So you can read my books

Monday, February 28, 2011


Don't forget to vote for my GateKeeper entry (THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH) :

Myth springs like Athena from Zeus' forehead from the Greek "mythos," meaning word or story.

Man has always used stories to explain things he could not understand or explain otherwise.

Ancient myths were the stories that sifted mysteries into answers that made the dark less frightening.

In essence, then, Myths are metaphors for life and its challenges.

World Mythology has a deep skeleton of common images and motifs that provide a structure ...

an eternal, common quest, if you would, of Man for self-awareness in the face of entropy,

that eternal dark of disorder that waits upon the night's horizon to swallow both meaning and fulfilment.

Bottom line :

myths are the magics that take our breath with that child's awe of the first snowfall.

We listen to their magic because they tap the collective unconscious :

the dreams and hopes and fears which murmur in the night to all of us.

On one level, our modern society seems devoid of myths.

Perhaps that is why many have a sense of meaninglessness, estrangement, rootlessness, and the cold brittleness of a life devoid of reverence and awe.

Those of you have a deep belief in God do not take offense. I, also, have a deep connection with The Father and with His Son.

I am talking about another level of consciousness. A level that often withers from lack of nuturing early in childhood.

We each have our own mythology. Consciously or unconsciously, we create our own myths.

We have our own fables -- the things which are important and valued and vibrant to us personally.

We are the heroes in "mythic journeys" by which we romanticize our various passages through life.

Although we generally accept cultural myths to the extent to which we are a part of our culture,

the truly satisfying and exciting myths are those which arise from our own passions, our own dreams, and our own visions.

As Joseph Campbell said, in An Open Life,

"The imagery of mythology is symbolic of the spiritual power within us."

In this symbolism, we see mythological characters who represent love, youth, death, wealth, virility, fear, evil, and other archetypal facets of life --

and we also see natural events such as rain and wind. The fanciful beings are personifications of those facets, those "energies."

As we read about the interplay of these forces of nature, we are viewing a dream-like fantasy which portrays the interaction of the elements of our own lives.

In Lakota myth, everything is alive, impacting everything else in a delicate web of life.

In Celtic myth, splendor and magic contest with kings and their kingdoms. Lakota myth emphasize the inner, while Celtic stresses the outer.

My half-Lakota mother taught me the importance of being rather than striving to possess.

It is not that we Lakota do not care about physical comfort or material possessions. It is that we do not measure ourselves or others by those things.

We believe we are measured by how well we manifest the virtues praised in our stories and myths.

When the Europeans devastated the Lakota culture and peoples,

we survived by becoming the kind of people spoken of in our hero-cycles and myths.

They are our gifts to the world's peoples to draw strength from for themselves, no matter what race or creed they may be.

These stories continue to inspire and sustain the Lakota people.

And for one desperately ill boy in a frozen-in Detroit basement apartment, the tales melded of both Lakota and Celtic myth whispered not to fear that last looming darkness ...

that Death was just a change in worlds ...

and that Hibbs, the bear with 2 shadows, who championed all hurting children and who had passed beyond and back again,

would champion the cause of that feverish, shivering, coughing little boy.

And before my mother's wondering eyes,

I rallied,

feeling the chills as the loving touch of the Turquoise Woman and seeing the dark shadow at the foot of my bed as the comforting spirit of Hibbs,

he who had been the cub with no clue who grew into the mighty bear with two shadows.

So, there, you have a taste of what my friends and I will be talking about on my book blog tour that we are now setting up.

Have a magical new week, Roland

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Don't forget to vote for Victor Standish :

"Hell is other people."

Jean-Paul Sarte wrote that a long ago. A good friend quoted it last night in an email.

Recently, she received a rejection from what she called an Uber-Agent.

The agent wrote that if my friend was too stupid to know how to change the formatting of her email then she was too stupid for the agent's time.


When I first started out, I got a similar reply, and I learned how to do it.

I wrote my friend how to change her format. It's a guy-thing.

We hear a friend tell of a problem, we tell how to fix it.

Counselor Rule #1 : Listen beneath the words.

My friend is smart. She learned how to format all on her own, thank you very much. No. That wasn't the problem.

This same Uber-Agent was one of the players of last year's "Maybe we should bill our clients into poverty by the hour" debate.

Most agents are just like us :

overworked, underpaid, wondering how to pay the mounting bills in this harsh economy.

You really can't blame them for looking for new ways out of growing debt.

Counselor Rule #2 : Cruelty is never personal.

Now, when your nose has just been broken by a bully, it's hard to convince your pain of that. But it's true.

Cruelty is all about some lack, some insecurity in the instigator of it.

The Uber-Agent did my friend a favor.

The cutting rejection was just the tip of the iceberg.

It implied that the agent took the ability to hurt without consequence as license to do so.

I certainly wouldn't want a business partnership with a sadist. I want a professional.

As for wanting the allure of charging by the hour and the opportunity for abuse it would give ...

greed is never personal either.

But there is a reason we lock the doors when we leave home.

Not everyone is a crook. But they are out there.

Moral : Never wear a raw meat necklace in the jungle.

Counselor Rule #3 : Would you just shut up and do Rule #1.

My friend wrote me because she was beginning to believe that the world of agenting was harsh, greedy, and pain-inflicting.

Counselor Rule #4 : Sometimes the other person is right.

I agreed with my friend that sometimes business is a cold world of numbers. She was indeed right. I went further.

It just wasn't the world of agenting : the whole world was often that way.

Counselor Rule #5 : It is what is. What are you going to do now?

Resigning from the world is not an option.

Within you there is a path out of whatever jungle you find yourself.

Sign Post #1 : See the jungle through the other person's eyes :

Mostly the world runs on self-interest.

The agent is not Mother Theresa. She wants to make a good living for her efforts. Just like we do.

You are merely one of the means to do so.

If you're not helping her put money into her pockets,

then the time she is using on you is taking money out of those same pockets.

Solution : Make yourself worth her time.

Learn your craft. Strive to grow daily. Accept assholes as the price of living.

Try not to become an asshole yourself.

Help the people you meet along the way. Become the change you want to see in the world.

Sign Post #2 : Remember Rule #2

It hardly ever is personal when someone hurts you.

It comes from the hurt within them. Look for that hurt. Try not to step on that sore toe ever again.

As long as it is honorable, dance whatever dance that takes.

Sign Post #3 : If you're heading in the wrong direction, darting forward is certainly not going to get you to your desired destination any faster.

Sometimes harsh people are right in the wrong way. Look at your work. Could it be improved?

Of course it could.

Could you learn more about the busisness end of writing?

Of course you could.

Reading agents' blogs is like listening to Presidential Press Agents :

you are only hearing what they want you to hear.

Those blogs will give you a guide on how not to irritate the agents.

But the true skinny lies behind those curtains.

Sign Post #4 : Go behind those curtains.

The blogs that will help you do that :






Two Books that will help you do that :


{In April 1938 F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to his editor Maxwell Perkins, "What a time you’ve had with your sons, Max—Ernest gone to Spain, me gone to Hollywood, Tom Wolfe reverting to an artistic hill-billy."

As the sole literary editor with name recognition among students of American literature, Perkins remains permanently linked to Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Wolfe in literary history and literary myth.

