04 November 2016

Plenty of Surprises


When I wrote my second award-winning novel – Plenty, I never guessed that I would move to three states during the course of thirteen months.  Somewhere along the road from a ranch in Texas to the California central coast to Nevada, my perspective changed.  In 2016, searching for and finding my laptop in the kitchen sink best summarizes the year.

Perhaps, living for months with only the contents of my purse and a small suitcase, stocked with four shirts, four pants and important documents, made me realize that finding joy amongst the disorganized chaos – easier than I would’ve imagined. A favorite blue shirt and pair of cushy strappy rainbow colored high-heels that I wore two months ago – still exist somewhere in Texas, California or Nevada.  My birth certificate and passport will be at my fingertips once again. I’ll find the car titles and fragile family crystal collectibles somewhere, undamaged, within the fencing of sixty boxes that surrounds me like the can’t be breeched fortress walls.  And it’s all ok.

Perhaps, living with a Danube blue ocean view isn’t all that I hoped it would be.  Perhaps, living with July heat in Nevada – easier than I would imagine. As someone once said, “Home is where the heart is.” Having downsized from a 45 acre working horse ranch to a suitcase, I have to add –“ Home is where the heart is which is anywhere with a healthy happy family.” Despite the upheaval and a hard landing in Vegas, as long as my family and furry friends thrive, I can… relax and easily find comfort and joy.

Oh and along the way, I gathered a lot of material for my third book. But returning to Plenty. Plenty reflects my love for riveting suspense and what-the-hell twists and turns. Like Beautiful Evil Winter, Plenty has emerged an award winner, and so did I despite the bureaucratic headaches, the mistakes made – a horrible unethical stable, near San Luis Obispo Airport, the lack of air conditioning, the inability to enjoy a backyard with my dogs, having to share a much smaller bed with a snoring husband for a year, a strong sense of displacement from my home state, friends and neighbors.


In ways I hadn't envisioned, Plenty serves as a reminder that even with the thundering chilling avalanche of change that gratitude for the simple moments can lead to a mind-bending adventure and a unyielding galvanized sense of poise and peace. Never would’ve guessed, only hoped that I would pen two award-winning novels, learn to be more meditative, more reflective and more calm as a result of layers of migraine-inducing experiences.  Here’s wishing you calm and vision in the wake of life’s stormy challenges. Oh, and that laptop – someone stashed it in the linen closet under a stack of sheets.

08 May 2016

Mothers' Day Poetry and Quotes

To honor mothers everywhere - happy to share a favorite poem and quotes on this special day. 

M-O-T-H-E-R

"M" is for the million things she gave me,
"O" means only that she's growing old,
"T" is for the tears she shed to save me,
"H" is for her heart of purest gold;
"E" is for her eyes, with love-light shining,
"R" means right, and right she'll always be,
Put them all together, they spell "MOTHER,"
A word that means the world to me.

by Howard Johnson


All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother - Abraham Lincoln

My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.  - Mark Twain

"You know every story, every wound, every memory. Their whole life's happiness is wrapped up in you. ..every single second." - Movie: StepMom

An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy - Rudyard Kipling






24 April 2016

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month - Meaningful Plenty Offers a Perspective

SPOILER ALERT

Maybe your mother, your little sister or grandmother – whispered about in hushed tones at family gatherings. More than a quarter of a million people are sexually assaulted each year in the US according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, RAINN.  This statistic undoubtedly low in light of the fact that most sexual assaults aren’t reported. No one wants sexual assault to be part of a life path. When Dr. Phil discussed the subject with a survivor on his show, he asked two questions – “Did you want it? Was it okay? If the answer to these questions is no, then we’re talking about rape.” As a mother of a son and as the support system for a family member who endured a rape, this subject takes on special significance in our home.  So startled to hear, from my son, that a college campus-based club devoted an hours long meeting to the subject.  The shocking fact that 90% of rape cases aren’t reported bothered him, enough to discuss it with me. Without a doubt, a conversation starter for us to revisit the value of speaking out whether fondled or sexually assaulted or attempts made - regardless of gender.  And all of us should listen, without judgments or condemnation, otherwise we add to the already weighty burden of the survivor.  

 The family and extended family feel the weight of anger and outrage as they process the event and see the twinkle dim from their loved one’s eyes, the lethargy or the scorching flames of sudden dark irrepressible moments. The fearless, calm, carefree, exuberant person once known now replaced by an anxious, insecure, angry, unhappy look-alike. As with an-almost-fatal-road-rage fueled car crash, people change in the aftermath. The traumatic event  - a tsunami of epic magnitude, decimates days, decades and lifetimes. Rape - so heinous that even prison inmates target the convicted offenders, along with pedophiles, as one of the select groups to receive “special extra ” punishment inside penitentiary walls.  

