So you can read my books

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Hello, Everyone :

I have discovered a worse enemy than DayStar : Human Resources.

I went to their doctor and found out that :

1.) I might have a hernia.

2.) I might not.

3.) I might have a pulled groin muscle.

4.) I might not.

5.) Time will either make the hernia bigger or help mend the groin pull.

6.) English is not my doctor's first language.

7.) English is not my doctor's second language.

8.) His every third word was in English. I think.

9.) This was his first work for my company.

10.) He wanted to impress them. My well-being was down further on his list. Much further.

11.) Going to the company doctor for a diagnosis is like going to the company lawyer for representation.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


It is July 3rd in the year of our Lord, 1826.

And I am dying.

The question is "Do I wish to be re-born?"

At my bedroom door, the young man, wide-brimmed hat in gloved hands, has the answer.

But I fear I already know it.

The young man is a conundrum.

He looks at me with the eyes of a sad poet. Yet, he is a walking arsenal : two shoulder-harnesses of pistols, another pistol on his hip, still another in a strange stomach rigging.

"Come in, Sergeant McCord," I speak in a once strong voice now grown frail.

"An honor, President Adams."

"Former President, young man."

He flashes a smile much like a wolf's. "Like with Texas Rangers, sir, once a president, always a president."

He sits down in the plush leather chair close to my bedside, and I frown. "Odd. Your face is perhaps 25. Yet your hair is moon-white."

His lean face goes somber. "There was a time when my hair was darker, my heart lighter."

My voice thickens. "As with myself, McCord. As with myself."

I pat his arm and frown again at how my hand shakes. "I met your father at my Alma Mater. He was a great patriot."

McCord nods sadly. "Father said history bleeds on every page because of patriots. But he liked teaching at Harvard, and he liked you."

"And my wife?"

The light dies in his eyes. "He thought of her as a wise and good friend ... once."

"Before she became a ...."

I find it difficult to say the word, "... revenant."

"Yes, sir."

"I need to ask a favor of you, young man."

His lips shape an uneasy smile. "I'm not going to kill Mr. Jefferson for you, sir, if that's the question."

I slap his arm at his rough jest. "Time will soon have her way with us both I'm afraid."

I tap his buckskin-covered knee. "No. I need to ask you ... w-what do you think of revenants."

McCord sucks in his upper lip, then says low, "Mighty broad question, sir. Might as well ask me what I think of humanity."

"Then, you believe revenants are no longer human?"

He rubs his face with a hand strangely gloved in this heat. "With each passing year, they lose more and more of their humanity, sir, until they forget what it means to be human."

He leans forward. "Surely, sir, you have noticed that in your ... wife."

I clutch his arm feebly. "Yes. Yes, I have."

I close my eyes. "And now, she demands I allow her to ... to ...."

I find I cannot put it into words, and McCord just pats my hand. "You would gain immortal youth at the cost of your humanity, sir."

I look at this strange man with the saddest eyes I have ever seen in a youth. "I know you are aware she rules a confederacy of shadow states all across this country."

I manage to make my lips speak the words. "Abigail says that together, we could do much good for this country."

His face twitches, then he speaks softly. "On a cattle ranch, the ranchers live mighty fine. The same cannot be said for the cattle."

I nod gravely and sigh, "I had come to a similar thought, McCord."

The decision I always knew I would make settles firm within my heart. "I -- I will refuse. Abigail will take this badly."

McCord smiles as if it were a wound. "Even so, sir, you have made a hard but wise decision."

"And in doing so, I have doomed you."

"How so?"

My mind fills with mocking echoes of shared laughter with Abigail, and I sigh, "She knows of this meeting. Once there was a wellspring of forgiveness in Abigail's heart ...."

I could not meet McCord's eyes. "Now, she will believe, despite my protests, that it was you that has robbed her of my being at her side. She will not rest until her revenge is complete against you, sir."

McCord smiles sadly. "That's all right, Mr. President. It'll mean one less monster in this sorry old world."

My blood chills, for I see he wants to die. No. I will not be the cause of the death of my friend's son. But how can I save him from the grave, from himself?

I look up at the portrait of my wife when she was still my Abigail. A plan comes to me. I whisper to McCord.

"When you think 'beautiful but diseased,' what city comes to mind, McCord? Quick. No moment for reflection. What city?"

He laughs like a wolf. "Don't need any time to reflect, sir. New Orleans is the prettiest city with the blackest heart I've ever seen."

"Then, New Orleans is the city I, as former President, charge you to save from the revenants."


"I cannot ask you the impossible task of saving my nation from the evil that has consumed my wife. But one city, McCord, one city. Pledge to save it from the curse of the revenants, and I will die at peace."

"But, sir, I took an oath to Texas."

"Do not speak to me of oaths, young man. I, Jefferson, Washington, even your father bled for this nation. If not for me, save New Orleans for them ... for your father."

I was fighting unfairly I knew. But my friend, his father, would have me do no less to save his son from self-destruction.

McCord runs gloved fingers through his silver hair and sighs, "All right, Mr. President. You have my word."

His poet eyes flick to the portrait of my wife, and he murmurs, "Beautiful but diseased is it?"

He turns to me. "Another pledge, sir. Strange as it sounds, sometimes enemies become as close as lovers. If I can, I will save your Abigail, too."

"You are a romantic, McCord. It will be the death of you."

"Something will. Might as well be that."

When he leaves, and the shadows of the night and death grow closer and closer, it is his second pledge that comforts me.




{In the mythos of CAPTAIN OUTRAGEOUS,

Abigail Adams controls the shadow confederacy of American revenants (think vampires on steroids.)

Tomorrow's post will detail why she hates Samuel McCord. A promise to her dead husband prevents her from taking direct action against him.

But to hurt a long-time friend like Ada Byron, daughter of Lord Byron, would bring her much delight.

Sister Magda's only allegiance is to her former husband Father Renfield.

All others must tread warily around this gypsy who is rumored to be the thief who stole the fourth nail from that infamous centurion two thousand years ago.}

I am Ada Byron. I have died and willed myself back to a semblance of life. On this fine New Orleans morning, I may well die again :

I smiled demurely over my dining table at my two uninvited guests. I will not die alone.

Abigail Adams sipped her tea cup of O Negative blood and smiled with red-stained teeth. "This need not end badly, Lady Lovelace."

To my right, Sister Magda spoke softly, "This need not have started at all, Madame President."

There was a soulless giggle from the foyer door. We turned. I sighed. Things had gotten ... interesting. The ghoul, Alice Wentworth, looked at us with blue-fire eyes.

"President," Alice sneered. "Empress is the true title. Empress of the American Revenant Empire."

Eyes which had looked calmly at men being sucked dry of their blood by cold, efficient machines narrowed. "I preside over America Corps, ghoul."

The window suddenly raised from the outside, and the scamp, who had won my and Alice's heart, climbed into the room.

And Victor Standish, the thirteen year old Ulysses, laughed that reckless, gypsy laugh of his.

"That's Miss Ghoul to you. And don't be silly. Call it whatever you want, but if it goose-steps and Sieg Heil's, it's a Nazi."

Alice flowed to his side, clutching his right arm. "Oh, Victor, you shouldn't be here. Adams wants you dead."

