So you can read my books

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Harper Voyager Announces Global Digital Publishing Opportunity!

Keen to become a Harper Voyager author?

 Here’s your chance to join the imprint that publishes some of the biggest names in fantastic fiction—

George R. R. Martin, Kim Harrison, Raymond E. Feist, Robin Hobb, Richard Kadrey, Sara Douglass, Peter V. Brett and Kylie Chan—to name but a few.

For the first time in over a decade,

 Harper Voyager is opening the doors to unsolicited submissions in order to seek new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines.

So, if you believe your manuscript has these qualities, then Harper Collins wants to read it!

The submission portal, , will be open from the 1st to the 14th of October 2012.

The manuscripts will then be read and those most suited to the global Harper Voyager list will be selected jointly by editors in the USA, UK and Australia.

Accepted submissions will benefit from the full publishing process:

accepted manuscripts will be edited; and the finished titles will receive online marketing and sales support in World English markets.

Yes, they will consider work that has been previously published

 if the author has retained full volume rights or had full volume rights revert to them. Please provide the publication details.

Voyager will be seeking an array of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication,

but particularly novels written in the epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural genres.

Submission guidelines and key information can be found at

Saturday, September 29, 2012



1.) Write a post about GHOST OF A CHANCE and this contest and you get one entry!

2.) Buy GHOST OF A CHANCE and send me Amazon's confirmation to you and you get another entry.

3.) Review GHOST OF A CHANCE for another entry.

4.) Get me a date with Olivia Wilde to win the contest. (Just checking to see if you were paying attention.)


Added to the autographs of Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Downey, Jr. 

are now the autographs of Mark Ruffalo and Samuel L. Jackson!  How cool is this?

One of the few family-friendly quotes of Samuel l. Jackson I know is about questions :

“If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions.” From Pulp Fiction


Friday, September 28, 2012




What am I going on about now?


See? I've engaged your mind by my title.

I.) Just like you have to engage the mind of your reader.

A.) If you don't ...

1.) Readers will have nothing to do with their imaginations ...

2.) They become passive, restless.

3.) Finally, they grow bored, leading to ...

4.) Becoming non-readers!

B.) When you think Author/Reader think of a partnership like marriage ...

C.) Your imagination married to that of your reader's.

II.) Take characterization -

A.) If you want to really know someone :

1.) Watch what they do.

2.) Listen to what they say.

3.) Look to see if the Talk matches the Walk.

4.) If it does, that tells you something important about that person.

5.) If it doesn't, that tells you something even more important.

B.) Don't say Jill is a back-stabbing tramp, rather ...

1.) Show her best friend going to the hospital for an extended stay.

2.) Show Jill inviting her friend's husband over for a nice home-cooked meal for a change.

3.) Have Jill get the husband ...

a.) first, drunk.

b.) then in her bed.

C.) Draw the reader into making her own conclusions about your characters ...

1.) By showing the world through your character's eyes.

2.) By revealing what makes your character laugh or cry or swear.


Maija looked down wistfully upon the unconscious teenager bound on her gold throne and smiled.

Where to maim first?

His eyes?
No, she wanted the boy to fully take in his surroundings: the human heads mounted on the marble walls of her throne room, the steel chains snug around his body, the hopelessness of his situation.

His impish tongue?

No, Maija wanted to hear his screams of agony and his cries for mercy.

His eyelids flickered. He was finally awakening. Good. Maija squirmed in esctasy. His torture would be such a marvelous birthday present to herself.

Victor Standish awoke, consciousness returning almost instantly. His eyes widened at the mounted human heads as he looked up at the smiling Maija. Victor drew in a breath, something dark flickering in his narrowing eyes.  His lips curled into a smirk that stole her joy.

"Who's your interior decorator," he laughed, "Stephen King?"


But by their end, you know quite a lot about Maija. Her station in life. Her mindset. Her mental health. You even know a bit about Victor Standish.

Yet, I've said nothing directly about either Maija or Victor.

III.) When you present your readers with already-arrived at conclusions --

A.) You've left them with nothing to do with their minds.

B.) When you make them come to their own conclusions by DIALOGUE and ACTION

C.) You've made partners of them and the images of your characters crystalize firmly in their imaginations, taking on a life of their own.

