So you can read my books

Friday, December 31, 2010


Still sprawled on Meilori's carpet with Marlene half-reclining on me,

I leaned on my left shoulder to look at the monster I had only read about.

To say that the years had not been kind would have been an understatement.

He was sitting at a glowing table, pointing a luger at Marlene. Beside him sat Eva Braun. She was still beautiful ...

in a clammy, undead sort of way.

She was almost wearing a low-cut red evening gown of flimsy silk. Its neckline plunged so that her breasts were almost slipping out as she leaned forward on the glowing table at me. But believe it or not, I wasn't looking at her breasts.

Ah, alright, maybe a little. But it were her pale blue eyes that bothered me. They made the Cheshire Cat's look sane. She leaned even more forward so that any second I was sure one of us was going to get embarrassed.

And I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be her.

But it was Hitler that shook me. He pointed the luger at me as I took the fallen dagger in my right hand. I smiled crooked. What with the Eva's breasts, that made three dangerous weapons pointed at me.

Hitler looked more withered corpse than anything human.
But what was terrifying were the vibrating cables running from the metal pump on his back to his twitching neck.

They were clear so that I could see the red, bubbling liquid pumping into his neck. I watched in horrified fascination as his neck muscles spasmed as the red liquid turned green as it went from the right side of his neck to the left.

That explained why he was still alive. The chandelier's lights striking fire from Eva's long sharp canines explained her long existence.

He sneered at me. "It was never about you, Amerikaner."

The luger shifted to point at Marlene's head. "I put a death sentence on your head, traitor. And I always collect my debts."

He smiled wide. "I had to lure you here to Meilori's where you could die the final death."

He croaked that damn laugh of his. "I found that just a few drops of the liquid in my pump paralyzes ghosts. From there, it was just a matter of having Strasser bait you with those Havana cigars, treated with my liquid, to have this Amerikaner fool framed for Hemingway's 'murder.'"

Eva giggled, "His only refuge would be here ... where you could be killed, traitor."

Marlene spat on the carpet. "Dreck!"

Eva husked, "You are the filth, whore. My love offered you the world to make films for Mother Germany. And you pranced naked before the American troops."

Marlene smiled impishly. "Only for the most fortunate of their generals, Hündin."

Hitler growled, "I think I shall gut-shoot you, Dirne."

He nodded to Death, calmly watching all of us. "See, traitor? Death knows she will soon be needed."

As Hitler had been insulting Marlene, I had pulled up the scortched edge of my T-shirt and plowed a long gash along my side. Blood dribbled out. I was just finishing the fourth word when Hitler turned the luger to me.

"You have written your last, swine."

I edged back to let Marlene see what I had written : "Hemingway appears behind Hitler."

And no sooner had she read the words with wide eyes, Hemingway shimmered right behind the zombie.

"Fuck you, Hitler!"

He took hold of the twin cables from the pump, ripping them from Hitler's neck. He squealed in agony, writhing to the floor. As he fell, great gouts of the putrid liquid splashed onto Eva. She managed a gargled start of a scream before withering away into smoldering corpse.

She fell still beside the moaning mummy Hitler was becoming. Death flowed to them both. "I, too, always collect my debts, ghouls."

She swept her long black cloak around them both and was gone as if she and they had never been there.

Marlene scrambled to her feet as I followed her. "P-Papa? You are alive!"

He nodded as he picked up the luger. "Have been for most of this."

Marlene's face screwed up in sheer fury. "What?"

I said, "Marlene, he saved our lives."

Hemingway pointed the luger right at my heart. "Her life. Not yours."

I heard a heavy thump behind me and an angry yowling. A flash of white and scratched hands blurred by me. Mark Twain slammed a cut-up fist hard into Hemingway's bearded jaw. The man reeled backwards to slam into the carpeted floor and lay still.

Mark Twain chuckled like an evil woodchuck. "I've wanted to do that for years."

He started to turn to me, then whipped about to kick Hemingway's unconscious body. "And damnation, there was nothing wrong with the end of HUCK FINN, you blowhard!"

Marlene sputtered in laughter, "Clemens, what happened to your poor hands?"

He grunted, "A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way."

I whipped around. Gypsy's cat carrier was behind me. She sat glaring at Mark Twain. A massive shiny padlock secured the carrier door.

I turned to Mark. "You padlocked Gypsy in there?"

He laughed, showing me the scratched backs of his hands. "Ain't that the blessed truth!"

Marlene hugged us both. But she kissed me.

A caustic cough sounded to my right. Toya, the manager of Meilori's, who had tried to kill me twice. She was holding a thick package.

"Did you really think you had gotten away scott-free? McCord wants to see you up front."


It happens to us all.

We're writing along in our C.A.R. (conflict, action, resolution) when WAM!

We run into a brick wall. Our muse deserts us. And we find ourselves mired in the middle of a chapter with no ideas as to how to get out.

Now, most of us will think a colorful metaphor or two at this time.

I want you to instead think _WOW!

W ..... Want

O ..... Obstacle

W ..... Way


I. First WANT

No, not your want. Not even the want of your main character. The WANT of your reader ... which is ...


A.) Emotion is the life's blood of all fiction : romance, thriller, mystery, horror, and science fiction.

B.) But it doesn't come from reading about the other guy having a terrible, challenging time. No, it doesn't.

C.) It comes from the reader BECOMING THAT CHARACTER to ...

find love, face that horrendous terror, fight that unbeatable foe, solve that baffling mystery ... to win.

D.) The reader becomes your main character when ...

1.) You lure them into the mind and heart of your MC.

2.) By speaking of the common angst we all have :
loneliness, alienation, yearning for love, desire for esteem in the eyes of significant others.

3.) Make them laugh, even if there are tears. The reader will return to your books again and again if you can do that.

4.) What is the worst prison punishment short of execution?
Solitary confinement.
We all need to connect. Bereft of that link to another human soul we wither inside.

5.) Your main character must seem real to the reader, must reflect some spark or lack within the reader herself.

Her wounds must bleed real blood. Their pain must echo throughout the remaining pages. Her triumph over them will be all the more uplifting to the reader.

II. Second Want :

A.) The WANT of your MC.

B.) If you're mired down in a chapter, see if you can find the WANT of the MC or her adversary in it.

C.) If you can't or if it is not immediate and primal ... there's your problem.


I. Obstacle is related to WANT

A.) How do you make someone want something?
Say they can't have it.
See a "Don't Touch. Wet Paint" sign, and what do you do?
You touch the blasted wall, don't you? Sure you do.

B.) Your OBSTACLE is directly tied in to your MC's WANT. If you've done your craft right __ the WANT's basic nature carries within it, its own obstacle.

C.) And that nature is CHANGE
Getting the WANT will change your MC's life drastically.
Not getting it will change it for the worse.

II.) Look at your trouble chapter :
If the OBSTACLE is not primal, immediately threatening, and nearly overwhelming ... there's your problem.

A.) Most readers would love to change their lives ...

B.) to add more excitement
to add a sensual, seductive love interest to their days
to finally achieve control and mastery over their jobs or problems.


A.) This is not just another way to say action ...
though it always involves action.

B.) WAY springs from the manner your MC goes about tackling the OBSTACLE.
It must ring true to your MC's basic nature :

1.) Each person has their own style that manifests itself in how she sees and solves her OBSTACLE.

2.) In A TALE OF TWO CITIES, Sydney Carton loves another man's wife. He sacrifices himself to save him so that the woman he loves is not shattered.

3.) In real life, 28 year old D.H. Lawrence loves 32 year old Frieda Weekley, unhappy wife and mother of three children. He runs off to Europe with her, making violent love, writing poems that shake up the literary world,

There are only two things now,
The great black night scooped out
And this fire-glow.

This fire-glow, the core,
And we the two ripe pips
That are held in store.

Listen, the darkness rings
As it circulates round our fire.
Take off your things.

Your shoulders, your bruised throat!
Your breasts, your nakedness!
This fiery coat!

As the darkness flickers and dips,
As the firelight falls and leaps
From your feet to your lips!

and, alas, sees her "share her abundance with acquaintances" along their European trek.

4.) Both WAYS sprang from the basic nature of the man involved. Both were true. Both WAYS stir strong emotion when you read them, don't they?