Their relationships, lived largely by letters, play out in the 221 letters Matthew J. Bruccoli has assembled in this volume.

This collection documents the extent of the fatherly forbearance, attention, and encouragement the legendary Scribners editor gave to his authorial sons. The correspondence portrays his ability to juggle the requirements of his three geniuses.


Blake Snyder was a working, selling writer himself, so that gives the reader a true inside glimpse into what it's like, what it takes, and what to expect on the long road to screenwriting success.

Many screenwriting how-to books are written by people who have few or no real studio credits, so with this book you are getting the info direct from the source of a successful member of the Hollywood elite.

Synder starts out with a bang, describing how important a good title, pitch and concept are, and giving tons of useful advise for whipping those log lines into shape, {the best shape ever in fact, for as the author points out, many industry powerbrokers won't even look beyond a log it better be good. Very good}

He also gives an insider's look at the world of screenwriter's agents {which is not so different from the world of literary agents.}


I thought that if my friend felt as she did, then others out there in the blogverse probably did, too. I hope that today's post helped in some small way

There are some hilarious Bruce Campbell soup labels you can print out and paste on your own soup cans to amuse friends who drop over at this site

Because I like Bruce Campbell almost as much as I do CALVIN & HOBBES, here is the man himself doing a summation of my post :

Saturday, February 26, 2011


The lovely Tara Fouts is having her HOT KISS BLOGFEST today :

Please vote :

Many of you have come to love Fallen, the haunted Sidhe. She appears in THE BEAR WITH 2 SHADOWS, asking Hibbs to bring her Blake back to her.

Before Victor Standish, there was Blake Adamson. And here is the end of the tale for Fallen and her Blake, told through his eyes.

{Blake has been stabbed in the back by the hate of Fallen given living form. Solomon, the Angelus of man's body and panther face, is racing the chariot of Death to Valhalla in a mad attempt to save Blake's life.}

Her faerie eyes seemed to be on the brink of breaking down completely.

She took my right hand in hers gently. "Oh, hold on, Blake."

I shook my head. "C-Can’t."

"Don’t say that," she sobbed, bending down and placing her head on my chest.

She jerked up, her eyes wild with the desperation of finding some way of holding on to me. "Together. T-The Father told you we’d - we’d always be together. You can’t die. You can’t die."

I tried to hold up my left hand. No good. Like Fallen’s Hate had told me, I was all washed up.

I lifted it with my mind fingers, and even then, it took all I had to do it. I placed my trembling hand over her heart and tried for a smile. I don’t think I made it.

"H-Here. Always together. Here."

She looked up in agony as if there’d be an answer in the heavens. "Not good enough," she wailed. "Not good enough."

Black tears streaming down her face, she held my hand tight as if willing her life force into me. "Don’t leave me, Blake. Don’t leave me."

As black as her tears became the world around her, so that all I could make out was her face in a ever-thickening mist. My eyes must have been glazing over because I heard her crying low. She squeezed my hand even harder.

"If - If you st-stay, I-I’ll tell you a secret."

I forced my eyes open wide to clear them. It worked. A little.

This time I did manage a small smile. With my mind fingers, I wiggled my ears.

"I-I’m all ears."

She cocked her head as if she couldn’t bear the pain inside her. "Oh, y-you and y-your dumb jo-jokes."

She reached out and gently brushed that stubborn lock of hair from my eyes. "You know all those times you flew at night?"

"Yes," I whispered.

"W-Well, I ... I crept into your room then."


She turned her head to the left as if the memory was killing her.

"I ... I used to go to your chest of drawers and touch your - your combs and brush, running my fingers along them. I’d imagine you fighting to get that mop y-you call hair to stay down."

She smiled a smile of agony, her lips trembling. "I’d - I’d laugh and sit on your bed and s-smell your pillow, that always smelled of pine trees."

I tried for a swallow and didn’t make it. Tears started to blind me. She knew what my hair smelled like. Fallen looked as she were about to shatter inside.

"Th-Then, I’d pick up whatever book you were reading at the time, and ... and I’d open it, looking at the parts you - you underlined -"

She mewed soft and long as if she were about to break down. And I think she might have except that Solomon choked down a sob himself.

She looked up. He turned his head away and slapped the black reins with a sharp snap.

The chariot took off faster in a lurch that sent a jagged bolt of agony through me. Fallen picked me up to cushion me. And meaning to help me, she sent another spear of pain through me.

But in a way that was a good thing, for it cleared my vision and hearing. She stroked my right cheek softly.

"Those - those parts you underlined. I read them out loud, pretending you were rea-reading them to me."

She sniffed back the tears. "Your books. To my eyes, they burned with so many different colors. So many. I - I could tell what books made you sad, or laugh, or angry."

Suddenly, she wrapped me in a fierce embrace. "But the book that burned the brightest was the one that had ‘Annabel Lee’ in it."

She sniffed wetter this time. "I knew all about that poem, B-Blake, all this time. All this time."

She clutched me tighter, holding her cheek against mine and rocking and rocking. "Y-You want to know what the color of love is?"


"The color of love is you," she sobbed.

"Is you!"

She turned to Solomon, who was blinking back tears himself, and wailed, "You’re the Angel of The Most High. Tell me. Why does evil always win? Why? WHY?"

She raised her head and howled gut-deep like a shot animal. I couldn’t take it. And neither could Solomon.

He turned his head away, choking down another sob. I lifted my hand with my mind fingers and stroked her cheek.

She shook her head that shivered in spasms. "I always thought I would be Annabel Lee. Not you. Not you!"

I forced my traitor throat to work, and it rebelled, making my words hoarse, almost impossible to understand even for me. "A-As long as you live, I live - in you."

Her lower lip trembled so I thought she’d break down, but she managed to get out, "You big, d-dumb b-boy scout. I don’t want to go on living if you die. Don’t you know that?"

I tried to speak, but the world grew hazy and dark again. My head nodded to my chest. She shook me hard.


I fluttered my eyes open and saw her reach frantic inside her mind. "I - I know your secret."

"What - what secret could ... a boy scout like me have?"

She smiled as if that secret was a knife in her heart. "That ‘full on the lips’ kiss you wrote about in your diary."

"You read my diary!," I moaned.

She shook her mane, a bitterness twisting her face. "Such a silly thing. A simple thing. And ... And I teased you so with it."

I had tried to stay with her, but it was no good. Her face. I could barely make it out anymore. Only her tortured eyes, and them only in a thick haze. My head nodded, then my chin settled on my chest, and I heard her from far, far off.

"A-And now, wh-when it is too late, when y-you will not even feel it, I shall give you our f-first, our last, ... my only kiss."

I prayed silently, 'Oh, Father, grant me strength just one more time.’

I smiled with all the love I had burning in me for her.

"Another thing you said a long time ago, Fallen, was - was that sometimes the best words were actions."

And with that, I wrapped my left arm around her and pulled her to me. I leaned in to her face. She sobbed, then her trembling lips parted.

Her lids went all heavy. And she kissed me, fierce, hungry, wild, just like she was deep inside. She crushed me to her. Her tongue touched mine.

I - I had never been kissed like that before. I didn’t know what to do.

I touched back as hard as I could. It must have been the right thing to do ‘cause she ran her tongue along mine, and I did the same to hers.

