is, October 2020 and Wisconsin is harder hit with the virus than anywhere else. Why? Because no one can come up with an agreement of how to wear masks and yet keep the economy moving. I wrote the gist of this back in March. I think it's still worth considering now and into the future, if we want life to return to normal - a NEW normal.


Here's what I suggest can be the new normal – now, and maybe for years to come.


Haven't you ever wondered how stores, especially the smaller ones, can survive when they open and no one comes in? What about restaurants? Staff sitting around with nothing to do. I worked at a tax office last winter and they had to let me go when it was determined they could only do takes by mail and email. Before that, we took care of a couple thousand people who were having their taxes done and wanted to meet in person, as is preferable for something like this. Once the preparer was finished, they would come in AT THEIR CONVENIENCE to sign and pay for the service. Bt once the tax season was extended to July, they went to a barebones staff and I was out of work.


CONVENIENCE seems to be the cornerstone of our retail industry, too. But that is what needs to change if we are to get business up and running again, and defeat the virus until a vaccine is produced and deemed effective for ALL of us. So many people are out of work and need jobs and there's no good reason for this, if we learn a new normal. Restaurants, clothing stores, department stores, even liquor stores, bars, state parks and gyms. All can set up a system based on one word.


APPOINTMENT.


I don't think this is a hard word to understand. You want a fancy dinner out, you make a reservation. Why not do that for every place you want to go? You want your hair cut, you make an appointment. Everything you want to purchase can be done either online or by appointment. All set up at least a day in advance. You carry your phone everywhere anyway, with texting, calendaring, that kind of thing. You can program phone numbers in of the places most often frequented, call, tell them when you'll be there, calendar it in.


Recently I went to the carpeting store. I didn't know they were open but took a chance and called. He said they were open and to come on in anytime. I was willing to make an appointment to go in and see carpeting styles. It's very hard to pick something like that out online. He didn't have anyone there and allowed me to take samples home. I could easily have made an appointment to do this.


Making an appointment for everything takes away the spontaneity, of course. Of course. That's exactly how we need to move forward from this virus. You want to work? You want to be of service, too?


And wearing masks has to be part of this, but if you're at work, and no one has an appointment, you can take it off for a breather.


Just how would this work? I suspect that the state would indicate how many customers you can safely have in your store determined by its square feet. I've seen that done throughout the year, having numbers of people limited in the store at one time. I saw very few people, though, actually keeping track. But once that's determined, you block out one hour shopping times for the max number you can have at any one time. The person calls for the time, or books online, and pays $10 for that appointment. If they buy something, that $10 is applied to what they purchase. This will eliminate loitering. You will get dedicated shoppers. If you wanted to, you could give them a gift certificate for that appointment amount, if you're out of their size, for instance. The reason for the appointment charge? In case you change your mind, of course. Don't make frivolous appointments. Sure, you can still mall walk. And if you see a store that's open but has an open appointment, you can ask if you can walk in. But don't expect that to be the norm.


If people have to book a day in advance, a small business has the option of being closed when no one is expected in. Have you ever worried that the store would be closed when you get there? Or that they reached their max and you'd have to wait in line? That happened to me at Trader Joe's once, and I didn't have the time to stand in line. With advance appointments, a small business could save money by being closed on days when no one is coming in. And you could pay your staff (if you like them) half pay for the day off.


A restaurant like Mod Pizza wouldn't be able to accommodate as many as a store like Target, but it seems to me an hour block is reasonable at both places. For Target you might have to reserve a week ahead of time. Or maybe stores that can accommodate 400 wouldn't need reservations. Perhaps grocery stores, too, can be an exception.


Except for fast food drive-throughs, ALL dine-in restaurants should have reservations only and allow a certain number per hour, the same way. This would spread out your patrons, so you're not overwhelmed – and you're also not open when no one is there. Bars have been the most difficult to deal with here in Wisconsin, but why can't they eliminate sitting at the bar and have tables spread out, like at restaurants? People at tables need to be those that come in together. You miss the dating scene? Flirt at the grocery store, or the library, but stay safe.


As long as the virus is out there, every patron MUST wear a mask. I still see people walking around in stores without them. Apparently there is no rule against letting them in or staff are afraid to challenge them. Here in Wisconsin, that's because the Republican congress sides with Trump, creating the mess we're in now. And now they're trying to recall Governor Evers? Honestly, the bad state of Wisconsin right now shows that the Republican Congress is the one that we should be recalling.


