So you can read my books

Friday, April 9, 2010



What did Oscar Wilde write?

Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.

My murder scene is taken from my historical fantasy, RITES OF PASSAGE, set in 1853. The Texas Ranger, Samuel McCord, is hunting a sadistic killer, who left the body of a young woman on the docks of Galvestion but took her face -- as a mask if Marie Laveau is to be believed. He has tracked the killer to the transatlantic steamer, DEMETER. And once on board, McCord finds fully a third of the passengers are undead. It is not a pleasure steamer. It is a stocked pond. But unknown to everyone, another killer has crept on board, and no one, living or undead, is safe.

As the scene opens, Samuel is his cabin, after having spent the night with the mysterious and immortal Meilori Shinseen. Her lifelong companion, Lady Inari, has intruded upon them. She is furious with Meilori for her choice of lovers. Humans only see a beautiful Japanese aristocrat when they look upon Inari. Samuel, no longer human, sees the truth : a chilling fox head resides upon her lovely shoulders. Things are about to come to blows when a furious knocking shakes Sam's door :
After nearly being killed at Daniel Webster's party last night, I wasn't about to answer that door unarmed. I belted my Colt on my hip. Then, I shrugged into my shoulder holster. The hilt of King Solomon’s knife touched reassuringly at the nape of my neck. Next, my fringed Thunderbird jacket and black Stetson went on, and I was ready to meet whoever was pounding on my door.

Lady Inari sighed as she studied me, adjusting my weapons. “Mortals cannot choose their nature. It is bred into them by incident and intuition. And, alas, their nature chooses their destiny for them.”

I shook my head. “I choose the path I walk not destiny.”

Her eyes gleamed in the shadows of the room. “I will remind you of that one day.”

The pounding on my door got heavier. I glared at it. But the knocking didn’t take the hint. It just kept on rapping.

I sighed, “If it’s Webster again, I think I’ll shoot him. All the parties he invites me to end up trying to kill me in some way.”

I walked to the door, pulling Solomon’s mystic blade. It was better suited to up close and personal than any of my Colts. And a mite quieter. Better for the nerves of my neighbors. And better for any innocents.

I slowly opened the door. It wasn’t Webster. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was the revenant, Prince Strasser. And he looked like he had lived a couple of unhappy centuries in the last few hours. If a revenant can be said to do such a thing as live.

His satin jabot at his throat was loose. His face was tight. His expression was creased in the hard lines of a sneer that didn’t match the uncertainty of his eyes. His purple vest was misbuttoned, so that one edge of it was lower than the other. His right arm was in a black silk sling. His left hand reached out to grab me, but I snared it.

“Only one person can nibble on my throat, Strasser, and you’re not her.”

A razored katana in velvet tones murmured behind me as Meilori spoke low, "You forget in whose presence you stand, revenant."

I turned my head slightly to flick a look her way. Slanted jade eyes that had watched Rome burn, had gazed on scented flowers blooming in Babylon's Gardens, and had smiled at the screaming sacrifices offered up to her, stabbed into Strasser. He went as pale as a revenant can get.

He glared at me as if I were the cause of his danger, then noticed Solomon’s blade in my left hand. He looked sick which said he was smarter than I had given him credit for. He worked at getting control of himself. When he looked like he had managed it, I let go of his hand.

“Where have you been all night?,” he husked.

“Minding my own business.”

His eyes were wild, hot. “You haven’t taken revenge for the fiasco at Webster's party?”

I shook my head slow. “I believe the best revenge is to live well. And that’s just what I was doing last night -- living well.”

Lady Inari laughed. And for the first time, Strasser saw her. His eyes widened.

“A menage a trois?”

Inari literally growled, “Do not task me, leech. I am not as merciful as Meilori.”

Strasser buried his face in his left hand. “Then, it was not you? It was not you. Gods, then, we are worse off than I had supposed.”

“You want to explain yourself. I’d like to eat breakfast before it’s time for lunch.”

His mouth working in pain as if his words were crushed glass, he said, “You are a policeman. Perhaps, there is some clue that I have missed. Will you come with me?”

He looked so damn desperate, and it had taken so much out of him to ask me, that I didn’t have much choice. “All right, Strasser. I’ll come with you. But where am I going?”

“Our -- my suite.”

My stomach knotted. “If it’s no longer our suite, that must mean someone’s been killed.”

Inari snorted, “You cannot kill what is already dead.”

