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Amusement

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What tough man would a nip-cat trap if a nip-cat kid-napped man?

Sammy is a sound businessman who believes professionalism makes the world a happier place. But when his investment firm partners with a famous theme park built on loose values and questionable ethics, Sammy becomes locked in psychological battle with the park’s mascot, Nippy the Cat, and risks losing his strict sense of professionalism, and his mind, in the process.

Book Details

Story:

Amusement

Author:

Jeremy Bursey

Type:

Novelette


Genres:

  • Fiction
  • Psychological Thriller
  • Literature

Style:

  • 3rd-Person Limited
  • Quirky

Main Characters:

  • Sammy McGuinness
  • Nippy the Cat
  • Mr. Chip
  • Bubby the Bear

Main Locations:

Happy Fun Land

Description:

What tough man would a nip-cat trap if a nip-cat kid-napped man? 

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s a nip-cat? Who’s the man?”

The man is Sammy McGuinness, a professional businessman who prefers suits to shorts and ties to lies. I’m sure you know the type: He’s the guy who makes your boss sweat because his efficiency is more boss than your actual boss. He’s the man who makes you look like a time thief because you stopped by the watercooler for a minute. Yeah, you know Sammy. You’ve probably dealt with Sammy. Maybe you hate Sammy. But, perhaps, Sammy also hates Sammy because Sammy has a secret that he cannot shake, one that makes him very angry, very angry indeed.

Can the happiest place in all the land make him happy again? Or will the nip-cat push him over the edge?

Amusement is the story of lies and justice, of cats and men, and of class battles at their most absurd. In a world where one powerful theme park rules the people, and knock-off brand names demand their unquestionable trust, just remember, no matter who you are, or why you’re there, nothing at this park is ever free, and Happy Fun Land will always find a way to make you pay.

“Welcome to Happy Fun Land!”

Format:

This story is sold as an e-book only. It can also be found in the anthology Zippywings 2015: A Short Story Collection (2015), which has e-book and print editions available. It was previously published in the anthology Life Under Construction: The Collection of Junk, Vol. 2 (2005, no longer available).

Price:

  • Free (on this website).
  • $0.99 USD (on Amazon and other retailers).
  • Equivalent to $0.99 in other regions.

Book Stats:

Not including front and back matter pages:

  • 65 Pages
  • 1 – 2 Hours to read
  • 16k Total words

Copyright:

  • ©2015 (e-book edition)
  • ©2005 (original print anthology edition, Life Under Construction, The Collection of Junk, Vol. 2)

ISBN and ASIN Information:

  • ISBN: 9781311070029 (e-book, Smashwords Edition)
  • ISBN: 9781393721253 (e-book, Draft2Digital)
  • ASIN: B019SXRRG4 (e-book, Amazon)
  • GGKEY: 3493XUPZJW9 (e-book, Google Play Books)

Disclaimer and License Notes:

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite e-book retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Some real-life cities, towns, institutions, or products may appear to lend authenticity to a scene for literary purposes, but this work does not intend to endorse or malign them. There is no catharsis or advertisement happening here. All other trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners.

No part of this text may be reproduced in any other work without giving credit to the author. No part of this text may be used for commercial purposes, except by reviewers or critics, without the author’s permission. The complete text is intended for personal use only and may not be used for commercial purposes, or duplicated in any other form for purposes other than personal, noncommercial use, or posted to any other site without the author’s permission.

Exclusive Extras

Amusement

Exclusive Extras

Want more content than just the story? Then scroll through this section for bonus items, including a series of questions for your readers’ group, because I know you want to talk about my books in your readers’ group. There’s also a deleted scene if you want to see what you could’ve missed!

Readers’ Group Discussion Questions

Thank you for choosing Amusement as the subject for your reading discussion. The following questions mean to guide readers through the conversation but should in no way limit its direction or focus during its exploration of ideas. If your group has a topic other reading groups should discuss, please e-mail me, and I may add them to a future edition of the book. Thanks.

Note that the following questions may contain spoilers. Think of them as the test questions you look through ahead of time to validate the answers to questions you’ve already attempted (read: bonus test-taking tips!).

Sammy believes in practicing professionalism, even in the midst of insanity. Why do you think he insists on maintaining his professional behavior at a place like Happy Fun Land?

Does Sammy succeed at maintaining his professionalism despite everything that goes on around him? Discuss.

Does Sammy take the Happy Fun Land pill out of trust or duty to his boss? Explain.

Why does Sammy have such a back-and-forth conflict with the children surrounding him when he poses as a Happy Fun Land character?

Why does Sammy appear to hate Happy Fun Land so much? Does he actually hate it?

Is Sammy’s battle with Nippy the Cat symbolic or literal? Explain.

What’s the significance behind Bubby the Bear’s ousting? Does he actually go against the usual cartoon clichés, or does he merely offend Nippy’s sense of normality?

As Sammy leaves Happy Fun Land, he believes his actions are a warning shot to something greater. What does he have in mind? Why would he think this way? What might he end up doing? Explain.

What else about Amusement do you think merits a discussion?