The assault survivor, by the way, lives with the attack everyday: questions if he/she could’ve or should’ve done something differently, questions his/her decision-making in general, feels shame, wrestles with all-consuming fury and struggles with trust.  The survivor… who may live with the shadow of the perpetrator well into married life notices that some forms of frolicking unlock the door of a hellish recurring nightmare. 


Grateful to use my writing skills to pen meaningful Plenty – an unflinching unforgettable look at young woman’s journey from ashes, as a prostitute-in-the-making, to a full life filled with Sunday drives in an heirloom Corvette to admire bluebonnets and the verdant countryside, a life fortified by family-strong friendships, unshakeable self-confidence and titanium self-respect. Initially, written in scathing response to Fifty Shades of Grey, Plenty casts an unflinching stare on female objectification whether inflicted by pimps on trafficked teens or by a handsome male in a sex kitten for a sadist romance novel. Do I consider it important to discuss the femme managing the egocentric alpha male dynamic behind closed doors? Why yes, yes I do. Do I think an embattled woman can prevail, find love and joy with a man who deifies stereotypes?  Yes, and when people sympathize, understand and respect survivors’ challenges and choices and reserve judgment about atypical relationships won’t we, as a society, more fully evolve?   Yes, yes indeed.  







09 January 2016

Polished Plenty - Riveted by Research and Editing

Can a gritty, dark, intense Horror Thriller - written by a Multi-Award-Winning Author - be both suspenseful and meaningful? Yes, polished Plenty, riveted by research and expert editing, proves the point.

I decided to post this rebuttal to a negative Christmas Day review because it provides an opportunity to convey some important well-researched information about trafficked teens, sexual assault and road rage, a positive use for this platform. Additionally, it also addresses the reader's complaints.

Warning: This review contains spoilers. 
  

The review follows with my comments:

Wow! Really struck by how my now 99-cent novel lit up this reviewer on Christmas Day. While I understand that not everyone will like my book, tastes differ – some people like licorice, but I don’t. Some may not like the plot, the characters, my voice nor the messages conveyed. But I have a problem with a re-write of the plotthe charactersthe timing of events and a total disregard for the research behind the story – all of which lead to a gross misrepresentation of the novel.
  
I wanted to like this book, really I did. I love stories where women and men are put to the test to rise above their life circumstances for something better. With that in mind I picked this book up hoping for the best. Instead, unfortunately I got a very disjointed, confusing hot mess of a story. It's about a young woman named Camille who comes from a very rough background continuing to fall in with very bad characters until a pivotal event brings her into contact with the family of the man who was killed while trying to get her to a better life. Together she and the young widow team up and bring truth, justice and the American way of life to their little town.

Okay. I'm kidding, that's what I think the book is trying to impart, but really I couldn't tell. Now, to be fair the story idea is a good one, it could have been a great one even. But I think the author wrote it rapidly, did not take the time to polish the dialogue or even the characters themselves and did not step back and give the manuscript some serious editing. Re: editing, so grateful to Sara Kocek, a developmental editor and founder of Yellow Bird Editors, and Melissa Stein, copyeditor/developmental editor affiliated with editcetera, for carefully scrutinizing the novel. Yes, editing – always a priority. Too many events were simply tossed together, dialogue was stilted and unnatural. Once again, I defer to the editing experts. Explanations about character motivations came at the end of the book instead of at the beginning where we might have better understood our heroine Camille and her and other people's motives. And to top it off the author kept bouncing around to different people, telling the story from their POV then whipping back to another character's POV with little to no warning in a manner that just made the narrative nearly impossible to follow. Actually, the last two books that I read, Plain Truth and The Girl Who Played with Fire, reveal character motivations at the end of the book. Also, both authors use many changes in POV. Once again, I defer to and trust the editing experts. 

In the end too much of this simply wasn't believable and I was not able to get engrossed, because things like beatings and rape and terrible car accidents (of which there were a few, seriously it seemed to be a favorite plot device) -When writing about and spotlighting cavalier attitudes about road rage, car crashes are a must -were treated as glossed over events with characters simply being able to wash away the smell of some man's cologne and then be over a brutal sexual assault, to carry on as if that was simply one more event. "I went to the store yesterday, they were out of that roast I wanted. Then on the way home I watched an entire family wiped out in an SUV by some guy higher than a kite. Pass the peas would you, my boyfriend is coming over later with heroin to have a wild night with me." This paragraph totally misrepresents my voice, the plot and timing of events. With re: to sexual assault, when survivors shower, it’s literally and symbolically cathartic. Again, as a matter of fact, the impulse - so common that police advise survivors not to shower to preserve DNA evidence.

