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Scott Lax Blog

Halloween 2016

Finn and Lydia, ready for the Halloween bounty
On this warm Halloween, Lydia and Finn were set for a fine night of Trick or Treating.

Father's Day, 2016

Finn and me on Father's Day...photo by Lydia
Lydia took this photo on a wonderful Father's Day, June 19, 2016. A great day with my family, then the Cavs won the World Championship.
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The Midwest Book Review on VENGEANCE FOLLOWS

"THE MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW: "Scott Lax is a master wordsmith of the first order and once again demonstrates his talent and expertise with "Vengeance Follows". A minor masterpiece of suspense and human nature, "Vengeance Follows" is a terrifically entertaining read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections." -- March 2014  Read More 
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Is There a Self-Help Author Better Than Dr. Seuss?

Finn, in his Cat-in-the-Hat hat, at pre-school, where they had Dr. Seuss Day (photo by Lydia)
“You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!
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Violence Against Women: A Major Theme in VENGEANCE FOLLOWS

When I wrote THE YEAR THAT TREMBLED, it was because of the War in Vietnam, which had ended nearly twenty years earlier. I wrote of how it affected so many millions of people, both in America and abroad; and how it affected me on an emotional level by framing a small, home-front story against the background of war. I fictionalized a story, and so it contained what the novelist Tim O'Brien calls "story truth," as opposed to "happening truth."

For my new novel, another insidious societal factor inhabited my thoughts, bothered me for years, and finally found its way into the pages of VENGEANCE FOLLOWS. That happening truth, a theme of my novel, is the epidemic of violence against women.

One in three women in the world will experience beating or rape in her lifetime. In the USA, one in four, or five, depending on whose statistics you use. In any case, it's an epidemic, and it's a horror.

That terrible, pervasive happening truth became a major theme of my novel and turned story truth. The story truth contained its own energy, and, as many authors from O'Brien to Hemingway and countless others knew or know, story truth can be truer than happening truth, because an author can go deeper: into motivation, and feeling, and pain; and redemption.

Even the PBS drama, "Downton Abbey," is showcasing this age-old scourge on humanity. I doubt if the creator of DA, Julian Fellowes, began writing the show with the intention of showing the damage of rape; my guess is that his research and experience led him to realize that the probability of one of his beloved characters being abused in this way was likely. He then likely created the story truth.

As many authors and other artists, I can delve deeper into story truth than happening truth, because of the artist's and author's prerogative: the ability to protect the innocent; the necessity to not expose others in a discernible way by creating composite characters or completely fictionalized ones. In order to keep the demons of the past at bay, and allow life to move forward, I created a story truth.

I know that my novel isn't an easy one to read for some. I know it doesn't seem plausible to some, as well. Yet I feel, have always felt, as a writer, as far back as sixteen years old, that my job is to shine a light in dark corners. To reveal. To illuminate. To try to gain meaning. To try to find love where there is hate, healing where there are wounds.

The epidemic of abuse toward women is real. For all of my characters' love, and friendship; for all their sensual joy of wine, and sex, and feeling the wind and sun on their faces, they nonetheless live in a word where the unspeakable is part of their lives.

Some writers raison d'être – our reason to be – is to shine a light into dark spaces. That's the most important thing some of us may expect to achieve. And the reader does the rest. Read More 
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Happy Birthday Little Guy

Finn is three years old
Our son Finn turned three years old on January 11. For those who have followed this blog or The Father Life blog from a couple of years ago, it's hard to believe -- for me -- but my little guy turned three.

Shakespeare wrote, "It is a wise father that knows his own child."

I hope to be wise for a long time. Knowing Finn has been and is the great joy of my life, one that I can't separate from the essence of my own life, of life itself. He personifies meaning and effort, attainment and flow.  Read More 
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Goodbye, Dennis Johnson... one of the true good guys of Hollywood

I'm very sad to hear that my former colleague and friend Dennis Johnson, who joined us as an executive producer on the film, "The Year That Trembled," has passed away. You can click his photo for the story of his amazing life, and untimely death at 68. If I know Dennis, though, he'd want us to focus on his life.

Dennis was one of the nicest, most helpful, gentle and best people I've ever known in Hollywood. When we produced our film, Dennis would stop by my office and make me take ten minutes walks every hour to walk off some steam. He was kind to everyone, from interns to movie actors. He always had a smile, an encouraging word, a piece of wisdom. He was a pioneer in his field, a man of distinction, talent and decency.

My wife and I extend our deepest sympathies to Dennis's partner, Russ Patrick, and his family. Dennis was living proof that you can be in show business and still be a prince of a guy. He will be sorely missed.  Read More 
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Why Cleveland is Ideal for a Novelist

I'm a Cleveland guy. Born in the City of Cleveland itself, raised first in Parma Heights then the Chagrin Valley. As an adult I've lived in the city, as well as a various villages and suburbs of Cleveland.