Deleted Scenes

One of the great joys of revising for publication is looking for those scenes or sequences that are interesting, entertaining, or even enlightening but ultimately fail to drive the story forward and, therefore, must hit the cutting room floor. Of course, I say this sarcastically. This is, in fact, the worst part of the development process, and very few writers enjoy it. In writing jargon, we call this deletion “killing your darlings.” It means that despite how long the writer may have spent writing the scene to perfection, or despite how much the writer may love what the scene does for the characters, if it doesn’t push the story along at the proper pace, then it must either be rewritten or discarded (often the latter) to ensure the overall story reaches its best version. Think of it like amputating a diseased arm; as much as you want to keep it, it probably isn’t healthy for the rest of the body and has to go.

The following section is a trophy case for substantial scenes or elements that I needed to amputate from the story.

Scene: Introduction

Cut from: Part 1: “Professionalism”

Reason for Deletion: Offers nothing that the story doesn’t develop elsewhere. Does little to hook the reader or build a healthy momentum toward the heart of the story.

Additional Note: In the 2015 electronic version, this scene still exists as the story’s opening.

Sammy normally liked his job at Dinners and Waters, an investment firm with its own advertising and marketing department, as it demanded the starchiest elements of his steadfast professionalism, and did so at the word “go.” Whenever his bosses asked him to complete an assignment, they expected top-notch performance, and they knew they could trust him with anything: he always delivered, usually on time, as his responsibilities required. Like him, they frowned upon laziness, and thanks to his determination to satisfy, it wasn’t in Sammy’s wheelhouse to disappoint those who counted on him.

But he knew he had seen the world through a different set of lenses than the common folks around him. Where most people lamented the slow ride through traffic and the slower ride up the elevator to their offices, made worse by the sound of Monday coming off their tired lips, Sammy saw the commute as a journey, a chance to experience motion in nature’s intended form: a forward trek along the straightest line through the concrete wasteland between Point A (his loft) and Point B (his office), hopefully without interruption, and hopefully with enough straightforwardness to give him time to plan his day while simultaneously suppressing unwanted memories of an earlier life.

He appreciated this routine, which most people would consider dull and lifeless, because, for him, it was comfortable. He knew it was a life without distraction, and devoting the maximum allotment of focus to his work meant he could excel at anything he’d brought to the firm’s mahogany conference table for review. And, if at the end of the day he were to deliver anything that was less than perfect, he would beat himself with a stick and restart the project from scratch, going home only after he was satisfied with the final result. Sometimes that meant spending the week in his office. Sometimes that meant shutting himself down from the outside world, cutting himself off from current events, isolating himself from people who couldn’t help, forbidding himself from eating. It was one way he dedicated himself to excellence.

His colleagues, however, insisted that his high sense of professionalism was just a coping mechanism to ward off his demons. No one else at the firm had felt so strongly about a commitment to perfection. Their unwritten motto had always been, “Whatever gets the job done is good enough.” But Sammy knew better. Professionalism was the foundation for success. It not only translated to high job quality but ensured that the job was done right the first time. It should always be done perfectly the first time, or it shouldn’t be done at all—that was Sammy’s motto. If everyone had committed to his assignments with pride, then the world would be a happier place.

Professionalism was not a quality he believed was too demanding for “professionals.” In fact, if anything about his job had upset him, it was that so many of his colleagues were adopters of the rest of the world’s attitudes: show up, cut corners, get paid, go home. It was the overachievers like him who’d kept the company well-oiled and highly respected. But that was his satisfaction: knowing he was making the world a better place.

Therefore, it had given him great joy knowing he had his brown windowless office with the dying plants in the corners to look forward to each day, where a stack of papers sat waiting on his desk, ready for him to study, ready for him to sign, and ready for him to send back to his boss for approval. It was boring work inside a boring room, but it kept him professional. Nothing about his office distracted him from the task at hand. Likewise, he enjoyed those days where he could pinch the skin of his neck with that uncomfortable gray tie that a woman he once knew had given him for a birthday he didn’t want to celebrate, then conceal everything but the knot under a blue silk shirt and dark business coat where his professionalism could be fashionably visualized. He felt naked if he couldn’t enter his office with a leather briefcase in hand, which was often filled with antiquated documents paying tribute to a time before electronics had taken over communication and the world. Not only was the briefcase a solid accessory to his sharper image, but it contained valuable resources inside that contributed to his preparedness, an attribute of a true professional. Psychology was the mother of strong character, and knowing he looked the part and fulfilled the part ensured him that others would view him as the part and perhaps step up their own professional game. Certainly, that would give him one less thing to worry about. Following the mindless routine of paperwork and meetings also enhanced his feeling of worth, and the thought of marching toward the weekend was the only thing that brought him any sense of anxiety. Weekends were full of uncertainties and distractions. Weekends were the reasons people didn’t pay much attention to their current tasks.

Yes, his bosses kept it easy for him to seclude himself in a cocoon of contentment, but today he was no fan of Dinners and Waters or the opportunities it had offered him. Today, the firm had called for an offsite meeting with a company he did not trust. The company was remarkable in business, but lay at the bottom of the proverbial barrel in professionalism. Its employees weren’t even required to dress the part. Sammy worried that dealing with them would siphon his strict values right out through his pores and onto the shoddy concrete paths they forced their customers to walk upon. He’s seen it happen to others—good men shot down by environmental conditioning. The very thought of it made him anxious, even with the weekend so far away. For this reason, Sammy wasn’t happy with his firm’s current assignment. In fact, he was very angry, very angry indeed.

Behind the Story

Amusement

Behind the Story

Author’s Note

Thank you for reading this far. As a reward for sticking with the book, I’ll give some background information on Amusement in case you’re the type of person who enjoys the “Special Features” selection on Blu-rays and DVDs (or whatever you use to watch movies at the time of this reading).