He patted her hand lightly. "No. She wants Captain Sam hurt. And you know me, Alice. I always have a plan."

Abigail studied him with slit eyes. "So this is the infamous Victor Standish."

I fought a smile as Victor bowed with a mocking flourish. "At your disservice, your majesty."

Sister Magda growled, "You mentioned a plan."

Victor placed a not-so-humble hand on his chest. "Not my plan. DayStar's, whoever the hell he is."

Sister Magda husked, "Apt way of putting it."

I had never seen Abigail frightened before. It suited her. She swallowed hard.

"What do you mean, boy?"

Jerking a bold thumb his way, Victor said, "Me, being me, I've just found out that this DayStar is in the midst of planning something final for Captain Sam."

Sister Magda shook her head in disbelief. "And this saves you from Abigail just how?"

I whispered, "What she said."

Victor walked up to Abigail. "By all means, kill me."

Alice trilled, "Are you insane?"

Victor leaned forward, hugging a stiffening Abigail around her rigid shoulders. "Kill me, and, of course, you throw Captain Sam off his game."

She glared at him. "You call this a plan to save your life?"

"But you also take the thrill from this DayStar when he defeats Captain Sam because he really didn't do it all on his own."

Victor winked at her suddenly hollow eyes. "Imagine how pleased he'll be with you."

Abigail's eyes became windows into Hell. "You think yourself clever but are not. I will not move against you nor Samuel McCord."

She leaned forward. "Death wears three faces, Standish. Bad, worse, and worst. You have chosen the third."

Though it was summer I shivered.
More on the woman who wrote the first computer program a 100 years before the invention of the computer :

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


It was the witching hour at Meilori's

when lost souls entered, seeking death or peace ...

or both.

Mesmer purred in my arms, and I soaked in the wonder of having a living cat in my arms again after a 175 years as a ghoul.

She nuzzled her head against my throat, tickling me.

One last smile before dying.

I approached Captain's McCord's table in the shadowed corner. Tall, dressed all in Western black, he watched my arrival with the eyes of a wolf protecting his young ... against me.

There was an air of the high, lonely mountains to him.

I could picture him astride a horse on a jagged cliff, his eyes fixed on a distant horizon, searching for a peace that would forever elude him.

If I were going to be killed tonight, it was fitting that it would be at the hands of a kindred spirit.

He rose with a coiled grace, sweeping off his Stetson and pulling back a chair for me to sit. "Miss Wentworth, if you would do me the honor."

"Alice, if you please, Captain. My last name is but a bitter joke of the irony of what my life has become."

He frowned, and I said softly, "The worth of my soul went with my humanity a very long time ago."

He flicked sad eyes to his gloved right palm as I sat down. "I've found that the worth of your soul depends,

not on your circumstances, Alice, but upon what you do with them."

I nodded to the dancers in front of the blonde Diana Krall playing the piano and singing, "Let's Face the Music and Dance."

"I save my dancing for the dance floor, Captain. Kill me and be done with this dancing with words."

His wolf eyes narrowed. "Whatever gave you the notion I was going to kill you ... and in front of Victor at that?"

I looked to the piano. A sweet sadness filled me. There, indeed, was Victor, laughing that gypsy laugh of his, winking at Diana as his hands flew across the keyboard darting in between hers.

"The manager of Meilori's told me that The McCord demanded I come to his table."

He sighed sadly. "I asked Toya to request politely that you come see me."

Mesmer yammered strangely, and the Captain chuckled, turning to me. "Mesmer said for Toya that was polite."

I was suddenly adrift, after having resigned myself to die. "Y-You do not wish to kill me to protect Victor?"

"Oh, I want to protect Victor right enough. But from the Shadowlanders who've heard of his tangle with the Amal and his romance with you."

"Y-You do not mind our relationship?"

"Hell, yes, I mind. You're a ghoul, girl, and Victor's a walking Happy Meal."

"But ...."

"But I trust you, Missy. I've watched you these past decades. You prey only on those who prey on others."

He smiled crooked. "Actually, I look on your special diet as a community service."

I felt my face become stone. "You saw what my mother did to me and did nothing?"

"I was aboard the cursed ship, Demeter, at the time, Alice. I came back to New Orleans the night after your step-father's ... death."

My own eyes narrowed. "And what did you think of that?"

"Two words : Bon Appetit."

It struck me funny, and I giggled despite my former fear or perhaps because of it. "You are nothing like I expected, Captain."

"Samuel. Call me Samuel."

I looked across the crowded dance floor to Victor, who winked wickedly at me. I winked back.

"Samuel, he has acquired so many enemies in the Shadowlands because of us. However will we protect him from them all?"

"We'll train him as best we can and fight the darkness ... until we can't."

I turned to him and smiled sadly. "As Victor says ... sounds like a plan."

"One more thing, Alice."

I grew cold, and he reached out and squeezed my right upper arm softly. "I never want to see fear on that lovely face again."

He smiled so sad it seemed a raw wound.

"No matter how this turns out with you and Victor, Meilori's is your home now. And I'm your friend and protector. Victor made you family, Alice."

He winked at me. "And family always face their problems together. You're not alone anymore."

The aching emptiness I had carried inside me for so long slowly ebbed, blurred my vision, and bled down my cheeks.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Alice here.

Am I dead?

Many of you have asked that of Roland. Am I?

Ghoul they call me. Am I?

I eat the living. But then so do many of you ...

and for far less pressing reasons :

for spite, for envy, for the sheer pleasure of it.

I was born after Princess Victoria and before grown men started wearing ear-rings.

In New Orleans, I was betrayed into a living death by Mother, jealous of my step-father's attention.

I had the cold comfort of watching her beauty wither, her loves leave her,

starting with my step-father ... who had only pretended affection for the two of us.

I gave her revenge,

and the only price was her sanity.

Watching the monster you made of your own daughter eat your beloved right in front of you

will tend to make your mind become just like your heart ... empty.

So what am I to do with Victor Standish?

I am an old woman in a girl's body. He is an old soul in a boy's frame. Hemingway once told me that it can never end well when two love one another.

And I find myself falling in love with Victor. Is what I see growing in his eyes love for me? I will destroy him I know.

I even forced myself to tell him so. And do you know what he did?

He laughed that gypsy laugh of his, kissing me on the cheek.

"Oh, silly rabbit," he said. "Captain Sam's enemies are gonna kill me long before that! Let's just enjoy it while we've got it."

"It what?," I whispered.

"Us," he whispered back, and this time he kissed me full on my cold, cold lips.

And he didn't flinch. Not even a little.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


{"Writing isn't like sex,

because you can go back and make it better afterwards.

If you want to reveal something, you need to hide it properly first.

Colin Greenland.}


Yesterday, I posted on how to make your novel and your characters breathe with life.

J R R Tolkien helped me there. He also likened writing the novel to walking :

Left step : reflection : setting the mood and theme of your novel.

Right step : direction : action propelling the characters into the direction of the climax.

You need both steps to get your novel going and finally reaching the destination for it you have in mind.

What you've seen of CAPTAIN OUTRAGEOUS so far has been mostly exhaling and right stepping. All action and no reflection. Sort of like watching a man hopping on one foot to get to his car. Puzzling.