C.) WAY must spring from the three act nature of any novel :

Act I.
The stage is set, the conflict painted, and the characters have fun.

Act II.
The rug is pulled out from under the MC, the adversary draws blood, all seems lost.

Act III.
The stakes are raised, the MC rises from the ashes, a last ditch duel to the finish comes to a resounding climax, where the adversary is defeated but with great cost.

1.) If you are mired in a chapter, check to see where you are in your novel, the beginning, the middle, or towards the end.

2.) If you cannot see the fun in the beginning, then THERE'S your problem.

If it's in the middle, and the rug's not being pulled out in some devastating way, BINGO.

And if your MC and adversary are blowing kisses at each towards the end, you have found the bedrock of your problem -- and you're one sick puppy.

*) Happy New Year's Eve, Everyone!
I hope this post helped you in some small way to make it out of the next pothole you fall into. Roland

Thursday, December 30, 2010


I have a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

-Alan Seeger.

{I am Death. Cringe from me all you will, still will you and I hold hands ...

one day.

DreamSinger's skein of days is all but unraveled. DayStar has plunged him into the fires that are his home. All seems lost.}

I fell into the waiting flames. Behind me I heard Marlene's voice strangely garbled, "Now, Twain. Now!"

I heard the rustle of mighty wings. Then, talons tore into each shoulder. The red hawk had my left shoulder. The giant white owl had the right.

The hawk cawed in Twain's voice. "Damn, the boy must eat rocks."

Marlene's voice came from the owl. "You drop Roland, and I will pluck you bald!"

DayStar laughed above us, "Go where you will. He still dies!"

Twain-hawk grumbled, "I'd pay cash money to see him get his."

Marlene cried, "Hush! To my saber. I do not know long it will keep the portal to Meilori's open."

We flew through boiling clouds of hot smoke for long moments. A glare of bright light stabbed at me from ahead. There. I saw Marlene's sword. It seemed wedged in a tear in reality. I had written on it with Epona's blood : "This sword heals."

As I watched, the blood words slowly evaporated away. But the hawk and the owl flew with me into the opening just as it collapsed, taking the healing sword with it back into Hell.

"No!," cried Marlene as she tumbled onto the carpet, shimmering into her beautiful self, seemingly poured into her white Prussian calvary uniform.

"Yes!," cackled a withered voice from beyond my head as I lay sprawled on Meilori's carpeted floor.

Twain muttered, "Woman, you've killed us."

Marlene whispered, "He was not here when we left."

Twain kneeled by my side, tears streaming from his now human eyes. "Roland's poor face. No. No! Just like my brother Henry. I - I can't take it again."

But still he held my hand like he had held the hand of his fatally burned brother. It had almost shattered his mind. I could see it happening again in his eyes.

No. I might die, but still I would save my friend. "G-Gypsy. Find her. T-Take care of her."

He wanted to leave and didn't at the same time. Marlene nodded agreement. "Go, Clemens. I will stay ... u-until the end."

"Yes," croaked the voice past my head. "Go, buffoon. I have the one I want."

Twain left, giving a look at Croaking Voice as if hate was too small a word for what he felt.

A figure appeared suddenly to my right and flowed closer to me. Death. Her cowl hiding her face.

Marlene sobbed and stroked my throbbing face. "I have loved many times, Liebling. And yet never. Not until you. Until you."

I could have swam for hours in the blue mountain lakes of her eyes, but my ebbing strength said I only had heartbeats. A tear from those eyes splashed on my face.

"Always, Liebchen, it was about me. Until you. I look at you, and you glow with such a light that my heart swells so I think it will burst. Then, you turn and wink, and I think I do not mind if it bursts if only you smile at me one more time."

She broke into sobs. "One ... more ... time."

Croaking Voice laughed, and Death flowed right up to me. Her right hand slowly became a skeleton's. It didn't take my dimming vision to tell me who she was coming for.

Death bent over me, and Marlene hugged me to her breasts as if to stop Death with her own body. "Nein. Nein!"

She looked desperately all around as if for some way to save me. The laughter behind me got louder. Marlene drew a dagger from her boot top. The laughter stopped.

"Drop it!," croaked the voice.

Instead Marlene rubbed a section of her sooty white Prussian calvary tunic clean. She slashed open her palm, then dropped the dagger. The laughter came again.

Marlene laid me down and pressed my right forefinger into her bloody palm. "Liebchen, so many words you have written. I - I ask you to write but three more."

Her eyes were open wounds. "Just three small words. Not so many for such a one as you, no?"

I nodded, no breath left me. She breathed, "First word : Marlene's."

My forefinger trembled like a palsy victim's, and she husked, "I cannot help, Liebling. Your hand alone has the magic."

Mentally I heard Twain grumble, "Why not just ask the boy to write 'Mississippi?'"

I managed it as Death slowly bent closer. Marlene whispered, "Second word : Kiss."

I would have raised an eyebrow had I any left. I barely got the word written.

Marlene darted a fearful glance past me to Croaking Voice and husked, "Heals."

The laughter only got louder. I tried. Marlene's fingers coiled and uncoiled as if burning to help me. Damn it. I tried. But I only managed the L when my hand fell towards the floor.


Death caught my wrist. Marlene sobbed openly. I looked within Death's cowl. Only one wet, silver eye could I see.

Death tightened her grasp, pulled my wrist up, and suddenly twirled my hand with a flourish, adding "S" to the third word on Marlene's tunic.

The silver eye winked, and her icy voice whispered, "Catch you next time."

Marlene squealed like a little girl on Christmas morning. As Death flowed back a foot, Marlene bent and kissed me with such passion I would have lost my breath if any had still remained to me.

She sobbed, then her trembling lips parted. Her lids went heavy. And she kissed me, fierce, hungry, wild, just like she was deep inside her spirit. She crushed me to her. Her tongue touched mine.

I - I was nearly dead. I didn’t know if I had it in me to do this right. I touched back as hard as I could. I must have done not a half bad job because she ran her tongue along mine again.

She leaned her whole body into me, her lips crushing mine. I squeezed back. In my arms she felt so soft, yet hard at the same time. Her lips were soft, even as they pressed hard against mine.

And for one small magic moment, we were one. Not in body, but in the heart, the spirit, the very soul. We were one. And she was mine. Mine. Marlene was mine. Our first kiss was all I had hoped it would be.

And like a camera coming into focus, I was whole again.

"Good, traitor," croaked the voice behind me. "Good! You get to see him die twice."

Marlene's eyes became slits as she spoke one name as if it were a curse, explaining everything.



{I am the Turquoise Woman. My ways are not bound by the same chains as are yours.

To learn to swim, one must leap into the depths of the ocean, not slap at its surface from the shore.

DreamSinger was fighting echoes, when he should have been contending with the source. So I sent him to DayStar.

Now, the last Lakota will sink or swim as befits a warrior, battling his foe face to face.}

The flames were leaping up from all around me. The First Church of DayStar wasn't winning any hospitality awards. And I sure as Hell (pun intended) wasn't waiting around for them to pass the collection plate.

Turquoise Woman wanted me to go one on one with DayStar. But my arms were too short to box with someone who could wither with a glance. I was so out of here.

I headed to the steaming bronze door. Its bolt melted into place. Not that way. The stained glass window. Better cut up than burned up.

Suddenly, I heard Marlene from somewhere up on the second floor. “Liebling! Help me. Oh, God, he’s going to kill me! Please help me!”

What was she doing here? I shook my head. Like in World War II, she had come where she had felt she was needed. She had come to help me.

This was why the Turquoise Woman had sent me obviously.

I looked desperately around the blazing lobby, the shadows of the fire casting weird shadows on all the carvings. I jumped what felt a foot straight up as the stained glass window blew out in an explosion of glass.

The stupid bookworm in me looked down to the floor to see if the science textbooks had been right. They said that when glass was broken, thirty percent of the glass weirdly splashed back away from the impact. I smiled bitter. Bits of glass sparkled at me from the smoldering floor. Hurray for science.

“Help me, Liebchen. Oh, God, help me!”

The staircase was one mass of flames. I ground my teeth in helpless frustration. My face went tight. I sucked in a long, hot breath.

Helpless? I let out that breath slow. No. I was never helpless. I had a mind. I would find a way. The glimmer of the glass caught my eye. Away from the impact, away from the fire. That was it.