IV.) Bore your readers and soon they'll divorce you for a more exciting, engaging partner.

A.) A few bold and subtle brushstrokes of prose on the canvas of your page ...

1.) leads your reader to fill in the rest of the scene
2.) making her a partner in your story.

B.) And it removes limitations to the depth of the characters about whom you write.

C.) Write intuitively as you go along ...

And your novel will go places that will astound both you and your happy partner in prose, the reader.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


{Indigo, daughter of Nótt (Night personified), courtesy of Leonora Roy}
(Look for Indigo in THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT)
Are we the last?

Have writers become an endangered species?

I was reading this morning that the point-and-shoot camera you now own is probably the last you will ever buy.

The smart phone has replaced it. Sure, there are advantages to the point-and-shoot :

including features like image stabilization and larger lenses and sensors.

That does not matter to consumers like Emily Peterson, a 28-year-old graphic designer who lives in Brooklyn and who bought an iPhone 4 in July. “One day I just thought,

‘Wow, I never have my camera with me, when I used to carry it around all the time,’ ” she said. “It’s just one less thing for me to remember, one less thing to carry.”

Newspapers are scrambling to survive. Who reads them anymore? USA TODAY with its many pictures and its snippets of articles is the most successful one out there.

The music store. Every mall used to have one. Now, they are disappearing.

Why bother buying whole CD's when you can download the individual singles you enjoy from Amazon?

Bookstores are facing extinction as well. The ebook is slowly taking over. But worse, why pay full price for a hardback when you can order for much less from Amazon with free shipping?

And who reads for pleasure anymore?

We do, of course. But we are the dinosaurs, watching these strange critters called mammals scurrying around our feet.

Donna Hole wrote me that only one of her four children reads for pleasure. The others never did. Never.

I was a high school teacher for a time, and even then the school library was for assignments only. Very few students ever checked out a book for a fun read.

The kids graduating today seldom, if ever, read for pleasure. They go to movies. They play video games. The guys watch the sports of their choice.

We have become a visual society.

And the children of this generation will have even less desire to read. We learn what we see.

No wonder publishers are downsizing.

Why do you think Nathan Bransford is no longer an agent?

Are we pounding on the door to a castle that is crumbling behind the walls holding us back? Will reading for fun be here in twenty years?

Will libraries become quaint memories like the slide rule? Will books become ghosts like dusty 8-tracks?

Are we hurrying to buy a ticket on the Titanic?

What do you guys out there think? Have we become voices in the wilderness? Have we become like the tigers now in the wild : the last generation of our kind?

Don't miss D.G. Hudson's review of THE RIVAL!


The always fascinating Ksenia Anske:

has the funny and wise A. Lee Martinez doing a guest post on her blog. 

Don't miss it.  And do not miss his award-winning:


On my cross-country travels, I certainly have stopped at my share of ... unique diners ...

with clientel that bordered on DELIVERANCE meets THE ROAD WARRIOR

A. Lee Martinez has written a book that is part Christopher Moore and part SUPERNATURAL. Read it and you'll find yourself going out to find all the titles Mr. Martinez has written.

I envy you reading them all for the first time.

GIL'S ALL FRIGHT DINER is where H. P. Lovecraft meets his match in a trucker werewolf and a scientologist vampire.

Something Evil (that's with a capital E) is stalking Gil's All Night Diner in Martinez's terrific debut, a comic horror-fantasy novel.

Heading the delightfully eccentric cast are buddies Earl (aka the Earl of Vampires) and Duke (aka the Duke of Werewolves), who are looking for a place to eat as they drive through Rockwood, a small desert community besieged by cosmically weird stuff.

Soon after stopping at Gil's Diner, the pair help Loretta, the formidable owner-operator, fend off a zombie attack.

Determined to do the right thing, the two supernatural misfits take on further challenges, such as trying to prevent Tammy (aka Mistress Lilith, Queen of the Night) and her loyal but dumb boyfriend, Chad, from ending the world.

The fast-paced plot is full of memorable incidents

(e.g., a ghost and a vampire fall in love;

a Magic 8-Ball becomes a message vehicle for trapped spirits,

the menace of zombie cows ... you will never again hear "Mooo" in quite the same way) and such wonderful observations as ...

