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?


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.


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.


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…


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.


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.


Thank You! Thank You Very Much!

Elvis Thank YouThanks to you, I just had an exciting three days. This past Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, my book, Tierra del Fuego, was being offered on Amazon for free. During those three days, you all downloaded the book so many times, that it climbed to #5 among all Kindle literary short stories, and #9 among all Kindle contemporary fiction-literary books. I couldn’t have been more pleased or surprised, and I couldn’t be more grateful for your support.

When I published Tierra del Fuego, I had very few expectations. Naturally, I hoped people would enjoy the book, but I didn’t expect it to reach the upper levels of any categories on Amazon. The fact that it did proves two things to me: First, it proves I have a lot of very good friends who are willing to support my efforts, and second, it proves you just never know what might happen.

Now that the book is back to its normal paid status, it’s no longer in the upper ranks of books on Amazon, but that’s okay. It had a great three day run, and now I need to work to expose it to a wider audience. If you are so inclined, please share the book with your friends and family. If you enjoyed the book, there’s a good chance others will enjoy it as well.

Also, if you read the book, please post a review on Amazon. Even a short review can be very helpful. The more reviews the better.

Thanks again for your support. It is greatly appreciated.


It’s Alive (and it’s Free)!

Tierra del Fuego CoverThe official launch date for Tierra del Fuego is next Tuesday, September 15, but I wanted to give you a heads up that the book is live right now. And for the next three days (beginning tomorrow), you can get the book for free.  Of course, you’re probably asking, “What’s the catch?”  There’s really no catch, but there are a couple of reasons I’m doing this.

First, you’re really cool, and you deserve a gift. That’s right. You’re being rewarded for being so cool. Congratulations! You’ve earned a free gift.

Second, the book needs reviews. If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate it if you’d submit an honest review of the book to Amazon. It would be greatly appreciated, and reviewing the book is exactly the sort of thing that a really cool person would do.

Pick up the book for free, enjoy reading it, and if you are of a mind to, please leave a review. Taking these three easy steps will make the world a better place for our children and our grandchildren. And when all is said and done, isn’t it really all about the kids?

P.S. – Don’t forget that Tierra del Fuego will only be free Saturday (9/12), Sunday (9/13), and Monday (9/14). After that, the price shoots way back up to $1.99. You can find the book here.


What’s in a Name?

You Named Me WhatWhere do stories come from? That’s a question authors are often asked, and I’m not sure anyone has ever come up with a good answer for it. A question I was recently asked is in that same vein. I was talking to a friend, and he asked, “Why Tierra del Fuego?”

“What do you mean?” I asked

“Where did you come up with that name? You don’t speak Spanish. The main character isn’t Spanish. What does it even mean?”

“It means ‘land of fire,” I said. “I called it that because much of the story—maybe the most important part—takes place in the Tierra del Fuego province of Argentina.”

“Do you think anyone will know that before they read the book?”

It’s a fair question. Maybe I should have come up with a different, less obscure, title. I chose Tierra del Fuego during the very earliest draft of the story, and it just stuck. But from the beginning, I liked the title.

When my friend asked me the question “Why Tierra del Fuego?” I became curious. So I hopped on Amazon to see if there were any other books by the same name. If there were, I wanted to see what those books were about.  As it turns out, I’m not the only one who thought Tierra del Fuego was a good book title.

In 2000, the Argentine novelist and human rights activist Sylvia Iparraguirre published a novel entitled Tierra del Fuego. I had never heard of Iparraguire or her book before doing this research, but I learned that her version of Tierra del Fuego won the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize, which is an annual award given to women authors writing in Spanish. The award carries with it a prize of 100,000 pesos, which I believe is equivalent to $38.17 (That’s a joke. In today’s dollars, it is worth $5903.76). The book also received the Best Book of the Year Award at the Buenos Aires Book Fair (I should be so lucky).

