So you can read my books

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


"I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them."
- Mark Twain

Ghost of Mark Twain here:

I try not to criticize that Stephanie Meyer gal to Roland, but her books madden me so that I cannot conceal my frenzy from him.

I have to stop every time I begin.

Every time I read any of those Twilight/Good Night books, I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

Then, I realize that gal ain't dead yet.  Maybe I can convince the ghost of Lovecraft to fix that for me, don't you know?

I just flat couldn't finish any of those DEAD books by that filly Charlaine Harris.  If she would listen, I would tell her that a successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.

Not that any woman no how ever listened to me when I was talking sense.

That her books sell don't necessarily make them good.

The test of any good fiction is that you should care something for the characters; the good to succeed, the bad to fail.

The trouble with most fiction of today is that you want them all to land in hell together, as quickly as possible.

I know you friends of Roland are more open to listening than those two fillies, so I have a few hints at how to write yourselves a good novel --

1.) Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.

2.) And while we are on the topic of editing --  NEVER POLISH THE FIRST CHAPTER UNTIL THE LAST ONE IS WRITTEN.

3.) A novel is like a young'un -- it grows in ways you never planned.  Just type it out chapter by chapter, letting the growing pains take you where they will.

4.) A novel is like life -- things happen, new ideas suggest themselves, and intriguing possiblities arise.  Throw them into the soil of your novel, you will be surprised at what the harvest will be.

5.) A novel to be novel must be novel.  Don't have the dog wag his tail.  Have his tail wag him.

6.) A novel is a dog house --

     So is your house going to hold a small, a medium, a lagre dog -- or just for the husband when he is thrown out by his wife?

     The size of the "dog" will dictate how you go about structuring your "house" (novel).

7.) Plots are limited.  Characters are limitless.  So always begin with the characters.

     Your novel will shine, not by what you have going on in it, but by the breath you breathe into your characters.

8.) The characters you develop depend on who you are.  Hemingway was Hemingway.  Shakespeare was everybody else.


A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions:

1. What am I trying to say?
2. What words will express it?
3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?


  1. So who does have the right to criticise books?
    And how I would love to be a cat in my next life. Preferably one as indulged and revered as those that share my life.

  2. Elephant's Child:
    Being an author himself, Mark feels it is not proper to snipe at his cohorts! :-)

    Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway both loved their cats. Me, too. I even put Gypsy, my own cat, in my supernatural thriller, GHOST OF A CHANCE. :-)

  3. And who better to give a critique than someone from the inside?

  4. Elephant's Child:
    I agree with you --
    and so did Mark Twain. He only wrote that he TRIED not to criticize.

    But criticize he did from Jane Austen to James Fennimore Cooper (his essay on Cooper's literary transgressions is truly funny.)

  5. We judge the value of a book by different measures. What appeals to me is going to be related to my interests. But generally, I agree with your points.

    I see a few new things in your sidebar. You've been busy, busy. Just don't use all your energy.

  6. Okay… this was awesome. Totally laughing and loving it. It's pretty entertaining receiving advice from a ghost. :)

    Loved number one. All you have to do is cross out the right words! I've never heard that before. SO clever.

    You are fabulous, Roland. It's such an honor knowing you!

  7. D.G.:
    Heading into cancer surgery Thursday, but I have to work Wednesday to garner as much cash as possible until then! Whew!

    You're right, of course. Different people will appreciate different books for individual reasons.

    Please, Mr. Custer, I don't want to go! :-)

    Old Mark Twain is a card, all right! :-) That's why I had him as my guide in GHOST OF A CHANCE and for comedic relief in DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE!

    It's a pleasure and an honor knowing you, too. Mark wags his eyebrows at you -- the shameless flirt!

  8. 'Please, Mr. Custer, I don't want to go!'
    Liked that. . .but I get the message. Best wishes, will send more.

  9. Thanks, D.G.:
    And thanks for being my friend. I am almost to the 50,000 word mark on STARS. That may be it for awhile though! Ouch!

  10. I love your Twain quote: "I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them."
    - Mark Twain

    Ha ha. And I confess I read the Twilight sagas and sort of enjoyed them, just as Stephanie Meyer enjoyed banking on them. I admire any author who manages best sellers. Good for them. Literature they ain't, but I'm not a book snob...I love to read everything, nearly...

