So you can read my books

Saturday, March 31, 2012


Nothing is as it seems.

Each person you meet is like one of those oriental gods whose face is a triad, constantly shifting with the whim or need of the moment.

Each face you see is a mask. Yet, it is not the only mask worn by that person. The features change constantly. The true face is a meld of all the many masks worn by that person.

Sometimes the true face is decidedly different than you would expect from the mask you seen worn most often by that person.

What does this have to do with writing?

1.) Your characters.

Are they one dimensional? The villain twirling his moutache? The stirling prince out to save the virginal princess?

Cliches I know.

I watched FLIPPED, based on the MG book. Each character was a prose puppet cliche going through the motions. The dense, cowardly, though handsome, young boy. The chipper, wise-beyond her years girl smitten by his eyes. Her artistic, haunted father. The boy's boorish, insenstive father. And worst of all, the movie ended just when things started to get interesting.


FLIPPED was written by a woman, who wrote according to her vision of humanity. Boys just didn't get it. Most men didn't either. And those that did were mavericks. She was the oh, so wise little girl. Women were unappreciated yet still loving. Grandfather was oh, so wise. Older sister was sex-crazy but still oh, so wise. I was oh, so happy for the fast forward button.

2.) Do you want to pander or to stir the hearts and minds?

Many people think in cliches. It is easier than actually thinking beneath the surface. And like snorgeling, you move forward -- you just don't get to the beauty of the depths.

You can write cliches and be popular. Or you can stir the imagination, the heart, and the soul. I know which path appeals to me.

3.) I like suspense and surprise in my reading.

One dimensional writing will not provide that for your readers.

And in today's market, filled with weary, bored agents slogging through the murky query tides, it probably gets you rejected.

4.) Do you want your novel to be a lightning rod?

All of us want lightning us to strike like it struck J K Rowling.

We want to capture magic, not in a bottle, but in our keyboard

And the agents and publishers want us to know how to do it, too. Yet, they only know what is selling now ...

not what will sell tomorrow. But they turn up their noses at what is different, afraid to beard the purchasing agents who only count pennies.

A.) The band wagon heads only to a dead-end street.

If I look at one more cover with a beautiful girl torn between a hunk vampire and a hunk werewolf/magician, I will bay at the moon myself.

Same with covers spotlighting self-sufficient bad-ass supernatural babes, usually who shop at Leather-Dominatrix R Us.

I love dark chocolate, but if that was all I ate, I would soon hurl at the very sight of the stuff.

B.) Make your own trend :

I.) I've always loved Western heroes. Same with supernatural adventures.

I put the two together in my Samuel McCord novels where a Texican with the blood of Death in his veins battles all manner of beasties from 1853 to the present.

No agent has fallen in love with him. But McCord is different enough to start his own trend.

II.) When I was young, I imagined myself Ulysses, surviving against gods and myths with his wits alone. I love the brash but wounded Tony Stark of the two IRON MAN movies.

I imagined a young Ulysses on the supernatural streets of the French Quarter with the personality of a thirteen year old Robert Downey, Jr.

And so Victor Standish was born.

I knew he needed a love interest. I saw the zombie craze sizzling.

What would it be like for a 13 year old Robert Downey, Jr. to fall in love with a self-hating, flesh-eating ghoul from the Victorian Age (as an inside joke to me on my hero's name)?

I already had a full universe plotted out with my two Samuel McCord novels. I decided to put Victor in it.

Further, I have always loved the classic movie, AUNTIE MAME.

What if I made Samuel McCord a Twilight Zone version of Auntie Mame to Victor?

The story ideas just poured into my mind.

C.) You want magic in your next novel?

Think back on what you love to read. Think on what cliches turn you off in books now. Take those two plumb lines and measure what would make your fancy soar if you saw it now on the bookshelves.

Try to write that.

And as Captain Jack always says, "Did everyone see that? Because I will not be doing it again."

Friday, March 30, 2012


The art of driving in the pouring rain is much like writing a query.


There are similarities between the two.

For instance, the question :


The truth? No. No, she doesn't.

In her mind's eye, she sees the face of her friend as she's talking into her Bluetooth headset. By the dashboard clock, she sees that she's 10 minutes late. In the rearview mirror, she sees the bouncing image of her lips as she tries to apply lipstick without ending up looking like Bozo the Clown.

But you? You she doesn't see.

Not to worry. Just drive as if everyone around you is going to do the stupidest thing imaginable, and you'll be just fine.


She sees the precious sleep she's missing by reading query after query into the wee hours of the morning.

She sees the worst pieces of prose from past queries that stick like cockle burrs in her mind.

She sees the long list of things she has to do the next day on less sleep that she wanted.

She sees the sad face of that editor saying "No" to her earlier in the day when she was so sure he was going to say "yes."

She sees the mounting bills she has to pay ... BUT SHE DOESN'T SEE YOUR QUERY ... at least not clearly.

What do you do?

With a driver, you honk the horn. With a weary agent, you reach out and shake her awake to truly see your query for what it hopefully is : engaging and intriguing.

How? However you do it, you have to do it in 10 seconds. That's how long you have before her routine of "Wax on; wax off" is finished. Actually, it's read, yawn, reject.

For you to get through to her, it has to be a one - two punch. Hook of a title. Then, wham! A fascinating one paragraph summation:

PROJECT POPE : Robot priests construct their own Pope in their search for God. Then, the unimaginable happens. They find Him. {The classic by Clifford D. Simak.}

2nd Way Querying is like driving in the pouring rain :


Hundreds of thousands of drivers die needlessly each year by insisting on driving the speed limit in blinding rain.

In writing a query, you have fantastic leeway. You can write in any voice you choose. Frivolous. Condescending. Antagonistic. Suicidal, oh I repeat myself.

Your query is a business interview. Treat it as such and treat the agent as the potential employer. Be professional. Follow her website's guidelines. And show respect.

3rd Way Querying is like driving in the pouring rain :


In driving that is looking past the hood to at least 200 feet ahead of you. Flick your eyes from side to side to prevent nasty surprises. Keep looking at the rearview mirror to see what may be charging right at you.

In Querying :
Keep in mind the ultimate goal : intriguing the agent enough for her to want to read more.

You don't have to cram 500 pages of story into one page. In essence, you're writing a movie trailer. Remember the latest movie trailer you saw. Did it give the whole story? No. It teased, giving you the hero, the antagonist, and a glimpse of humor and danger.

Now, get to teasing those agents.

I've always loved this song :

A review of THE RIVAL by Candy Lynn Fite

"Sometimes a book comes along that strikes me as rare, a gem, if you will. The Rival: The Legend of Victor Standish is one of those books.

#1 gem:

A fast-paced, urban fantasy filled with historical figures, ingeniously woven throughout. And, take a gander at the fabulous cover...don't you want to know who she is??? Not to give anything away, but readers won't be disappointed. In fact, as the main character time travels to 1834 New Orleans,

had hundreds of moments where I found myself smirking (and giggling) at Victor Standish, and the way he handles himself when in the most precarious situations. Prepare to face many creepy supernaturals, and by creepy, I mean way beyond sparkly monsters.

