So you can read my books

Sunday, July 11, 2010


What draws us to write?

It is a solitary sojourn. Most of us will never receive world acclaim ... nor do we expect it.

What then propels us on this journey? What swept you up when you first started to read for yourself? How often do you find a book which conjures that same spirit within you now?

Not often I would wager.

I believe we write to create that world which spellbound us into reading in the first place. What voices called out to us then? What lessons did they teach us?

For me the voices were :

Magic, horror, and otherworld beauty

These three sirens dominated my solitary reading of choice during my high school years. And their voices can be heard in the background of all that I write. Like the three fates, they weave the tapestry of my unconscious muse.

As a young child, I wandered alone into Edith Hamilton's MYTHOLOGY. In junior high, I joined the League of Five and group reading with BEAU GESTE and DR. FU MANCHU. In high school, I was alone again in my reading, open to any influence that caught my fancy.

The authors of those years were my unknowing mentors in how to write well. And oddly enough it was an artist who led me in the land where they all dwelt : Frank Frazetta. And he painted the first road sign on my path to becoming a writer :


When I spotted the cover to EERIE#23 with Frazetta's "Egyptian Princess" in a used book store, I was spellbound. Yes, she was clothing-challenged. But it were her eyes that ensnared me. And my encounter with her made me quite a few dollars lighter. EERIE #23, even back then when dinosaurs roamed the earth, was a collector's item.

From that moment on, I noticed eyes : weary ones , dull ones, evaluating ones, and those who were black windows into the nothingness that lived in the souls of those who possessed them.

As I began to write, I realized eyes could be the shorthand definition of the characters owning them. I noticed that when the eyes of strangers boldly met mine, it often meant the same thing as when Nixon proclaimed, "I am not a crook." I started counting my silverware.

But back to Frazetta. His art was vibrant, moody, and on-fire all at once. His paperback book covers led me to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and even to H.P. Lovecraft. And those three authors sketched the second sign post :


UNDER THE PYRAMIDS by H.P. Lovecraft (with Harry Houdini)
My hands went into warp speed when I saw the Frazetta cover emblazoned with that title. Frazetta. Harry Houdini. Wow. I didn't know this Lovecraft fellow, but I had to see what kind of supernatural trouble Houdini had gotten into in his Egyptian travels.

And I wasn't disappointed :
The first sentence : "Mystery attracts mystery."

I was hooked. Then, came the terrible imprisonment within an ancient, dark pyramid. The clever escape and the final glimpse of horror :

"The Great Sphinx! God --

that idle question I asked myself on that sun-blest morning before . . .

what huge and loathsome abnormality was the Sphinx originally carven to represent?

Accursed is the sight, be it in dream or not, that revealed to me the supreme horror—the Unknown God of the Dead, which licks its leering lips in the unsuspected abyss,

fed hideous morsels by soulless absurdities that should not exist. The five-headed monster that emerged . . . that five-headed monster as large as a hippopotamus . . . the five-headed monster—and that of which it is the merest fore paw. . . .

But I survived, and I know it was only a dream."

From Frazetta, Burroughs, Howard, and Lovecraft ... I learned how history can be made alive and alluring ... and supernatural. It is a lesson that stays with me still.


Perched in the used bookstore shelf right next to a Frazetta cover of a Conan novel was the book that was to teach me that prose could be beautiful and evocative without being stale and stiff. I picked up LORD OF LIGHT and read the first paragraph :

"His followers called him Mahasamatman, and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam.

He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god. Circumstances being what they were, neither admission could be of any benefit. Silence, though, could.

Therefore, there was mystery about him."

{It is no accident that my own hero is called Sam.}

Mystery. Evocative imagry. I was hooked.

I became his student -- through his books, his essays, and his poetry.

Some of his words :

"No word matters. But man forgets reality and remembers words."

"For you see, the headwaters of Shit Creek are a cruel and treacherous expanse."

"I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words,
beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is
something to hold back the shadows."

"There's really nothing quite like someone's wanting you dead to make you want to go on living."

"Occasionally as an author, there arises a writing situation where you see an alternative to what you are doing, a mad, wild gamble of a way for handling something, which may leave you looking stupid, ridiculous or brilliant -you just don't know which.

You can play it safe there, too, and proceed along the route you'd mapped out for yourself. Or you can trust your personal demon who delivered that crazy idea in the firstplace.

Trust your demon."

"I try to sit down at the typewriter four times a day, even if it's only five minutes, and write three sentences. It seems to get the job done. I've written a lot of novels."

And Roger Zelazny led me to this quote by Ernest Hemingway years before it made its way into the latest PREDATOR movie :

"There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter."


I have the eye-aching habit of writing long posts, so out of compassion for your eyes, I will leave that sign post to another day.
And here is a glimpse of the Frank Frazetta Museum. His wife was the custodian of it. She died in 2009 after a year's valiant battle against cancer.