Strasser looked like he was going to hurl himself at her. “Claus was all too alive.”

But grief took him over as he sobbed, “All too alive. Now, he’s -- he’s -- I cannot bear to put it into words.”

I clamped a hand on his shoulder. He actually cared for someone other than himself. I had judged the man wrong. I had lost too many to be cruel to someone hurting from the loss of a loved one.

“Just take me there, Prince. I’ll see if I can make some sense of whatever happened there.”

He looked haunted at me. “Claus didn’t want to go on this damned cruise. Said he had a premonition. But I insisted.”

I gave his shoulder a squeeze. “Hindsight’s alway perfect. Let’s see if we can find ourselves a murderer to make miserable.”

He nodded as if not trusting himself to speak. He led us down the passageways at a fast clip. He heard voices ahead of us and stopped, then turned up the stairs to the main deck.

“It is raining up there, but I cannot bear to face anyone this morning.”

Inari growled low in her throat as she pulled up a very reluctant rear. I feared for a frog-drowner, but it was only a faint mist. It felt good. And my Stetson kept most of it out of my face. I turned, worried about Meilori. But she was looking up into the drizzle, her whole face a’glow with esctasy.

“Oh, Samuel, how lovely. A steady, pleasant rain.”

Inari husked, “There is no such thing as steady, pleasant rain, Meilori. There is only loathsome, miserable, hair-ruining precipitation.”

Meilori laughed gaily, “Since I am born of mist, the rain troubles me not at all.”

“Look, Meilori. See? I am telling you that you are first in my affections.”

“Ah, sister, you are using the wrong finger.”

“Yes, and I am using both of them.”

Seeing them snipe at each other made me feel better. Somehow, I knew that things were almost back to normal for them -- at least, for a little while. Strasser seemed to be lost in his own personal fog of pain and failure. I knew that feeling all too well. He was a murderer of little girls, and I knew I shouldn’t feel sorry for him. But I did, just the same. I shook my head. There was something seriously wrong with me.

He strode wooden-legged through the drizzle until we passed several empty deck tables and made it to the next stairway down. He trudged, head slumped like a depressed zombie. Hell, maybe that was what he would become without someone to care for and someone to care about him.

We stepped down the stairs and took the first right. I was completely lost in this maze of a ship. It didn’t matter. I just kept my senses alert for the smell of decay that came from those who no longer breathed but only preyed on those who did. I’d known many a Ranger that was so fixed on where they were, that they walked smack into an ambush. And then, they immediately knew where they were -- in an unmarked grave.

But no ambush exploded around us. Strasser merely stood in front of a clawed marked door, staring at it as if he looked at it long enough, the scene inside would change. Finally, he opened the door and walked in. I eased in, stepping sideways to the left, my Paterson hip Colt in my hand. Nobody sprang at me. The only enemy a smell. The smell of recent, bloody death.

Meilori hushed in a breath. Even Inari let out a low growl. I looked down on what remained of Claus. Earlier, I had quoted a poem of a woman seeking where the shadows were. I figured I had found that place in this stateroom.

The stateroom was a shambles. Broken furniture tossed everywhere. Curtains, bedding, and wallpaper ripped as though by claws. Even the carpet was slashed.

"Were you here when this happened, Strasser?," I asked.

He shook his head. "There was an argument."

Inari sneered, "So we can see."

He hadn't even heard her, lost in choices he'd wished he could go back and change. "I -- I left in a rage. H-His last memory of me is ugly, so ... ugly."

Strasser walked stiff-legged as if not feeling the deck beneath his feet until he stood over the ravaged thing that used to look human. Sobbing loud, he sank to his knees with a dull thud. He took the withered hand in his and held it tenderly to his face, cradling it as if it were an injured dove.

“Claus, oh Claus! Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird.”

Inari looked down upon him and sneered, “Life. After you’ve removed the wit, irony, and ambiguity, what have you got?”

Again Strasser seemed not to have heard her. I looked to Meilori. Her face was haunted, as if this scene was too close to one she had played out long ago. She stared off into the distant horizons of her mind. She seemed to be listening to the bitter refrains of a mournful song. Perhaps the selfsame song that had found a path through the sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home, she stood in tears among the alien corn.

I kneeled beside Strasser and whispered, “When did you find him like this?”

Strasser gently laid the husk of a hand down upon the bloody, shredded chest of his lover. As if I had not spoken, he pulled out the bent collar of the white satin shirt over the black velvet smoking jacket, straighting it to match the other one. He ran his fingers along the broad shoulders of Claus. They went for the withered, contorted face, then flinched away.

