Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Ghostwriting: Getting Into "Character" with help from Richard Armitage

"I think I'm a concentrating actor. So in order to do my work in the course of a day, particularly with a character like this I have to concentrate. So it's about staying in the scene, staying with my head in the scene and attempting to keep the character with me. It doesn't mean I can't have a conversation or go and make a cup of coffee. But I actually stay with the character for 18 months." ~ British actor Richard Armitage, star of "The Hobbit" film series

As a writer, I love reading quotes by other famous writers (Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis, in particular) for inspiration when delving into a project.

However, during the past six weeks, I've had to turn to a completely different type of "artist" -- an actor -- to light a spark for a new project.

I've just signed on to ghost write a book. I can't divulge details yet. But right at the outset of this project, I hit a major snag:

I was ghost writing in my own voice.

I had worked on my introductory chapter and was really pleased with myself! I have to say ... I felt smug. I just knew my client would be effusive! I'd worked for about two days on this chapter. I was certain that I'd covered everything she wanted to convey, in a manner that would capture the reader's fancy and drive them further into the book.

The morning after I sent it off, I sat down with my steaming mug of French-pressed coffee and a gorgeous Southern biscuit slathered in honey. I gleefully opened my computer, expecting to see an email that said, "You're brilliant! Thank you! I love this!"


No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Yes, that's what she said.


My ego hit the floor like a a guy taking a knock-out punch from Floyd Mayweather.

"How in the world could she NOT like this?"  I thought.

To assuage my angst (if you're a writer, you know how you have to recover after your material is rejected), I took a mental break and pulled up some Youtube interviews with a favorite actor, Richard Armitage. You may know him for his role in "The Hobbit." On this particular morning, I pulled up an interview that he did to promote his current theatrical performance in London on "The Crucible." As I listened to how he traveled to Massachusetts to wrap his brain around the Puritanical community and the character he would be playing ... suddenly it hit me.

Ghost writing really is nothing more than acting on a page, rather than on a stage.

I pulled up more interviews by Armitage to see how he gets himself into character. One of his more fascinating exercises is that he writes his own fiction, creating "character diaries" for each person he is portraying.

"I kind of do stay with the character, yeah. He's always there. It's like marinating something – you're sitting in a marinade the whole time," he told one interviewer.

What I was missing was my client's voice. In short, I needed to "sit in marinade" in her character.

Part of her book is about her strong passion for her vegan lifestyle. So this week, believe it or not, I have eschewed MEAT. I have watched every link she's sent (Netflix documentaries and Youtube videos alike) about the evils of the agricultural industry.

And today, I hit the supermarket and picked up vegan butter, vegan sour cream, soy milk ... and looked into how to prepare vegan meals ... and have prepared a fully vegan diet to follow while I write this book.

Extreme, you may say?

Well, all I can tell you is that when I turned in the re-write of that chapter, the client came back to me and said one of her best friends remarked, "It sounds just like you." She's pleased with the changes.

I've been writing newspaper, wire service and now magazine articles for 25 years. I've never had to write in someone else's voice until now. But I am having so much fun "marinating" in my "character."

And, thanks to a fellow creative artist/soul, I think I've found the answer to successfully segueing into a new writing venture.

I'll keep you posted to let you know how the rest of the project goes.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When Something Smells Rotten in Denmark

So you want to be an "investigative journalist."

Let's make one thing clear: If you're a reporter, it doesn't matter what beat you are working --  you could be covering the local PTA and school board meeting, the municipal sewage/water authority, cops and robbers or the sports desk. There is always an opportunity to be an investigative journalist. The problem is that most "journalists" think that they have to be assigned to a political desk to do any meaningful work. But oftentimes, the stories of corruption are sitting right in front of you. You just aren't being observant enough -- or your antenna may be so tuned in to one direction of the wind, that you may be missing the storm brewing behind you.

I started thinking about this because of a personal circumstance, ironically, which has nothing to do with my freelance writing job. Human nature is human nature. And eventually, someone's dark side will surface if it's something they are trying to hide. It's just a matter of time before you put the pieces together.

Here are a few tale-tell signs that I've learned along the way:

1. The person that people trust the most is the person you should suspect the most. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive. But ironically, the most trusted person in the room usually is the person hiding something. Think about it -- pedophiles aren't usually creeps hanging out in dark corners. They're Catholic priests, Boy Scout leaders, classroom teachers. Ever hear of Jerry Sandusky? Google him if you haven't.

