History of the Book Cover For Find My Baby

Over the course of writing, editing, rewriting, revising, cursing, etc., I toyed with different covers for Find My Baby.  These are several iterations of the covers I considered at one time or another.

Find my baby cover

This was the first cover, developed for my Nanowrimo author’s page way back in November of 2011.  I liked this one at the time, but then an artist friend pointed out that the shadow on FIND and the shadows on my name were opposite of each other.  My name was also a little too prominent on the cover.  This works for known authors but does nothing for me.  Eventually, I abandoned this one in favor of the next.

Find my baby cover-3

The font changed to give it a ransom note feel, and my name was reduced to a smaller font.  It has a very dreary feel to it, and I abandoned this one pretty quickly.


cryptic FMB cover3

This was the second cover, developed around the time of the rewrite of Find my Baby for the 3 Day Novel challenge, mid 2012.  it has the ransom note feel to it and elements of an ancient manuscript – a storyline that was added to the outline for the rewrite.  And look at that, my name is huge on the cover, again.  The picture of the silhouetted child is a modified picture of my son’s passport picture, taken in Ukraine when he was 22 months old.

cryptic FMB

Here, I wasn’t even going to tell anyone I wrote it – my name is nowhere to be seen.  Notice the cryptic writing is more emphasized.  This is using a font based on the Voynich Manuscript, which the Heusel Manuscript in the story is derived.  This cover was done in 2013, and I was tinkering with the story and emphasizing the ransom storyline over the adoption storyline.  I never liked this cover, which may be why I never put my name on it.

Dark Find my baby cover-1

It’s starting to have the feel that I wanted.  At the recommendation of an agent, I simplified the title to one word, Find, since the focus of the story was less about the adoption at this time.  I abandoned this shorter title.  I abandoned the altered storyline  and went back to the original rewrite that emphasized the adoption.  I also abandoned the agent, but that was mutual.  The photo is courtesy of M. Wej, by the way.

Dark Find my baby cover-5

Finally, this is the book cover  as it will release.  Done in late 2013, the couple has been added, walking in the stark light.  The title stands out clearly, my name is understated and not too big, and the dark cover thumbnails well.  The book was in the editing phase at this point, and my preferential editor was not available.  I was working with an editor I had not used before and we were developing a report, but it was slow going.  Finally, the book was finished and scheduled for release on July 1st, 2014.


Book Trailer–FIND MY BABY

Pimping-Out Book Reviews–DON’T

When an independent author releases a book or e-book, reviews on Amazon and other places matter. The truth is, reviews are hard to come by. For an author who has yet to make a mark, good reviews are gold.

There are services out there who will provide good reviews of your book for a price. Here’s an example of one on Fiverr, identities hidden to protect the guilty.


Notice that, at the time of this screenshot, 22 orders are in the queue, and 1178 others have bought this service.  “ORDER NOW ($5).” 

This is one example, and there are hundreds of other book review whores like this out there.  For an extra charge, they will even download your e-book so it is a verified sale when they comment, i.e., they swallow. 

I can understand why up-and-coming independent authors would consider hiring review services to seed sales, but isn’t it remarkable how inexpensive book review services are?  All it costs is $5 and all of your credibility.

If you are an author, struggling for recognition – I encourage you to avoid this low-life, cheap-thrill, short-cut to respect.  Don’t feed the parasites.

And you – the readers.  If you do read a book, please… take a few minutes and leave a review, be it one of mine or anyone else’s.  You’ve no idea the value it has – so much more than $5.

My novel, “Find My Baby,” is finally releasing!

Dark Find my baby cover-5

Zachary and Lucy Foxborne just want a child. Despite the not so subtle objections of friends and relatives, they begin navigating the legal and bureaucratic maze of international adoption. The last obstacle they expected was having their adopted child held for ransom by an elite hacker, bent on translating the arcane text of a 600-year-old book that could unlock the power to destroy the planet.  With time running out, Zachary finds desperation is his most  useful ally.

