So you can read my books

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Fiction is not reality.

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 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.

Monday, January 30, 2012


Jess and her mother (IMAGINE TODAY)had a prompt for flash fiction for her guests :

The prompt: Someone has just done something wrong, but do they have it within them to apologize? What then?

I don't do flash fiction. I love words too much --

and building up tension and atmosphere.

But Jess is a 15 year old maiden with a request, and Samuel McCord is a sucker for any request from a lady -- so I wrote one for her blog.

I have my doubts about it. You may have to know Sam's history and world for it to work.

But fortunately, most of you know that. So here's one of my first flash fictions. But first a relevant quote from Oscar Wilde for Elizabeth Mueller :

“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

Samuel McCord :

The house is dark, its empty windows more like vacant eyes than dirty glass. They give the building the look of some huge, discarded skull of a lost god. I don't like this.

Lt. Trifle (yes, that's her name, and the main reason she got a black belt in Karate) called me out here in the middle of nowhere.

Nowhere being on the outskirts of Metairie -- which is on the outskirts of New Orleans -- which, itself, is on the outskirts of Hell if you listen to some preachers.

She said I was needed out here and then hung up. Or got the phone snatched out of her hand. I came as soon as I could.

Was I in time? Time. I could stop it for awhile -- if I was willing to pay the price.

I was prepared. It hurt like hell. I deserved worse. Ask a thousand widows what Captain Samuel McCord deserved, and they'd tell you the same thing.

The time-snared air felt like heavy invisible water pressing in against me. I endured. It's what I do.

I made my way to the back of the house. I tried to cat-foot in out of instinct. Reality trumped instinct. The weight of frozen time made each step feel as if I were lifting the weight of the world.

Cat-footing was out. Lumbering like a dinosaur with arthritis was all I could manage.

I smiled like the wolf I felt. Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time. And time was mine. For as long as I could endure the pain.

The house of shadows was deserted. No furniture. Lots of needles. Lots of spoons. Discarded rubber tubing.

A crack house.

I made it to the front room. It wasn't empty.

A young punk had Trifle dead to rights. Mostly dead if I didn't act fast. How he got the drop on her was obvious. She was cradling a shivering, feverish girl. Trifle's heart had blind-sided her.

I released time. The addict yelped in surprise. He jerked his gun towards me. I smiled and spoke low.

"How young can you die of old age?"

"What the fuck?"

Sad last words. I answered my own question. I sped up time all around him. He squealed, squirmed, shouted, then wheezed into raspy coughing. He aged into an old man in seconds.

As he fell, he crumbled into dust right in front of Trifle. The moon caressed the hot sunset of her hair as she looked down in horror. The mound of dust started to disappear in the faint breath of the stale breeze. She turned hollow eyes to me.

"You're a monster."

What had Oliver Goldsmith written? It came to me : Silence gives consent.

I left without saying a word.



THE RIVAL doesn't come out until summer 2012.

Many of my new friends wondered about the "playground" incident mentioned yesterday.

Here is the version found in THE RIVAL that contains surprises even for my old friends :

My real memories begin when I was seven. And where I started was where I almost ended. I know I wanted to end right then.


Mother ended when I was seven.

Leastways, me being with her ended. Though I can’t remember it clearly, I know she and I travelled the world together before then. Always together.

Never again.

I can never see her face clear that last day. No matter how hard I try. Her whole body is vague even. All I see clear are her winter-gray eyes. Wet with tears. Then, becoming granite cold.

“I must leave you, Victor.”


“Hush! I have taught you better than to lose control like this. Though I take his face from your mind, remember Chiron’s lessons.”

“Don’t leave me, Mother!”

“It is done. My nature is what it is. You must survive as best you can. Beware. My taking time to leave you here has spawned foul creatures in Detroit. And they are hungry. I must leave before even worse happens.”

Cold lips press down upon my forehead. “I-I love you, Victor.”

Then, she simply vanished. One heartbeat there. The next gone.

My mind told my eyes they were wrong. People just didn’t disappear like that. My blinking eyes screamed the obvious : I was alone.

My mind refused to believe. The heart dying inside me believed my eyes. Mother was gone, and she wasn’t coming back.

The world slowly grew into focus. A chill Autumn air made me shiver. At least, I told myself it was the cold winds that were doing it.

My nose wrinkled. Exhaust fumes. Grass. Yelling kids. A playground.

Mother had dumped me at a playground. That was just so … so mean.

Cold, distant. Mother had always been that. Still, I always felt loved somehow. My face closed like a fist. You didn’t dump someone you loved like an unwanted kitten at a playground.

I stepped back from the thought. My feet followed. The chains of a swing brushed my shoulders. I sank down into it hard, my legs not wanting to support me anymore. Like Mother didn’t want me anymore.

I grabbed the chains and squeezed with all my might. Why? Why didn’t she love me anymore?

To my right whined a girl’s voice, “I don’t like you.”

I blinked my eyes to focus my mind. I turned. A girl was in the swing next to me.

A year younger than me, she had long, wavy black hair. Her eyes were the color of the wine-dark sea. The same sea that Triton had surged out of, blowing death from his spiral horn.

I shook my head.

Where had that thought come from? I caught a fleeting image of a wrinkled face, sad eyes milked over in blindness. Homer.

His name was Homer. And he always found a way to make me laugh. I went cold inside. Ulysses. He always called me ‘Ulysses.’

The girl cleared her throat. “I said I don’t like you.”

“Take a number,” I muttered.

“I said I don’t like you!”

“I didn’t hear you that time, and I’m not going to hear you the next.”

She pointed over my shoulder. “And I don’t like them either!”

I smiled as cold as my heart felt. “Must be my kind of people.”

I turned in the swing. “Or not.”

The dead-eyed children swayed on lead feet our way, their faces rotting, their dress clothes torn and dirty, their nails broken from having clawed their way out of their coffins and up through the dirt of their graves.

Was this what Mother meant? Were they the reason she had to leave me so quickly? I swallowed hard remembering her words. Had she somehow made these corpses into zombies just by being here?

No. That couldn’t be. She was just Mother.

“Zombies!,” I muttered. “Fricking kid zombies. Oh, why the hell not?”

The girl covered her mouth, “Oh, you said a naughty!”

“On my best day, Sunshine, I’m PG-13.”

Mother’s slate-hard eyes flashed before mine. “And this is not my best day.”

“My name’s not Sunshine! It’s Becky.”

I jerked my thumb to the jaw-snapping, hungry kid zombies moving our way much too fast. “It’ll be ‘Kibble ‘N Brains’ if you don’t get the lead out.”

What had Chiron told me? When surrounded by enemies, get a sword, a shield, and the high ground.

Becky pulled out a wooden slingshot. “I’ll stop them!”

“Lots of luck with that, Nibbles.”

“My name is Becky!”

We were almost surrounded. I ran to a fallen baseball bat. Two zombies were making sure that the boy whose blood was all over it, wouldn’t miss it.

I darted in between them, nervous laughter bubbling from my lips. I tumbled through their grasping arms, snatching up the bat.

“My life is like a loaded gun,” I panted.

One lunged at me.

I beaned him with all my might, and his rotting head burst. I laughed, “I hope your name was Homer. ‘Cause I always wanted to hit a homer.”

To my far left, Becky screamed, “Fall down! WHY WON’T YOU FALL DOWN?”

I ran over, grabbed her by the pony-tail and snapped, “Cause the fun never stops with zombies!”

“Stop!,” cried Becky. “You’re messing up my pigtail.”

I spotted a slide/jungle-gym. All right! High ground.