Did you know that Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus Christ, was the treasurer for the group of disciples and embezzled their money? Anyone who handles money for someone else is highly trusted. Always look in that direction for clues.

I had a case when I was working at The York Dispatch ... we were a union shop, and the reporters had to pay union dues every month. Ours were $40 per reporter. I was 27-29 while I was there, and I was making a paltry $27,000 per year. So $40 per month was a lot of money for me.

I asked the union treasurer -- who was the newspaper's retired librarian -- to bring in the union accounting books so that I could see how the money was being spent. It just didn't seem very logical to me. Where was the money going? She was about 75 years old and very beloved in this newsroom. She refused to bring in the books. So I refused to give her my dues. Things came to a head. People who loved this little old lady told me I was a big meanie (well, they used OTHER words, but use your imagination, and you've got it ...) and that I should just pay the dues. I said the little old lady should bring in the books if there was nothing to hide.

To make a long story short, after a big brew-ha-ha, the union treasurer confessed that she had been embezzling the funds. It gets better. She had a gambling addiction and had taken the money to Atlantic City, NJ, on weekends, and lost thousands of dollars. She had been maintaining two sets of books to hide it.

So if you're covering a local municipality, school district, whatever ... that leads us to point number 2:

2. Always ask for budgets. Don't say to me, "But Heidi, I only scored C-minus in math, my entire time in school. I'm a gifted writer, but I'm not an accountant."


You want to be an investigative reporter? Get a calculator.

Ask for budgets. Ask questions about the budgets. If you don't know how to add and subtract, get a tutor. You will never uncover anything unless you're willing to go into the world of numbers.

3. The people who are pointing fingers are usually the people hiding something. I'm not talking about whistle-blowers here. I'm talking about people who are in a collective huff -- the people who want to see another person or another group of people fall. These are the people who are so busy pointing out the faults of others that they can't see their own faults. Usually, this type of story is the easiest one to cover. The only thing you have to do is let them hang themselves with their words. The minute you get an invitation to cover a big "event" where a group of people is "exposing" the wrong-doings of someone else, bring your tape recorder and transcribe EVERYTHING that is said. You can probably get the other side of the story very easily just by the way Group A portrays Group B. Usually you can anticipate what Group B's response will be, because the things Group A throws around will start to sound so ridiculous that their credibility will dissolve like vapor.

4. If people start acting defensive when you ask questions, you're on to something.

People with nothing to hide will be forthright. They may seem taken aback by questions, but they will always be eager to show you that they have done nothing wrong.

On the other hand, people with something to hide will immediately put up their defenses. They'll do everything conceivable to avoid answering questions, will cast blame elsewhere ... and may even accuse you of being a hack journalist.

Don't let that throw you.

Just stay with your line of questioning, which will lead to point number 5:

5. Somewhere in the group that is hiding something, there is a person who wants the truth to be told. I have lost count of the number of times during my newspaper and AP wire service careers when I would get an anonymous note or phone call. The person on the other end would say something like, "I was in the room when you were asking questions of So-and-So, and they weren't telling you everything. I can tell you the truth, but you have to keep my name out of it."

Sometimes these notes would be sandwiched between my wiper blades and car windshield. (When that happens, it's not only freaky to know that people know your car, but also your schedule. And it also means you've nailed the story.)

Once you get to that point in your information gathering, go to your editor for next steps. Proceeding ahead on a story of this nature requires the backing of your publication. Do not do this alone in a vacuum. You'll want everybody on board --  including the publisher, who may have personal community ties that could threaten the story's publishing. You need the publisher in your corner especially.

This was a quick primer, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section. This can be a complicated issue for anyone covering news, but with practice in studying human behavior, you may be winning your investigative trophy in no time.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Vanity Fair's Lost Opportunity with Scarlett Johansson

Vanity Fair, for me, usually gets the gold star when it comes to jaw-dropping-no-stone-uncovered research that reveals savory details to set a foundation for lusciously written prose.