Find My Baby is a novel I drafted in 2010 and continued to rework and rewrite until it was the story I knew it should be.  It is loosely based on the experiences of my wife and me, adopting our son in Ukraine, and leverages my 18 years of technical background when working for Microsoft Corporation.  While the story does have hi-tech espionage and extortion, the terminology is kept to  layman terms and I’ve endeavored to keep it accessible.

I am happy to be announcing Find my Baby will release under the Pantoum Press imprint and be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other fine booksellers  on or shortly after July 1, 2014.

You will note the distinct lack of zombies.  That is intentional,but I won’t make a habit of it.

Book Review: Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk

Doomed by Chuck Palahniuk follows Madison Spencer, the liveliest, snarkiest dead girl in the universe, who continues the adventures in the afterlife begun in Damned. Having somewhat reluctantly escaped from Hell, she now wanders the Purgatory that is Earth as a ghostly spirit, seeking her do-gooding celebrity parents, fighting the malign control of Satan, recounting the disgracefully funny (to us, anyway) encounter with her grandfather in a fetid highway rest stop in upstate New York when she…oh, never mind, and climaxing in a rendezvous with destiny on the new, totally plastic continent in the Pacific called, not at all accidentally, Madlantis.

DoomedI have read every novel Chuck has written, and this is – by far – his most ambitious and apocalyptic. It also is the second book in his first series. Still, I’m not new to Chuck and have grown to expect something that challenges the norms and pushes so far beyond good taste, it bypasses bad taste and gets deep into downright revolting.

Doomed does not disappoint in this regard. The story unfolds in a number of blog posts by dead, 12-year old Madison Spencer, who is now wandering the earth as a ghost, and it repeatedly rewards readers of Damned (the first book in the series) by the events that occur, but reading Damned is not a prerequisite to enjoying Doomed. It is encouraged, though.

The story is quite good in a  vulgar way. I have a feeling that I would have enjoyed the outline of this novel more than the novel itself, because it’s the details that Doomed gets wonky.


   Warning!  Spoilers Ahead





My problems with the book are the same as in Damned, and that is the voice of Madison does not sound like anything close to a twelve year-old.  It sounds like an adult who is trying to sound like a twelve year-old. Sadly, there were scenes in Doomed that completely failed for me because of this, and one of them was a key scene in the highway rest stop. For a girl who came across so worldly and knowing in the things she says, to not be able to tell an erect penis from a dog poop (and yes, she lost her glasses and it was blurry to her but, c’mon) left me completely unable to buy-in on the events that transpired.

The silly, middle-school-speak attempts like, “CTRL+ALT+Surprised” and “Fatty-Miss-Fat-Fat” and “Pervy Mr. Perv” slang – that is far too prevalent throughout the book – only accentuated this failure more. It was weak and ineffective, and I know Chuck has been challenged on this point before in reviews for Damned. Other times, Madison spoke in far more educated and worldly terms. I think Chuck is trying to address that by having Madison sentiently comment about her comment, but it did not work for me.

That might sound like a foundational failing of the novel but really, it isn’t at all. It does make Doomed less than perfect, but there were some fantastic moments, like the chapter about the adopting the cat or the parts about the Boorish Religion that absolutely floored me. These had me laughing out loud.  So few authors can actually solicit a true laugh from me, it is worth noting and should matter for something.

With such a mixed bag, I have trouble rating this one, but Chuck really defies pigeon-holes, don’t you think? Still, I have to go thumbs up or down.

Recommended, but only if you read Damned and liked it enough to want more. For new readers of Chuck – consider Fight Club, Choked or Survivor, which are early Chuck P. primers.

Short Story: Smart Zombies

I originally wrote this story for The Infection Anthology, but it didn’t make the deadline.  It appeared in Untrue Stories, Volume One in 2012.  It’s a very short piece and I hope you dig it.  If you do, please share.

 Smart Zombies
by Mitch Lavender

Smart Zombies, I hate them.

