So you can read my books

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


“Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.”
- Frederick Langbridge

There are epic events in each person's life. What we make of them determines what we make of our lives. Amanda Sablan and VR Barkowski have awarded me and tagged me. Ouch.

For one, I have to tell 10 things you don't know about me, and for the other, I have to answer 5 questions with 5 answers about myself.

I thought I would combine the two. Probably won't work. But hey, it could be fun. I think Custer said that same thing about that infamous stroll through some valley.


Five years ago, Hurricane Rita was a category 5 hurricane. I spent the morning running rare blood to scrambling hospitals. I drove back home to wolf down a hurried lunch. A mandatory evacuation was issued. I went downstairs.

Someone had siphoned the gas from my car. All the gas stations were shut down. I was stranded in the path of a killer hurricane. Alone.

Or not so alone.

Freddie, my supervisor, called checking in on me. He offered me a ride in his car as he drove beside his wife's car containing his two children. So with the clothes on my back, my laptop on my lap, and Gypsy in a carrier, I rode with my friend into the darkness.

The highways were shut down. We drove the back roads, the cypress trees bending down over us in the blackness as if listening to our whispered voices. Freddie's eyes were hollow.

As we passed his wife's car, I saw she was frantic, on the verge of panic. I winked at the pale faces of Freddie's two children, Allison and Abigail, pulled Gypsy out of the carrier, and picked up her front paw as if she were waving at the two girls. They giggled. And the grip of panic on their mother seemed to break. She waved back and gave a valiant smile with a thumb's up salute.

Freddie said, "Dude, you're like Job."

"How so?"

"I mean you got your gas siphoned out of your car just when you needed it most."

"I bet a lot of people did."

"Yeah, but if Rita hits Lake Charles, this will be the second time you'll have lost everything. You lost it all when your home burned. And before that you closed your business. Your mother died before that. And before that your fiancee died. And your childhood best friend died before Kathy. Damn, it's like you're Job."

I nodded, smiling sadly, "As I recall Job ended up pretty well."

"You've got a strange way at looking at life, dude."

"You're not the first to say that."

We made it to Baton Rouge where I worked delivering rare blood to all the hospitals reeling under the impact of Katrina. I drove to the hospital of Metairie, the first suburb of New Orleans. (It is a French term for a tenant farm.) I saw people who had only thought they knew what having nothing meant. I smelled the stench of decaying human flesh on the breath of a too silent city. I saw young boys in uniform trying to be men under impossible conditions.

Late at night I typed the first draft of FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, alone in the spacious suite afforded me by the blood center for which I worked. It had been leased for the board of directors to oversee the new center in Baton Rouge. So for two months I slept in a prince's suite. Gypsy was, for once, satisfied with her accommodations, she being a princess and all.

I barely saw the suite. I was always driving it seemed -- down long, unfamiliar roads to strange hospitals protected by hollow-eyed young boys with automatic weapons and dry mouths. Finally, the blood couriers were allowed back to our devastated city. It was like something from a post-apocalyptic movie. But these ruined streets and gutted homes I knew. Our city has never truly recovered. But my friends are a hardy bunch.

Me? I just fake it.

And there you have at least 10 things you didn't know about me. And I've answered only one of the five questions. Like Freddie says, I tend to talk a lot. But he smiles good-naturedly when he says it.

Oh, and that time in Baton Rouge was the first time I saw my soon-to-be Viking friend, Eric.

And another thing about me : Each time I enter my apartment, Gypsy pads to me in greeting, and I say, "The Force is with you, young Gypsy, but you are not a jedi yet." She seems unperturbed. And here are some scenes you will not believe from George Lucas' new creation, THE OLD REPUBLIC :


  1. Wow. Thanks for sharing. I am moved.
    And for the record, I chose the see the stars :)

  2. Very moving post. Don't think I could be that upbeat. You are inspiring. Congratulations on the awards.

    Thoughts in Progress

  3. Wow, that was the coolest way EVER of doing those tagged games and answering the question. Thanks for sharing. That was a great story. :D

  4. You are an amazing man, Roland. I think I love you a little bit, and I'm not afraid to say it. Aside from the reality of events, you express such a wonderful storyteller ability. I'm convinced the world will be your audience someday.

  5. Great way of answering the questions!

  6. Wow.

    If your life does resemble Job, I sure hope you end up like him, too.

    My favourite quote, which kind of goes with yours:

    "We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars"
    Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan

  7. What a story, wow. Clever way of answering the questions but I expect no less from you!

  8. Wow, that was awesome! I was holding my breathe while I was reading...

    I have an award for you over at my blog. :)

  9. My, my. Now I know how Samuel was born. And so much more. You've lived in hell, lived through it to tell. And, tell, you are.

    Your voice will be heard. I have no doubt.

    Live on, Scribbler. And tell.

    P.S. Would you pop over to my blog, to the Title Blogfest and let me know what you think about the title of my ms? I need one more comment to reach my goal. Plus, your opinion matters. Thanxx, Roland!

    OH, and thanks for the trailer, I didn't even know that was in the making!

