So you can read my books

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Donna suggested in a comment here yesterday to publish a chapter a day of FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE. A nice compliment.

But if I do that, I won't be able to sell first publication rights to a publisher. Ouch. Other friends have emailed me, asking to read of McCord's first meeting with the mysterious Meilori Shinseen.

I thought I might give everyone a bit of what they wanted and show a scene that occurs in the third chapter of RITES OF PASSAGE :



"Dreams drift like clouds,

I reach to touch the moon,

I grasp but empty night."

- Lady Meilori Shinseen.

Tugging down the Stetson low over my eyes, I walked out of the cabin. As if to prove I still had some skill after the fiasco of the bathtub, I wrapped the threads of night around me. Crewmen, passengers, stewards, all failed to spot me as I moved silent among them. But the victory was too little, too late.

I felt empty, lost. Instead of going to where I heard the strains of classical music, I found myself heading up to the main deck. The night was calling to me. And something else within the darkness pulled at me :

An utter sadness so deep it was actual pain.

Someone was crying bitter tears up there. I felt its hot ripples like waves of acid breaking upon my spirit. Though a pitiful excuse for one, I was still what the Apaches called a diyi -- and something both less and more than human.

The Demeter was the most luxurious steamer upon which I had ever traveled, not anything like the cramped quarters of the Great Western. Aboard that vessel, I had shared twelve wearisome days in the close berth with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. When the man in the next cabin died, I had quickly switched to it.

The pain up on deck stabbed at me with increased strength. Moving along the wide, shadowed deck, I followed the faint sounds of barely suppressed sobs. I walked cat-quiet along the empty promenade deck. I noticed that besides the three smoke stacks, there were two huges masts with billowing sails.

The Demeter it seemed was a hybrid -- like me.

I slowed as I spotted a woman, sitting right on the wooden deck by the railing. She was huddled over something. I wrapped the threads of night tighter about me and stepped closer. The faint smell of jasmine tickled my nose. She was in a long, flowing scarlet and black Victorian gown.

I stiffened as the fog thinned enough for me to make out her slanted eyes, not quite Japanese, not quite Chinese, but a beautiful blend of the two. Another hybrid.

Her long black hair was styled up; her eyes were cast down. She was stroking a dead seagull, its slender neck bent awkward. I guessed that it hit the rigging in the fog, killing itself and tumbling to the deck.

The woman spoke, and it was as if her vocal chords were velvet. Her accent. It sent shivers through me. It was like human speech itself was a foreign language to her. What was I getting myself into?

Her words were almost lost in the night. "Poor little creature of air. Like last month, I came upon you too late. Too late."

She spoke as if the two words were a summing up of her whole life. She was one of those haunted-eyed women you attached your own hidden fears and silent sorrows to. Close-up her eyes weren't cold jade as they had seemed farther away.

They were filled with echoes of regret. The coldness had just been a bold front to hide the fact that they'd lost their way a long time ago. Maybe mine looked the same.

There were disturbing depths of sadness in those eyes. Depths in whose darkness swam the monsters which drive us or haunt us or both. Those depths whispered of age more ancient than the Aztecs, more dangerous than even my past. They both called and warned at the same time.

She kept on stroking the dead bird. "Whyever did I listen to Inari and come to this accursed vessel in the first place? I had foresworn vengeance and death long ago. Now, look where breaking my vow has led me."

She stroked the bird's head tenderly as if afraid of waking it. "Oh, to be able to go back to that world of wonder I had before I became wise and unhappy."

She held the limp bird up to her breast and sighed,

"Dreams drift like clouds,

I reach to touch the moon,

I grasp but empty night."

I felt like I was intruding, but I couldn't force myself to step away as she placed the bird back down to her lap and whispered in an accent even stranger than the one before, "Little creature of air, I came upon thee just in time to see thee die. Thou art a symbol of my life, a symbol of the futility of all my days."

I couldn’t take her pain any more and dropped the threads of night to step forward. "Not futility, ma'am."

She hushed in a breath as if to scream, stared at me for long silent seconds, then forced out, "I - I did not see you -- Westerner."