Mind you, “smart” is only in reference to common, everyday zombies. Smart Zombies can open doors and figure simple problems out. The average zombie can’t even get out of a car if the door is closed. It will try to chew its way out, though, breaking teeth and bones in the process and it won’t stop; broken fingers and no teeth, it will keep trying.

Smart Zombies will call others; a raspy, horrible screech. They will organize mass assaults on locked doors or barricades, and stand in the back ordering the hordes of others on to attack; zombie generals of the War on Humanity.

Undead Ed -cropped- editedThe siege has been going on for three days now and we have retreated to floor eight of the Madison Heights apartment building. We lost ground, floor after floor, as they kept coming, defending the stairwells until we couldn’t anymore. Then we would abandon and move up, but the undead were like water flooding a sinking ship and we were fleeing up and up until there was nowhere else to go. With only eight floors in the building, we were making a last stand before retreating to the roof, and if we did that, I’d jump to my death before becoming one of those things. I swear I would.

As we nailed them down the stairwell, the bodies piled on top of each other in the confined space. This gave us a few minutes of relief while the zombies behind cleared them away to try a new assault. They didn’t rest, so neither did we, for forty-two hours straight. My vision is blurry and sometimes I pass out on my feet, to be awoken to the horror we faced and to pull the trigger again and again and again. Only head-shots would put one down. We had ammo, and for that, I was grateful.

A hand on my shoulder pulled me back. “Relief, Corporal!”

Major Jensen took my place at the top of the stairwell and I staggered back, spent. He had been moving the civilians up each floor as we lost ground and had no more sleep than the rest of us. Still, I would take the relief. Just for five minutes. Then I would be back at it. I closed my eyes.

When I awoke, it was daylight, punctuated by staccato gunshots. While asleep, I had heard the same sounds, but I guess I was too tired to notice. It was daylight and we had held them off through the night. Why had I been allowed to sleep so long?

“Back ‘em up!” came the yell from the Sergeant Major and the urgency stirred me to full alertness. This meant we’d lost the floor and only had the roof left. Since I was the one non-civilian not engaged in combat, I hurried the frightened residents up the final flight of stairs. I pushed a boy who couldn’t have been ten-years old, “Hurry!”

He walked a few steps and said, “Why don’t you shoot a car? The alarm would distract them, wouldn’t it?”

Zombies hated loud noises like alarms, and when one went off, they attacked the source with horrible vengeance. It was a good idea, and might distract them from the smart zombie’s orders.

“Move, son!” I shoved him towards the stairs and stepped to a window inside one of the apartments. The streets were filled with undead; packed with stinking, animated corpses that were intent on attacking our building. The zombie general was out of sight but calling them on with his scream. I aimed my M-16 and shot out the windshield of a PT Cruiser; nothing. I focused on an Infiniti G-37 and fired. The alarm blared into life and the zombies around it turned, refocused on this new target that was making so much noise.

I shot out the windshield of a Ford Explorer and its alarm also erupted into life. I did the same with a Mazda RX-7 and a Chevy Tahoe, each one blaring and attracting more attackers. This was working.

Then I saw their general emerge from the building cattycorner to ours. He wore a blood-stained lab coat, but the way he walked with purpose drew my attention, despite the thousands of other zombies shambling around the crowded the street below. He jumped up on a car and screamed again, pointing at our building – a siren to call the others to attack his target. I’ve heard that scream for the last three days and knew it well. He’s the guy.

The boy brought me a gun and said, “Here, stop it here. Stop it now.”

I looked at the gun he held – a sniper rifle, equipped with a scope. Checking that it was loaded, I pulled it up and drew a bead on the general zombie’s forehead, using the windowsill to steady my aim. I fired. His screech silenced and he fell backwards. The hordes turned their focus on the alarms and began attacking the cars.

“They are retreating!” said the Sergeant Major, shocked. Then he fell back and laughed out loud for a moment before passing out from exhaustion.

The waters receded and we took back the top four floors that day. Outside, the streets still swim with the undead, but we live… for now.