See https://rainn.org/get-information/sexual-assault-recovery/rape-kit

The passage the reviewer referenced: “I’m damaged, but not dead. I guess…I should be grateful that I wasn’t awake. After I showered away his pine-disinfectant cologne, I immediately felt better,” she mumbled. She didn’t turn, but continued to study the outdoors. “I’ve thought about this all night long. Trauma, sadly enough, is… sometimes part of life. I can let this crush me or I can rise above it. I’ll deal with it my way, but I don’t want to talk about it now.”

Excerpt From: Kelly K. Lavender. “Plenty.” iBooks.

In the same scene, the character later says:

“Let’s all take a breath. All of us need therapy. We survived our encounters with them, so we’re survivors. In order to be happy survivors, we have to be grateful survivors and be focused on living happy, meaningful lives.”

Excerpt From: Kelly K. Lavender. “Plenty.” iBooks.

Also, Camille, who deals with both a toxic boyfriend and illegal drugs, reacts in a checked-out way to even her grandmother’s suspicious demise. Furthermore, reactions to car crashes and depiction thereof – graphic and heart-felt. One of many examples follows:

“Sophia swayed as she felt the hard fist of nausea punch her in the gut. The steely scent of blood and fecal matter knocked her to her knees, and she began to retch.”

Excerpt From: Kelly K. Lavender. “Plenty.” iBooks.

In all honesty most people would be catatonic in a corner somewhere if they had to live through the things the main heroine lives through all while remaining feisty and unbroken. People react differently to traumatizing events. Some curl up in a fetal position and some feel compelled to take immediate action. Battery and sexual assault often occur concurrently. Most people don’t have the luxury of indulging their grief and must solider on to work and pay their bills. I might mention Lisabeth Salander in The Girl Who Played with Fire, the sequel to the best-selling The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, another embattled female who rises above her miserable circumstances. Additionally, I certainly wouldn’t say that Camille was unbroken if she sought out a steely gift from grandma, illegal drugs, friendship and therapy to deal with her wretched life. Oh and the bad guys get theirs, but it's all such a jumbled mess and so unsatisfactory when they do you just sort of gape and think, "Really? Why set this character up to be so despicable then have them off themselves 'cause NOW they feel guilty about one little thing when they've been screwing up people's lives over and over for a long time?" Once again, I defer to and trust the editing experts. Interesting choice of words – “one little thing” when referring to the deaths of three people. But again, it’s difficult to recognize the plot of my novel given the liberties taken to describe it.

Top that all off with an entire chapter that looks suspiciously like an ode to 50 Shades of You Know What tacked on as a happy ending and well, let's just say I was thoroughly confused. Written as and touted as an antithesis to Fifty, that modified dynamic definitely - part of the story. Let's see, our heroine is beaten, raped, sexually abused by her dad, shot up with heroin, watches people die left, right and center and NOW she wants a wild night of sex with a riding crop, thigh-high boots and bondage? Um, yeah, sure. Actually, in the context of familial dysfunction, fathers shape relationship decisions and expectations later in a girl’s life. After all, a father is the first male that a young child adores and loves. I connected all of the dots. See:



 Once again, a massive distortion of plot and timing. By the way, NOW equates to immediately and doesn’t account for a passage of time, in this case a year. Therapy enables Camille to be present, which is clearly stated but ignored:  A year after the apocalypse at and near her home, Camille lay on her stomach on her bed…Months of therapy led them to this moment, when Camille could stay in the moment and be a demanding diva.”
Excerpt From: Kelly K. Lavender. “Plenty.” iBooks

In the real world things like that do happen unfortunately. I'm not saying things like what happens to Camille can't happen, they do all the time unfortunately. But her reaction to it all is simply too bland and unreal, as if she just got cut from a cheerleading squad she never wanted to part of in the first place instead of events that would send most into years of therapy OR a mental institution, probably both. Pure speculation. Fact: Survivors of traumatic events, including war vets, often shutdown their emotions and appear stoic. And there's never any real explanation for why she's so immune to all of the horror that just seems to keep exploding around her, like one of those people who walk around with bad guys spraying bullets at them and yet they remain magically untouched. Fact: When subjected to trauma or repeated trauma, sexual assault survivors detach and do not remain in the moment, a survival mechanism. Sexual assault survivors cope in many ways often appearing cold in their reaction to horrifying events. More times than not, they do not tell anyone due to shame and guilt. I did extensive research on this subject both for professional and personal reasons, trying to help a close family member cope. I even volunteered at a local women’s shelter. Aside from the Cosby case, I suggest the reviewer read about Lady Gaga and Madonna’s recent rape revelations, expressed decades after the fact and never reported.