Here's a little snippet of my YA fantasy to show truth in motion : how to propel a story forward with description, dialogue, and implication --

{Victor Standish, the 13 year old street kid, is being shown to his quarters in the supernatural jazz club, Meilori's, by the mysterious Captain Samuel McCord ...}


Beside me, the tall man in black padded up the steps like a hungry wolf out to pounce on a sleeping rabbit. The stairway was covered in shadows. As we moved up the red velvet steps, the shadows actually flowed around my new friend.

It was as if they were welcoming him home. He smiled at them. He actually smiled at them as if ... as if they were people.

What kind of man was this who was a friend to shadows?

With the thought of shadows, I thought of all the strange, creepy people I had met downstairs. I could still hear the black woman singing way up here.

"Ah, Captain Sam?"


"That's Billie Holiday, isn't it?"

"Sure is, son. How did you recognize her?"

"I spend a lot of time in the library : comfy chairs, air conditioning, and people don't bother you if you don't bother them."

"Yeah, I always liked libraries, too."

"T-That's why I know ... Billie Holiday is ... dead."

"Still sings nice though, don't she?"

I shivered, not knowing what to say. Captain Sam flicked wolf eyes to me. He winked.

"As long as you're with me, Victor, no one here will hurt you."

"A-And if I'm not?"

"Best to lock your door."

My shivers got icicles down my back for company. "I - I never knew a place like this existed."

"Few do. Fewer still are the kind of folks you want to invite over for a snack ... unless you're planning on being the main course."

"And you still say I'll be safe here?"

"Define 'safe.'"

I swallowed hard. It still wouldn't go down. His laughing eyes met mine.

He chuckled, "You'll be safe from your old enemies on the streets. Any that are fool enough to come into Meilori's won't last long against the likes of Major Strasser down there."

"That Nazi with the weird stitching around his neck?"

"The very one. Stay away from him, Victor. He bites."

"I thought you didn't use slang, sir."

"I don't."


Then, the breath left me, 'cause we made it to the second floor. It was ... freaking awesome. It was just like I thought a Gentleman's Club in the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would be like.

"Damn ...."

His left eyebrow slowly rose.

" ... Ah, darn, Captain Sam. I expect to see Sherlock Holmes himself walking down this hallway."

Captain Sam nudged up his black Stetson with a gloved thumb. "He's a bit farther back in Meilori's."

I hushed, "He is?"

Captain Sam shook his head. "But don't go looking for him, Victor. He likes to wander where his head and fists are put to the test. It might sound like an adventure to find him but ...."

I raised a hand. "Don't worry. I'm all adventured out, sir. No, sir, all my adventures are behind me."

Captain Sam's face softened with a strange smile, kind of sad, kind of wise. "Victor, I think your biggest adventures are just about to start."

And he was right.
{After my home burned, taking my pets, my belongings, even my car, a friend lent me a room in the back of his father's massage school.

After a labored day at work, I would lay in the dark on a borrowed bed,
the 2nd and 3rd degree burns on my face and hands pulsating in pain with each beat of my heart.

I would listen to this CD single (another gift from another friend) over and over again, coming up with different stories that would go with the music. It's what a writer does to put his mind into another place.

And yes, today is the anniversary of that fire.}

Saturday, September 25, 2010


{"A good novel tells us the truth about its hero;

but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author."

~G.K. Chesterton.}

You heard of Dick Tracy's Crimestopper's Tips?

Well, I have my GOOD PROSE TIPS.

GOOD PROSE TIP #1 : Your story has to breathe :

J R R Tolkien said there was an exhalation and inhalation to the flow of his novels.

I. Breathing in a novel that seem natural takes labor :

A.) Inhale - Setting the scene.

B.) Exhalation - Conflict or action.

C.) Try only one or the other and ...

it is the reader who will suffocate. You need both for a healthy novel that breathes life in the mind of the reader and in the flow of the story.

D.) To set a scene takes detail :

1.) The ghoul is not lovely ...

No, rather Alice has eyes of blue fire and skin the paleness of a princess,
whose last breath has just escaped her full lips.

2.) Father Renfield is not a scarecrow (too much of a cliche) ... rather he is so skinny you can almost smell his bones.

II.) Conflict is not always action but will pitted against will, goals striking sparks from one another like slashing sabers.

A.) Sometimes Lucifer has a point :

The world your reader lives in is not black and white. There are shades of gray. The right path in life is seldom posted. And many times in our lives, the road signs lie.

A good conflict is when your protagonist must fight someone whose case he can understand but must resist due to the methods of the antagonist.

B.) There can be only one :

Often in real life two goals can exist that are both valid, both necessary -- but the existing resources or the reality of the situation mandates that only one goal can succeed.

III.) For your novel to breathe, your characters must seem real as the breath in your readers' lungs.

A.) Torn between two lovers :

If your conflict involves two worthy adversaries that might, in different circumstances, have been friends -- then whatever conflict you place them in is notched up in the hearts of the readers.

B.) Sometimes the good guy is a prick.

The sergeant bellowing orders at you is an ass. But he gets the job done with the fewest casualties -- not because he cares but because he has a reputation to uphold.

Suddenly, he is wounded.

The rest of the squad leaves his butt on the battlefield. You're tempted to as well. But you know it is his experience and skill that will get all of you out of this situation alive.

You go back for him to the outcry of your teammates and the insults of the sergeant. A grudging friendship develops between you and the sergeant.

A chasm gets wider between you and your former teammates.

You begin to realize that their sullen insistence on refusing to acknowledge the sergeant's attempts to be a better leader, a better man makes them worse than the sergeant ever was.

C.) Your characters must talk the talk.

They must speak in believable and absorbing dialogue :

1.) Speak Easy --

Speak your dialogue aloud. You'll hear flubs in the flow of the words you never would otherwise.

2.) Speak True --

Each character has their own distinct past and status : make their words reflect that.

What shows would they watch? What food would they like? What has their past done for they way they view life and others? Their words must reflect the answers to those questions.

3.) Say What?

Have fun with the dialogue. Aim for the reader to have fun as well. Does one of your characters get all the great lines? Change that.

In real life, everyone comes up with a great zinger once in awhile.

*** For smart zingers, you can't do any better than LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN. Listen to the vibrant life of the dialogue from this trailer :

Listen to the first version of THE THING (Yes, it's was a League of Five favorite) : everyone gets in a great line all through the movie. So the fear and tension is highlighted by a three-dimensional cast of characters.

And in the following trailer for said movie, watch how the captain revealed his quiet cool and compassion without saying a word

but merely kindly taking a gun from a hysteric soldier.

(Also it's a bit amusing as well for those who take notice of details.) It's a bit of understatement we all should aim for in our novels :

Friday, September 24, 2010



Hello to all of Elana's friends, curious on how to write a compelling character.

My advice follows shortly.

Keep your eyes peeled, and watch out for Maija ... she bites.


but first my advice on how to write a compelling character :


1.) Present the reader with someone human enough to believe he/she exists, heroic enough to root for.

2.) Invest that character with a dream, a love, or a hope that touches the heart.

3.) Introduce an overwhelming threat to that dream, love, or hope.