A Brief History: I wrote “Amusement” (the short story version) for a few reasons, the primary being that in October 1999 I took a class at UCF called Advanced Fiction, and one of the main requirements for passing the class was to write advanced fiction, hence the course title. So I mined my bank of ideas for the perfect story and decided on one I had written a page for earlier that summer, “My Dinner with Bugs Bunny.” Except, I didn’t want to write that story because there was nothing I could do with it, being that it was based on a licensed character. So I changed the potential dinner with Bugs Bunny to one with a made-up cartoon star, Nippy the Cat. Only, I didn’t want Nippy to be a hero or even lovable. For that to work, I needed a natural foil, someone who had hardly any sense of humor. That marked the beginning of Sammy the businessman’s existence as the story’s “hero.”

Now, I still lacked a vehicle to tell this story, and I needed some excuse to toss Sammy into this cartoon world where his negative attitude could upset the balance of such a whimsically nightmarish place. I couldn’t exactly rip off Who Framed Roger Rabbit? for this task, so I went to my next go-to, a computer game I was obsessed with in 1999 called RollerCoaster Tycoon. Suddenly, I had my vision for “Amusement” in full. Sammy would go to the park on business, but he wouldn’t be happy about it. At some point, he’d meet Nippy the Cat and have a psychological battle with him.

Once I wrote the short story and turned it in to the class for workshop, my instructor thanked me for writing something unique (meta!), and even suggested I send the revision off to a literary magazine she had familiarity with, the North Atlantic Review, I think, or North American Review—one of those. But I still had some rough edges to polish and a chunky number of words to lob off from the word count. I never found a way to cut it down to a publishable length without wrecking some of its charm, however, so I never shopped it around. But thanks to futuristic innovations like independent e-books, I no longer have to.

The original story was very much like the current version but with one caveat: the entire premise was about pissing off happy people who were happy because they were brainwashed. That’s basically it. As much as I liked that angle early on, I’ve realized over the years that it wasn’t enough of a motivation, or story problem, to call it “good.” I didn’t want to change anything because I still found it entertaining. But the more I thought about extending the story for an e-book release, the more I thought about who Sammy is and what would irritate him so much, and ultimately what would cause him to become a better star of a better story. The end result was that it transformed from being about a guy looking to shake things up at a clichéd amusement park to being about a guy exacting revenge on those responsible for a personal tragedy in his past.

Of course, the tragedy and those responsible for it, in this version of the story at least, are unclear. We just know the incident disturbed the order of Sammy’s life, enough to ruin his good cheer and to send him down this dark path of emotional vengeance and “extreme professionalism.” But at least now he’s not completely one-note. I’m happier with the outcome. Hopefully you are, too.

A Brief Future: This may not mark the end of Sammy’s story (or even the beginning of it). Even though Amusement is a standalone story and was always intended that way, recent ideas have prompted me to draft a much longer (novel-length) story related to the tragedy that befell him and the vengeful course he takes to rectify the wrongs created by those responsible. It’s unlikely that the new take on the story will surface before 2021, but I do have parts of it written already, and I do want to see just how wide his character arc can stretch. So stay tuned for that.

Revision Notes

Amusement

Revision History

The following is a list of milestones during Amusement’s development.

October 1999: Short story version, printed and submitted for class critique.

March 2005: Revised and included into my CafePress exclusive paperback anthology Life Under Construction: The Collection of Junk, Volume 2.

May 2011: Slight revision and conversion to manuscript format.

September 2014: Began work on an extended, novelized version of “Amusement,” possibly for retitling later. Wrote 10,000 additional words. New section remains unpublished.

June 2015: New scene added to short story version introducing Sammy’s company and his “professional” attitude. Short story split into five separate parts. New version converted to e-book format.

December 2015: Included in my electronic and paperback anthology Zippywings 2015.

April 2016: Minor revisions and updated back matter information.

July 2019: Removed introduction and restored original opening. New revisions to account for character behaviors and motivations, as well as minor cleanup of previous errors. Added new back matter, including a “Readers’ Group Discussion Questions” section and an official “Deleted Scenes” section (where the introduction now resides). Split “Part 4: Nippy the Cat” section into three parts, making the entire story now seven parts.

September 2019: Recorded story for YouTube presentation.

April 2020: ProWritingAid edit. Minor style and grammar changes.

Released: June 2015

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Length: Short Story

Formats: E-book only

Purchase and Access Information

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Why Review?

Thank you for taking the time to review my books. Any word you write and every star you rate is appreciated, positive or negative, short and sweet, or long and brooding.

If you need to know why you should review my books (or any author’s books for that matter), please read my August 2019 article “The Case for Leaving a Product Review” on my sister blog site, Drinking Café Latte at 1pm, for enlightenment. It’s short but important, and I hope you take a moment to understand why your public feedback is of vital importance.

But in case you don’t read it, the straightforward and unglamorous version is that it helps everyone improve, but it also gives authors a career. Authors with few or no reviews can’t really have a career because our trust rating is too low, so the more reviews or ratings we have, the easier we can focus on writing and less on waiting tables for a living.

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If you’re not sure what to say, you can use my “How to Review” guide as a starting point.