"this whole undead stuff sounds good on paper, but it ain't all it's cracked up to be."

Laughter. A rare commodity in fiction these days.

Unlike despair and inner pain. Those you find all too often in today's fiction.

Sometimes you look around, and it seems the people all about you are drowning on those things. Sometimes you are one of those people.

We as writers are sometimes the only anchor a reader will have in a dark moment. We must remember that.  Do we fan the embers of that darkness?

Or do we give them strength?  The strength that comes from laughter, from another hurting spirit in the dark who stops to help, to listen, to give a damn.
And a song with that thought (with captions for Indigo and other friends) :

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


You read my title and said,

"Get real."


Get real. Or never get picked up by an agent.

As a writer of urban fantasy,

I have to convince my readers that Samuel McCord, Victor & Alice and their enemies are real,

or they will never buy my fantastical setting and plot as "real."

No matter what you write, you must do the same. Or the readers will never become absorbed into your novel.

How do you do that?

By remembering ...

1) "God and Country" ain't what it used to be.

Duty and honor were once valid motivations. But Shakespeare is dead.

This is the "Me" generation. Even if you're writing about women in the 1700's, you are not writing FOR them.

Abigail Adams sacrificed much for her husband and family. But her letters showed a woman who insisted on owning her own property and money

(very much NOT the custom of the time.)

All of us have had to deal with a situation, not because it was honorable, but because it was heaved into our laps.

Abigail comes across as real because her letters showed she resented her husband's ambition that took him from his children and her so often and for so long.

She fumed at his inability to get along with others.

Ambition, vanity, irritability -- she saw his warts. But they were warts on a face she loved. We can "buy" a woman who sees clearly but loves deeply.

2) Ah, Love ...

"Put the rat cage on her. On her!"

In 1984, Winston is tortured by the Thought Police until he finally breaks and screams for his tormenter to put the rat cage on Julia, the woman he "loves."

Sex is a primal motivator not love.

Man will sacrifice much for love but generally there must be a good chance of success, or your average reader will feel your novel is cliche not real.

Your hero may be different and sacrifice all for love, but that extremism must apply to all facets of his life or your reader will not "buy" your hero.

3.) Curiosity killed the cat ... and the bad novel.

Without curiosity, fire and most of Man's discoveries would never have been made. But as with love, there is a limit to how much we will sacrifice for curiosity.

When a mother's children are threatened by her curiosity, she will generally grudgingly back off.

Up the punishment enough, and all of us curious types will say, "I'm outta here!"

But by the time that moment comes, realistically, it is too late. And that leads us to the next point :

4) Self-preservation or
"I'll miss you terribly, but that last life preserver is mine!"

We like to think the world is a nice place. But try being an ill, frail woman on a crowded bus and see how selfless most people are.

To continue when threats to his life are enormous, your main character must have more than self-preservation to keep on --

perhaps he/she cannot depend on the promises or threats of the adversary to keep his/her children and spouse safe.

Or as so often in life, the hero simply has no choice but to go on. The bee hive has been toppled -- and it's simply run or be stung to death.

5) Greed or

"Excuse me. Is that my hand in your pocket?"

Greed is good -- as Michael Douglas once said. But only up to a point.

For one thing, greed is not something which endears our hero to the reader. Another, shoot at most greedy folks, and they will head for more hospitable hills.

5) Revenge consumes ... the individual and the reader's patience.

Revenge is understandable but not heroic.

In historical or Western novels, where justice was bought or simply non-existent, revenge is a valid motivation ...

often justified under the rationalization, justice.

Revenge in our civilized times must occur when lapses in order happen.

Say when civilization died with the power in New Orleans during and after Katrina.

Revenge on your adversary's part must be understandable, or your plot will become cliche. Revenge must be supplemented with other aspects of the character.

Say a priest, defending his flock of homeless during Katrina, must choke off his desire for revenge for a raped little girl

to stay by his remaining flock to protect them. Playing the desire for revenge against love for helpless family can lend depth to your novel --

making it real.

For who of us has not burned for revenge against a tresspass against us but had to bite back the darkness within?

6) We want to believe ...