That had to have been the right thing to do, too, as she leaned her whole body into me, her lips crushing mine. I squeezed back.

She felt so soft, yet hard at the same time, in my arms. Her lips were soft, too, even as they pressed hard against mine.

And for one small magic moment, we were one.

Not in body, but in the heart, the spirit, the very soul. We were one. And she was mine. Mine.

Fallen was mine.

Our first kiss was all I had hoped it would be. No. A hundred times better. It was wonderful.


It was as if a plug had been pulled deep, deep within me, and all I was got sucked down a black hungry whirlpool that was darker than just sleep or fainting. Down, down, down, I went, being tugged down into a cold, black, starless sea that billowed all about me.

I went limp in Fallen’s arms. She screamed then, as if the very heart of her had been cut out. Strange. It had sounded as if she were three miles away. How odd.

Then, before I was pulled under completely, I heard someone else. Solomon.

But he was even fainter, so far off, so very far off. His voice seemed all but choked out with tears.

"S-Sorry, Sidhe, but - but even good souls die."

I was a child, and she was a child
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love,
I and my Annabel Lee.


Please vote for my GateKeeper Contest entry. Victor's mother is beginning to grumble about the lack of votes. Ah, Death has no sense of humor.

Now, to my post title : HOW TO GET AN AGENT FAST!

One sentence answer :

Make the sale for her.

Before you get your hackles up, bear with me for a second.

I didn't say it was fair. It's just how to get an agent fast. You make the sale yourself.

Besides, in a way, it is quite fair :

Who else knows your novel as intimately as you do?

Who else can see its market potential, how best to phrase its strengths, illuminate why what might seem a weakness is in fact a strength?

Your carefully crafted query will more than likely be the essence of your agent's pitch to weary, skeptical editors.

Making your query shine not only makes your agent look better, it makes her sale easier.

And after all, 85% of the money from that sale will go to you.

Then why do you need agents in the first place?

Cliff Notes answer :

Most publishers won't look at you without one.

Agents will fight for you to get more money for a long list of rights you know nothing about, and when your editor moves on, your agent will make sure you're not shoved to the bottom of the stack

(which you will be if you don't have an agent.)

All right. How do you make the sale for them?

1) Make your own market :
Conventional wisdom says start your own blog. Be unconventional. Make the "Pet Rock" of blogs. How?

You do daily posts. Don't groan. You need to build a following. Daily posts will do that for you.

You make short posts for shorter attention spans.

You make each one funny. Be the Christopher Moore of blogdom. How?

Nothing is shorter than a one panel cartoon. Create a zombie Ziggy (creation by Tom Wilson.) Call him "Nearly Dead Ned." Place him in a post-apocalyptic New York City.

First cartoon :
Ned is happily eating his own forefinger. The caption reads : "The trouble with finger sandwiches is that none are as good as homemade."

Second cartoon :
Ned is looking odd at a cobwebbed skeleton by a doorway. The skeleton is wearing sunglasses and a badge " Help the Blind." The skeleton is pressing a door buzzer under a sign which reads : "School for the Deaf."

Third cartoon :
Ned is lumbering down a street in the red light district. He has passed two bars. One advertises : "Live Nudes." The second : "Undead Nudes."
Ned is stopped in front of the third with his now classic puzzled look. Its window reads : "Don't Ask."

You do a year's worth of cartoons. Pick the ones with the largest number of favorable comments. Bind them up and submit to agents with the comments to each attached, along with the daily stats for your blog.

{Now, obviously this is just an example of an unconventional "Pet Rock" blog. You have to use your own muse to take off and run with the concept.}

2) Fan the flames of off-line and on-line interest :
As I will do shortly with my blog tour for the next classic fantasy to take America's imagination by storm : THE BEAR WITH 2 SHADOWS.

And wouldn't you have loved to have been one of the first readers to have read and been amazed by the magic of THE LORD OF THE RINGS? Don't believe me? Download those first free chapters. You'll be a believer.

Get a local reporter to do a review of your novel for your local newspaper. Hopscotch that into another review from the newspaper of a near-by town.

3) Make a book trailer of your novel.
Using the students from a local university, create a book trailer. Utilize public domain music and images.

Splice the images with teases from your novel. Put the book trailer on your blog and on YouTube.

Advertise your book trailer on the blogs of your friends, in the local newspaper, and in the local college newspaper (hawking the fact that you used students from said college.)

4) Petition your local newspaper and those free newspapers at the doors to every grocery store to do free reviews for upcoming books and movies. Keep a record of each and every article you do for different newpapers with names and dates.

5) Be sure you state all of the above quickly and tersely at the end of every query to every agent.

And there you have the five easy steps to get an agent fast. They might even work. May we all get agents faster than we believe possible.
{Cartoon by the comic genius, Chuck Ingwersen }
And a movie that succeeded due to its unconventional take on a classic subject is :

Friday, February 25, 2011


Don't forget to vote for Victor in the Gatekeeper Contest. Alice is talking about going door to door, and her stomach is rumbling. Just trying to watch out for you guys is all :

You need the right ingredients to prepare a delicious logline :


It must be short, magnetic, and say it all.

Sure, piece of cake ... Devil's Food Cake. Darn hard, but it can be done.


(You just know it's going to be a comedy of errors, and you know all the players in just 5 words.)


(It says it all in another 5 words : horror, action, the living versus the undead)


(In 4 fours you get comedy, horror, and you know it is going to be a toss-up between a floundering human against hordes of shambling dead.)

II.) The sweet/sour sauce of IRONY with a hint of the spice of SAY WHAT?


She's the perfect girl -- until she takes that first drink.

(You see it all, don't you? In just 10 words. Comedy of a guy finding his dream date, only to see his dream become a nightmare.)


On Christmas Eve, a cop tries to repair his broken marriage, only to find her company's building seized by terrorists.

(Twenty words this time, but they spell out irony, desperation, action, and thrills.)

III.) Remember THE GOOD; leave out THE BAD and THE UGLY :


Two polar opposite men must scramble across country in whatever vehicle they can to make it home for Thanksgiving.

(This title is the good -- you know from it that it is a comedy and the venue where the action is going to take place.)

(This is basically the same movie, but the title is vague. Is it about an expectant mother? The only draw is Robert Downey, Jr.

But your novel will not have that catalyst. In novel loglines, the magic must be in the prose.)


(Do you have any idea what this novel will be about? Is it a name of a girl, a store, a restaurant, a name of a covert Intelligence plan? This is an example of an UGLY title for a logline.)



A timid cop on the eve of retirement finds he is dying from a disease not covered by police insurance. To protect his family's future, he must have none.

The cowardly lion must die in the line of duty. The only problem : his partner wants to live out the week!

(Long but you see it all. Fifty words gives you the whole novel :

the fear, the love, the desperation, ... and the partner going crazy trying to stay alive.

If you needed to, you could use just this one sentence :

To protect his family's future, a timid cop must insure he has none.)

VI.) The whole picture :

A.) All the above examples gives the agent the entire novel in just one short logline. You must do that -- and fast to snare the eye-weary attention of an agent numbed by a long line of vague, rambling loglines with no clear conflict and intended goal.

B.) How do you come up with that?