Review of the Kindle e-book: The Playboy Interviews: Men of Letters

The Playboy Interview: Men of Letters – available on Amazon Kindle – $4.99 (free for Amazon Prime)

Playboy has long stood as a paramount publication for candid interviews with the famous and infamous.  This book features twelve interviews with some of the most controversial authors of our era:

Vladimir Nabokov – 1964

Henry Miller – 1964

Jean-Paul Sartre – 1965

Norman Mailer – 1968

Truman Capote – 1968

Allen Ginsberg – 1969

Tennessee Williams – 1973

Kurt Vonnegut – 1973

Ray Bradbury – 1996

Saul Bellow – 1997

Chuck Palahniuk – 2009

Lee Child – 2012

50years-pb-wordscoverThis is a great collection of interviews with great, and often reclusive, writers.  Simply, it is stuff you won’t get anywhere else.

Here is an excerpt from the interview with Chuck Palahniuk:

Playboy: You once said Fight Club is a kind of Joy Luck Club for men. What did you mean?

Palahniuk: There are many templates for how women can come together and talk: The Joy Luck Club, How to Make an American Quilt, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. They present all these arbitrary social groups that allow women to come together and talk about their experience. Men don’t have those sorts of things. More than anything else, that’s what Fight Club is. It’s a place for men to be together and talk.

Playboy: A place where they beat the hell out of one another.

Palahniuk: Well, it does seem to help if we’re doing something physical. Men don’t usually sit around just talking, as women do. More often we’re doing something.

Everyone has heard the line that, “I read Playboy for the articles.”  This is why anyone would read Playboy -  great journalism.

Please note that, at this time, this book is only available in e-book format.

Chuck Palahniuk’s new novel, ‘Doomed’ Officially Announced

Chuck Palahniuk does weird like no other author I read.  Some of his stuff makes Naked Lunch read like Goldilocks.  You’ve got to love the chances he takes with his characters and – to some degree – with his readers.

The sequel to the 2012 novel, Damned has been officially announced, and it’s Doomed.  The news broke over on The Cult, and pre-orders will soon  be accepted for the October 8, 2013 release by Random House.

Here’s the official pitch for Doomed:

doomed-usHaving somewhat reluctantly escaped from Hell, she now wanders the Purgatory that is Earth as a ghostly spirit, seeking her do-gooding celebrity parents, fighting the malign control of Satan, recounting the disgracefully funny (to us, anyway) encounter with her grandfather in a fetid highway rest stop in Upstate New York when she . . . oh, never mind, and climaxing in a rendezvous with destiny on the new, totally plastic continent in the Pacific called, not at all accidentally, Madlantis. Dante Alighieri, watch your back, Chuck Palahniuk is gaining on you.

I like Chuck’s description better:

The next novel will follow Madison back to earth as a ghost, doomed to haunting her parents for a year.  In flashback we see her earlier childhood, including the death of the kitten whose dead body subsequently clogged the plumbing of the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel.  That death is not Madison’s doing, but another death is.  Whether it’s murder or self-defense, as a ten-year-old Madison kills someone horrifically, and that’s the most-likely reason why she was damned in the first place.  We also begin to recognize a centuries-long conspiracy engineered to train and test Maddy for her role as the savior of all spiritual beings.

Nope, nothing subtle, here.

Oh, I forgot to mention it but the world ends in this next book.


Well, alrighty then.  Soooo… it’s a romance novel?

As always, when it’s Chuck, I’m in.  Therapy has finally helped me block out all memory of reading Snuffed, and I’m good to go.  Bring on more Madison.

Book Review: Everything Men Know About Women: 25th Anniversary Edition

EverythingMenKnow3.inddThe 25th Anniversary edition of the “worldwide best-seller”, Everything Men Know About Women by Dr. Alan Francis, has been updated and revised to reveal all we, the male gender, know about the opposite sex.

All 120 of the pages are blank.

Yes, it’s a joke.  Apparently, it’s an old joke, now in its 25th anniversary, and plugging along just fine.