So I was pretty excited to see that the magazine had a feature spread on Scarlett Johansson, who I consider to be our generation's Marilyn Monroe on steroids. If anybody could do Johansson justice -- if anybody could give this starlet depth of respectful journalistic coverage like a down white blanket over the glittery sex kitten persona -- Vanity Fair could.



I was hugely let down by this story, and I felt it deserved a blog entry, because it's the epitome of the mistake that every single person who claims to be a "journalist" should avoid at all costs:

Inserting yourself into the story.

Right out of the gate, we weren't reading about Scarlett, but about this writer's penchant for playing it cool with celebrities and then being awestruck by her dazzling photo shoot in a posh hotel.

We get a play-by-play of lustful thoughts, as the writer struggles to regain composure and concentration for the interview.

Then, we see the writer's feelings hurt, as Scarlett "firmly" (the word used in the article) refuses a glass of wine before the interview begins.


The writer then veers off course to give us background of the actress's career, which, under normal article-writing standards would be just fine, except that we're still waiting for the "main event," as it were -- the actual INTERVIEW.

Finally (finally!), the writer allows Scarlett to speak.

But by the time we get to her thoughts, we basically are reading a shallow discussion, as the writer continues to wrestle with thoughts about how Scarlett now resembles more of a graduate student than a glittery icon. The depth of content is as scanty as the negligee this writer has been conjuring since setting eyes on her.

I put the magazine down feeling like I'd just picked up a wanna-be-Playboy-article -- but definitely not something worthy of the prestige of Vanity Fair -- and definitely not something that could have given this bright young talent the respectful narrative she deserved.

And it got me thinking about people who call themselves journalists but are more like voyeurs who happen to have a gift with words.

See .... once you put yourself and your feelings and your thoughts in a personal profile piece, you've lost the entire game. Your job is to give the reader an opportunity to live vicariously through you. They should be the one sitting in your interview seat, hearing the words through your ears, seeing the subject through your eyes, but not seeing you.

That's where we have to strike the balance as journalists. We bring the person to life on a page -- magicians who are unseen, conjuring the images and emotions with a masterful pen stroke that gives the reader the intimacy they crave without knowledge that we were even in the room.

Have you ever gotten in the way of a story?

I know we're all tempted to do it, and I'm sure that when faced with a larger-than-life persona, our own egos fight to let the world know that we were there with them.

But if the reader gives you enough respect to take a few moments to read words you have written, at least give them the respect they're due. Get your arrogant ass out of the way, and let the interviewee step to the forefront.

In this case, the writer for Vanity Fair basically shoved Scarlett to the wings of the stage and took its center. Her spotlight receded, while this person's waking wet dream jumped up and down and screamed for attention.


It got my attention.

But this story's writer -- and whoever edited this drivel -- didn't win what they were seeking:

A reader's respect.

And I have to wonder if Scarlett Johansson cast the piece aside, thinking much the same thing.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ideas, Ideas, Ideas!

People ask me all the time:

"How do you come up with your ideas as a freelancer? Do editors assign you stories, or do you have to come up with things by yourself?"

Both. I do get assignments from editors. But before that can happen for any freelancer, you have to establish a rapport with those editors to receive unsolicited work.

And how do you go about doing that?

Send them a list of ideas that will appeal to their readers.

Believe it or not, it's not as difficult as it sounds. Here are a few things I do regularly online to come up with no-fail pitches:

1. A simple Google search: I know you're going to laugh and say, "It can't be that easy," but here we go: Go to the Google search box and type the type of market you are pitching along with the word, "issue." For example, I write for military magazines. Yesterday, I needed to come up with pitches for a publication that is read by members of the U.S. National Guard. So I went to Google and typed in, "National Guard issues." Voila, up came lists of news stories that affect my readers. I drilled into those to advance them into timeless ideas. You can do this with any market. One of my other magazines reaches pizza restaurant owners throughout the United States and Canada. I do the same thing: "waitress issues," "front of the house issues," "back office issues," "entrepreneur issues" ... you get the idea. I know, I know, I know, it sounds too simple to be effective, but you'll be amazed at how many things you can find that can be expanded upon into great feature stores.