Despite all the harsh things I've said of love (and by inference, friendship), the reader wants to believe ...

A) that when the moment comes, we can reach within ourselves and find the hero hiding there.

B) that love can survive dark, hard times if we but simply refuse to let go of it.

C) that humor and wit can overcome the larger, stronger predator -- that we can become Ulysses challenging the gods -- and winning.

7) Give your readers a semblance of reality while still giving them the three things that they want to believe of themselves and of life --

and your novel will be a bestseller.

{Victor & Alice drawn by the incomparable Leonora Roy}
{Thea's song for Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS}

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


The ghost of Ernest Hemingway was glum last week.

As he sat beside me on my rare blood runs, he talked about Hadley, his first wife.

"She inspired my first short stories you know.  On this date today in 1925, I finished the first draft of THE SUN ALSO RISES."

He rubbed his face wearily. 

"A little more than a year later, it was published, and I dedicated it to her.  But in those months I  had strangled our marriage by my affair with Pauline Pfeiffer."

I nodded silently.  I didn't know what to say.  I knew from earlier times with him

how Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway were the golden couple of Paris in the twenties.

 They had been the center of an expatriate community boasting the likes of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and James and Nora Joyce.

In his haunting accounts of he and Hadley, he explored their passionate courtship, their family life in Paris with baby Bumby, and their thrilling, adventurous relationship —

a literary love story scarred by Hadley’s loss of the only copy of Hemingway’s first novel and ultimately destroyed by a devastating mÉnage À trois on the French Riviera.

Hadley was the remarkable woman who inspired his passion and his art—the only woman Hemingway never stopped loving.

As I drove the night through, the interstate grudgingly giving up only a few feet of its surface under the feeble headlights, Hemingway sighed like the evening's lost winds.

"Fifteen years later, on this day in 1942, Hadley wrote me to ask if I wanted a stack of letters from the old Paris days which she had just found in her basement.

At that point, I was beginning a new marriage —

in five weeks I would divorce Pfeiffer,

in eight weeks I would marry Martha Gellhorn.

I remember my reply to Hadley. I asked for the letters, and I foolishly tried to turn back the clock. 

I read and re-read that passage so often before I mailed it that it remains fixed in my mind even now when I am but a shade --

'Imagine if we had been born at a time when we could never have had Paris when we were young.

Do you remember the races out at Enghien and the first time we went to Pamplona by ourselves and that wonderful boat the Leopoldina and Cortina D’Ampezzo and the Black Forest?

Last night I couldn’t sleep and so I just remembered all the things we’d ever done and all our songs—

“A feather kitty’s talent lies
In scratching out the other’s eyes
A feather kitty never dies.
 Oh immortality.”

We have three good cats here…. When I can’t sleep at night I tell them stories about F. Puss [Feather Puss, our Paris cat]….

Good bye Miss Katherine Kat.

I love you very much. It is all right to do so because it hasn’t anything to do with you and that great Paul.

 It’s just untransferable feeling for early and best Gods. But I will never mention it if bad. Thought you might just be interested to know.'
Beside me in the dark of the van, Hemingway squeezed shut his eyes and his meaty fists, murmuring, "The dirt is my lover now."

{If you wish to read an amazing account of Ernest and Hadley's Paris love, read PARIS WITHOUT END:  (A great read for $6)  }

Who inspired or inspires you, my friends?

This photgraphic image is from the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (JFK Library). This image was originally created and/or owned by Ernest Hemingway and/or his wife Mary Hemingway.

After Ernest Hemingway's death, his widow Mary donated many of his papers, photographs and other items to the JFK Library, and transferred the copyright for images she owned to the JFK Library.

The JFK Library is part of the National Archives, an agency of the United States Federal Government, and has released the photos into the public domain. This photo is marked "Public Domain" on its web page at the JFK Library. 

Don't miss Donna Hole's shout-out for my GHOST OF A CHANCE HALLOWEEN CONTEST:

Monday, September 24, 2012


{Image courtesy of the genius of Leonora Roy} 
Some novels idle rough.

Some jerk, sputter, then stall.

Others run smooth and fast.

The difference? What's under the hood.

