Don’t Kill the Dog (for authors)

There are places that authors fear to tread and rightly so.  Some things are taboo and off limits, even in the fictionalized place where we create our stories and taking a certain plot twist can completely lose a reader or worse, make them angry.

I have a tendency to write dark fiction and that is thin ice to tread.  It’s not hard to make a wrong move.  It takes scruples and sense of self to avoid it because when weaving a story (i.e., pantsing), it has a life of its own; taking a direction that almost seems to be beyond the author’s control.  The story is completely in the author’s control of course, but it can sometimes feel like it has its own personae and is making choices for itself, such as having your antihero become a predator on the weak, vulnerable or trusting.  Who would like Batman if he was a rapist or child molester?   Rapists and Child molesters, that’s who, and no one else.

Continue reading

Amputations

Keyboard

As I highlighted the paragraph of my beloved story, I imagined placing my hand on the chopping block, fingers splayed.  I raised the cleaverLet it begin.  I brought the cleaver down swiftly on my pinkie finger.  Chop.  Delete.

 My carefully crafted paragraph erased, I cleaned up the extra line and read through the piece again.  Holding up my hand, I saw blood spurting with every heartbeat.   Now the piece is imbalanced, as the following paragraph built upon the one I had deleted.  It’s got to go as well.  Chop.  Delete.  Blood spurted from both hands.

Continue reading

NANOWRIMO 2015 Wallpaper

November 1st will be here soon and with it comes another month of NANOWRIMO – the National Novel Writer’s Month, where the goal is to crank out 50,000 words during the 30 days of November.

I’ve taken a break from NANOWRIMO for the last four years but that’s enough and I’m in it in 2015.  I’ve got an outline and I’m making it ok to not meet the word-count goal.  For me, it will be a month where I begin to focus on improving as a writer again and I’m genuinely looking forward to it.  NANOWRIMO is a time to let your thoughts free and to go with the flow.  For 2015, I have chosen the theme, “Write with abandon.” 

If you are doing Nanowrimo in November, I wish you the very best.  Feel free to download the wallpaper, below. 

And feel free to buddy with me on Nanowrimo so we can track each other’s progress.  I’m Spanish_Inquisition.

 

(click image to view in full 1920×1080)

The plot is clichéd, the jokes are stale – Aimee Mann Rocks

Being a struggling writer is hard, and not in the sort of cool, tortured artist kind of way.  It is like punching as hard as you can into a memory foam mattress – any impression you make soon fades to nothing and it’s like you were never there.  Of course, you can’t wallow in the destitute ineffectiveness of past endeavors, but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s beneficial to look back at what you’ve done.  Even if you can’t see any impression on the mattress, you know you were there.

This song, Invisible Ink, by Aimee Mann is a luxury I allow myself to enjoy once in a while.  I don’t know Aimee’s intent when she wrote the song but I adore the words and identify with it in my own way.  She’s a fantastic wordsmith and performer.

Aimee Mann
from the album, Lost in Space (2001)
Invisible Ink

There comes a time when you swim or sink
So I jumped in the drink
Cuz I couldn’t make myself clear

Maybe I wrote in invisible ink
Oh I’ve tried to think
How I could have made it appear

But another illustration is wasted
Cuz the results are the same
I feel like a ghost who’s trying to move your hands
over some Ouija board in the hopes I can spell out my name

What some take for magic at first glance
Is just sleight of hand depending on what you believe
Something gets lost when you translate
It’s hard to keep straight
Perspective is everything

And I know now which is which and what angle I oughta look at it from
I suppose I should be happy to be misread-
Better be that than some of the other things I have become

But nobody wants to hear this tale
The plot is clichéd, the jokes are stale
And baby we’ve all heard it all before
Oh i could get specific but
Nobody needs a catalog
With details of love I can’t sell anymore

And aside from that, this chain of reaction,
baby, is losing a link
Though I’d hope you’d know what I tried to tell you
And if you don’t I could draw you a picture in invisible ink

But nobody wants to hear this tale
The plot is clichéd, the jokes are stale
And baby we’ve all heard it all before
Oh i could get specific but
Nobody needs a catalog
With details of love I can’t sell anymore

Essay: Time to Stop

Lynn handed me the fortune from her fortune cookie.

“This is for you.”

I took the tiny slip of paper and read aloud, “Don’t be afraid to take that big step.”

20150329_180144899_iOS

“What do you think that means?” she asked.

“I don’t know, but my lucky numbers are 2, 5, 8, 11, 15 and 54.”

She laughed and let me off the hook. I know that she knows she let me off the hook.