and



And that brings me I guess to my main gripe here. All events here are portrayed like those glossy over-blown with special effects movies that are full of car crashes and explosions and gratuitous sex jumbled together in ways that just aren't real and believable, because that's not how things ever happen in real life. Re: real life, Carrie, Pet Sematary, Transporter, Pretty Woman, Twilight, Casino Royale, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Tomorrow Never Dies, GoldenEye, Spectre, Skyfall or Fast and Furious don’t mirror real life and are not believable given that criteria. Many plotlines wouldn’t pass the test as in - so you’re telling me that all of characters and events happen to be at the right place at the right time to create this story? As a thriller author and an avid James Bond fan, who hired editing professionals to vet the novel, glad to see the “main gripe.”  Re: real life scenarios, I researched every topic covered in this story – from trafficked teens, police corruption, road rage, bondage and of course Fifty, the sex-kitten-for-a-sadist romance series. I interviewed peace officers, a physicist, civil engineers and the mother of a trafficked teen, a 15 year old enslaved by handlers via a daily forced ration of heroin. In addition, I read many articles on-line about all subjects mentioned. Re: what happens in real life, I suggest you goggle Kentucky Sheriff Lawrence Hodge, the subject of a 60 Minutes segment, who manages to make Sheriff Griffin’s actions appear tame.  

See:

Once again, re: real life, several of the car crashes witnessed appeared as evening news headlines.

 And one walks away unsatisfied and empty over topics that one should never feel that way about, in much the same way a rape can simply be showered away, only depicted as a coping response not a cure, or a murder of a beloved relative can simply be touched on briefly, actually mentioned many times with heartbreaking regret, then glanced off of again in favor of a nice set of pecs. This passage explains Camille’s reaction as she sinks into the abyss of drug use after the death of her grandmother.


“Well, no. After she died, I became self-destructive and took drugs recreationally. Now, I spend my days doing more positive things without drugs, without the fog, without the stupor.”

Excerpt From: Kelly K. Lavender. “Plenty.” iBooks.

Another example of the mind-numbing, all-consuming grip of drug use and a toxic boyfriend:

“Besides, Grant wanted her to go to the lake to meet some of his motorcycle buddies, which wasn’t fun since she was the only girl in the group. She crashed in the sun after a joint, the pill, and the longneck. She heard the guys howling as she fell face-first into the sand.”

And another of many examples.

“Tears streamed from her eyes as her thoughts drifted to her grandma.
Grammy believed in me. Believed that I’d be special and strong. She told me to pursue a meaningful life. Look at me—drugging recreationally and balling my boyfriend in her bed. So unhappy and so ashamed of my weakness. Where did I go wrong to create this train wreck of a life?”

Excerpt From: Kelly K. Lavender. “Plenty.” iBooks.

Emotionally Empty – that’s the way rape survivors feel and trafficked teens and many war vets. But this review doesn’t reflect an Empty state of mind. For someone to take the time on Christmas Day to go on and on, I don’t think Empty is the word I’d use.

Absolutely certain, as an author, I won’t change anything about the creative process - including the professional team chosen, my voice, research endeavors or plot going forward. I write about and will continue to shed light on subjects that matter like trafficked teens - Camille a na├»ve, emotionally vulnerable teen from a dysfunctional family being primed for trafficked status –

See:




like road rage, like re-building confidence and a life after sexual assault, like the revolting glamorization of sadism and the alpha male it’s-all-about-me Fifty Shades dynamic. Yes, grateful to use my voice to craft this meaningful novel which spotlights many societal ills.


Finally, it’s completely illogical to assume any serious-minded author would include trafficked teens, road rage, sexual assault, Craigslist kids, corrupt cops, bees, horses and car crashes in a novel and not do the research. If John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell, Agatha Christie or Stephen King decided to write about a serial killer in Dallas Texas, you can bet the novel would be well researched to accurately depict the area, the deaths, serial killer profiles, victims chosen etc. In the highly competitive book business, any author who wants to create and sell a high quality novel must make research and editing part of the process. Since I wrote a Multi-Award-Winning Debut novel, it would be ridiculous to forego extensive editing and exhaustive research for a highly anticipated second book.

Obviously, the review ignores easily verifiable research, makes unsubstantiated assumptions about reactions and subsequently concludes with an opinion that undermines the credibility of the entire review. In addition, the fact that the review includes twisted plotlines and spoiler reveals, with no notification thereof, attest to a decidedly malicious approach.

As JK Rowling said “What you write becomes who you are…” With great care, expert help and an abundance of research, that’s exactly what I’ve done. My mantra – a Gandhi quote – “My life is my message.”

Yes, I’ll continue to pen compelling thrillers that enlighten and teach about weighty subjects that some only think they understand. True horror stories about teen trafficking, road rage, sexual assault and small town corruption appear on the evening news. All the more terrifying than ghosts or devils.