Some time back, I likened your novel to the concept C.A.R. :

C ..... Conflict

A ..... Action

R ..... Resolution


I. You can put a bow tie on a penguin, but that won't make him James Bond.(And I wouldn't bet any money on him in SKYFALL either.)

* Calling an emotional moment conflict doesn't make it so.
A.) You and I deal in conflict every day

B.) But authors won't be writing books about us.

1.) Our spouse calls us fat, and our snapping back ...

2.) Conflict ..... yes.

3.) Dramatic Conflict? Usually no ...

unless magic revenge spells fly in the next chapter!
C.) My life on the streets of Post-Katrina New Orleans ...

1.) Conflict? Yes.

2.) Dramatic Conflict? No.

3.) Katrina is old news ... which has a shorter shelf life than dead fish.

a.) Its horrors are only fresh to my nightmares.

b.) There were only losers, no winners. All the villains I saw got away with their crimes.

c.) There was no correcting action I could take,

therefore no satisfying resolution. Only comforting the grieving over losses, that in many cases should have never happened.

d.) Your novel should not be depressing. The reader can be depressed for free.

You're asking her/him to part with hard cash money.

II.) Then, what is Dramatic Conflict?

A.) Let Robert Frost explain :

Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.


1.) At least in the mind of your Main Character.

2.) The want must be primal ... the roadblock to it must be overwhelming.

3.) Think Zombie Movies :

a.) You're either Fast Feet or
b.) You're Fast Food.
c.) Life gets cut back to the basics : the quick or the dead or the undead.


I.) Hemingway was right --
A.) "Never confuse movement with action."

B.) What then is Dramatic Action according to Hemingway?

1.) He insisted that the action and its form be solely placed on one individual.

2.) The character needs to dominate that action.

Focusing on a single matador against a single bull distills the larger human drama of all of Mankind against those dark forces that threaten us.

C.) Your hero shapes the kind of action :

1.) Robert Jordan of FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS :

2.) While Jordan is the epitome of the hero in his actions,

he is also in command of himself and his circumstances to a far greater extent than Hemingway's previous heroes.

He is driven to face reality by deep emotional needs.

C.) For action to be dramatic, it must be either ...

1.) A direct attack upon the problem or

2.) A direct defense against it.

D.) Harry Potter writing his Congressman about nasty old Mr. Voldemort just doesn't qualify.


I.) Satisfying.
A.) Simple?

B.) Not hardly. Have you ever thrilled to a great suspenseful mystery, only to gasp out loud at the resolution, "That's it?"

C.) Look at those books that you put down in your lap with a smile. They all had one thing in common:

1.) They lived up to the promise of the build-up.

2.) They lived up to the mood of the prior chapters.

a.) One book I read with gusto. It was about a young painter living above a strip club.

b.) Delightful, picaresque characters, snappy dialog, some truly funny moments, and a pace that never leaves you flat-footed:

c.) "Duncan Delaney and the Cadillac of Doom" is a comic circus of strippers and bikers, cowboys and Indians, and fine art. How could you go wrong?

d.) An ending that put a sour taste in my mouth and drained all the fun out of the entire read.
Think Christopher Moore's funniest book, ending like THE GREAT GASTBY.

e.) You can buy a hardcover for a dime from Amazon and see for yourself :

D.) Be true to the mood, promise, and premise of your book.
If it takes you a month to write that solution that has your reader gasping in laughter or wonder, take that month.
DAWN OF WOES will come out next year.

To see the introduction of Higgins, the werewolf cursed with human consciousness in her wolf form see END OF DAYS  :

Sunday, September 23, 2012


The mottled blaze of strangled life lends magic and beauty to Autumn.

Autumn is my favorite time of year,

 and I paid homage to it in my historical fantasy, ADRIFT IN THE TIME STREAM:

It is the story of the cursed voyage of the transatlantic steamer, Demeter, in 1853.

A journey where my hero of FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE first met the one great love of his life,

the mysterious Meilori Shinseen, born of stardust and the sea.

A voyage where McCord fights his first duel with the enemy who is destined to become his life-long foe, DayStar ...

a being claiming to come from a realm beyond the boundaries of Time itself.

My homage to Autumn is the passage where a wounded McCord walks through a plane of existence not of this world to discover the identity of a murderer

that both friend and foe warn will destroy him. But not to do so would destroy the love of his life.