Speaking of Victor, the #2 gem of the novel,

one cannot help but adore him! A literary legend, hell yeah. His dry, witty humor will crack the face of the stoniest of souls. Victor and I have a special bond, as he helped me through a tough surgery last month by telling me the most ridiculous jokes. He will remain in my mind for years to come. If he'd allow me, I'd adopt him. His unworldly love for his classy, Victorian ghoulfriend, Alice, brought me to tears more than once.

"I wasn't an orphan anymore. In her arms, I was home." ~Victor Standish, The Rival.

And, as for Victor's authentic character, well, that brings me to the #3 gem, the author.

Many applause go out to Roland Yeomans, the amazing author of The Rival. His creation of Victor Standish is a superlative example of authentic characterization. Roland achieves the ultimate with his writing, he types, allowing Victor to tell his story. Thank you, Roland, for sharing your literary worlds with your readers.

If you're up to an action-packed jaunt with amazing characters, and a protagonist to root for, you must check out, The Rival: The Legend of Victor Standish.
I am humbled by this review. Thanks, Candy. You made a weary blood courier's battered evening truly great! Roland

Thursday, March 29, 2012


There is a land not too far from where you sit right now.

Its velvet grasses miss the press of your feet. The billowing clouds strain to see your body walk slowly up the rising hill.

The fragrant winds blow through the lonely tree branches, whispering your name as they seek some trace of you.

It is where the magic lives.

That realm is lonely, wondering where you have been.

Where have you and I been?

We have been caught up in the drudgery that writing has become. Burdened by life's duties and our own doubts, we have lost our way.

We have lost the magic.

Did we lose it straining for that first perfect sentence in our new novel? Looking at the blank, impatient computer monitor did we forget the simple wonder of just writing the first simple sentence that occurred to us?

That creative power which bubbles so tingly at the beginning of our book quiets down after a time. The journey becomes slower and slower, the inertia of doubt steadily dragging our steps.

Do we continue doggedly on or do we stop to refresh ourselves?

The answer to that question determines whether we find our way back to the magic or not.

How do we refresh ourselves on a long wilderness walk? We stop by a stream and drink.

Drink of those poets and writers who sparked that love of the written word spoken in the lonely heart of the reader.

As a hiker takes shade under the canopy of a huge oak, listen to the music of those artists who stirred you to imagine images that you just had to write and make live in your own way.

Then, you shall write as a child writes ... not thinking of a result but thinking in terms of discovery as if you were hiking once again where the magic lives.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


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 dying 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 you will find in THE BEAR WITH 2 SHADOWS:

Have a magical new week, Roland


Tuesday, March 27, 2012



1.) Elmore Leonard :

A. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

B. Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword.

C. My most important rule is one that sums up my feelings: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

2.) Neil Gamain :

A. Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

B. Put it aside. Read it pretending you've never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.

C. Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

3.) Roddy Doyle :

A. Do not place a photograph of your ­favorite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

B. Regard every new page as a small triumph.

C. Do spend a few minutes a day working on the cover biog – "He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego." But then get back to work.

4.) Margaret Atwood :

A.) Hold the reader's attention.

(This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.)

But you don't know who the reader is, so it's like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What ­fascinates X will bore the pants off Z.

B.) There's no free lunch. Writing is work. It's also gambling. You don't get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you're on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don't whine.

C.) Don't sit down in the middle of the woods. If you're lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

5.) Helen Dunmore:

A. Finish the day's writing when you still want to continue.

B. Listen to what you have written. A dud rhythm in a passage of dialogue may show that you don't yet understand the characters well enough to write in their voices.

C. Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite some more. If it still doesn't work, throw it away. It's a nice feeling, and you don't want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Captain Samuel McCord carries two Walch Navy Colts in the adventures of Victor Standish and in his own French Quarter nocturnes. Friends have emailed me asking how ancient Colts could fire 12 bullets each.

Samuel carries them for they are much like him: dented, dinged antiques that can still deal death.

Although it looks very much like a 6 shot revolver, and it only has 6 chambers, the gun is actually able to fire 12 rounds before reloading!

The secret to the extra firepower is what is known as “superimposed loads”. Basically, the chambers are loaded with a powder charge with a bullet sitting on top, as is normal. Then another powder charge and bullet is loaded on top of the first.

The reason this doesn’t lead to an exploded gun and missing fingers is due to the unique ignition system. There are two percussion caps for every cylinder.

The gun is equipped with two hammers, and two triggers. Both hammers are cocked at the same time, but only the right-handed trigger is squeezed to set off the first shot. Then the left-hand trigger is squeezed, the left-hand hammer drops, and the second bullet goes flying. Cocking the hammers again will cause the cylinder to revolve as per normal.

Percussion caps are supposed to create a spark to set off the powder. Notice the ring of nipples to the outside of the cylinder? Those are the caps that are set off by the right-hand hammer, the hammer you are supposed to squeeze first. They don’t have a hole which goes directly into the back of the chamber, but instead channels the spark down a little tunnel. After about an inch, the tunnel makes a left hand turn and finally emerges into the chamber.

The hope is that the extra inch traveled will mean that the spark from the right-hand trigger will set off the powder charge in front, which will send the first bullet flying down the barrel while leaving the second bullet and powder charge untouched. The left-hand trigger will cause the left-hand hammer to drop, which will impact on the inner percussion cap, and hopefully cause the second charge to ignite.

What happens if you squeeze the left-hand trigger first, setting off the powder charge in back even though the bullet in front is still waiting to be fired? Then you get a broken gun and fewer fingers! Better get it right every time, because you won’t get another chance if you screw it up!

Many thanks to James R. Rummel


Friday, March 23, 2012


We are going into a savage arena as writers.

Just as surely as if we were gladiators, we are pitting ourselves up against seasoned professionals.

Not our blog compatriots. No. We're going up against Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Saul Bellow.

Damn you say. You can say that again.

The agents to whom we send our queries will be trying to pitch to editors who publish those writers.

They don't want to put forward writing that is "pretty good." This isn't Hollywood where the deal is often colored by cocaine, studio politics, and the latest trend.

Our writing must be breathtaking.

Yeah, right. How do we get to that level? Practice.

Well, duh, you say. But practice in an area not comfortable to you. A literal kind of guy? Try writing poetry.

What? Yes, stretch muscles in your mind that you don't often use. Your prose tends to the purple? Imitate Hemingway for a two page flash fiction.

Descriptions flow from your pen easy?

Write an understandable scene with just dialogue. Dialogue comes natural? Tell a story like Hemingway without any. He did it in one short paragraph:

For sale new baby shoes. Never used.

Offer to critique someone else's writing. You may see habits of your own that deflate, pad, or interrupt the flow of the story.