I grunted, “Those zombies will mess up more than your ….”

A kid zombie with a half-eaten face lurched through the garbage cans lining the playground, knocking them over. A garbage can lid rolled to my feet.

My shield!

I snatched it up and smacked the zombie in the face with it. “Watch out! Low bridge.”

I thumped Becky on the butt to get her moving faster to the slide/jungle-gym.

“Hey, that’s my butt!”

I jerked my head to the shambling, but all-too-fast kid zombies. “It’ll be theirs if you don’t get a move on!”

We made it to the slide at the same time that a black kid took a mop handle and used it as a pole vault to get to the top of the metal tree-house at the top of the slide.

“Whoa!,” I gasped. “Way to go, LeRoy.”

He looked down at me. “Ya gotta learn free runnin’ if you gonna make it on these streets, bro. How did you know my name anyway?”

I got uneasy. “Lucky guess.”

But it hadn’t been. I had just known it. Like I had known Chrion’s lessons but couldn’t remember his face.

I smacked Becky up the slide with the garbage lid. The ladder was too slow as a couple of screaming kids found out the hard way. We ducked aside a girl with glasses. I shield-blocked the brick she aimed at me.

“Save it for the dead heads,” I barked, scooting by her.

The slide/jungle-gym was a big son of a gun. I skipped down the steps from the tree house to the walkway where six kid zombies scrambled towards us moaning, “Brains, brains, brains.”

I winked at Becky who was taking aim at them with her ball bearing loaded sling shot.
“They can’t mean you. It’s gotta be me they’re after.”

Becky let go with her sling shot, sending a ball bearing into the only eye of a grasping girl zombie. “Ha, ha. Very not funny!”

LeRoy pushed a boy zombie off the top of the tree-house with his mop handle. “Damn! They just too many of ‘em!”

It hit me then.

Mother hadn’t abandoned me.

She had left me here to be killed.

She … she wanted me … dead. She didn’t want me anymore. She didn’t love me. Had she ever loved me? Hot tears filled my eyes.

“Wrong!,” I yelled. “There aren’t enough!”

I leapt onto the walkway, swinging with bat and shield, knocking the grasping kid-zombies every which way.

Zombies scuttled like cockroaches out of Hell along the top of the rungs of the jungle-gym. They dropped down on the walkway. I swung at them with all my hurt, all my anger.

Brains, bits of skull, and rotted flesh flew in chucks as I danced about, smacking them with all the rage I felt at Mother for just dumping me … for not loving me anymore.

Glasses sobbed, “I-I’m outta bricks. They’re going to eat us.”

They kept coming. I kept blocking and smashing.

Becky went for more ball bearings but came up empty. A giggling girl-zombie knocked LeRoy down. He screamed.

{Tune in this summer for the rest.}

What could be the theme for Victor's friendship with Becky & Glasses :

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Ever wonder what happened to Becky, Glasses, and LeRoy from Victor's zombie run-in at that playround in Detroit?

You'll find out in THE RIVAL.

{Due to be published this summer!}

But here is the bit called "THE LAST NEWSCAST."

{Detroit has become the city of the undead except for four very frightened children -- one of them a murderer and worse.}

“You can find everything you need at Sears,” I whispered with a smile, remembering what Mother had once told me.

“Aren’t you finished yet?,” whispered Becky.

Over the past month we had learned to whisper whenever we talked. It had been a pretty lousy thirty days.

Especially for Becky and Glasses. Both had lost their parents long ago. Becky lived with an older sister, Glasses with a maiden aunt. Both sister and aunt died in that playground.

I made a finishing twist of the screwdriver and nodded, “All finished.”

I handed her the tinkered leg of a walker I had worked on for nearly an hour. “Your Zip gun.”

Becky took it with a frown. “Gee, it’s heavy!”

“Should be. It fires ball bearings.”

LeRoy cocked his sullen head. “How it do that?”

“It uses compressed air to shoot ball bearings. I took a couple of things Leonardo di Vinci taught me ….”

All three of them looked at me as if I were Forest Gump, and I hurriedly added, “ … in a dream.”

Glasses smiled timidly, “What was the dream, Victor?”

“Ah, Mother and I visited him when he was a real old man. She told him it was time to go.”

“Go where?,” Becky frowned.

I shrugged. “Somewhere he really didn’t want to go from the way he looked. Mother left me with him, saying she’d postpone his going as long as he taught me needful things.”

Both Becky and Glasses made me uncomfortable by getting closer than they needed to be.

LeRoy huffed, “And did he?”

“Did he what?”

“Show you those needful things, fool!”

“Yeah, he did. It was a pretty fun month. He was a neat teacher. Then ….”

“Then, what?” whispered Glasses.

“Then, Mother came back. But Leo took it better than I expected. He ruffled my hair and told me I had made his last month one of the best.”

Becky got even closer. I couldn’t understand it. In a month she seemed to have grown older by a full year at least. I had a sinking feeling my scream on the playground had something to do with it.

She whispered, “What happened next?”

I grew uneasy and muttered, “The dream ends there.”

LeRoy grunted, “Dreams always do.”

He sneered at my red wagon by the Sears hardware check out. “What else you got in there?”

I reached down and pulled out the mini-crossbow I had jury-rigged for Glasses and handed it to her. “Lighter than bricks.”

She took it gingerly. “Ha. Ha.”

I smiled thin. “I used pulleys and chains in ways Archimedes showed me.”

LeRoy sneered uglier. “In another dream, right?”

I nodded. “In another dream.”

Becky made a librarian face. “How many of those silly dreams do you have?”

“Don’t know. I just seem to remember ‘em when I need them.”

I sniffed at the faint traces of familiar perfume and pulled at the cuffs of my work gloves, uncomfortable at the memories they stirred. LeRoy smiled like a shark. He shook his head.

“What? You don’t want those lily white hands to get dirty?”

“Cut. I don’t want them cut. Remember how fast Shamblers get when they smell fresh blood?”

That shut him up. He looked concerned all around the empty store. He gnawed his upper lip.

“This places spooks me. It so empty. It should be full of Shamblers as you call them.”

Glasses shook her own head. “It’s as if somebody cleared them out before we got here.”

Becky laughed bitter. “Maybe it was Victor’s Mother.”

I might have laughed with her if I weren’t smelling her strange perfume in the air.

To change the subject, I pulled out two back packs. One marked G and the other B. I handed them to the girls.

“It has bolts and ball bearings in them. First Aid kits, magnesium flares, matches, Zippo’s, lighter fluid …..”

“Why both matches and Zippo’s?,” growled LeRoy.

Glasses’ eyes lit up. “Oh, I know! You skirt a Shambler with the lighter fluid, light up the pack of matches with the Zippo, and throw it on the zombie!”

For once LeRoy nodded in appreciation of one of my ideas. "Barbequed Shambler! I like that."

I figured he was smiling because it was spoken out loud by Glasses. If Becky had done it, he would have done hand-stands.

He suddenly frowned, “Hey, where’s my back pack?”

“With that free running of yours, you don’t need to be loaded down with a pack.”

I bent down and pulled out my gag gift. “Here’s a new mop though .. to replace the one you broke over that Shambler's head in the playground.”

As the girls giggled, he snapped, “You know where you can stick that.”

“Where do we go from here?,” asked Becky.

I grinned, “The mattress department.”

LeRoy huffed, “I ain’t sleeping in this death trap.”

We’re gonna sit while the girls snooze for a couple of hours.”

Becky clasped both hands together. “Oh, LeRoy, could we? To sleep on a real bed again ….”