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How To Review

If you would like to post a review, but you’re not sure how to start, you could always begin with your star rating in mind and explain how you calculated that value. Inspiration may take over from there. But please don’t feel obligated if you don’t know what to say. The fact that you’ve read the book is awesome enough. A review simply helps others identify whether this book is worth reading and the author about what he or she has done right (or horribly, horribly wrong). That said, we all have a voice, and I hope to hear yours soon. If you prefer to read in silence, that’s fine; I often read in silence myself. But I will generally let others know if I’ve read something awesome. Hopefully, you thought my book is awesome, and I hope you’ll let me know if you did.

That said, if you still need more help coming up with something to say, try answering these questions and use your answers as a basis for forming your review:

 

Will your review contain spoilers? If yes, warn the reader. Note that readers are smart. If you say the book has a twist ending (but you don’t say what), it’s a spoiler! 

I figured out the ending to The Sixth Sense five minutes in because people kept telling me, “You’ll never guess the ending.” Yeah, actually I will.

 

Did you enjoy the book? If yes, what did it leave you thinking about the most? If no, what about it bothered you the most? Elaborate if you can, but keep it short and sweet if the feeling is hard to articulate. 

For me, I watched The Breakfast Club over 40 times because it leaves me feeling like I’m part of the group. This was true when I first saw it edited for television as a 10-year-old. It’s still true as a grown man in my 40s. I also love the music and the tension between characters. I can still quote most of it. It’s the kind of movie that sticks with me.

 

If you liked the book: Who’s your favorite character and why? If you didn’t: Who caused you the most grief and why? 

Because the cast of The Breakfast Club is so well rounded, I don’t have a favorite character. I think each one is important to the story and removing any one of them would make the whole thing crumble.

 

For a good book, what was one thing you didn’t like about it? For a bad book, what was one thing you did like about it? 

Regarding The Breakfast Club, I still think the “smoking scene” is strange. How does the principal not smell the smoke or hear the rock music if the library is “right outside his office”? Definitely my least favorite part of the movie. But in fairness, I think this sequence takes place when the principal is hanging out with the janitor, so how would he even be aware?

 

What did you think of the ending? Is it satisfying or a letdown? Does it even matter? 

I once thought I hated The War of the Worlds (2005, Tom Cruise version) because that ending is among the worst in cinematic history. But darn it if the ride getting to that crappy ending isn’t among the best, and I can’t watch it today without feeling kind of into it. Sometimes the ending can ruin the story, but not always. A better question is does the ending support the point of the story or nullify it? In the case of The War of the Worlds, the ending sucks because it’s a “happy” copout, not a rebellion to the story’s premise, which is to survive an alien attack long enough for our world to figure out how to fight back (or outlast the aliens’ own survival rates).

 

Who is this book for?

I’m sure The Bridges of Madison County is a great book. It somehow managed to land Clint Eastwood in the lead role when it was made into a movie. But it looks soooo boring. At the time the movie was released, I was in my late teens or early 20s, eagerly awaiting the next Arnold Schwarzenegger action film, or really anything with decent character development, a pulse-pounding soundtrack, and explosions, lots of explosions. I liked Clint Eastwood in those days, but I liked him more as Dirty Harry. The Bridges of Madison County seemed more like the kind of movie my mom or grandmother would watch than I would. I might enjoy it more today, but back then, I couldn’t be bothered with it, even if it was good.

 

Finally:

Hopefully, that’ll give you something to work with. If you’re still stuck, though, then check out Amazon’s “Top Reviewers” for some ideas. Can’t go wrong learning from the best.

How to Be Negative

An important note about negative reviews (for my books or for anyone else’s): Please be civil in your reviews. A review should focus on the book, not the author’s condition as a human being. They should focus on your experience with the story, not the coffee shop where you read the story.

In other words, please be fair. If you disliked the book because the characters are poorly developed, the scenes make no sense, or the plot is absurd, then it’s not a good book, and your review should say so. But, if you disliked it because you were in the mood for a dark, depressing horror story and you got a comedy instead (and the book has the markings or description of a comedy all over its product page), then maybe don’t review it.

Likewise, if the book hasn’t yet gotten any reviews, and the review you plan to give is negative, maybe wait until more positive reviews come in before posting yours. You should definitely post yours, but remember that if your review is more subjective than objective, and yours is the only one that potential readers will see, then even if they’d normally love the book, they won’t buy it because your standalone bad review turned them off, and that can not only unjustly kill the book’s chances to succeed (as well as the author’s), but it can rob a positive experience for other readers who might see something entertaining in the book that you didn’t. That’s unfair for everyone.

So, please think it through before you post your review. I can’t rightly tell you how to review or when, but as a writer who lives by the success or failure of each book, I hope you’ll “read the room” and examine your reasons for the negative review before submitting, and maybe consider holding off until a time when your single review won’t destroy the book’s (or the author’s) chance to find the right audience. Again, a bad book deserves to fail, but a good book in the hands of the wrong reader or the wrong time and place needs a bit more grace. On behalf of all writers and authors who live and die by your reviews, thanks for being fair.

Hope You Enjoy the Story!

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Amusement

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Available wherever books are sold online.

What tough man would a nip-cat trap if a nip-cat kid-napped man?

Sammy is a sound businessman who believes professionalism makes the world a happier place. But when his investment firm partners with a famous theme park built on loose values and questionable ethics, Sammy becomes locked in psychological battle with the park’s mascot, Nippy the Cat, and risks losing his strict sense of professionalism, and his mind, in the process.