4.) Sweep the reader into your character's struggle against overwhelming odds by small victories, anguished defeats, self-searching doubts, and finally victory accomplished with courage and humor. And if you throw lovers reunited in the mix, you will have won over your reader.

5.) Now, see if I've managed to take my own advice with my YA urban fantasy, CAPTAIN OUTRAGEOUS. Think AUNTIE MAME meets HARRY DRESDEN.

{Victor Standish is only thirteen years old, but he swears that if his hair ever falls out, his head will look like a golf ball, it's been hit so many times.

He awakens from being hit in a crowded section of the haunted jazz club, Meilori's. He finds himself a present a monster has made to herself ...}

"Happy Birthday to me," murmured a voice like the soft touch of waves upon a beach.

It might have sent tingles along my scalp except for the thick, rough ropes bound around my wrists and feet. The throne of gold I sat in was mighty fancy ... and hard. Gold thrones are built for show not comfort.

"Ugly Deathday to you," smiled the woman looking down on me.

Nothing came between her and her snug Oriental dress slit up to the hip. And I do mean nothing. The slit showed that.

The dress was black. The dragon stitched on it was green. My wrists were red ... from tugging on the ropes binding them.

"Oh, no, young Standish, you cannot use any of Houdini's tricks to get out of those ropes. I tied them myself. No escape for you."

Those slanted eyes of hers reminded me of blue quarter moons waiting to rise. They seemed as cold and distant as moons, too. But despite their color, they were dark ... the kind of dark that eyes only get when the soul inside is forever night.

I recognized her. "Maija. You're the sister of Captain Sam's wife."

"Odd way of phrasing it, Standish."

"No. There's nothing sisterly in the way you feel towards Captain Sam. And there's nothing lawful about you."

She bent down and squeezed my chin so hard my jaw felt like it cracked. "Such a clever boy."

Maija rose, and my eyes followed her. Her throne room was dark but not dark enough. I saw the heads mounted on the walls : conquistadors, popes, knights, powder-wigged judges. I went cold. I recognized two : Jean Harlow. Abraham Lincoln.

I'd be damned if I let her see me sweat. "Who's your decorator, Stephen King?"


Damn. I was surprised my jaw was still on its hinges. That had hurt.

"Those are past birthday presents to myself, worm. The cream of this pig-sty of a planet."

I nodded, feeling the blood trinkle from the corner of my mouth. "I looked up 'Coward' in the dictionary the other day. No definition. Just your picture."


My head snapped back. The world dimmed. I blinked my eyes.

"I rest my case."

Her eyes became slits. I felt the smothery fear that rats in a trap must feel : trapped, hurting, seeing the human getting closer and closer. I understood why some animals gnawed their trapped foot off.


I was Victor Standish. I was better than this.

And then, there was always my rule #8 : Never give in to bullies. You'll get beat up, but your pride, your self-respect, and your liking yourself will still be yours. I forced my voice to work.

"How can you see like that?"


The world took a little longer to come back into focus. Maija stroked my cheek with one long, sharp forefinger nail. I saw her watching me, waiting for me to squirm. There'd be a cold front in her hot home town before that happened. She smiled like a cat teasing a mouse. She ran her soft tongue over my bleeding cheek.

She suddenly frowned. "Odd. Your blood tastes odd."

"Yeah, to you I guess it would. I'm only going to tell you once -- let me go, Maija."


I was bleeding from both sides of my mouth now. "What are you doing? Working your way up to cripples and old ladies?"

"Insolent pup!"

Her hand went back again. I just glared at her. Her hand lowered.

"I control all things fluid. I could wither you where you sit."

"Too fast. You want to drag this out, to make me beg."

"I could burst your eyes."

"No. You want me to see it coming."

Her blue eyes studied me. "You think your precious 'Captain Sam' is going to come to your rescue, don't you?"

I shook my head. "No. He told me that when you set a trap, you do it up right. I figure you've thrown all sorts of monsters at him."

"Indeed I have."

"Dead monsters."

"Yes, but he will get here too late to save you. And the look on his face when he sees your mangled body will be priceless."

It hit me then, and I went all sad inside. "This is all you're ever gonna have, Maija."

"What drivel are you spouting?"

"You'll never have Captain Sam."

"As if I would want that savage!"

"Your sister wants him, and that makes him irresistable to you."

"You are a boy. What do you know?"

"I know that you rule an empire of alien beings inferior to you -- and that empire rules this pig sty of a planet. So you rule a pig sty. Big woo. You coulda been great. You chose petty."


Ow! I felt my neck go all Rice Krispies. The stars in front of my eyes wouldn't go away. Maija was forcing me to play a card that scared the hell out of me.

Maija smiled like a shark trying to warm up to a bleeding swimmer. "You expect your precious ..."

She made the words into razor blades, "... ghoul friend, Alice, to come to your rescue, don't you?"

My heart went cold. "W-What did you to do to her?"

Slanted eyes speared me. "Nothing obscene. Nothing fatal. Nothing cruel."

She laughed like an insane little girl. "I lied about the cruel. I wrote a letter in the image of your own hand. Wrote her how you loathed the way she smelled, the way she looked, ... the way she tasted."

She clapped her hands. "Oh, you should your face. Your heart is your weakness, Standish."

I felt the blood drain from my face. "I warned you."

"Oh, a small, bound boy threatens me. I am so scared."

I played my ace-in-the-hole not caring what it did to me. I became mist and rose through the ropes. Maija stepped backwards, almost falling as this time it was her face that drained of blood.

"W-What ... you can't."

"You're right. My heart is my weakness, Maija. I worried about growing up and leaving Alice trapped in the body of a thirteen year old. So I had Lady Lovelace and Sister Magda team-up and work their hoodoo to link my spirit with Alice's. Now when I age, she'll age. We would have grown old together."

I gave her back one of her smiles. "Sister Magda said I could even take Alice's curse to myself and drain a person."

I smiled wider. "Happy Birthday to me."


I turned to the sound of Alice's voice. Her hair was all in her too-blue eyes. Her dress was ripped and slashed. There was blood all over her.

"My guards," whispered Maija.

"Were nothing. Nothing! Did you think anything could stand between me and Victor when you had him?"

"But the letter," I began, becoming solid again.

Alice gently caressed my cheek with bloody fingertips. "Had your handwriting but not your heart. I knew who wrote it. I am a ghoul, Victor. I smelled Maija all over the paper."

She turned to Maija. "Now, it is Happy Deathday for me."

"No, Alice," I said. "We promised each other never to do anything together we couldn't laugh about afterwards. Leave Dragon Lady to her empty birthday."

Maija drew herself up tall. "If it kills me, I will destroy you both here and now."

A voice like distant thunder rumbled to my right. "Don't make me spank you, Maija."

Captain Sam limped into the throne room. His Stetson was gone. His long coat was in tatters. His slacks were torn. Even his gloves were ripped.

"Captain Sam, you look terrible."

He grinned crooked. "A dozen monsters here. Two dozen there. Pretty soon you're talking real trouble."

Maija spoke low. "I will kill you first."

Captain Sam snapped, "Oh the hell with it. Time to give you that spanking."

Maija yelped in surprise as he grabbed her, sat down on her throne, threw her over his lap,and started whacking away with the flat of his right hand.

He smiled like a happy wolf. "What is it? One spank for every year?"