I can see the comedic value in a physical book, sitting in the open so some unsuspecting sap picks it up and flips through the pages, seeing there is nothing written on them.  What I don’t understand is the e-book version, which sells for $3.82 on Amazon.  Seriously?


Anyway, the joke just gets better and better:  This book is in the Amazon top 100,000 books.

My book, Death Zone and Other Stories, is ranked 334,357 on Amazon as I write this.

That means that a book with no words in it at all outsells my book, and hundreds of thousands of other legitimate books on Amazon, for that matter.

HA. *cough*

That’s depressing.  Or is it?

With only $3,000 and determination, Cindy Cashman and a partner started a publishing company and published the world wide best seller EVERYTHING MEN KNOW ABOUT WOMEN (written under the pseudonym of Dr. Alan Francis).

Cindy knew that marketing the book would require the type of original creative thinking not usually taught in MBA schools. She recognized that selling through traditional booksellers would be a hard sale, as it would get lost among the thousands of titles. Therefore, she developed a marketing plan to sell outside the book industry and stores bought them by the thousands.

On the strength of this initial success, they published ten original books and sold over a million copies to become one of the most successful self-publishers in the country.

Well played, Cindy Cashman. You are living up to your surname.


Notice I never disputed the accuracy of the book’s premise?  Really, pretty spot-on, if you ask me.  Since the pages were blank, I just wrote the word, “boobies” on every page.  Sometimes I drew a picture.  I’ve also scratched out the title and renamed it, Booby Traps. 

I expect to sell millions.



Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernie Cline

Note: NO SPOILERS AHEAD. NONE. A whole number less than one. 0=n where n is the number of spoilers.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, 374 pages, published by Broadway Paperbacks. $14.00

WP_000294The year is 2044. The Great Recession has taken its toll on the world’s economy and resources are scarce. The Internet and online gaming culture have evolved into the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), a massively multiplayer online simulation game created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow of Gregarious Simulation Systems (GSS).

When Halliday dies with no heirs or other living family, he leaves a video will, saying whoever can collect three keys that are hidden throughout the universe of OASIS and pass through the matching gates will receive his fortune and controlling stake in GSS.

This becomes known as the Hunt and people immediately begin the search for Halliday’s Easter Egg. Those searching for the Egg are referred to as “gunters,” a combination of “egg” and “hunters.” Gunters devote an enormous amount of time to studying 1980s pop culture – the decade Halliday grew up in and was obsessive about – in the hope it will assist them with solving the puzzles involved with the egg and winning Halliday’s inheritance and control of OASIS.

Hey! I grew up in the 80s! I know more about 80’s pop culture than I do about the politics of the time. This made Ready Player One a book I not only devoured, I feel like it was written for me. Everything from the AD&D references (yes, I was once a Dungeon Master, and killed many a character in module S1 – Tomb of Horrors), to the pop songs of the day, to arcade video games to the lines from War Games or Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I loved it. I would have been one heck of a gunter.

I think this book will appeal to anyone who grew up during the 1975-1990 period, particularly if you were (are?) a geek. The many references to pop culture of the time and the way they are tied into the fast-moving story are effortless and compulsive. Great characters, lots of action and a rewarding conclusion. What more could you want?

Go read it, and if you are the sort to indulge in the spirits, you can try this drink, posted on nerdfriday.com: Three Keys (a drink inspired by Ready Player one)

I don’t have the right liquors to mix it, but I’d be interested in hearing your experiences with it.

Want to Wear the Books You Love?

Out Of Print Clothing is singular in offering a line of shirts based on on famous books by well-known authors. 

I’ve been a big fan of Out Of Print Clothing since I learned about them a year ago.  Between my wife and I, we have seven of their shirts, and bought several notecards, notebooks and other products.  It’s very cool stuff, and all has been quality merchandise, shipped quickly.  I’ll add that the shirts have become more comfortable with each washing, without fading.