Think of your novel as a movie poster. The iconic image, the swirling glimpses of the dangers and allures in the background. Put the movie poster of your novel in 30 words or less -- and you have a winning logline.

C.) Create an itch the agent must scratch :

1.) With a title that grabs the collar of the agent :


2.) With irony that won't quit :

A teen finds the love of his life looking down upon him as he lies in his coffin.

3.) With a logline that gives you goal, obstacles, and resolution in one mental flash :

A mysterious funeral director tells the ghost of a teen he can be with the girl he loves always ... if he convinces her to take her own life. The teen must decide what true love really is.

@) There. I hope I have helped in some small way. Roland

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Please vote for THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH for the Gatekeeper Contest :

"Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are."

- Arthur Golden

Mr. Golden is the author of MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. In that novel, he has a passage that translates well to our dealing with rejection and waiting for an agent to accept us :

“From this experience I understood the danger of focusing only on what isn't there.

What if I came to the end of my life and realized that I'd spent every day watching for a man who would never come to me?

What an unbearable sorrow it would be, to realize I'd never really tasted the things I'd eaten, or seen the places I'd been, because I'd thought of nothing but the Chairman even while my life was drifting away from me.

And yet if I drew my thoughts back from him, what life would I have? I would be like a dancer who had practiced since childhood for a performance she would never give.”

The answer to me is that each day we dance. Perhaps not to the tune we would wish but to a melody circumstances demand of us. And sometimes it is very hard to keep from tripping over our own feet.

Let's think through rejections and see what they might mean :

1) You write badly.

Ouch. But often we get carried away with the Zen of writing, typing in the moment without a thought of how to be precise with our verbal blows. Sloppy writing is rejected writing.

*) Solution?

Go to the internet or the bookstore or the library. Take books by Hemingway, Chandler, Koonz, King, Updike, Vidal, and Bellows.

Read a chapter from each one. Study their use of specific words. How did they space their paragraphs? How did they convey emotion? { With dialogue, with detail, with what wasn't said?}

See if you can improve on a paragraph picked at random with eyes closed and stabbing forefinger. Can't? Welcome to the club.

Can? Then you've grown more than the writer you were before the rejection.

2) You plot with all the grace of a plodding horse with blinders :

All too often we start with the burst of a scene or of an opening hook. But we have no sense of direction or a map of where we take our hero.

Is it a journey that would entice a reader? Why? Where is the driving momentum that keeps the reader flipping the pages hurriedly?

*) Solution?

Take those same books you've bought or borrowed, looking for the map of their story. How? Look at the jacket blurbs.

Read the summations on the jacket flap. See the primal drives? See them being blocked? See the primal dangers? Read the first chapters. Read the last ones. Compare the two. How did the hero change? How did his/her world change?

Read the first paragraph. Read the last. See the novel's bookends of thought and transformation?

3) Cliche is your first, middle, and last name :

Cliches can creep up on us. If you ever catch yourself writing "like white on rice," lick your forefinger and stick it into a live socket.

That's what the agent reading those words wants to do with you.

Scum layers the top of the lake. The true game fish swirl around deep at the bottom. So it is with the imagination. We want to be writers.

Do we want to be deep-sea explorers? If we want to be offered representation by an agent, we do.

*) Solution?

Read the jacket blurbs again. Sound familiar? Yes, because the plots started out as original but have been copied and copied by TV and Hollywood until the stories are familair.

Throw a what if in your thinking. What if the hitman of your novel is different somehow?

How? Twist the plot on its ear. Your hitman is from the future. Why would someone travel from the future to kill people?

One reason : he hates his life, his world, and the girl who jilted him. So he is off killing his great-grandparents, those of his world's greatest leaders, and those of his girl.

Up the ante :

he falls in love with his own great-grandmother. Whoops. He becomes a bad joke.

The punchline : his own father arrives from the future to kill him. And it turns out that he's not all that wild about his own life up the time stream either. And he wants the hitman's new girl for himself.

4) Nothing is wrong with your novel.

You're just one query in a sea of millions of them. You just didn't wow the agent enough to impress her. Or she was too tired or too caught up with the flow of rejecting every email in front of her.

You query boat just got swamped in the storm of submissions.

*) Solution?

You do all of the above. You strive to grow each writing day into becoming a better author. You keep on submitting.

5) You weren't a good fit for that particular agent.

You failed to do your due diligence. Or you did, and their website hasn't been updated to accurately reflect the changes in their editorial attitude.

*) Solution?

You find more about the next agent before you query. Google not just webpages, agent query, or absolute write water cooler --

you type in the agent's name and follow with "interviews." Read as many interviews with that agent as possible.

You type in "blogs." Read the last ten posts of that agent's blog. Go the archive of her blog. Read the titles of her posts to see if there are any that speak to what you've written.

6) You asked for it :

Yes, you did. Me, too. How?

We became writers. The day we started down that path, we agreed to pay the toll at the gate. The toll? Getting rejected more times than we get accepted. Knowing that there is no promise that we ever will get accepted.

*) Solution?

Be Cortez.

When Cortez landed on the shores of the New World, he caught his men eyeing the ships and the horizon leading home.

He burned the ships.

We have to burn the ship. No retreat. No surrender. Only advance. Stumble. Fall. Get up. Walk on. Hack our way through the agent jungle.

Never surrender. Never give up. Only grow stronger. Grow better. Grow wiser.

Oh, and every now and then, bend down and give the person who's fallen along the way a hand back on his/her feet. Wink, smile, and say, "Hell of a trip, ain't it?"

And thinking about never surrendering, never giving up :

DARK WATERS_enter your short story to be published!

Eric W. Trant has an announcement on his blog for a short story submission opportunity that you must not miss!

So get your submissions in! Debrin Case is looking for new authors, unpublished, up-and-comers.

He's a small publisher, so make sure that's your bag.

Small pubs usually mean less money, more personality, less editing, more artistic freedom, smaller distribution, more devoted fans, newer and less-known authors,

a better chance at actually getting published!

So it's a give-n-take with the small publisher. Eric personally has enjoyed it because the pressure is less intense, and the pay even from a large publishing house rarely outweighs the stress they induce on their writers.

Anyway, get to submitting!

Are you submitting? Post up a ~small~ excerpt. What is your story about? Please spread the word. Let other talented writers know they have until March 15 to submit to An Honest Lie.

And my short story to AN HONEST LIE?

It is the historical horror story, DARK WATERS, where 12 year old Samuel Clemens, long before he started calling himself Mark Twain, shows mercy to the murderer of his father ...

or does he? My undead Texas Ranger, Samuel McCord, accompanies the boy on his dark journey through the soul. Here are appox. 300 words of it :

As we walked down the spacious hallway, she edged away from me.

She swallowed hard once, then managed to get out her words,

“Capt. McCord, there’s monstrous mean haunts in this world. And then there be some who are damn fool enough to try and do good, only they ends up making things terrible bad for everyone around them.”

She forced herself to look me in the eyes. “Which one is you?”

“The damn fool kind.”

She almost smiled. “Leastways you be a truth-telling haunt.”

“It’s a failing.”

“That kind of thinking is what makes you a haunt.”

She was wrong. But there was a lot of that going around.

“Miss Jane has gone through terrible, sad times. Mr. Marshal he done tried, but he ain’t got a lick of business sense. Me, I’m the last thing they own of any value.”