Alice laughed, "We'll be here all night."

"You're right," he chuckled. "One for every century."

"That'll only be half the night," I smiled wide, despite the bruises on my cheeks.

And that was how Maija Shinseen received the Birthday Present she never forgot.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


{"I have the heart of a child.

I keep it in a jar on the top shelf."

- Robert Bloch (author of PSYCHO.)}

{Samuel Clemens, ghost, here.

I'm honoring Roland's entering Angela McCallister's BLOGFEAST :

It is from his YA urban fantasy, CAPTAIN OUTRAGEOUS. The setting is New Orleans just prior to Hurricane Katrina.

We find the Yankee street orphan, Victor Standish, having just saved his life from the Victorian ghoul, Alice, by promising to lead her to a meal of fat, juicy drug dealers.}

The night mists curled all around the two of us. I looked up at the full moon that seemed to be warning me with hollow eyes.

It would have made a great scene in a horror movie except there was no director to yell "Cut!" Besides I didn't think Alice cut her food.

She just chewed it.

Like the creepy fog, she flowed silent beside me. Yeah, no walking for her. She glided beside me without stepping once.

The moon beams seemed to go right through her.

She looked like a goth Alice in Wonderland with her long black Victorian dress, high topped shoes, and black silk gloves that went up past her elbows.

Strange gloves though. There were no fingers to them.

Alice saw where I was looking and spoke in a cultured British accent, "The better to lick my fingers clean after I'm done ... eating."

She was trying to scare me. Doing a hell of a job, mind you, but she was trying too hard. I had to stop this path of words 'cause it was leading to nowhere I wanted to go.

"You have to be careful, Alice. It's not safe out here for a young girl like you."

She pulled up straight and still. "You do know what I am, do you not?"

"Sure. You're beautiful. And that's dangerous on these streets."

She looked at me as if every one of my teeth had fallen out and hit the sidewalk to the tune of "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Her eyes became slits. "What did you call me?"

"Oh, c'mon. North is North even if it's a dangerous North. So you're a ghoul. Nobody's perfect. But you're also beautiful in an ethereal, haunted way. And on these streets, beauty's a curse."

She cocked her head at me, her long blonde hair becoming a living waterfall. "You speak strangely."

"Look who's talking."

Alice's too-blue eyes studied me. "You talk like an adult."

"Yeah, well that comes from spending most of my time with adults."

I made a face. "No, that's wrong. I spend most of time running from them."

I rubbed the back of my neck. "I guess it comes from me spending all the time I can in a library, reading Homer, Conan Doyle, and Burroughs."

I smiled crooked. "They let you stay in the library as long as you're quiet. And I can stay quiet with the best of them."

Alice's lips twitched. "Not so I notice."

Her eerie blue eyes widened. "Oh, my! Not them. Not now."

I forced myself to slowly turn around, and my heart sank like the Titanic. "Oh, jeez. What is it with the French Quarter? Is this whole place haunted? Who are these things?"

Alice's answer was a hoarse whisper, "Les Bonne Dames."

"All right, maybe I should have asked what are they?"

"Mere memories of malicious will."

"I'm so happy I asked."

Dressed all in white like brides on their wedding days, the ghostly women wore a strange perfume that tickled my nose in all the wrong ways.

They looked at me with angry, hungry eyes, drawing their white shawls about their opening mouths to cover their needled teeth. I remembered something old Suze had told me :

Snatching those shawls would give a thief brave enough to do so power over them. Yeah, like I was going to do something way stupid like that.

Alice glided in front of me and spoke firm. "He is mine."

An odd trilling, not sound, not light, rippled from their mouths, and Alice shook her blonde head. "If I choose to play with my food, it is my concern. Not yours."

The trilling got ugly, and I stepped around Alice. "Well, bring it on, ladies!"

I jerked my thumbs towards my chest. "I'm Victor Standish, and I've fought bullies all my life. You're just better dressed than most."

Alice whispered, "Have you gone insane?"

"Depends on who you ask."

I turned back to them. "Ladies, you just think you're bad. Me, I've fought bad ... like the Amal. You know, those living, hungry shadows."

I pointed past them. "The ones right behind you."

They turned. No more trilling. They screamed. I went stiff.

Shadows, so black they looked like sin given life, oozed from the all the corners of the alley around us. Oh, shit.

I had been bluffing, hoping they would turn and give Alice and me time to split.

It was Les Bonne Dames that split, leaving Alice and me to face the circling shadows, whose forms you could make out in glimpses of slowly moving insect-like legs and clutching sharp pincers.

"We are doomed," sobbed Alice.

I smiled wide. "No way! We're saved. These creeps only eat those who despair."

"I am a ghoul, idiot! I despair each moment of every day."

I saw the Amal slowly close in on us. I ignored them. I jerked a thumb at me, then a forefinger at her.

"Not anymore, Alice. We're a team now. Trust me, we're gonna set the French Quarter on its ear. When folks talk about 'Alice and Victor,' there're gonna be smiles."

A blonde eyebrow arched. "Oh, all right, there'll be lots of fear first. But then, there'll be smiles and sounds of laughter when they start to talk of all the crazy, wild stunts we've pulled."

Alice looked deep into my eyes. "Y-You really mean that, do you not?"

"I'm Victor Standish, and I don't lie."

Alice slowly smiled, her blue eyes sparkling wet, and she spoke softly, "Alice ... and Victor."

Those eyes blinked back tears. "Alone no more."

She wheeled to the suddenly still Amal. "Wretched spirits! Tonight you do not feed on me. Tonight I feed on you."

Alice grew misty, her arms reaching out and drawing back to her chest. The Amal screamed hoarse and were slowly sucked into a laughing Alice like dirty dishwater swirling down into a gurgling drain.

Then, they were gone.

She turned smiling to me. I managed a smile back. Yep, no doubt about it. At first there was going to be lots of fear.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


(I have entered the SIXTH LUCKY AGENT CONTEST for Urban Fantasy :

Wish me luck. Go visit the site yourself to see if you want to enter.)

{"Do not put statements in the negative form.

And don't start sentences with a conjunction.

If you re-read your work, you will find on re-reading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by re-reading and editing.

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.

De-accession euphemisms.

If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"}

Samuel Clemens, ghost, here to give you a few more lights on the dark path of becoming a writer :


Someone walks for you, and your legs never get strong enough to support you alone :

Critique friends can point out something you're too close to see for yourself. But editing is not writing. You have to edit your own work yourself.

Your critique friends can tell you how to write your novel THEIR way. But, children, ain't it YOUR novel? Only you can write it YOUR way.

2.) LIP-SYNC (and yes, I know the word : ghosts get around you know) IS FAKE.

Why do all those fool singers get into so much trouble when they lip-sync? Because they're not entertaining with their own voice, that's why.

And if you mold yourself after the style of a critique friend, neither are you. How you edit determines your voice. And your voice is the soul of your novel.

You want a living novel or a zombie of one?


As a writer, you want to draw the reader in. As an editor, you want to step back from your book and look at it with fresh eyes.

When I was writing TOM SAWYER, I mired down right in the middle of the thing. I couldn't come up with a firefly of an idea. I had to set it aside.