Your favorite book covers on a shirt.  Who wouldn’t love that?  And for each product purchased, a book is donated to an underprivileged  child through the nonprofit organization, Books For Africa.  A fantastic t-shirt you can’t get anywhere else, and you help make the world suck just a little less, all at one fell swoop.  That is what Out of Print Clothing offers.

They have just added Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thomson, and I guess I’ll have to add it it to my wardrobe.  I’ll post a couple of pictures here, but you really need to hit their site to see their full line of clothing, e-book reader covers, notebooks, notecards, etc. 

That said, here is what I thought were some of the most impressive designs:




Yea, man.  Cool.

Chuck Palahniuk Reads His Short Story, ‘Romance’


Clocking in at 28:43, this is Chuck reading the entire story, Romance, previously published in Playboy Magazine.  I wish I was brave enough to write with such abandon.

The Pitch: From Fight Club author, Chuck Palahniuk comes a love story for our time: After his girlfriend dies from cancer John finds himself overweight and thrust back into a hopeless world. When a girl who claims to be Britney Spears hits on him, he can’t believe his luck. She looks like a supermodel and parties like Hollywood. The only reason she doesn’t dump him for someone more attractive is he keeps the party rolling… or at least that’s the story he’s sticking with.

I dig it when an author reads his own work and this was like a rare scotch to me  – or like a zucchini canoe filled with Iroquois.   However you want to look at it.


Chuck Palahniuk reads his short story, Romance to a live audience (location\date unknown)


Puppet show!  Magic trick!

Note that Romance has been made into a short film by Andy Mingo.  Check it out, here.

From There to Here – This Writer’s Journey, So Far

"Write without pay until somebody offers to pay you. If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for."

– Mark Twain


If you are new to writing, Mark Twain’s quote sounds like a reasonable guideline to follow. Three years from now, you might feel differently.

It took me a whole lot longer than three years, just to get from Completely Unknown to Completely Unknown but Published.  I’ve been at the writing gig for a while, but it’s always been on the side.

In 1989, I wrote a three-part article on BBS Gaming that was published in the now defunct Challenge Magazine. I remember it was a paying gig, but I don’t think it was more than two cents a word or something like that. That was a thrill for me, getting into a printed magazine. Back then, there were no online publications.

Between 1989 and 2000, I fumbled around with stories here and there, but nothing ever came from it.

It was in 2000 that my good friend, Tom Quinn, proposed the idea for what he called – and what is still called – Life in Sixty-Four Square Feet. He proposed a short video, showing the different perspectives of two people, one guy who conformed to secular life, working in a cubicle (a.k.a.; Box-Guy) and a guy who was nonconformist – but still functional – in the same office environment (a.k.a.; Circle-Guy).

Five to ten minutes long, the video was to be nothing but the contrasts between the two, with Box-Guy noticing that Circle-Guy was happier.

The next week, I pitched the first three pages to Tom, who critiqued, added his own scenes and sent it back. We continued writing it in this way for a couple of weeks, and then we saw a Volkswagen Beetle commercial that summarized the concept in a sixty-second spot.

This is the Volkswagen commercial:

We were completely undone by this, and had to reevaluate the project. The sentiment we both shared was that, now, anything we would do in our short video would only echo scenes  from the commercial. We were also cognizant that it would be easy to slip into imitating scenes from Office Space.

So, we set the bar higher, doing Life in Sixty-Four Square Feet as a movie script and expanding the story into three full acts. The plan was to enter it in Project Greenlight – a contest where one script would be selected to be made into a movie by Mirimax.

The script progressed well, with both of us contributing to it. To be sure, Tom and I had very different ideas about Act III, and we had long conversations about it. Still, it slowly progressed.

Then the towers fell on 9/11/01.

Neither Tom nor I lived in New York. We did not lose anyone close to us in the attack on the World Trade Center or Pentagon. Despite that, any adult who was alive on that date remembers how it felt – how it shrouded everything in somberness and an ache that didn’t pass. The whole country was healing, and healing slowly.

Suddenly, our little story about a pissy guy – complaining about his pointless job – just didn’t seem worthy of attention. Big things were going on, and our script dealt with none of the important issues.