I’ve been teetering on the edge for years, trying to balance my career in IT that paid my bills and supported my family with my alter-ego’s career of being a writer, which took me away from my family. I’ll add that being a writer requires doing shameless self-promotion that I detest doing. It is akin to standing in the middle of a busy supermarket, pulling my pants down and yelling, “Look what I can do!” as I hop around like an epileptic donkey.  If self-promotion was an Apple product, it would be called iHateit.

Once, I tried to leave my body while doing self-promotion. No, really. I actually tried to astral project to anywhere but the place where I was pandering my book to some politely disinterested group. It’s no better selling to the black hole of the internet where no one can hear you scream. For the record, it didn’t work – the astral projection or apparently, the self-promotion.

Lynn knew how I hated it though we never talked about it. I knew she knew, and she knew I knew she knew.

Later that night as we lay in bed together and before we curled up and went to sleep, I decided to answer her question.

“What would be a big step?”

I turned and looked at her.

“I want to stop trying to be a writer.”

I had never used those words together in a sentence before. Just saying it felt fresh and new. Was this what is like when a woman douches? I don’t know, but saying it felt good. I could leave the unclean, messy part about self-promoting behind and just write because I like to write, and if no one reads it, meh. It’d be great if someone did, but it’s not key. I no longer fail if they don’t.

I can be THAT guy – the guy who just writes for fun. For FUN!

Wow.

I was so excited, I leapt from bed and standing there in my underwear, I said more words I have never uttered before: I don’t have to write. I don’t have to blog. I don’t have to self-promote!

I was heady from the sacrilege and heresy of my own words. I had just broken my own taboo rules and it made me giddy.

Don’t get me wrong on this, I love writing. Still, in my attempt to improve and produce and be recognized, I have held my own feet to a very hot fire. It was not uncommon for me to sit down at the keyboard and not allow myself to go to bed until I wrote 500 words. Sometimes it was 1000 words. Sometimes it was to edit 20 pages, or submit work to a reviewer. These were arbitrary and unhealthy practices but I did it to myself to force growth, and I did them after working my real job all day long.

In the process of doing this relentlessly, year after year, I broke something. It was like a spring that had been wound too tight and snapped. I don’t think it is something that will fix itself.

One of my favorite quotes is from the author of Fahrenheit 451 and Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury. He said, “You only fail if you stop writing.”

L64-Bradbury-WP1

It’s a good quote. Really, it distills all the fluff and pretense and puts it in perspective: Keep writing.

I will keep writing and by that measure, I have not failed. I simply have stopped being hardcore and mad about it, and I have stopped because it isn’t getting me anywhere. It might get me to an early grave if I kept at it, dead from a heart attack. I’m ok with giving that a miss for a few more decades.

Until that day, I’ll continue to write, casually.

 

Ed. This is a fictionalized account and may or may not be true, hallucinated or completely fabricated out of thin air. Perhaps it was a fanciful thought of yours. You know how you daydream. We all know how you daydream.

Short Essay: Until Then, I Write

Writerandstuff-shadow

 

It seemed innocent enough. A few words on the page; what harm could it do?

A flash-fiction piece here, a poem there – it didn’t take much time. Before long, I stepped up to doing short stories. It was only one a week, at first. Then I was doing it more. I would lie to my family so I could sneak out and write. They thought I was going to the store for bread, but I was at Starbucks with my fingers on the keyboard, typing furiously, or sitting in the car, scribbling in a Moleskine.

Eventually, they suspected something was not right when I didn’t come home for three hours and when I did, I had no bread but was all amped up on triple-tall cappuccino. The pens and pencils in my pocket were a giveaway, too. I denied being a writer, of course.

“What sort of loser profession is that?” I scoffed. “Yes, I write a little when there is nothing else to do, but I can stop anytime.”

The truth was – it was under my skin. I was driven to scriven. I had the bite to write. I would uncontrollably write poetry. Soon, the flash-fic, poems and short stories were not enough. I started outlining novels.

The outlines grew into acts, and the acts multiplied, with peaks and valleys and so help me – they climaxed. It was out of my control now, and I began doing full-blown novels. I tried to stop. I tried to watch TV with my family, but all I could think about was creating my own stories, not watch someone else’s.

So, that is what I did. Every moment I called my own, I wrote. Or I looked at funny pictures of cats on the internet. But mostly, I wrote. I wrote some of the time, ok? Don’t be a nag about it. More days than not, I wrote.

My family resigned to the truth – I was a writer. Not like I was an addict, but more like I was handicapped. Like something was wrong with me. Something really, really wrong. Still, they loved me and put up with it, though it was taxing.

