So you can read my books

Friday, September 30, 2011


My entry for Francine's and Denise's Friday Romantic Challenge :



It comes in many forms. Ask a prison warden what a prisoner fears most, and he will answer : solitary confinement.

Yet, all of us exist in the solitary confinement of our minds --

which leads me to my 400 word entry from the YA urban fantasy, DAYSTAR'S ORPHAN. At the end of BLACK ROSES IN AVALON, Blake Adamson makes a terrible mistake, whose consequence lead to LAST EXIT IN BABYLON.

But it also created a "bubble universe" where his life was rebooted and Fallen, the last fae, has just rescued the 14 year old Blake from DayStar's clutches, mangling him terribly with her long claws in the doing of it :

Fallen crabbed slowly back away from me on her knees, still shaking her head in horror.

"N-No. No! Oh, Blake, I told you I-I'd be a hard friend, but not like this!"

I shrugged, trying to hide how much it hurt, "Show me a rose that doesn't have its share of thorns."

"I'm no rose," whimpered Fallen.

"To me, you're as much a rose as the black roses whose perfume you have in your hair."

Fallen shook her head and, with self-hate in her voice, whispered, "I'm no rose."

"Not a tame one, for sure. But don't you know, Fallen? The wild roses have the sweetest smell."

Her long faerie face all eyes, she said softly, "Your lips just twitched, there, Mr. I-Don't-Lie."

I looked at her with so many warring emotions going at it inside me. Did I dare tell her the truth? I saw the lonely, self-hating hurt in those wet green eyes and knew I didn't have a choice.

"It's ... It's not just when I lie that they do that."

"Then, when else?"

Did I have the nerve to say it? "Ah, well, ... they've been known to do it when ... when -"

"When what?," murmured Fallen, edging closer, her green eyes seeming to swallow my whole world.

"When, ah, I'm ... next ... to a pretty girl."

There, I had said it, and I could feel my cheeks blushing. No. Fallen looked miserable. Man, couldn't I do anything right?

One single tear rolled down her cheek. "B-But that's just it. I'm not pretty. I'm not! I'm not even a girl. You heard DayStar. I'm a frea-"

Her next word I knew would break my heart so I didn't let her finish.

I took both of her hands in mine.

"-a wild, beautiful rose," I said soft, and without even realizing what I was doing until I had gone and done it, lightly kissing her fingers, claws and all.

I stiffened. Oh, man, what had I done? -- oh, no.

Big tears welled up in her jade eyes. She just looked at me for what seemed a frozen eternity. Why did I always screw up? Why?

Then, so fast it was a blur, she bent and kissed me softly on the cheek,looking as shocked as I felt.

My lips not wanting to work right, I knew better than to try and say anything, so I just smiled shyly back.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Megan Fox wrote me, asking if I would explain Amazon's Sales Ranking.

{I was dreaming at the time, of course!}

Megan just wrote me again with some interesting figures from April of this year :

Interesting numbers:

- 28 out of 100 top e-books in Kindle Store are self-published; 11 are in top 50,
- all of those publications are priced $3.99 or less; that means 28% of top Kindle e-books cost less than $4,

- 18 of the titles are given the lowest possible price tag: $0.99,
- the shining star is John Locke with 8 titles (7 of them in top 50); Vegas Moon is the best self-published book – ranked #4,

- Amanda Hocking is sliding down; her best selling book, Ascend, is #64 (a result of signing a contract with a publisher?),

- authors to watch: Heather Killough-Walden, Julie Ortolon, J.R. Rain and Debbi Mack – with 2 or more titles in top 100.

{Megan being a "good" bad girl gave Piotr Kowalczyk credit for those figures. Her figure she takes full credit for!}

Ah, the ever popular "Amazon Sales Rank. Often debated, never fully understood. And Amazon never fully explains.

So we're left to speculate like the number-crunching data addicts that we (or at least some of us) are.

Not only can it indicate how a book ranks in sales to other books, but it can be used to approximate actual copies sold.

The ASR is a unique number that is constantly recalculated. For example if a book has an ASR of 100,000, then 99,999 other books sold more copies and approximately 4,900,000 books sold fewer copies at that particular time.

Rankings can spike due to large corporate purchases or heavy marketing promotions and are accurate only for the exact time they are calculated.

ASR’s from 1 – 10,000 are recalculated hourly. ASR’s from 10,001 to 110,000 are recalculated daily. ASR’s above 110,001 are re calculated monthly.

The ASR is based on a single ISBN (edition), not the book title. Therefore, the ASR for a title released as a mass-market paperback ISBN does not reflect the sales of that title as a hardcover edition, trade paperback edition, or special edition.

An average rank of 1,000 (or lower) means you have a seriously successful title;

an average rank of 10,000 means you’re doing pretty good for a book that’s no bestseller;

an average rank over 100,000 means it’s (your book is) not going to contribute significantly to your income.”

If you have a book on Amazon, for fun, you might :

Note when there’s a big spike in the number. Did someone review your book around that time? Did you post a comment on a blog or website the day before? Note the spikes in sales over time and what might have caused them.

So, why are we obsessed with our Amazon Sales Rank?

Well, no matter what the number may be, if the number is rising it means a sale, which means a royalty payment in the end.

It might not be much of a payment, but keeping your book at a higher sales rank definitely increases exposure,

which hopefully increases sales and increases money in your pocket.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


By any measure, the Amazon Kindle has been a big hit;

analysts estimate the company has sold more than 18 million of the monochromatic e-book readers since its November 2007 debut.

Still, that success pales in contrast to its most colorful competitor:

Apple has sold around 29 million iPads since just April 2010, and may sell 75% of all tablet computers purchased this year.

Today, CEO Jeff Bezos hopes to change that.

This morning, he introduced four new Kindles, slashing prices to an entry level of just $79. He also debuted a brand new Amazon tablet, the Kindle Fire. It sells for $199, compared with $499 for an iPad.

So, Kindle Fire… what do you get?” 18 million songs, movies, TV… 14.6 ounces, dual core processor, multi-touch 7″ display, free cloud storage, Amazon Silk web broweser, Whispersync…



{"Read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.

Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master.

Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window and start again wiser."

-William Faulkner.}

William Faulkner, ghost, here :

Don't be 'a writer'. Be writing :

A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

And to work well you must write with the embers of truth stinging your eyes.

You can have 13 people looking at a black bird and none of them will get it right. No one individual can look at truth.

Even simple truth. Look deep enough, and the simplicity disappears in the murky depths.

Truth blinds you. It is too much for one set of perceptions to take in. To a man with rose-tinted glasses, the whole world is rose.

And so it is with the writer looking at Man.

We call ourselves Homo Sapien, the reasoning animal. But Man is not made of reason.

A man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you'd think misfortune would get tired, but then time is its own misfortune as well.

And so all human behavior is unpredictable. Considering Man's fragility and the ramshackle universe he functions in, how could it be otherwise?

So how does that affect you as a writer?

1) The writer must not set himself up as judge :

He must focus on action, the character's behavior. Maybe your protagonist, like so many people, has no concept of morality,

only an integrity to hold always to what he believes to be facts and truths of the human condition.

2) The character does what his nature dictates.

He acts not as the writer would, not as a man should do, but what he will do -- maybe what he can't help but do. Which leads me to my greatest fear :

3) I fear that Man is losing his individualism, his sense of self, in doing what the herd does in order to stay safe.

Which is why I do not belong to anything besides the Human Race, and I try to be a first rate member of that.