Iparraguire’s Tierra del Fuego is a fictionalized version of the true story of Jemmy Button, a Yamana Indian, who was abducted from his home by Robert Fitzroy, captain of the HMS Beagle. In the book, Fitzroy takes Button back to England in an attempt to “civilize” him, and then returns him to Argentina as a “bearer of enlightenment.” I’m not familiar with the story, but it apparently doesn’t end well.

Another book entitled Tierra del Fuego was written by Francisco Coloane Cardenas, a well-known and well-respected Chilean novelist and short story writer. The book is a collection of short stories involving shipwrecks and other hardships that all take place in and around the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego (not to be confused with the province in Argentina).

The thing I found interesting about Coloane’s (for some reason, he rarely went by Cardenas) short story collection is that Tierra del Fuego is not officially the title of the book. When the book was originally published in 1945, the title was La Tierra del Fuego Se Apago (Tierra del Fuego Has Burnt Out). When the book was translated into English and French several years later, the title was shortened simply to Tierra del Fuego.

The final entry in the “Tierra del Fuego Sweepstakes” (there actually is no sweepstakes) is a book by Peter Lourie (not Peter Lorre) that is a short history and travelogue of the island of Tierra del Fuego (as opposed to the province or archipelago). The book is very short (only 48 pages), contains mostly photos, and is intended for an audience of fourth to seventh grade students. I’m hoping people don’t get my book mixed up with Lourie’s. Fourth graders should not be reading my book, and there are no pictures.

If you decide to purchase my Tierra del Fuego, don’t get it confused with these other books. Rather than reading the story of a man struggling to deal with his emotions after the death of his wife, you may end up reading about a kidnapped Yamana Indian, stories of shipwrecks in the frigid waters of the South Pacific Ocean, or just looking at pretty pictures of a remote island. Choose wisely.


What’s It All About, Louie?

Tierra del Fuego MapI launched my Facebook author page yesterday, and I was pleasantly surprised at the response I got. Lots of people wished me well in my writing career, and a few had questions.  People asked: “Where can I buy Tierra del Fuego?” “What is the book about?” “You can write? Who knew?” I was gratified by the response (even the snarky comments), so I thought I’d take some time to answer these questions.

What is your book about?

Tierra del Fuego is a novella about a man who suspects his wife of cheating on him. He’s getting close to finding out the truth about his wife when she is killed in an auto accident. He is distraught over her death, but is also consumed with feelings of betrayal over her suspected infidelity, emotions that drive him away from his job and his home in Chicago. He seeks refuge in an epic road trip that culminates at the literal end of the road in southernmost Argentina.

Here’s the tentative description for the book:

“Matt Cravens has always trusted his wife, but lately she’s been acting strange. He fears she’s having an affair, and when he confronts her, she promises to tell him the whole story when she gets home. But she never makes it home. When she is killed in an auto accident, Matt is consumed with feelings of grief and betrayal, emotions that prompt him to leave his home and his job, to find answers in one of earth’s most remote places. Will Matt find the answers he’s looking for? If he finds them, will he ever be able to return home?”

Where can I buy the book?

Tierra del Fuego will be available beginning September 15, and will be available as an e-book exclusively from Amazon. However, you’ll soon be able to get the book for free. Free? Yes, free. Stay tuned for more details.

You can write? Who knew?

I have enjoyed writing for a very long time. I’m not being modest when I say I have very few marketable skills. It’s sad, but true. Writing happens to be one of the handful of things I enjoy doing, and can do competently.

In a future blog post, I’ll expand on the story behind why it has taken me so long to finally get around to publishing some of my writing. It is a heartbreaking tale of villainy and intrigue. Okay, maybe that’s overstating the facts. For now, I’ll just say that I have wanted to be a writer from my earliest days in grade school, but forces beyond my control have conspired to keep me from heart’s desire. Oops, there I go with the overstatement again.

The bottom line is that I love to write, and I’m finally doing something about my lifelong ambition to be a published author. I hope you enjoy the results of my efforts.