He relented. “Oh, all right. But not for no two hours. Maybe thirty minutes. Those Shamblers may be gone now, but they be coming back.”

Becky and Glasses literally skipped on the way to the Mattress Department. Sears had three beds as models. The girls picked the biggest to snuggle up in together.

LeRoy made me antsy the way he looked at Becky in the bed. I unfurled long sheets of bubble wrap all around their bed.

LeRoy muttered, “The Shamblers get that close, getting warned won’t do no good.”

But the bubble wrap seemed to ease the girls in the way that I hoped it would. LeRoy glared at me, seeing it. Let him. We were never going to be Prom dates anyway.

They snuggled in their new Sears jeans and blouses and sighed. I sighed, too, as I noticed they kept their sneakers on. It was a new world with new rules.

I had already set up two Lazy Boys by the beds before I led us here. With the TV in front of it. LeRoy arched an eyebrow.

“Where the popcorn to go with the movie?”

“No movie. Only a DVD recording marked THE LAST NEWCAST.”

LeRoy made a face. “I can hardly wait.”

The newswoman looked like she had seen better days. Her fancy hair-do was all frazzled. Her business suit looked like it had been slept in for days.

The camera was even off-center as if not wanting to get too close a look at her. Her first words explained the camera.

“T-Ted, the camera man is … dead. I … shot him myself.”

She peered into the camera as if begging its owner’s forgiveness.

“You asked me to, Ted. I – I didn’t want to. God, you know I didn’t want to. B-But you said women were the stronger sex.”

(“Yeah, right,” muttered LeRoy. I shushed him.)

She sniffed once, picked up a stack of rumpled news copy, and laughed bitterly.

“I don’t feel stronger. I feel … that’s just it. I don’t feel. It’s like my heart and mind are both wrapped in cotton.”

I heard the pounding and grunting from behind the camera at the same time she did.

She went stiff, dropping the papers in a messy sprawl on the desk in front of her.
“I don’t have long. But if I’m going to die, I’m going to die a newswoman.”

The pounding on the unseen door got louder. The grunting was worse somehow, and the poor lady echoed my thoughts.

“It’s that damn hungry, incessant grunting. It’s more than hunger. Sexual almost. Damn.”

She looked back into the camera, now seeing, not Ted, but the audience. “Ted set this up to repeat over and over again. So if you’re watching this, I’m not really here.”

She looked off into the shadows and murmured, “I haven’t been here for a long time now.”

She snapped out of it with the increased pounding and grunting behind the camera. Splintering wood was added to the mix. She tried to wet her mouth, her dry tongue.

“Anyone close to you gets bit, you kill them. In hours, minutes even, they become ….”

The grunting grew obscene somehow, and she looked towards it then back to the camera.

“… one of them. Shoot them. But not in the body.”

She smacked her forehead. “There! If you don’t have a gun, a bat, a lead pipe. Fire. Burn them! But save yourself. They are already dead.”

She looked down at the floor by the camera and whimpered, “Already dead.”

The door sounded ready to go, and she pulled out a revolver.

“Don’t bury them. Kill them. But don’t burn the bodies! God, don’t burn the bodies.”

“Ted and I were there when the National Guard started burning the bodies. The smoke. God, the smoke. It infected everyone by the fires who breathed it. They changed so fast.”

She closed her eyes tight as the grunting got louder, the splintering wood more shrill. “Those changed didn’t shamble.”

(LeRoy looked at me with the speaking of the word. His face was ash gray, his eyes wide.)

“They were like rabid dogs. They ran so fast, their open mouths foaming. T-That’s when Ted got bit. I think I might have gotten a whiff of that damn smoke myself. I – I don’t feel human anymore.”

It sounded like the door was about to go.

“No, I feel like a little girl back in church, knowing I’m going to get a spanking when I get home.”

She stroked the revolver as if it were a cat and began to sing “O Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” in a little girl’s voice :

“H-Here I raise my Ebenezer ….”

She put the gun’s barrel under her chin.

“H-Hither by Thy help I’m come,
And I hope by T-Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive a-at ho-home.”

She pulled the trigger.

I jumped in my chair. The door to the newsroom finally tore off its hinges right then. The camera was knocked down. We saw a flurry of shambling feet. Then, there was a click.

The newswoman was back looking at us again. “T-Ted, the camera man is … dead. I … shot him myself.”

The clip was repeating itself. I was shaking. LeRoy husked out , “Shit.”

I managed to say, “What you said.”

LeRoy frowned, “Hey, the grunting didn’t come so soon, did it?”

I quick turned off the TV with the remote. The grunting kept on. LeRoy suddenly looked like an albino.

“They found us!”

We popped out of the Lazy Boys. I turned to the far end of the third floor. There. At the escalator.

The Shamblers were tumbling to the floor as their feet no longer remembered how to step off an escalator. They hadn’t seen us yet. They had only smelled us.

LeRoy started for Becky. I was closer. I whispered shrill.

“Cover Glasses’ mouth when you wake her.”

“Why the hell for?”

“Don’t you remember? They always wake up screaming.”

Alice & Victor's love theme :

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Under what conditions does a person continue to be a person?

Under what conditions does he or she stop being a person?

As a young man, Hitler dreamed of being an artist.

There are private collections of his artwork kept all across the world by different individuals ...

for whatever reasons prompt such people to collect those paintings.

Do they look at those works of art, trying to picture the mind of the man who put brush to canvas? To see if they can spot any indication of the monster he later became?

Rene Descares maxim : I think therefore I am.

Does what we think determine the person who we are? Do our actions dictate that? Or is it a meld of the two?

A zombie. Could we call that a person? It is hunger with a mouth and two legs (usually).

Yet, haven't you met people consumed by the hunger for fame, wealth, social status to the extent that they will sacrifice their wives, their children, their health to obtain them?

Do they quality as a type of zombie, emotional hunger driven with little thought for others?

What tells you more about a person? The way his body works or how his mind works?

I would suggest that language is where our being lives. There is the language of words, but there is also the language of action.

I say "I love you" but I forget your birthday, I humiliate you in public, and slap you in private. The language of action is more persuasive than that of words.

Novels are the only medium that portray the mind well.

Only novels expose the secret life of character.

Do you know your hero/heroine well enough to portray his/her character with a few deft eye lifts or sighs or the finality of a signing of a divorce decree?

The best novels show a mind in conflict with itself, dark urges contesting over the feeble protests of decent urges.

You, as a reader, will find the deepest connection with the character when his or her deepest thoughts are explored.

But they must resonate with truth -- the truth of what it means to be human. What are your character's deepest thoughts?

They will be about his worries, fears, and hopes.

If you can write a short , genuine-feeling paragraph of the worries, fears, and hopes of each of your characters,

they will come across as real in your novel.

And those paragraphs will help give you a sense of self for each character -- and how each one of those characters interact, mesh, or strike sparks off the others in your novel.

How do you write a genuine summation of your character's worries, fears, and hopes?

Once in New York City, a rat was filmed by a news crew caught in the middle of a busy street. It tried to dart from one side to the other, only to nearly be run over.

As by-standers watched, again and again, it frantically scrambled to the safety of the curb, only to miss death by millimeters.

Finally a whizzing tire caught the rat, sending it spinning and tumbling.

It stayed in one spot cowering.

A man with folded newspaper in hand ran from the sidewalk, scooped up the fearful rat, and tumbled it into the dark safety of the sewer grate.

The man smiled big, got on his bike, taking off. The camera crew called after him. "Why did you do that?"