I turned around. There, facing the open hallway and railing to the second floor, was the ceiling-to-floor carving of Wotan hanging from the Tree of Life, his face looking much too much like DayStar’s.

I ran to the carving. It was beginning to buckle and warp away from the wall because of the terrible heat. Sucking in a superheated lungful of air, I started climbing up the carving.

The sweat on my hands and the clumsiness of my feet made it hard going, but I managed to slowly struggle up the thing. A screeching and cawing from the broken window made me look there. Watching me from the window ledge were a red hawk and a white owl, the flames reflecting odd in their glowing eyes.

Something in the back of my mind whispered that both birds were meat eaters. Maybe they liked their food cooked over a live flame. ‘Take a number,’ I thought to myself and kept on climbing.

It got tougher the further up I went. I slipped over and over again, hanging on sometimes with only two fingers. But I kept on climbing. Marlene needed me, and I wasn’t going to fail her. I wasn’t.

She hadn't hesitated a moment in going with me to Meilori's, the one place she could be killed. I would be the hero she had always been.

I could hardly breathe. The heat got worse the higher I got. My face felt like it was frying on my skull. I ignored the pain and kept climbing.

Despite the death sentence Hitler had put on her head, Marlene had entertained the troops on the front line, braving torture and death. No matter if it killed me, I would be there for her.

I glanced at the hawk and owl as I climbed. They were watching me, their faces hard as if set in stone, their feathers ruffling from the hot winds of the fire. It was weird. If I hadn’t known better, I would have sworn that they knew what was I was trying to do.

A falling timber, all ablaze, broke loose from the burning ceiling and slammed into my back. I choked back the cry of pain that struggled to get out of my throat. The force of the blow swung me off the carving.

I desperately clung to the wooden throat of Wotan with three fingers. Somehow I managed to swing myself back onto the thing. I tried to ignore the pain as Marlene had ignored the cold when she had slept on the dirt to rest for the next show for the troops.

Finally, my weight proved too much for the warping sculpture, and it broke free from the wall.

As I had hoped.

It thudded into the bannister and railing of the second floor staircase landing. A splinter from a shattered upright hissed past my left eye. I nearly lost my hold. But I kept on climbing. I looked up, the sweat burning my eyes, along with the smoke. Almost there. Almost th-

The carving broke in two. I pushed out with my trembling legs and jumped. The nail of my right forefinger broke to the quick as I hooked a grip on the bottom of the broken railing.

I hung there, dangling from one hand as the blazing lobby floor below seemed to be waiting to swallow me. I tried pulling myself up to the second floor with one arm. I almost sobbed from the effort. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t.

“Where are you, Liebling? Oh, God, DayStar is right here.”

I ground my teeth until my jaws ached.

“Roland! I thought you loved me.”

That did it. I had to get to her. I just had to. I reached deep within myself and found the strength to heave my body up enough to grab the bottom of the railing with my other hand. I bit the inside of my cheek and strained with everything I had.

For a moment, I just hung there quivering with useless effort. But then slowly, so slowly, I started to lift myself inch by agonizing inch. Two inches, then four more.

A whole foot.

My arms were quivering like the legs of a newborn colt trying to stand. Yet, I kept on pulling until my arms felt like they would tear out of their sockets. My eyes raised up to the edge of the landing.

With a final heave of screaming muscles, I pulled myself up and over onto the burning floor. Damn, but it was worse up here. I crawled a few more inches, getting my whole body onto the floor. I staggered to my feet.

The right. Marlene’s cry had come from my right. I reeled and slammed into the wall, the paper curling up from the heat and flames. I pushed off from the wall and walked as best as I could manage towards where I had last heard her.

Bits of the ceiling were falling down all around me. I threw up my arms to shield my head. I had never been pretty. And the way my face burned, I knew I would be a freak from now on. If I lived. But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was Marlene. She was all that mattered to me.

If I could save her, then any price would be all right with me.

I walked through boiling, choking clouds of smoke. The smell of it was overpowering, as if I had been dropped into a giant barbeque pit. Or Hell.

I blinked my eyes, straining to clear them so as to spot some sign of DayStar or Marlene.

I prayed it would be Marlene.

She had the prettiest hair, the color of a winter dawn. Even in the hell that was all around me, I had to be able to spot it. I just had to.

But I didn't. All I saw was a laughing DayStar standing in front of me.

Marlene was nowhere in sight.

He smiled like a wolf and cried out. But instead of his golden voice, he cried out in Marlene’s velvet one,

“Help me, Liebling. Where are you? I need you! Oh, God, he’s going to kill me. Help me! I thought you loved me.”

The shadows swallowed all but his gray eyes. "When last we met, I promised you flames."

He gestured, and the floor opened up beneath my feet, dropping me into the searing fires below.
I wrote the climb up the burning sculpture to this tune. Read the passage to the music :

{Thanks to Maddelirium for the picture }

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Two days ago, I wrote how to get a good story ...

C ..... Conflict

A ..... Action

R ..... Resolution

Yesterday, I wrote how you got a GREAT story ...

G ..... Goal

A ..... Adversay

S ..... Sex

Today, I let you in on what you need to write a winning query ...

M ..... Mission

A ..... Answers

P ..... Passion

I. First, a broad view of M.A.P. :

A.) A MAP is a visual medium ... like fiction and a query themselves.

B.) To get anywhere using a map, it must be clear to the eye, to the mind.

C.) If the agent can't "see" your novel clearly from your query,
you're in trouble.

1.) If your prose is so muddled that your agent can't see it in her mind,
the odds are your novel's prose and plot are muddled as well.

2.) An unclear idea of your novel means the reject button from the agent.

D.) What does a Map do for you as you drive?

1.) Shows you where you are. (In the query, it gives the agent your MC's start.

2.) Shows you where you where you want to go. (In the query, it gives the novel's end.

3.) Indicates the best way to get to your destination. (In the query, it gives the agent a brief idea of how your MC gets from the start of the novel to the climax. It also lets the agent know you have a blueprint for your story.)

E.) A MAP gives broad strokes.

1.) Condenses. Miles become inches. Cities becomes dots.

2.) Few details -- no descriptions of the fluffy bunnies, or the angst of the teen MC, or the unsavory dietary habits of the adversary.


When you looked at the picture of the treasure map above, did you frown, going "what kind of language is that?"


If you write to a Frenchman, you use French. If you write a query to an agent, you must use agent-ese.

A.) We write the query backwards usually.

1.) We write what the textbooks say : a winning one page summary of the plot, putting down why we think the agent would be a good fit for our novel.

2.) WRONG!

B.) If you want to accomplish the mission of your query, you must be clear to what it is in the first place.

1.) What is your query's mission?


3.) How?


A.) Again, we get this word backwards.

B.) We think of answers to how to write a GREAT query.


D.) We have to ANSWER the AGENT'S QUESTIONS as she reads our query.

1.) Can I sell this story easily to any editors I know?

2.) Can the targeted editor sell this story easily to the PURCHASING DEPARTMENT of the publisher?

3.) Is there a mass audience for this story large enough that will convince the editor and the purchasing department that the returns will far outweigh the cost of this novel?

4.) Is this query so long it depresses my weary eyes?

*) How can we know the answers to those questions?


A.) Passion, not of your characters, not even of yourself, but in the minds and hearts of prospective readers.

B.) Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

1.) I saw the TV ad for this movie as I walked across a hospital lobby today. Derivative and cliched. Generic beauty in mini-skirt. Generic Stud with flashing smile. Vampires who obligingly waited for the awkward leg sweep of heroine. Puh-lease.

2.) TV can get away with that because it's free. Books cost the reader hard cash money. Cliches are out. Hot, imaginative twists to popular themes are in.

C.) Imagine the book in your query is an audio book :

1.) Would your story, your MC and her obstacles be good company on a road trip?

2.) Would your story entertain or depress?

D.) Imagine reading this query to a hospitalized respected teacher or landlord or ill mother -- would they want to hear more?

E.) Look carefully at your brief query :

1.) Would your story make a stranger want to root for your heroine?

2.) Does your story and its outcome seem real or cardboard?

F.) It's hard to become passionate for a cause

1.) Donna wrote yesterday that her novel had no real adversary or antagonist.