Or you may see a way of writing that improves your own. Sometimes a good deed does get rewarded.

Read what you write. Remember what Stephen King said :

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."

Take off the blinders:

Chuck the internal editor.

Just sit for a half hour and come up with the most outrageous plots, dialogue, and premises for novels that you can. Just have fun with the exercise. Then, for the next half hour see what you can make of the material your unconscious has given you.

Think of someone whose intelligence and taste you respect. Write your next chapter just for that person. Read that chapter aloud as if to that person, refining what you've written.

Consider your real audience: the agent:

Use short sentences in short paragraphs to ease the flow of the words the agent is trying digest. Small, well-cut bites don't choke.

But as with any meal, vary the menu:

Some long sentences for flavor. Some reflection for body. Small sentences in dialogue for spice.

Be proactive:
Your hero does things and is not acted upon. Active voice in your novel not passive. Don't break off abruptly.

Blend your transitions naturally. Use said with as few additives as possible. Instead of "he said happily" let the words of the dialogue say it for you.

Write as if each word cost you a penny:

Pennies add up. Lose as many adjectives and adverb as possible. Be lean in your prose.

Be brave:

Brave enough to question what the reader might believe. But diplomatic enough not to slap him in the face doing it. Have a map of where you want to go, but be brave enough to head off into new territory if your instincts say that is the way to go.

Be curious:

Try to retain or recapture that child-like sense of wonder and surprise at life. Ask yourself things a child might ask of you :

what happens when we sleep? Do you really know? Where do our thoughts come from? Do they come from inside our minds? What they were broadcast into them like radio waves? Where would those brain waves come from?

I hope this helped in some small way.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

SHAPE OF HER HEART_Friday's Romantic Challenge

She wears my ring.

That is Friday's Romantic challenge given us by Denise Covey:

This is an excerpt {444 words} from NEW ORLEANS ARABESQUE (from a chapter told through the eyes of Victor Standish):

The shouting was deafening. "Mei-lo-ri! Mei-lo-ri!"

Sam and I hurried out of my room to the balcony, overlooking the front of the jazz club. I swallowed hard. It was filled to overflowing with Ningyos brandishing swords in a frenzy of devotion to the regal wife of my father, Sam McCord.

Sam rasped, "She wears my ring."

I looked up. "That's a good thing, right?"

"It is the ring of King Solomon."

I went cold. "The one that controls demons?"

Meilori answered for me as she called out to her devoted followers. "Long have you questioned me marrying a barbarian. But see? Now, I possess his ring that will have an army of demons sweeping the world clean of the filth of humanity. Clean for us to rule!"

Sam's face looked like he'd been gut-shot. "No. No."

Meilori's face beamed as she spoke, "When first I met the barbarian, he was wearing this ring. And I knew to possess it, I first had to possess him!"

This was ancient Greek tragedy plotting worthy of Medea or Elektra. I looked to Sam. He weaved as if faint. I went a little crazy. No one hurt Captain Sam when I was around.

"Yo, she-bitch!" I yelled, walking across the balcony, right up to her.

"No,Victor" rasped Sam. "You don't know the shape of her heart."

I said, "What shape does a vacuum have?"

Meilori sneered at me. "Speaks the bastard son of my husband."

I laughed, "Better than your son, your Hind-Ass. There aren't enough scalding baths in the world to wash me clean if I were yours."

She reared back her ring hand, her fingers now straight to slap me. Sucker. I moved through the seconds, plucking Solomon's ring from her finger, tossing it back to Captain Sam.

Beside Meilori, dagger in hand, her Prime Minister gasped, "Impossible! No one can take Solomon's ring as long as the wearer lives!"

I snorted, "Sure they can, your pompousness. Anyone who doesn't want the ring for him or herself can do ...."


I saw it hit the Prime Minister as fast as it did me. With him standing behind Meilori, his dagger took on a whole new meaning.

This whole scene had been a ruse, planned by Meilori and Sam. Meilori could take Solomon's ring from Sam because she hadn't meant to keep it in the first place. This had all been a set-up to draw out the real ....

"Traitor!" snapped Sam, and I heard his Colt bark once.

The Prime Minister reeled to the carpet dead, the dagger still in his hand. Meilori arched a cool eyebrow to me.

"Standish, despite what the arrogance of youth believes, we adults know what we are doing."

Her brows knitted together dangerously. "Now, about that 'she-bitch' remark ...."

I sighed. Ever have one of those lives?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012




Just about every writer unconsciously leans on a “crutch” word.

Hillary Clinton’s repeated word is “eager” (can you believe it? the committee that wrote Living History should have their typing fingers slapped).

Cosmopolitan magazine editor Kate White uses “quickly” over a dozen times in A Body To Die For.

Jack Kerouac’s crutch word in On the Road is “sad,” sometimes
doubly so – “sad, sad.”

Ann Packer’s in The Dive from Clausen’s Pier
is “weird.”

Crutch words are usually unremarkable. That’s why they slip under
editorial radar – they’re not even worth repeating,

but there you have it, pop, pop, pop, up they come. Readers, however, notice them, get irked by them and are eventually distracted by them,

and put down the book never to pick it back up. Ouch.

“I wanted to know but couldn’t understand what her face had to say, so I waited until Alice was ready to tell me before asking what she meant.”

Something is conveyed in this sentence, but who cares? The writing is so flat, it just dies on the page. You can’t fix it with a few replacement words – you have to give it depth, texture, character.

Flat writing is a sign that you’ve lost interest or are intimidated by your own narrative. It shows that you’re veering toward mediocrity, that your brain is fatigued, that you’ve lost your inspiration. So use it as a lesson. When you see flat writing on the page, it’s time to rethink, refuel and rewrite.


Actually, totally, absolutely, completely, continually, constantly, continuously, literally, really, unfortunately, ironically, incredibly, hopefully, finally – these and others are words that promise emphasis, but too often they do the reverse. They suck the meaning out of every sentence.

I defer to People Magazine for larding its articles with empty adverbs. A recent issue refers to an “incredibly popular, groundbreakingly racy sitcom.” That’s tough to say even when your lips aren’t moving.

In Still Life with Crows, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (experts at needless filler to pad a book) describe a mysterious row of corn in the middle of a field:

“It was, in fact, the only row that actually opened onto the creek.” Here are two attempts at emphasis (”in fact,” “actually”), but they just junk up the sentence. Remove them both and the word “only” carries the burden of the sentence with efficiency and precision.

(When in doubt, try this mantra: Precise and spare; precise and spare; precise and spare.)

In dialogue, empty adverbs may sound appropriate, even authentic, but that’s because they’ve crept into American conversation in a trendy way. If you’re not watchful, they’ll make your characters sound wordy, infantile and dated.

Look at this hilarious clunker from The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown:

“Almost inconceivably, the gun into which she was now staring was clutched in the pale hand of an enormous albino.”