    Meaty post as always, my friend.

  11. Well, as a woman my opinion is suspect, of course.

    I read 4 or 5 of the Dead And . . books because a co-worker insisted and I really liked her. Well, Charlain definately knows how to build a world, and a culture, and she did have some intriguing characters. the HBO series True Blood corrupted her world. But, I only got through those few books as a means of continuing a cherished friendship. Finally, my friend got tired of me telling her what was wrong with the character plots and didn't give me any more of the books to read. We had other books/movies/tv series we both enjoyed and could amicably discus.

    As for Twilight . . I don't like YA worlds.

    I liked your last few questions too.

  12. HA! Samuel Clemens calling a novel a dog house is a hoot! I have an igloo shaped dog house if that counts for anything.

  13. I also believe in writing the whole book before editing (twice, in fact) and in making the characters strong so they carry off the plot. :-)

  14. Some very wise words from Mr. Twain's ghost there! I understand why Meyer's books did so well. She targeted her audience directly and gave them what they thought they wanted, and they ate it up. I haven't read the Sookie books because I couldn't get past the style in which they were written and those covers, they are god-awful things. Terrible, I know, to judge a book so, but ugh, just ugh.

  15. Denise:
    I read the first two DEAD books and, like Donna, appreciated the world she crafted. But Sookie just turned unlikable. Ugh!

    The Twilight books did not appeal to me. What would a 200 year old vampire find to love in a shallow, self-absorbed 15 year old? He just seemed a supernatural pedophile to me. But that is just me.

    Thanks for the nice words. They mean a lot.

    Old Mark was just being his old teasing self with that "woman" comment. He always loved to shake the boat.

    I think you would like Miss Harris's SHAKESPEARE mysteries, set in modern USA.

    KIM is basically a YA book, and I try to write mine so that adults can read and enjoy them, too.

    I'm glad you like Mark's last questions. :-)

    Mark likes to keep the reader "awake" by using outlandish analogies. :-)

    The structure of our novels change to adapt the type and focus of our story. Comedies have a different set up than epics or chick lit. At least that's what he says!

    I read every Spenser novel no matter the mystery because I loved his world and his friends, and his one great love, Susan.

    Mark tips his hat to you for agreeing with him -- that always wins his heart! :-)

    They were rather like a Grandma Moses painting weren't they? :-)

    Targeting your audience is what John Locke suggests too. But he is a snake-oil salesmen of authors!

    To be trapped into writing a type of book that does not have my heart would be grim!!

    Thanks for visiting. I hope you try BROTHER ODD or FEAR NOTHING. If you like ODD THOMAS, you will love those two. :-)

  16. Great advice, Roland! Caring about the characters is my number one concern as a reader and author. Love the quote about cats! My cat Izzie agrees. ;-)

    I have to admit I've read the Twilight series, and if I view it as pure entertainment, I enjoy it...probably because I am intrigued by the character of Edward. That requires me taking off my feminist hat, though. Stephenie Meyer has been criticized for her writing but I think there's something special there to keep many people (not you) turning the pages. I wasn't into the Charlene Harris series, though.

  17. That's why I always begin with characters and I never edit until I'm done.
    Then again, if books that sell are no indication, then I still have no idea if I'm any good.

  18. LOL. Great post! I think people just have different expectations when they pick up a book. Sometimes it's a good fit, sometimes it isn't. Not defending those books as I haven't read any of them.

  19. Wonderful post as always. I think there's a correlation between a writer's orientation and whether or not he or she edits as they write. For obvious reasons, I suspect pantsers are far more likely to edit than outliners. But as someone who unapologetically edits while writing (and after, hundreds of times), Mark speaks the truth. You can't polish the first chapter until the last one is written.

    I read half a Sookie book. Way, way, way too cozy for me. I prefer True Blood, or did. Haven't seen the series in a couple years.

    Thinking of you, Roland. Be well.

    VR Barkowski

  20. Haha! I tried to read the first Twilight book. I got as far as the first paragraph before slamming the book shut. I did, however, read her book The Host and loved it. It's actually one of my favorite books. Believe me, no one was more shocked than I. lol

    I love the second piece of advice!