Released: June 2015

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Length: Short Story

Formats: E-book only

Book Details

Story:

Amusement

Author:

Jeremy Bursey

Type:

Novelette


Genres:

  • Fiction
  • Psychological Thriller
  • Literature

Style:

  • 3rd-Person Limited
  • Quirky

Main Characters:

  • Sammy McGuinness
  • Nippy the Cat
  • Mr. Chip
  • Bubby the Bear

Main Locations:

Happy Fun Land

Description:

What tough man would a nip-cat trap if a nip-cat kid-napped man?

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s a nip-cat? Who’s the man?”

The man is Sammy McGuinness, a professional businessman who prefers suits to shorts and ties to lies. I’m sure you know the type: He’s the guy who makes your boss sweat because his efficiency is more boss than your actual boss. He’s the man who makes you look like a time thief because you stopped by the watercooler for a minute. Yeah, you know Sammy. You’ve probably dealt with Sammy. Maybe you hate Sammy. But, perhaps, Sammy also hates Sammy because Sammy has a secret that he cannot shake, one that makes him very angry, very angry indeed.

Can the happiest place in all the land make him happy again? Or will the nip-cat push him over the edge?

Amusement is the story of lies and justice, of cats and men, and of class battles at their most absurd. In a world where one powerful theme park rules the people, and knock-off brand names demand their unquestionable trust, just remember, no matter who you are, or why you’re there, nothing at this park is ever free, and Happy Fun Land will always find a way to make you pay.

“Welcome to Happy Fun Land!”

Format:

This story is sold as an e-book only. It can also be found in the anthology Zippywings 2015: A Short Story Collection (2015), which has e-book and print editions available. It was previously published in the anthology Life Under Construction: The Collection of Junk, Vol. 2 (2005, no longer available).

Price:

  • Free (on this website).
  • $0.99 USD (on Amazon and other retailers).
  • Equivalent to $0.99 in other regions.

Book Stats:

Not including front and back matter pages:

  • 65 Pages
  • 1 – 2 Hours to read
  • 16k Total words

Copyright:

  • ©2015 (e-book edition)
  • ©2005 (original print anthology edition, Life Under Construction, The Collection of Junk, Vol. 2)

ISBN and ASIN Information:

  • ISBN: 9781311070029 (e-book, Smashwords Edition)
  • ISBN: 9781393721253 (e-book, Draft2Digital)
  • ASIN: B019SXRRG4 (e-book, Amazon)
  • GGKEY: 3493XUPZJW9 (e-book, Google Play Books)

Disclaimer and License Notes:

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite e-book retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

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Exclusive Extras

Amusement

Exclusive Extras

Want more content than just the story? Then scroll through this section for bonus items, including a series of questions for your readers’ group, because I know you want to talk about my books in your readers’ group. There’s also a deleted scene if you want to see what you could’ve missed!

Readers’ Group Discussion Questions

Thank you for choosing Amusement as the subject for your reading discussion. The following questions mean to guide readers through the conversation but should in no way limit its direction or focus during its exploration of ideas. If your group has a topic other reading groups should discuss, please e-mail me, and I may add them to a future edition of the book. Thanks.

Note that the following questions may contain spoilers. Think of them as the test questions you look through ahead of time to validate the answers to questions you’ve already attempted (read: bonus test-taking tips!).

Sammy believes in practicing professionalism, even in the midst of insanity. Why do you think he insists on maintaining his professional behavior at a place like Happy Fun Land?

Does Sammy succeed at maintaining his professionalism despite everything that goes on around him? Discuss.

Does Sammy take the Happy Fun Land pill out of trust or duty to his boss? Explain.

Why does Sammy have such a back-and-forth conflict with the children surrounding him when he poses as a Happy Fun Land character?

Why does Sammy appear to hate Happy Fun Land so much? Does he actually hate it?

Is Sammy’s battle with Nippy the Cat symbolic or literal? Explain.

What’s the significance behind Bubby the Bear’s ousting? Does he actually go against the usual cartoon clichés, or does he merely offend Nippy’s sense of normality?

As Sammy leaves Happy Fun Land, he believes his actions are a warning shot to something greater. What does he have in mind? Why would he think this way? What might he end up doing? Explain.

What else about Amusement do you think merits a discussion?

Deleted Scenes

One of the great joys of revising for publication is looking for those scenes or sequences that are interesting, entertaining, or even enlightening but ultimately fail to drive the story forward and, therefore, must hit the cutting room floor. Of course, I say this sarcastically. This is, in fact, the worst part of the development process, and very few writers enjoy it. In writing jargon, we call this deletion “killing your darlings.” It means that despite how long the writer may have spent writing the scene to perfection, or despite how much the writer may love what the scene does for the characters, if it doesn’t push the story along at the proper pace, then it must either be rewritten or discarded (often the latter) to ensure the overall story reaches its best version. Think of it like amputating a diseased arm; as much as you want to keep it, it probably isn’t healthy for the rest of the body and has to go.

The following section is a trophy case for substantial scenes or elements that I needed to amputate from the story.

Scene: Introduction

Cut from: Part 1: “Professionalism”

Reason for Deletion: Offers nothing that the story doesn’t develop elsewhere. Does little to hook the reader or build a healthy momentum toward the heart of the story.

Additional Note: In the 2015 electronic version, this scene still exists as the story’s opening.