I looked at Claus’s right forefinger. Its end was smeared with his own blood. And with it, two words had been written : El Chupacabra.

“No clues, eh?,” snorted Inari. “How could you have missed this one?”

Meilori gave her sister a scolding look. “Perhaps he could not see it through his tears.”

“Sister, you are letting your human’s maudlin sensibilities infect you.”
Strasser shook his head. “This was not here when I left.”

He looked bewildered at me. “El Chupacabra? What does that mean?”

I smiled bitter, “It’s Spanish for 'Where are your goats tonight?'”

He grabbed me by the right arm. “That is not funny! What does it mean?”

“It means that the hunters have become the hunted.”
And so that is my murder scene. How it kept your interest. I have always pictured Samuel McCord as Quigley with moon-white hair :


  1. Thanks for the comments! Good stuff you got here!

  2. Hey :)
    Thanks, your blog is very interesting ; thanks for sharing the info, i'm afraid i dont have any chance because i'm french and my english needs to be improved ... =)
    Anyway, keep chasing your dreams and don't let anyone preventing you from doing it.


  3. Beautiful, simply beautiful. I could feel the emotion, smell the fear, taste the blood, see the yucky dead body. I'd love to read this whole book. McCord sounds like my kind of undead man.

  4. Really interesting stuff! Lots of fun :)

  5. Great work! Your descriptive voice is excellent; I could really envision the scene as it unfolded. In particular, I appreciated your use of dialogue. The spoken lines brought the characters to life and maintained the tone you created from the beginning.

    Have a great weekend!

  6. I like this a lot. You do an excellent job weaving descpriton and detail into your story telling. And the dialouge was spot on. :)

  7. The paranormal element in this is fascinating to me. Revenant. What's a revenant? It makes me want to learn more about them. I agree with Nicole that the dialogue solidified the characters and gave them their own distinct selves. And Quigley is pretty awesome, if I say so myself. ;)

  8. What emotion!!! I love it! I truly would love to read this in completion one day!!! ;o)

    Visit MY Kingdom Anytime

  9. Very nice descriptions! Great scene! And Quigley is a great movie.

  10. The paranormal element was interesting because I didn't expect it at first (I try to start reading the scene without any set-up and only read the set-up if I find it totally necessary). Your dialogue and description are lovely.

  11. You do a great job detailing the setting, I like that and that twist, I wasn't expecting it. Well written!

  12. Awesome entry for the fest. Thanks so much!

  13. Ah, I love blogfests! It's so fun to spend the day reading murders. Great job!

    If you've got time, come on over and check out my contribution!

  14. Wow! I'm so interested to know what's going on with your characters! Great scene--hope to see more of Samuel and friends.

  15. I thought this was intrguiting. All the characters had such distinct personalities and there were many clues as to what has happened in their pasts.

    I was also intrigued by this being a historical fantasy. Most fantasies these days are set in a different world or in the present day but you've set this in the past. The idea of the chupacabra was interesting. I'm wondering where this all goes...


  16. Very well written! The interaction of the characters is believable, and the dialogue interweaves seamlessly with the narrative. Nice job!

  17. The paranormal mixed in with the old western was fascinating. I loved this.

  18. Oh, I agree with the rest: the paranormal/old west thing is an awesome choice. And what kills what's already dead? Way to raise the stakes, good sir.

    I might have a thing for Inari, too. It's possible. I like to live dangerously...

  19. Excellent narrative voice, emotion and description. I, too, love the layering of paranormal and the old west. It surprises, adding dimension to the piece.

  20. An immortal Quigley? What a great idea! So, did the murderer write the message while the coast was clear?

  21. Oh Quigley-- my husband loves that movie. You definitely have great voice in this, and a solid feeling for your setting. Nice work!

  22. Descriptive and emotive - my favourite combination.
    Your writing is well crafted.
    McCord is human, yes? “I choose the path I walk not destiny.” He has been hanging with the undead for too long ;)

  23. I like the array of characters and the attention to detail. The menage a trois line added a nice splash of humor to lighten the mounting tension. Interesting setting too, how many places are there for a killer to hide on a boat?

  24. Thanks to everyone who commented. It means a lot to me. Those 4 agents looking at my full manuscript are keeping me on tenderhooks.

    EJ, there are a lot of places for a killer to hide aboard the DEMETER, especially since there are more than one.

