So you can read my books

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Is every police officer in police procedurals corrupt?

Is every politician in nightly TV or movies dishonest?

Then, there is the clergy on TV and in the movies.  Every one a hypocrite or worse.

Really?  How against the law of averages is that?

Or perhaps we should just think of what it means to walk the true path:

Friday, June 27, 2014


“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here!”
- Shakespeare, THE TEMPEST
Keith Wynn  (Optimistic Existentialist)
Wrote an interesting post Friday, telling about his favorite book of all time and asking what was ours?
His was MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY by the way.
And no, mine is not HELL IS EMPTY (a Walt Longmire novel) though it is one of the better novels I have read in a long time.
Also it shares a motif with what could be my favorite novel of all time:


"A dazzling tour de force."--Poul Anderson on Inferno

"A fast, amusing and vivid book, by a writing team noted for intelligence and imagination."--Roger Zelazny on Inferno
Both HELL IS EMPTY and INFERNO incorporate Dante's Inferno in their work.
First, INFERNO --
After his sudden, needless death, science fiction writer Allen Carpentier finds himself along the shores of Hell, with a strange guide who wishes only to be known as Benito,
a Hell visited once before by Dante Alighieri.
This Hell has changed some, and Carpentier visits some places Dante missed, but where Dante mocked the denizens of Hell, and meekly followed as he was led,
Carpentier shows pity and mercy to those he meets, and he's determined to take control of the situation he finds himself in.
As a science fiction author, he refuses to believe he is in the literal Hell and tries to match his new reality to his old mind-set. 
We're treated to a delightful cast of characters, some from history

(such as Billy the Kid and the man who ordered the raid on Dresden), and others from an imagined future world.
  This is an unusual book:

easy to read, with a compelling story line. But it requires you to examine yourself and your actions in life.

Above all it discusses the big moral issues:

what is right or wrong, and how these things vary with circumstance and motivation.

I've forgotten how many times I've re-read this.  For over a decade, it was not in print.  Get it while it still is.
This is a masterwork from the pen of two great authors, and it is not to be missed.
Now, onto HELL IS EMPTY -


Harsh?  Not so much.  The prisoner in question is a brilliant sociopath who murders children for fun and adults to sell their body parts.

What begins as a harrowing chase to recapture convicts at large becomes an exercise in survival, the voices of Indian spirits swirling within the snow flurries

as Sheriff Walt Longmire climbs ever higher up Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains where child-killer and sociopath Raynaud Shade,

a Crow-adopted Canadian Indian, has engineered an escape into the wilderness with four fellow convicts, an entourage of FBI agents.


"I’d never given up on anything in my life when I was alive. I hadn’t always won, I hadn’t always been right, but I’d never given up. Not till now. Now that I was dead."

Virgil White Buffalo:

“Life is like that.” He flipped through a few more limp pages of Dante's INFERNO.

“You collect things as you go—the things you think are important—

and soon they weigh you down until you realize that these things you cared so much about mean nothing at all.

Our natures are our natures.” He grunted. “And they are all we are left with.”


“We must always love something. In those matters seemingly removed from love, the feeling is secretly to be found, and man cannot possibly live for a moment without it.”


I applied the simple rule that allowed me to make stupid decisions in these types of situations: If I was down there, would I want someone coming after me? Yep.


Along the way, Walt runs in to Virgil White Buffalo, a Crow lost soul he first met in ANOTHER MAN'S MOCCASINS. 
His talks with the Crow are both existential and amusing. At one point, each of them try to convince the other is dead.

Depressingly for Walt, Virgil White Buffalo makes a better case than Walt.

The great thing about Craig Johnson's novels is that each one is different.

Walt begins the novel ignoring his own deeply spiritual side, then not knowing what to think,

and settles finally on something he can't really prove even though he knows it is true.

That in and of itself is hard for some folks to grasp,

 but I think that's one of the things that makes Walt so real and Johnson such a genuine storyteller.

Johnson's writing and dialogue are effective and peppered with wry humor.

Walt, in a particularly perilous moment, thinks "I couldn't die--I had too many women who would kill me."

Just when you think you know where the plot is going,

Johnson changes direction and, sometimes, your perceptions of events.

Do you have a favorite book? 
What is it?


Thursday, June 26, 2014


Can you establish mood through description?

I believe you can.

Look around you.

Hearts have grown cold,

ears dull,

minds impatient.

And this affects you as a writer just how?

Each page of your novel could be the reader's last ...

unless ...

unless you make your novel alive and alluring.

People pick up a book in a store, thumb through it, and read a page at random.

That is your only shot at snaring him/her into buying what cost you years of sweat and effort.

Make each page count. Make each paragraph breathe. Make each moment live in the mind of the reader.

Each of the senses should be touched by your words.