Sammy normally liked his job at Dinners and Waters, an investment firm with its own advertising and marketing department, as it demanded the starchiest elements of his steadfast professionalism, and did so at the word “go.” Whenever his bosses asked him to complete an assignment, they expected top-notch performance, and they knew they could trust him with anything: he always delivered, usually on time, as his responsibilities required. Like him, they frowned upon laziness, and thanks to his determination to satisfy, it wasn’t in Sammy’s wheelhouse to disappoint those who counted on him.

But he knew he had seen the world through a different set of lenses than the common folks around him. Where most people lamented the slow ride through traffic and the slower ride up the elevator to their offices, made worse by the sound of Monday coming off their tired lips, Sammy saw the commute as a journey, a chance to experience motion in nature’s intended form: a forward trek along the straightest line through the concrete wasteland between Point A (his loft) and Point B (his office), hopefully without interruption, and hopefully with enough straightforwardness to give him time to plan his day while simultaneously suppressing unwanted memories of an earlier life.

He appreciated this routine, which most people would consider dull and lifeless, because, for him, it was comfortable. He knew it was a life without distraction, and devoting the maximum allotment of focus to his work meant he could excel at anything he’d brought to the firm’s mahogany conference table for review. And, if at the end of the day he were to deliver anything that was less than perfect, he would beat himself with a stick and restart the project from scratch, going home only after he was satisfied with the final result. Sometimes that meant spending the week in his office. Sometimes that meant shutting himself down from the outside world, cutting himself off from current events, isolating himself from people who couldn’t help, forbidding himself from eating. It was one way he dedicated himself to excellence.

His colleagues, however, insisted that his high sense of professionalism was just a coping mechanism to ward off his demons. No one else at the firm had felt so strongly about a commitment to perfection. Their unwritten motto had always been, “Whatever gets the job done is good enough.” But Sammy knew better. Professionalism was the foundation for success. It not only translated to high job quality but ensured that the job was done right the first time. It should always be done perfectly the first time, or it shouldn’t be done at all—that was Sammy’s motto. If everyone had committed to his assignments with pride, then the world would be a happier place.

Professionalism was not a quality he believed was too demanding for “professionals.” In fact, if anything about his job had upset him, it was that so many of his colleagues were adopters of the rest of the world’s attitudes: show up, cut corners, get paid, go home. It was the overachievers like him who’d kept the company well-oiled and highly respected. But that was his satisfaction: knowing he was making the world a better place.

Therefore, it had given him great joy knowing he had his brown windowless office with the dying plants in the corners to look forward to each day, where a stack of papers sat waiting on his desk, ready for him to study, ready for him to sign, and ready for him to send back to his boss for approval. It was boring work inside a boring room, but it kept him professional. Nothing about his office distracted him from the task at hand. Likewise, he enjoyed those days where he could pinch the skin of his neck with that uncomfortable gray tie that a woman he once knew had given him for a birthday he didn’t want to celebrate, then conceal everything but the knot under a blue silk shirt and dark business coat where his professionalism could be fashionably visualized. He felt naked if he couldn’t enter his office with a leather briefcase in hand, which was often filled with antiquated documents paying tribute to a time before electronics had taken over communication and the world. Not only was the briefcase a solid accessory to his sharper image, but it contained valuable resources inside that contributed to his preparedness, an attribute of a true professional. Psychology was the mother of strong character, and knowing he looked the part and fulfilled the part ensured him that others would view him as the part and perhaps step up their own professional game. Certainly, that would give him one less thing to worry about. Following the mindless routine of paperwork and meetings also enhanced his feeling of worth, and the thought of marching toward the weekend was the only thing that brought him any sense of anxiety. Weekends were full of uncertainties and distractions. Weekends were the reasons people didn’t pay much attention to their current tasks.

Yes, his bosses kept it easy for him to seclude himself in a cocoon of contentment, but today he was no fan of Dinners and Waters or the opportunities it had offered him. Today, the firm had called for an offsite meeting with a company he did not trust. The company was remarkable in business, but lay at the bottom of the proverbial barrel in professionalism. Its employees weren’t even required to dress the part. Sammy worried that dealing with them would siphon his strict values right out through his pores and onto the shoddy concrete paths they forced their customers to walk upon. He’s seen it happen to others—good men shot down by environmental conditioning. The very thought of it made him anxious, even with the weekend so far away. For this reason, Sammy wasn’t happy with his firm’s current assignment. In fact, he was very angry, very angry indeed.

Behind the Story

Amusement

Behind the Story

Author’s Note

Thank you for reading this far. As a reward for sticking with the book, I’ll give some background information on Amusement in case you’re the type of person who enjoys the “Special Features” selection on Blu-rays and DVDs (or whatever you use to watch movies at the time of this reading).

A Brief History: I wrote “Amusement” (the short story version) for a few reasons, the primary being that in October 1999 I took a class at UCF called Advanced Fiction, and one of the main requirements for passing the class was to write advanced fiction, hence the course title. So I mined my bank of ideas for the perfect story and decided on one I had written a page for earlier that summer, “My Dinner with Bugs Bunny.” Except, I didn’t want to write that story because there was nothing I could do with it, being that it was based on a licensed character. So I changed the potential dinner with Bugs Bunny to one with a made-up cartoon star, Nippy the Cat. Only, I didn’t want Nippy to be a hero or even lovable. For that to work, I needed a natural foil, someone who had hardly any sense of humor. That marked the beginning of Sammy the businessman’s existence as the story’s “hero.”