Three years passed, and I went back to it. In that time, the dark of my mind had been chewing away at it so that when I put pen to paper, I couldn't write fast enough.

Now, I don't say put your novel away for three years, but do what I started to do. Write two novels at the same time.

When you get mired down in one, start writing on the other with the ideas the dark of your mind has been polishing. It may take you two years to do them both.

Still, both will sparkle and shine.


You know how you look off into the distance and see the boiling clouds and hear the dim rumble of the angry thunder? You just know a bad storm is coming. You just don't know when.

Yesterday, I told you how narrative summations were bad. Well, like the contrary cuss I am, I am now telling you :

sometimes narrative summaries can be good ... to build up tension, don't you know. Put the ominous events or hoodoo's off-stage to build tension in between scenes of action.

Then, when you finally do bring the mysterious stranger on-stage, the scene will have real impact.


Sometimes you just got to tell the reader something to get it across. But when you are forced to, do it with humor :

"Rev. Smug was never a man to let his religion get in the way of his love life."

But most times in your novel, unlike Rev. Smug, you just got to resist the temptation.


If you find yourself having to explain an emotion in a scene -- rewrite the scene. For instance :

"I was terribly down on my luck." ( You're explaining.)

"As I walked for my job interview, I didn't quite miss the puddle, and the water oozed up through the holes in my shoe soles." (You're unfolding.)


Ever ridden on a Mexican bus? You haven't? Well, you don't know what you're missing. And are you lucky.

A ride on a Mexican bus is bumpy, wild, too fast, and filled with unexpected twists and turns at the worst possible spots.

Don't make your novel read like that :

Too many short action scenes or endless spurts of terse, short dialogue can plumb wear your readers out, distancing them from the flow of the novel.

The flow feels unnatural.

Slow down the pace with a bit of description to draw the readers into the mood of the piece. Add depth to the canvas of your book with brief brushstrokes of narrative summaries.

The chapter will "feel" like life. The reader will find comfort in passing through hours, perhaps days with the scene instead of a frantic, hectic few minutes.

*) Finally, every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression.

The chasm is never completely bridged. We all have the conviction,

perhaps illusory,

that we have much more to say than appears on the paper.

I hope I have strung a rope or two across that chasm for you.

And steel yourself, children.

Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves.

Every time you compose a book, your composition of yourself is at stake.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


{" A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere."

-Mark Twain.}

Samuel Clemens, ghost here, to help you pilgrims.

My above quote seems a bit self-evident, don't it?


Both meander worse than a sluggish Mississippi at ebb tide.

But they got published you wail. I was wailing, too ... after I read them.

Sure they got published ... after a string of good writing by said authors.

But Cronin pushed his readers at a distance with page after page after page of narrative summary. Leave the lecturing for the classroom, Justin.

Naomi Novak, poor girl, just seemed to lose her fire, having no danger, no crisis breathing down the neck of her heroes. She managed the impossible : she made a book on dragons boring.

I struggled like you pilgrims to get published. I learned my craft in the newspapers at which I worked one after another clear across this nation.

And I learned a few rules :

1.) The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.

Ever hear two people tell the same joke? Both tell it differently. One always tells it better.

One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket. Talk to the heart of your listener, and you will never go wrong.

2.) Told or unfold?

Histories belong in the classroom. Novels are the place for scenes.

A scene takes place before the reader's eyes. He sees the mysterious stranger being feared, not being told what a hoodoo he is. Your hero runs down the alley, ducking zinging bullets.

The reader sees it happen. He isn't told about it after the fact.

3.) What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers.

I've read a good bit of what passes for novels these days. They're leaner and meaner. No more Norman Rockwell, exact details down to the slightest freckle.

Novels today are impressionistic like the paintings or a film by that Hitchcock fellow. Why, the most horrific story I ever heard centered on a monster only hinted at, never seen clear ... and the more fearsome because of that.

4.) Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

Less is more when it comes to writing. If you hit the poor reader over the head with your point, you'll blunt your point and won't do much for the reader either.

5.) The best words are actions.

What did that Anton Chekhov fellow write?

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

Actions pulls your reader into the flow of the story. Preambling just shoves him back to being a distant observer, not a participant.

Give the reader the taste of the wind, the feel of the grit in the badly cooked food, and the ache of a broken heart.

For me, a page of good prose is where one hears the rain and the noise of the battle.

No second-hand prose. Draw the reader into the sound and feel of the actions. He will forget he is reading. He will become a part of the world you have created.

6.) The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

The amateur writer draws attention to himself ...

why, isn't that a beautiful description I've just pounded you over the head with for five pages?

The professional author knows that to draw the reader's attention to himself with mechanics is to draw it away from the story.

You want the reader to be so absorbed in your world that they're not even aware you, the writer, exists.

7.) Writing, I think, is not apart from living.

In fact, writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice.

Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind.


{"I am Captain Samuel Durand McCord!

Armies have fallen before my strategies.

Empires have toppled before my campaigns.

And before this night is over,

demigods will die by my hands!"}

{Samuel Clemens, ghost, here. Roland's burnt journal has opened to pages still smoldering.

On the charred pages, I read where DayStar has thrown Roland deep into the bowels of Hell,

to where Samuel McCord is fighting his way through nightmares in order to rescue the kidnapped Rind, the Angelus of Death.

Let Roland's still smoking words tell the rest of the story ....}

The darkness thinned, though I still fell through billowing black clouds. I went cold. I heard Sam roar the words I had written in my novel, FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, in what seemed another life.

I saw him as I fell towards the spiraling balconies that descended deeper and deeper into the Kol Basar, that realm some called Hell.

To my left was a heat-glowing red maze of stone.

To my right was a flat plain of erupting flames and burnt ground.

Beneath me, Samuel McCord was plowing through nightmarish creatures like a force of nature.

Forget Bruce Lee. Forget Jason Bourne.

Samuel McCord moved like a blur, twisting back arms, evading blows, and sending creatures reeling to the steaming marble.

I was about to land right next to him when he leapt to the gleaming bronze railing in front of him and jumped off into the darkness ...

to where he thought he saw Rind being carried away.

No! I had been so close to reaching him.

I landed with a painful thud on an ornate marble table. Oof!! Damn, that hurt.

A being, half goat/half man jumped on me. "Filled!," it bleated. "You are filled!"

"Yeah, snuggles. That's why my eyes are so brown."

I thrust out with Marlene's saber, running him through. He bent over double, then squealed with joy. "Healed. I am healed."

And with that, he blurred and shot straight up into the darkness. I stiffened. My sword still healed? But he'd had no wounds. What had I healed?

Two strong hands grabbed the front of my trenchcoat, slamming me into the marble wall behind me. I felt the stone crack beneath my aching back.

Though my scribbling in my journal earlier had given me this being's toughness, the breath still gushed out of me and the saber tumbled from my fingers.

The winged man in chestplate and short toga snarled in my face, spittle spraying my cheek.

"His soul, damn you. His soul."

An angel. A fallen angel. He grabbed my neck as if to snap it.

When a child, I had been deserted on the roughest street in Detroit by my alcoholic father.

Maudie, a wheelchair-bound street person, had taken me under her wing, caring for me for weeks.

I remembered one of her constant sayings :

"Hit where the muscle isn't."

