Want to Write a Review?

Amazon ReviewsI know you probably get tired of me asking for reviews of my books. Trust me, I understand. But reviews are so important for a new author, and so far, I haven’t gotten many.*

*Thank you to those who have left a review. I am humbled and grateful that you took the time to write a review, or just give one of my books a star rating. It makes a huge difference, and I am very thankful.

Here’s a little video that does a better job of asking for reviews than I can in words alone:

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Getting to Know Mercer

MercerAs you drive north on U.S. Highway 51, you see the water tower, painted white, sticking up above the trees on the left side of the road. It announces that you’ve arrived in Mercer, Wisconsin. It would be easy to ignore the announcement made by the water tower. After all, there are no buildings in sight, no homes and no people. Just white birch trees and towering pines. But make no mistake, once you see the water tower, you’ve arrived.

I was first introduced to Mercer when I was fourteen years old. My friend, Brad Lyon, had invited me to spend a couple of weeks with his family at their summer cabin in the Northwoods. With the exception of a trip to the Wisconsin Dells when I was three years old, I don’t think I had ever been more than a hundred miles away from my home in Aurora, Illinois. Mercer was more than six hours away by car, but I was riding a bus, and if I remember correctly, the trip took more than nine hours (Can you imagine letting a fourteen year old kid ride a bus alone that far now?).

It was late at night when the bus dropped me off at the Mercer Post Office. I hadn’t seen the water tower on the way in, and I was too tired to much care what the town looked like. Brad and Pop (Brad’s grandfather, Ralph) met me at the post office, and we headed to the cabin in Pop’s white VW Beetle.

Sleep came quickly that night, and I awoke to a beautiful, sunny day. Looking down at the lake through the trees, I was struck by how the sun seemed brighter in Mercer, sparkling on the surface of the water.  The air was lighter and fresher, the lack of humidity making each breath invigorating. I didn’t know much about Mercer then, except that it felt good to be there.

In the following days, I saw what there was to see of the town. There were a few stores, a bank, a gas station, and several bars. Mercer didn’t have much in the way of a downtown, but they had plenty of bars.

I also learned about supper clubs. There was the Ding-A-Ling, Club 51, and a place I think was called The Lilypad, which sat on Pike Lake, north of town. When we’d go out to eat, I’d always order the fried chicken. One night, Brad’s mom told me I could get whatever I wanted from the menu, provided I didn’t order the fried chicken. Not knowing any better, I ordered a twenty-four ounce porterhouse steak. I think it was the most expensive thing on the menu. Mrs. Lyon never gave me a hard time about ordering fried chicken after that.

The majority of my time in Mercer was spent out on the lake. Weather permitting, we would swim and water ski every day. A typical day involved sleeping in and having a late breakfast, then we’d go down to the lake to warm up the boat. For the next several hours we’d ski, with Brad’s dad driving the boat, and Brad, his sister Pam, me, and other guests, taking turns skiing. Toward the end of the day, we’d often head across the lake to enjoy one of the several saunas that dotted the shoreline. Then it was a quick boat ride back for a relaxing bath in the lake (I still love taking a bath next to a boat dock). As the sun set around nine or nine-thirty, we’d head into town to have dinner (Northwoodsians call it “supper”) at one of the local restaurants, or we’d sit at the big claw-footed dinner table to eat while watching the last remnants of the sun set over the lake.

I’m not sure when I made my first trip to Lake of the Falls County Park, but the experience stuck with me. Back then, there was a wooden covered bridge that spanned the Turtle River, at the head of the falls. During the day, bats slept in the rafters on the underside of the bridge roof, and at sundown, they flew out of both sides of the bridge by the thousands. As snowmobiling became more popular, the covered bridge was replaced by a flat concrete bridge that was more conducive to snowmobiling, and the bats had to find a new home. The park was quiet, and felt like a place to relax and reflect. Even today, I find solace every time I visit the park and sit next to the falls.

I spent parts of the next three summers in Mercer with Brad’s family, and I loved every minute of it. I’ve returned many times as an adult, including a few times with my own kids. Each time, I’m reminded of the salad days of my youth, and the love I’ve never lost for Northern Wisconsin. I am eternally grateful to Brad and his family for introducing me to Mercer, and I hope that Lake of the Falls gives readers a glimpse of what the area is like, and why I love it so much.

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My “No Worries” Review Request

Richard BrittainRichard Brittain (left) is a 28 year old writer from England. He is the author of several books, including his most recent release, The World Rose. According to the book’s description on Amazon, The World Rose is:

“An epic fairytale romance set in a semi-fictional ancient world, containing elements of action, adventure, poetry and comedy. The title has a triple meaning: the central character is a renowned beauty – ‘the rose of the world’ – while the rose flower features heavily in the plot, and it also implies that the world rose up. When Ronwind Drake discovers treasures in a distant paradise, a new golden age seems set to begin, but Ella Tundra will find that all which glitters is not gold as she faces many obstacles in her quest for true love.”

