So you can read my books

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


What draws us to write?

It is a solitary sojourn. Most of us will never receive world acclaim ...

nor do we expect it.

What then propels us on this journey?

What swept you up when you first started to read for yourself? How often do you find a book which conjures that same spirit within you now?

Not often I would wager.

I believe we write to create that world which spellbound us into reading in the first place. What voices called out to us then? What lessons did they teach us?

For me the voices were :



and Otherworld Beauty

These three sirens dominated my solitary reading of choice during my high school years. And their voices can be heard in the background of all that I write. Like the three fates, they weave the tapestry of my unconscious muse.

As a young child, I wandered alone into Edith Hamilton's MYTHOLOGY. In junior high, I joined the League of Five and group reading with BEAU GESTE and DR. FU MANCHU. In high school, I was alone again in my reading, open to any influence that caught my fancy.

The authors of those years were my unknowing mentors in how to write well. And oddly enough it was an artist who led me in the land where they all dwelt : Frank Frazetta. And he painted the first road sign on my path to becoming a writer :


When I spotted the cover to EERIE#23 with Frazetta's "Egyptian Princess" in a used book store, I was spellbound. Yes, she was clothing-challenged. But it were her eyes that ensnared me. And my encounter with her made me quite a few dollars lighter. EERIE #23, even back then when dinosaurs roamed the earth, was a collector's item.

From that moment on, I noticed eyes : weary ones , dull ones, evaluating ones, and those who were black windows into the nothingness that lived in the souls of those who possessed them.

As I began to write, I realized eyes could be the shorthand definition of the characters owning them. I noticed that when the eyes of strangers boldly met mine, it often meant the same thing as when Nixon proclaimed, "I am not a crook." I started counting my silverware.

But back to Frazetta. His art was vibrant, moody, and on-fire all at once. His paperback book covers led me to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and even to H.P. Lovecraft. And those three authors sketched the second sign post :


UNDER THE PYRAMIDS by H.P. Lovecraft (with Harry Houdini)
My hands went into warp speed when I saw the Frazetta cover emblazoned with that title. Frazetta. Harry Houdini. Wow. I didn't know this Lovecraft fellow, but I had to see what kind of supernatural trouble Houdini had gotten into in his Egyptian travels.

And I wasn't disappointed :
The first sentence : "Mystery attracts mystery."

I was hooked. Then, came the terrible imprisonment within an ancient, dark pyramid. The clever escape and the final glimpse of horror :

"The Great Sphinx! God --

that idle question I asked myself on that sun-blest morning before . . .

what huge and loathsome abnormality was the Sphinx originally carven to represent?

Accursed is the sight, be it in dream or not, that revealed to me the supreme horror—the Unknown God of the Dead, which licks its leering lips in the unsuspected abyss,

fed hideous morsels by soulless absurdities that should not exist. The five-headed monster that emerged . . . that five-headed monster as large as a hippopotamus . . . the five-headed monster—and that of which it is the merest fore paw. . . .

But I survived, and I know it was only a dream."

From Frazetta, Burroughs, Howard, and Lovecraft ... I learned how history can be made alive and alluring ... and supernatural. It is a lesson that stays with me still.


Perched in the used bookstore shelf right next to a Frazetta cover of a Conan novel was the book that was to teach me that prose could be beautiful and evocative without being stale and stiff. I picked up LORD OF LIGHT and read the first paragraph :

"His followers called him Mahasamatman, and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam.

He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god. Circumstances being what they were, neither admission could be of any benefit. Silence, though, could.

Therefore, there was mystery about him."

{It is no accident that my own hero is called Sam.}

Mystery. Evocative imagry. I was hooked.

I became his student -- through his books, his essays, and his poetry.

Some of his words :

"No word matters. But man forgets reality and remembers words."

"For you see, the headwaters of Shit Creek are a cruel and treacherous expanse."

"I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words,
beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is
something to hold back the shadows."

"There's really nothing quite like someone's wanting you dead to make you want to go on living."

"Occasionally as an author, there arises a writing situation where you see an alternative to what you are doing, a mad, wild gamble of a way for handling something, which may leave you looking stupid, ridiculous or brilliant -you just don't know which.

You can play it safe there, too, and proceed along the route you'd mapped out for yourself. Or you can trust your personal demon who delivered that crazy idea in the firstplace.

Trust your demon."