I found myself barging into the bedroom at 1 AM, shouting to my wife, “Wake up! The second act is complete and I need you to read it all the way through. Help me see what I have missed!”

This never produced the enthusiastic response I expected. Slowly, I learned when to bring up my writing and when not to, and my family adapted as well. For reference, most of the time is not a good time to bring up my writing.

I know, as does my family – there is no cure. I may not be good at it. Maybe I’ll never be more than a hack, independent author, receiving only the most benign acknowledgements or accolades. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I do write and I get the ideas out of head and onto the page.

They say the left brain controls the logical thought processes and the right brain controls the creative processes. When you are a writer, neither side is in control of any processes. It just comes together in a big gumbo of thoughts and emotions.

One day, they may have pill to help people like me. Until then, I write.

© 2015, Mitch Lavender

Short Story: Shadow Man

This is an unpublished story I wrote in 2013 for a writing challenge with a photograph as the prompt – a woman, standing alone, gazing out on a frozen lake.   I call the story Shadow Man, and I hope you like it.

Januarysnow-Photo prompt

 

Shadow Man

It happened so fast. There was the telltale cracking sound, but only for a second, and then the ice beneath Jim broke and he, and the baby he held, dropped out of view. From the shore, Shelly witnessed this horror and the sight chilled her to her core.

There were two other skaters on the lake – a man and a woman, and both moved quickly to the hole to help, farther out on the thin ice than they dared skate normally. Carefully approaching the hole, the man took off his scarf and threw it to Jim splashing helplessly in the freezing water, dragging him out and onto the ice.

The cold was like nothing Jim had ever known. As the blood instinctively withdrew from his extremities to retain the heat in his torso, it was like being eaten alive. Like some vicious monster was chewing his fingers off, moving up his wrists and then his forearms. It was excruciating. He tried to breath, sputtering and cold. Through it all, he could only think of Molly – lovely, seven-month-old Molly, who loved to be held as he skated, had laughed and squealed with glee as only a child can do. Jim found  his daughter’s glee intoxicating, and he would do anything to make his little girl laugh.

The two skaters were attending to the hole after Jim was pulled to safety, but there was nothing else. Shelly watched, unable to move from the place on the ice near the shore, hands covering her mouth. When the minutes multiplied and there was no sign of Molly being pulled from the hole, she dropped her hands and stood, motionless and vacant.

Jim survived, and one week later, he and Shelly attended the memorial of their daughter, Morgan Annabelle Lancaster, and known lovingly as Molly. Divers had found Molly under the ice, not far from the hole where she had vanished.

Friends and family comforted them and brought food. Winter in Michigan is brutal, and when the snow got too heavy and the roads weren’t passable until they were plowed, which sometimes took a week or two. People stopped coming by to see how they were doing.

During this time, when friends and family were not present to ease the grief, Jim and Shelly did not talk. Shelly never seemed to focus and would sit and stare into space, expressionless. She had yet to cry for her lost child.

Jim, awash in guilt and regret, relived the moment over and over in his head. Why had he taken Molly out on the ice like that? What if he had fallen? She could have been hurt. And why, oh why, did he skate so far out, where the ice is thinnest? It was so stupid. It was so avoidable.

Weeks became months, and Jim had not returned to work. Phone calls from concerned friends were regular, but Jim was despondent and Shelly never talked. Neither of them went out, and routine things like washing and eating had been forgotten. Slowly, they were dying – eroding.

Shelly noticed something strange, but didn’t care. A shadow seemed to hang on Jim, cast around him like a cloud. While he was sitting in a chair, the chair appeared in normal light, but Jim was in shadow. It was faint, but grew darker with each passing day. After four more days, Jim’s emaciated form was all but obscured by shadow, a darkness that enveloped him and only him, but not anything around him. It heaved and rocked gelatinously when Jim moved, which was very little.

The misery, regret and guilt had become all that was Jim, and when every other part of him was gone and that was all that was left, he exhaled and died, sitting in the chair by the window.

With oily cadence, the shadow lurched, pulling free from Jim and stood in the room, a shape like a man, but not a man. Shelly watched this with disinterested eyes; her gaze was set a thousand miles past the shadow, Jim’s dead body or the room. The shadow, faceless and ephemeral, turned and walked through the door without opening it.

For the first time since standing on the shore of the frozen lake months ago, Shelly thought of something other than her dead child. Jim’s body, withered and destitute, sat across from her. Quietly and dismissively, she rose from the couch and took wobbly steps upstairs, where she brushed her hair and tied it back behind her head. She put on clean, warm clothes that hung loosely on her frame, now. Checking herself in the mirror, she walked to the door, opened it and left the house.