Brittain’s book currently has thirty-three reviews, thirty of which are of the one-star variety.

Paige Rolland is a teenager in Scotland who enjoys reading fairytales and fantasy novels. She read The World Rose, and didn’t like it very much. She gave it a one-star review, saying in part:

“As a reader, I’m bored out of my skull and severely disappointed in what I might have paid for. As a writer (albeit an amateur one) I’m appalled that anyone would think this was worthy of money.

“Not only does it begin with ‘once upon a time’ which you could argue is perfect as this is a fairytale (and it doesn’t work, it’s incredibly pretentious), but it’s filled with many writing no-nos. Way too much telling, pretentious prose, and a main character that I already hate. Ella is the perfect princess (true to fairytales, so we can at least give him a little credit despite how painfully annoying this is coupled with a complete lack of real personality shining through).”

Not exactly high praise from Rolland. The young Scot went on to say that Brittain had a bit of a reputation on Wattpad (where he posted part of his book) for threatening reviewers who didn’t like his writing. “Pray for me,” she wrote in her review, an apparent joke.

Brittain didn’t take kindly to Rolland’s review. As any reasonable, level-headed author would do, Brittain tracked Rolland down on Facebook, and found out that the teen worked at an Asda Supermarket. He traveled from his home in London to Scotland, sneaked up behind her as she stocked shelves at the local Scottish grocer, and bopped her on the noggin with a wine bottle. The bottle shattered, and Rolland was rendered unconscious, a gash on her head.

As you might imagine, even in Scotland, the police frown upon such behavior. Brittain was arrested, and eventually pled guilty to assault. Although the linked story doesn’t say, I can only assume that Rolland is fine and is back to writing scathing, yet unfailingly accurate, book reviews.

I share this story as a way of giving my word that if anyone writes a bad review of one of my books, I promise to refrain from any acts of physical violence. In fact, I’ll go a bit further. I won’t even argue with you or yell at you. The most I will do is thank you for the time you took to read the book and write your review. You have my word.

So don’t be afraid. Review away. If you’ve read Tierra del Fuego or Lake of the Falls, please leave a review (even a bad one) on Amazon. You’ll not only have my eternal gratitude, but also my solemn oath that no harm will come to you, even if you say you were bored out of your skull.

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A Long Journey Explained: Lake of the Falls

Lake of the Falls 2In early 2004, I was being treated for throat cancer. The diagnosis was not particularly good, and the treatment I was receiving was not particularly pleasant. Every week day for seven weeks, I went to the hospital to get radiation treatment, which beat the hell out of me. Then, each Friday, I’d receive chemotherapy, which left me weak and nauseous. By the end of the seven week course of treatment, I didn’t know if I would make it or not.

I suppose it’s normal for anyone going through this type of experience to look back on their life and regret some of the things they did or didn’t do. For me, I regretted that I didn’t do more with my interest in writing. I promised myself that if I survived the cancer treatments, I’d pursue my desire to be a writer.

As I was recovering in the autumn of 2004, I wrote a story about a father and adult son who travel back to their former hometown in Wisconsin. During their trip, old wounds are reopened, and they struggle to rectify their differences. The story, entitled Lake of the Falls, was rough, but I kind of liked the way it turned out.

A couple of years later, I hired a local writer I knew to take a look at some of my stories, and make suggestions on how they could be improved. To say he wasn’t impressed with my writing would be an understatement. He didn’t say it in so many words, but I could tell that he thought my writing was amateurish, perhaps beyond redemption. However, there was one story he focused on that he said he liked. It needed a lot of work, he said, but he thought there was hope for it. That story was Lake of the Falls.

A few years later, I decided to go to grad school to get a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. I knew I was a fairly good storyteller, but my writing just wasn’t as good as what I was reading in published novels. I wanted to get better, and I hoped returning to school could help.

The application process to get into an MFA program can be daunting. In addition to providing a writing sample, you have to submit a statement of purpose, which basically lays out why you want to attend the MFA program, why the school should accept your application, and what you hope to do with your degree if you are accepted.

To prepare myself and my writing for the MFA application process, I hired Chris Leslie-Hynan, a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, and author of the book Riding Around Shining (longlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction), to critique my work, and help me put together my statement of purpose. Chris was very upfront and honest with me. If he didn’t like what I had written, he told me. But he liked Lake of the Falls. He thought it needed work, but liked the relationship between the father and the son.