And one of the ways you do that is to paint your locale with such brushstrokes of prose, the reader "sees" and "feels" and "smells" the unique flavors of your locale.

Take New Orleans:

Hollow-eyed mothers hugging hungry children within a block of spacious mansions, framed by lush bushes and gleaming iron lacework fences.

Decaying public schools slowly devolving into raucous social jungles and tribal warfare over gang colors and drug territory.

A hardened, jaded police department that in some seasons can be scarier than the city's criminals.
Official corruption at every level. Murder rates ever soaring. And hot, steamy air you can wear 7 months out of the year.

And it is a wonderful place to live:

The morning mists parting as the St. Charles streetcar happily clatters through the shimmering fog under the avenue's great oak trees.

The second-line parade of trumpet blowers high-stepping intricate steps in honor of some event or another.

The mellow, haunting notes of Ellis Marsalis playing piano as you sit at Snug Harbor, sipping a drink light on alcohol, heavy on taste.

You must paint your reader into your locale with words that touch the taste buds, stroke their cheeks, and tug on their heartstrings.

Only then, with the setting so real that they hear the sound of throaty laughter and fine jazz, will the Stetson wearing, doomed hero, Samuel McCord, feel like an actual person to them.


Each city whispers in its own voice.

Your city. My city.

You know streets that whisper to stay away at night.

You know what scandal has stained some avenue beyond repair.
You know what person's name is spoken in hushed tones long after he or she has died and been buried in your city.

Each city has its own personality.
Like a human's, it changes with trauma, years of abuse, and moments of historic impact.

Lifting the veil from the distinctive features of the setting of your novel makes your whole narrative come alive for your reader.

But how do you do that verbal sleight of hand?


Some obvious to tourists. Some that you have to ferret out by research in the library, on the internet, or by listening to a local visitor to your setting.


How does your hero/heroine feel about those details? How have they affected the protagonist and those important to him or her?

Weave those details and emotions into a rich tapestry of irony and longing.

What shadowed corner of your setting is especially dangerous or emotion-laden to your central characters? Why?

Paint a passage where that tapestry flutters in the shadows, not quite completely seen but more evocative because of that.


What era is it in your setting? Has your protagonist lived through more than one era of time in it?

How has the passing seasons shaped his/her mind, opinions, and outlook for the present? For the future? How does your protagonist view his and the setting's past?

Master these points, and your novel will live for your reader.
I think of this music as the love theme of Samuel and his Meilori:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Something there is that doesn't love a wall.
- Robert Frost

At the end of the street onto which I drive when delivering rare blood, there WAS a beautiful vista of our lake.

WAS.  Now, there is a grim brick wall being erected by the mansion being built on lake front property. 

There seems no valid reason for the wall except to deny drivers along the road the view of the lake which cost some unknown person large dollars.

The grey wall seems to say: "I paid for this lovely view,

The mansion is huge and blocks out the view of the lake as well.  A piece of serene beauty which brought calm to my busy day is gone.

It got me to thinking about how selfishness has become acceptable and the norm these days.

I hear words echo from 1940:

"The way of Life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate,

has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in.

Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.

Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind.

We think too much and feel too little.

 More than machinery, we need humanity.

More than cleverness, we need kindness, and gentleness.

Without these qualities, life will be violent, and all will be lost..."

 — Charlie Chaplin’s “The Dictator.”

The problem is that in today’s society and culture, everyone is absorbed in themselves,

and how they can become richer, happier, or whatever it is that they personally are chasing.

Don’t jump — until I get this picture lined up!

How about that incident last year in the Bronx in May, when Bahsid McLean, 23, murdered his mom, Tanya Byrd,

then posed with a picture of her severed head.

The following October in Florida, high-school junior Malik Whiter snapped a selfie in a classroom while his teacher was seen going through labor in the background.

Or this Selfie:
Have we lost our souls?

In an article for Psychology Today, doctor Pamela Rutledge says that taking selfies

can be detrimental to a person’s mental health and

that indulging in them is indicative of narcissism, low self esteem, attention seeking behavior and self-indulgence.

Some experts and physicians feel that society is collectively engaged in deep denial

about how dangerous it is to interact with screens without setting limits on how much time is spent doing so.

Facebook use has been linked to depression while Twitter use has been linked to low self esteem and narcissism.

What do you think about all of this?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


REMEMBER when motherhood meant being more concerned about your child than your sexiness?
But I am not going to criticize Kim Kardashian here as she is too easy a target.
But it got me to thinking what other things are also dying in our society --

Keith Wynn (Optimistic Existentialist)
He wrote how libraries had been magical places when a child.  Me, too. 