I've had offers and opportunities to work and live in L.A., New York City and Atlanta, but I always decided against moving permanently, always came back. I've set both my novels in the Cleveland area, produced a feature film about the area, in the area, wrote a produced play that takes place in the Cleveland area; co-created, co-wrote and co-executive produced a TV pilot starring Clevelanders Fred Willard and Martin Mull that we filmed nearly two years ago in downtown Cleveland. I played music full-time here, started businesses here.

Aside from my fiction, I work at a full-time job I really like, and I work with people from all over the world. That's the Cleveland my dad grew up in: filled with immigrants, people who provide fresh ideas and vibrancy. It's still like that. You just have to be open to it.

My wife -- who's from southern California -- and I like it here, want to raise our sons here. I like Manhattan, Chicago, California, New England, the Carolinas...so many places, really, including Paris, Oslo and Bergen, Norway and London and Cambridge, England.

But Cleveland and northeast Ohio are in my blood. The area is diverse in people and topography, filled with history and rich with culture. It’s kind of an odd, conflicted place, but the people are unpretentious and that means a lot. As for the weather, it's dramatic and always changing. And I can't stop rooting for the teams, which is a common theme for lifelong Clevelanders.

Fo me, the Cleveland area is a fantastic place in which to set stories, as well as to live.  Read More 
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Christmas Trees Through the Eyes of a Child

Running through the Christmas tree lot
Finn possesses everything you could imagine in his excitement for Christmas: wonder, belief, excitement, joy.
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Fictionalizing a Small Town: An Act of Liberation

My first novel, The Year That Trembled, which was recently released by Gray & Co. Publishers in its second edition, and my new novel, Vengeance Follows, which is also being published by Gray in early December, are both set all or partly in a fictional small town in Ohio called Chestnut Falls.

I suspect I’ll be getting a similar question about Vengeance Follows as I’ve gotten about The Year That Trembled, which is some variation on this: You’re from Chagrin Falls. Chestnut Falls bears a lot of resemblance to Chagrin Falls. Why in the world don’t just call Chestnut Falls Chagrin Falls?

There are a few reasons, really, but here’s the main one: my novels aren’t set in Chagrin Falls…they’re set in Chestnut Falls.

There's a tradition of novelists fictionalizing small towns, with the most prominent examples being Mark Twain, who fictionalized his hometown of Hannibal, MO, calling it “St. Petersburg.” Next in line might be F. Scott Fitzgerald, who fictionalized Great Neck and Manhasset Neck, Long Island, and turned them into East Egg and West Egg on Long Island.

In the case of my novels the closer parallel might be to Fitzgerald’s, only because he uses fictional small towns set against the real city of New York City, specifically, the borough of Manhattan. I created Chestnut Falls and set it close to the real city of Cleveland, Ohio.

Cleveland, like New York, is a big place – not as big as NYC, of course, but Greater Cleveland has more than two million people. That’s a good place for a novelist to get lost in. Chagrin Falls, on the other hand, has just over four thousand people.

Like any novelist, I need to have complete freedom in creating characters. And I think it would be too distracting for readers to try to figure out who’s who in a real small town, especially if “who” is made up. The wonder of the novels is that the moment you read “a novel” on the cover of a book that means it’s made up. That's a profound thing: it allows the author freedom.

I also need that freedom to change the landscape, the direction of the streets, the names of things, whatever the case may be. I changed street names, locations of landmarks, and lots of other elements of Chagrin Falls, and in so doing, it became not Chagrin Falls, the real place, but Chestnut Falls, the novel’s place.

On the other hand, I kept a few interesting elements of Chagrin Falls. But I also added and changed things. In Vengeance Follows, for example, there’s an old telephone booth at one of the corners of the village park called Triangle Park. In the real Chagrin Falls, there’s no telephone booth in a park called Triangle Park. But I wanted one in my novel, so I put one in.

Another example. In Vengeance Follows, my protagonist, Sam Koppang, rents a small office on Main Street in Chestnut Falls, over a hardware store, in a former Masonic Lodge, overlooking the Town Hall. From there he can see the goings on that are important to the plot.

In real life, I rented a small office on Main Street in Chagrin Falls, over a hardware store, in a former Masonic Lodge, overlooking the Town Hall.

But I’m not Sam Koppang. He’s a person (or character) I wrote in the novel. So the real answer, if there is one, is that a novel is a parallel universe. If you’re an aspiring novelist, please know this: It’s your story. It’s your town. They are your characters. Do what you want with your place, with the time, with your characters.

In an increasingly intrusive world, writing a novel is an act of liberation.  Read More 
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