2. Subscribe to blogs and e-letters focusing on your personal interests: I have varying interests and hobbies that are separate from the types of trade magazines for whom I write. I practice yoga. I'm a single mom. I'm dating. I'm an antique lover. I dig British history, everything from Richard III to the Regency era. And I love experimenting in the kitchen. Attached to all of these interests are blogs that I hit periodically. "Well," you might say, "what do any of those things have to do with a military magazine? Or an entrepreneur magazine? Or a Realtor magazine?" Sometimes nothing. But sometimes I'll hit a blog entry pertaining to single parenting that can also be applied to military spouses whose husbands or wives are deployed. I might read a blog about the history of a battle in the Middle Ages or weaponry and spin that into an article about how ancient warfare tactics apply today. Or I might hit a yoga blog about building a yoga teaching business -- and the concepts are similar to what a Realtor can do to advance his or her operation. Or I might see something about Victorian architecture, which can also be applied to home sale stories for Realtors. Last year, I saw a blog about recipes for people with allergies, and that led to a story about marketing to people with allergies for pizza restaurant owners at my pizza magazine. Basically, it's taking your personal interests and thinking outside that box to see how those interests might dovetail into your niche readership. Yes, it requires a bit of brain pretzel twisting, but it's worth your time and effort. And, frankly, it's fun!

3. Keep an eye on trends in social media. I have about 4,200 followers on Twitter and 300-some on Facebook. Besides my addiction to Candy Crush (it's pretty bad, but I digress), I use social media to chat and keep my radar up for issues that concern my friends, which always translates into something that concerns my readers. On Twitter, I follow a lot of parents who have children with Asperger's Syndrome, which my child also has. Again, that leads to story ideas. I also have met great PR professionals on Twitter, who tag me when their clients have stories that may interest my readers. Facebook is another treasure trove, because my inner circle friends will discuss things that I may not otherwise hear on the more public Twitter forum. This week, we were talking about the differences between Internet Service Providers, because I'm moving to a new house and am shopping. The discussion led to an idea about customer service and marketing tactics for people moving into new homes, which I will pitch to my Realtor magazine.

The bottom line is, if you have a computer, tablet or phone, you can find ideas. The trick is using the tools online effectively to constantly think creatively and intuitively. Your editors will thank you, and your bank statement will balloon in no time.


Friday, December 13, 2013

My Favorite PR People

Whether you're a journalist or a PR professional, you already know about the unspoken tension between the two camps. I've been doing my job now for 24 1/2 years, and I can tell you that there are times when I shake my fist and curse the existence of PR people and others when I thank God in Heaven for putting them on planet Earth.

And how do I show thanks to those who make my life easier?

Well take this morning as an example: I had a new story assignment. Rather than put it up on to the masses of PR professionals, I contacted one who keeps in touch with me regularly. This person follows me on Twitter, takes time to ask how I'm doing and this week had lined up a stellar source for two of my stories. I gave him first dibs on this new assignment for one of his clients. If they pass and don't have anyone who fits the bill, then I put the story up on Profnet for everybody else's consideration.

I do this regularly with about a half-dozen favorite PR people.

How does a PR professional gain become a journalist's "favorite?"

It's really very simple: Stay in touch. Be human. OK, here's another example: The week before Thanksgiving, I had a highly unusual story for one of my military publications. I had to write about jobs in a specific technology career and how military service people find opportunities in the civilian market place for that niche. I have to admit, I was daunted. So I went on LinkedIn and typed in a search for that specific job ... and voila! A list of opportunities showed up! With that, I could see which companies had the most prominent needs. I contacted those companies to find interviewees.

One of the responders called after Thanksgiving, and by then, I'd actually completed all of my interviews. I explained to the PR person that because of the holiday and the tight deadline, I'd already finished the story, but I told him other opportunities might come up for other stories. Most PR people at that point would say thank you and hang up, but this person pressed me: What types of stories?

Well, as a matter of fact, I had a new assignment that day. This one covered initiatives to recruit and retain wounded warriors. Would his company like to comment on anything they were doing in that arena? He said he'd get back to me.

Yesterday, he called again ... and it turned out that he was shocked to discover that his company didn't have anything organized. He was chagrined and very apologetic.

I tell ya what: This guy immediately goes to the top of my "favorites" list, because even though he couldn't help me with two stories, he tried so hard to be accommodating! From now on, every time I get an assignment that is related to job hunting, guess who I'm going to hit first to see if they want to participate?