4) You are first rate as a human being and a writer if :

you do the best you can with what talents you have to make something positive that wasn't there yesterday.

How do you do that you ask :

The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. And he makes his home of the stones of his efforts.

How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home until I realized that home to a writer is where his mind, his heart is.

5) Most men are a little better than their circumstances give them a chance to be. Strive to thrive where you are. "How?" you ask again. And I will tell you :

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything good.

You have to have courage. Courage is not so hard to have in writing if you remember that :

All of us have failed to match our dream of perfection.

6) I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. If I could write all my work again, I'm convinced I could do it better.

This is the healthiest condition for an artist. That's why he keeps working, trying again: he believes each time that this time he will do it, bring it off.

Of course he won't. Which leads us to the next point.

7) The phenomenon of writing is its hermaphroditism:

the principles of victory and of defeat inhabit the same body

and the necessary opponent, the blank page, is merely the bed he self-exhausts on.

8) You can learn writing, but you cannot teach it. A paradox but true despite that.

And what have I learned from my novels?

I learned how to approach language, words:

not with seriousness so much as an essayist does,

but with a kind of alert respect, as you approach dynamite;

even with joy, as you approach women: perhaps with the same secretly unscrupulous intentions.

Are you a writer? Really? Then, what are you doing about it? Go, write. And remember :

Dreams have only one owner at a time. That's why dreamers are lonely.

And that's why a dream is not a very safe thing to be near...

I know; I had one once.

It's like a loaded pistol with a hair trigger: if it stays alive long enough,

somebody is going to be hurt. But if it's a good dream, it's worth it.
A little humor icing on this literary cake :


Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Why are we attracted to monsters?

No, I’m not talking about our love life. Ah, maybe I am. But that’s another post entirely.

We are drawn to monsters in our entertainment. Hannibal Lector. Dexter. Edward of TWILIGHT infamy, sparkles and all.

It is the allure of the forbidden. Hence the cover of the first TWILIGHT : outstretched hands holding a bright red apple. The eternal battle : “What I knew was right” vs. “What I wanted.”

We search for the humanity in the attractive monster : yes, he does terrible things, but never to me.

Samuel McCord chides the ghoul, Alice Wentworth, that Victor is basically a Walking Happy Meal to her. Bella is the same thing to Edward.

Should she have chosen Jacob, she would have had to walk on eggshells never to make him angry to escape the scars another mortal woman received who had the misfortune to love a werewolf.

Sure, vampires are sexy. And what a compliment that a sexy man wants your company when he could just as easily have you for dinner.

Our attraction to sexy vampires can be understood.

A vampire Megan Fox would be hard to refuse a nibble on the neck, if sips were all she planned to take. But the ghoul, Megan Fox, is hardly sexy when she develops an appetite for bad, and ultimately, good boys in JENNIFER’S BODY.

Vampires are the ultimate Bad Boy in many urban fantasies today.

Many women want to believe that the right woman could tame even a blood-thirsty monster … at least enough to be the ultimate protector, provider, and lover.

As a former counselor, I cannot stress enough how unrealistic and dangerous that is.

But it sells books.

It just isn’t true to the male nature. But it is a wish that is understandable since most of those novels are written by women –

Who have to guess at the nature of males as men have to with the nature of females.

But then there is our puzzling fascination with zombies.

Zombies embody an “all consuming evil” (pun intended.) A malevolent evil with no mercy, regard, or compassion … only hunger.


If you are only infected instead of ingested, you become one of the hungry dead yourself! No sense of family, friend, or even of yourself.

And you develop terrible table manners!

Zombies are not unlike a force of Nature … and Nature has become unsettlingly dangerous these past months as we remember Japan, New Zealand, and Katrina.

So perhaps we are drawn to the zombie movie because the zombie reflects the all-too-real terrors in our newspaper headlines. Just as you cannot reason with a zombie, threaten its family or its further living … the same can be said of a terrorist.

Terrorists keep on coming until you kill them. The same can be said for the deranged killer who stalks into a schoolroom and begins to open fire with automatic weapons.

Zombies provide similar evils … but non-threatening since they could never exist. We can work out our fears of terrorists, muggers, and insane gunmen in the dark of the movie theater.

We can ask ourselves what would we do in a Zombie Apocalypse, who would we take with us, what we would take, and where would we go. In the unspoken thoughts of our minds, we translate that into a Nuclear War/Natural Disaster Apocalypse.

We identify with the survivors in the zombie movies. We want to believe that we would survive in such a crucible. And deep down that supports our fearful hope that we would survive should Nature, Nuclear War, or terrorism reign over our landscape.

Who would have thought it?

Zombies as therapy!


Monday, September 26, 2011


Literary tastes are drying up. I Googled "Cover of KIM" and got the first picture. Interesting.

Somewhere on the net I read that "children and adolescents are a distinct race."

Children and adolescents are certainly regarded as a distinct literary species. And the production of books for said species has become a mighty industy.

More the pity, for it is based on a lie. Let's be kind and call it a theory - one not backed up by the facts.

Many children/teenagers, like many of us, never read when they can find any other entertainment. But they, like us, do not read the same thing. Some read fantasies, others sport legends, still others war or romance or ...

You see my point. They, like us, are human. Silly children/teenagers prefer success stories about school life as silly adults prefer success stories about adult life.

KIM, GULLIVER, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, SHERLOCK HOLMES, WAR OF THE WORLDS ... all now considered juvenile fare. They were written for, and are still enjoyed by, adults.

Even the fairy tale was not originally intended for children. They were told and enjoyed in (of all places) the court of Louis XIV. J.R.R. Tolkien points out that it gravitated to the nursery when it went out of fashion for the adults.

Juvenile taste is simply human taste,

going on from age to age, silly with a universal silliness or wise with a universal wisdom, regardless of culture or literary nay-sayers.


Those who have a story to tell must appeal to the audience that still cares for storytelling,

who still love Story --
those series of events that pull back the curtains on the mechanisms of life :

Romance. Power. Danger. And the continuing quest to find the truth of our lives and our place in the crowded, yet solitary, path of life.

You're frowning.

Turn Story into Music, and you will understand at once.

JACK THE GIANT KILLER is not the story of a clever hero evading danger. No. Its essence is the hero surmounting danger from giants.

Think the intro music for Darth Vader ... for the shark in JAWS ... for Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN ... for Hannibal Lector in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

That intro music touches the soul of each in the audience, each in a different way ...

no matter the age.

The Story dictates the villain which dictates the trials of the hero. A good Story will appeal to all ages as did the trials of Harry Potter.

In this traumatized Publishing Industry, we must draw all ages to our Story, not fence any out.

What are your thoughts?


Sunday, September 25, 2011


“Among answers, I am the question,

Among scars, I am the fresh wound.
- Lisel Mueller {Night Song}

The Lakota in me murmured to go sit beside the snaking bayou outside my window. To simply be. So I did. The grass was soft, itchy.

The waters, turned brown by the poisons pumped into them by the nearby petro-chemical plants, bled by me. An eye-achingly white egret swept gracefully over the rippling currents.

Its search was a hopeless one : a search for life in the waters of slow death.

Leaves, the bright colors of strangled life, drifted upon my shoulders. Like a trick of my melancholy, a voice of winter dreams spoke to my ears.

“The Seasons of Man are much like the Seasons of the Year, GrandSon. Man begins in birth. He struggles. He creates. That which he creates dies … then he dies.”