"I try to sit down at the typewriter four times a day, even if it's only five minutes, and write three sentences. It seems to get the job done. I've written a lot of novels."

And Roger Zelazny led me to this quote by Ernest Hemingway years before it made its way into the latest PREDATOR movie :

"There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter."


I have the eye-aching habit of writing long posts, so out of compassion for your eyes, I will leave that sign post to another day.
And here is a glimpse of the Frank Frazetta Museum. His wife was the custodian of it. She died in 2009 after a year's valiant battle against cancer.

The children started savagely fighting over the paintings. Sigh. Charges of burglary and theft were lodged against Frank Jr. by the rest of the family on March 2010. Matters were solved on the surface. But it proved too much for Frank, mourning the loss of his beloved wife of forty years. He died this year on May 10th.

{In early 2000, he suffered a series of strokes, losing dexterity in his right hand. The champion that he was, he taught himself to paint with his left. The painting of the warrior fighting the Mastodon in the arena towards the end of the clip was done with his left hand.}

One of the prizes on my wall of Movie Memorabilia is a Frazetta lithograph of a bear {I like to think of it as Hibbs, the bear with 2 shadows, on a bad day} signed by the artist himself.


{The Frank Frazetta Estate owns all rights to Frank Frazetta's sketchbook.}


  1. The film "Titanic" inspired me the most, oddly enough. At 11, I was so impressed with the scope of the story.

  2. Elena : It did have an epic scope ... and stirring music I still listen to.

  3. Ah, I've always admired Frazetta as an artist (being one myself, as well as being a writer). Love the skirt/cloth on the first painting, nice detail.

    Yes, it's difficult to find a book that inspires me GREATLY, these days. Maybe I just need to read more. Too busy writing, usually....

  4. I guess my siren call was my frustration with reading all the 'damsel in distress' style fantasy books. Especially when they have a strong female character as if to contradict that but she STILL can't operate without the guy. And for no good reason! I have no probs with a partnership that rocks ass just stop making the female the 'weakest' link ;p

    The Arrival, book one of the BirthRight Trilogy, on Amazon 1.1.2011

  5. Like you, mystery and mythology attract but also very much humor. I agree we create what we ourselves would like to read, first and foremost, at least I do.

    Love your top image!

  6. My siren call was Christopher Moore. I was in a dark place in my life and his books always lifted me up and made me laugh because they were so different and funny. I wanted to be able to take my offbeat sense of humor and spread it to others in a similar fashion. I wanted to make people laugh and hopefully lift them out of dark places as Mr. Moore had done for me. Paying it forward so to speak. I want to bring laughter to people.

  7. Oh my gosh, so many fun books. I just finished Wimpy Kid and I loved it. I also like to sit in the bookshop and read. Just pick an adventure off the shelf and read while sharing a caramel mocha with Tim.

    That's the good stuff.

  8. Hi,

    As a very young child there were so many books in our house that I had it in mind to read them all, and I did, but the best ones (forbidden) were like buried treasure. By twelve years old these gems became too tempting to leave alone. Never on view they took some finding, but guess what, I found 'em and hid 'em and read 'em! ;)

    So I went from the kiddy classics to adult classics, wandered dark alleys of crime, followed detectives all over the world, went on safari with adventurers, went to war with action heroes, and then, and then I found a copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover. OMG, hooked I went on a crusade for raunch and came across Angelique novels Sergeanne Golon. Wow! The kid had come of age (15), I never looked at boys from the eyes of a child ever again. That said, the classics were still in there, womens' fiction and romance with meaning (NOT a Mills & Boon in our house), then Anne Rice Vampire/Erotica caught my eye. Hence I cut my writing teeth in erotica (erotic romance), the rest is history. And, most often an image (painting) inspires the subconscious writer within and imagination kicks in as the image walks off the wall, all the while the conscious ponders the image for what it is: art.

    Love this - quote: "There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter."

    In the crosshairs! ;)


  9. I loved reading just about anything I could get my hands on...still do. But I think as a kid (before discovering romance) I was most inspired by epic quest fantasy novels. Specifically Terry Brooks Shannara series and David Edding's Belgariad books. Loved those!

  10. When I first learned to read, it would be anything I could get my hands on. Golden Books, Seuss, Beverly Clearly, etc. Then, I found Edith Hamilton, Dumas, Hugo, and very tame romance.

    In high school, it was Brooks, Donaldson, Tolkien, Lewis, Feist, and the Dragonlance Saga.