2.) There always is one : inside the MC


A.) It wasn't Darth Vader or even the Emperor who were Luke's adversaries.

B.) Luke's enemy was his temptation to give in to anger, to abuse his skills.

I hope this has helped in some small way to help you craft a stronger query, Roland


Today is a somber day for those of us with Lakota blood :

The massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota was on this day in 1890,

the U. S. 7th Calvary gunning down hundreds of unarmed Lakota Indian warriors and their families.

As framed in Dee Brown’s influential, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, the massacre represented not only the culmination of the Indian Wars

but the mindset which began to form with the arrival of Columbus.

His last chapter described the Wounded Knee killings, his last paragraph describing the transport of the fifty-one wounded Indian survivors to shelter in a nearby Episcopal mission:

It was the fourth day after Christmas in the Year of Our Lord 1890. When the first torn and bleeding bodies were carried into the candlelit church,

those who were conscious could see Christmas greenery hanging from the open rafters.

Across the chancel front above the pulpit was strung a crudely lettered banner: PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO MEN.

{Turquoise Woman back again. I will not comment on the irony of the above. You two-leggeds carry your own destruction within you. But I last left DreamSinger and his companions in Hell, fighting a losing battle in the inferno.

But things can always get worse ...

especially in Hell.}

The horn of Epona flashed up, blocking a downward sweep of a sword from a frothing bull-man. The unicorn staggered back a step at the impact.

I darted out with my borrowed sword, hooking the back hooves of the minotaur, sending it sprawling.

Crazy Horse, true to his word to protect Gypsy, spun, leapt in a graceful twirl, and blocked three separate blows from a man-bull, a black-scaled demon, and an evil frog-like creature whose name I was just as happy not to be familiar with. In fact, I would have been even happier not to be familiar with the disgusting thing at all.

A throaty voice shrieked above us : "Enough."

I looked up as the Sphinx of Thebes husked, "The Turquoise Woman."

Dressed in a clinging, moon-white buckskin dress, her alabastor arms held up high, Estanatlehi sailed gracefully down the endless depths of the rumbling hellsky.

Her living lightning hair flowed up as she slid down the inflamed face of Hell itself. The Lakota warriors respectfully hid their eyes from the length of supple leg revealed by her flight.

Long, long ago legends say that one warrior had allowed lust to fill his chest at the sight of her. Turquoise eyes had flashed. And only a pile of bleached, gleaming bones had remained of that unwise warrior.

She landed gracefully beside me, clucking her tongue at me. "DreamSinger, you risk the lives of my Spirit Warriors on pawns."

She gathered Gypsy up in her supple arms. "Come, noble cat."

The Turquoise Woman looked at my Lakota friends and last upon the Sphinx. "You all have earned passage to that Land That Knows No Shadows."

She flicked cold, unreadable turquoise eyes to me. "And you. You go to fight your true enemy : DayStar!"

Hell blurred around me. I was no longer on the plains of Hell. I was inside a burning church. The flames were spreading from where I stood as if my very touch were deadly to this place.

I was facing a stained glass window of Lucifer raising his fist to the closed gate to Heaven. Below it was a bronze plaque : FIRST CHURCH OF DAYSTAR.

Yeah, even in Hell, things could always get worse.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


We talked about C.A.R. yesterday ...

C ..... Conflict

A ..... Action

R ..... Resolution

Using C.A.R. will get you a good story.

But you don't want a good story ... You want a GREAT story.

To get that great story, your C.A.R. needs G.A.S.

G ..... Goal

A ..... Adversary

S ..... Sex


1.) Goals in great stories are not anemic ...

A.) Primal

Any goal in a great story is primal, high stakes, CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT!

Love to a loveless man. Food for children to a mother in a world turned upside down. Revenge to a man robbed unjustly of everything that made life worth living.


The reader must see herself in that goal. We all yearn to belong. We all have been mocked and snubbed. We all feel alone in some form or fashion.

Once you have the reader looking out of the MC's eyes, you have her hooked into rooting for her to win ... because if the MC wins, a part of your reader wins, too.

In becoming the MC, the readers become more than they are, experiencing things in a way they might never experience any other way. Each of us is an on-going equation striving to answer itself. Reading is one way we do that.


You're switching channels on the TV and stumble across an announcer going crazy. You pause. The horse in the back of the race has just pulled ahead ... one horse ... three horses at a gallop ... two more. Now, there is only the lead horse.

The runt pulls ahead only to fall behind. The runt closes just a bit. The jockey on the lead horse spurs his mount ahead. The runt stumbles. Your heart goes into your mouth. Then, somehow, the runt reaches into its last strength and pulls even. The two race like that for long, agonizing moments.

Then, the runt pulls ahead by a nose, winning the race.

You had no money on the race, but you feel like cheering. Maybe you do cheer. We all root for the underdog ... remember that in your writing.


1.) "Oh," you say, "you mean antagonist."

Pardon me? Did I say antagonist? Antagonist is for ivory tower discussions of Jame Fennimore Cooper.

I'm talking Adversay, buddy!

Eric Northman, who, when you try to escape his cellar, tears out your throat with his teeth. Then, when your spurting blood ruins his highlighting dye job, repeatedly kicks your corpse for good measure.

We don't need no stinking antagonists! "You wanna mess with me? Here, let me introduce you to my little friend!"

2.) IMPOSSIBLE ODDS : (Remember the Underdog Principle)

Remember Jodie Foster going to interview Hannibal Lector for the first time? Then, he escapes. Who would you have bet cash money on in the real world?

Little Harry Potter versus Lord Voldemort :

Hagrid to Harry: "Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die."

"We bow to each other, Harry," said Voldemort, bending a little, but keeping his snakelike face upturned to Harry. "Come, the niceties will be observed.... Dumbledore would like you to show manners.... Bow to death, Harry...."


The best adversary directly roadblocks your MC from her/his goal in a way that is threatening and nearly unbeatable.

He/She is always one step ahead of your MC. Your heroine is swimming against the current, getting nowhere ... but at the end, the reader realizes the MC has also been getting stronger, wiser. The adversary has learned nothing because everything seems to be in her/his corner, necessitating no growth.


1.) Romance is all very well and good. But come on. Picture Eric Northman from TRUE BLOOD. Romance or sex?

For most readers, romance is just good table manners for sex. Witty talk is all fine. Flirting is fun because it delays the pleasure. But the goal is always in the backs of the minds of the readers in the exchange of words and actions.

I get around that somewhat with Samuel McCord because he is from both the era of the Revolutionary War and the Old West. And Victor Standish, for all his bluster and brass, is a 13 year old boy, struggling with his first love.

2.) Tension is the key to making music with violins and smitten hearts.

You have happy characters? Look around. You have no readers. Angst is the magnet for readers.

Tension is everything. Look at Bella and Edward ... who are the King and Queen of delayed gratification. A goal easily gotten is cheaply held.

Remember the underdog runt of a racehorse?

Victor Standish loves Alice Wentworth, the ghoul. And she loves him. She also has almost surrendered to her hunger for his flesh three times in the first novel. He knows she hungers for his flesh nearly as much as his heart.

But Victor, who in the past has so often bet his life for food and shelter, has no problem betting it for love ... something he has been without all his days.

Victor knows. Alice knows. All who care for them know : Alice will one day lose the battle to keep from eating Victor alive.

To lose his life for the love he never had? "Fair trade," Victor thinks.

And who are we to say different -- we who throw our lives away for so much less?

Whatever the tension ... it must be for most of the novel. Only at the end may it be released ... but only for a time. For in real life, there is no "happy ever after."


{I am the Turquoise Woman.

Each life ends.

Whether it ends in whimpering

or in courage depends upon the soul facing that end.

It is, in fact, the only true epitaph your kind leaves.

DreamSinger, whom you know as Roland,

has entered the realm some call Hell to rescue Samuel McCord, whom he breathed into life with his words.

Now, riding Epona, the last unicorn, with Death behind him and Lakota Spirit Warriors beside him,

DreamSinger faces what seems to be the end. Let the words from his strange journal take it from here ....}

A distant roar sounded from all around us. Oh, crap.

Bristling along the horizon encircling us, hundreds of lost souls, creatures, and demons charged to replace their slain brothers.

I twisted around towards Death to see if she would scream again.

She sadly shook her head. "We near my Avatar and Samuel. I dare not scream again."