I flicked my eyes to the left. The wavering form of the Turquoise Woman sat beside me, her haunted face terrible and beautiful beyond any singing of it.

She whispered on the cool winds of Autumn.

“Man’s words are dying, Roland. And without words, he is drying up within. His grasp of literature pries him out of his provincialism.

It makes him a witness of time and existence, pulling him out of himself to value the priceless gift of those who struggle beside him.”

I nodded. “I think I understand, GrandMother. We are falling under the tyranny of generalizations and catch-words, under the soul-numbing spell of color and sex from tiny TV screens.”

Estanatlehi’s nose wrinkled as she glared at the poisonous plumes from distant smoke-stacks.

“An air that kills

From yon far country blows.”

I shrugged. “A man must die somewhere, and this is where my dwindling circle of friends live.”

“But do they live? Can any who do not think beyond the drudgery of the obvious be said to live?”

Her lips twisted as if tasting the bitter dregs of civilization. “Rather than say a man is dishonest or cruel or unreliable, they insinuate that he is illegitimate or an offspring of a female dog.”

She sighed, “Hatred obscures all distinctions and most truths.”

The Turquoise Woman turned to me. “Like most writers you have a fresh seeing eye. You are as a stranger to your own life, perceiving value in what others see as nothing but the commonplace.”

“Few people read anymore, GrandMother. The giants of literature are fading into the mists of ignorance. You mention Faulkner, Steinbeck, or Descartes only to be met with glazed looks and frowns. Libraries are becoming a thing of the past.”

Looking at her features, fine yet otherworldly, I could believe long ago there had been a face that launched a thousand ships.

She whispered, “Man divides his books into those of worth which few read and ‘popular’ ones of which both those who write them and those who enjoy them are half ashamed.”

Estanatlehi’s grew wet, and a flurry of snowflakes swirled from her eyes.

“They hunch over their voice-boxes, typing words of gibberish, squeezing more of their empty lives into fewer and fewer characters and wonder why no one understands them.”

I reached out and held her cold, cold hand.

“I did not ask to be born. But I am here, now. Within me is the ability to feel compassion and the smallness to be arrogant. The end of The Way of the Seeing Eye and the Listening Ear may be upon us.”

I stroked her long, ghostly cheek. “It is but a storm. And storms are here for me to learn strength, to find it within myself to stand tall in them, and to hope.”

“Hope what, GrandSon?”

“That one more step will take us beyond where we were,

becoming stronger by the very act of taking it,

leading us to the light of the next sunrise and

the promise of a new day and a fresh blank page upon which to write good things.”


Saturday, September 24, 2011


{Another advanced post ... 200 words exactly.}

Ghost of Lovecraft here.

Did my prose mirror truth?

I dare not say.

My imagination was too stunted to paint what lies beyond.

I believe that this less material life is our truer one,

and that our vain presence on this transitory globe is

the secondary phenomenon.

I was wandering Thalarion, a synchroni city,

where none return,

where walk only daemons that are no longer sane, who stumble from gaps in reality that oscitate eerily.

These ruins project a diseased miasma as if the very stones are cursed.

The ghost of Samuel Clemens

made his cautious way to me.

Wise he was to be careful, for I am no longer ... human.

Bemused, I watched from the shadows.

He, though ghost, was human still, self-centered in opinion, with lacunae of astounding ignorance.

Clemens said, "You can roll around in your horrors like they were catnip. But Roland is ill. He needs your help."

"Of course I will help."

{I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror,

so that the skies of spring must forever be poison to me.

So should you have breath left over from your prayers for Roland --

sing a canticle for me.}

Friday, September 23, 2011

A BLUE MOON TO DIE FOR_Friday's Romantic Challenge

I'm prior-posting this 5 days in advance :

feverish, coughing, and chest pains. The ghost of Mark Twain keeps telling me that dying's not so bad.

"As compared to what?," I ask.

He takes a slow puff of his cigar and snorts, "Being nibbled to death by critics."

That's Samuel for you!
Denise and Francine have given us the prompt of BLUE MOON.

So many things happen only once in a blue moon :

friendships with kindred spirits as I have found here in blogdom.

pursuing your dream with gusto.

and true love.

Victor has taken his newly found love to the infamous drug kingpin, the Snowman and his hitwoman Ice. The terms "Snow Cone" and "Ice cream" take on new meaning for Victor.

Alice and Victor hear Samuel McCord, Father Renfield, and Ada Byron rush to rescue Victor.

Alice whispered, "Victor, the McCord will kill me when he sees what I have done."

I patted her hand. "Not with me here. He and I are friends."

"The McCord has no friends when it comes to justice, Victor. You will see."

I heard Father Renfield scuffling with my friend outside the door.
"No, Sam, let me go in first. Let me see ...."

"No," snapped Captain Sam.

"Yes," said Ada, and I saw her zip in through the open doorway.

She pulled up short as she saw what remained of the Snowman and Ice. She looked at Alice. And I remembered the blood on her lips and fingers.

Ada gasped, "Oh, my stars!"

Renfield darted past her, looking at the bodies, then at Alice behind me. "Bloody Hell!"

Captain Sam rasped, "Dear God, what did that fiend do to Victor?"

And suddenly he was in front of my two friends. He seemed untouched by the Snowman's guards, his smoking Colts still held in his hands.

He looked at me, then at the bloody remains of the Snowman and Ice.

Soft and low, he spoke to me, "Victor, move away from the ghoul. Now."

I shook my head. "Her name's Alice, sir."

His words were soft thunder. "Move away from Alice, son."

"She's my ghoul friend, sir."

Alice kicked me in the right shin. "Damn, Alice! That was the one place on my whole body that didn't hurt!"

I saw Sam angle for a killing shot. "You know, Alice, blocking you from harm is hard enough without having to do it hopping about on one foot."

Ada cocked her head as she studied the two of us. She slowly smiled.

Alice hissed, "Do not EVER call me that again, Victor!"

Sam raised both Colts, and I rasped, "You'll have to shoot through me, sir!"

His pale face was hard. "I'll do what I have to, son. Please don't make me shoot through you."

"No!," screamed Alice. "Do not kill Victor. Kill me if you must, but leave my Victor alone!"

Everybody's eyebrows rose up at her word "my." Ada patted down Sam's Colts.

"Oh, do put away those behemoths, Samuel."

"What are you talking about? Look at what she'd done."

Ada shook her head. "No, look at what Victor has done."

"Have you gone loco?"

"Have you gone brain-dead, Samuel? Miss Wentworth has never strayed more than a block from her cemetery in all these years. No, Victor led her here to avenge Susan and punish vermin who needed it.

She looked tenderly at Alice. "Samuel will not hurt you dear."

"I won't? She's a ghoul, Ada."

"No, Samuel. She's Meilori."

He stiffened. "What did you say?"

"Oh, Samuel, real love comes but once in a blue moon. Think 1853. Look at them. Look at the way she looks at him. The way he was about to die for her."

Ada smiled as if it were an open wound. "She's Meilori, and he's you as you both were aboard the DEMETER in 1853."

He slowly turned to study us. He closed his eyes as if what he saw hurt him too deeply to keep on looking. He holstered his Colts.

Alice smiled at Ada. "You should have seen him do his Parkour."

Sam raised an eyebrow at me. "You know that?"

I nodded. "Learned it in Cleveland from a sensei."

Renfield barked a laugh. "He learns a French skill from a Japanese Master in Cleveland. Victor, you're a bloody riot."