Now, I still lacked a vehicle to tell this story, and I needed some excuse to toss Sammy into this cartoon world where his negative attitude could upset the balance of such a whimsically nightmarish place. I couldn’t exactly rip off Who Framed Roger Rabbit? for this task, so I went to my next go-to, a computer game I was obsessed with in 1999 called RollerCoaster Tycoon. Suddenly, I had my vision for “Amusement” in full. Sammy would go to the park on business, but he wouldn’t be happy about it. At some point, he’d meet Nippy the Cat and have a psychological battle with him.

Once I wrote the short story and turned it in to the class for workshop, my instructor thanked me for writing something unique (meta!), and even suggested I send the revision off to a literary magazine she had familiarity with, the North Atlantic Review, I think, or North American Review—one of those. But I still had some rough edges to polish and a chunky number of words to lob off from the word count. I never found a way to cut it down to a publishable length without wrecking some of its charm, however, so I never shopped it around. But thanks to futuristic innovations like independent e-books, I no longer have to.

The original story was very much like the current version but with one caveat: the entire premise was about pissing off happy people who were happy because they were brainwashed. That’s basically it. As much as I liked that angle early on, I’ve realized over the years that it wasn’t enough of a motivation, or story problem, to call it “good.” I didn’t want to change anything because I still found it entertaining. But the more I thought about extending the story for an e-book release, the more I thought about who Sammy is and what would irritate him so much, and ultimately what would cause him to become a better star of a better story. The end result was that it transformed from being about a guy looking to shake things up at a clichéd amusement park to being about a guy exacting revenge on those responsible for a personal tragedy in his past.

Of course, the tragedy and those responsible for it, in this version of the story at least, are unclear. We just know the incident disturbed the order of Sammy’s life, enough to ruin his good cheer and to send him down this dark path of emotional vengeance and “extreme professionalism.” But at least now he’s not completely one-note. I’m happier with the outcome. Hopefully you are, too.

A Brief Future: This may not mark the end of Sammy’s story (or even the beginning of it). Even though Amusement is a standalone story and was always intended that way, recent ideas have prompted me to draft a much longer (novel-length) story related to the tragedy that befell him and the vengeful course he takes to rectify the wrongs created by those responsible. It’s unlikely that the new take on the story will surface before 2021, but I do have parts of it written already, and I do want to see just how wide his character arc can stretch. So stay tuned for that.

Revision Notes

Amusement

Revision History

The following is a list of milestones during Amusement’s development.

October 1999: Short story version, printed and submitted for class critique.

March 2005: Revised and included into my CafePress exclusive paperback anthology Life Under Construction: The Collection of Junk, Volume 2.

May 2011: Slight revision and conversion to manuscript format.

September 2014: Began work on an extended, novelized version of “Amusement,” possibly for retitling later. Wrote 10,000 additional words. New section remains unpublished.

June 2015: New scene added to short story version introducing Sammy’s company and his “professional” attitude. Short story split into five separate parts. New version converted to e-book format.

December 2015: Included in my electronic and paperback anthology Zippywings 2015.

April 2016: Minor revisions and updated back matter information.

July 2019: Removed introduction and restored original opening. New revisions to account for character behaviors and motivations, as well as minor cleanup of previous errors. Added new back matter, including a “Readers’ Group Discussion Questions” section and an official “Deleted Scenes” section (where the introduction now resides). Split “Part 4: Nippy the Cat” section into three parts, making the entire story now seven parts.

September 2019: Recorded story for YouTube presentation.

April 2020: ProWritingAid edit. Minor style and grammar changes.

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Leave a Review

Thank you for leaving a review. Click on the button for your preferred review source, or visit all three. And don’t forget to leave a review at the retailer you purchased from! If you need help structuring your review or understanding why you should review, I’ve posted a few short comments (in the bottom set of buttons) that can guide you.

Why Review?

Thank you for taking the time to review my books. Any word you write and every star you rate is appreciated, positive or negative, short and sweet, or long and brooding.

If you need to know why you should review my books (or any author’s books for that matter), please read my August 2019 article “The Case for Leaving a Product Review” on my sister blog site, Drinking Café Latte at 1pm, for enlightenment. It’s short but important, and I hope you take a moment to understand why your public feedback is of vital importance.

But in case you don’t read it, the straightforward and unglamorous version is that it helps everyone improve, but it also gives authors a career. Authors with few or no reviews can’t really have a career because our trust rating is too low, so the more reviews or ratings we have, the easier we can focus on writing and less on waiting tables for a living.

If you like my books and want to read more of them, then please leave a review for the books you’ve read so that more readers will trust me, and I can afford to spend more time writing them.

You can review each book wherever you bought them, but you can also review them on Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub, which, as long as you’ve read their specific reviewer requirements, you can do regardless where you’ve bought your copy. Do make sure you know the rules for leaving Amazon, Goodreads, or BookBub reviews before you leave them. This will make the difference on whether they accept your review.

Please remember that reviews must be honest. In other words, don’t rate me five stars if the book sucks or one star if you don’t like my author photo. How do you really feel?

Finally, remember to disclose whether you’ve been gifted the book or if you’ve read it for free.

If you’re not sure what to say, you can use my “How to Review” guide as a starting point.

