Monday, February 15, 2016

Leggo My Legacy! Apple Jacks, George Lucas, and Death

By: Aaron Michael Ritchey

The other day, my family and I all clustered around the YouTubes and we watched commercials from the 1970s. We watched clips selling Apple Jacks, Hidden Valley Dressing, Cap’n Crunch, and Chevrolets.

It was the past come alive! And it got me thinking….

How many actors, writers, directors worked on those commercials? And for how many, was that the pinnacle of their career in showbiz? How many can say, “You know that kid in the Apple Jacks commercial? Well, that was me.”

They would say it wistfully, with a little bit of irony about it. Because years before and years after, while they worked and sweated and auditioned, that was the height of their career. That was it. Out, out brief candle.

For a good number of authors, well, it works the same way. Whatever glory, sales, or whatever else we get, it all will pass. Like tears in rain.

I’m wondering if the pinnacle of my writing career will be the G.I. Joe story I wrote with Peter J. Wacks, Post-Traumatic Stress Commander. It did really well and got some attention, and dang, that might be it.

I think George Lucas probably thought American Graffiti was going to be his big hit. There was a good chance he might’ve wound up saying, “Yeah, you know, I directed and co-wrote American Graffiti. Oh, never heard of it? It was a movie about the 1950s but came out in the 1970s. That was a long time ago. I now direct Apple Jacks commercials.”

It’s an iffy business and generally, our only reward will be failure and obscurity. Aaron Michael Ritchey? Didn’t he write something about a post-apocalyptic cattle drive? Cowgirls with machine guns? What?

Yeah, that’s the next project hitting stores in March of 2016. Dandelion Iron Part I, which is the first book in The Juniper Wars series. This is my shot at glory. I have all the dreams of seeing the movie posters and all that, but the odds couldn’t be more stacked against me. I’ll sell a few and then move on to the next project because the writing game has pierced me to my soul. I couldn’t quit even if I wanted to, and some days, I want to.  

George Lucas was told, over and over, that his own "big-idea" movie after American Graffitti was going to flop. Brian de Palma called it one of the worst movies he’d ever seen. Lucas and his buddy Steven Spielberg left town during the premier because George couldn’t handle witnessing what he thought was going to be a bloodbath.

And yet, what a legacy George Lucas has given us. Star Wars (the movie after American Graffitti) has become a part of our cultural history, one of the movie events of a lifetime. It changed everything.

I’ve heard rumors that episode seven of the epic series is out. Something about the force awakening or something. Must have only played at the art houses.

Even though he is no longer at the helm, the legacy Lucas has left us endures, and yet, he has been given so much crap for years and years and decades and decades from critics and fans alike. There is a dark side to that much fame and success, and yeah, pun intended.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with me. Some days I feel like a fraud and failure, unagented, and destined for obscurity. Maybe that’s okay. I don’t think I would handle fame and money too well.

When the days are hard and I’m feeling like a fool, I have to keep it very simple. Did I write today? Did I do a little marketing? What can I do today to keep the dream alive?

That’s what sucks about writing novels. It takes a long time and every day is a day where I question what I’m doing.

As for my legacy?

That is none of my business. My business is writing books and publishing books by any means necessary. My business is today, doing what needs to be done.

And if all I’m ever remembered for is an Apple Jacks commercial? So be it. I did my part. Sometimes, wild success is just not in the cards.

But one interesting side-note. My wife read an article on the BBC website about all the people who had bit parts in various Star Wars movies, and though they didn’t get huge, they have careers, going to various conventions, and meeting people and talking with people and selling their pictures. Most people who read this blog will know who David Prowse and Peter Mayhew are. I grew up reciting their names in awe.

I don’t know what my legacy will be. But I do know, people cannot read books I don’t write. If I don’t write the books while I’m alive, those words will be forever silenced.

And I believe God is our voices in the silence. Let’s be loud, people. Let’s be real loud.

Because it will all be quiet soon enough.

About the Author: Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer, Long Live the Suicide King, and Elizabeth’s Midnight. In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his steampunk story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was part of The Best of Penny Dread Tales anthology published through Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. His upcoming young adult sci-fi/western epic series will also be published through WordFire Press. In 2015, his second novel won the “Building the Dream” award for best YA novel, and he spent the summer as the Arist in Residence for the Anythink Library. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos posing as his daughters.

For more about him, his books, and how to overcome artistic angst, visit www.aaronmritchey.com. He’s on Facebook as Aaron Michael Ritchey and he tweets - @aaronmritchey.