Alice hugged my right arm. "He's a hero. My hero."

Sam sighed and doffed his Stetson to Alice. "Miss Wentworth, would you do me the honor of coming to Meilori's?"

Alice hushed, "Meilori's? Oh, could I? I have always wanted to go."

I patted her hand. "The first time's the worst. But don't worry. I'll be by your side."

Alice smiled soft. "Those are the only words I will ever have to hear to feel safe."

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ada's lips move silently. But I read the words : "... and loved."

Monday, September 19, 2011


{"You do not how right you have things

until you handle them all wrong."

- Mark Twain.}

Just a heartbeat ago, I eased into Roland's apartment to swap tall tales when I came upon him dozing and feverish in front of his electronic newspaper,

blog he calls it. Sounds like one of those tar pits in California those poor dinosaurs critters got stuck in.

I leaned over his shoulder and read what he wrote.

Why, what was wrong with the boy? His post depressed the beejesus out of me, and I'm dead.

What he needed was a little help from his good friend, the beloved, yet humble, genius of literature ... me

What was needed here was ... I stroked my chin. Of course, what was needed here was ... me.

I would save Roland from his depressing folly.

I started to ruminate on all of life's follies when it came to me how much help those terrible horror movies Roland watches truly are.

Why there are some golden lessons to be found in those flickering frames,

especially for you folks not blessed to be ghosts like myself :

1) When it appears that you have killed the monster, ALWAYS get the loud-mouthed neighbor to check to see if it's really dead.

The bliss of silence in the neighborhood will be your reward.

2) Even if it seems to be the funniest thing in all creation, never read a book of demon summoning aloud. Your mother-in-law is demon enough, thank you.

3) When the power goes out, gals in flimsy undies will ALWAYS take a fancy to search the basement -- and they NEVER change their flashlight batteries.

4) If your young 'uns suddenly start to speak to you in Latin or any other language which they should not know, shoot them immediately.

It will save you a lot of grief in the long run. For such eventualities,

ALWAYS buy automatic handguns, since it will probably take several rounds to kill them.

A loving parent is a sure-kill parent.

This also applies to any tiny waifs who suddenly start to speak as if they have been gargling with lye.

They are either possessed or have been raiding Father's liquor cabinet.

Either way they deserve what they get.

5) As a general rule of thumb, don't solve puzzles that open portals to Hell.

6) If appliances start operating by themselves, send your spouse to check for short-circuits, then get the hell out of the house.

Ignore the subsequent screaming -- or enjoy it, depending upon just how "sweet" your bitter half has been to you lately.

7) If you are offered a "steal of a deal" on a house that has been

a) built on the site of an Injun massacre,

b) the home of a family whose members had taken to dismembering one another, or

c) been an asylum whose inmates took to munching on the help --

take the real estate agent lovingly, kindly and gently by the arm --

and shove her into the basement, locking it behind you. Unnatural beasties get hungry. And better they make human jerky out of her than you.

Don't mind about the body. It won't be there when the police arrive. The police won't be around long either -- if they stay.

Sunday, September 18, 2011











{more of that later -- but speaking of Victor Standish ...}

It is nearing October and many folks' favorite holiday ... HALLOWEEN!

This following excerpt is from the 3rd Victor novel, MYTH-TAKE (still in production as is his sequel, MORE THAN A NAME :

{Victor's plan to rescue Abigail Adams from the evil Theordora has succeeded. Kinda. Two of his ribs are broken. He's hurting all over. And he's in better shape than Abigail!}

The throbbing cut on my temple oozed blood along my cheek and down my throat. The revenant, Abigail Adams, looked down with hungry eyes at the blood and my throat.

We were both hurt bad. Me less than her. Sometimes it paid to be a smaller target.

I was supporting her down St. Peter Street. We made a pretty strange pair -- even for Halloween.

"You bite me," I wheezed from the broken ribs that were screaming at me, "and I'll drop you on your elegant butt."

"Standish," she husked. "You are not as funny as you think."

"No. I'm funnier. I'm humble like that."

"Y-You are not even in the same galaxy as humble, whelp."

"You know why I don't drop you on your ..."

I coughed up a bit of blood, " ... manners?"


"Because no matter how rank you are, Empress Theodora is worse."

Theodora, Empress of The Unholy Roman Empire that had Europe squirming in its clawed fist. She hadn't always been a revenant.

In the year 500, she had been the daughter of a bearkeeper in the circus -- which explained her unique thoughts on life.

To her, life was a circus of blood where humans were trained to dance to her whims by the school of pain. Her sexual games were twisted ...

which gave me a world of reasons to help Abibail Adams.

Forget about finger sandwiches. There were other parts of my body she would make a snack of if she caught us. I shivered at the thought.

Abigail smiled sadly at me. "I will kill you myself before I allow that travesty to touch you."

"Ah, let's have a sign for that, all right? Like -- when pigs fly. Besides, we're almost to Meilori's."

Abigail sighed, "Theodora will never let us reach it."

"That's what I'm counting on, Abby."

"Do not be familiar, boy!"

"Hey, who has a hand snug in your corset here?"

I had rescued Abigail Adams out of Theodora's New Orleans' mansion. The bitch had her enemy stripped to her underclothes to humiliate her.

"Don't remind me, boy."

I saw the proud pain in her face and husked through my own pain, "She humilated herself, not you, by doing that to you."

Abigail's face softened, then went stiff and cold. St. Peter Street was changing in spurts and flashes all around us.

Street and store signs had changed to gothic script. Snarling gargoyles were the design of choice.

All right! About fragging time.

You couldn't walk into Meilori's in the daytime. Only at night.

By day, the corner of Royal and St. Peter housed the majestic Royal Cafe. At dusk, the corner mysteriously transformed into Royal and Rue La Mort. And Meilori's stood revealed to the night and its children.

But this wasn't just any night. This was Halloween.

It was Samhain, summer's end. It had nearly marked New Orleans' end as well. But its people were a hardy lot.

The Celtic New Year began this nightfall. When your adoptive father is named McCord, you learn these kinds of things.

In ancient Welsh tradition, this evening was called The Three Spirit Night, when all kinds of beings could roam between realities. And I was betting my and Abigail's life on that.

We turned the corner. There stood Royal Cafe.

Empress Theodora and Major Strasser stood tall in front of it.

Abigail groaned, "I told you, Victor."

Victor, huh? She really did think the game was up. I smiled like a wolf. It was only beginning.

Theodora was dressed in a black leather outfit that, if it were any tighter, would have split at the seams ... if it had had any seams.

Her lips curled. "And so the mighty Adams dies because she listened to a human boy."

I flicked mocking eyes to Strasser, then to Theodora. "Hey, I see you brought your trained bear."

Strasser growled, "Let me taste of him first."

Theodora smiled dreamily. "No, his delicasies are mine alone."

Night hungrily swallowed dusk, and the surroundings became full of nightmares.

I smiled coldly. "Lots of luck with that, Bitch Queen."

My vision blurred. My head became light. Reality stretched as if it were taffy being pulled by an insane demon-child. The world looked as if I were seeing it from the wrong end of a telescope.

Ghost demons murmured hollow promises to my ears. My legs went all weak. I felt as if I were about to topple off the street and fall into madness.

Meilori's stood towering over me. Torch-lit iron lacework balconies stretched up high into the foggy night. I couldn't make out the building's top.

Leathery wings sounded up high in the thick fog that masked the remaining balconies. I heard the thud of a heavy body, the ear-aching screech of talons against steel, and a husky laugh of hunger about to be fed.