The children started savagely fighting over the paintings. Sigh. Charges of burglary and theft were lodged against Frank Jr. by the rest of the family on March 2010. Matters were solved on the surface. But it proved too much for Frank, mourning the loss of his beloved wife of forty years. He died this year on May 10th.

{In early 2000, he suffered a series of strokes, losing dexterity in his right hand. The champion that he was, he taught himself to paint with his left. The painting of the warrior fighting the Mastodon in the arena towards the end of the clip was done with his left hand.}

One of the prizes on my wall of Movie Memorabilia is a Frazetta lithograph of a bear {I like to think of it as Hibbs, the bear with 2 shadows, on a bad day} signed by the artist himself.


{The Frank Frazetta Estate owns all rights to Frank Frazetta's sketchbook.}


  1. Now I'm gonna have to go find Lord of Light. After Mythology, after LOTR and Narnia, I'd say the Thomas Covenant Chronicles by Stephan R Donaldson. Thomas Covenant captured my heart like no one had. He was pathetic but tried to be so much more and he succeeded-in another world. He was the first character I mourned. I couldn't believe what Donaldson did to him. Terry Brooks, then the Dragonlance Series. My favorite characters were Raistlin, the cruel dark mage, and Tass the Kinder. Koontz's Einstein showed me that real intelligence existed anywhere, we just need to be able to see and hear. I love the doomed hero who fights evil against impossible odds. Koontz taught me that sometimes they win. Sometimes they don't-but they have hope. Ideals like honor and integrity capture me-I grew up with deceit and betrayal. War-because no one fought for me-I fight for those who cannot. Shield-because I've learned that I will survive. *I kept going and had to delete and stop. You tend to draw out of me...your words are magic that ensnare and compel. I'm gonna also have to do a post about characteristics of my favorite characters and why.

    I hope you got some rest and that your eye is all better. Please forgive the rambling reply...

  2. Gosh - thanks for the insight into Frank Frazetta's artwork and snippets of his life! And I love the quotes from Roger Zelazny - especially the one about libraries being walls of words - that is just so apt.

    Thanks for sharing what inspires you to the written work - I remember reading Beau Geste and thinking what a hero - the kind I'd love to be able to write about!

    Take care

  3. Sigh. Lovecraft. For me, the elements that drew me in were horror, darkness, the grotesque. Never caught me without a Stephen King, a Lovecraft, a Peter Straub, and (before I tired of her story-destroying long-winded-ness) Anne Rice. And every time I pick up a new book, what draws me back in are those same elements, that atmosphere, that moodiness, that darkness. Sigh.

  4. Again, I bow to your mastery of the written word. Sigh. Oh that I could reach back in to the dark recesses of a mind that holds close its memories. In time. Thank you for sharing yours and for the questions that would unlock mine.

    Frazetta. Wow.

    that rebel with a blog

  5. Frank Frazetta and Luis Royo are two of my favorite artists. I used to buy Heavy Metal magazine for the amazing artwork more than the stories contained within, although there were some stories which were pretty good as well. There is a website I visit often than has probably thousands of collected works by these artists and greats like Alan Lee. It is devoted to fantasy and science fiction art, and I can lose hours of my life there as I travel around in beauty.

    I'm thinking you haven't noticed, but you need to read my latest blog. I have something for you.

  6. I read anything and everything as a child, but what sparked my imagination and eventual desire to write was the Chronicles of Narnia, Watership Down, and The White Dragon - all with elements of fantasy or science fiction. It was a world I could only see in my mind that spured my writing.
    And sci-fi artwork inspires me as well.

  7. Revealing influences on your work Roland. You learned your writing lessons well.

    Though I don't write fantasy - yet, I'm still debating it - Stephen R Donaldson, Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey, Jack Chalker, are all some of my earliest reading experiences, and drew me to the love of swords, sorcery, and beautiful other worlds.

    You've put me in a nostalgic mood . .

    I hope you are feeling better after your hectic courier runs. Hows the eye - healing without permanent affliction I hope.

    You take care and get some much deserved rest.


  8. Hey, Roland!

    I'm going to add all those books you mentioned onto my TBR list, they all sounded awesome. I remember reading my first Lovecraft story and just being amazed by the atmosphere and darkness that Lovecraft created.

    I'm especially going to add Lord of the Light to my list. It's great to hear what influenced you to be the writer and reader that you are today.

    One of my biggest influences is probably Stephen King, because he taught me that there are scary monsters that can be created from the human imagination, but the scariest of all creatures is a human being.

    Write on!

  9. I can not argue with your genre choices. Most of those caught my attention early on, especially magic, history and things of a sci fi/paranormal order. Add psychology and criminology with a healthy smatter of good old fashioned drama and action and I am sold.

    And what amazing quotes. Someone I should put on my to read list. Thanks Roland.

    ANd I agree with Vatche. King is always a favorite of mine. I just like how he thinks. ANd we are the most dangerous of beasts on this rock, that I am sure.