And that means there is no question that he will walk this strange realm until he finds the truth that will save Meilori and destroy him. 'Fair Trade,' he thinks:

I expected to see a good many unpleasant sights when I walked into the darkness that lay beyond The Door of Nasah. After all, I had a Jesuit education of sorts, courtesy of the Soyoko from so many years ago.

So I knew that nasah was ancient Hebrew for testing.

It had been used to describe those poor wandering Israelites bickering and stewing their way across the desert to the Promised Land. And you know how well that went for them.

But since this is me we’re talking about. I didn’t get a single one of the things I expected. Story of my life. And undeath.

I was walking in a place forgotten by feet. Or so it felt to me. The darkness slowly bled to a lighter hue of gloom.

I paused, brooding in this twilight world, not knowing where to place my steps. I strained my eyes. I could almost make out the smudged silver of a far horizon.

What had I said to myself earlier? That I figured the folks who entered this realm made their own walls. Maybe that was what I was doing now.

Was I walking through the burned-out ends of the smoky days of my past?

A dark forest of memories was lanced through, not with sunlight filtered through thick branches, but with images of pain and struggle.

My pain. My struggle. I almost felt the crunch beneath my feet of the withered leaves of others’s masquerades.

I did seem to feel, like the lash of snapping branches against my cheek, the tiny thousand misunderstandings of my best efforts and the clumsy gropings of my heart to the life-hardened hearts of others.

I knew then that I was indeed walking through the Autumn world of my past, rising above the dark horizon of my regrets. The yellowed leaves of recollection curled up around me as I walked slowly forward:

Sonora, England, France, China, Australia, New Zealand, and even India.

The light of love slipped through the black shutters of my guilt and loneliness. It was warm and emerald. The light I saw in the eyes of Meilori. My torch that I would carry in this darkness.

I kept walking. Images swirled around me. Revolving doors, showing the faces of an ever-growing army of enemies. Refracting light of clues, guesses, fears of the truth I finally realized I did not want to know.

Meilori’s eyes seemed to waver.

I remembered her anger, her warnings, her despair. I clung to our bond, our love bruised but enduring, curling about my spirit like perfumed smoke rising from the embers of our hearts. I would endure. I had to endure. For her. For us.

Laughter. Cold. Brittle. Knife sharp.


It swirled all about me. And as fast as fingers become a fist, a chill blackness swallowed me. I slowed but kept moving ahead. I shivered. Not from the cold, but from a growing warmth within me.

I slowed even more. Meilori. Her velvet words spoke within my mind.

‘Beloved, wherever you are know this -- you are a great man.’

I started to protest but her soft words stopped me.

‘Hush, I do not have long before he senses I am talking to you. You are Samuel Durand McCord, beloved, and you are a great man.’

I could have sworn I felt the lingering caress of tender fingers on my cheek.

‘You turned your back on war to save a small boy. You fought cruel laws, usually to no avail. You have written no symphony but that of your deeds. You have written no poems outside words of comfort to those in pain.’

This time I did feel her lips on mine.

‘Yet you are greater than any general, any politician, any composer, or any poet I have ever known.

You are great because you are kind when you could have so easily learned to be cruel.

You are great because you love when so little has been shown to you. You are great because you are humble when you have the power to be a tyrant.’

I felt my nose tweaked.

‘And finally you are great, not because you never fail but to celebrate life, but because you never quit. Now, do not make me a liar!’

And suddenly the blackness was colder because my sense of her was gone. Snatched away like life by a pistol shot.

DayStar must have sensed her talking to me. She could be in serious trouble. I ground my teeth. I had to get back to her.

But I figured turning back would only lead me to a deeper darkness.

If there was one ugly lesson I had learned in all my wanderings and mistakes, it was that with life in general, and with DayStar in particular, there was no going back. None at all.

No, I had to bull this one through to the end. Through to my end if everyone’s warnings were right.

But there was another lesson I had learned. The majority was usually wrong. Usually.

I took a firm step forward, and the ink shroud around me lifted.

I was back in the Autumn world.

But it no longer held any restrains of regret for me. How could there be any? Meilori’s love was here with me.