I tore my eyes away before I saw something I'd have nightmares about.

Abigail yelped, but I held onto her with one hand and onto the still-forming surface of Meilori's with the other. I yelled at the top of my bruised lungs.

"Victims of Theodora! Hear me! She is here. Here!"

Despite the pain it cost me, I yelled louder, "And tonight she is helpless not you. Not you! Take her! Take her and her pet killer. Take them!"

Theodora stiffened as hundreds, then thousands of writhing figures of mist solidified around her. Strasser pulled his Lugar. It was snatched from his fingers and tossed at my feet.

The Empress and her killer struggled like escaped inmates from an asylum. No good. They were overwhelmed.

And in a blur of screams, blood, and writhing bodies, Theodora and Strasser were gone.

I looked up at the very pale Abigail Adams. "Sometimes it's Treat."

I smiled very, very cold. "And like Theodora just found out : sometimes it's Trick."

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Victor Standish here. Where's Roland you ask?

Well, he's a bit under the weather.

In fact, he says he's so under the weather that he's got the bends!

As to where Roland is, he's so ill

even he doesn't quite know,

except that it is somewhere in the vicinity of the backend of an 8 ball.

So being his bud, here I am.

But what do I know about writing? Hey, I'm Victor Standish, and I live on the streets of the French Quarter by knowing plenty.

Including how to write.

Quit snickering, Alice.

Think about it :

what you need to write well you already know just from living.

I.) Like Elu, my Apache grouch of a teacher, would say :

A.) To master yourself is the 1st step in mastering story-telling.

B.) In other words : life skills are story skills.

C.) You don't have to take lessons like with tennis to survive on the streets.

D.) But what you do need to know :

1.) Mind your surroundings before they mind you.

2.) Be aware of the pattern of predators before you become prey.

3.) Routes of escape : spot the exit soon as you slip through the front door.

E.) Put those details into your story, and it will seem real.

(But it won't be real ...)

II.) Good story telling seems real but isn't :

A.) It's Compressed

1.) Unlike life, a good story is compressed.
The interesting stuff is linked 1-2-3 ... with all the boring stuff left out.

2.) Unlike life, a good story makes sense.

a.) If your life is like mine (and I feel sorry for you if it is) then most days are filled with things that flat don't make sense.

b.) A good story has to make sense if you want your reader to stay with you ...

those three ghosts promised at the beginning of THE CHRISTMAS CAROL had darn well better show up.

3.) Unlike life, a good story is focused :

Target on those happenings that are important to your hero. Ouch! OK, Alice ... or to your heroine, too.

a.) Focus in a good story leaves out all those irritating things that don't push the story forward.

b.) No hands (or details) pushing sideways on my stalled car, please.

B.) All reality doesn't contain truth -- I mean, listen to those politicians.

1.) But your story has to ring with truth in order
to sell it as real to your reader.

2.) And it must fit the story type you're writing :

You don't try to fit an eagle in a parakeet cage or a pit bull in a terrier's doghouse.

3.) Knowing what size canvas you need is what prose painting is all about.
It'd be hard to write about the air war in WWI through the eyes of a soldier who spends the story in the trenches, coughing up nerve gas.

III.) Good story telling first depends on you having a good story that grabs the reader and won't let him go.


A.) Some woman in Wal-Mart cut in front of me in the 20 item line. And get this : she had 21 items. (Yawn.)

B.) Some crazy lady in Wal-Mart pulled a gun on me and took all my money, then she shot the clerk as she ran away. She turned to me as she flew out of the door, and you'll never guess what she yelled at me.

1.) That's a story that you NEED to tell.

2.) More importantly, that's a story people WANT to hear and to know what happened next.

IV.) A good story is closure.

A.) Closure -- yeah, that funny sounding word you adults use all the time when the pain hurts too bad to get your mind around it.

B.) You want to know Victor Standish's definition of closure (even though, like Huck Finn, I don't do school)? :

Closure is just a kid-glove way of saying "making the equation come out right."

You know, X + 5B = 3Y ("Unsupervised Politician + Lots of Money = Theft.)

C.) Finding a meaningful outcome for rape, murder,

or a mother abandoning her son in mean city after mean city.

You know, like that.

V.) A good story doesn't necessarily have a happy outcome ...

Just a way of living with it


Dying because of it.

(I've seen some people who could only find closure in the grave.)

A.) Sometimes tears are the only way to finish the story, the moment, the situation.

B.) Sometimes tears are the only answer to the equation of life.

VI.) But life, like a math test, always has new problems to solve.

A.) And so does the good story.

B.) The closure of it only leads the reader in search of another connection, another good story.

C.) Seeing the road going on for some or all of the main characters leaves the reader feeling as if she had dropped in on the events of real people

with real lives that go on over the horizon.

VII.) Leave them hungry for more ...

Speaking of hungry, I hear growling ...

Ah, Alice, is that your stomach growling?

Alice? Alice!

Don't look at my fingers like that.

Sure, you're a ghoul. But you're my ghoul FRIEND.

What do you mean I wouldn't miss one little finger?

Hey, Roland! Quick! Where's the roughest street around here? Fast!

Damn. I bet Harry Potter never had problems like this!

Love theme for Captain Sam and his lost love, Meilori :

Friday, September 16, 2011


The distant clock tower is tolling midnight.

The bayou snaking by my apartment complex wears a shroud of fog.

Writhing fingers of mist reach up from the masked waters to the dying full moon

as if begging for mercy ...

or for answers.

Only Bu, the owl, replies. And if you hear him call you name, it is your death knell.

I sigh in relief. My name was not uttered.

Francine and Denise have given us the FRIDAY ROMANTIC prompt_BOUQUET :

My entry is from THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH. Victor is chained to Maija's throne of gold by steel cables. She is torturing the boy.

His first Sin : McCord cares for him.

Second Sin : He has found love.

Third Sin : Victor will neither beg nor bow.

But Maija has lived millennia. She knows how to hurt a young man. We join her now :

Maija flashed a smile a shark would wear as it glided next to a bleeding swimmer. “You expect your precious ….

She made the words into razor blades, “… ghoul friend, Alice, to rush to your rescue, do you not?”

I shook my head. “Not hardly. She showed some good sense and left me.”

Maija chuckled, “Oh, I know. Scurried back to her mold-infested crypt.”

She clapped her hands. “Poor child, I had to do something to truly sever her heart.”

My own heart stopped. “What did you do to her, you bitch!”

Maija smiled without an ounce of sanity. “Samuel was quite right. My traps are works of precision : no avenue of rescue remains unblocked.”

“W-What did you to do to her?”

Slanted eyes without mercy speared me. “Nothing obscene. Nothing bizarre. Nothing cruel.”

Maija laughed like an insane little girl. “I lied about the cruel.”

She sighed, her eyes closing in recall, then opening. “I knocked on her crypt, leaving her a parchment letter with one black rose attached.”

“W-What was in the letter?”

Her face was a cruel mockery of false concern. “Oh, I made sure it was quite fitting. I even wrote it in your own hand.”

“M-My own hand?”

Maija giggled, “Yes, I can copy any talking ape’s handwriting.”

“What did you write?”

She smiled demurely. “It was a work of art let me assure you. No part of her heart did I leave untouched.”

“What did you say?”

“Merely a ‘thank you’ from you.”

“A – A what?”