Ack, “almost inconceivably” – that’s like being a little bit dead! Hopefully, that “enormous albino” will ironically go back to actually flogging himself while incredibly saying his prayers continually.


Be careful of using dialogue to advance the plot. Readers can tell when characters talk about things they already know, or when the speakers appear to be having a conversation for our benefit. You never want one character to imply or say to the other, “Tell me again, Batman: What are we doing next?”

Avoid words that are fashionable in conversation. Ann Packer’s characters are so trendy the reader recoils. ” ‘What’s up with that?’ I said. ‘Is this a thing [love affair]?’ ” “We both smiled. ” ‘What is it with him?’ I said. ‘I mean, really.’ ” Her book is only a few years old, and already it’s dated.

Dialogue offers glimpses into character the author can’t provide through description. Hidden wit, thoughtful observations, a shy revelation, a charming aside all come out in dialogue, so the characters *show* us what the author can’t *tell* us. But if dialogue helps the author distinguish each character, it also nails the culprit who’s promoting a hidden agenda by speaking out of character.

Setting your own high standards and sticking to them – being proud of *having* them – is the mark of a pro. Be one, write like one, and don’t cheat.


Don’t take a perfectly good word and give it a new backside so it functions as something else. The New York Times does this all the time. Instead of saying, “as a director, she is meticulous,” the reviewer will write, “as a director, she is known for her meticulousness.”

Until she is known for her obtuseness.

The “ness” words cause the eye to stumble, come back, reread: Mindlessness, characterlessness, courageousness, statuesqueness, preciousness – you get the idea. You might as well pour marbles into your readers’ mouths. Not all “ness” words are bad – goodness, no – but they are all suspect.

The “ize” words are no better – finalize, conceptualize, fantasize, categorize. The “ize” hooks itself onto words as a short-cut but stays there like a parasite. Cops now say to each other about witnesses they’ve interrogated, “Did you statementize him?” Some shortcut. Not all “ize” words are bad, either, but they do have the ring of the vulgate to them – “he was brutalized by his father,” “she finalized her report.” Just try to use them rarely.

Use them too often is like jabbing your reader in the eye repeatedly. Guess what that reader does to your book? Ouch.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


{"We are all losers, defeated in the end by death.

But in the long run, defeat is as revealing and fundamental as victory."
- Ernest Hemingway.}

I am Hemingway.

Who are you?

Can you answer in one sentence? If not, how then will you write a fictional character well?

What is the basic truth of life? Do you know? You need to in order to write a good novel.

The basic truth of life is to be found in the human soul:

the will to live, the will to persevere, to endure, to defy.

It is the frontier mentality -

the individual is on his own, like a Pilgrim walking into the unknown with neither shelter nor guidance, thrown upon his own resources, his strength and his judgment.

My truth shapes my style which is the style of understatement since my hero is a hero of action, which is the human condition.

All my life I was obsessed with death. I was seriously wounded at midnight on July 18, 1918 at Fossalta, Italy. I nearly died.

I was the first American to be wounded in Italy during World War I.

I felt my soul go out of my body. In the blackness of midnight, I died and felt my soul go out of me, go off, and then come back. Perhaps that near-death experience is why I am now a ghost. I do not know.

I do know that I became obsessed with death :

Deep sea fishing, bull-fighting, boxing, big-game hunting, war, -

all are means of ritualizing the death struggle in my mind -

it is very explicit in my books such as A Farewell to Arms and Death in the Afternoon, which were based on my own experiences.

And again, briefly, in In Our Time in the lines on the death of Maera.

It reappears, in another setting and form, in the image of immortality in my African story The Snows of Kilimanjaro, where the dying Harry knows he is going to the peak called "Ngàje Ngài",

which means, as I explained in the introductory note, "the House of God."

Yet, it takes more than being haunted by your inner demons to write well.

It takes imagination.

Imagination is the one thing besides honesty that a good writer must have.

The more he learns from experience, the more truly he can imagine. If he gets so he can truly imagine, people will think that the things he relates all really happened -- and that he is just reporting.

If you can't have a near-death experience, the next best training for being a good writer is an unhappy childhood. And thanks to parents being all too flawed, most people have had that.

But forget your personal tragedy. We are all damned from the start so join the club. It is a sad fact that you have to be especially hurt like hell before you can write seriously.

It's a law of nature. Human nature. And like most laws, you don't have to like it. You just have to live with it.

Dostoevsky was made by being sent to Siberia. Writers are forged in injustice as a sword is forged in the furnace.

Perhaps that is why I suffer like a bastard when I don't write. And why I feel empty and f____ out afterwards. And why I feel so good while writing.

Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge, and it is more difficult than anything else I have ever done -- which is why I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well.

And after each novel, I feared I would never write as well again.

That is why I loved to cover war as a journalist. Every day and each night, there was a strong possibility that I would get killed and not have to write.

Writing is like a disease. I have to write to be happy whether I get paid for it or not. And that makes it worse.

That changes it from a disease to a vice. And then I want to do it better than anybody has ever done it which makes it into an obsession. Even though I am dead, I still write. Look at me here in this blog.

How is it for you out there?

Monday, March 19, 2012


{This weekend I was moving both days. Still lots to do. But I couldn't forget my friends.}


Congrats to Hart Johnson and Theresa Milstein!!

I've talked about the ending ...

about how the beginning is shaped by it.

Now, what Hostess bakeries already knows:

It's the middle that makes the product.

You like that creamy filling? Me, too. It's what brings me back. The icing entices me. The devil's food cake is the taste pleaser at the end. But it's the filling that makes the cupcake.

The title and the hook of a first sentence will snare the reader. But it is what lies between the beginning and the stunning end that will keep him turning the pages until he reaches that finely honed climax.

Have you heard a good joke told badly?

Sure. We all have.

Have you ever had an agent or her intern write that your tale did not hold together? Now, what the heck does that mean?

It means you told a good joke slightly off focus.

Eric Trant once wrote me something profound. You don't just slap some wood together and hope you get a table. You start with the proper measurements and a firm idea as to what kind of table you want to build.

Have you been told your tale doesn't hold together?

1.) Perhaps the pieces don't fit properly.

When you build a table, you use wood that has already been planed and sanded smooth :

Try smoothing each page you write as you write it. Look at it closely as you finish and edit it to the best of your ability at the moment. Start with the next page. Edit it.

At the end of the chapter, print that rascal out. You will discover flaws and rough spots you never saw on the computer screeen.

Trust me. It works. I got the idea from that rookie, Dean, ah what was his last name. Oh, yes. Dean Kootnz.

2.) The end in sight is great, but listen to the characters.

Aim for the ending you planned. But if the characters twist in your hand and suggest a great new ending. Listen. It is your unconscious mind speaking.

The new ending will prove to be fresher and more novel than what you originally started out with. And since it is more in keeping with the evolved characters in your book, your tale will feel more together, less patched together.

