So you can read my books

Friday, November 2, 2012

WORDS IN THE DARK_How to write well

The small palms by my poker table hissed through the shadows of Meilori's with their flaying leaves.

The ghost of Julie London swayed by on her way to the stage.

She lowered her lashes until they almost cuddled her cheeks and slowly raised them again like a theatre curtain.

The ghost of Raymond Chandler took a sip from his glass.  "I know that trick, kid. That was supposed to make you roll over on your back with all four paws in the air.”

"Woof," I said.

Mark Twain chuckled, "God created women so that Man would learn seeing ain't always believing."

Stephen King smiled, drawing a card.  "And why was Man created?"

Roger Zelazny snorted, "So Taylor Swift would have lyrics to her songs when she broke up with one."

Hemingway puffed on his cigar.  "My post did well yesterday, didn't it?"

Roger nodded.  "Surprisingly so since you nay-sayed their dream of slapping a novel together in a month."

Hemingway said, "Dreams alone won't fill libraries."

Roger looked off into the darkness.  “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.”

Mark puffed on his own cigar.  “In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”

Chandler sighed, "They are wasting a month hurrying a novel when they should be carefully crafting one.  But there is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.”

Roger nodded, "I always forced myself to sit down and write five pages each morning.  Then, each evening I would slash and hack those pages down into three."

He smiled sadly to me.  “No word matters. But man forgets reality and remembers words.”

He tapped his cards against his teeth.  "Here's a tip for you, Roland.

Occasionally, 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 first place.

Trust your demon.” 

Stephen King laughed softly, "I always do.  Roland, books are the perfect entertainment:

no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent.

What I wonder is why everybody doesn't carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.” 

An evil gleam shined in his eyes behind his glasses.  "While we're giving tips to you.  Here's a few:

 “Good books don't give up all their secrets at once.  Learn the strip-tease delay of good fiction, revealing as you go along.  Great fiction is the truth within the lie."

Chandler took a slow sip of his drink.  "It all boils down to your hero, kid.  He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man.

He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor --

by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a hero at all.

He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job.

He will take no man's money dishonestly and no man's insolence without due and dispassionate revenge.

He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks -- that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.

The story is the man's adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure.

He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”

"What about women heroes?" I asked.  "Ada Lovelace created the first computer program 100 years before the invention of the computer. 

Abigail Adams healed the rift between two U.S. Presidents. 

Alexandrine Tinne was a Dutch explorer who made the first female attempt to cross the Sahara.

  Aletta Jacobs was a Dutch doctor, a feminist, a pacifist, and a human rights activist."

Chandler smiled crooked, "That was then.  Now, we have Taylor Swift."

The ghost of William Faulkner shook his head.  "That is your cynicism talking.  Roland, always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” 

Mark Twain lit another cigar.  “What would men be without women? Scarce, Roland...mighty scarce.” 
Stephen King gently smiled at me.  "As with all creation, Roland, it begins with the Word.  But it must be the right word in the right way at the right time."

He looked away from me and into himself.  “The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them --

words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out.

 But it's more than that, isn't it?

The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried,

like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away.

And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way,

not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it.

That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” 

For a time, my friends and I were lost inside our own secret hearts.


  1. Funny that you have no women there at the writers' roundtable, but that makes it easier to discuss them, I suppose. (The lowered eyelash trick works every time, Chandler.)

    I like the description, 'An evil gleam shined in his eyes behind his glasses'. That's how I imagine S. King at the best of times.

    I'm doing my own writing month, drafting a suspense/mystery novel. Keep posting, Roland, and I'll come to read, especially when the writer buddies at Meilori's are hanging about.

    Nice photo at the top of the post - is it yours? I like street shots.

  2. Strip tease, great analogy. And something I have problems with. Info dump, that is, not stripping, I do that fine. :)
    I tagged you on my blog, just so you know.

  3. D.G.:
    The photo comes from Candilynn Fite. And I, also, always imagine Mr. King with that evil gleam to his eyes!

    I'm trying to finish the last edits on THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT this November.

    I have a post coming sometime soon with Tennessee Williams and Anita Loos (GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES) at my poker table. Mark Twain is his usual contrary self in it. And Chandler has his usual tart remarks about blondes in it.

    It must have been hard for him to be in Hollywood with all those beautiful starlets looking right through him since he was older and had no studio to entice them.

    Best of luck with your writing this month. And thanks for promising to visit.

    I've been away all day doing weary blood runs to happily find your comment.

    Sadly, it would seem NaNoWriMo has already kicked in since no one else has cared to visit.

    Have a great weekend. I will be working straight through it and through the new week. Whew!

  4. Erin:
    LOL about the stripping remark. Thanks for the tag. I will visit from here. And thanks for visiting yourself and commenting. I was beginning to feel like a wallflower!

  5. As always, beautifully and artfully said in wonderful voices. I especially love the part about her eyelashes, so much more powerful than simply saying she batted them. This is why you are one of my favorite authors!

  6. Heather:
    A co-worker remarked on the smile on my face as I was working alone: I envy the world inside your head, Roland. It must be a wonderful place."

    And usually it is since I plot my novels there and think of how my characters would respond to certain events in the news.

    Thank you so very much for those kind words about my writing. Of course, all my ghost friends at the poker table claim credit for any good prose I produce. The bad they gladly let me take credit for! :-)