So you can read my books

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.


  1. I'm taking a leap of faith here to say Happy Birthday to you!! I hope it's your birthday!!

    And what an erotic way to celebrate it too!! Very very naughty!! Very naughty!

    Take care

  2. Thanks for writing for my blogfest. I really enjoyed your entry! I love how everyone wrote such different pieces...and yours takes the cake (no pun intended, or maybe so...) in the SciFi department. Happy Deathday, indeed.


  3. Ha! I enjoyed the humour in this. Happy Birthday Maiji - I suspect she might've liked that spanking too. ;)

  4. A nice little treat to end my week. Thanks, Roland.

  5. Loved it! The mist, the letter not fooling Alice, and of course...Sam's grand entrance at the right moment. Awesome, usual. =)

    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  6. Hey Roland - That. Was. Awesome. Great advice on creating memorable characters and that part of your story was wonderful!!! He was no coward and I'm glad he had the chops to back it up (or the mist). Great!!!=D

  7. Wow--Oriental aliens, captains and ghosts, all in one short piece! That Maija sounds like one scary dragon lady! My favourite line: "the kind of dark that eyes only get when the soul inside is forever night." Masterpiece!

  8. Brilliant story and writing, as always. The Rice Krispies neck stands out. And his weakness is his heart. I suspect quite true for you:)

    Also great advice on compelling characters.

  9. I like the verbs you used in the character thing: give, introduce, sweep. I think those right there give a pretty succinct way of writing.

  10. About your advice? So true.

    Whether you "walk the talk" so to speak? You do. Amazing as always.

  11. Great points about the compelling characters!
    And glad you did something for Michele's blog birthday. When Elana, Jen, and I set the date, I didn't realize it fell on her blog's birthday bash.

  12. It's all about having someone to root for! Awesome :)

  13. I love the attitude you give your characters. A great entry, Roland. Thanks for sharing it with us all!

    Scribbler to Scribe

  14. Thanks, everyone. They grudgingly gave me a 5 minute break in this gauntlet, so I just want to say it's been 10 hours and 300 miles so far.


    I haven't visited many of my friends' entries today -- but as you can see from above, it's not because I don't care about your writing and your feelings. It's been 2 minutes and they're already yelling for me to get back to work.

    Day jobs! Ah, or night and day jobs with me. Roland

  15. Outstanding. First you give us guidelines for creating compelling characters then you show us how it's done. All that, and you made me smile, too. "...the birthday present she never forgot," indeed. :)

  16. Great points for making compelling characters. nicely explained.

  17. I read you how to write a compelling character tips, and they're great! You even blow me away with how you word your simple thoughts. Elegantly crafted. Thanks, Roland!

  18. Great tips!! Will def put those to use.

  19. Proops to doing both blogfests! sorry its taken me an extra day to get around to all of them- there are so many in the lists! I never thought of the little victories, but you are right, if you give a little the reader gives too. great posts. Love the story!

  20. sorry I meant ** props, not

  21. Your description and dialogue are wonderful. I also love the moon and earth. I may just nab them for myself.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  22. I love that first one on how to write a compelling character. Excellent advice in here! Smoking picture by the way. I can say that even though I'm a girl can't I?!

  23. The advice is excellent, thanks. Filing away....

    I loved this entry. I turn into a smart mouth when I'm nervous. Don't know if I would if it meant I was going to get beat up, though....

    Gotta love Victor-for such a young guy, he really is mature. And honorable.

    And Sam! I need to find an entry giving more info about him. We all need a Sam in our lives.

    Loved this!

  24. Not being a writer myself, I can only comment that I really do love reading your posts...whenever I can sneak a moment here and there!!

  25. heroic enough to root for - how true! Great post - wow.

  26. I think your title is quite apt! Nice post!

  27. Hey, pathetic me here...I never came by to tell you (sorry!!!!), but you won third prize in my Happy Bday blogfest! I LOVED your writing sample and am constantly impressed by your work. Send your address to my email micheleemrath (@) ymail (dot) com and I'll get your prize out to you--an Amazon gift card!