3.) Write hungry.

Always write, knowing you could do better. Aim higher. Try harder. Settle for nothing but your best. Try to make yourself laugh, cry, be surprised at the twists the characters' evolving personalities take you.

4.) Write true.

Listen to your heart. If the beautiful sentence you just wrote rings false for the story, for the character, for the ending, edit it out. Save it for another novel. Or don't.

Never call attention to yourself : isn't this a grand piece of prose. Always ask how can I draw the reader into the story to LIVE it not read it. Hear the characters talk in your head.

You'll pull back occasionally and say, "Hey that doesn't sound like Jane. That sounds like me. Or it sounds like Eden."

If a character says something in your head that puzzles you, go with it. Keep writing. Wait until the end of the chapter before going back and re-reading the whole thing. Your unconscious is handing you a great surprise for your readers. If you don't immediately know what it means, neithr will your reader.

Don't waste or throw away that gift.

Follow these points and your novel's middle will be more than creamy filling. It will be the meat and potatoes of your tale.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone.

Maewyn Succat was the real name of St. Patrick, who died this day back in a time where myth and history eerily blend. It is said he used the shamrock to explain the Trinity, the Three who are One.

He was either Scottish or Welsh, or some even say French. Being a Lakota, Irish, British blend myself, I can relate.

Some legends state that he drove the snakes out of Ireland and contested with the very Sidhe themselves, but readers of my THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS know the truth :

{Hibbs, the bear with two shadows, and the first hawk of all creation, Little Brother, are wandering the always dangerous dreamscape of the mystic bear's slumber.}



As a young cub, Hibbs had often sat under the Twisted Oak, staring up into the endless depths of night. Long, long hours he had eagerly listened to GrandMother’s voice on the breeze which had so tickled his ears. She called him her little Wakan Witkotkoka then and had ruffled the hair atop his small head as she spun tales of the reality that darted out from behind the rocks and trees which he so foolishly called the world.

“See how you sit, arms hugged about your knees? The grass is soft is it not? Like the lap of one who loves you. For, indeed, it is the lap of one who loves you -- as it is my lap. From me, you -- and all living things come -- you are my children. But you are my most beloved, for you love me back.”

Hibbs remembered how the cool, yet strangely loving, breeze had ruffled through the soft hair of his cheek as GrandMother had kept on, “But be not blind to your brothers and sisters. No, learn from them. Read them as now you read from those scrolls I have brought you. Each brook, each stone, the very sky above you, is there for you to learn from.”

Hibbs had felt his furry nose tweaked then. “Bright days, dark nights, both are but reflections of me. Nowhere will you walk that your foot will not be touching me.”
GrandMother’s voice had grown hushed, “Except the path through Dreams. There the ground is what you make it. But even there, my love will be at your side. And the Great Mystery, of course.”

More GrandMother would not say, for the Great Mystery had come by his name honestly. But rather than be frightened by her silence, Hibbs had been bolstered somehow. How powerful and endless must the Great Mystery be if he could not be contained by mere words. But GrandMother had hinted that she had come from him. And if he had created her so terrible in her power, yet so endless in her love, how wonderful he must be.

And now as Hibbs walked slowly through the utter darkness, he whispered, “How wonderful he must be.”

Little Brother snorted, “Wonderful would be to give us a torch.”

Hibbs smiled dry. Death might just be within arm’s reach, yet the lessons he had learned on GrandMother’s lap made this moment rich and deep, and in a very strange sense -- healing. Thanks to Estanatlehi, Hibbs truly lived each beat of his heart. His grin soured. That heart might not have many more beats left to it, if the smell on the air was any indication. Jasmine, wrapped in fresh-shed blood.

“Begin I do to think that there is no way to win in this dream of yours.”

Hibbs smiled sad. “Perhaps there is a way to lose more slowly.”

Little Brother pecked the top of his friend’s massive head. “Like a winter chill do your words warm.”

The hawk pecked again at Hibb’s head. “So many scrolls you read and still you cannot light our way!”

Hibbs frowned. What had Plato said in that other scroll? That the eye was the prison of the mind. Two-Leggeds saw what they expected to see. The young bear sucked in a deep breath. What was he expecting to see?

Light, of course. But if you thought about it, you didn’t actually see light. It was too fast. You only saw slower things by it. So for Two-Leggeds, light was on the edge, so to speak, the last thing you almost saw before things got too fast for you. He nodded his great head. Like Plato often said in his other scrolls : for the mind to stumble was to fall into darkness.

Little Brother humphed, “It is said the body of the Sidhe is made of movement swift as light. For them, like water is light, something to be touched, bathed in --”
The hawk stiffened, “ -- to drown intruders in.”

Hibbs smiled grim. “Thank you, Little Brother. Now, though blind, I begin to see. And like I said before : my vision, my rules.”

The Sidhe’s reality was a two-edged sword. Now, the legends of fallen angels began to make some sense. If light was to them something slower to reach out and use, then what Two-Leggeds called solid -- flesh and earth -- must of a necessity be seen to them as thinner, harder to make out. Two-Leggeds must seem as clouds. And for Two-Leggeds, the Sidhe seemed misty, half-real. No wonder that the Sidhe seemed to be able to walk through walls and rocks, for to them, they were as clouds. Hibbs grinned like a wolf. Like he had breathed the wood into being earlier, he would breathe Little Brother and himself into the swifter realm of the Sidhe.

And since this was the kingdom of dream, with the thought came the reality.
Little Brother dug his talons deep into the young bear’s wide shoulder. “Is anyone ever happy you to see?”

The world had blinked into view as if the Great Mystery himself had drawn back the black curtains in a sudden sweep of his invisible arm. Hibbs stiffened. He and Little Brother found themselves surrounded.

By Sidhe.

Angry, outraged muttering buzzed through the milling Sidhe. Hibbs shivered. Not at the sight of so many otherworld beings, but at the sight of the strange chamber he and Little Brother found themselves in.

The very air was black fire, swirling in eye-aching patterns in the living twilight of the ballroom. Electric white mists slowly snaked up from the black and scarlet marble floor. And the elaborately dressed Sidhe seemed to float upon the surface of those mists. The Sidhe were so elegant, so regal, so beautiful -- and oh, so deadly.
They were easily as tall, if not taller, than Leandra, dressed in intricate patterns of colors that seemed to burst from the silken fabrics that flowed from their slender bodies. All the colors Hibbs had ever seen, and some he had never before seen, burned in silent fire along their flowing clothing.

Long gowns of sparkling silk cascaded in the wake of these nightfall creatures with the ethereal bodies and the predator eyes. They had been dancing some complex, intricate dance when Hibbs and Little Brother had suddenly appeared in their midst as if from nowhere.

From the looks in those flat eyes, Hibbs dryly noted that it would seem that he and his brother were as welcome as a muscle cramp. The males, much fewer in number than the females, began going for the hilts of their swords. Their spring-loaded bodies made Hibbs feel clumsy and without an ounce of grace. Until he looked at the females, who put their male counterparts to shame.