I cupped my hands and clapped with all my might over the angel's ears. It takes only 4.4 pounds of added pressure to rupture an eardrum.

And because of what I had written earlier in Meilori's, I gained the strength of all I met here in the Kol Basar :

even a fallen angel.

The angel gasped and clasped both ears. I sliced the edge of my left hand against his throat and followed through by slamming my right palm against it with all my might. He gagged and reeled backwards.

The echo of Maudie again snapped in my ear : "Hit and run, boy. Hit and run!"

I ran.

Another fallen angel appeared out of nowhere to slam me sideways before I could snatch up Marlene's saber.

I skidded across the black marble floor with the snarling winged demon right on top of me.

I was still moving from the force of his rush as I grabbed his voice box with my right fingers, pulling back as if to tear it from his throat.

Suddenly, he had other things to worry about.

Marlene's saber was right in front of me. I frantically reached forward.

Another winged chest-plated demon seized a fistful of my hair. He wrenched me to my knees.

I heard Maudie yet one more time :

"Forget the balls. Bust their pelvic bone. Their guts gush right on out through the break. That always rattles the turd-heads."

The pelvic bone is hard to break ... normally.

But a sudden blow of sixteen pounds of impact can do it. And I had an angel's strength ...

and the idiot had positioned me at just the right level.

I slammed my open right palm halfway between his belt buckle and his groin with everything I had. He grunted.

Leaning back on both palms, I swung out with my legs, knocking his own out from under him. He hit the marble floor on his back hard and screamed.

Finally, a break in the fighting, allowing me to snatch up Marlene's saber, I scrambled to my feet. I stiffened.

I was surrounded. Nowhere to run. Hundreds of creatures hurled themselves at me.

I was a dead man.

I heard a thunder of pounding hooves behind me. I turned.

And I beheld a pale horse.

Monday, September 20, 2010


{"There is a garden in every childhood --

an enchanted place where colors are brighter,

the air softer,

and the morning more fragrant than ever again."

- Elizabeth Lawrence.}

Some have emailed me asking about the mysterious League of Five that I mentioned in yesterday's post.

I forget that I have new friends, unfamiliar with my older posts.

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

That league was given birth by :

Mystery and wonder.

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

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

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

And heard shadowed Triton blow death from his wreathed horn.

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

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


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

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


A desert fortress manned by the dead.

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

Who stood the last dead man up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Let me read you five something --



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

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

"Imagine a person, tall, lean and feline,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And no matter the room I find myself ...

it is silent ...

and it is aware.

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

her voice a beacon in the darkness of our imaginations.

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

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

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

Compare it to what you are writing now. Did it have any effect on your style or genre of writing? Please write me on that, too.

And here's another the League of Five would see in the theater together, nudging each other like small boys again :

Sunday, September 19, 2010


{"It's an odd truth :

reality is a slippery thing."
- DreamSinger.}

We often expect one thing and get quite another.

We awaken to a dark moment, expecting death and get life instead.

Sometimes "Easter Morning" dawns in the midst of our darkest night.

Don't sigh. You haven't stumbled upon a finite man pompously spouting delusions about the infinite.

I'm actually writing about the art of writing.

And like any art, it requires practice and diligence and correct technique.

I'm writing about something painful all we writers must learn to handle correctly : criticism. Ouch. It hurts.

We all receive it. None of us is perfect. Well, there was that one.

But we crucified him.

I've received criticism. I'll probably receive it about this post.

But there is an Easter spin to the criticism we all receive : there is life after the grave.

But only if you take the right path.

I know from experience that when you get rejected, all becomes dark for a moment that seems to stretch for infinity. And when all is darkness, it's easy to get turned around.

In my first incarnation of FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, Samuel McCord was a man of strong faith.

A very noted, respected agent was impressed enough with my partial to request my complete manuscript. He was kind and giving enough to explain why he rejected it.

Bottom line : I had pushed away a large segment of the reading audience who didn't believe.

And no publisher, especially in these harsh economic times, wants to buy a novel that will do that.

And after the initial "ouch," I thought about the wisdom of his words.

He was right.

I remembered a novel, reading and enjoying it immensely, only to cringe when he superficialized and mocked people of faith.

They were Moslems, by the way.

I respect people of all faiths. I laid the book down and never bought another by that author. I realized the respected agent had a point. He wasn't respected for nothing.

I didn't want to hurt or push any reader away.

How could I tell my story without doing it?

I heard the voice of my best friend, Sandra, sigh, "Just tell them the story, Roland. Don't tell them what to make of it. Leave it to them to decide : like you do with me."

Sandra is an agnostic. She is my best friend. People marvel at the friendship of two people who believe so differently, including her husband, who is a proud atheist.

If you watch the very first Gregory Peck movie, THE KEYS TO THE KINGDOM, you will find the answer.

I saw that movie as a young boy late, late at night on one of those programs that show dusty old movies, among my friends who made up the League of Five.

It helped shape my view on how to be a man of God. And yes, I look just like a young Gregory Peck.

Not fooling you, huh? Rats.

But thinking on what Sandra might say to me, dawn rose in my darkness. I would focus on those subjects, those questions we all have. An enthusiasm fired me.

I would present those things, showing the amiable bickering of two old undead friends :

one who didn't believe but longed for a better universe where a loving God did indeed exist

and the other a vampire priest who did believe ... most of the time.

I wouldn't clearly show which view, if either, was correct.

I mean, in an infinite world, how could any finite mind hold all the answers? I would leave it to the reader to decide.

We all hurt. We all question the hungry darkness within, the threatening darkness without. We all seek for the light.

I re-wrote FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE for all of us. And I pray that the Great Mystery grant you enough light for the next step on your path.


{"I could a tale unfold whose lightest


Would harrow up thy soul."

-Shakespeare : HAMLET I. v.}

{Ghost of Samuel Clemens : I should have gone with Roland.

I followed. But too late. Too late.

His charred journal tells us Roland saved Epona, the last unicorn,

only to see her race off deeper into Hell.

Are all our strivings merely empty boxing with the wind?

DayStar was mocking Roland when we last left him ....}

Behind me, DayStar chuckled, "All know the way to Hell but none know the way out."

I kept watching Epona until she blinked out of sight over the smoldering horizon, and I kept on watching for a moment more as I called back over my shoulder.

"I'm considering the source of those words."

"As you yourself once told me : the best lie is sandwiched between two truths."

I turned around and smiled sad. "You just challenge me to figure out what's the lie and what's the truth, is that it?"

He studied me like a scientist would a glass slide under a miscroscope. "That would be telling. And the scant amusement you afford me is watching you stumble over the truth right in front of you."

"Well, just so long as I have a purpose in life."

Something disturbing flickered deep within his eyes, then died before I could catch what it was as he murmured, "Oh, yes, primate, you have a purpose."

"Cue the spooky music," I muttered and turned to walk to my left, but his hand settled firm on my shoulder.

"You insist on scattering myths about you."

He glanced to his left. My eyes followed his. I stiffened. Epona. Or really an after-image of her, rearing and pawing at the darkness with her hooves. I shivered at the joy in her eyes.

I shrugged his hand off my shoulder. "I have a friend to get out of Hell."