"I'm a Texas Ranger, ma'am. We don't learn to move quiet, we don't live very long. I mean you no harm."

Her face became twisted with self-loathing. "You could not harm me any more, mortal."

"You're right there, ma'am. I couldn't bring myself to muss a hair on your head - which is why I couldn't just walk away back into the night before I told you the truth."

Her lips curled bitter. "And just what is this truth?"

"That you came just in time to give that little bird a precious gift."

She sneered, "And what gift would that be?"

"It got to die in the arms of one who cared and cried over its passing. How many of us get to die that loved?"

Her face flinched as if I had slapped it. "Not ... very ... many."

I tugged down on the brim of my Stetson. "Yes, ma'am, not very many at all. You weren't futile. You were a blessing."

I turned to go, and she called out to me. "What is your name, Ranger?"

Something told me to keep on walking, but I turned back around, my loneliness overcoming my caution. "Samuel, ma'am. Samuel McCord."

Her face grew haunted. "Samuel, from the Hebrew Shemu'el, 'God Has Heard'."

Her eyes searched mine. "Is your coming a portent that He heard me last month?"

"He always hears you, ma'am. The trick is are you listening?"

Her smile flashed briefly like the gleam of a knife slashing from out of the darkness. "And do you listen, Samuel?"

The way she said my name was like no other way it had ever been said. Her voice sent tingles along the scalp at the back of my neck. I rubbed it self-consciously.

"Me, ma'am? No, I'm too stiff-necked for that."

"Please stop calling me ma'am. It makes me feel my age."

"Well, ma-, Miss, what is your first name?"

She stiffened like I had stepped across a taboo. And most likely, I had. I cursed myself. Of course, she was a fine lady of some Oriental court or some such, and here I was just a weathered, landless lawman.

Her face closed like a fist. "Those, who are permitted, call me Meilori."

Pain flickered in her green eyes. "Meilori, Beautiful Laurel. Did you know, Samuel, that laurel leaves were used in Ancient Rome to fashion victors' garlands?"

Her full lips twisted in bitterness. "Even my name is a cruel jest on the emptiness my life has become."

"Or maybe -- Miss, it's just a promise pointing to the victory your life could become if you don't give up."

Her eyes became hot jade. "And have you never wanted to give up?"

The knife of remembered despairs rammed home into my heart. “Too often.”

I shrugged. "But I could never find the place where you could go to do it."

She stiffened, and so did I, expecting a harsh comeback. But she just sputtered in a burst of sad laughter, born of pent-up tension and pain. It sounded like a rippling brook given life.

"Oh, Samuel, it is you who are the blessing. A Trojan Horse that held more than the death and shame I had first supposed. And ... call me Meilori."

A voice both silky and dangerous spoke from the darkness to my right. "Laughter, Meilori? I have not heard that from you in so long I believed I never would a--"

The tall woman in the green and gold Victorian gown stepped out of the fog and stopped in mid-sentence. Her fingers went to the odd necklace of tiny, elegant mirrors about her neck.

She stared at me. I stared back. It might have been impolite, but it wasn't every day you saw a lady whose shadow told the truth behind the illusion.

Behind her head was a shadow, not of a woman’s long hair, but the wrinkling muzzle of a fox. I forced the shock and fear from my face. She wasn't the first Animal Person I had met in my travels. But Elu had taught me in the Pajarito Mountains that the fastest way to get dead was to show weakness or fear in front of them.

I sighed. Elu had tried to warn me this hunt was different. But I never listened - until it was too late.

The fox-woman pulled herself up stiff and bristled, "And what do you think you are looking at?"

Obviously, she had woven some spell that disguised her from humans. Unfortunately for her, I wasn't human ... not anymore.

But there was no point in letting on I could see through her disguise, though her look said she had guessed I could. Best to keep her guessing.

"Reckon I'm looking at the Lady Inari your friend mentioned."

I saw her feral eyes narrow. I sighed as I looked deeply into them. Though they glittered with the promise of violence, they held depths hollowed out by pain and grief.