There's a third example: I've interviewed one particular expert for three different magazines in the past month. The reason is that he called one day just to discuss ways he could help me come up with story pitches. He wanted to find out about all of the magazines that use me regularly, and he wanted to be available to help develop ideas that would interest them. He had great suggestions, and if any of those pitches turn into assignments .... guess who gets the first call?

Most people want a quick-and-easy way to form relationships with reporters. As you can see from these examples, they happen organically. In the age of social media, we don't necessarily cavort over cocktails at 5 or coffee klatches at the Chamber. We connect via Web portals, phone texts, emails, Facebook and LinkedIn posts and Twitter. That said, the importance of the quality of the connection can never be over-stated.

Once the barrier is broken with me, I have no qualms about sharing personal stories with PR professionals about my child, my yoga practice, even my dog. Some people may say to me that it's inappropriate to be so open and friendly. But I'd assert that being this way leads to an enriching give-and-take and leads me to wonderful people who have amazing stories to share.

And in this age of connectivity, isn't this type of connection what our work is all about?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Eggnog and Yoga to the Writer's Rescue

Tumbling through the front door, we cast a school backpack on a piano bench, kick shoes in wide-flung directions, shed bulky coats and drop car keys with a clatter on the kitchen counter.

I grab stemware from a cupboard, open the refrigerator and spy what I desire -- a carton of eggnog -- and fill the glass with the sweet and cold liquid, topping it with a shake of nutmeg.

"Ahhhhhhhhhh," I sigh, staring out of the window at a winter blue sky, breathing deeply and savoring the seasonal drink.

Lately I have been steeping myself in these moments -- stolen snatches of peace and calm in the midst of chaos.

If you're a writer who works at home -- and if you also happen to be a single mom -- you already know that December brings with it too many distractions and interruptions. Time cannot be a wasted commodity, and each workday must be meticulously planned so that deadlines can be met while at the same time a child is provided for and Christmas gifts are sought.

However, this December is even more frenetic for me, because although I normally am signing with creativity and brimming with holiday enthusiasm .... I am zapped of all energy.

Two months ago I hit a very unexpected health crisis event. Although I have fully recovered and am back to my normal workload, my Muse has not caught up with the rest of me. While I charge ahead with bill-paying writing assignments and juggle "mommy duties," my desire for imaginative composition has been non-existent.

I feel flat, one-dimensional, boring, robotic.

If I were to follow my own advice, to pull out of this funk I would tell myself to suck it up and write what I love to write. In the past, this strategy has worked well and has fueled me enough to not only complete my magazine assignments, but also infuse my creativity.

But even now, I can't kick myself to the curb in that manner. I've been resigned and, quite frankly, have felt nothing short of pillaged.

That is until today.

Today, in a last-minute decision, I grabbed the latest edition of Yoga Journal magazine from my bedside as I raced to pick up my child from school. I figured I'd read it in the parking lot while I waited.

To the backdrop of British trumpeter Alison Balsom on my car CD player, I thumbed through each page .... and slowly started breathing again.

And I suddenly realized an important practice I had been overlooking since that harrowing hospitalization event -- that of self-care. Within 36 hours of my hospital release, I was writing and completing magazine assignments. I only stopped working long enough for the after effects of the surgical anesthesia to wear off, and I was right back to it.

What I have found is that in my yoga practice, I have had to force myself to slow down, even if it's just for an hour-and-a-half at my gym three times a week. I recently picked up a subscription to Yoga Journal, not because I wanted to write for this publication, but because I needed it. The articles are a balm for me. They don't only touch on yoga asanas (poses), but also cover everything from human compassion, to healthy eating, to finding your bliss.

As writers, and especially as American writers with our Puritanical mindsets, we have a tendency to convince ourselves that if we're reading it, we'd better be writing it, too.

But I've decided lately that sometimes it's really just fine to soak in the art of others and allow the words of others to strengthen us, solidify our thinking, firm up our sensibilities.

If you've hit a wall like I have recently, consider gravitating to something you love. It doesn't have to be something you read. But I have found that in my pursuit of yoga as an exercise and now as a mindset, focusing on this particular subject gives me a great deal of joy and satisfaction. Clouding that with the obligation to write about it would conversely take away from the purpose of appreciating it.