It was overcast but the light still hurt her eyes. The air was still and cold, and snows had blanketed everything in pristine white. She had to lift her legs high to stride through it, and in her weakened state it was exhausting. She took the path to the road, recently plowed so walking was easier, and proceeded the quarter mile to the lake.

In March, the ice on the lake had begun to thaw, but this didn’t stop Shelly from marching into it with a splash. The cold made her gasp, but after a pause she took four more steps out, until she was up to her thighs in the freezing water. She stood exactly where she had been on that day her daughter died.

In this spot, almost three months later, she gasped and screamed, “Jim, you are too far out. Come in closer, please. Molly. No!”

And finally, a tear rolled down her cheek. Then another and another and she wept. Shivering from the cold, she cried and looked around, but no one was there. Panic overwhelmed her and she had to go out and save Molly. This was her baby. She must do something. She rushed forward, deeper into the cold water, but something held her back. Though she jerked and kicked, she was being pulled back by someone, who dragged her out of the water and onto the shore, where she fell backwards, gasping.

Through her tears and alarm, she looked up at the faceless shadow man standing over her, still holding her arm. She felt the utter despair of the creature. It was so empty of joy, but the most overwhelming feeling was that of guilt. She felt how remorseful he was for this terrible accident. She knew, really knew, that he would do anything if he could bring Molly back.

Sitting up, shivering, she reached out to touch the shadow man’s featureless face. Her hand felt the dark coolness of his cheek and caressed it gently.

“I forgive you,” Shelly said.

The words felt good to her. They were liberating, not because it made her powerful, but because it lifted a weight from her. She had blamed Jim for the accident. She was so angry at him that she would not even speak to him. It felt good to forgive because that, above all else, is what people who truly love each other do – they forgive, and in forgiving, release themselves of the burden.

The shadow man released her arm and stood, still looking down at her. Shelly thought there might be the hint of a smile, but wasn’t sure. Then, he turned and went into the lake, disappeared below the surface, and was gone.

 

© 2015, Mitch Lavender

15 Things a Self-Published Writer Should Consider

I thought this infographic was was worth noting.  Some of this information is outdated and doesn’t consider e-book publishing at all.  Still, it has some sound advice and a picture of a typewriter.  I am a sucker for an old manual typewriter.

You can check more infographics about digital writing and reading, collected at Ebook Friendly.

 

15-facts-about-self-publishing

 

ML

Joe Hinojosa Reviews “Find my Baby”

I’ve come across another review for Find my Baby, this time, from Joe Hinojosa.

FindMyBabyTransparent-promo1

 

“I was intrigued by the level of detail the author put in. Computer terms and explanations into what they meant, helped create the setting…”

“What I liked about the story was that Mitch Lavender displays his knowledge of the IT sector. Write what you know, and he did. “

“I truly believe the author shows promise as a novelist…”

 

Of course, I have quoted the best of the review. Smile  Read the full review, here.

Review of “Find my Baby” by Daniel Kaye

The reviews of my latest novel, Find My Baby, have been coming in on the Internet, and I’ll share and reblog them as I can (the good and the bad). This one is from Daniel Kaye, an author in Ireland. 

The original post can be found here: Daniel Kay on Blogspot.

FMB-square.2

 

Quote:

“I thought Mitch Lavender superbly crafted this novel and like a snowball slowly rolling down the hill gaining both momentum and mass, this story pulled you in.

Would I recommend it? Definitely.”

 

There you go.  What’s keeping you from reading Find My Baby?

Get a free copy of my new novel, Find My Baby (ends July 30)

I’m looking for honest reviews for my new novel, Find My Baby.

FindMyBabyTransparent - work

I’ve received a few reviews on Amazon and Goodreads but would like to see more.  Many prospective readers look at the reviews of book to help them decide if it right for them or not.  This is particularly true if the author is unknown, such as I am.

If you are willing to take a chance on my book and leave reviews on Amazon or Goodreads,  I’m willing to give you a copy in e-book format.

I’m offering 10 free copies to anyone who agrees to this, and will provide the book in PDF format, which is readable on e-book readers, tablets and PCs.

Find my Baby Synopsis:

Zachary and Lucy Foxborne have everything they want except a child. As they begin navigating the legal and bureaucratic maze of international adoption from Ukraine, they could not imagine their newly adopted child would be held for ransom by a brilliant and demented cyber-terrorist, bent on revenge and even darker motives.  Finding their baby could cost them everything.