My heart went sick and cold as a familiar voice, DayStar's, laughed to my far right. "Do you know what the third white meat is? Cat!"

I saw only his hands appear out of thin air. They held Gypsy, my cat, her eyes wild with fear.

DayStar's hands hurled her directly in the path of the charging monstrosities of Hell.

She yowled, and I could have sworn it sounded like my name.

I tugged on Epona's mane to head for Gyspy. Death placed a bitter cold hand on my shoulder.

"We cannot turn. My Avatar and Samuel are close."

"Fine!," I snapped. "Have a great trip."

With a grunt of pain, I flipped my leg over Epona's head, scratching it on her razored tusk. I slipped off and hit the ground in a run towards Gypsy.

Sitting Bull yelled after me. "She is just a cat."

"Wrong! She's MY cat."

A minotaur lunged for me. I slashed across his eyes with Marlene's saber that healed. The manbull bleated shrilly.

"I - I was blind. Now, I see."

It shot up startled into the flaming hellsky. Suddenly Death was beside me. She was floating.

"If you insist," she husked and snatched Marlene's saber from my hand.

"Marlene will soon need this."

And Death was gone. Just like that. And I was weaponless ... except for harsh language.

A heavy weight hit me in the back as claws gouged into me. I huffed. Another creature slashed me across the chest. I reeled sideways and shouted in pain.

I grabbed its arm, pulled back on its wrist, slamming the flat of my palm against its elbow as hard as I could. A sword dropped to the ground.

I bent and snatched it up. I looked for Gypsy.

I spotted her. She was moving so fast it was hard to follow.

Sparks flew from her claws as she bounded across the broad chest of a stone golum. She leapt to the werewolf in front of her, ruining its eyes with those same claws.

Never in one spot long, she sped between legs, up furry chests, across massive backs. She yowled in defiance, heading straight for me.

Something big and furry lunged at me. I slashed. It grunted but kept on coming. A razored tusk sprouted from its chest.

Epona reared beside me. "I leave no friend behind."

Gypsy screamed in pain.

I looked to the sound. She was bleeding, holding up her left front leg.

Suddenly, a blur of lightning appeared next to her. Crazy Horse, human-size now, blocked a talon with his hatchet and drove his knife into a scaled chest.

He looked at me with a crooked grin and spoke in Lakota, "If I die for a cat, I will never forgive you."

I realized the other six Sioux Spirit warriors were fighting all around me. Human-size and without lightning bolts, they were having trouble standing their ground.

Gall scowled to my left. "You would die for a cat?"

I bent next to Gypsy, who nuzzled her head against my palm, and said, "I would die for family."

He nodded. "That I understand."

Gypsy growled low, glaring up at the hellsky. I followed her line of sight. Oh, crap.

A sphinx. An honest-to-Cleopatra Sphinx.

Gypsy rose, holding up her injured leg and baring her teeth.

The Sphinx rumbled, "Later, granddaughter of Bast. Your death is mine. I will slay all who would take that from me."

Epona reared, thumped a charging troll in the throat with her two front hooves, and whinnied, "Whatever. Fight now. Threaten later."

In answer, the Sphinx chomped off the troll's head and spat it back out. "Tasted worse than it looked."

I made a face. It had looked pretty bad.

A giant bull-man, wearing human skulls for shoulder decorations, tried to cleave Red Butte in two with a war-ax, only to have it wrested from his grip by the warrior.

Red Butte twirled it and brought it down in a huge blow which split the BullMan's head in two.

Muttering low and harsh, the five Lakota who remained unarmed quickly picked up fallen weapons,

from swords to hatchets to axes as Crazy Horse kneeled next to Gypsy and whispered, "They feed on you only after I am slain."

Slashing at his attackers with hatchet and knife, Sitting Bull yelled at us.
"Form a circle!"

Epona looked a question at me, and I answered it, "The Power of the World always works in circles. All life tries to be round. The sky is round."

I looked up to the fires sweeping across the skies. "Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing -- and always come back again to where they were.

The life of all Two-Leggeds is a circle from childhood to childhood."

I glared at the nearing Darklings, hate raw in their screaming throats. "And so it is in everything where Power moves."

Epona and Sitting Bull yelled as one. "Form a circle!"

And then the Darklings were upon us.

Borrowed shields and short swords, Epona's pounding hooves, Sphinx claws, Lakota ax and hatchets, my own flashing sword --

all were blurs as they met a wave of slashing claws, tearing fangs, and hissing weapons. The sounds of metal grating upon metal, screams, grunts, and curses were all about our small band.

I saw nothing clear, only a flurry of dark bodies leaping at me.

I heard the wet thud of blades sinking into flesh, the whimper of wounded Darklings sinking to the ground.

Clear up my arm, I felt the numbing impact of sword-blocked swords and lunging talons.

Out of the corner of an eye, I saw Burnt Thigh go down with a bloody wound to the side yet stagger back up to his unsteady feet.

But despite the pounding of steel upon steel, the rending of flesh by fang, I and my new friends stood our ground, stood it, and smiled grimly to one another.

And to this day, still do the Lakota sing of this battle over their campfires,

though the dark weighs heavy upon their spirits and the whispers of doubt and fear mock them.

It is a song of courage against despair, of light raging against the coming of night.

And when wounded Time draws her final, faltering breath,

when the moon herself has become blood, and the gasping stars slowly strangle on the darkness,

even then will the Lakota stop in the midst of their Death Song, stand tall, and look to one another and remember --

-- remember when one small, defiant band of noble spirits fought, not for glory, not for land, nor for power -- but for one small life and the bond that one brave heart feels for another.
Read the passage that begins "And to this day ..." with the first minute of the following music. I wrote those words to this very tune :


Do you need a good story? Of course you do. All authors do.

Well, get a car ...

C ..... conflict

A ..... action

R ..... resolution.

Duh! Right. All novels need those three ingredients.

1.) But sometimes the simple principles are the most profound. And C.A.R. is one of those.

You see, it's just not your novel as a whole that needs Conflict, Action, and Resolution. Each of your chapters needs them as well.

And to carry the locomotion analogy a bit further, each chapter must end with a hook, leading the reader anxiously to the next.

Think of the teeth in the sprocket wheel of a bicycle : each tooth must seamlessly fit into the next link in the bicycle chain to propel the bike forward. So, too, must each chapter in your novel do the same.

Example :


in my WIP of the next Victor Standish novel :

Victor, his ghoul friend, Alice, and the ghost of President John Adams have escaped the ice palace of the revenant Theodora. They did so by entering her cursed Black Mirror which led them to an endless, lifeless cemetery world ...

one with seemingly no exit.

Just as they discover that, Alice's stomach starts to growl badly and her voice becomes the gravel it does only when she is ravenous.

And Victor is the only human flesh in that entire dimension. End of chapter. Makes you want to jump to the next one, doesn't it?

2.) Your novel is much like a onion, too.

Each layer of your novel must bring tears and spice to your reader's mind.

Conflict. Action. Resolution. All three must be contained, as much as you can arrange it, on each page. Impossible?

It better not be ... because one page is sometimes all you are going to have to entice your prospective reader in a bookstore.

3.) You must think of your novel as a microscope :

The throbbing life of conflict, action, and resolution must resonate in each sentence as much as you can craft it to be ... especially the first sentence of your novel and each following chapter.

{Hurricane Katrina lashed the French Quarter as the sobbing mother sat on the curb, cradling her dying baby.

In that one sentence, you have painted locale, time, conflict, action, and a hope within the reader for a rescuing resolution.}

All in the first sentence.

{General Eisenhower walked angrily to the prison cell of Adolp Hitler.

In that one short sentence, you have painted locale, time, genre (alternate history obviously) with conflict, action, and a question of what kind of resolution could there possibly be to this scenario.}

4.) Your first sentence is all the introduction to your agent you're probably going to get.

Conflict, action, and resolution must resonate like a tuning fork in that one important paragraph. In the thirty seconds it takes to read the first sentence, first paragraph is the length of time most agents take to make up their mind.

5.) C.A.R. not only lets you know what to include but ...

what to exclude :

everything that does not pertain to the conflict, the action, and the resolution in each paragraph, page, chapter, and final whole of the novel.