And besides I had always liked Autumn despite its warnings of the white death of winter biding its time impatiently.

Autumn’s crisp breath stirred the unseen leaves with whispery lamentations. Their graves provided a crackle and rustle as my feet stepped upon them while I made my way through Autumn’s colors more than landscape.

The very air filled my nose and lungs with the tang and wrinkling of leaf bonfires, of ripened apples making the heavy branches hang their heads as if in mourning for ice storms to come.

My ears prickled as I could have sworn I heard the leathery flutter of pheasant wings, the still happy liquid singing of a meandering stream, and the sad lament of a sparrow facing hunger.

The red and gold of this world murmured to me of happier times as I had tramped lonely hills and haunted forests. And a peace filled me.

The peace which is the reward of completing the long gauntlet of summer. The quiet dark that precedes the winter of the soul which lurks just around the next bend. A time for binding recent wounds and old -- and forgeting them, along with the misfortunes that had brought them.

I took another step. I stopped. Autumn had ended. My winter of the soul lay before me.

I lay before me.

I had gone into the past. Stepped right past the boundaries of time’s firm grasp. The evening of Rachel’s murder was bidding me a dark welcome.

An instinct born of this cruise told me that DayStar had not expected me to make it even this far. I stiffened. Cornered in fungus, his voice mocked me in the confines of my mind.

‘No matter, McCord. Now you end.’

I whispered, “Maybe si. Maybe no.”


Some of you are new to my cyber-home so I thought I would let you in on a secret:

The mysterious Nazca lines.

What fan of the arcane and the supernatural has not heard of them?

But did you know that there were equally mysterious Nazca Lines for writers?

Bet you didn't.

But there are. And you need to know them.

Imagine this scenario :

You're at a writer's conference. You're waiting for the elevator doors to open and take you to listen to your favorite author. They open.

He storms out. You stumble into the elevator and bump into none other than the president of HarperCollins Publishing.

The doors close, and he glares at you.

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

What do you say? Besides "Oh, shit!" to yourself.

And right now, as you read this,

if you're writing a novel, you better have that sentence crystal clear in your mind.

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

What is your novel about, Roland? Now is no time for ah's.

"It's about a man, nearing retirement, invited to a company country retreat, only to find out it is his employers' deadly way of downsizing by 'accident' to avoid paying him his benefits."

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

"Ah, you see, he's not human.

He's ... he's an alien with gruesome dietary needs. And he's more than happy to add these company killers to his menu."

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

Eagle-eye view.

That is what the Nazca Lines for authors happens to be.

First Nazca Line - The theme in one sentence.

In an important aspect, a good novel is an argument posed by the author to the reader.

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

How do you get your theme seamlessly inserted into your novel?

Usually thourgh the lips of a secondary character. In my LOVE LIKE DEATH, Webster, the one-eyed orphanage headmaster, stalks towards my young hero as the orphange burns down around them.

He jabs at his empty eye-socket.

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

Second - The Book-Ends:

The Opening Scene and Your Closing Scene.

Some publishers look at the first 10 pages and the last 10 pages.

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

Third - The Set-Up Lines:

The first 50 pages or the first 3 chapters.

In those you must set-up your hero, the life-or-death stakes, the goal of the story, and all the major characters are introduced or hinted at.

Think of any classic Hollywood movie. In the first 15 minutes you will see that same set-up. You don't have it in your novel? You don't have a good novel. Or least that is what the publisher will think. And he is the one we're trying to sell.

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

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

Fifth : Let The Games Begin:

Fun. That's what gets readers to come back for a second and third read.

It what gets them to urge friends to read. Let the hero and his circle of comrades have adventure. Let them get away with the loot. Let them thumb their noses at the howling Dark Ones.

It's what would be on the poster if your novel was turned into a movie.

Luke and Leia swinging on that rope. Quigley shooting his rifle over impossible distances. Iron Man streaking across the dark heavens ... to slam into the brick wall of the next Nazca Line ---

Sixth - The Twilight of The Gods:

Or that is what I call it : the hero realizes too late a harsh truth.

The forces of darkness have won. He is alone. There is no hope. He comes face to face with the fool that he was. And then, kneeling in blood and ashes, he decides ...