“Yes, in your hand, I wrote a thank you. How she had lifted such a great burden from you. Yes, you had shown pity to the undead, rotting thing she was at first out of pity.”

Maija laughed,

“I even quoted Mark Twain for you :

how no good deed went unpunished. I had you thanking her for taking her loathsome presence from your sight :

how you had come to loathe the way she smelled, the way her clammy flesh felt, to loathe how she … tasted.”

Maija clapped happily and long. “Oh, you should see your face, Standish. Your heart! Your heart is your weakness.”

I went dead cold inside. “If revenge meant becoming a ghoul for eternity, would you still choose revenge?”

Maija sneered, “Of course.”

“Me, too.”

“What nonsense are you driveling?”

I played my ace-in-the-hole no longer caring what it did to me so long as I could make Maija pay. My blood became acid. My flesh became living fire.

I was no longer solid. I was mist. And it hurt like hell.

I passed through the steel cables and drifted closer and closer to Maija. I could flat no longer stand the pain. I became solid again.

Damn. Damn. Damn! That had hurt. Victor, old boy, let’s not do that ever again, shall we?

Maija stepped back clumsily, her right palm outstretched as if to fend off a ghost. This time it was her face that was drained of blood. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer monster.

“What? You can’t. It’s impossible!”

“I’m Victor Standish. And there is no impossible for me.”

My voice cracked. "Except to ever be loved by Alice again."


Thursday, September 15, 2011


I was lost. A storm had separated me from my cub scout pack.

The night was not my friend. I had used my one pack of matches to start a small, pathetic fire.

"Hello, the camp," drawled a deep yet protective voice.

"W-Who's there?," I quavered.

A tall man in black from his Stetson down to his boots walked soft out of the darkness. "A friend."

Then, the 10 year old boy I was woke up from his nightmare turned dream. And that tall Texan has been with me ever since.

But the book which gave me hope that I could write?

THIS IMMORTAL by Roger Zelazny :

If I were to pick a single science fiction author who was the essence of speculative fiction in the 1960's it would be Roger Zelazny. And while he continued to produce quality work, it was this period when both his quality and his intensity were at a peak that few authors ever reach.

This Immortal (AKA Call Me Conrad) is his first novel (closely tied with The Dream Master). It remains a masterpiece four decades after winning a Hugo award and in many ways it defined the themes that haunted Zelazny's writing for years to come.

Zelazny is fascinated with a certain form of divinity -

not the kind that 'is and has always been,' but with intelligent creatures that somehow 'graduate' from a more normal, mundane state.

In this novel the hero is Conrad Nimikos, a Greek, born on Christmas Eve, one leg shorter than the other, and altogether too much hair. In Greek terms, he was one of the kallikanzaroi, mischievous satyrs who exist to irritate both the human and the divine.

Zelazny never tells us how old Nimikos is, but he has lived long enough to have had several names and seen the Earth suffer a nuclear war and start to pick up the pieces.

This is an Odyssey we have been invited on, and everywhere we look Greek legends will appear just in time to cause unexpected torments and provide opportunities for Herculean efforts.

Even though this is a story told in wry fashion, Zelazny manages to use it to explore the meaning of grief. Sorrow for lost friends, loved ones, and an abiding sense of loss for an Earth that at the time of its writing was only showing faint glimmerings of it's future challenges.

This is a poignant book where Zelazny manages an exquisite balance between attitude and affection.

Small wonder that the book has been in print since its writing. Or that a host of other writers will confess to having been influenced by it.

Roger Zelazny gave form and substance to my Texan protector in the night.



Beware French Quarter nights, for the dead come back to drink from the living.

And when the hour tolls, never let Midnight find you at the crypt of Marie Laveau.

It is never quiet here. The thud of a blow into flesh. The whimper that follows.

The screech of marble against stone as a heavy lid grudgingly slides open.

What is that? Only a shadow you say, more in hope than in belief. You are not that lucky.

It is Her.

She who hungers for love … and for the flesh of Man.

The black tears streaking down her face. They are mute testimony that there can be no love for the thing she has become.

But there is flesh. Your flesh. See her reach out for you.

The night soon has new sounds.

Your screams.



Wednesday, September 14, 2011

IF I COULD BE ANYONE ... for Talli

Let us all support Talli Roland and her new book, WATCHING WILLOW WATTS :

No surprise from me. If I could be anyone, I would be Samuel McCord, lost love and cursed blood and all. He's braver than I am, wittier, and has a haunted jazz club.

How cool is that?

My favorite quote from him is :

"I move in all kinds of circles, meet all sorts of people.

I learned engraving from a counterfeiter,

accounting from a swindler.

A succubus once tried to teach me the tango.

But nothing doing. I didn't have the hips for it."


The French Quarter is shuddering.

The first fingers of Katrina are tearing at New Orleans. But it is more than that.

The ShadowLanders know.

Can you not feel the tremors in the marrow of your bones?

Can you not taste it on the winds of the night?

Can you not see the shapes writhing in the shadows of the windows you pass?

THEY are returning to once more cover this world in the blood of Man.

But look.

A bus from Hell itself has just pulled into New Orleans,

bearing the strangest, frailest champion of life this wayward city has ever seen.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011


"Why do we go on?"

As Gypsy, my ghost cat, lapped from my tumbler of ice tea,
I sighed, "There is no certain promise of success.
Often we are mocked by those in our world.

Worse, sometimes we are endured or "forgiven our obsession" by those close to us."

Hemingway looked at me from across the table at Meilori's.

"Backbone," he rumbled.


He downed the remainder of his rum. "Backbone, son. In yourself. In your work. That is the key to surviving this 'obsession' of ours."

He set his glass with a thump on the oak table. "Your own backbone is between you and your self-respect. I can't help you there."

He lit a cigar. "But with the backbone of your story or novel ...

The spine of your novel is what you follow on your character’s evolution from what he was to what he becomes. And the change must be big. Why would we follow a bump on a bumpkin’s life?

All good books have one thing in common. They are truer than real life. Why? In good books, anything that doesn’t contribute to the hero’s transformation is edited away.

So find your backbone. What big picture are you painting? Any brushstroke that doesn’t add to that picture, remove.

Ask 5 questions to find your backbone.

1) Who is your hero?

You’d be surprised how many bad novels wobble about in that department, not giving the reader a sure idea of who to root for.

2) What is the problem?

It has to be clear. It has to be primal. And it has to appear insurmountable.

3) How does the story begin and end?

There has to be a “before” and “after” feel to them. The end must be a ringing bell within the heart of the reader.

4) What is the spiritual problem of the hero?

The physical problem must symbolize the spiritual struggle within your hero.

5) What is your novel about?

What is your story’s theme. A young boy learns that true magic lies within. A man discovers lies only make problems; they do not solve them. You get the picture.

What are you waiting for? You want me to lead you to the computer and type the story for you? Writers write. Dreamers dream and die with their dreams."

He pointed the burning end of his cigar at me. "Die on your feet, friend. Die on your feet, your last breath spent living your dream, not pining for it."


Hollywood had a problem :

How do you make God approachable?

Once upon a time, the Great Mystery had the same problem, mulled it over, and came up with the answer :

You make Him human.

It's how we got Joshua (Jesus is merely the Greek form of that name.)

Christopher Moore's best book is LAMB :

{Joshua's life as seen through the eyes of his childhood best friend, Levi -- although everyone calls him BIF for the sound his head makes when his mother smacks it -- which is often!}

It has some great lines and an even better blessing :

Some of the lines -

"Nobody's perfect. Well, there was this one guy, but we killed him."