He smiled embarrassed. "I've been scared like that, too."

If you can get your reader to think "I've felt like that, too," your character's worries, fears, and hopes will feel real to him and her.

Hope this helps your writing in some small way, Roland

Jessica Bell's STRING BRIDGE just hit #1 in Modern Contemporary Fiction! Whoot!

Oh, both VICTOR STANDISH urban fantasies are gaining momentum, too. Good to see. Thanks to all of you for buying. All royalites go to the Salvation Army still. :-)

Friday, January 27, 2012

DANSE MARDI GRAS_Friday's Romantic Challenge


I had never seen Captain Sam so happy. Meilori was back in his arms though it meant a target on my back. Mardi Gras was a thing of laughter within his haunted jazz club once again.

I felt like baying like a happy hound myself. Alice was flowing towards me in a black sleek dress whose long skirt was slit for the tango.

Her porcelain shoulders bare, long blonde hair a living waterfall upon them, long black gloves up past her elbows.

She leaned against me to the tempo of Grace Jones singing “Strange, I’ve Seen That Face Before.”

“What is this tune?,” she whispered in my ear.

“The Libertango,” I smiled.

“I do feel liberated,” she husked, running her toe up, then down my right leg.

“Me, too,” spoke Meilori as she slipped between Alice and me, whipping the two of us away.

Jade eyes which had watched Aztec sacrifices scream for mercy that never came stabbed into me.

“So you are the son I could never give Samuel?”

“We don’t have to be enemies,” I whispered, seeing a concerned Captain Sam taking up a frantic Alice in his arms to continue the tango towards us.

Meilori laughed a thing from nightmares.

“Oh, do not worry, Standish. Once I kill you, I will forget all about you.”

She gazed mockingly at Alice as she rubbed her body against mine, and I sighed, “You can destroy me as an enemy in another way.”


“You can make a friend of me.”

A Harlequin spun me from Meilori’s arms, shaking off her belled hat, long silk black hair tumbling down on colorful shoulders.

Maija. I wondered when she’d show.

Meilori gasped, “But you are dead!”

“Your savage of a husband only managed to kill my followers. DayStar saved me.”

I shook my head as Maija spun me in the female’s role of the tango and snorted, “DayStar doesn’t save. He damns.”

“To revenge myself against my sister, McCord, and you, I welcome damnation.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sam sweep Meilori in his arms as she whispered hurriedly to him. Marshall Hickok took up Alice and danced the tango awkwardly towards us.

Maija swept me down in a sudden dip, wrenched me up against her breasts (Aw, jeez, she didn’t believe in underwear), and hissed into my ear.

“Tonight I will pay you back for that ‘Menage a Trois’ lie you spread about you, your ghoul, and myself in 1834!”

I snapped her out, then back into my arms as the tango heated up. “Hey, I happened to ruin my reputation while improving yours with that!”

“I will kill you slowly for those words.”

“Take a number. It’s a long line.”

Another woman, this time dressed as Marie Antoinette, tugged me out of Maija’s arms. Despite the white wig, I recognized the insane cobalt blue eyes. Empress Theodora, ruler of the European Revenant Empire.

“Royalty first, Ningyo swine!”

My dance card was getting too damn full. Theodora laughed throaty.

“Ah, my subjects are whispering that I am renewing our tawdry love affair. Another lie you have sown about your betters!”

Father Renfield and Sister Magda were twirling effortlessly towards us, their faces grim. So was Sam with Meilori and Alice with Hickok. I smiled grimly.

Lady Lovelace and Margaret Fuller were scandalizing the crowd by dancing together my way. They were too far away to get here in time.

Theodora’s steel fingers squeezed my upper arms tight. She was about to pull apart my arms and make a wish.

I smiled sad. “You’re all alone.”

“My subjects are mixed all through this crowd within Meilori’s.”

“And still alone.”

I dipped her suddenly. Jeez, didn’t any of my enemies believe in underwear? I got a terrible mental image of Major Strasser. If I survived this tango, I was going to have to take a bath in Listerine.

“You are surrounded by toadies who are too terrified to say anything but yes to you.”

Theodora snapped up, pressing me close to her, running her own toe up and down my right leg. “And that is bad?”

“One day, your worshipfulness, you’re going to be at a terrible crossroads, not knowing which way to take. And those toadies’ words won’t help worth shit.”

I smiled wide, taking precise quick, flowing steps between her fast moving high-heeled feet as we moved fluid over the dance floor.

“Then, you’ll think of me, too stupid to lie – even to an enemy.”

Theodora studied me. “You would save my life? Why?”

“Because we’re both street gypsies. You’re just a clever daughter of a bear trainer who slept her way to the top. Me? I’m gutter trash. We’re alike and both alone in ways no one but we will ever understand.”

Theodora flicked flat eyes to Alice, and I shook my head.

“She was raised to be a Victorian lady. Like you, I was raised to survive in a world that didn’t want me to.”

“Alike and alone,” Theodora husked.

Her cobalt eyes deepened, became wet. Before I could react Theodora crushed her cold lips into mine.

“Hey, no tongue on a first date!”

Alice was suddenly by my side. Theodora laughed oddly, linking her arm with an uneasy Hickok. “Standish, you live … for tonight. You have given me much to think over.”

Alice’s pale face became all eyes. “What was that kiss about? What did you do, Victor?”

Sam and Meilori danced to a halt in front of me. I looked into the disturbed eyes of Meilori, sighing, “Followed my own advise.”

{Excerpt from Victor's sixth book, DANSE MARDI GRAS. The 4th & 5th? THREE SPIRIT NIGHT and DEATH AT CHRISTMAS.}

For other entries :


(steamy in the middle and towards the end)


Thursday, January 26, 2012


One of the criticisms of the last LORD OF THE RING movie was that it appeared Peter Jackson couldn't decide where to end the movie

and tricked the audience into thinking they were watching the end, only to be moved to yet another false ending.

By the time the movie did end, many were grumbling about the whole experience.

Are we authors like that?

Do we linger too long, milking the afterglow of the story. Or do we end too abruptly once the crisis is averted or overcome?

Many teachers of creative writing stress not to begin writing until you have the ending clearly in mind

so that you can head to it with skillful foreshadowing and firm precision, not meandering until the end just comes to you.

I think that approach also helps you to know when to begin.

If you know the ending with its transformation of the main character, then you know where to start your story ...

and you get a sense of how to bring your protagonist to his destination.

What mood do you want the reader to leave your novel holding in his heart?

Hope. Despair. Laughter. Resolve in the face of dissolution.

Or a mix of all of the above?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Yesterday as we went about our daily lives :

An innocent man was lynched in a country whose name most of us can't spell.

An impressionable baby was born to a hateful mother.

Three young men were killed by sniper fire.

A hungry old woman opened a can of dog food to eat for her one meal of the day.

And we passed a lonely, hopeless soul, looking for one pair of eyes that gave a damn.

There is empty ground in most souls we pass. Sometimes that leeched soil is within our own soul. We cannot save the world. Often it is beyond us to even save ourselves.

That which we can do, we must do, or else we help the darkness grow thicker. Even one feeble candle can show the way for the next step. And what does this have to do with writing you ask.


We cast out our words into the darkness of the cyber-void. We do not know who stops by our blogs, weary of spirit, drained of hope. We do know that tragedy and heartbreak is an everyday event. We know how to write.

Let us build up not tear down. Write to support, to strengthen, to lessen the load of the unknown reader in the shadows. Maybe even to make lips that had forgotten how to smile break into a laugh, weak but the more needed because of that.