    Creepquerygirl : thanks for dropping by and the compliment. Can you believe once I got a query letter returned with just a dirty footprint on it. Now that was a statement.

    Anya, thanks for the kind words and may your dreams be yours soon.

    Anne, McCord would like you as well since he loves the wide plains and the high, lonely mountains. Your praise means a lot.

    Jemi, I hate to hear about your laptop. It is like being cast adrift, isn't it?

    Nicole, I am happy that my dialogue brings my characters to life. Your words boosts my hope that an agent will feel the same.

    Sarahjayne, I worked hard on the dialogue to make each character sound his/her own person. That you think I succeeded makes my day.

    L.T., revenant is from the French, revenir {to return - as from the dead.} And Quigley is pretty awesome isn't he?

    Courtney Barr, I am praying that one agent will offer me representation for FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE so that I may offer RITES OF PASSAGE to her or him.

    Harley, your comment is deeply appreciated. Quigley is one of my favorite movies, too.

    Heather, I'm glad my dialogue increased your reading pleasure of my scene. And may the paranormal never surprise you in real life!

    Myne, I'm pleased you like that final twist.

    No, Anne, thank you for offering such a marvelous blogfest.

    Embee, I hope my comments on your murder scene added a smile to your day.

    Courtney Reese, I'm glad that I whetted your interest to see what happens to Sam and company next. Hopefully, both my novels with McCord will be sold. First, to get that elusive offer of representation.

    Jai Joshi, thanks for taking time out to comment. Yes, I thought a historical fantasy might add a bit of fresh air to the torrent of urban fantasies. But Sam and his friends from the DEMETER are in my post-Katrina Urban Fantasy, FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE.

    Layinda, I worked hard to get the interaction of the characters believable with interlocking dialogue. Your comments were deeply appreciated.

    Raquel, I thought to mix the supernatural with the Old West was something I wanted to see myself, so maybe other readers would too. Glad it worked for you.

    Simon, Inari might find you appetizing ... in all sorts of ways. It really meant a lot to have you like my mix of the Old West with the paranormal. And what can kill the dead? It resolves on the mystery of what re-animates them.

    VR, you know how hard it is these days to surprise jaded readers. Your comments made me hope that an agent might feel as you do. Thanks for keeping my hope alive.

    Myrna, isn't it a grand thought : an immortal Quigley. And you're dead-n {pun meant} the killer returned after Strasser left, leaving a taunt for McCord who he knows and hates.

    Amalia, yeah Quigley is popular. Thanks for the compliment on my voice. May your books always sell.

    Elaine, McCord has come to doubt his humanity, though the ring of King Solomon continues it still survives. Thanks for thinking enough of my scene to write me.

    All of you have helped to make my day. Thanks, Roland

  25. Love how your expression is so tightly dramatic! Every word counts! There is a sense of breathless tension all through this! Gripping!

  26. The setting was so rich and imaginative, and I loved everyone's distinctive voice. I really felt each character's emotions. Great work! (btw I like Quiqley too. It's is a fun movie!)

  27. I enjoy your writing. So melodic, just draws me right in. And the scene was wonderful.

  28. Hi, Roland
    Thanks for visiting my blog and your comments. I hopped over here for a look at yours and found it to be quite innovative! Excellent writing and fluid imagination! I'll be back.

  29. I love a juicy corpse. And yes; what kills the undead. I'd love to see how you answer that.

    I enjoyed all the historical references, you wove that into the dialogue and narrative very well. I got a vivid look at the setting, and the characters.

    The descriptions are a bit long, even for fantasy. The walk through the ship is loaded with tidbits that are interesting, but there is so much snarkiness it slows the pace a bit. But it does make each character's voice clear.

    This sounds right up my alley for a good read. Undead characters, mystical weapons, immortals. Man, I hope this was as exciting to write as it is to read. And Quiggley Down Under is one of my all time favorite movies. I can definitely see your Samuel in that character.

    Thanks for sharing this excerpt; and for stopping by my blog. I can tell I'll be spending a lot of time here.


  30. Roland thanks for stopping by my place. Looks like you off to a good start at your dreams becoming true. Great work you have here.

  31. Great description and emotion! Love the paranormal element!

  32. Roland, your description is FANTASTIC. I could see everything playing out, feel the palpable tension and fear and intent. This was absolutely wonderful and kept my interest to the end. Well done!!

  33. Well done as I only had a chance to read part of it--I'll have to return to finish.