She cocked her head at me, her eyes opening in more ways than one. "Compassion from a human?"

"Has that really been so rare, ma'am?"


I nodded. "For me, too, for what it's worth."

Lady Inari husked, "And how have you handled it, fleshling?"

"Badly. Got tired of being hurt, of being let down by hope. So I've retreated deep inside myself. Deep down where my spirit can't be destroyed completely."

Meilori asked low, "And does it work?"

"Not really. I got what I wanted but not what I needed. My blood-brother warned me if I keep on staying deep inside myself I’ll go blind."

Lady Inari frowned, "How blind?"

"Blind to all the things that make life worth living."

Meilori said, "I would like to meet this blood-brother of yours."

"He ... passed on."

She whispered, "Then, you, too, are alone."

Inari's head jerked up at that, and to keep things from getting out of hand, I said, "He's always with me."

Meilori nodded and looked tenderly at Lady Inari. "As with me as well."

That looked like it pacified Inari some, and Meilori turned to me. "It ought to be different for beings such as we."

"There is no ought," I smiled sad, "Life just is. You often time will find that things don't turn out the way you had planned."

The two women looked at each other. The twilight grew darker around them, closing me out. They seemed to be born to live in the night. "Twilight Women" Elu called them. He warned me to stay away from such.

Inari twirled the mirror-necklace around her slim, too long fingers, and Meilori sighed, "When will you ever put on another necklace? You have worn that dreary thing for thirty years now."

"A mere heartbeat for such as we, sister. But I must say you look better than when we parted but a moment ago."

Meilori flickered her eyes towards me briefly and blushed slightly. "I do?"

The Fox-woman smiled cruel, "So, Meilori, have you changed your mind about this cruise then?"

Meilori's eyes became chips of cold jade. "No, I still find no pleasure at the thought of killing fenced cattle."

It was my turn to frown. Meilori ignored me and rose gracefully to her feet, making a swam seem clumsy in comparison. Still holding the dead seagull, she walked to the railing, held out the dead bird, and dropped it into the ocean.

"May your spirit fly free and happy, little creature of air."

"Amen," I whispered.

She turned to me, smiling sadly, "You are a strange man, Samuel. Where one would expect roughness, there is a strong gentleness. And your eyes hold such sad wisdom. What brings you to this accursed vessel?"

I felt Lady Inari's feral eyes on me as I said, "Long ago, I ... lost my sister. Some years back, I delivered a tiny baby in a home being attacked by Comanches. The dying mother had me name her daughter."

Meilori's eyes seemed to bore into me as I continued, "I named her after my sister. Watched her grow into a fine young woman . Then, last month some monster killed her and sliced off her face. I've trailed the murderers to this ship."

Meilori went pale and husked, "Do you plan to kill them?"

"That depends on them. But I mean to get her face back. Set her spirit to rest. That much at least."

Meilori walked slowly to me and pressed her slender hand against my chest. "No, Samuel. You do not know what this ship is. Leave at the next port. You must. If this Rachel loved you, she would not want you to die."

I went cold. I hadn't mentioned my sister's name.

And the song that reminds me most of Sam's and Meilori's love is this one from the Japanese animation GHOST IN THE SHELL 2 : INNOCENCE. And a phrase is mistranslated in the lyrics. It's "follies of the night" not "fun years of the night."


  1. I'm so intrigued. Very vivid--almost like I can see a dream you actually had...I sense some layers here.
    Can't wait to see it in print and get the whole story. (=
    Roland. Hang in there. Dream on.

  2. Ugh. I just want you to be published so I can read more of this. This story is so alive it just pops off the page.

  3. I like this riff about her voice: "The woman spoke, and it was as if her vocal chords were velvet. Her accent. It sent shivers through me. It was like human speech itself was a foreign language to her. What was I getting myself into? Her words were almost lost in the night."

    You slammed it home.

    - Eric

  4. Very intriguing. It definitely grabs your attention and holds it.

    Thoughts in Progress

  5. Well, I was waiting, but I will be the first to comment. I like it. I can't really say why. I am a poet not a editor :-). But I know when I like something. I admire you greatly for writing so much when you are so busy. Thank you. I am still waiting for the book.