There is war. There is pestilence. There is famine. But none of them prepare you for someone moaning over trifles.

Yet, on the other hand, no one enjoys having their mountain made into a mole hill by a spectator safe on the sidelines.

What did Mark Twain write?

"Nothing that grieves us can be called little. By the eternal law of proportion, a child's loss of a beloved doll and a king's loss of his crown are events of the same size."

Billy Graham once wrote : "Puppy love is real to the puppy."

Compassion. Understanding. Laughter. I try to make them my three writing companions.

And when we write our novels, we need to always keep in mind the living person who will read our words.

Is our story one that touches the heart? Is it real? Even in fantasy, our characters can seem real if their pain is common to our own : alienation, loneliness, yearning for love.

And keep in mind to always include laughter.

After seriously commenting on his strict requirements for perspective hosts, Mark Twain added with a twinkle in his writer's eye :

"When I am ill-natured, which is rare for the paragon of virtue that I am, I so enjoy the freedom of a hotel -

where I can ring up a domestic and give him a quarter. And then commense to break furniture over him. Whereupon I go to bed calmed and sleep as peacefully as a child."

And it is comforting that even a genius like Mark Twain was once thrown out of the office of a publisher.

"I got into his office by mistake. He thought I wanted to purchase one of his books, not the other way around. His lips contracted so fast his teeth fell out. And he threw me out."

Twenty-five years later that publisher met Twain on the street and profusely apologized : "I stand without competitor as the prize ass of the 19th century."

Mark Twain remembers the event this way :

"It was a most handsome apology, and I told him so. I then confided that several times each year since that time I mused over that incident and had in fancy taken his life, always in new and in increasingly cruel, inhuman ways --

but henceforth, I would hold him my true and valued friend -- and I promised never to kill him again -- in fancy or in fact."

Mark Twain had his own take on publishers from his long association with them :

"All publishers are Columbuses. The successful author is their America. The truth that they --

like Columbus --

didn't discover what they expected to discover, didn't discover what they set out to discover, doesn't trouble them in the least."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012



Your arrival is most welcome.

People and businesses around the world have had difficult times over the last few years, so the good luck you bring is timely and needed.

The Dragon is in fact the major symbol of good fortune in Chinese Astrology.

The Dragon constellation is accorded the honor of being the guardian of the Eastern sky. According to tradition the Dragon brings in the Four Blessings of the East:

wealth, virtue, harmony and longevity.

Indeed, of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac the Dragon is the most special,

as it is a mystical being rather than an earthly animal.

It is sometimes called a karmic sign. In this context that means we can expect grand things this year. Bigger than life is very much a Dragon thing.

Speaking of bigger than life and DRAGONS, here is an appropriate excerpt from THE PATH BACK TO DAWN,

where Blake Adamson sails the cursed junk, THE BLADELESS SAMURAI, through the Sea of Fate with the mysterious Ningyo, Kirika Amaratsu :

I glanced at the strange water surging along the sides of our ship. But water wasn't quite what it was. The color of India ink, it held entire constellations of shimmering stars in its depths.

Swirling arms of slowly rotating galaxies spun lazily deep beneath the waves like cosmic jellyfish searching for prey. The waters smelled of lightning strikes and acid. And where I had expected to see a storm brewing, there wasn't a cloud in sight. Maybe the Sea of Fate just naturally had blustery winds.

Wisping mists flailed up from the waters. The color of honey, they dipped and danced, taking the forms of writhing men and women, some in togas, some in armor, some in Oriental robes.

One took the form of a wild, lean valkyrie on a black, winged stallion. It soared high, then banked right to me, telling me I was number one with the wrong finger. I smiled bitter. That happened to me a lot. If I weren't already sure most people wanted me dead, I might start to get a complex.

Kirika tugged on my shirt sleeve. "Beloved, look, the Moon of Zhang-O."

"Wow," I gasped.

Not exactly something worthy of Shakespeare, but it was all I could get out of a throat that seemed to have suddenly turned into marble. Taking up nearly a third of the neon purple sky, the skull white moon with its craters and mountains seemed to leer down on us.

Its details were blurred by the distance. Yet the dusky blue rings, three of them, were clear enough. I watched them in awe as they circled the moon slowly at different rates of speed, making for an eerie effect.

Kirika squeezed my arm hard. "Can you not hear her weep, my Blake?"

I listened and shivered. Jeez, it did seem as if I could hear the soft sobbing of a woman with her heart crushed. Kirika began to shiver, too.

I reached out and hugged her with my right arm. I flicked my eyes back to where I had landed and breathed a sigh of relief. The Spear of Destiny still lay where I had dropped it upon hitting the deck.

Kirika blinked back tears. "Zhang-O is crying for her Yi, her lost love. Lost to her forever, never to be held in her arms again."

I smiled sad. "Never is a long time. You can't always tell what the future holds."

"You can if your love is dead," she husked.

"Dead isn't what you think it is," I sighed.

Her face went hard. "As if you know."

I nodded. "I've died already, remember?"

Her eyes became slits. "And came back for your two loves."

I looked her straight in the eye. "The heart has two sides. Each one doing different things. But it still is one heart."

Her head moved back slightly at that. "S-Sometimes, you are wiser than your years."

She jumped. Alright, we both jumped as a loud, mournful bellow thundered to our left. Even Hone jerked. All of us turned.

There, high on the black, rocky cliffs above us arched a huge emerald dragon. It was breathing a long, billowing column of eye-aching red fire. It was mewing something terrible, as if its very heart were being torn out.

"What in the world?," I gasped.

Kirika touched my cheek with slightly trembling fingers. "This must be the cliffs of Love's End, where dragons come to mourn their lost mates."

The dragon more mewed than bellowed as he continued to cry out grief and flames. It hurt me to see such a majestic creature in so much pain. Kirika reached out and turned my head to look at her.

"All loves die, my Blake. Some quickly, some slowly, but they all die ugly deaths."

I shook my head firm and whispered to the neon skies, "Not this one. Father, please, give him back his love."

Kirika sighed, "You are such a chi --"

Hone squeezed my shoulder so hard I cried out. Or maybe I would have cried out anyway, for out of the column of flames a figure began to form.

The grieving dragon bleated in shock and stopped breathing fire. But the figure of flames still grew and grew, slowly taking the shape of a slender gold and scarlet dragon.

The male dragon reared on his hind legs, rasping a cry of question and disbelief. The dragon of fire flared out her long wings, spoke but one word.

And thanks to Solomon, I understood it : "Beloved."

Then, she slowly settled down beside her mate, wrapping her wings of flame around him. They entwined their long necks, sobbing great cries of greeting and weaving in a graceful dance of love .

The green dragon wrapped his huge wings around his fiery mate. I went sick. He shimmered, glowed, then erupted into jade fires, until he, too, was a creature of flames.

Though together they made an awesome inferno, still, they were distinct beings. They suddenly laughed and, together, they soared high into the strange skies, straight toward the moon of Zhang-O.

The three of us watched silently as they grew smaller and smaller and smaller until they disappeared in their flight towards the moon of lost love.

My chest gone all hollow, I whispered, "I didn't want --"

Hone sighed, "A hard lesson, little wanderer. Not all prayers are answered in the way you expect."

Kirika lightly kissed my cheek. "I was right, long ago, my Blake. You are legend."

She squeezed my right hand tight. "My legend."

"Some legend," I muttered. "I keep screwing up."

She patted my cheek. "You think you have failed. But you have done something wondrous. You do not understand now."