"It's wildly irritating to have invented something as revolutionary as sarcasm, only to have it abused by amateurs."

"You think you know how this story is going to end, but you don't."


"If you have come to these pages for laughter, may you find it.

If you are here to be offended, may your ire rise and your blood boil.

If you seek an adventure, may this song sing you away to blissful escape.

If you need to test or confirm your beliefs, may you reach comfortable conclusions.

All books reveal perfection, by what they are or what they are not.

May you find that which you seek, in these pages or outside them.

May you find perfection, and know it by name."

You may be fuming, "Where is the sex you promised?"

Oh, there's sex as beefcake in THOR. In LAMB, there is sex denied and sex fulfiled.

There's sex in my LOVE LIKE DEATH trilogy. A Menage a troi actually.

{Didn't Wendy Tyler Ryan make a magical, haunting trailer?}

You're now rolling your eyes, "Well, all right there's sex in your trilogy, but where's God?"

Blake Adamson is a clone commissioned to be created by my own paranormal Hannibal Lector, DayStar. A very special clone.

How special?

Blake was grown from the tissue sample taken from the tip of the Spear of Destiny --

the spear that pierced Joshua's side on the cross.

What does that make Blake?

That question is asked by everyone in the book, friend, lover, and even Blake himself.

The answer is not what you think.


Monday, September 12, 2011


Mark Twain, Stephen King, and I were playing poker in Meilori’s.

“Why horror?,” frowned the ghost of Mark Twain.

King frowned back. “You mean why did I choose to write horror?”

“No,” snorted Mark. “The size of those stacks of chips in front of you tells me that. Why is horror so danged popular now?”

King sighed, “Not all of it is. Most of the horror movies fall flat these days.”

“Why do you think that is?,” I asked.

Mark cackled, “Plain as day, son. It’s a case of the cat who sat on the hot stove never sitting on a hot stove anymore. ‘Course he won’t sit on a cold one either! They learned the wrong lessons from the successful horror films.”

King nodded. “Exploding blood bags, expensive CGI, and fancy make-up jobs won’t scare anybody over the age of 14.”

Mark winked at me. “And that’s three years younger than you have to be to get into one of those danged R rated horror movies to begin with!”

King said, “No, for a horror movie to work, it has to tap into our subconscious mind, find the things so terrible we can’t even bring ourselves to put them into words, and startle us with glimpses of them from the shadows.”

“Not directly?,” I asked.

Mark chuckled at me. “Course not. Very few of us are able to look straight into the eyes of the Gorgon, son.”

“Symbols work best,” nodded King. “The best horror stories work on a symbolic level to help us understand our fears. Not face them. If you can’t face your fears, then you’re not quite sane.”

I made a face. “A lot of folks say the imaginative reader who gobbles up horror stories isn’t sane.”

Mark Twain shook his head. “No, they are more, not less, sane, Roland. They know that today apparently absolutely anything can happen, that we mortals are so very fragile, and that we walk among monsters.”

King nodded again. “The serial killers do walk among us :

cancer, heart disease, the drunk driver. Ask a policeman. He’ll tell you that in every city block, no matter how high the income level, there is a meth user or lab.”

King rubbed his chin. “The imaginative see more than those with mental myopia.”

Twain frowned at his chewed-up cigar.

“Why, son, most of the world is more than content to read PEOPLE, howl at AMERICAN IDOL, and parrot their parent’s political opinions. That is not a useful life. That’s the life of a June bug that just happens to have opposable thumbs and can count to ten.”

King drummed his fingers on the table. “The imaginative mind takes refuge in make-believe terrors so that the real ones everyone else is ignoring don’t overwhelm them.

I said, “They go into the darkness of the movie theater, hoping to have a nightmare … because the horrors of the world outside look ever so much better when the nightmare ends.”

King’s eyes grew deeper. “But every nightmare is a solitary experience, a real world suddenly tilted on its ear vision. Hollywood should remember that.”

Mark lit up another cigar. “What I love about horror is its sheer democracy!”

I frowned. “Democracy?”

He slapped the polished oak table top.

“How can you not love horror where THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, which cost only $100,000, can scare the bejabbers out of the whole world, grossing $250 million!

Why, son, that’s pure democracy in action. Then, you add PARANORMAL ACTIVITY to the mix. Why, Roland, that’s close to angelic anarchy!”

King frowned at his hand and folded. “SAW III and up were hyped up and phony. The movie equivalent to Thanksgiving Day Parade floats. Now, BLAIR and PARANORMAL, the damn things looked and felt real. Shaky and unexpected like your nightmares.”

Mark smiled wide. “Those movie studio heads think horror is easy. T’aint anything close to easy. But it is mysterious,”

“Like catching lightning in a bottle,” suggested King. “Or like a good joke : re-visit the punch line too many times, and it wears thin.”

King shook his head. "Sam Rami tried it with DRAG ME TO HELL, but laughs predominated over the horror. To get the right mix of the two, you have to go back to his EVIL DEAD II."

Twain snorted, "Like THE DESCENT. I, myself, preferred the director's DOG SOLDIERS where heart was there as well as the horror."

He saw my arched eyebrow and chortled, "Hell, son, ghosts watch movies, too."

Mark chuckled as I folded, too, and he began raking in the chips.

“Hollywood churns out the same fodder over and over again. But, son, no matter how hard you churn water, you ain’t ever going to get butter!”

I made a face again. “Which is why we get all those not-scary, straight-to-video horror movies.”

King stared off into the darkness which somehow seemed thicker suddenly. “The truly effective horror stories reduce us to the mental age of ten again.”

His face went ashen. “Ah, Roland, where did everybody suddenly go?”

I looked around. All was darkness. Mark Twain’s seat was empty. All was a hollow silence. I tried to see beyond our table.

Only a living blackness surrounded us.

I jerked. A shuffling of dragging feet. It drew closer and closer to our table.

A low moaning breathed out of the darkness : “No. No. No!”

Stephen King tried to swallow and couldn’t. The shuffling was only inches away.

“Why can’t we see what’s making that shuffling?,” I asked.

“It’s right on top of us,” rasped King.

“Boo!,” shouted the suddenly appearing Mark Twain, a tray of ice tea in his hands.

He winked at the two of us jumping in our chairs. “Gotcha! Figured since I fleeced you at poker, I at least owed you something cool to drink.”

He cackled a laugh. “I wanted it a surprise so I dropped that blanket of night all around you. But wouldn’t you know? I almost tripped myself up in that danged fog!”

King took a cold tumbler of ice tea with shaky fingers. “So help me, Clemens, if you weren’t already dead, I’d kill you!”

He glared at me, but I just shrugged, “Hey, this is Meilori’s. You got off easy.”

{Be sure and read Stephen King's latest : MILE 81!

Mr. Stephen King also wants it to be known that this is a fictional account ... he positively, absolutely did not lose that poker game!}


Sunday, September 11, 2011


{"It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man,

all unprepared,

can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live.

There is but one reasonable explanation of it.

The intellect is stunned by the shock

and but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words.

The power to realize their full import is mercifully lacking."

- Mark Twain.}

Everybody seems to want to have their say on September 11th today. I ... I almost could not bring myself to speak on it. Not on this day.

The dark winds of the Shadowlands are filled with the wailing of the lost souls remembering the horror, panic, and fear of their dying.

The shadows will soon be quiet. I look about the land of the living and know most will have shrugged off the remembrance aside by tomorrow.