After my child exited the school and we rolled through the countryside of Kentucky's horse farms, I suddenly started noticing my surroundings, things I'd hypnotically ignored on the way in: the beauty of the animals in the fields, the sweeping arc of birds in flight, the purity of the sky's hue.

And as I stepped back into my home and cast off the trappings of a busy life -- school backpack and all -- I gingerly laid the magazine on the kitchen counter and thoroughly enjoyed that cold glass of eggnog. I sank in to the beauty of the afternoon and whispered a prayer of thanks for health, for my child, for my blessings.

"Writer's Block" is a phrase we kick around -- usually with a curse under our breath -- but I'd encourage you that next time you hit the wall like I have, dig deep to think about what you love. Then enjoy what you love. Really enjoy it.

Because it's only when we shun the obligation in favor of the joy that the real writing begins again.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Comedy of Preventable PR Errors

PR professionals ask me all the time, "How do I get my client featured in one of your magazines?"

The answer isn't rocket science and just takes a little bit of common sense.

However, not everyone is using their noggin.

Case in point:

About 10 days ago, I sent out a query on (the site that connects journalists with story sources). The story was for one of my military publications, and the angle was pretty straight-forward: I needed sources to discuss how people in the National Guard can find military-friendly employers. I deliberately sent the query early, because I was going to be out for a week's vacation and wanted to hit the ground running when I got back.

A young PR professional got in touch the same day and said he had two sources. Both of them were veterans, and both were owners of franchise companies that largely employed veterans. After looking over their qualifications, I determined that they would be good fits. And I turned down other responders to my Profnet query in favor of them.

The PR person told me that the sources would call me. The first was to get in touch at 9 a.m. Eastern time -- today. But about an hour later, I received an email calendar alert that the interview was to take place at 6 a.m. So I checked with the PR professional again to make sure I hadn't crossed my wires. He informed me that the 6 a.m. time was for the source, who was on the Western clock. I also double-verified that the source would be calling me, not the other way around.

Fast forward to today.

9 a.m. came and went. I gave it about 20 minutes and then emailed the PR person, explaining that no one had contacted me. Twenty-five minutes after that, he emailed back and said he had not communicated to the source that he was supposed to call me. "But here is his phone number, and you can reach him now," he said.

With an email message like that, I assumed that the source had been briefed of PR person's mixup.

I called, and this was the first thing the source huffed:

"Hi -- you were supposed to call me 45 minutes ago! I guess I can still do the interview."

I explained that the PR person had communicated otherwise and apologized that he'd been kept waiting. I then gave the source the Cliffs Notes version of the story angle -- how National Guard members can find employers that are sympathetic to their challenges.

And then the source said:

"I was under the impression that you were doing a story about how to get into franchising. I had prepared responses about my company and how to find franchise companies that are good fits for military service members. And I don't have anyone working for me who is in the National Guard."


The biggest mistake I see among PR professionals who use Profnet -- especially those who are in their 20s -- is that they think they can change the reporter's story angle by getting THEIR source in the story to talk about THEIR angle.

See .... it doesn't work that way.

I have a story angle. I have an editor who has assigned the story angle. I am not paid unless I deliver a story ... with that precise angle.

You, as a PR professional, are not going to change my story angle. And your sources will not convince me to change my story angle.

Can I make this any plainer?

Additionally, if you are coordinating interviews between a journalist and your source, for God's sake, please make sure that 1)  You have given everyone the correct time zone for the interview, 2) You have communicated clearly who is to place the call and 3) Your source has been fully briefed on the angle of the story -- WHICH WILL NOT CHANGE.

These things are all basic common sense, but I have seen this happen more frequently in my 24 years of reporting than you would imagine. And I hate to over-generalize, but it mostly occurs with PR professionals who have been in the business for fewer than 10 years.

So back to the original question: "How do I get my client featured in one of your magazines?"


Use common sense. Don't try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Take your time and coordinate schedules.

Because if you don't, you can be assured that I will not come back to you when I have another assignment.

What did I do after this mix up? I'll tell you. I emailed the PR professional and said that not only was I not using the first source, but I also would not use the second one. I know that sounds harsh, but I have a lineup of others that were at the ready to participate. If the first source was not fully prepared, it was fairly predictable that the second wouldn't be, either.

Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice ... shame on me.

I don't give opportunities to be burned twice.