When it came time to submit my MFA thesis, I pulled out Lake of the Falls, and heavily revised it, adding a love interest for the main character, as well as a backstory about their relationship. The story got generally good reviews, but I wanted to do more with it. I knew that it could be better than it was.

I began revising the story this past summer, and eventually sent it to my editor, Melanie Neale. Melanie often understands my stories better than I do, and made some terrific suggestions on further revisions. My friend, Nick Rupert, also took a look at the story and tore it apart (in a good way). He saw ways to make the story better that I hadn’t seen. Between Melanie’s and Nick’s suggestions, I revamped the plotline, condensed the dialogue, and strengthened the characters. Melanie and I went back and forth a couple of more times, and then Lake of the Falls was finally done.

Not all stories take so long to find their ultimate conclusion, but I’m glad I stuck with this one as long as I did. It took more than ten years, but I’m happy with the way the Lake of the Falls finally turned out.

Note: The photo above is of the actual falls at Lake of the Falls County Park. Beautiful, isn’t it?

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Lake of the Falls is Live…and Free!

Lake of the Falls CoverExciting news: My new novella, Lake of the Falls, went live today. It’s available exclusively on Amazon (click here) for just $1.99. But for two days–Thursday (November 5) and Friday (November 6)–Lake of the Falls is free. The only thing I ask is if you download the book for free, please leave a review. Any and all reviews are welcome.

I’ll write more about the book in the coming days, but for now, here is the Amazon book description:

Kevin Hargrove is a workaholic attorney who has been in a rut so long that he has given up on ever getting out. That is, until he takes a trip with his father to their former small hometown in Northern Wisconsin. Kevin hates the idea of going back, but when he unexpectedly runs into an old high school flame, he starts to think that getting out of his rut is not only a possibility, but a necessity. Can a divorced workaholic really change his life in his childhood hometown or was Thomas Wolfe correct that you can’t go home again?

If you don’t currently have a Kindle or Kindle-enabled device, you can download the Kindle app for your tablet, smartphone, or computer right here. If you refuse to read digital books, the print version of Lake of the Falls will be available in February 2016.

Be sure to pick up your copy of Lake of the Falls, and feel free to share the news with your friends.

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Lake of the Falls Cover

Lake1v5Work is progressing on Lake of the Falls, and today I received the cover design. Let me know what you think of it, but be warned, I really like it (and I’ve already paid for it).

In case you’re wondering what the book is about, here’s an early description:

Kevin Hargrove is a workaholic attorney who has been in a rut so long that he has given up on ever getting out. That is, until he takes a trip with his father to their small former hometown in Northern Wisconsin. Kevin hates the idea of going back, but when he unexpectedly runs into an old high school flame, he starts to think that getting out of his rut is not only a possibility, but a necessity. Can a divorced workaholic really change his life in his childhood hometown or was Thomas Wolfe correct when he wrote “you can’t go home again?”

The book is scheduled to launch in eleven days, and final edits are taking place right now. Time to get back to work.

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Where Did That Story Come From?

What IfIn Tierra del Fuego, Matt, the main character, leaves his home in Chicago following his wife’s death, and starts driving south through Central and South America. He ends up in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Argentina, which is where the road literally ends.

People often ask, “Where did that story come from?” That’s a question that writers are often asked, and I’m not sure that any writer has come up with a really good answer.

I was thinking about this question in a general sense recently while I was on a hike. As I made my why down the trail, I kept asking myself “what if” questions. For example, when I got to the trail, there was another vehicle parked in the parking lot. “What if the person who owns the vehicle is dumping a body on the trail?” I thought.  “And what if I’m somehow implicated in the murder of that person?”

The trail I was hiking was in Tennessee, not too far from a Civil War battlefield. “What if a Confederate soldier was somehow transported to 2015, and appeared in the woods where I was hiking? How would he react? How would I react?”

As I was finishing my hike, I noticed a wooden shed off to the side of the trail that I had never noticed before. The boards were weathered and gray. “What if somehow I was transported back in time? What if when I got back to my truck, it, along with the roads and the parking lot, were gone? What would I do?”

As for Tierra del Fuego, I’m not sure what the first “what if” moment was that eventually led to the story. I do know that I had the first inkling of the story several years ago (probably around 2010), and it took me until 2014 to write the first draft of the book. The story changed over time as I continued to ask “what if,” questions, and continued until I was satisfied with the finished product.

Story ideas are everywhere. There’s never a shortage. Coming up with the idea isn’t the tricky part. The hardest part of being a writer is sitting down to turn the initial idea into a story, and then returning to the chair day after day until the story is finished. Coming up with the initial idea is a piece of cake.