Old news. Bills to pay. Lives to live.

There is too much tragedy each heartbeat of each day for us to hold onto any one moment of keening for long.

The world is drowning in tragedy.

The rain forests are still burning, and our attention span has turned off the smoke detectors.

An African child's emancipated face wails on our TV screen, and we change the channel.

The Twin Towers were gutted by planes filled with screaming passengers.

And today a mosque for the faith whose zealots masterminded the mass murder is being erected right by the site.

Each day we pass individuals who are struggling with their own private 9-11, and we hurry by, perhaps irritated by their slow pace or distant, inward directed eyes.

We honor the valiant, the orphaned, and the murdered of 9-11 when we remember that tragedy has a very long shelf-life

and act with compassion towards each person we meet, knowing that everyone is having a harder time than they appear.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


{"A man can be destroyed. But he cannot be defeated."

- Ernest Hemingway.}

I am Hemingway. His ghost to be precise.

What I wrote about a man is also true about a writer ... a real writer.

As Roland is off on one of his rare blood runs, I sat down and read his notes for an article to comfort insecure writers.


If you want comfort, my friend, then writing is not for you. Pain. Fear. Doubt. Perseverence. These are all the coins a writer, a real writer, must pay.

With no sure promise of a reward.

Earlier I wrote : I am Hemingway.

Who are you?

Can you answer in one sentence? If not, how then will you write a fictional character well?

What is the basic truth of life? Do you know? You need to in order to write a good novel.

The basic truth of life, of being a writer, is to be found in the human soul:

the will to live, the will to persevere, to endure, to defy.

It is the frontier mentality -

the individual is on his own, like a Pilgrim walking into the unknown with neither shelter nor guidance, thrown upon his own resources, his strength and his judgment.

My truth shapes my style which is the style of understatement since my hero is a hero of action, which is the human condition.

And it is that human condition that your characters will take with them no matter where your pen leads them.

A weakling will always draw the bullies no matter which town he runs to. He will have to face his flaws himself, refine his own nature, and then face the exterior dangers.

All my life I was obsessed with death. I was seriously wounded at midnight on July 18, 1918 at Fossalta, Italy. I nearly died.

I was the first American to be wounded in Italy during World War I.

I felt my soul go out of my body. In the blackness of midnight, I died and felt my soul go out of me, go off, and then come back.

Perhaps that near-death experience is why I am now a ghost. I do not know.

I do know that I became obsessed with death :

Deep sea fishing, bull-fighting, boxing, big-game hunting, war, -

all are means of ritualizing the death struggle in my mind -

it is very explicit in my books such as A Farewell to Arms and Death in the Afternoon, which were based on my own experiences.

And again, briefly, in In Our Time in the lines on the death of Maera.

It reappears, in another setting and form, in the image of immortality in my African story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro,"

where the dying Harry knows he is going to the peak called "Ngàje Ngài",

which means, as I explained in the introductory note, "the House of God."

Yet, it takes more than being haunted by your inner demons, being driven by your insecurities, to write well.

It takes imagination.

Imagination is the one thing besides honesty that a good writer must have to defeat his insecurites and write well.

The more he learns from experience, the more truly he can imagine.

If he gets so he can truly imagine, people will think that the things he relates all really happened -- and that he is just reporting.

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things.

What is the truth of the heroes in my novels?

They are so much their own agents that they do not hesitate to jeopardize life itself to be true to their own nature, their own code.

If you can't have a near-death experience, the next best training for being a good writer is an unhappy childhood.

And thanks to parents being all too flawed, most people have had that.

But forget your personal tragedy. We are all damned from the start so join the club.

It is a sad fact that you have to be especially hurt like hell before you can write seriously.

It's a law of nature. Human nature. And like most laws, you don't have to like it. You just have to live with it.

Dostoevsky was made by being sent to Siberia. Writers are forged in injustice as a sword is forged in the furnace.

Perhaps that is why I suffer like a bastard when I don't write. And why I feel empty and f____ out afterwards. And why I feel so good while writing.

Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done.

It is a perpetual challenge, and it is more difficult than anything else I have ever done -- which is why I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well.

And after each novel, I feared I would never write as well again.

That is why I loved to cover war as a journalist. Every day and each night, there was a strong possibility that I would get killed and not have to write.

Writing is like a disease. I have to write to be happy whether I get paid for it or not. And that makes it worse.

That changes it from a disease to a vice.

And then I want to do it better than anybody has ever done it which makes it into an obsession. Even though I am dead, I still write. Look at me here in this blog.

How is it for you out there?
For those of you who were struck by Jesse Cook's talent when I wrote my last post, here is another snippet from one of his concerts :

Friday, September 9, 2011


“I haven't trusted polls since I read

that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour.

I've never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex.”

- Erma Bombeck.

“The scientific name for an animal that doesn't either run from or fight its enemies is lunch.”

- Samuel McCord

On this day in 1522 Captain Sebastian del Cano returned to Spain, completing Magellan's first circumnavigation of the earth.

Of the five ships and approximately 270 men who set out, only one ship and seventeen men returned.

Captain Sebastian del Cano is the captain of the DEMETER in 1853 when McCord boards her in my historical fantasy, ADRIFT IN THE TIME STREAM.

Denise and Francine has set us the prompt, LUNCH DATE, for the FRIDAY ROMANTIC CHALLENGE.

And so I give you the deck-side lunch on the day of the BALL OF LOVE AND MADNESS whose almost-ending you read in last week's entry. This entry is 400 words exactly :

The only good thing about lunch was the orange juice --

and the way Meilori’s sorcery let it stay untainted in my mouth for as long as I wanted. Missy was taking a nap under the watchful eye of her mother.

Ralph Waldo Emerson couldn’t have made the day better by following Missy’s example. He showed up at the table. But the presence of Margaret Fuller at his side made up for his dour addition to the company.

Daniel Webster sat across from me, wearing his gloom like a shroud. Horace Greeley sat next to him, fidgeting worse than if ants had decided to take up residence in his pants.

Lady Lovelace, Ada Byron, looking like a happy cat with a mouthful of canary, told the new additions to our company what was suspected of the coming evening.

Horace looked even more fit to itch himself to shreds. Ada warned everyone that Maija might have thrown in with Nyx. And when Lady Inari showed up, arm in arm with Maija, the atmosphere of the table felt like a storm about to boil over.

Meilori seemed too reserved. She barely spoke to either sister.

I leaned in towards her and whispered, “What’s going on between you two?”

Lady Inari, showing her ears were as sharp as her teeth, smiled, “You are, Captain. I told her she had to choose between us this morning. She chose you.”

“I’m not your rival, Inari.”

“So you foolishly believe.”

Maija smiled. It was an insane thing, devoid of warmth or anything resembling reason. It gave me shivers.

“The good captain is full of so many deceiving illusions.”

To everyone’s horror, Maija plucked a wiggling worm from her noodles and popped it into her mouth, lustily chewing then swallowing. “Like free will, for example.”

Ada looked troubled. “Sea Sprite, you are only as free as you assume your will to be.”

Maija snorted, “You know the cliche about assume, do you not? I choose not to be an ass.”

Meilori reached over, gently squeezing my hand. “The heart asks of life more than it can give. But that does not stop me from asking.”

I winked at her. “Smart. If you don’t ask, how would you ever get?”

And as Inari watched with feral eyes, Meilori kissed me soft and long. And I was wrong earlier. The orange juice wasn’t the only good thing about lunch.