  10. That was a FABULOUS way to do that Roland--what an incredible, scary and moving experience, and it's true, that to keep your head up and your attitude good after all of that is pretty incredible! I'm a see the stars person too, but my challenges have been quite a few fewer.

  11. Tabitha : Yes, look at the stars. Thanks for visiting. And don't be a stranger, hear?

    Mason : You could do more than you believe. The humble always can. Glad you visited. Come again, please.

    Stina : I was concerned that my novel way of answering would not be appreciated. Thanks for allaying those fears. And visit again.

    Christi : We're all amazing deep inside. True, with some people you could get the bends looking for that amazingness -- but it's there. And I love you a little right back. I hope you're right about that world audience. I get weary and a bit doubtful at times.

    The Golden Eagle : I'm glad you liked the way I answered the twin requests. I was concerned it wouldn't be appreciated.

    Tessa : I've always loved that Wilde quote, too. I'm sure The Father has some neat surprises in store for me. He's like that, you know.

    Heather : I'm happy that you liked the way I answered the questions. I try to write in ways that is not commonplace. Sometimes it works. Other times ... ah, let's not talk about those.
    And your confidence in me makes my morning.

    Sharon : I was holding my breath while I was living it. But that you think I succeeded in conveying that means so much to me these days. And thanks for the award. As you can see, it is already up and running here.

    Olivia : I have already gone to your blog and written not in one, but in two posts. Love your blog by the way. And yes, now you know how Sam was born ... in New Orleans. His first appearance was in Valhalla, of all places, in another of my hero's novels. Sam gets around. And wasn't that STAR WARS animation trailer neat?

    Hart : You would do well in similar experiences. You have intelligence and heart (no pun intended.) Thanks for thinking I did a good job in my unique way of answering. Please visit and comment again.

  12. I'm so sorry for all your losses but your upbeat attitude in the midst of chaos and panic is inspiring! No wonder you inspire us all, in general. Thanks!

  13. Wow, what a story! I can't imagine someone siphoning petrol from your car! And how brave you are, Roland.

  14. Damn, Roland. You got heart.

    Keep doing what you do. The world needs people like you.

    (P.S. That trailer was EPIC!!!)

  15. You have an amazing way with words...I was so afraid for you all! I'm very glad you all survived...and congrats on the award.

  16. Oh wow.

    What else can I say, but oh wow. What a memory - thanks for sharing! It's just amazing what you do - and it all sound so lawless and scary like Warriors except caught in the eye of the storm. Good grief. I think I need to lie down now! :-)

    p.s. Hello Gypsy!
    Take care

  17. Roland, thanks for sharing this. Great loss can twist people or hurdle them toward enlightenment.
    I like you.The way you think.(=
    Go over to Candyland and check out her post if you haven't yet. She's been through an experience that is tough on any woman. Leave a good word. Passing through sorrow breeds deeper compassion and she needs some right now.

  18. Ah, memories. You described yours very well, and I like how you combined your story with ten things we didn't know about you! You are a trooper, man.

  19. That was such an amazing part of your life. How scary and telling. Thanks so much for sharing. I can't wait to read your book.

  20. Epic! What a life you've led - and still lead. You just amaze me with your patience and perseverance. Its good to know you Roland.

    Great job combining the questions and answers.

    Good luck and safe journey to you tonight if you're on duty.


  21. Terry : It was five years ago, and still the memories are fresh. Hurricane Ike was only two years ago, and Freddie, Eric, and I were alone when the flood waters came surging in up to our waists in the blood center. I can't say my life is boring!

    Tali : Yes, it was quite a shock to find my tank empty when I'd just filled it. And I am sure you would have been a trooper in similar circumstances. You have intelligence and wit - which are twin aces that will always see you through.

    Simon : Wasn't that trailer EPIC? All your blog friends know that you, too, have heart. Thanks for the kind words. They help.

    The Words Crafter : Thanks for the praise on my writing. Come by again and leave a word or two. I visited your site and followed.

    Kitty : Gypsy says HI back. You made her day. She has a fan. I won't be able to live with her now. Yes, my days can get quite hectic even without a hurricane. Today was a 200 mile one. But at least no one pulled a gun on me as they did one night at a closed-down gas station where I was meeting Shreveport for a rare blood hand-off. Luckily my car was running, and I could peel out of there.

    Jo : If you could give me a link to Candyland, I could find her easier. I am quite a bit like Sam McCord, high tech- challenged. Thanks for dropping by.

    Amanda : I had to do you proud. Glad you think I did a good job of it. And in my place you would have been a trooper too.

    Raquel : Thanks for liking my scribbling on my adventures. And one day, The Father willing, an agent and an editor will think my writing worthy and you'll be able to read FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE.

    Donna : I gave your prompt post a shout-out on my Thursday post. Hope it brings a few guests your way. And I am on duty tonight -- the weary graveyard shift tomorrow. Groan. Think good thoughts my way.


  23. Thanks, Jo. I found her in the comments to your latest post. I tried to help and not hurt. Still at a time like hers there is so much pain and sense of lost direction. Roland