The doe-eyed faes, in their sheer satin gowns, flowed effortlessly across the sea of mists. As they neared, Hibbs caught their perfume. They smelled of jasmine and fresh-shed blood. Some of that blood still glistened on their wet lips.

Movement snared Hibbs’ eyes. Up high from the dance floor sat three diamond thrones. Two on one level. The third, in the middle and on the next level higher. Three faerie queens stared at him as if at a bug scuttling from their soup bowls. The Queen of raven hair, whose movement had caught Hibbs’ attention, took a delicate sip from her goblet of -- Hibbs sniffed to confirm the sad tale told by his eyes -- blood. Sidhe blood. The young bear snorted. It would seem that the Sidhe ate their own. They must be very civilized indeed.

She looked as if she disapproved of the world in general and Hibbs in particular. She raised an eyebrow at the male Sidhe. As one, they drew their swords.

Little Brother snorted in contempt, “Bold are they against an unarmed guest.”

The second Faerie Queen, whose hair was a hot sunset, sneered, “Guest? We sent out no invitations to savages.”

Hibbs ignored the males, whose eyes were only a little less sharp than their swords, and instead looked at the highest Queen, whose hair was living lightning and whose piercing eyes were of winter frost. There was something odd about that hair -- as if it were but an illusion somehow. No matter. Let her keep her secrets. He had enough of his own. He smiled sad. Savages? Perhaps. But he was young enough to wish to tweak up-turned noses and so decided to quote one of his favorite tale-spinners, Aeschylus.

“And even in our sleep, pain, that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon our hearts. And in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of The Great Mystery.”

The High Queen, of Caesar jaw and Cleopatra eyes, jerked as if stung, and in words, like a rippling brook given life, said, “Why are you here?”

Of course, as usual, Hibbs hadn’t a sure answer. Now, his guess might have been excellent, or it might have been full of worms. But Estanatlehi hadn’t raised a grandson idiot enough to make guesses in front of a roomful of enemies. So he decided to be as vague as Estanatlehi herself. And in trying to be wise and mysterious, he, of course, hit the truth dead-on. So much for the wisdom of young bears.

“I find myself where I am needed.”

The High Queen again jerked as if bee stung. “There are layers of truth to what you say, bearling. Were you wise just now or were you most foolish?”

Little Brother snorted, “If guess I had, mine would be foolish.”

The High Queen gave a smile of pain. “More true than you meant, First One.”

The hawk shook its head. “That would be of the bear you speak.”

The Raven Queen sneered, “You wish.”

“Wish I do that your roosters put down their toothpicks.”

The High Queen gestured, and a long sword of sharp diamond rose from the mists. “Bearling, take this if you would and disarm them yourself.”

The male Sidhe bristled like thorns. Hibbs sighed. He breathed upon the sparkling sword. It blurred and broke apart in a cloud of flying butterflies. Now, it was the High Queen’s turn to bristle.

Hibbs bowed his massive head slightly. “No offense meant, your Majesty. But I do not like swords. The moment you pick one up, you become like it, an instrument of death. And I am a healer.”

The Queen of Fire leaned forward and hushed, “Then, who are you here to heal, bearling?”

Hibbs smiled, “Say that fast three times.”

Hair of living flame whipped over her forehead as the Queen sat back stiff. “I find you not amusing at all.”

Hibbs sighed, “You are not the first to make that discovery."

The Raven Queen pulled herself up tall and deadly. "Why are you here?"

Hibbs was beginning to wonder that himself. And that fact made him irritable. He fought it. And he lost. Then, it suddenly occurred to him who the High Queen was. And suddenly he knew why he was there. Promises to keep.

He sighed, "If I did not tell The Morrigan's mother, why do you think I would tell you?"

Hibbs turned to the High Queen. "By the way, Queen Ogygia, the Morrigan says she remembers ... everything."

The queen's eyes of winter frost became slits as they first stabbed into the young bear, then flicked over to the males. "You have swords. Kill him."

The hawk slapped the bear aside the head with one wing. "Once. Just once, think before you speak!"

From the floor, out of the slowly weaving mists, thrust a long, rune-carved staff. The male Sidhe flinched as they read the ancient language, long forgotten except by those who fell. And drifting upon a strangely warm breeze, from a fresh-hewn crypt, came the voice of a heart that refused to surrender.

"Brave and true bear, you kept your word, gave my message. Now, I give you a weapon within a weapon that even one such as you may wield."

Hibbs took it within his great paws. It trembled in his fingers as if alive and happy to be held once again. By the Great Mystery, what a staff. It felt sturdy, yet light, but also mystical. There was more to this weapon than met the eye. The sudden fear in the male Sidhes alone told him that.

He spun it in a fluid figure eight pattern as GrandMother had taught him long ago. He smiled. Yes, even a healer like he might defend himself with a weapon like this.
But not unless he had to. Hibbs looked this way and that, hoping to find some path of escape that didn't involve the breaking of heads. Perhaps it was this seeking of his that opened his ears. Or perhaps the power of Surt was such that it could penetrate the young bear's dream when Leandra's could not. Whatever the reason, Hibbs heard the not-so-gentle rumble of Surt, the Father of All Fires, high above him in the darkness.

"Hibbs, you dolt of a bear! Sleep on your own time. We have a situation here."

Eyeing grimly the steadily approaching Sidhe, Hibbs snorted, "Oh, really? And you think I'm having fun?"

"I do not care if you are having cake and tea with the High Queen herself. You are needed here!"

Hibbs began twirling the staff faster as the Sidhe motioned to one another for a flanking advance. "So, Surt, it seems like years since I was awake. How have you been?"

"Like dung. Now, that we have caught up, would you get your sorry pelt to the Waking World?"

"Spit on my foot."


"Give me an anchor to hold onto, brother."

"Oh, gladly."

And with a stab of hot agony, Hibbs was awake. All but one of the howls belonged to the three Faerie Queens. But Hibbs' was louder.
In keeping with the Celtic motif of this blog, here's a video that hopefully will appeal to all of you :
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Friday, March 16, 2012


Ghost of Mark Twain here.

Well, now I ain't rightly here, mind you.

What do you mean "Of course you're not here! You're a ghost!"

You don't have to be parsnippery about it, folks. I know I'm a ghost. And I know I ain't here either ghost or otherwise!

I slipped up on Roland over there at Alex's computer newspaper: with the Borg Queen as my date, don't you know?

Head on over there and see the fireworks, children!


Thursday, March 15, 2012


Email me Amazon confirmation of your purchase of THE RIVAL.

When 20 people have purchased THE RIVAL, I will draw from those 20 names to pick the lucky winner of SPOCK BEAR!!