Mitch Lavender is an accomplished author of short stories and has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies from Static Movement, Pill Hill Press and Pantoum Press. He worked for Microsoft Corporation for over 18 years, happily married 25 years and is the father of a son, adopted from Ukraine. With this background, it makes sense that his first, published full-length novel would be a high-stakes thriller interlaced with computer espionage, set with an American couple, attempting to do an international adoption.

Book Promo–Find My Baby

Contact me at mitchlav@outlook.com if you are interested and I will send you the details.

Thanks.

Soundtrack for FIND MY BABY

 

FindMyBabyTransparent5

When I was writing the first draft of Find My Baby, I created a playlist of music that characterized the scenes I was writing. Sometimes I selected a song for the lyrics, but many times I selected the song for the vibe – the overall feeling it conveyed through the sound.

The original playlist was 37 songs and 2 hours and 51 minutes long. I have shortened that considerably. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Find My Baby Soundtrack

What’s Going On – Giorgio Moroder\Adam Ant – The Beat This virus surprises the world by messaging all Internet-connected devices.

Free Radicals – Flaming Lips – Ratmir’s theme.

So In Love With You – Texas – Zachary and Lucy’s theme.

This is Not America – David Bowie – Arriving in Ukraine, Zachary and Lucy suffer some degree  of culture shock.

Find My Baby – Moby – I think this one is pretty obvious. Smile

Beautiful Boy – John Lennon – Alexander’s Theme.

Winter Time – Steve miller Band –  Cold in Ukraine in February.

Up Jumped The Devil – Nick Cave – Ratmir has new motives and a new target.

The KKK Took My Baby Away – The Ramones – After finally finding their son, Zachary and Lucy may have lost him forever.

Stranglehold – Ted Nugent – Ratmir has manipulated Zachary into a situation with little choice but to comply.

Don’t Give Up – Peter Gabriel – Time is running out and Zachary has so much to do.  He feels the pressure.

On Your Own – Billy Squire – Viktor faces down Ratmir.

Better Together – Jack Johnson – Finally a family, Zachary, Lucy and Alexander are complete.

Codes and Keys – Death Cab For Cutie –   The Heusel Manuscript translation.

 

Book Promo–Find My Baby by Mitch Lavender

This is Your Brain on Writing. Any Questions?

It seemed innocent enough. A few words on the page; what harm could it do?

A flash-fiction piece here, a poem there – it didn’t take much time. Before long, I stepped up to doing short stories. It was only one a week, at first. Then I was doing it more. I would lie to my family so I could sneak out and write. They thought I was going to the store for bread, but I was at Starbucks with my fingers on the keyboard, typing furiously. Or sitting in the car, scribbling in a Moleskine.

Eventually, they suspected something was not right when I didn’t come home for three hours and when I did, I had no bread but was all amped up on triple-tall cappuccino. The pens and pencils were a giveaway, too. I denied being a writer, of course.

“What sort of loser profession is that?” I scoffed. “Yes, I write a little when there is nothing else to do, but I can stop anytime.”

The truth was – it was under my skin. I was driven to scriven. I had the bite to write. I would uncontrollably write poetry. Soon, the flash-fic, poems and short stories were no longer enough. I started outlining novels.

The outlines grew into acts, and the acts multiplied, with peaks and valleys and so help me – they climaxed. It was out of my control now, and I began doing full-blown novels. I tried to stop. I tried to watch TV with my family, but all I could think about was creating my own stories.

And that is what I did. Every moment I called my own, I wrote. Or I looked at pictures of kittens on Facebook. But mostly, I wrote. I wrote some of the time, ok? Don’t be a nag about it. More days than not, I wrote.

Mind of a writer

My family resigned to the truth – I was a writer. Not like I was an addict, but more like I was handicapped. Like something was wrong with me. Something really, really wrong. Still, they loved me and put up with it, though it was taxing on them.

Barging into the bedroom at 1 AM, shouting to my wife, “Wake up! The second act is complete and I need you to read it all the way through. Help me see what I have missed!”

This never produced the enthusiastic response I expected. Slowly, I learned when to bring up my writing and when not to, and my family adapted as well. For reference, most of the time is not a good time to bring up my writing.

I know, as does my family – there is no cure. I may not be good at it. Maybe I’ll never be more than a hack, independent author, receiving only the most benign acknowledgements. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I do write and I get the ideas out of head and onto the page.

They say the left brain controls the logical thought processes and the right brain controls the creative processes. When you are a writer, neither side is in control of any processes. It just comes together in a big gumbo of thoughts and emotions.

One day, they may have pill to help people like me. Until then, all I can do is write.

© 2014, Mitch Lavender

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