Her eyes grew haunted. "But ... one day you will. One cruel day, you will."


Monday, January 23, 2012


The majority of writing manuals get it all wrong.

Writing well is not a matter of inserting bits of prose into some magic equation.

Most creative writing texts are for most people wastes of time.


They focus only on the surface techniques of writing, not the root problems of the writer :

the heart, the mind, the soul of the one doing the writing.

The writer cannot seem to get started. Once started, she/he gets lost or loses heart. She writes well sometimes, badly most of the time.

So the root problems are matters of confidence, self-respect, and freedom.

The writer’s muse rattles impotently the bars cemented in her unconscious mind.

And what do all creative writing texts proclaim in their first chapter? Genius cannot be taught. Really? Everybody has a reservoir of it, mostly untapped due to being taught it does not exist at all.

Every nightmare (and even dogs have them) shows the secret reserve of imaginative power contained within the human mind.

The writer needs to know what habits of thought and action impede progress, what unnoticed aspects of living undermine writing well.

There are keys to unlocking the potential within every struggling writer. Those keys were held by the famous writers of the past who managed to write bestsellers in the most challenging circumstances.

Come. The ghosts of those masters are standing upon the last edge of reality. Listen to their fading voices. They wait with the last vestiges of their souls to teach you.

Now, before it is too late. Read GHOST WRITERS IN THE SKY.


Sunday, January 22, 2012


This is but a preliminary cover done by the incomparable Leonora Roy

for the new Victor Standish novel, THE RIVAL,

whose rough draft is just now awakening across my keyboard.

Victor Standish discovers to his dismay that the key to saving the future of New Orleans lies in its past.

The year 1834 to be exact.

The year he barely survived when DayStar threw Victor and Alice back there the first time.

{In the last chapters of UNDER A VOODOO MOON : }

Now, he and Alice are back. Undead enemies they first met in 2005 are meeting the star-crossed lovers for the first time :

Abigail Adams, Empress Theodora, and the dreaded DayStar, he whom many believe is Lucifer himself.

And two startling new enemies join their ranks :

President Andrew Jackson, recklessly pursuing plans to allow his revenant wife, Rachel, to turn him into one of the living dead so as to be with his beloved forever.

Meilori Shinseen, (that's right - the namesake of the haunted French Quarter jazz club)

18 years before she is destined to meet Captain Samuel McCord aboard the cursed Demeter.

Their allies only make things worse :

SERGEANT Samuel McCord

and the recently dismissed cadet from West Point,

the dashing Edgar Allan Poe, who falls in love with the surprised Alice,

calling her his Annabel Lee (which is the title of the last completed poem by the artist).

How will Victor keep this younger version of his mentor from meeting Meilori before she becomes the kind of woman McCord can love?

And just as maddening, how can he keep Alice from succumbing to the charm, gallantry, and poetry of Poe?

As Alice tries to unsuccessfully calm Victor’s unfounded fears, one of her own appears :

a warm-blooded, living girl from Victor’s past, flashing long lashes and legs at the teen who is her whole world.

What is an undead ghoul to do against such competition?

And how did an orphan girl born in the Detroit of the late 20th Century end up in the New Orleans of 1834?

Some mysterious Entity is playing with both Victor and Alice.

Suddenly, the dangers of 2005 don’t appear quite so deadly to the star-crossed pair.


Saturday, January 21, 2012


"Why do we go on?"

As Gypsy, my ghost cat, lapped from my tumbler of ice tea, I sighed,

"There is no certain promise of success. Often we are mocked by those in our world.

Worse, sometimes we are endured or "forgiven our obsession" by those close to us."

Hemingway looked at me from across the table at Meilori's.

"Backbone," he rumbled.


He downed the remainder of his rum. "Backbone, son. In yourself. In your work. That is the key to surviving this 'obsession' of ours."

He set his glass with a thump on the oak table. "Your backbone is between you and your self-respect. I can't help you there."

He lit a cigar. "But with the backbone of your story or novel ...

The spine of your novel is what you follow on your character’s evolution from what he was to what he becomes. And the change must be big. Why would we follow a bump on a bumpkin’s life?

All good books have one thing in common. They are truer than real life. Why? In good books, anything that doesn’t contribute to the hero’s transformation is edited away.

So find your backbone. What big picture are you painting? Any brushstroke that doesn’t add to that picture, remove.

Ask 5 questions to find your backbone.

1) Who is your hero?

You’d be surprised how many bad novels wobble about in that department, not giving the reader a sure idea of who to root for.

2) What is the problem?

It has to be clear. It has to be primal. And it has to appear insurmountable.

3) How does the story begin and end?

There has to be a “before” and “after” feel to them. The end must be a ringing bell within the heart of the reader.

4) What is the spiritual problem of the hero?

The physical problem must symbolize the spiritual struggle within your hero.

5) What is your novel about?

What is your story’s theme. A young boy learns that true magic lies within. A man discovers lies only make problems; they do not solve them. You get the picture.

What are you waiting for? You want me to lead you to the computer and type the story for you? Writers write. Dreamers dream and die with their dreams."


Friday, January 20, 2012


{"Publication - is the auction of the Mind of Man."
~Emily Dickinson.}

That fabulous scamp of a gentlemen, Samuel Clemens, asked me to write in this "computer newspaper," as he calls it.

The dear somehow knew this date was important to me.

“Success is counted sweetest” was published anonymously in an anthology titled A Masque of Poets on this day in 1878,

the last of the handful of my poems published in my lifetime.

Though I remained firm in my decision that “My Barefoot-Rank is better,” this poem does reflect my continued mixed feelings about publishing:

Success is counted sweetest By those who ne'er succeed. To comprehend a nectar Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple host Who took the flag to-day Can tell the definition, So clear, of victory!

As he, defeated, dying,On whose forbidden earThe distant strains of triumphBurst agonized and clear!
I wonder, struggling souls, what would it mean to you if you were never published?

To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie -
True Poems flee.***
How long would you continue to write should publication elude you? Are the words burning within you to find life on the page?

For me, I never stopped writing :

HOPE is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Will you stop writing if the years pass, leaving you unpublished? Why? And if you would continue, why? This tender spirit would like to know.

Just walk out into the sable night, look up into the listening stars, and whisper your answer to the wayfaring winds. I am a ghost. I shall hear.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

WHY DO YOU WRITE? Ghost H L Mencken here

{"For every difficult problem there’s a solution that’s simple, neat and wrong."
- H. L. Mencken.}

I never expected to be a ghost. But then, I never expected to be aware of surprise or anything else after death.

Life had been an endless source of surprises. I should have expected the same thing of death.

Samuel Clemens has asked me to step in for Roland on his blog.

I was delighted. A blog is much like a newspaper column but without the scant pay and worse deadlines.

Better I get to ask questions of my readers. Such as why did you start to write? What keeps you at writing? What shore are you heading your prose craft to?
To be fair I will tell you of my feelings towards writing :

1.) "Words are veils."
It is hard enough to put into them what one thinks. It is a sheer impossibility to put into them what one feels.
Such skepticism, however, never keeps me from trying.

2.) Writing is a lonely profession.
Chandler was right. But don't tell the sourpuss that. He's hard enough to "live" with as it is.

The writing profession is reeking with this loneliness.
All our lives we spend in discoursing with ourselves. . . . The loneliest people in the world we writers are.

Except that, while we are conversing and laughing with ourselves, we manage to shed our loneliness . . . to scatter it as we go along.

That is the express reason why your blogs are so important. They are a chain of linked spirits holding on to one another through the darkness of the cyber-void.