No matter how beautiful the prose or how insightful the character study, if it does not propel the story forward using C.A.R. --

then it has to go. Ouch.

Have a great Tuesday, Roland

Monday, December 27, 2010


{"If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."
— Ernest Hemingway.}

Chandler here. Raymond Chandler. Or rather his ghost.

I started with that quote from Hemingway because it was too damned appropriate not to.

Samuel Clemens and I are tying up the last chapters to the end of Roland's tale.

If you're wondering where Roland is the next few chapters will tell you.

As you've already read he'd been on the run in the Shadowlands, falsely accused of the murder of Hemingway’s ghost.

The same ghost who had been laughing up his sleeve in Roland’s apartment for a week, pontificating on how to write good literature.

Apparently, he forgot how to live a good life or be a good friend.

No, the truth was worse. He was too jealous of how the ghost of Marlene Dietrich felt about Roland. Today, ironically, is Marlene's birthday.

Hemingway had been rubbing his hands in pure joy as the ghosts closed in for revenge and others in the darkness bayed at the kid’s heels,

seeking to tear the secret of how to kill ghosts from him.

Now, where is Hemingway? On his way to Hell if there's any justice. But there isn't.

Word in the Shadowlands is that he is just walking aimlessly into the darkness, his eyes deep holes into nothingness.

I only have the cold comfort that I knocked him on his arrogant ghost-butt. How did a Hollywood hack like me do that? Easy. I cheated.

I surprised him. I walked into Roland's apartment looking clean, neat, and sober, smiling my best "ain't we chums?" smile. Then, I let him have it with the blackjack in my fist.

He went down hard. Not hard enough.

"Good news, boxer," I grunted. "Word in the Shadowlands is that Roland's dead. Died in the arms of Marlene."

His eyes fought to focus. "Is she --"

"Yeah, hero. She's dead, too. Killed by the one who poisoned you. I hope you're --"

I didn't get the chance to finish. The most godawful yowling came from the head of Roland's bed. Then, I saw her -

Gypsy, his cat, all covered in sand. I could have sworn she hadn't been there when I first came in.

Her head was reared back, her eyes full of tears. Hell, his cat was crying. Crying.

And Gypsy howled like her guts were being cut out of her. I can hear it still. It seemed to go on forever.

I pray to God I never hear such a sound again. She stopped abruptly and looked at me with eyes gone sick and insane.

Then she just slowly faded away into the darkness like an old photograph left out too long in the sun. I shivered. And I knew. I knew.

I would never see his cat again.

I turned to Hemingway as he struggled to his feet, and I managed to get out the words. "Roland trusted you."

My grief and anger were battling so inside my heart, it felt as if I was standing outside myself. "You hid in his apartment, knowing he was being blamed for your murder, knowing he was being hunted by things that would make a pit bull puke."

I realized I was literally shaking with my anger. "You could have stopped this. You should have."

He turned hollow eyes to me. "Right on both counts."

And with that he walked out through Roland's door. And I knew something else. I would never see him again either.

So here I am, sitting in the dark at Roland's laptop. What do I write that would express just what the kid meant to me? It's all too fresh. I - I can't.

There are no graves in the Shadowlands. No place where I can lay one black rose. To die there is to disappear utterly both body and spirit. But I have to do something. Something.

I will sit out on Roland's terrace and look out as the night fog slips away from the bordering bayou.

The rains are over. The fields this far south are still green.

And with my ghost eyes I will look out over the vastness of America to the Hollywood Hills and see snow on the high mountains.

The fur stores will be advertising their annual sales. The call houses that specialize in sixteen year-old virgins will be doing a land-office business. In Beverly Hills the jacaranda trees will be slumbering waiting for spring to bloom.

And none of that will matter ... for my friend is dead.

The French have a saying that to say good-bye is to die a little. They are right. I am a ghost, and I thought I was past feeling dead inside. I was wrong.

I think I will always see him driving down lonely roads, sitting in lonely rooms, saddened but never quite defeated.

Down those mean streets he went who was not himself mean, who was neither tarnished nor afraid ... only mortal.


The shades of years past watch us.

We, of the modern age, stumble and bumble our way,

sure of our sophistication and education.

But what if there are principles of which we are unaware that take no notice of our ignorance of them ...

only chastise us when we break them.

After all gravity takes no breaks ...

it only gives them

Take "First Foot," a custom concerning the first visitor of the New Year to a home. His function is to bring prosperity and good fortune for the ensuing 12 months to those he visits.

He comes just as soon as possible after midnight, bringing gifts which symbolize plentiful food, health, and wealth. Sometimes he carries an evergreen branch as a symbol of continuing life.

Strict rules govern the choice of First Foot : male always for he symbolizes the New Year. No redheads need apply. The luckiest representative is a dark-haired stranger, symbolizing a new year full of undiscovered mysteries.

An old form of First Foot has the visitor entering silently, greeted by none. He goes straight to the hearth, laying the evergreen branch on the fire and a sprig of mistletoe on the mantle above. Then, he turns and greets those living in the home, and festivities ensue.

I wonder what thought first visited the homes of our minds last year? Did it symbolize the atmosphere, the temper of our thoughts for the remaining 12 months?

What thought do you think should first visit your mind this New Year? What First Foot will be your physical first visitor?

Can you remember who first entered your home last January? Did he or she reflect the luck and temper of the following 12 months?

Just thought it would be fun to think on these questions, Roland

Sunday, December 26, 2010


{"Now, that's entertainment!"
- Vlad the Impaler.}

{Samuel Clemens, ghost here.

Roland took refuge in the fictional world his Lakota blood made real, giving his cat, Gypsy, to Marlene for safekeeping.

I could have told the boy : never trust a beautiful blonde. She dumped the poor critter with the mysterious Elu in the Mirror World.

This is Gypsy's story in the critter's own words.} :

That blonde alley cat hadn't fooled me. She hadn't dumped me here in Mirror World for my safety. She wanted Food Guy all to herself. I was going to find him ... and her. Then, I'd set that two-legged cat straight.

But first I had a situation to take care of.

Slit eyes the size of windows glared at me. I glared back. After all, I was Gypsy, warrior princess, granddaughter of Bast herself. So what if the Sphinx of Thebes outweighed me by a ton or two? I had her on agility. And good looks.

If she didn't let go of that human ... what was his name? Oh, yes, Elu. If that Sphinx didn't let go of Elu, I was going to get all Sith on her ample rump.

He glared at me, too. What was his problem?

"It's all your fault, you furry rat," he snapped at me.

"What? My fault? So I unflipped the carrier latch. Big furry deal. I haven't been to the outskirts of Hell in ages. So I took my chance. It's not my fault you let Fang-Face sneak up on you?"

I wrinkled my muzzle. "Some fearsome Apache you are. Just how do let two tons of Ugly sneak up on you anyway?"

The Sphinx narrowed her eyes and rumbled, "Did you just call me Ugly?"

"Yeah, Mammary Girl, I did."

I was making fun of her so she didn't catch on to the fact that she scared the ever-loving piss out of me. I looked up at the towering bulk of her. I smiled wide, freezing it into place from sheer terror.

She was a sphinx. An honest to Egypt sphinx. The simple sentence doesn't do her justice.

The leathery rustle of her wings. The hellsky striking fire from her fangs. Me sceaming like a little kitten at the sight of her. That would do her justice. Not that I screamed mind you.

I have my reputation to think of.

I tried to think of a worse fix I had been in and couldn't. A living, breathing, fang-bearing, claw-extending sphinx was towering over me.

Her huge body, though the size of an elephant, looked like a lion's. Except for the giant eagle wings. She held a struggling Elu in one clenched paw. She sneered down at him with the head of a woman the size of a small boulder. But her teeth weren't those of a woman's.

They were like a lion's, long and sharp as the comfort of politicians. I watched gloomily as the muscles rippled under her golden fur like knotted ropes under a living canvas. Her claws oozed out longer and dug into the black sands as if in anticipation of ripping away my flesh.

"You dare call me Mammary Girl?," the Sphinx husked.

I forced a yawn. "You see any other mammaries dragging the sand?"

"My breasts are not! They are round and firm!"

"What century are we talking about, toots?"

With a roar of rage, she lunged at me. She was as agile as a boulder and about as bright. I raced forward and ducked under her stomach. There. Right under her belly button.