With that, thanks again for your thoughts. By clicking the review buttons, you’ll find each book’s Amazon, Goodreads, or BookBub direct links. Remember that clicking the buttons will take you outside of this site (in a new window) and subject you to new privacy and cookie policies, as well as new terms and conditions that you’ll have to agree to before using those sites. All standard stuff you’re probably already aware of if you’ve used the Internet for more than an hour.

How To Review

If you would like to post a review, but you’re not sure how to start, you could always begin with your star rating in mind and explain how you calculated that value. Inspiration may take over from there. But please don’t feel obligated if you don’t know what to say. The fact that you’ve read the book is awesome enough. A review simply helps others identify whether this book is worth reading and the author about what he or she has done right (or horribly, horribly wrong). That said, we all have a voice, and I hope to hear yours soon. If you prefer to read in silence, that’s fine; I often read in silence myself. But I will generally let others know if I’ve read something awesome. Hopefully, you thought my book is awesome, and I hope you’ll let me know if you did.

That said, if you still need more help coming up with something to say, try answering these questions and use your answers as a basis for forming your review:

 

Will your review contain spoilers? If yes, warn the reader. Note that readers are smart. If you say the book has a twist ending (but you don’t say what), it’s a spoiler! 

I figured out the ending to The Sixth Sense five minutes in because people kept telling me, “You’ll never guess the ending.” Yeah, actually I will.

 

Did you enjoy the book? If yes, what did it leave you thinking about the most? If no, what about it bothered you the most? Elaborate if you can, but keep it short and sweet if the feeling is hard to articulate. 

For me, I watched The Breakfast Club over 40 times because it leaves me feeling like I’m part of the group. This was true when I first saw it edited for television as a 10-year-old. It’s still true as a grown man in my 40s. I also love the music and the tension between characters. I can still quote most of it. It’s the kind of movie that sticks with me.

 

If you liked the book: Who’s your favorite character and why? If you didn’t: Who caused you the most grief and why? 

Because the cast of The Breakfast Club is so well rounded, I don’t have a favorite character. I think each one is important to the story and removing any one of them would make the whole thing crumble.

 

For a good book, what was one thing you didn’t like about it? For a bad book, what was one thing you did like about it? 

Regarding The Breakfast Club, I still think the “smoking scene” is strange. How does the principal not smell the smoke or hear the rock music if the library is “right outside his office”? Definitely my least favorite part of the movie. But in fairness, I think this sequence takes place when the principal is hanging out with the janitor, so how would he even be aware?

 

What did you think of the ending? Is it satisfying or a letdown? Does it even matter? 

I once thought I hated The War of the Worlds (2005, Tom Cruise version) because that ending is among the worst in cinematic history. But darn it if the ride getting to that crappy ending isn’t among the best, and I can’t watch it today without feeling kind of into it. Sometimes the ending can ruin the story, but not always. A better question is does the ending support the point of the story or nullify it? In the case of The War of the Worlds, the ending sucks because it’s a “happy” copout, not a rebellion to the story’s premise, which is to survive an alien attack long enough for our world to figure out how to fight back (or outlast the aliens’ own survival rates).

 

Who is this book for?

I’m sure The Bridges of Madison County is a great book. It somehow managed to land Clint Eastwood in the lead role when it was made into a movie. But it looks soooo boring. At the time the movie was released, I was in my late teens or early 20s, eagerly awaiting the next Arnold Schwarzenegger action film, or really anything with decent character development, a pulse-pounding soundtrack, and explosions, lots of explosions. I liked Clint Eastwood in those days, but I liked him more as Dirty Harry. The Bridges of Madison County seemed more like the kind of movie my mom or grandmother would watch than I would. I might enjoy it more today, but back then, I couldn’t be bothered with it, even if it was good.

 

Finally:

Hopefully, that’ll give you something to work with. If you’re still stuck, though, then check out Amazon’s “Top Reviewers” for some ideas. Can’t go wrong learning from the best.

How to Be Negative

An important note about negative reviews (for my books or for anyone else’s): Please be civil in your reviews. A review should focus on the book, not the author’s condition as a human being. They should focus on your experience with the story, not the coffee shop where you read the story.

In other words, please be fair. If you disliked the book because the characters are poorly developed, the scenes make no sense, or the plot is absurd, then it’s not a good book, and your review should say so. But, if you disliked it because you were in the mood for a dark, depressing horror story and you got a comedy instead (and the book has the markings or description of a comedy all over its product page), then maybe don’t review it.

Likewise, if the book hasn’t yet gotten any reviews, and the review you plan to give is negative, maybe wait until more positive reviews come in before posting yours. You should definitely post yours, but remember that if your review is more subjective than objective, and yours is the only one that potential readers will see, then even if they’d normally love the book, they won’t buy it because your standalone bad review turned them off, and that can not only unjustly kill the book’s chances to succeed (as well as the author’s), but it can rob a positive experience for other readers who might see something entertaining in the book that you didn’t. That’s unfair for everyone.

So, please think it through before you post your review. I can’t rightly tell you how to review or when, but as a writer who lives by the success or failure of each book, I hope you’ll “read the room” and examine your reasons for the negative review before submitting, and maybe consider holding off until a time when your single review won’t destroy the book’s (or the author’s) chance to find the right audience. Again, a bad book deserves to fail, but a good book in the hands of the wrong reader or the wrong time and place needs a bit more grace. On behalf of all writers and authors who live and die by your reviews, thanks for being fair.

Hope You Enjoy the Story!