I remember when I sat in a darkened corner of a library and saw in my mind when Triton rose up out of a wine-dark sea, blowing death from his spiral horn.
Edith Hamilton's MYTHOLOGY was tucked happily under my arm that day.
But the Day of the Library may be nearing its end:
 Library patrons want more e-book choices, but libraries can’t afford to purchase e-books at the inflated prices.
Effectively, libraries are leeching money by purchasing fewer e-books at higher prices to keep patrons happy.
Where will we take our future children to discover and enjoy reading if libraries are gone? Where can I go to browse the shelves for weird books?
“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.”
― Mark Twain
“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.”
― Roger Zelazny
Have you lost any favorite comic strips lately?

The print industry is dying. Newspapers were the first to sink with magazines following close behind. Now print books are dying as well.

One problem with the dying newspaper industry is that comic strips are disappearing as well.

In the old days, every newspaper had a comics page so every newspaper was a potential market for a new comic strip.
CALVIN & HOBBES and PEANUTS were the last strips I daily read.
I've just bought a collection of the first year of ALLY OOP strips

to bring back the wistful dreams of childhood when I read the last of his strips as a young boy.

Do you look forward to reading any comic strips daily?

The Fading Art of Letter Writing

Letter-writing is among our most ancient of arts.
Think of letters and the mind falls on Paul of Tarsus, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Austen, Mark Twain;
OR love letters written during the American Civil War, or letters written to a parent by a frightened soldier at the battlefront.
A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure.
It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability,
because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do.
You savor their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping.
Yes, e-mail is a wonderful invention.
It links people across the world, destroying in an instant the hurdle of geography that confronts snail mail.
Yet it is by its nature ephemeral and lacks the spark of character that only handwriting can provide.
When you get an e-mail, you can never be sure that you are the only recipient — or even that it’s original.
We have always liked to pore over the letters of great figures like Winston Churchill and Abigail Adams for the insight this offers into their lives:
the writing, the crossings-out, the very feel of history on paper.

Monday, June 23, 2014



Work In Progress

1895 Egypt --
It is a time of fermenting unrest, British rule, and ancient evils awakened to sate their unnatural hungers.
Captain Samuel McCord, his immortal wife, Meilori Shinseen, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, and Lady Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron --
All find themselves attending a State Ball, fully knowing undying evil waits for them somewhere in the night.


 “As if you were on fire from within.
           The moon lives in the lining of your skin.”
           ― Pablo Neruda

The flickering light of the torches held the shadows close about Meilori.  But still she seemed an empress to me.  The dress she had left me for was a thing of myth and legend. 
Her gleaming cloak was reminiscent of the glory that had been Ancient Egypt. 
It was made of fine mastic wool with two slender bands of silver velvet, embroidered with rows of jet beads from the front waist to just underneath the shoulder-blades in back to form scarves. 
Below them hung black fringe which draped the skirt fastened on the back.  Puffy sleeves were pleated below on woolen sleeves, hemmed in rich Persian silk.
The high stiff black collar turned over into silver points.  It was fastened with a gold pendant shaped as a sphinx.  The embroidered elegant scarlet gown was trimmed in fiery gold lace. 
The low neckline was edged with double rows of glittering diamonds which draped to the waist, wrapping around to the right and fastened there with clasps designed to look like black jackal heads. 
Her gloves were gold and black, made of what looked like tender, soft lambskin.  
I studied her.  The end of many a harsh day had been made better by just drinking in her beauty.  Meilori’s jade eyes were large and seemed endlessly deep.  She smiled, and my world was whole again.
I tried to imagine what my life felt like when she had not been in it.  I could not.  She colored the whole of my existence.
I liked watching her walk, listening to her talk. It was performance art, intimate, compelling, rich with overtones, radiant with interest. I didn’t even have to know to whom she was talking or about what.
I just liked the sound of it, the way I liked the sound of music.  Her movements were as graceful as any dance I had ever observed … and more natural.
As we stepped upon the floor of the lobby, Meilori held out an arm.  “Will you do me the honor of escorting me, kind sir?”
I looped my arm around hers.  “All right, but no taking liberties with me afterwards.”
She laughed wickedly, “No promises.”

I laughed back.  “Ah, something to look forward to.”

“Always,” she murmured.

I took in the night. 

It was hard to believe how still it was after all the hustle and bustle that filled this street in the daylight.  Now, all was hush in a magical quality.  It was as if we had been transported into one of the Arabian Night tales.

A very cold tale.  Cairo nights could be almighty chilly.  Tonight was no exception.

The full moon gleamed in waves along the inlaid gold designs along the doors of the stagecoach.  The wood reflected soft fire in its depths. 

The thousand and one desert stars blinked down in wonder upon us. 

Meilori’s skin seemed to burn cold with moonfire as if her very form would burst into an explosion of moonbeams to fade away into legend. 

“Let us begin this night of beauty and death, shall we?” laughed Meilori.

“Well since you asked so nice,” I said and lifted her into the coach where I quickly followed.

“How sad and bad and mad it was - but then, how sweet”
― Robert Browning