As of this writing, Wisconsin has been the worst state for COVID outbreaks since at least September 17th, according to MSN.com. This appeared in USA Today on October 7th:


In Wisconsin, which set a seven-day record for fatalities, indoor bars and restaurants were capped at 25% of capacity starting Thursday. The state is struggling with some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, and Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, ordered the limits despite repeated legal challenges from Republicans to such measures.


Honestly, I don't see a downside to the appointment idea. If the system works as well as I think it would, it could remain in place long after the virus is gone. It could take a little getting used to, of course, and it could remain in place, or disappear once we all feel safe.


What do you think? Do you see any downside to this, other than the lack of convenience and desire just to browse? I can't think of any. People will grumble at first, of course, since societal change can be difficult. But we'd get used to it, and it's a lot better than not going anywhere at all.

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David Dortort and Me

David Dortort and Me in 2009, the year Mystic Fire was published. I delivered him a copy that day. My brother was with me and said he liked how I could make him smile.

 

David Dortort, who created the Bonanza TV series, passed away Sunday, September 5, 2010 at his home.  He was 93. Dortort personally hand-picked the four actors for Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe, and had survived them all.  Pernell Roberts (Adam) died earlier that year. 

 

David lived for that show.  And though he created another one for television, High Chaparral, Bonanza was always his first love.  He kept it going after Roberts left the series in 1965 and was dismayed when NBC pulled the plug after Dan Blocker passed away during the 14th season.  NBC felt it was done. David never did.

 

He kept returning to his Bonanza Legacy but could not revive the magic that had been. 

 

The first TV movie was meant to be a series spin-off for Lorne Greene and the grandchildren of Hoss and Joe, but Lorne Greene died before it could be filmed.  In 1993 came the first of two more TV movies with grandchildren, this time included Adam's son, also with the hope that there'd be a TV spinoff series. 

 

That's when I got lucky. I started writing Bonanza fanfic in 1992, having found some free markets for them, and loved writing them so much I longed to find a way to get them published. That happened through timing and miscommunication. I got Dortort's attention because, also in 1992, I'd started an online Prodigy board for Bonanza fans, the first ever to do so. I found a TV bulletin board dedicated to old TV series and none yet to Bonanza. So I created one.

 

In 2001, he gave the rights to Beth Sullivan for a prequel called Ponderosa that aired on cable's Hallmark Channel, and featured the family at a younger stage, before the Comstock Lode setting of the original series opener.  But that prequel couldn't pick up a second season (to my dismay, as I'd just submitted two scripts for the series through a script agency where my daughter worked). 

 

Finally, at Incline Village, after the highly successful 2004 season, the highest attendance ever, the Ponderosa Ranch Theme Park closed its doors and sold to a private developer. 

 

David Dortort loved his fans. There's the story about how he allowed Adam Cartwright to unceremoniously leave the show because the fans wrote in protest to the storyline of Adam getting married to Laura.  At the time neither Dortort nor Roberts felt they'd be able to pull it off. "We have to watch the reaction of the audience very closely," Dortort said in an interview in 1963. "We get more than 30,000 fan letters a month and they will tell us if they like the idea. If the reaction is negative, then we'll just have to write it out of the series."

 

Dortort told me in 1996 that, in hindsight, he would have let the marriage happen. But at the time, "It's the most successful show that TV has ever seen, and I, for one, am going to make sure that nothing happens to it." Some fans believe Roberts' open-ended leaving would allow him to see the 'error of his ways' and return. 

 

When I first wrote to Dortort, back in early 1993, it was after learning about the new TV movie, Bonanza The Return. I saw photos of the cast, heard the storyline, and then wrote a script of my own that I wanted him to read. I also asked him to read a short story I'd written, because I wanted permission to write and sell a novel. And I told him about the Prodigy Bonanza Board. I then got a post from Tom Sarnoff, associate producer of this movie, telling me that David Dortort would be in touch with me shortly. Sarnoff stayed in touch on the Bonanza Board because, as I told Dortort, this was the biggest fan base on the internet. Well, I thought it was at the time. We had an incredibly active fan base, and one that became increasingly angry that the new movies would not feature Jamie or Candy. But Sarnoff asked for our feedback for the Bonanza Retrospect that was being filmed to air previous to this new movie.

 

I kept up my contact with Dortort, and gave him my idea for another TV movie, having Adam come back to the Ponderosa to die. I told Dortort I just knew Roberts would love a script like that, to finally get closure to that character. Dortort's responses were sporadic, so I also sent the script to Sarnoff, to NBC, to whatever agent I could find.

 

The 1993 movie did well in its time slot, as did the Retrospect, but they had another movie with these characters the following year that didn't do as well. In part, this was because they had to replace the actor who play Adam's son; in my mind, they didn't do a good job with that.

