So you can read my books

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


{"There is a garden in every childhood --

an enchanted place where colors are brighter,

the air softer,

and the morning more fragrant than ever again."

- Elizabeth Lawrence.}


explained how my dream to spin stories was sown. It was watered by the LEAGUE OF FIVE.

The origins of the League of Five stretches back to my childhood too.

That league was given birth by :

Mystery and wonder.

They were the seeds from which grew the League of Five.

I've talked in the past about Edith Hamilton's MYTHOLOGY with its stunning illustrations by Steele Savage.

As a child I caught sight of mythic Proteus rising from the wine dark sea,

And heard shadowed Triton blow death from his wreathed horn.

Mythology and fantasy were the mid-wives of the League of Five. And my tales show it.

But I want to speak on what the League of Five taught me ... and what it might teach you :


{Mystery is the siren call for all lovers of fiction. Better to leave out commas than mystery in your tales.}

Its first sentence : "The place was silent and aware."


A desert fortress manned by the dead.

Every French Foreign Legionnaire was standing at his post along the wall. Every man held a rife aimed out at the endless sands. Every man was dead.

Who stood the last dead man up?

That question drove me to check out a book as thick as the Bible.

I remember sitting down that April 1st with my four junior high chums in study hall. They couldn't get over the size of the book. They looked at me like I was crazy. Then, I told them the mystery.

Tommy and Gary snapped up the remaining two copies in the school library. Raymond and B.J. (we called him Beej) had to go to the two different branches of the city library for their copies.

And then, my four friends, sluggish students at best, were racing with me through the pages to discover the solution to the mystery.

But then came stolen jewels and desert danger. We were hooked.

Mid-way through the book, I discovered the classic movie marathon that Saturday was going to show BEAU GESTE, starring Gary Cooper and Ray Milland.

The five of us roughed it that night in front of the TV.

After the movie, we planned on sleeping on the floor of my front room. It would be like we were French Foreign Legionnaires on a mission.

We were enthralled. We booed the bad guys. We cheered on Gary Cooper. And we sniffed back embarassing tears when he died.

But with the mystery solved, my four friends didn't want to go on.

The solution fizzled the fun of the reading. We all moped. A throat was cleared. We turned around.

Mother sat with a leather-bound volume in her hands, and with her voice blessed with the magic of the Lakota Storyteller and the lyrical beauty of the Celtic bard, she smiled,

"Let me read you five something --



{And he will keep your readers' interest up high -- so no lukewarm antagonists. Think epic. Think primal.}

Mother, in her rich, deep voice, read low like distant thunder :

"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline,

high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan,

a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of true cat-green.

Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all the resources of science past and present, with all the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government--

which, however, already has denied all knowledge of his existence.

Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr. Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man."

She put down the book on her lap and intoned, "That, young men, is the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu. Do you want to hear more?"

Man, did we! And so the League of Five was born.

For every Saturday night for the rest of that year and all through my last year of junior high, we sat cross-legged on the front room floor and listened to all thirteen of the Fu Manchu novels ...

along with the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, starting with "The Adventure of the Speckled Band." I never went to sleep after that without looking at my headboard!


{Instill that truth into your tale, and it will intensify the fragility of the human body and the enduring courage of its spirit.

And if it teaches your readers to hold gently and gratefully the love they find in their own lives, so much the better.}

Unknown to us, Mother was teaching us the value of a mind that thought beneath the surface, that grew stronger with use as with any muscle.

We made special nights of it when the classic movie marathon played any Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Fu Manchu movie. Flash Gordon with Ming the Merciless was great. It was like seeing Fu Manchu in a space opera.

But the seasons pulled us apart to different cities, to different high schools, to different destinations.

Fatal car accident. War. Disease. Mugger's bullet.

Until now, only I remain of the League of Five.

But every April 1st, in the late evening hours, I sit down and pull BEAU GESTE from the shelf. I read aloud the words, "The place was silent and aware."

And no matter the room I find myself ...

it is silent ...

and it is aware.

I see five wide-eyed boys, their eyes gleaming with wonder and awe, listening once more to my mother reading into the wee hours of the morning,

her voice a beacon in the darkness of our imaginations.

I pull down my worn copy of THE INSIDIOUS DR. FU MANCHU and turn to chapter two with Sir Denis Nayland Smith's description of his adversary.

After a few moments, the words blur. But that is all right. I know the words by heart.

What novel meant so much to you that you just had to share it with a friend or friends? Tell me. I'd like to know.

Compare it to what you are writing now. Did it have any effect on your style or genre of writing? Please write me on that, too.
THE LEAGUE OF FIVE actually watched this trailer for the Halloween classic movie marathon that absorbed us SUPER 8 aged adventurers :

If still whole, THE LEAGUE OF FIVE would sit in awe in the movie theater of today for this movie. Perhaps there is a cinematic future for Samuel McCord?


  1. Fabulous post, and great lessons! I particularly love the advice about "no lukewarm antagonists". Everyone should take that on board!

  2. Such a beautiful post. I don't think I can remember my mother reading any stories to me.

    So sitting with your friends listening to a tale unfolding sounds like a wonderful evening to me. :-)

  3. Kyra :
    Thanks. I'm glad you also feel that our antagonists should be primal in their essence and danger to the protagonist! :-)

    Misha :
    Our mothers all touch our lives in different ways, according to their nature and capacities.

    My father and step-father were on the other end of the supportive spectrum!

    I hope you have wonderful evenings of your own this week and all this year! Roland

  4. I grew up on mythology, and my parents just kept feeding my love for reading, writing, and art. I was a lucky one too.

    Fantastic post, Roland.

  5. Those are great lessons! Thank you for sharing these stories.

  6. Aww! What a beautiful post, Roland!

    I think the novel I had to share was Harry Potter. Yeah, it's so well-known, but after I read it, I was hooked and determined to let everyone else know too.

  7. Tag, you're it! You've been tagged in a game of 11 Questions being passed around by the Platform-Building campaigners. You can pick up your questions at this link:

  8. Jay :
    Isn't it great that one or both parents are supportive of their children's dreams?

    Treelight :
    Lovely avatar you have there. Look in my sidebar for the life lessons my cat, Gypsy, taughth me.

    Cherie :
    Isn't magic a great gift to share? Good for you for sharing Harry Potter's! Great fortune in the sales of your book!!

    Daniel :
    Thanks for tagging me. I'm still at work so I cannot look at those questions. Have a great new week, Roland

  9. All four of your friends are gone? That is really sad.
    Once I'd read Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara, I passed it along to my best friend. I'm not sure how much of it has influenced the way I write outside of character building though. I certainly don't world-build like Brooks.

  10. What a moving story! So glad you had friends to share those stories with. I remember being affected by Edith Hamilton's Mythology, too.

  11. Alex :
    They are gone physically -- but never gone from my heart. We were children in a turbulent era. But then, aren't they all? And who does world-build like Terry Brooks. One of the more enjoyable books on how to write was authored by him. Thank you for finding time in a busy day to knock on my cyber door and talk awhile, Roland

    Deniz :
    Edith Hamilton and her illustrator, Stephen Savage, I think it was -- they both caught me up in a sense of wonder and myth that has never left me. I am such a romantic! LOL. Thanks for visiting and staying to chat.