I felt sick. Thing. She had called herself a thing. What kind of world was it when one race made another think of themselves that way? A world of justifiable hypocrisy.

I shook my head. “They don’t own you anymore.”

Her dusky face went as sick pale as it could get. “M-Mr. Marshall done sold me to dat devil Beebe!”

I reached inside my buckskin jacket and pulled out the hastily written bill of sale. “He was going to. But ... things didn't turn out like he planned. So he was forced to sell you to a stranger ... to me.”

I gave her the paper. She took it with trembling fingers. She stared at it hollow-eyed as if it were the parchment selling her soul to the devil.

“I - I can’t read, mister.”

“Get Sammy to teach you.”

She glared at me. “You is evil!”

“Turn it over, Jennie.”

“I done told you I can’t read!”

“But Sammy can. Show it to him. He’ll tell you that I’ve given ownership of you to --”

Jennie’s face became all eyes. “T-To little Sammy? Oh, bless --”

I shook my head. “No, Jennie.”

She took a step backwards, her voice becoming a soft wail. “Not back to Mr. Marshall? He’ll just be selling me again.”

I reached out with my gloved right hand that must never touch bare, innocent flesh and softly squeezed her upper right arm. “No, I gave ownership of you to --- you.”

“I’m -- I’m free?”

“Well, the judge said you were priceless.”

“Oh, you is one of the good haunts!”

She rushed and hugged me, stiffening as she felt how cold my whole body was. She edged back a step. I met her suddenly hollow eyes.

I smiled sad. “But still a haunt.”

We were silent all the way to the guest bedroom. She opened the door then her mouth. No words came out. But she did give me back my sad smile. I watched her walk away staring at the bill of sales as if it were holy writ.

It was something. More than a haunt like me had the right to expect. Maybe my pillow would be the softer for it.

Or maybe that was just my justifiable hypocrisy talking.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Life is never fair. And perhaps it is a good thing for us that it is not.
-Oscar Wilde

In connection with my blog anniversary yesterday, several of my friends have emailed me asking just what a blood courier (my day job, ah, night one, too) is.

Others have suggested that I write a story on it. So I did.

It is called BLOOD WILL TELL. When we think evolution, we think of the life forms we can see. But what if evolution would occur on the microscopic level?

What if red blood cells achieved intelligence? Would they be happy at the world in which they find themselves? And if they didn't, what might they do?

In my story intelligent blood is starting an offensive against Man.

One lone telepath finds himself a helpless spectator as the race of Man is subjugated. When the war is over, and he finds himself totally alone,

how can he go on and why?

Here is a snippet of BLOOD WILL TELL in which the protagonist is explaining why a telepath has a hard time in finding a job where he can function without going insane :

Numbers proved comforting. Black and white. Zero and one. Computers were safe.

Sadly, I just was less than stellar when it came to technology. Concepts I could handle. But anything hands-on proved disasterous.

Another way of paying the bills went the way of the fifty cent coke. No matter what job I chose, I had to deal with people and their thoughts, lusts, and fears that clawed at me.

My forty-first birthday found me working for Helping Hearts, the blood center that serviced Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana.

I had always thought that each hospital had their own vast supply of blood.

I had been wrong. Hospitals only kept a small roster of blood types and an even smaller supply of the more rare blood component called platelets, used to stop bleeding. Helping Hearts was to hospitals what the mint was to banks.

And I was a courier for the blood mint.

Say a premature baby needed a random platelet across town. Off went my pager, and down the road I would go to the blood center, charge out the blood, and drive it to the ill baby.

Did a cancer patient in Jennings need a pheresis, a larger bag of platelets? Off went the pager again, and an hour later, the cancer patient was being transfused with the needed blood.

I was finally helping people without being near them and their clawing thoughts for very long.

I had found some small measure of peace. No answers, but I had given up on that dream of youth. Unfortunately, some dreams become nightmares.

And some nightmares kill.

Christmas Eve found me on call. The day was half over, and I felt run over. DeRidder, Jennings, Kinder. The major hospitals from all three of those small towns had called me for blood, one right after another.

It had taken me nearly the whole night to answer all three calls. And I had no sooner collapsed in my chair in my efficiency apartment than the pager wailed on my belt yet again.

But this time, it was a friend. Kim Marcotte. Her husband, another good friend, had just had a terrible motorcycle accident the night before. Recovering from surgery, he was asking for me, half crazed with fear.

I sucked in a ragged breath. Robert was a good friend, so good that he had been the only one I had ever trusted enough with my secret.

I could've driven the way to the hospital blind-folded, which was lucky considering how hard it was raining. I found Kim near beside herself.

Looking as if she had aged five years, she stood outside his door, wringing her hands and waiting for me to arrive so she could talk to me in private.

Kim reached out to me with both hands. I flinched at the intensity of her thought : 'Oh, God, let Luke be able to help Bob!'

"They're going to put him on the psychiatric floor, Luke. The damn psycho ward! You're his best friend. He's always said the best thing that ever came out of his being a tech for Gambro was when he and you met at Helping Hearts. If anyone can reach him now, it's you. Please help him.”

I had seen Robert go through hell and not put up a whimper. Something had to be terribly wrong. Maybe beyond my ability to help wrong. I hate it when I'm right.

My head pounding from the cascade of howling thoughts from Robert and the others on the same floor, I walked into the private room.

I pulled up short. He looked like hell. His right leg and arm were broken.

The whole right side of his face bandaged. His left eye reached out to me in fear and hope. I flinched from the impact of his acid emotions.

"Luke! Thank God, you've come."

I walked over to his bed and squeezed his good hand. "You called. I came. How can I help?"

His lower lip started to tremble, and a gnawing buzzing like hungry wasps erupted inside my head.

In all my life, I had never heard anything like it. He looked hollow-eyed at me.

"You hear them, don't you?"


"Don't fold on me, Luke. I never told anybody your secret. But I know you hear my thoughts."

His voice went low and shaky. "You hear them. Oh, God, tell me you hear them."

I squeezed his hand harder. "I hear the buzzing, Robert. But you took a pretty hard whack to the head. I don't know what a concussion sounds like, but ---"

"But shit, man! I've banged my damn head before. This is different. The buzzing's from ... from ..."

"From what?"

He nodded to the blood bag on the pole above his bed and stared fearfully at the tubing connected to his arm. "From this damn blood."

"You're kidding me, right?"

"Do I fucking look like I'm kidding? With each drop, I feel them eating away at me. It’s like a fire in my blood! The longer I lay here, the less of me there is."

He wailed, "Oh, God, pretty soon there'll be nothing of me left!"

I reached up and turned the wheel to the blood line, shutting off the flow. He sucked in a shallow breath and slowly shook his head.

He looked like he was about to cry. I hiked up my right shoulder from the pain of his despair eating into me.

"It's too late, man. There's too much of it in me. And not enough me.”

I went sick as the buzzing from inside his head grew louder, and the "Robert" I knew grew fainter. I was scared, dry mouth, heart racing sacred. I had never run into anything like this before.

For the first time in my entire life, I went within myself and focused one word into his mind with all I had. It was a shot in the dark, but it was all I could think of.