We stopped. Quit. Just like that.

I guess it was 2007 when I picked the script up again. Tom Quinn was now completely occupied with other matters and had lost interest in the project, so I continued working on it – with his approval, of course.

I changed it from script to novel format, and without an opposing partner to weigh in, I was able to write the third act as I wanted. While I missed the conversations and back-and-forth I had with Tom, I was relieved that I could write the ending I wanted. I thought it would be a breeze. It was anything but.

Life in Sixty-Four Square Feet was challenging because it was making serious statements about the complexity of modern life, but still needed to be entertaining. I was learning as I went – through three drafts and two additional, complete rewrites. Also during this time, I wrote around a hundred short stories and two other novels. Find My Baby and Undertaking Hartford are still in the second draft.

Some of my short stories were published in various online e-zines, but all were non-paying and most had limited readership – 5000 or less.

In 2010, I sold a short story to a big magazine. This could not have happened without the pro bono efforts of a literary agent, who presented the story on my behalf. I am immensely grateful to her for this. Unfortunately, the magazine has not published the piece, so, when thirty-six months pass, rights to the story revert back to me according to the contract, but I was paid. Not a total loss, but I would have rather they published it.

Death_Zone_6x9_FCInfection-FC-wordclay3Untrue Stories-vol1-cover-2In 2010-2011, I lead a group of authors in writing an anthology of zombie fiction. We released The Infection Anthology, which quickly fell into absolute obscurity. It was a learning experience for me: I definitely do not want to be a publisher.

I also took my short stories that were published in various non-paying publications and released them as e-books. Death Zone and Other Stories released in 2011 and sold reasonably well, probably due to the catchy title and decent cover.

In 2012, I did this again – republishing my stories that had appeared in online e-zines – in another anthology: It Didn’t Happen This Way – Untrue Stories, Volume One. This one hasn’t sold as many copies as Death Zone, but then, the title and cover weren’t as catchy, either.

So now, in 2013, with an agent shopping Life in Sixty-Four Square Feet around to publishers, and some interest being shown for Find My Baby, I look at how long it took me to get – just – this far.

Having a piece accepted by a non-paying publication is no longer a thrill for me. I think my writing is worth more than nothing, and am looking for the validation that comes with being paid for my work.

Most publications don’t pay, and those that do are inundated with manuscripts. It’s not just matter of being good enough, it’s a matter of getting your ms noticed in the pile of submissions from other authors.

Self-publishing fiction is a tough road, too – profiting the retailers, not the author – I’ve learned. It’s the rare exception that can break that mold, and while I like to imagine it could be me, I’m not so egotistical that I think it will be me.

Seriously, look at the cuts e-book retailers take on a sale – Some take 35%-70%, depending on how you price the e-book. Mind you, without them, your book doesn’t get wide visibility, but it comes with a significant cost.

Of course, I use the popular excuses to justify self-publishing: It’s to build a reader-base. It’s to get my name out there. It’s for the satisfaction of it all, not the money – and good thing, too.

Amazon is awash with self-published books and all the stigma that goes with the self-published moniker. It’s an amusing fact that the bestselling, self-published e-book is about how to self-publish an e-book.

Almost no one can earn a living writing fiction. Yes,  there are those who do it, but of the people who do write fiction, it’s less than 1% that pull it off.

So Mark Twain – who was in the 1% club in his day – can bite me. I’m not writing to get paid. I work a separate profession to earn a living for myself and my family. I write because I want to.

Twain also said something about the naysayers and “small people” who will put others down to feel better than themselves, as well as the sort of person you should be around:

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

Mark Twain


I’ll keep at it. I honestly don’t think I could stop, anyway.

If you are a writer looking for a friendly and helpful critique forum – the really great that make you feel that you, too, become great -, why not take a look at http://Splinter4All.com and see if it is a good fit for you. Here, in a closed forum, writers constructively critique each other’s work. Joining is free, and if you do, look me up. I’m MitchLav on the site.  See you there.