I wasn't thinking damage. I was thinking tickle. Which I did. She curled up laughing in an uncontrollable fit of giggles.

Ever hear a ten ton Sphinx giggle? Nightmare time believe me. Elu was still clutched in her now tightening fist. Well, so much for that plan. His dried apricot face was turning all kinds of neat shades of blue.

"What was your stragedy in that?," he gasped.

I faked surprise. "Stragedy - smatagedy. I'm just having fun."

"I'll show you fun, rat," roared the Sphinx, spinning around to lunge at me.

Two could play that game. Angelina Jolie was doddering compared to my moves. I scrambled up the sloping face of the boulder to my right, sparks flying from my claws. I leapt onto the broad back of the screaming Sphinx.

"Ride 'em, CowCat," I yowled.

She bucked me off before I could take another breath. I flipped in the air and landed all Jedi-like on the sands in front of her.

"That was fun! Want to do it again?"

Her slit eyes narrowed. "Who do you think you are to talk to me like that?"

"The granddaughter of Bast actually, Sag-Breasts."

The Sphinx roared to the hellsky of the mirror world, then husked, "I laugh at Ba---"

Lightning sliced the insane sky and rasping thunder actually shook the sands beneath my paws.

"Ah, Sand-Ho, I'd cool it on any badmouthing ancient Egyptian forces of nature, were I you."

The Sphinx looked uneasily at the darkening skies, then turned back to me. "If you would have this human unharmed, you must first answer my riddle."

"Hey, not so fast there, Two Ton. You have to earn the right to ask the granddaughter of Bast a riddle by answering one yourself."

Thunder rolled like an angry chorus of bulls above us, and the Sphinx sighed, "And if I fail to answer your riddle?"

I shrugged lazily. "Then, you hand me the human unharmed and leap off the cliff."

The Sphinx roared so that my ears rang, and I made a face. "Too much, huh?"

"All right, then you just leap off the cliff."

"What?," shouted both Elu and the Sphinx.

"Just joking," I snickered.

The Sphinx growled, "Fool of a cat, there isn't even a cliff."

I nodded to the new fixture of landscape. "There wasn't until you cracked smart about Grandmother. She takes things like that personal." (Which is what I'd been hoping.)

I nodded to Elu. "You can't answer, you just give me the human unharmed. Deal?"

She looked like she wanted to eat the lips off my beautiful, furry face but instead grumbled, "Agreed. Ask your riddle. And be fast with it. The aroma of your flesh hungers my belly."

And it must have. I heard her stomach rumble.

To stall for time to think of a decent, hell, even an indecent riddle, I clapped my two front paws together, "Oh, goody. A command performance."

"Riddle or die!"

I blew out my cheeks, thought, and thought some more. The Sphinx began to growl and a riddle Grandmother used to ask me at breakfast time came to me, and I purred :

"In marble walls as white as milk,

Lined with a skin of softest silk,

Within a fountain crystal clear,

A golden apple does appear,

No doors are there to this stronghold,

But Man breaks in to steal the gold."

I flashed the Sphinx a smile. "What is it?

"What is what?," she shrilled like a granite wall shearing in two.

"What am I describing in my riddle?"

"You spoke nonsense words!"

"This coming from a riddle-asking fool? Shame on you."

"There is no answer. Your flesh and this human's are mine!"

"An egg, flesh-breath. An egg. Yeah, not so easy on the receiving end of a riddle is it?"

"You cheated! And so you --"

She started to lunge when sand-stinging winds swirled all around her and thunder rumbled loud and long. The Sphinx screamed, her claws cutting ruts in the stone beneath her. But the winds still bore her along like a scrap of paper. She struggled for all the good it did her. She was forced along by the fury of the winds.

Right over the cliff.


I heard a chuckle from where the Sphinx had dropped him in her efforts to stop herself being pushed over the cliff's edge.

"So you were worried about me, cat."

"Yeah, well don't let it get out. I have my reputation to uphold."

I padded to the cliff's edge and looked over. Ugggh. I made a face.

"No more lasagna for me."

I looked over to Elu. "Speaking of which ... I wonder how Food Guy is doing?"


"To all of life there is a shadow. The shadow of sadness, doubt, despair. Still it is but an echo of a heart moving forward."
-Roland Yeomans

{Ghost of Samuel Clemens here. Before I can present the end of the tale,

I thought it best to give you its start in Roland's own words from mid-July.}:

Something was tickling my ear. "Schatz! Schatz!"

Someone shook my shoulder. "Oh, Liebling, wake up. Wake up! You are in danger."


My apartment was on fire. Ever since I had awakened long years ago to see flames rolling across my ceiling, I had lived in dread of it happening again.

My eyes flew open. I sat up straight in bed. Darkness. No flames. Only a naked blonde in the bed beside me.

Naked blonde?

It was Marlene Dietrich. And she wasn't exactly naked, but heavily clothed she wasn't. She was in a black silk nightgown seemingly made of flimsy spiderwebs.

"Ah, Marlene ..."

"Hush, Liebling. Look down beside your bed."

"Really ...."

"Do it!"

Marlene had never shouted at me before. This was obviously important. I looked down.


Sometimes "Oh, darn" just doesn't cover it. Gypsy was nudging the unmoving body of Ernest Hemingway sprawled beside my bed. His smoldering cigar was just going out.

"Damn, Marlene. I know he's a ghost and all. But ... he looks ... dead."

"He is, Schatz. He is."

I turned to her. "Ghosts can be killed?"

Her finely etched eyebrow rose dangerously, and I said, "All right, dumb question. Obviously ghosts can be killed. But I never knew that."

"Neither did I or any other ghost I have ever met. Which means you are in terrible danger."

"Danger? Why?"

"All through the Shadowlands it is known Papa was jealous of how I felt for you."

"But ..." She placed fingertips I almost felt on my lips.

"He is here. Dead. I am here. In your bed. It will be thought he attacked you, and you killed him out of self-defense."

"Yeah, self-defense. You're right. It will look like self-defense. I mean, I didn't kill him. You know that. But if they think I just defended myself, I'll be in the clear with the other ghosts, right?"

Marlene turned her head so that her waterfall of hair hid her eyes from me. "Wrong, Liebling. All they will care about is that you know how to kill them. And so to protect themselves, they will kill you."

"Ghosts can kill the living?"

Again the eyebrow arched. "O.K. Another dumb question. So all the ghosts are going to come gunning for me?"

"And the others."

My voice rose so that the dogs in the next block must have been awakened. "What others?"

"All the others in the Shadowlands, Liebling. They will want you alive just long enough to tear from you the terrible secret of how to kill ghosts."

"But I don't know how!"

"They will not believe you with the 'proof' of poor Papa's body beside your bed. And it is even worse than you fear."

"Worse? How can it be worse?"

"They are coming now."

"They who?"

Marlene's eyes sank into her pale face. "All of them."


{“I have heard it said that truth is mighty and will prevail.

There is nothing wrong with this … except that it ain’t so.”

Mark Twain.}

Samuel Clemens here. His ghost really.

I can’t rightly call myself the ghost of Mark Twain.

Mark Twain was my pen-name. And isn’t a pen-name a ghost of sorts? Whoever heard of a ghost of a ghost?

Well, it is near the end of this old bruised year, so I expect it's time to bring you the last few chapters of GHOST OF A CHANCE.

You folks out there think you've been hearing from Roland ...

and you have.

Except it's just ain't houses that sometimes become haunted. It's anything that has become close to the departed like ...

this here contraption ... this laptop.

You've been hearing from Roland right enough ...

I can't seem to put it into words ... like writing it would be make it doubly so.

I can still see Roland’s face … so horribly burned.

And then over his poor face, like some mist, I see the face of my brother, Henry, whose seared hand I held as he died from those terrible burns from that steamboat explosion.

The damnable explosion that I had dreamt in detail a whole month earlier.

It was then I realized that life was more than I had supposed.

No, I realized that the night when I first met Roland and Marlene Dietrich in my nightmare at the age of twelve … in the Shadowlands.

For you see, time is fluid and strange in that dark place.

Shadowlands you ask. You’ve seen them, too. Yes, you have.

That flicker of movement out of the corner of your eye. You turn cat-quick to catch it clear, saying it couldn’t possibly be what you thought.