He took my hand, still on the small wheel shutting off the blood, and squeezed weakly. "T-Thanks for being with me at the en---"

The fear dropped from his face like a stone, and the life left his eyes. "Robert" disappeared from my mind, only the buzzing remained.

He moved my fingers from the wheel, turning the blood back on.

"All better now," he smiled in a voice that almost sounded like the Robert I knew. Almost.

Right then, the pager on my belt went off, and I jumped what felt a foot. I grabbed at it with suddenly clumsy fingers and finally managed to turn the damn thing off. I checked the number.

"Women and Children's Hospital."

Robert pulled his lips up in what wouldn't have passed for a smile in a morgue.

"Ah, a baby needs blood. We like to get them young. Better hurry off. And do be careful out in that rain, hear?"

I slowly got up on legs that seemed to have become wood. "We who?"

Flecks of something alien gleamed in his eyes.

"Why anyone who wants to bring order out of chaos. Better hurry. We wouldn't want to lose a baby now, would we?"

"No," I whispered. "I've already lost enough tonight as it is."

The smile got wider, colder. "Tell Kim to come in, will you?"

I turned and got the hell out of the room. Kim met me at the door, her blue eyes hollows of worry. She grabbed my hands in a vise of wiry fingers.

"H-How is he?"

I struggled to keep my face calm. "He's ... He's not afraid anymore."


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

First Greetings_A YEAR LATER

Words Crafter's first year anniversary for her blog was today. It got me to thinking. Hey, I started a year ago, too : the Ides of February to be exact.

So much has happened. So many new friends made. It seems both longer and shorter to me. I want to tell each and every one of my loyal friends who visit how much it means to me that you do. Thank you so very much.

I thought it would be fun to show you my very first post to compare notes with my intentions and what my blog has become :

Hi, Everyone :

Roland here. I was born in the BC years. That's Before Computers. Well, almost. So if this blog is ragged, then I'm doing better than I thought I would.

I'm one of those most wretched of creatures : an unpublished author. But I have managed to earn a Bachelor's degree in English education and a Master's degree in Psychology. I can become published. It's just a matter of determination and the willingness to grow.

Of course talent would help. But which of us can assess our true worth? We just gird our loins and jump into the fray. Let others decide our performance as we duck and weave through the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune. And so that is what this blog is all about.

Jumping into the fray.

Wish me luck as I wish you success in your dreams and struggles.

Monday, February 21, 2011


The mysterious Nazca lines. What fan of the arcane and the supernatural has not heard of them?
But did you know that there were equally mysterious Nazca Lines for writers?

Bet you didn't.

But there are. And you need to know them.

Imagine this scenario :
you're at a writer's conference. You're waiting for the elevator doors to open and take you to listen to your favorite author. They open. He storms out. You stumble into the elevator and bump into none other than the president of HarperCollins Publishing.

The doors close, and he glares at you.

"That jerk just told me I needed him. Me need him? I made him. I could make you. Hey, you tell me what your book is about in one sentence. I like it. I'll publish it. Well, just don't stare at me. Give me that sentence!"

What do you say? Besides "Oh, shit!" to yourself.
And right now, as you read this, if you're writing a novel, you better have that sentence crystal clear in your mind.

If you don't, you need those mysterious Nazca Lines for authors.

What is your novel about, Roland? Now is no time for ah's. "It's about a man, nearing retirement, invited to a company country retreat, only to find out it is his employers' deadly way of downsizing by 'accident' to avoid paying him his benefits."

The president's eyes roll up. "Why should I care? What's the shake-up in this retread?"

"Ah, you see, he's not human. He's ... he's an alien with gruesome dietary needs. And he's more than happy to add these company killers to his menu."

"Hey, that might work. Give me an eagle-eye view of this, kid."

Eagle-eye view. That is what the Nazca Lines for authors happens to be.

First Nazca Line - The theme in one sentence.
In an important aspect, a good novel is an argument posed by the author to the reader.

As in : what is more important, love or success? What is love really? And success? How do you measure that? Your theme is your argument.

How do you get your theme seamlessly inserted into your novel?
Usually thourgh the lips of a secondary character. In my THE MOON & SUN AS HIS BRIDES, Webster, the one-eyed orphanage headmaster, stalks towards my young hero as the orphange burns down around them.

He jabs at his empty eye-socket.

"You want the truth? You want to understand? That costs, boy. It costs!" {As it turns out Webster is really Wotan, he who you might know as Odin -- and wisdom cost him his eye.}

Second - The Book-Ends :

The Opening Scene and Your Closing Scene.

Some publishers look at the first 10 pages and the last 10 pages.
Think of them as the "Before" and "After" photos in all those advertisements. There has to be a drastic change in the main character underlinging your theme or the rubber stamp "REJECT" comes down on your manuscript. Ouch.

Third - The Set-Up Lines :

The first 50 pages or the first 3 chapters.

In those you must set-up your hero, the life-or-death stakes, the goal of the story, and all the major characters are introduced or hinted at.
Think of any classic Hollywood movie. In the first 15 minutes you will see that same set-up. You don't have it in your novel? You don't have a good novel. Or least that is what the publisher will think. And he is the one we're trying to sell.

Fourth - The Flaws That Show & Those That Don't :

You should have three major time bombs in your hero's life that need fixing and three minor ones that prevent him from seeing the real problems in his life. Tick. Tick. Tick. BOOM!

Fifth : Let The Games Begin :

Fun. That's what gets readers to come back for a second and third read.
It what gets them to urge friends to read. Let the hero and his circle of comrades have adventure. Let them get away with the loot. Let them thumb their noses at the howling Dark Ones.
It's what would be on the poster if your novel was turned into a movie.
Luke and Leia swinging on that rope. Quigley shooting his rifle over impossible distances. Iron Man streaking across the dark heavens ... to slam into the brick wall of the next Nazca Line ---

Sixth - The Twilight of The Gods :

Or that is what I call it : the hero realizes too late a harsh truth.
The forces of darkness have won. He is alone. There is no hope. He comes face to face with the fool that he was. And then, kneeling in blood and ashes, he decides ...

Seventh - The Phoenix Rises/ The Catalyst Sizzles :

There is losing. Then, there's quiting. The hero decides to fight on. But fight on smarter.
The bad news was really the good news.
It is that moment the reader loves. The harsh realities that every reader faces is tilted on its ear by a carefully sown subplot. The person the hero thought he has lost returns. And the forces of darkness discover you never count a hero down until you see his corpse.
And maybe not even then.

Eighth - The Mid-Point Line :

The stakes are raised. The hero wins. Or does he? The floor bottoms out beneath him. All is lost. The hero was a fool. He obtained his goal, only to discover he had lost the real treasure in getting a tarnished, empty vessel.
Ninth - The Wolves Close In :

What makes a hero?
What ticks inside a proponent of Evil?
The answers to those two questions are what turns defeat into a learning, growing stage in the hero. The hero fights for others. The antagonist fights for himself. The hero is willing to die if those he loves live. The antagonist usually finds a way for followers to die for his cause. He himself wants to live to bask in the glory of winning.

Tenth - Gethsame_Golgotha_The Empty Tomb :

Death. Someone dies. Something important dies.
In every classic movie, death is the seed that is sown to bring a harvest of redemption to the hero. As the shadows close in around our defeated, dejected hero ...

