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 He’s on Facebook as Aaron Michael Ritchey and he tweets - @aaronmritchey. 


  1. Brilliant. Thanks for this. We never know what the future will hold, but I do know what part of your legacy is, Aaron: it's all the writers you've inspired to keep doing what needs to be done. Every single day.

    1. I'd argue that your legacy is even more important than that. The Suicide King gives another (more hopeful perspective) on suicidal feelings, which could change young lives. Bravo and on behalf of other readers... thank you! Your long time conference friend, KAREN

  2. Thanks, Barbara Nickless. On my Facebook post, a woman really nailed the whole thing. Nikki Ebright runs the Myths and Legends Con in Denver, a very cool fandom convention. It's happening this August and I will be there.

    This is what she wrote:

    "Only a few will have their names written in history in ways that last decades, centuries, millennium. If you find that you are not one of them, then this is your path: the course of the human race is nudged and directed by the entirety of our species. So what you do today, the joy you bring to others, the contemplative speculation you inspire, it nudges us towards bringing joy to others, bringing the smolder, thinking more deeply, because we are inspired by you and what you share with us, and that, that push towards being greater than our parts is where your legacy lies."

    1. What an inspiring and incredible quote. One I'm going to print and put on my desk. Every writer questions their career choice and--thus--their sanity. But knowing that we can nudge people toward joy and inspiration and contemplative thought is more than enough.

      Keep the faith.

  3. Very nice, Aaron. A good reminder to savor our moments of success and fame, however humble and brief they may be.

    1. And even more important--- Love what we do. Find the thrill in it, find the passion. Then it won't matter where the money is. That is what the day job is for! :) KAREN

  4. Aaron, talk about a common-sense reminder. Your post reminded me of when my kids where small and everyone had them enrolled in soccer, baseball, etc. Only one percent are going to become professional athletes. The same goes for other careers. Our job is to tell the best stories we can -- and it really *is* none of our business what happens from there.

    1. We can't do it with money in mind, or we'll be too jade to do it. Have joy in our hearts, love what we do. The rest will take care of itself.... of course that requires a day job. :) Karen

  5. Thanks, Aaron. I needed to see this today.
    Exhaling a huge sigh, I am still writing.

  6. Aaron, I would have recognized all those commercials. How fun. I wonder what my boys would think of them. Some brilliant (Coke international - I'd like to teach the world to sing...) Some poignant as hell (the Native American crying over litter), Some hilarious, (plop plop fizz fizz....) and (Where's the Beef!)/ They didn't influence what I bought, but they influenced my perception of culture. Karen


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