    I keep revisiting Hogwarts and LOTR, Narnia and Ireland (Artemis Fowl).

    Lately, though, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman has haunted me and I've read it three times....

    I like something with a touch of otherness, something with a bit of 'bigger than life' and a good hero to believe in. I want to hold my breath, be outraged, cry and laugh. And I want to like the people; they're my friends.....

    Great post!

  11. I never had many books as a child. So, I guess why I write today, is because I lived in my own world for such a long time.

    It's been a wonderful avenue to get the voices out of my head ...

    It's also something I can do privately. Tucked away in my loft. Being in your own world isn't so bad.

  12. Wendy : If it weren't for the public libraries, I wouldn't have had many books either as a child. And yes, living in your head is great fun for me, too.

    Words Crafter : Have you tried Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS? In spots it is grim, but essentially worth it.

    Sondrae : Yes, epics were favorites of mine as well. L. Sprague de Camp's book of the scholar who thought himself into Asgard and Spenser's Fairie Queen, then had to think himself back out were two favorites of mine.

    Francine : Your home's vast library sounds like the library of the childhood home of C S Lewis! THE NIGHT LIFE OF THE GODS by Thorne Smith (Topper) was one I read over and over again.

    Happy Whisk : Right now, I'm right with you. I have so many books as yet unread on my Kindle, it is hard to know where to start.

    Kimber : I have never found a Christopher Moore book to compare with LAMB. I think BLOODSUCKING FIENDS is a good second.

    Terry : Good to see, ah, read you again! Yes, I write to create the kind of wonder and mystery that first captured me as a child.

    Nicole : Like you, I enjoy reading whole, independent people having adventures, not fractured, helpless ones. No clinging vines, please!

    Carol : I was fascinated with the pearling in the column the Egyptian Princess was using to hide behind. Anything by Roger Zelazny will inspire me. But alas, he died so no more new novels from my hero.

  13. I have that book and have tried a few times to get into it and couldn't. Any tips?

  14. Words Crafter : I skipped the parts that spotlighted the gods' arrival to America or their adventures here. I read only those chapters that related to Shadow's misadventures. It helped focus the book for me. And I didn't feel as if I missed out. Made for a faster, more enjoyable read.

  15. Here's hoping you make the time to read some of those goodies, on your Kindle. Happy Reading :-)

  16. Wonderful post once again, Roland.
    For me, I was inspired by the world around me and the history of our past. The way society is today is so different from how it was years ago; it fascinates me that there could have been magic long ago, and even if there wasn't I'd like to leave my readers thinking otherwise.
    I've been reading fantasy stories for a long time, and since I've started reading the histories of past myths, legends, and mysteries it has only inspired me more.
    People --whether it be my friends, family, or exs--have inspired me without be aware of it. Before my first boyfriend, I had a cliche way of working with romance in my books, so it was rarely woven into the plot. However, now since I've had experience of my own I can better apply what I've learned. Now romance has definitely improved in my books:)

    Lastly, people who read inspire me every day. I've always told myself that no matter what someone will always be willing to read something, and over the years I've come to realize that's absolutely true. My readers inspire me every day with their words of advice and applause. They give me the strength to get through each chapter.
    Lastly, I must mention my best friend, Tessie Jarrett. She helps me through the good and bad times, and over these past three months it's been hard but she's been there for me and has helped me.
    Three months ago I was ready to stop writing all together. I just didn't feel like writing anymore, and I couldn't find any motivation no matter how hard I looked. However, everybody was patient and understanding with me and then eventually Tessie helped me through and here I am...

    People can have the most impact on you. They can break your hearts and then they can sew you back together. And I've found when you take what you've learned from various people, you can create characters who are real. Characters who your readers will care about.
    When you're writing for a purpose people notice, and they appreciate it. They read your book and they give you the feedback that keeps you writing.

    Have a great Thursday, Roland:)

  17. Excellent post! And ah, Frazetta's art takes me back to what started it all for me, the Conan novels by Robert E. Howard. The magic, the fight to survive, the glory of the quest. They just don't write like that any more!

  18. Here are two quotes from one of my favorite authors.

    "The bugle blows always for battle."
    - e. Merrill Root p 173 American Steadfast Dream

    "We need a renaissance of wonder. We need to renew, in our hearts and in our souls, the deathless dream, the eternal poetry, the perennial sense that life is miracle and magic."
    —E. Merrill Root (1895-1973) American Writer