 

But I continued to write my novel, Felling of the Sons, and the scripts, and I went back to college. Finally, in 1996 I told Dortort I was coming to LA to visit my brother, in case he'd like to get together to talk about the script. He sent me his phone number and told me to call him when I got there.

 

It's now been decades but I can still remember my excitement at the time. I booked my flight the next day.

I guess I had charmed him in several ways. One, the script I wrote before even seeing the 1993 finished movie amazed him. I had those grandchildren's characters down perfectly. I told him how Adam leaving the show might have saved my life after my dad died two years later. And how I inadvertently married a Joe and had sons named Adam and Bennett. My daughter, though, wouldn't let us call her Hoss. And I told him I raised them "the Cartwright way."

 

When I finally got to his house in June 1996, after a few misadventures, I was amazed by the first question he asked me. "How do you know Pernell? Has he said he'll do your script?" I wanted to shrivel up and blow away. I just meant I created the script to be the kind of a thing that would appeal to him. After taking my stumbled response to this question he then asked what right I had to shop that script around. He wondered if I always did things the hard way.

"Well, I guess so, Mr. Dortort. But what's the easy way? No one's ever told me."

 

Oh, we had a long and very friendly conversation after that, even after I told him I thought Bonanza was two different series – with Adam, and without. I had to finally get off my Prodigy fan site because of the anger of Joe fans, and this anger is still out there.

 

But Dortort and I kept up our correspondence, tweaking the script I wrote, and trying to get Pernell involved. But I might have sounded arrogant, because Pernell never once responded to me. Finally it was written so that Adam was only mentioned in it, and then Dortort wanted me to scrap the script and write one for Dirk Blocker to play Hoss and Hoss's son. Well, I just couldn't. He was so good as Walter in the TV movies. Dortort felt bad that he didn't cast Dirk as Hoss's son in those movies and wanted to make it up to him.  (Oh, if only I'd tried!  But I was going for my BA in history at the time.)

 

Most of what Dortort and I talked about those two times I visited him I don't remember.  I didn't take notes, nor did I tape record anything.  There are snatches of things I know that I don't believe I got anywhere else. I did get permission to publish Felling of the Sons, and then, in 2005, got the contract for Mystic Fire after we talked on the phone about the Civil War; he appreciated how much I knew.

 

On my second visit to his house in 2001 I suggested that he host one of the Marathons being shown on Hallmark around the time of the airing of Ponderosa.  He only laughed and said, "Who'd want to see an old fart like me?" Of his five favorite episodes, there was one I didn't know, because it was a later episode. No surprise that Crucible was one of them. And yes, he did host a Bonanza marathon for Hallmark. He had just been teasing me.

 

We had some great phone conversations about Ponderosa during its airing, too:  How first Sullivan wanted to use a Japanese actor for Hop Sing.  "There were no Japanese in the U.S. at that time!"  And Lake Tahoe was represented by a "little mud puddle" because they were filming over in Australia, until he could convince her to use stock footage.  But it was obvious in his voice that he was thrilled to have the Cartwrights on the air again.

 

When it wasn't picked up for a second season, his energy began to wane. 

 

Dortort had convinced NBC executives to film his series in color by showing them Lake Tahoe: "Would you film that lake in black and white?"  They decided to use it to sell the new color TV sets.  This is one reason Bonanza holds up so well today.  It doesn't appear 'old.'  But in one of the obits I found online about David I noticed that they quoted him as being proud that a lot of color TV sets sold to watch Bonanza – perhaps his reflection of being the number one show on the air for a number of years.

 

It had reached #2 in its third season, and was number one for three continuous years, never falling below the #3 slot until its 12th season. See more at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonanza.

 

Dortort once negotiated with some A-list screenwriters to write the script for a big screen movie version of Bonanza, but when I met with him at his home in 2001, he said "80% of it is crap!"  I asked to see it, but he couldn't.  There's a Hollywood rule against it.  I could imagine the nightmares it would be in trying to cast those four roles, too.

 

I bugged Dortort a lot to write his autobiography. We would have been fascinated by his first-hand look at filming the series. I told him to tape record it and I'd type it for him. Sadly, it never happened. First his eyesight went, and then his hearing. My last visit to him was in 2009, and it was so gratifying to see the smile on his face when we talked. As I left, he said, loud and clear, "Thanks for visiting, darling."

 

My life, as part of the Bonanza world, is one that I will always cherish, for having this man let me in for those visits, providing a bright spot in an often dark and grueling world.

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