A time travel murder mystery that takes place on a hiking trail in the woods of Tennessee? Hmm…

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What’s the Plan, Stan?

Coming SoonA while back, I was talking to a friend about the book she was reading. She told me what she thought of the book (she liked it), and started telling me about what the author had planned for the future. I knew that my friend was not personally acquainted with the author, so I asked her how she knew about his futures plans.

“I read his blog and follow him on Facebook,” she said. “I think I like reading about his plans as much as I like reading his books.”

That gave me an idea. What if I lay out my plans for the next several months, then everyone will know what I have in the works. As soon as the idea popped into my head, I wanted to backtrack. If people knew what I have planned, they’d expect me to stick to the plan. That’s pressure that I don’t need. Or maybe I do. Maybe having people hold me to my plan is what I need to stay on track.

With that in mind, and with the cowardly weasel words, this plan is tentative and subject to change, let’s take a look at what I have in the works for the next several months:

September 2015 – Publish Tierra del Fuego

This was the first item on my agenda. I got it done! Tierra del Fuego was published a few weeks ago, and is doing well. If you’ve read it, please take a moment to leave a review on Amazon. The more reviews, the merrier. (Thank you to everyone who has left a review!)

November 2015 – Publish Lake of the Falls

Lake of the Falls is another novella that will be in digital format only. It is about a workaholic attorney who is given the opportunity to dig out of the rut he has been in for years, to live the life he once desired, if only he has the courage. The book recently went through final edits, and then I decided to tear it apart again. I wanted to revise it one more time before it’s published. The additional revision wasn’t planned, but I think it is going to make for a better story. I’m still shooting for a November release date.

January 2016 – Publish Back on the Road

Back on the Road takes place in the 1980’s, and follows three friends on a cross-country road trip designed to celebrate their recent college graduation, and forestall their impending life as adults. They have big plans, but things don’t always go as expected. Back on the Road will be released exclusively in digital format.

February 2016 – A Good Life (tentative title)

I don’t want to say too much about A Good Life. It is a special project, and I still have a lot of work to do on it. What I can say is that it takes place over several decades, beginning in the 1920’s, and it includes a lot of historically accurate details (at least I hope they’re accurate). I’ll be talking more about A Good Life as we get closer to the publication date.

February 2016 – Publish Road Stories

I know I’ve listed two books to be published in one month, but there’s a method to my madness. Road Stories is a collection of the first three novellas I will have published: Tierra del Fuego, Lake of the Falls, and Back on the Road. Why would I publish them again? That’s a fair question. It’s because I want to release the novellas in print (as opposed to digital), but each novella is too short to be printed by itself. So as soon as all three novellas are available digitally, I want to publish them as a collection in print. Make sense?

April 2016 – Promised Land

Promised Land is a very special book to me, and found its inspiration in a true story. I’ll talk more about the origin of this book as we get closer to the publication date, but I think you’re going to like it. Promised Land will (I think) be the last novella I release. At least, the last for a while. Once it is published, I’ll be turning my attention to my first full-length novel.

That’s what I have planned for the next several months. As I see my plan in black and white, I understand how ambitious it is. Even so, I have faith that I can get it done. It gives me something to work toward, and I hope something for you to look forward to.

Thanks for following along. The journey is just beginning, but already it’s a ton of fun.

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The Reviews Are In!

Tierra del Fuego CoverWow! Have you read the reviews for Tierra del Fuego? I have, and they’re really good. Here are a few examples:

“A very good read! Mr. Mindar’s writing allows the reader to quickly capture the visions of a faraway place, making them feel like they are sitting close by in the same car, bar or restaurant. His characters are relatable, reminding one of sitting down with an old friend and having a couple of imported beers.”

Tierra del Fuego is a sparsely and beautifully written novella about what it takes to overcome loss and how travel and new experiences can bring one back to life. Mindar captures, in this short book, the essence of what it means to be human and to discover that no one person’s grief is greater than another’s. “

“Mr. Mindar offers a memorable, well-structured romp through Argentina…[His] prose is freighted with just enough detail to make his scenes feel tangible. His sentences never feel forced or over-written…It’s also worth noting that in a market that’s saturated with bloated, leviathan-like novels, Mr. Mindar offers the reader a no-nonsense narrative that can be enjoyed in the span of a single afternoon.”

“I curled up with my cup of Yorkshire Gold tea from Taylors of Harrogate, only to find out it makes an appearance in the novella (small world). The story was exciting with descriptive details, that seem to have come from someone who has actually made the journey!”

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to leave a review. There’s plenty of room for more. If you’ve read Tierra del Fuego, please consider leaving a review. It will be greatly appreciated.

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