The shadows masked all but his gray eyes, and even they seemed to be full of darkness. "In the hour you will die."

"Staying alive's not part of the job."

He cocked a brow. "Winning by dying?"

"Been done before."

He smiled like a satisfied wolf. "Your own personal Alamo, is it?"

"There are worse fates."

"You have a most peculiar code."

"Look who's talking."

"I have no code."

"Non servium."

"Oh, that. In that case, welcome to the club."

"Well, considering where I am it would seem to fit."

DayStar's face was suddenly hidden by shadow as if he did not want me to see it. "You have never fit, never conformed. It is why you will soon die."

"Probably so."

"But you will not relent, will not surrender."

"Probably not."

"In that case ...."

His eyes flared with actual flames, as his right hand gestured like a sword, "Go to Hell!"

Blackness swallowed me as I felt myself lifted off my feet and hurled down, down, down. I tumbled head over heels in billowing clouds of darkness and mist.

Faintly from above, I heard DayStar's bitter words, "The true pain, DreamSinger, is not the fall but the surviving it."

Saturday, September 18, 2010


{"You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake."
~Jeanette Rankin.}

{Samuel Clemens, ghost, wiping the tears from eyes. Roland did it.

He saved the last unicorn in Hell. More than that,

his strange Lakota blood healed her of her terrible wounds. Let his journal take it from there ...}

Epona was rearing on her hind legs. Her healed hind legs.

In fact, her whole body was healed. She was gleefully pawing at the domed ceiling above us.

She landed lightly on the cobblestones. Her blue eyes danced with the joy of a child on Christmas morning. She called down to me.

"I am healed!"

"Yes, but I don't know where you can go, Epona."

I jerked a thumb past the wall. "It's Hell out there. Literally."

Epona looked at the word of fire on Marlene's saber and hushed in a breath. "You are the one they call DreamSinger."

"Well, folks keep calling me that."

The unicorn thrust her sparkling, spiraled horn towards the opening. "Come with me, DreamSinger."

Ah, like I said, it's a mite unfriendly out there."

"No. We unicorns know a path through the desolation to the Elysian Fields. Come with me, DreamSinger. Escape your destiny, too."

I bit my lip and thrust myself up painfully to my feet. I made a face. Getting up had been easier before all the lumps I had taken lately.

I smiled at the unicorn and shook my head.

"A friend needs my help in the Kol Basar. And I leave no friend behind. Go. Run through those fields for both of us, Epona."

The unicorn's brows grew together. "Are you sure?"

"Trust me. When I see you race away to freedom, it will be like I was there on your back. Go. You've had your share of nightmares. My turn."

Epona whispered, "I do trust you, DreamSinger."

She reared high into the air again, her hooves tearing at the shadows. "Die well, DreamSinger!"

As I watched her race out of the opening and onto the steaming black sands, I muttered, "You could have left that last part out."

I continued to watch Epona race like the wind she loved away from me and across the burning sands. I said another prayer for her to the Great Mystery.

A shaft of bright gold light lanced down from a strange circle in the midnight black heavens. It was a circle of bright blue sky rimmed with a ring of bruised blue.

It weirdly followed her as she ran ... ran as fast as she could away from here and into her dreams.

Let them be good ones, Great Mystery.

A depressingly familiar bell-like voice sneered behind me. "She is racing to her damnation. It is an ugly truth, Roland.

Everyone knows the way to Hell. But no one knows the way back out."


{"Hell is yourself and the only redemption is when a person puts himself aside to feel deeply for another."

- Tennessee Williams.}

{Samuel Clemens, here, I look at Roland's charred journal,

its pages turning with a life of their own. We last left my friend at the breached wall of Hell.

To enter is to die.

Just past the wall, Epona, a unicorn, is being sliced to ribbons by a ghoul,

whose legs work like a frog's, and whose arms flail with razors.

Roland has just ordered the ghoul to leave the unicorn alone ...}

Epona lolled her head to me. "N-No, you must not. To enter is to --"

The ghoul raised the bloody razor up high. "Time to scream."

"Great Mystey," I whispered, " not for me, but for someone who called out for mercy. Let me cross over."

The foot-long razor swept down. Sucking in a breath, I leapt through the opening and blocked the ghoul's slashing attack with Marlene's saber. Sparks flew as the razor met the black metal of the sword.

The ghoul cursed me in some forgotten language. She twirled frog-like and thrust at me with blinding speed. She was good.

But I still had the agility of Gypsy, my cat. I twisted at the hips, evading her attack.

I threw the black sand into the creature'e eyes. "Here's Hell in your eyes!"

Her eyes burst into flames.

Blinded, the ghoul flailed screaming past me through the opening.

And then she exploded.

Just simply exploded. Or not so simply.

The sound had been odd, a distant popping as if she were some small firecracker going off, not a large body going up in a cloud of foul-smelling smoke.

I hurled up my arms to protect my face and stiffened, expecting to be splattered with blood and gore. Nothing. I shook my head.

I wrinkled my lips at the stench. Her body had been as empty as her soul had been.

There were other creatures twitching, slithering, and crabbing towards the unicorn.

But the ghoul's exploding had made them stop for the moment. I bent down with complaining knees next to the bleeding unicorn.

Epona lolled her slashed head with torn tendons, her eyes straining to glimpse something of what lay beyond.

But from her position, she could see nothing. She whimpered.

"They cut me, cut me. Laughing, laughing. Let me get so close, so close. But never making it. Never."

Her eyes tore into me. "I black out, dream such terrible, terrible dreams.

Then, I awaken whole once more. And it begins all over again. A-All over again."

Her head slumped towards the cold cobblestones, but I caught it before she could hurt herself.

"I to want to run ... run so far from here until the memories are left far, far behind."

I saw the creatures start towards me again and heard the unicorn as she rasped, "I want to run ... run fast as I can.

Let the wind wrap its cold fingers through my mane again. I want to run, run so far from here

until at long last I feel the grass under my hooves one last time. One last time."

The scattered torturers began to giggle as they grew closer. "D-Don't let them get me again. P-Please. Please!"

I looked down in despair at the unicorn, blood welling like tears along the gashes in her white satin flesh. I cocked my head.

I began to write on the saber in Epona's blood.

I looked back up to the darkness above me and whispered, "She only wanted to run. She only needed a gentle light to lead her through the darkness."

My throat closed, but I forced the words out. "Lead her to where there is no pain. No pain."

Her eyes looked at the blade with weary eyes for a long moment. I felt her muscles quiver beneath my fingers. Epona raised wet eyes to me.

"Will it hurt?"

"No. No, it won't hurt."

"No more bad dreams?"

I nodded and each word felt like a raw wound. "No more bad dreams."

I plunged the saber deep into Epona's heart. She screamed shrill.

The world around us went nova. Epona stiffened. And the encroaching torturers squealed gut-deep and wet.

A wave of sensation both ice-cold and warm knifed through me. I felt the unicorn scramble to her hooves in a thrust of sudden strength.

I crabbed back and fell on my butt. I braced myself with one hand and held Marlene's vibrating saber in the other.

My vision cleared. My mouth dropped.

Epona was rearing on her hind legs. Her healed hind legs.

The words I had written on the saber in her blood were burning with strange fires. "This sword now heals."