And it wasn’t. It was worse. Worse than you could possibly imagine.

The Shadowlands are not Dreamtime, though they are connected, usually by the bridge of nightmare.

Roland’s mother could walk them, as could her Lakota grandmother. But only Roland is called a Name in them :


He who sings to life dreams … and nightmares.

It was in a nightmare that I first met Roland. I was alive then, for the dead do not dream. I was twelve years old and caught up in the hunt.

I was not hunting. I was being hunted … by the spirits of my vengeful and dead sister and brother.

What to write of those times? They burn in me, and they keep me restless at night.

But now they can never be said. Besides, they would require a library and a pen warmed up in Hell.

As with most dreams, I will start this one in the middle :

It was night. It was Missouri. But not Hannibal.

It was the almost invisible village of Florida.

It was a scrawny pup of a place. Only two streets, each but a hundred yards long. The rest of the pathways would be paved with tough black mud in winter, rain or thick dust in summer. I had been born there.

The skies were blood. The clouds rolling billows of fire.

Those sermons my mother had dragged me to were surely making an impression on my nightmare. I almost expected the chariot with the struggling figure of Elijah to come streaking across such a night’s sky.

The rumble of summer thunder echoed overhead. A wolf’s howl pierced the shadows with its mournful wail.

I tried to bolster my wavering courage. “N-Now, Sammy, that there’s just an hungry old wolf. That ain’t no omen of death. No, it surely --”

An unseen owl hooted. “Oh, Lord! I didn’t mean no harm to Bennie. I surely didn’t.”

And then behind me, I heard a deep voice like a happy, flowing river. “These woods sure are a little scary, huh?”

I whipped about. And that was the first time I saw Roland. Lord, his eyes. The memory of them haunts me still.

They seemed to have seen all the pain in the world and felt most of it personal and close-up. Dressed in a strange black shirt I later learned was called “T,” jeans, and boots, he winked at me.

I winked back. “Little? Why these woods are humongous scary.”

And I relaxed just like that. He was a friend. I could just tell. And with the foolish trust of a twelve year old, I stuck out my hand. “Name’s Sammy. What’s yours?”

“Roland. Good to meet you, Sammy. Are those spooks over there friends of yours?”


I whipped around so fast I left my smile in the air behind my head. And there they were : my dead sister and brother.

Their wispy figures of black mist flowed to my right. I felt my face go tight. They were apparitions from the spirit world.

No, not the spirit world you might be thinking of, but the spirit world each of us carries deep within the dark of our souls, the prison for our mistakes and those regrets they give birth to.

They were giggling, a hungry, soulless sound, and I made my throat work,

“Benjamin. Margaret. You leave me be.”

“What he said,” laughed Roland.

I turned to him. Why in tarnation was he laughing? Couldn’t he see they was about to make a meal of me?

He pulled out a battered pad of paper from his jeans pocket and looked over to me.

“There is power in words, Sammy.” (And that sentence of his changed my whole life. Although at the time, I did not realize their impact.)

Margaret and Benjamin both bent in unnatural ways as they turned and glided towards Roland, but only my sister spoke, revealing tiny, needled teeth.

“Lakota, you have no hold on us.”

Roland just chuckled, bending towards me so that I could see what he was writing :

“And Margaret and Benjamin were caught up in the winds of forgiveness never to bother Sammy ever again.”

A keening moan hollowed from my right. I looked to where my sister and brother had been. They were gone. I turned to Roland like I had been whalloped in the head by a mule’s hooves.

“H-How did you do that?”

“I think it has something to do with my Lakota blood.”

“What blood?”

“Lakota Sioux Indian.”

“You’re an Injun medicine man?”

“Sort of. What I write sometimes comes to pass in dreams.”

“Only sometimes? Then, why was you laughing just now?”

“I always laugh when I’m scared spitless.”

“Now, you tell me!”

I edged closer to him. “You mean you could write anything down there and it might happen right now?”

He nodded. “Oh, sure. I could write : the most beautiful woman in the world flows out of the night mist and falls in love with Roland. But I won’t.”

“Why in tarnation not?”

“Being selfish with your gifts always turns out bad somehow.”

“Really?,” husked a woman from out of the fog that flowed in billows to our left.

We both jumped a foot up in the air, and the most beautiful apparition of beauty I had ever seen glided up to us.

A long gown of gleaming satin, as alabaster as the moon’s face, clung to her so that even the twelve year old boy I was started to come to attention in certain places.

“I – I didn’t write anything down,” stammered Roland.

“What a strange dream this is,” she smiled, sending tingles all through me.

She looked down at the shaking page in Roland’s hand and lightly tapped them.

“Does this mean you see me as the most beautiful woman in the world? I, whom you have never before seen?”

And Roland said, “All men have seen you before -- in the lonely corner of their hearts. Only a very few are lucky enough to ever meet you – even in dreams.”

Years later, when we were both ghosts, Marlene Dietrich confided in me that was the very moment she fell in love with Roland. But right then, her eyes just got deeper. Then, she faded away with the night mist.

I looked up at him. “Does this sort of stuff happen to you a lot?”

He smiled a sad, crooked grin . “All the time.”

And that is the face I will try to remember. It comes to me now that in my heart, he was my brother, Henry, given back to me.

Roland, I miss you.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


One of the great things about love ...

is that it grows in ever larger ripples when shared.

One shares with another, then that heart touched by love shares, too.

One becomes two. Two becomes four. And four becomes eight.

Not every heart which receives, gives, of course.

Who of us has not received compassion and felt the better for it?

We are let into a busy traffic line, and we wave thanks.

But do we give it? Do we let another in somewhere else down the line?

Or do we just go on our way, too much in a hurry to return the favor to a stranger?

Have we received compassion, wisdom, kindness repeatedly from a friend, but then have been hurt by that same friend?

Can we find it in ourselves, that after taken so much, to give one thing ...

the benefit of the doubt,

to trust in the past acts of friendship to give ...


That is the secret of Boxing Day, celebrated in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom ...

to give from the surplus that we have received on Christmas Day.

One of the clues to Boxing Day's origins can be found in the Christmas Carol, "Good King Wenceslas."

Wenceslas, who was Duke of Bohemia in the early 10th century, was surveying his land on St. Stephen's Day — Dec. 26 —

when he saw a poor man gathering wood in the middle of a snowstorm. Moved, the King gathered up surplus food and wine

and carried them through the blizzard to the peasant's door.

Christmas love and magic is better when shared. Just like laughter is somehow more than doubled when the joke or funny movie is shared with a friend.

What is more beautiful than a unicorn in the snow?

Two unicorns racing through the flurry of snowflakes together.


Merry Christmas to all my friends!

Christmas' present to all of us

is the subtle messages underneath the obvious ones :

1.) Love comes unexpectedly.

2.) You find love in surprising places.

3.) Love comes at its own season, in its own unique way, wearing a face you weren't looking for.

But then, we can be forgiven for not hearing those messages. After all, none of us is perfect. Well, there was that one.

But we killed Him.

Or did we? I choose to think not. I know His message and the messages of this day are not dead.

Love never quite dies. It stays in the sparkle in the eyes of each passing generation of children.

The best Christmas stories, in both movies and books, remind us that love always seems to find a way,

though it comes to us in unexpected ways, shining in the eyes of those we might have overlooked in the past.

The Jews were expecting a king. They never got one because they were looking in the wrong places for the wrong faces.

A manger contained the prince of peace in its straw. Few were even aware of His arrival.

Only those who were not too proud to stop and consider love might come unexpectedly and from a source we would never have suspected of containing it. And only to those who had kept looking up.

Christmas teaches us to keep the child's sense of awe, of wonder, and of the willingness to believe ...

in the possibilities of miracles,

of the soft whisper of magic in the air if you but listen,

and in the healing power of love.

Like young Kevin in HOME ALONE, it is up to us alone to protect the home of our hearts from being robbed of their innocence and love.

Sometimes we do not see unicorns in the snow because we have stopped looking for them.

Continue to look. Continue to hold gently to the possibility of a miracle waiting for you just around the next corner or the one after that.

Excuse me. I think I hear a strange whinnying outside my door.

I'll open it to have a look. My unicorn may be out there below my terrace right now waiting for me to go for a ride in the moonlight.

You never know.

Keep looking and believing, Roland