3.) Persistence in writing is dedication for me. Vanity for you.

I jest of course. It is how we ghosts keep from going totally mad.
Why, then, do rational men and women engage in so barbarous and exhausting a vocation?

What keeps them from deserting it for trades that are less onerous, and, in the public eye, more respectable?

The answer, it seems to me, is as plain as mud.

An author is simply one in whom the normal vanity of all men is so vastly exaggerated that he finds it a sheer impossibility to hold it in.

His overpowering impulse is to dance before his fellow men, flapping his wings and emitting his defiant yells. It appeals to the little child in all of us creative beings.

This being forbidden by the Polizei of all civilized countries, we take it out by putting our yells on paper or on the computer screen.

Such is the thing called self-expression. Such is the genesis of blogs.

4.) The Worth of Blogs : Education.

Education in the truest sense --
education directed toward awakening a capacity to differentiate between fact and appearance --

always will be a more or less furtive and illicit thing, for its chief purpose is the controversion and destruction of the very ideas that the majority of men --

and particularly the majority of official and powerful men --

regard as incontrovertibly true. To the extent that I am genuinely educated.
I am suspicious of all the things that the average politician believes and the average pedagogue teaches.

Progress consists precisely in attacking and disposing of these ordinary beliefs.

5.) Why I "ghost"-wrote for an unpublished writer at the request of Samuel Clemens :
How could I not?

what a man Mark Twain is!

How he stood above and apart from the world, like Rabelais come to life again, observing the human comedy, chuckling over the fraudulence of man!

He regards all men as humbugs, but as humbugs to be dealt with gently,
as humbugs too often taken in and swindled by their own humbuggery.

Clemens is in a dark mood that Chandler's past writing upset some. I tried to comfort him with the fact

that any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.

I reminded him that the great artists of the world are never Puritans,
and seldom respectable.

No virtuous man - that is, virtuous in the Y.M.C.A. sense -

has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading.

*) Feel free to disagree with me. I am but a ghost.

I am often wrong. My prejudices are innumerable, and often idiotic.
My aim is not to determine facts, but to function freely and pleasantly -

as Nietzsche used to say, to dance with arms and legs.

Let me know why you write, why you continue to write despite rejections from agent or publisher, and what is your ultimate goal for your novels.

I'm truly interested. Just walk out into the moonlight and whisper. I am a ghost I will hear.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


You, and the rest of mankind, are quite sure what is possible and what is impossible.

In the daylight.

When the night descends, the stride of your thoughts is not quite so confident.

Not so Roland.

He is much like an animal. I do not mean that as an insult.

He takes what comes at face value, not forcing it to fit into any preconceived notions Man teaches as Science.

He deals with what comes without protesting that it cannot be, only seeing what is and adapting.

Perhaps that is why we ghosts are drawn to him. In him is that quality that Stubbs expressed in MOBY DICK :

“I know not what all may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”

Not that he is overly optimistic about the world around him. For being part Lakota Sioux, he still reads the Bible by his bedside. He often quotes :

“They sleep not, except that they have done mischief;
And their sleep is taken away unless they cause
Some to fall.

For they eat the bread of wickedness
And drink the wine of violence.”

That is Proverbs 4:16-17 for those of you interested in such things.
In life I was not.

I thought the love of God was like the light burning from the stars :

cold and distant.

Now, that I am a ghost …. but no.

There are secrets the dead may not share with the living.

But the secrets on how to write well … they I can share with you.

Oh, you are wondering who I am.

Don’t be embarrassed. In life I wondered the same thing.

I am Roger Zelazny.

I made somewhat of a splash in Science Fiction in the sixties, endured and evolved in the seventies and eighties. I went the way of all flesh mid-way through the nineties in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

And Roland mourned me as a distant older brother gone over the crest of the hill before him, leaving him cold and alone.

Oh, and I inspired him to take up the pen and follow my steps into weaving tales in the genre I call Science Fantasy.

That I sparked the idea in him to be a writer drew me to him.

It was his gentle, quiet, amused nature that has made me stay. He looks on all the awkwardness of life with a sly smile that says, “You expected water to run uphill?”

Another more important question :

What makes one tale live, vibrant and riveting, and another merely flat, lifeless words on paper?

Not that any of us have a sure idea, although Hemingway is glaring at me. But we had a close enough glimpse of the answer to make a living at what we loved to do :


What is the answer?

A joyous cry : “Come see what I found!”

If you can bring anew the childlike sense of wonder and awe to your readers that the poisons of living have drained from them, you will have a loyal following that will not quit.

What words will do that?

Certainly not the same sing-song repeat and rinse of someone else’s bestseller.
The words must tilt the reader’s expectations on its ear. Did you notice I said reader?

Not readers.

You are talking to only one at the campfire of their imagination and curiosity. If you think of your audience as readers, you will talk AT them not TO them.

The author/reader relationship is intimate : friend to friend. “Look at this, man!”

One friend sharing with another something fantastic and wondrous :

The meaning of life in the skating sparks of the sun along the uneven facets of a piece of rock candy …

or striking fire down the razored spirals of a unicorn’s tusk.

If you are drawn to write, you do not need to be told the basics. You already have absorbed them from the masters :

Stirring plots, memorable characters, and absorbing ideas.

You must tap the humanity of the situations, of the people struggling against the tide of events.

Remember this is the Microwave Culture.

Your prose must be lean and spare, yet sing with the poetry of mystery and suspense. How do you do that?

Mind your surroundings.

Nothing is ever wasted to a real writer. Circumstances suggest. Events coalesce. The story will begin to flow like a shadow along the floor of your unconscious.

Once you have seen their shapes, the stories will exist as ghosts for you until you have pinned them to the paper. Perhaps that is why there are so many ghosts of writers in the Shadowlands.

We made our living from ghosts, so reciprocity demands its due.

Sometimes you will have to post a Help Wanted Ad in your unconscious to apply for positions in the story and events that have called out to you.

Do not worry. Within the hour, your unconscious mind will have them lining up for you to consider.

Read your work aloud.

Hear the clumsy prose misstep that jars your ears? A sentence is too long? Make them two. A word unneeded? Remove it. Sand your prose as a sculptor would his carving.

Give your characters life by giving them a new take on what it means to be human, to be fully alive. Most people you pass on the streets are sleepwalking from long years of debt and unfulfilled passion.

Give them hope that there is more out there, that each corner could reveal the start of an adventure that might shorten their lives but awaken their souls.

Do that and you will become more than a writer. You will become an author.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Robert E. Howard, ghost writing ...

Yes, though I am a ghost I keep up with the evolution of words and phrases.

After all, during the Great Depression

my stories earned me an income that surpassed the local banker's in my small Texas town of Cross Plains.

So again I ask you ... is your novel sexually active?

Or does it just lay there on the page?

Homer, Shakespeare, Poe, Twain -- the immortals of fiction knew it was the key to fiction :

The heart draws the eyes --

if you want your novel read, it must have love and action.

Characterization is great,

but Edgar Rice Burroughs (the father of all cardboard heroes) was the most translated author of the 1900's. He took exotic locales, a man of action, and love in jeopardy, mixing them in a stew millions and millions bought.

Those of you who know only my characters but have never read my stories, you may think of cold steel, hot blood, and sensual women. Yes, they were in my stories. And no, they weren't. The heart was there and mystery.

J K Rowling? Where's the love there? What heart doesn't go out to a mistreated boy? Oliver Twist. Wart, young Arthur. Harry Potter is a meld of those two icons.

The heart draws the eyes. The action, tension, and danger keeps the pages turning.