Sad news about Encyclopedia Britannica
Because this is where I am:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

THE RIVAL is going strong

Braine of TALK SUPE has written a great post for THE RIVAL:

THE RIVAL has gone from #500,000 to #64,000 in a day. Now, John Locke is in no danger, mind you, but I do thank all of you have bought it.

Especially so since a mistake at a neighboring center has put my own department in a firestorm. It is not looking good for some of us.

I could use THE RIVAL selling well right now. Say a little prayer, all right?

{A friend emailed me, saying she has been unable to comment on my blog. Email me if any more of you are having the same problem.}


Early praise for the urban/historical fantasy, THE RIVAL:

“If you love Sherrilyn Kenyon's Nick Gaultier, you'll be enamored with Victor Standish! Victor has a dry sense of humor that comes from not taking the trials of life seriously no matter how extreme the circumstances.

And I love that attitude whether in real life or make believe. I love his acid comebacks and how much he loves Alice Wentworth, his Victorian ghoul girlfriend. The prologue alone with hints of Homer and his opus, The Odyssey, will keep you glued.” – Braine of TALKSUPE.COM

“Holy action! THE RIVAL dives right into the adventure straight off the bat and doesn’t stop ‘til the finish.

Great voice, fun humor laced throughout, combined with lovely emotion. Wonderful themes presented and tied up nicely at the end. Roland Yeomans is definitely an author to watch!” — Morgan Shamy

“The story launches into action nearly from the moment the cover is opened, all the way to the last page.

Rich in the metaphors, similes and witticisms recognizable as Roland Yeoman's own unique author voice, young Victor Standish battles his way through a world plagued by monsters both undead and living, mystical, alien and ancient beyond memory.

Using every skill he possesses from a sharp wit to a katana, ball bearings to acupuncture, martial arts to magic to a clever ménage a trios,

no enemy but one can withstand Victor's assault on the past as he moves through time and space to prevent a Revenant war. That one? Himself.

One missed shuffle of the deck of time could result in a butterfly effect that will destroy more than one plane of existence.” - Donna Hole

THE RIVAL is a stand-alone Victor Standish urban fantasy.

Victor Standish. Some call him the young Indiana Jones of New Orleans. Others call him the teen Ulysses of the French Quarter. The undead and worse spit his name as if it were a curse. Their cornered victims breathe the name as if it were a prayer.

Victor says, “I’m no hero, certainly no saint. I’m just me.”

Alice Wentworth, the Victorian ghoul of his heart, raises an eyebrow. “Sometimes that is entirely too much.” She hugs his arm, nearly as hungry for his flesh as for his heart, “Sometimes it is just right.”

Discover Victor’s childhood odyssey of zombies and betrayal in Detroit that forged him into the legend he is. Watch Alice and Victor travel to the New Orleans of 1834 to save the Crescent City of the present.

Victor’s challenges are unique:

To keep the younger version of his father, Samuel McCord, from meeting the eerie Empress of the Jade Mask lest Victor never be born. To keep the young Edgar Allan Poe from sweeping Alice off her feet and into the poet’s arms.

The undead Abigail Adams, the revenant Empress Theodora, the all too alive President Andrew Jackson, and the voodoo demigods, Legba and Erzulie provide near-impossible odds.

Victor laughs, “Impossible just gives birth to legends.”

And so it does in THE RIVAL.

Read this stand-alone chapter in the ongoing LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH.

Monday, March 12, 2012


"At the age of fourteen I discovered writing as an escape from a world of reality in which I felt acutely uncomfortable."

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, Forward to Sweet Bird of Youth

*) Tennessee gives us the first clue :

Readers usually first discover the world of books for the same reason Tennessee found the realm of creating his own worlds :

Something was lacking in their daily lives.

Like the hunt for the mythical will-o-wisp, the hunt for the fulfillment of that lack drives them even today to read.

In childhood, we often feel different, feel outside the group, feel weak, and feel unloved.

Those same ghosts haunt many into their adult lives.

Give readers a protagonist that they can identify with,

whose goals and hurts echo their own,

and dangle the fulfillment of those aims in front of them being threatened -- well, you've certainly gotten their attention.

Which brings us to the real number one.

1.) Learn the lesson of Madonna :

Before you can get them to read your book, you have to get the reader to pick it up.

Your Title :

When Madonna chose her name it was controversial, attention-getting, and short.

Same for the title of your book. It must be short, grab the eye from the endless titles on the book shelves, and be jarring :


Tell me you wouldn't at least pick up those books to flip a page or two.

Which leads to our second path to Best Read of the Year.

2.) Each page may be your reader's last.

Think channel surfing.

Have you ever surfed the TV, just listening for a second to each program you passed?

One would have a snippet of dialogue so jarring or funny or both that you just had to stay and watch.

Another would have a scene so riveting,

you leaned in close on the edge of your seat to see what would happen next,

hoping to be able to catch on to the story as it progressed.

Each page of your novel has to be like that.

You have to turn the browser into the buyer. You have to keep the reader burning to turn the next page. Arthur Miller has a clue to how we can do that :

"One had the right to write because other people needed news of the inner world,

and if they went too long without such news they would go mad with the chaos of their lives."
ARTHUR MILLER, "The Shadows of the Gods"

3.) Be like Megan Fox's plunging cleavage or minuscule hem line : eye magnets.

Suspense. You have to keep them guessing. How?

4.) Sow the dragon's teeth, water, then reap the deadly harvest :

a.) Show a ring of black mushrooms in the neighbor's yard in whose center lies your MC's dead cat.

b.) A little later have your neighbors invite your MC to dinner. They are eating those black mushrooms stewed. Your MC politely declines that item on the menu.

c.) A few chapters later, the rings of black mushroom are in everybody's yard but hers. And everybody has stopped talking to her.

d.) One evening as she coming back from her nightly jog, she sees a mob of zombie-like neighbors trudging to her door, each carrying a tray of those black mushrooms.

You get the idea : Suggest a puzzling problem. Let it blossom strangely. Have the harvest come out of the darkness to threaten your MC.

4.) When a good writer is having fun,

the audience is almost always having fun too.

STEPHEN KING, Entertainment Weekly, Aug. 17, 2007

Make the readers laugh.

The laughter will make the following harrowing adventures that much more intense.

Work to give your characters one-liners that the reader will repeat to her friends.

Making your readers chuckle along with your heroes will endear them to her. So when one cries or makes the ultimate sacrifice for the others, the reader will mourn as if for a real person.

Your novel will have the semblance of real life even if it is a fantasy or horror story.

Humor is the glue that holds the reader to the next page :

"As we understand it, the surest way to make a living by the pen is to raise pigs."


5.) Don't forget the music :

"To me the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the music the words make." Truman Capote

Have each page contain a paragraph of prose that rolls like billowing fog in the awakening dawn, catching the heartstrings of the reader.

"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions." James Michener

"In conversation you can use timing, a look, an inflection.

But on the page all you have is commas, dashes, the amount of syllables in a word.