Eleventh - The Sun Also Rises :

Love usually brings the believed lost partner of the hero back to his side. A moment of joy leads to a revelation of a solution.
The lessons learned in the prior pages are brought to bear. The forces of darkness have learned nothing. The hero has learned a great many things. He brings them to his arsenal of weapons.
One by one, he and his comrades and his love dispatch the enemy. Until it is just the hero versus his arch-foe.
New surprises are thrown at our hero. He takes his hits and keeps coming. He may die, but he will not be defeated. Nor is he.

And The Lines Strikes Twelve - The "World" is changed.

Triumph isn't enough. The world must be drastically changed -- for the hero or for everyone. But changed it is.

Final Image :

It echoes the first image we got in the book.
But this image has more depth, brought by the dark colors of death, pain, and revelation. You have made your point in the argument you proposed in the novel's beginning.
You know your reader will close your book with a sad sigh at a great experience ended. And maybe, just maybe, if you've done your job right ...
your reader will turn to page one again to read your novel with renewed delight at knowing where you are going to take him/her.
And talking of eagle-eye views, here is a music video that is a life lesson all by itself :


Fiction is not reality. It is something slightly different, yet the same.

Like Mark Twain said, "Fiction has to make sense."

I.) Fiction reflects reality through a mirror darkly ...

A.) That mirror reflects society's face with all its ...

1.) Blemishes

2.) Scars

3.) Hopes

4.) Its dreams and the smiles despite the inner pain of most of the people you walk past on the streets.

II.) Fiction distills reality, revealing more truth than reality does in a shorter span of time.

A.) Fiction prunes out anything that doesn't propel the story and themes forward.

B.) Fiction is more intense and dense page by page than our lives are day by day.

III.) Fiction is a crucible ...

1.) holding our characters to the fire to purify and hone their spirits so that they are stronger, purer or broken or shattered at the novel's end.

2.) We are the blacksmiths, hammering our characters on the anvil of adversity. If our characters are having a good time, our readers grow bored.

IV.) As in reality, adversity introduces our characters to themselves and to the reader.

1.) Unlike reality, all dross events are sifted from the narrative.

2.) The best fiction reveals the characters of our players in what they do and why they do it.

3.) Shallow fiction makes prose puppets, forcing the characters to do things, not letting their actions flow from their inner natures.

V.) That is why everything in fiction serves multiple purposes. Like packing a solitary suitcase for a long trip, each item, each scene must serve multiple functions.

1.) Life is often haphazard, cluttered.

2.) Fiction must never be those things.

3.) Fiction ultimately relates seemingly unrelated items and scenes.


a.) Parents give a gun to a young boy for his birthday instead of the bike he wanted.

b.) How does that relate to anything?

c.) It was the same gun that his older sister used to commit suicide.

d.) Based on a true incident from M. Scott Peck's PEOPLE OF THE LIE.

VI.) Like a skillful mother, an author should be doing 2 things at all times in the same scene or action.

A.) As in the prior example :

1.) The gun wasn't just an inappropriate gift to a young boy.

2.) It was a silent message : We want you to kill yourself, too.

B.) Likewise each scene should propel the story forward, upping the tension and suspense at the same time :

1.) As with the above example :

2.) Boy now knows his parents want him dead.

3.) What does he do with that knowledge? What can he do? He is just a young boy at the mercy of insane parents.

VII.) Each incident should ...
1.) Set the scene in the context of the character's thoughts.

2.) Reveal the hero's character by what he or she makes of the situation and what she does with it.

3.) Moves the story along with suspense and tension.

VIII.) A spear has no branches.

1.) Streamline your prose to chisel the story in crisp detail and image.

2.) Chunky paragraphs sink your prose into the sea of boredom.

3.) Don't tell the reader your character is this or that.

4.) Show your character in action, revealing his or her thoughts about the situation.

5.) When you have the reader make up his own mind about the character of your hero and villain, your story will become more "real" to your reader, making it take on a living existence for him or her.

IX.) As a woman is the echo of the girl she once was, by the end of the novel, your main character should be the result of his past decisions, realizations (true or false), and his actions.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


What am I going on about now?


Dialogue ... in our novels to be exact.

The best words are actions, of course. But that doesn't mean your significant other doesn't want to hear the words. "I love you."

In the cartoon above Calvin doesn't say he trusts and loves his mother. His actions show it.

But you and I both know she'd probably like to hear it from him sometime.

I.) Good dialogue is essential in our novels if we want to succeed.

A.) What is good, "draw in the reader" dialogue?

B.) It is not actual speech.

1.) we pause.

2.) we drift

3.) we stray or become confused and stammer.

C.) It is not the State of the Union Address either.

1.) No blunt instrument of prose

2.) No chunky, thick paragraphs.

D.) It is a reflection of real speech :

1.) It is the distillation of actual speech

2.) Think of it as a pruned bonzai tree of real conversation.

III.) We interrupt each other

1.) People break into the words of the other or plain talk over one another in a "listen to me now" barrage of words.

2.) No taking polite turns in real life.

3.) So aim to have the other person respond to the other character after every line.

4.) It won't always be possible, but you should never let a person talk for more than 3 lines.

5.) Why?

6.) Never tire the eye of the reader (especially the already tired eye of the agent!)

III.) Good dialogue reveals the character of the person talking

A.) Surface message reveals

B.) The intent of the speaker.

IV.) Good dialogue reveals the inner heart and mind of the speaker while moving the story forward at the same time.

V.) Good dialogue gets to the gut level of the character speaking, defining her experience of what is going on around her and her reactions to it.

A.) Having your character's every other line questioned or reacted to by another ...

1.) creates a deeper, more dramatic story.

2.) creates more complex, more "real" characters.

3.) drawing the reader into believing the reality of your fictive world.

B.) You don't have to get this exact in your draft.

1.) Leonard da Vinci sketched the bold outline of his complete image in bold sweeps at first.

2.) He later refined and added depth after the whole composition was sketched on his canvas.

3.) That is what you do with your prose canvas.

4.) Trying to get your dialogue spot-on in the draft will only end up blocking you up.

VI.) Good dialogue requires rewriting.

A.) Rewriting in dialogue is cutting.

B.) Think of it as going on a word diet.

1.) Cut out every word you can do without as you would calories.

2.) Cut out going back for dessert :

3.) No seconds for your favorite words and phrases. One to a conversation.

C.) Read aloud your dialogue

1.) Listen to the rhythm of the interplay between the characters.

2.) Each character should have their own distinct rhythm of talking.

3.) Each character should have their own distinct way of expressing themselves.

a.) their favorite words and phrases should be different than the others in the conversation.

b.) their differing mindsets, educational background, their prejudices, their passions should mold their words into being distinctive to themselves.

VII.) Doing all that will make your conversations in your novel seem real, drawing the reader into becoming immersed into your story, perhaps even having them feel that the moment is actually happening.

What did George Bernard Shaw say of an irritating actress at a party? "The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech."
And now, just because I wanted to hear it again :

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I found out about this contest a while ago at Karen G's blog.

Her publisher is looking for new works. What a fantastic opportunity, right?

Go to their website and see if you have any novels that fit their submission guidelines. You never know.

It only takes one publisher to say YES to start you on the road to your dreams coming true.