Your dream is to be a professional.

Yet, only the big name authors can keep to their genre of choice.

The rest of us must be adaptable enough to go from genre to genre, depending upon the demands of the market.

To sell as many stories as I did, I had to go from one genre to another : Westerns, Sea Stories, science fiction, horror, fantasy, even war stories.

If we are professionals, we can cross genres because we know the core skeleton of a good story :

The heart draws the eyes. Action and dread turns the pages.

We all know the core plot :

The underdog hero/heroine is pulled into a problem beyond his/her capacity to handle.

He attempts to solve it to only to find himself plunged into deeper dangers that grow logically out of his actions and the actions of his adversaries.

All appears lost : the dream is crushed, his friends are gone, and hope has died.

In this midnight of the soul, he learns a Truth about himself, about Life that re-shapes his thinking. He struggles, renewed and reborn.

He triumphs or loses magnificently ... or a little bit of both.

Some turn up their lips at the thought of formula --

but from HAMLET to THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA if you look closely enough, you will see the core skeleton of every good story.

Love in jeopardy draws the reader in. The tension of what waits around the corner keeps the reader turning the pages. And flashes of action, like lightning bolts, spur the reader on.

Like cooking a stew, you must sift the proper balance of ingredients. A likeable hero. A dream/love just out of reach. Danger. Tension. A hope of success. Series of cruel failures. And the last triumphant struggle.

Remember :

The reader wants to be kept in perpetual anticipation,

to not be able to put the book down,

to laugh, to cringe with sympathy at cruel blows, and to cheer at the end.

Last thought : sizzle sells the steak.

Suspense is better than action. (And you can stretch it over more pages.)

The fear of the unknown is always stronger than the grabbling with the monster unmasked. Action taken against a barely seen adversary is always to be preferred.

Happy NEW Year writing.

Monday, January 16, 2012


The ever-entertaining Henry Mazel wrote a provocative post, THE SECRET LIFE OF MARLENE DIETRICH (Her ghost pointed it out to me) :

Henry has also written a thrilling book : THE PLOT AGAINST MARLENE DIETRICH :

Now, on to my ghostly midnight visitation --

The sound of a book hitting the floor hard awakened me. I pried open protesting, heavy eyes. They flew wide when I saw her.

Marlene Dietrich. Or her ghost, actually.

In a frilly black night wrap and not much else. She rose like the spirit she was, picked up the book and threw it down once more. Harder.

"Deine mutter hurt in der stadt!"

"Ah, do I want to know what that means?"


She spun her ghost chair around, sitting with easy grace upon it so she leaned upon its high back, and looked hotly down at me. "HOW TO SELL A MILLION eBOOKS! Its author ... oh, there are no good English words. Dorf trottel!"

Marlene smiled wickedly. "And no, you do not want to know the meaning of that either."

She shook her head. "It is like listening to a good joke told badly. Much build-up for little pay-off."

Haunted eyes stabbed into me. "Liebling, the end of the rainbow is just another lonely place where hopes and dreams slowly fade away."

Her long blonde hair slid to half cover her face as she leaned forward and down to my air mattress. "Do you want that single moment they call fame ... or do you want to touch the heart?"

"You have to ask?"

Her smile illuminated her lovely face, showing the lonely soul within. "Ah, Ich liebe dich."

"Do I want to know the meaning of that?"

Her smile rivaled Mona Lisa's. "No, but later, if you are lucky, I will show you anyway."

She suddenly frowned. Not bending to pick up the book, she merely pounded a pretty foot on it.

"He wants that moment ...

and the money that writing bestsellers will give him. Ha. He promised secrets to success and gave endless pages of self-praise and using people as means not ends. Bah."

She jabbed a long, slender finger at me. "You want to touch the heart, to write a story that others will come back to again and again?"


"Then, you must give them dreams, danger, mystery ... and most importantly, you must give them love."

She sat up, running those long fingers through her wavy tangle of hair.

"And you must not make it easy, liebling. There must be two problems : one inside the hero -- one outside him."

She looked intently at me, her eyes sparkling like knife points.

"Your hero must be his own greatest enemy not some Nazi. Nazi's. Ha! They give him something to hit when all she wants to hit is her - I mean - himself."

Marlene sighed, her eyes looking into places that seemed to break her heart.

"If we have the wit, we can conquer those who would bind us. But against ourselves ...."

She bowed her head, slowly raising it.
"Against ourselves, we need help. We need love. The fire burning from one good heart will draw us out of the darkness of ourselves and onto the road leading to healing, to the light. Perhaps not triumph but ...."

She hugged herself. "Ah, but to die in the arms of one you love and who loves you ... that is a victory no Nazi can take away."

Marlene tapped the laptop by my air mattress. "Here is the stuff dreams are made of, liebling."

Her eyes looked beyond me.

"Set your stage quickly. Bring all the players on stage in the first three chapters. Be honest with the audience : let them know who the hero is so that they can attach their hearts to him or her -- tell them the theme :

does money equal success, does fame, or does the trust of one good man mean your life has not been in vain?"

She blinked back sudden tears.

"Let the readers have fun with your heroes. Toss everything in the air. Snatch happiness and safety from their heroes. Give the hero one slim chance to get it all back. Take that all away."

Marlene smiled bitterly.

"Life is quite good at that. But fiction, unlike life, must end well if you would have publishers buy your tale. Give them that happy ending. Oh, after much darkness, storm, and strife, of course."

Her smile was brittle. "Bring everything down to a single, seemingly impossible showdown. Make the enemy unbeatable."

Marlene leaned down, and her lips brushed my ear. "And unlike life, let the hero win and come away wiser, better, stronger."


"Yes, liebling?"

"You did walk away a winner : stronger, wiser, and better."

Marlene cocked her head, letting her hair become a wavy waterfall.
"Dass Liebe, die aus Trümmern auferstand,
Reicher als einst an Größe ist und Kraft."

In a husk, Marlene translated,
"And ruin'd love, when it is built anew,
Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater."

"Shakespeare," I said.

"Truth," Marlene smiled sadly.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


My best friend, Sandra (You toucha these entries; I breaka you fingers) Thrasher


(Ann earned 10 entries by posting a review on AMAZON & posting one on her blog.)

Ann, send me your mailing address so that I can send you that poster.

Just 4 more reviews need to be posted on AMAZON before Sandra draws for the


the winner can choose to received a movie program AUTOGRAPHED BY CLINT EASTWOOD.

How cool is that?

Just TEN copies of THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH need to be bought before Sandra draws for ...




Something for Alex Cavanaugh and other movie lovers :
Joss Whedon: 'The Avengers' Will Be Told From The Eyes Of Captain America

While the superhero-packed film "The Avengers" has every comic book lover's heart aflutter, a concern lingers on just how the coming blockbuster will rangle a story with so many characters and backstories.

"The Avengers" has the awesome and difficult task of combining Marvel's VIPs --

Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow --

into a single story line.

Tough, but movie vet (and clandestine Shakespearean daredevil) Joss Whedon has found a way around this too-many-cooks-spoil-the-pot thing.

“I set out with a very simple problem," Whedon said in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly.

"There is no reason for these people to be in the same movie. So that’s what my movie has to be about.

So much of the movie takes place from Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) perspective, since he’s the guy who just woke up and sees this weird ass world. Everyone else has been living in it.”

Clever, very clever! The film also boasts some of Hollywood's biggest names: Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, and Samuel L. Jackson.

"The Avengers" opens in 3D on May 4th. Alex and I can hardly wait.