So you can read my books

Sunday, April 4, 2010


It's an odd truth : reality is a slippery thing.

We often expect one thing and get quite another. We awaken to a dark moment, expecting death and get life instead. That's one of the lessons of Easter.

Don't sigh. You haven't stumbled upon a finite man pompously spouting delusions about the infinite.

I'm actually writing about the art of writing. And like any art, it requires practice and diligence and correct technique. I'm writing about something painful all we writers must learn to handle correctly : criticism. Ouch. It hurts.

We all receive it. None of us is perfect. Well, there was that one. But we crucified him.

I've received criticism. I'll probably receive it about this post. But there is an Easter spin to the criticism we all receive : there is life after the grave.

But only if you take the right path.
I know from experience that when you get rejected, all becomes dark for a moment that seems to stretch for infinity. And when all is darkness, it's easy to get turned around.

In my first incarnation of FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, Samuel McCord was a man of strong faith. A very noted, respected agent was impressed enough with my partial to request my complete manuscript. He was kind and giving enough to explain why he rejected it. Bottom line : I had pushed away a large segment of the reading audience who didn't believe. And no publisher, especially in these harsh economic times, wants to buy a novel that will do that.

And after the initial "ouch," I thought about the wisdom of his words. He was right. I remembered a novel, reading and enjoying it immensely, only to cringe when he superficialized and mocked people of faith. They were Moslems, by the way. I respect people of all faiths. I laid the book down and never bought another by that author. I realized the respected agent had a point. He wasn't respected for nothing.

I didn't want to hurt or push any reader away. How could I tell my story without doing it? I heard the voice of my best friend, Sandra, sigh, "Just tell them the story, Roland. Don't tell them what to make of it. Leave it to them to decide : like you do with me."

Sandra is an agnostic. She is my best friend. People marvel at the friendship of two people who believe so differently, including her husband, who is a proud atheist. If you watch the very first Gregory Peck movie, THE KEYS TO THE KINGDOM, you will find the answer. I saw that movie as a young boy late, late at night on one of those programs that show dusty old movies. It helped shape my view on how to be a man of God. And yes, I look just like a young Gregory Peck. Not fooling you, huh? Rats.

But thinking on what Sandra might say to me, dawn rose in my darkness. I would focus on those subjects, those questions we all have. An enthusiasm fired me.

I would present those things, showing the amiable bickering of two old undead friends : one who didn't believe but longed for a better universe where a loving God did indeed exist and the other a vampire priest who did believe ... most of the time.

I wouldn't clearly show which view, if either, was correct. I mean, in an infinite world, how could any finite mind hold all the answers? I would leave it to the reader to decide.

We all hurt. We all question the hungry darkness within, the threatening darkness without. We all seek for the light. I wrote FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE for all of us. And I pray that the Great Mystery grant you enough light for the next step on your path.

About the same time as when I first watched THE KEYS TO THE KINGDOM, my mother said this song reminded her of me. I knew it wasn't me, but I always tried to live up to it. Here is Natalie Cole singing it :


  1. I am walking this same fine line in my WIP. There are people of different faiths, and different levels of faith, some with none at all. I worry at times an agent will dismiss the manuscript as preachy or judgemental, but it is neither. It is a group of people who can believe many things, and still work with cooperation and do what is best for all involved.

  2. I like your attitude and your faith in your readers to make their own decisions. At the same time, you have to stay true to yourself and to your story. It is a fine line, like Christi said, but I think the fact that you recognize it will help you make the right decisions. I hope you find a agent who sees that as well.

  3. I have just finsihed the first draft of my current WIP and I Know that I need to start working up to handling criticism because a lot of it is headed my way! All will make you stronger I say!

    Love the blog! Thanks for visiting mine!

  4. "The hungry darkness" - sometimes I feel I know too much about that hungry darkness and it takes a great deal of believing in walking on to ensure that this nowhere entity keep its shadows behind me. Sometimes the "chances and circumstantial hurdles" of life chip away and weather the spirit, to the point I wonder "Why me?" So I keep the beauty around me uppermost! A challenging post!

  5. This is a great post. You can try to change your work, but stay true to your own heart. Have you tried Christian agents?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  6. I thought this was a great post. It is refreshing to meet people who can have strong faith and beliefs and still be accepting of others. If everyone could adopt this attitude the world would be a different place.

    *sighs* It is so important to keep our readers in mind. There comes a point when we do have to decide where that line is between staying true to our story and tweaking it just enough to make it marketable. Thanks for reminding us.

  7. Thanks for your kind words! As far as rejection goes, today I got one from an agent I subbed to last June. Meanwhile, I've sold my book. It's all so subjective. Keep plugging away.

  8. Hello, Roland! Cyber punch? Naw... I wasn't offended in the least. I agree with Amy Jo by being true to yourself.

    This is something I've been thinking about when I started thinking about getting published.

    I wondered where I could find a home for my books. There are a few publishers out there that take 'clean' or spiritual kinds of books, something in which I am looking into because I will NOT write scenes that break my moral values.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. :)

  9. Hey Roland, this is how I feel. You are J.K.Rowling waiting to be discovered. I say yes take the criticism and all the good you can receive from it,... but don't lose your way as a writer trying to please publishers. Like Christ under stand your mission and your purpose. I think your mother sounds like an incredible woman.

  10. Well said, Roland. It's often hard to keep criticism in perspective. I find most of it to be made with good intentions, but you put so much of your heart into your writing, even that is hard to hear sometimes. And even harder to put to use! It sounds like you've been able to do both. Good luck with your novel!

  11. Roland, there is still time to enter the murder blogfest. Anne Riley is hosting it over at her site. Here is the information. You sign up on the link on her page and then post the scene on your blog on April 10th.

    Think about signing up for my baking blogfest too? It is for May 1st, information Here. there is a lot of leeway on this one. It is to celebrate me hitting 50 followers and if I hit 100 before May 1st I will have a giveaway and post a dancing clip--of me! LOL, love the silly side of blogging.

    Have a great day!

  12. Sorry if you felt insulted by my remark on my page. Few understand my humor. I'll try to restrain myself in the future.

  13. criticism ~ I try to look at it constructively; serving to improve. I like to think that I can take criticism and believe everyone has the right to their own opinions. Initially, it does sting...

    Stay true to yourself.
    I love and enjoy your writing.

  14. Leave it to them to decide :) so nice! thanks for the warm visit! you have lots of interesting posts!

    following u now! Feel free to visit me here:
    Life Can't Wait and Up Now and What's Next

  15. I read in one of those writing books, I think it was called Room to Write, that I shouldn't censor God from my writing if that is who I want to include. And ever since then, I think my writing has been going pretty well.

    It sucks that the current audience (well most people it seems - I might be wrong) doesn't like to read about God. If He's a part of the writer's life, then He's bound to be in the writing.

    I hope I don't face such criticism. The characters of my story attend a Catholic school, so hopefully people will understand their thoughts. Good luck with your writing.