Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Breaking News: Police Investigate Suspicious Package

Platte City, MO
updated 6pm

See full exclusive story below this update!

Platte County residents are breathing a sigh of relief tonight after authorities determined that the suspicious package found on Lillian Hedge's porch was an Amazon order.

Hedge, when allowed to return to the scene with her pets, told KCTV3 exclusively, "I'd just got home from my weekly trip to Big John's Bargain Basement, where I buy all my litter boxes and scratch- and- dent cans of tuna and stuff of that nature, when I saw it. I was so frightened, 'cause we're really 'sposed to have no more than three pets over here, and I've been gettin' threatening letters from the HOA, but I ain't giving up none of my pets, and I tell ya, that box was MOVING!"

When asked what was in the package, Hedge said, "Well I can tell you there's nothing in it now. It's nothing but trash now." She went on to mention that she did walk away from her computer while browsing Amazon on Monday, and later found paw prints on the keyboard, so maybe a cat used the buy with one click feature. 

"Whew! I'll make sure that never happens again," said Hedge.

Watch our 10pm broadcast for the latest updates on this story and the one about the teen in Florida who pretended to be a doctor.

I didn't do it. I hate Amazon.


KCTV3 has a crew in route to Suspicious Package investigation in Platte City.

Mrs. Lillian Hedge, a resident of the Fox Creek subdivision off Running Horse Road in Platte County called authorities when she returned home from shopping and spotted a suspicious package on her porch.

Police notified the sheriff's department, fire department, ambulance, bomb squad, ATF, and animal control, which all arrived on scene at approximately 3:35pm, setting off the local coyotes, news crews, and personal injury attorneys.

Roads surrounding Fox Creek are blocked until crews determine whether the suspicious package contains explosives or other threatening substances such as gluten or canola oil.

KCTV3 spoke to a neighbor, who asked not to be named and said, "We ain't seen this much action since that danged wallaby got loose in 2012. I shore hope Lillian and her cats is okay. I can't get near the officers. Tell 'em I seen someone on her porch earlier. He was driving a brown truck and he was wearin' brown shorts and a brown shirt."

click here for future updates

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Stop Blaming the Client

Nearly daily I see someone ranting about being taken advantage of. Today it was another writer griping about being expected to write for free. He had written a 650-word sample, then sent a bill, and the client was shocked that he expected to be paid for the sample.

This could have easily been prevented, by the writer either offering his clips as samples or stating a price up front for a fresh sample written to the potential client’s specs. Neither happened, and the result was both the writer and the potential client being pissed.

I recently received a message from a potential client asking about my editing rates. She didn’t mention how she found me, or what she writes, or anything more.

I replied and offered a free ten-page sample edit, as I always do. This way the writer can see what I do and determine if it meets their needs, and I can see if the writer just needs a little help or a lot (and thus set my price), or even more help than I can offer. After the sample edit, either of us can opt out, no hard feelings.

The next email said the ten pages just happened to be the first two chapters. That’s all. No further comment. The attachment was sixteen pages.

I marked it up, correcting errors and leaving comments about things I liked and others I questioned.

I returned the chapters with a pleasant note, and received a response saying that she was busy but would look at it when she had time. 

Then the replies came. Not one email with commentary about all issues, but a separate email for each beef.

First I received a link to a product on Amazon, as proof that her spelling was correct. I ignored it. There was nothing I could say in response to using Amazon as a dictionary.

Next came a long explanation of powdered wigs and powder rooms. Then the difference in buggies and wagons. Oh, that.

They kept coming. I received an email saying that she introduced 21 characters in the first chapter because the book is part of a series (all published, by the way) and her fans like to know what the characters are up to; another saying her Word program is set to insert two spaces after punctuation, so something is wrong with mine/me.

By then, I was crying, but not because I felt I’d wasted my time or I’d been taken advantage of. Surely a writer friend was playing a joke on me, and it was brilliant.

I looked her up on Amazon. Indeed, she was real, and the book had already been published, along with many others.

One of her (few) reviews said that the grammar issues were so numerous that the book was difficult to read. The author (and I use the term loosely) replied to that review, saying that there were no grammar mistakes in the book, and clearly there was something wrong with the reviewer. However, that book now had the words Newly Edited Edition next to the title.

This was just getting better and better.

The final email said that her corrections to my errors were completed, and she agreed with the rest of my suggestions, so thanks.

I could only respond, “You’re welcome.” I knew she had no intention of hiring me, and she never had.

Then she made nearly every change I suggested in those first 16 pages and uploaded the new version to Amazon. I enjoy imagining her trying to collect enough sample edits to never have to pay, although she denies actually needing an editor.

This experience was odd, outrageous even, but I’m not pissed. Because it was my own fault. I don’t like being pissed at myself.

Had I suggested speaking by phone prior to offering a sample, I would have learned that the book was already published. I could have determined why she really wanted me to look at it (if she was truthful). I probably would have learned that she was argumentative and had no sincere desire to improve her manuscript. I could have declined prior to spending my time on her project. I could have done many things prior to offering my time for free. I failed.

I’ll just call it a lesson. And blog material.

Years ago, a mentor said to me that he used to be proud to say he could work with anyone, but now he was proud to say he didn’t have to. Amen, brother.

So whether writing for free (or peanuts) or feeling used and abused in business or life, think about it.

It’s true that we teach others how to treat us. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Thirsty Coyote

There are woods behind my house, and to the west, across the road, is a lake. All sorts of critters live in the woods, including a cautious coyote.

The coyote likes to go to the lake just before sundown every day and returns to the woods at dark. But he has a problem.

He sits on a little hill behind my fence, about halfway between the woods and the road, and watches. When traffic clears, he runs toward the road. When he sees or hears a car, he sprints back to the hill, then turns and watches again, waiting. 

His problem is one of being overly cautious. I watched him eye the road for over an hour last night. He’s like drivers who won’t go because they see a car three miles away and don’t think they can beat it. I found myself chanting go now, go now, go now each instance he had time to cross. He didn’t hear me. It grew dark, and the coyote retreated to the woods without his cool drink of water.

When I was about six my family visited the dam at Lake Pomme de Terre. We parked on a dead end, with a scenic overlook. There were no other visitors in sight. My parents were taking videos (they were called home movies at the time) and told me to cross the road.

I stood by the car. I looked left. I looked right toward the dead end. I looked left. I looked right. My parents laughed at me and told me again to cross the road. I was a sensitive little bugger and crossed, but I wasn’t happy about it.

After playing my role in the home movie, I returned to the car. I don’t remember what my parents were doing that they didn’t see – probably filming my sister crossing the road umpteen times like it was no big deal – but I got the bright idea to gather a handful of tiny, tiny gravel, and stuff as much of it as I could into the ignition switch. That would teach them to laugh at my fears.

When it was time to leave (there are no home movies of this), Dad had to pick out every little bit of it, and I was in deep doo-doo.

By the time I was grown, I’d gone from being like the overly cautious coyote to acting more like a squirrel in the road – trying to get to my next adventure, often darting around without direction, but moving nonetheless. I made some bad choices, but I had fun and I didn't become buzzard food, like many squirrels do.

These days, I’ve mellowed into another animal – somewhere between being so cautious that I never get anywhere and being so reckless that it’s just stupid for a woman of my respectable age. Maybe I’m like an owl now, who sees a mouse, and wants it for supper. He has to consider the plan for a little bit before swooping – the coyote may have his eye on that same mouse – but not for too long, or he’ll go hungry.

So I cautiously consider my decisions, and then act swiftly. I don’t want to be thirsty because I was afraid to cross the road to get to the water.