When I write, I read everything out loud to get the right rhythm."

Fran Lebowitz {Which is great advice.}

6.) Love is not a four letter word in writing.

Most readers live loveless lives in this country. Sometimes the loneliest people in America are the married ones.

At least give them the dream that real love can exist between two intelligent people.

Give them love that survives the bed sheets and goes with the couple into their daily lives.

Give that loving couple struggles that draw them together not pry them apart. A true, lasting love is like driving a car at night.

You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.


Writing is eternal,

For therein the dead heart liveth, the clay-cold tongue is eloquent,

And the quick eye of the reader is cleared by the reed of the scribe.
As a fossil in the rock, or a coin in the mortar of a ruin, So the symbolled thoughts tell of a departed soul.
MARTIN FARQUHAR TUPPER, Proverbial Philosophy



Hibbs, the cub with no clue, walked through the green tangle of trees and brush. The cub was sad.

Spring was here. Winter was gone. So, too, was the Turquoise Woman -- off on one of her mysterious trips.

"Faith!," chirped a voice above him.

Hibbs looked up through the velvet cover of the leaves. He went stiff. A little man, dressed in the oddest green clothes Hibbs had ever seen.

"It's me gold yer after, isn't it?"

"I can't eat gold," frowned Hibbs. "But have you seen any blueberries?"

The small man looked shocked, then outraged. "You don't mean to be saying, you have no yearning for me gold?"

Hibbs had quite enough of this strange two-legged. "I am yearning to be alone."

Hibbs ambled off in search of berries and solitude. The leprechaun leapt from tree to tree harassing the poor cub for his lack of discernment.

The cub walked like this for some minutes when a swirl of snowflakes danced all around him, finally becoming the tall, regal Turquoise Woman.

She tweaked his wrinkling nose softly. "Did you not see that leprechaun fall out of that tree twelve paces back?"

Hibbs' face brightened. "Oh, that's wonderful!"

The Turquoise Woman frowned, "Wonderful?"

"Yes. I thought I had gone deaf!"
Victor Standish asks this:

What do you get when you cross poison ivy with a four-leaf clover?

A rash of good luck!

My very own production. Drumroll, please :

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Why is this such a big topic?

Why do bloggers and twitterers go on about how publishing may be doomed?

Because it hits to the core of who we are as a society.

We live and die by the printed word.

Communities change because of what has been written, and if Aldous Huxley is to be believed, society will suffer tremendously without it.

Nearly every day I read of another magazine or newspaper that is folding,

closing its doors and giving up the ghost of publishing.

Is this signaling the chaos before the end?

I'm an optimist for the publishing industry. A pessimist for what lies ahead for struggling writers

Let me explain. Consider how many books are printed every single year.

In 2005 (the most recent year data was collected for),

there were 206,000 new titles, while the US saw 172,000.

That’s titles, not the actual number of books.

Say there was an average of 10,000 books printed per each title. (Probably a conservative estimate.)

That would mean at least 3,780,000,000 physical, paper books were printed. This is only new titles that were introduced that year.

qHow many of those books hit the NYTimes bestseller list?

How many sold their entire first print run?

How many made back the money that was spent on their physical production?

Not all of them.

Nor even most of them.

It’s relatively few that ever make it big.

The publishers know not every book produced will succeed,
But now in these dark economic times for publishing, it is very likely

that will ask themselves,

"Why not save money and precious resources for most (if not all) of the titles that don’t have as much chance for immediate success?"

Translation :

the purchasing agents will slam shut the gates on most of the books brought to them by agents.

Those agents, in turn, will reject nearly every query sent them by unknowns.

So, yes, publishing will have a future. We, as unknown authors, may very well not.

Oh, but there is ePublishing you say.

self-publishing may be the next dot-com bubble:

There's money to be made, so people are climbing over each other to post eBooks on Amazon so they can start raking in their fortune.

Except that's not going to happen, and eventually the flood of first-timers testing the self-publishing waters is going to subside.

some of the self-publishing poster children (Amanda Hocking being a good example) have used their success to procure traditional publishing deals.

And how sometimes it seems like there's more money to be made in teaching writers how to self-publish (i.e., a lot of self-publishing advocates aren't selling salvation, they're selling their own brand).

Amazon is turning eBook shoppers into bargain hunters who will stop paying for books in favor of ones they can get during free promotions.

All of this ebook talk is becoming a business in itself. Money is being made out of thin air in this strange new speculative meta-practice: there are seminars,

conferences and courses springing up everywhere, even at the Society of Authors (a writers' union which, until recently, was largely against epublication). Television and radio programmes are being made about self-epublishing

Everyone can be a writer now: it only takes 10 minutes to upload your own ebook, and according to the New York Times "81% of people feel they have a book in them ... And should write it.

Are we deluding ourselves?

Dangerous if that is true. If it is indeed a bubble, and the epub bubble bursts, as all previous bubbles have done,

the fall-out for publishing and writing may be even harder to repair than it is proving to be in the fields of mortgages, derivatives and personal debt.

Because this bubble is based on cultural, not purely economic, grounds


The lovely Jo Schaffer

has tagged me for LUCKY SEVENS

The rules are as follows:
1. Go to page 77 of your current MS
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

I gratefully accept tags, but I know many of my friends do not like them. I don't know who among them do not, so I do not tag. If any of you visiting want to play, great!

Alice insisted I use her latest book, so here are the those seven paragraphs (not sentences). Hey, you know how Victor loves words:

Legba, was still here. Happy with me he wasn’t. It was almost a tradition with me when arriving anywhere.

“What be wrong wid you, boy?” he huffed in his Jamaican accent.

Alice giggled, “Do you wish the list alphabetically or in order of importance?”

Legba pointed a long scraggly finger at the wiggling tentacle on the grass busily growing an Old One at the end of it. Sfumato! I never knew that could happen. Stephen King should publish a handbook or something on the by-laws of creepy-crawlies.

“You be killing all of dis city, girl!” Legba shouted.

Alice quickly pointed my way. “Me not him.”

“That’s right. Throw me under the wheels of the bus, Alice.”
Many of you have asked me about the word "Sfumato" with which Victor swears. Though a ghoul, Alice Wentworth was raised in the early Victorian Age and is made uncomfortable with Victor's normal "colorful metaphors" as she puts it.

Victor loves her with all his heart so he tries to use the word "Sfumato" that sounds like what he wants to say! Having spent literally years in public libraries for their safety, he is undestandably well read.

He knows Sfumato is one of the four major painting modes of the Renaissance.

The most prominent practitioner of sfumato was Leonardo da Vinci,

and his famous painting of the Mona Lisa exhibits the technique (especially in the shading around the eyes).

Leonardo da Vinci described sfumato as "without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane."

To Victor, Leonardo's description of Sfumato dove-tails exactly with what he feels about "proper" and "improper" when he wants to swear!
I have waited for this movie since I first read the books with the Leauge of Five as a young boy