  6. Nice.

    But trust me, if you started posting the novel dailey - though I'd enjoye it immensely - I'd probably have to send a virtual kick your way. I may change my mind if you're not published in say two years?!

    I do believe you've posted this before, a couple three months ago. Or was it a part of that contest you entered? Chilling though. So many layers of conflict going on in this excerpt.

    I read it again because I never get tired of good writing, or a haunting love story. (sighs) Oh to be Melori, and loved by Sam.

    Thanks for sharing this. I scarf down every scrap you offer. :)


  7. Very good, Roland. You are quite amazing!

  8. The more I read about Samuel, the more interested I am. You've created a very vivid fantasy world that's hooks the reader. I think you would benifit from a critique group and editor. I'm not sure if you're looking for constructive criticism or not, so I will merely say that I think you have a tremendous amount of talent and I truly think that this could become publishable material. Best of luck!!

  9. What an intriguing place! And I loved reading the recollection of this encounter, which seems to be of a great importance for the main character.
    I am always impressed by people that can convey fiction with such an eloquence. I can only stick to reality. But then again, I guess every fiction has its root somewhere in a real event, right?
    Thank you so much for you visit and a very kind and poetic comment, please do visit again.;)

    PS: I adore your header picture, so sensual and mysterious.

  10. Jo : Sometimes the silence from agents start to get to me. Words like yours are winds in my sail. Thanks. You did a great tribute on your father in your post.

    Melissa : That my words seem alive to you give me reason to keep on. You toss queries into the cyber-ocean and get nothing back long enough -- you begin to doubt. Thanks for the encouragement.

    Eric : I needed to hear those words. Life has used me as a chew toy lately. A cyber pat on the back helped me to put one word after another again. Thanks. Congratulations on the coming baby. Give my best wishes to your wife.

    Mason : I'm glad I grabbed your focus and held it. I truly enjoyed your interview with Donna Lea Simpson on your blog.

    S.M.: Life can be harsh at times. I grieve with you at the loss of your beloved cat. A member of your family has passed. You are in my prayers. My spirit walks with you in the shadows.

    Ch_charms : Have no fears. I'm not about to post excerpts daily. I may have posted parts of this before. I did explain earlier the meaning of Sam's and Meilori's name.

    And if you Google the words "Daystar - Isaiah," you'll find out the true scope of Samuel's opponent. {"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn. How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low.}

    I, too, am drawn by a great, haunting love story. To be truly loved is to be healed from a wound we never knew we bore. Thanks for liking my fantasy. And because of your comment sign-off, {like in Avatar,} I see you.

    Niki : Thanks for the nice words. And I loved your post about similes -- I even added one or three myself. Please come back again.

    Mesmerix : Samuel's cat, by the way, is called Mesmer. She stays at his restaurant down the street from Meilori's. It is called Mesmer's.

    I'm always looking for constructive criticism. I was in a critique group, but I had to leave. They hurt my feelings.

    Just joking.

    Promises to keep pulled me away from giving my full attention to critiquing five manuscripts. I can only grow as a writer if caring individuals like yourself point out areas where I need to grow. I hope that you are right and that, after much revising, there is publishable material here in my words.

    Zuzana : Your blog on the summer solstice was healing in that it swept me up in the beauty of the endless depths beyond the sunset and the stars. "Life Through Reflections" states a strange truth : life is mainly memory except for the present moment that flashes by so quickly that we hardly have time to grasp before it is gone.

    Thanks for visiting. Please do come again.

  11. *kneeling at the feet of a master...., waiting for the next morsel....*

  12. Thank you for sharing more of Samuel and Meilori and especially their beautiful beginning. I like the way he is drawn to her and immediately recognizes their similarities. It seems they have each found a kindred spirit.

    What a wonderful tale in the telling.

    Check your email for more. BTW, I will put up a post later today, thanks for checking in. I spent most of my free time these last few days working on my manuscript. Oh, and reading and commenting on all those bad boys. :)


    WV-mentiesp; e.s.p. on ice with a twist