I sent Ms. Maldonado the first 3 chapters of my historical fantasy, RITES OF PASSAGE, that I wrote about in my last post. Here is the prologue to that novel :

A man's moral conscience is the curse he had to accept from the gods in order to gain from them the right to dream.
- William Faulkner

One day during the time while McCord and I walked and talked in New Orleans – or I talked and he listened - I found him sitting on a bench in Jackson Square, laughing to himself. I got the impression that he had been there like that for some time, just sitting alone on the bench laughing to himself.

This was not our usual meeting place. We had none. He lived in his French Quarter night club, Meilori's. And without any special prearrangement, we would meet somewhere between his club and the Square after I had something to eat at noon.

I would walk in the direction of his club. And if I did not meet him already strolling or sitting in the Square, I would simply sit down on a bench where I could see his doorway and wait until he came out. I can see him still –

a ramrod straight man in his early fifties, clad entirely in black : black broadcloth jacket, shirt, tie, and slacks. His boots were black, as well, and polished so that the sun struck fire from them. Even his Stetson was black.

All of which made the silver star on his jacket stand out like a campfire in the night. It was said he had once been a Texas Ranger. He never talked to me of those days - at least not before that afternoon.

This time he was already sitting on the bench, laughing. I sat down beside him and asked what was so funny. He looked at me for a long moment.

"I am," he said.

And that was the great tragedy of his character, for he meant it. He expected people to mock and ridicule him. They thought him an actor playing a part for no one could live as long as whispers on the street claimed. He expected people nowhere near his equal in stature or accomplishment or wit or anything else, to hold him in scorn and derision.

Perhaps that was why he worked so earnestly and hard at helping each wounded soul he met. It was as if he said to himself : 'They will not hurt as I have hurt. I will show them that they matter because their pain matters to me.'

"Why do you speak of yourself like that?," I asked.

"Today marks the hundred year anniversary," he said.

"Of what?"

"Drop by my table at the club this evening, and I will tell you."

And that evening I did just that. We sat, with a bottle now, and we talked. At first he did not mention the hundred year anniversary. It was as if he was slowly working himself up to something long avoided.

We talked of everything it seemed. How a mule would work ten years for you willingly and patiently just for the priviledge of kicking you once. How clocks kill time, that only when the clocks stop does time come to life. And how given a choice between grief and nothing, he would choose grief.

When he had said those last words, McCord met my eyes with his own deep ones and said, "Let me tell you a story."

And I listened.

It hit me as McCord talked that Man would not merely endure as he had not merely endured. No, like McCord, Man would prevail. Man is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice. But because he has a soul, a spirit capable of endurance, love, and sacrifice.

And so now I give you McCord's words as he gave them to me. Make of them what you will. For myself, I never know what I think about something until after I've read what I've written on it. So read along with me, and we both will come to our own conclusions.

William Faulkner, August 1953.

Good luck, everyone!

Friday, February 18, 2011


Odd question, isn't it?

Of course your novel's not real.

But it needs to be if you want it accepted by an agent and loved by readers.

You suspend disbelief when certain things in the book you're reading rings true :

Clothes :

Hamlet doesn't wear gold chains and zoot suits. Samuel McCord is a brooding, reflective man who does most of his fighting at night.

He, like Hamlet, wears black. Mark Twain, Sam's life-long companion, wears his all white suit to stand apart from his brooding friend -- as he does everything in his rebellious life.

{Twain's eventual death sends Sam into a spiral of depression from which it takes him years to recover.}

Maija, Meiliori's contemptuous of society twin sister, wears a skin-tight "Dragon-Lady" scarlet outfit -- even in 1853, when the mere showing of a bare ankle was scandalous.

She, like Twain, is rebellious.

But unlike the humorist, Maija is cruel and sadistic -- which is why whenever she arranges to meet Sam after her sister has left him, Maija wears an exact copy of the retro-Victorian dress Meilori wore on the night she stormed off into the darkness.


Do all your characters sound the same? It might surprise you that they do.

Close your eyes. Have a friend read a rather common sentence from two of your characters from two different parts of your novel. Can you tell who is talking just by their speech patterns? You should.

Reporters and policemen both talk tersely. The reporter tends to go for the dramatic. The policeman keeps objective. In public at least.

Out of public view, the policeman usually is cynical of everyone's motives, having seen too many at their worst. The reporter tends to go for the underdog, having seen big business and big government swallow the little guy much too often.

Not all teens talk the same. The nerds have their own phrases. And jocks their own vocabulary, matching their interests.

The shy mumble. The quarterback smirks. Yet that can be overdone into a cliche. The thinking, reflective quarterback from an abusive home could be the magnet that holds the interest and heartstrings of your readers.


Take physicians.

One of my favorite novels is CAPTAIN NEWMAN M.D. by Leo Rosten

It is a novel of a caring psychiatrist treating mentally bruised soldiers from WWII, told with wit and compassion.

But there are other mindsets among physicians. ( I am not talking Lydia Kang here, We all know special she is. She is of the Captain Newman, M.D. mold of caring physicians.)

Still it is understandable why they develop cold perspectives.

They're trained to prioritize, to emotionally detach themselves from their patients' pain and trauma, and to deal with crises as problems to be solved ... the solutions to be broken down into their component steps. Such a mindset works for them professionally.

In their personal lives, that mindset can be destructive. For many to become emotionally detached takes its toll. To step back from the trauma around them, they must cut loose in another phases of their lives.

On the other hand, become emotionally detached long enough, and you find it spreads like a drop of ink in a beaker throughout your whole life. You awaken one day to find yourself a stranger to your friends, your family ... even to yourself.

A few latent sadists are drawn to the profession. They channel their anti-social compulsions into socially approved actions. But like with scratching a mosquito bite, the more they stroke their sadistic natures, the stronger, the more demanding it becomes.

To make a physician real in your novel, you must incorporate all the above into that character and his/her environment. The same is true with every walk of life you have in your story.


Now, this one is a bugger. There's real. And then, there's realistic.

I wrote a historical fantasy. Historical fiction is not a time machine.

Should you and I go back to the world of 1853, we would find the physical hygiene appalling and the moral consensus even worse. We would be walking around with our mouths open and clothes pins clamped on our noses.

Indigenous races were not considered even human. Women were thought of as a second-class, intellectually deficient breed. Slavery was applauded in most corners. The "science" of medicine was part butchery/part unfounded, faulty supposition.

Still, we would understand only 2 out of every 3 words spoken by the aristocracy : their vocabulary was extensive and littered with Latin and ancient Greek proverbs.

The Divine Right of kings was accepted in a third of the civilized world. And democracy was in its infancy.

Speech was more formal even in casual conversation, more elegant even.

For RITES OF PASSAGE, I had to create the illusion of 1853 in such a way as to root my reader in the reality of that age without tuning him out.

I made Samuel McCord a man educated by his Harvard professor father and inhuman Jesuit priests. His travels across the world has made him a more open-minded man. He has the sensibilities of a 21st century man at odds with his 19th century world.

Therefore, the reader can identify with him as he locks horns with the accepted status quo that offends his compassionate reasoning and the reader's modern sensibilities.
There was a TV series which highlights how the mindset and customs we take for granted are just a thing of the moment : LIFE ON MARS :