Seventh - The Phoenix Rises/ The Catalyst Sizzles:

There is losing. Then, there's quiting. The hero decides to fight on. But fight on smarter.

The bad news was really the good news.

It is that moment the reader loves. The harsh realities that every reader faces is tilted on its ear by a carefully sown subplot. The person the hero thought he has lost returns. And the forces of darkness discover you never count a hero down until you see his corpse.

And maybe not even then.

Eighth - The Mid-Point Line:

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

Ninth - The Wolves Close In:

What makes a hero?

What ticks inside a proponent of Evil?

The answers to those two questions are what turns defeat into a learning, growing stage in the hero.

The hero fights for others.

The antagonist fights for himself.

The hero is willing to die if those he loves live. The antagonist usually finds a way for followers to die for his cause. He himself wants to live to bask in the glory of winning.

Tenth - Gethsame_Golgotha_The Empty Tomb:

Death. Someone dies. Something important dies.

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

Eleventh - The Sun Also Rises:

Love usually brings the believed lost partner of the hero back to his side. A moment of joy leads to a revelation of a solution.

The lessons learned in the prior pages are brought to bear. The forces of darkness have learned nothing. The hero has learned a great many things. He brings them to his arsenal of weapons.

One by one, he and his comrades and his love dispatch the enemy. Until it is just the hero versus his arch-foe.

New surprises are thrown at our hero. He takes his hits and keeps coming. He may die, but he will not be defeated. Nor is he.

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

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

Final Image :

It echoes the first image we got in the book.

But this image has more depth, brought by the dark colors of death, pain, and revelation. You have made your point in the argument you proposed in the novel's beginning.

You know your reader will close your book with a sad sigh at a great experience ended. And maybe, just maybe, if you've done your job right ...
your reader will turn to page one again to read your novel with renewed delight at knowing where you are going to take him/her.
And talking of eagle-eye views, here is a music video that is a life lesson all by itself :

Saturday, September 22, 2012


The LOVE LIKE DEATH trilogy concludes :

Not even the eclipse of myth is forever. But eclipses return.

And currents exist that are eternal. One such current is Love.

It binds the universe together.

Listen. Can you hear it? Can you hear him?

Blake, son of Man, is calling out across the night skies. What is he saying?


Remember the strangled dreams, the shattered illusions that dropped from your bruised fingers long ago as a child.

Still Time can be transcended. If you but remember ...

that love is forever,

that love cannot be taken from you,

that wounded hearts and minds but cast it from them in despair.


Listen as Blake tells of haunted Avalon, broken by bloody Civil War. Of his love for the moon and the sun : the Last Fae and the alien drinker of souls.

Friday, September 21, 2012


That's right. Dare to be bad.

1.) Ernest Hemingway said it :

All first drafts are shit.

He was a genius. And if his first draft was bad, ours will most likely be less than sterling, too.

Which is a relief.

It takes the pressure off us to write that masterpiece right out of the chute.

We know what we write will be bad. Then, with the rough foundation laid, we can get down to the fixes.

2.) The Zen of Writing :

Write in the moment.

Have your goal for the chapter you're creating up on the chalkboard of your mind. See it as a mini-three act play :

One : build-up with tension and foreshadowing

Two : the dominoes fall into place, sometimes flowing into an unexpected pattern.

Three : the bottom falls out of someone's expectations or plans.

With that mini-three act play in your mind write the first things that occur to you.

Flow with the internal logic of your words, set your sail with the mood of the winds of your muse and travel across your fictive world.

3.) Finish Your Vegetables :

Complete your chapter -- hopefully with a cliffhanger.

(You do not want to give the agent a convenient stop point. Make her want to turn the page and keep on reading into the wee hours of the morning.

If she can't stop reading, she will feel that the publisher and reader will not be able to stop either.)

4.) Bad prose is just a problem to be solved.

Every prose problem has a solution. Perhaps not a perfect one but an improvement of your earlier prose.

Look at your finished chapter. Correct what mistakes you see on the computer monitor. Print out the chapter.

Read it silently, correcting as you go. Read it aloud.

Slash through clunky sentence, writing the improved version above it. Read it aloud, listening to the flow of the words. Is there lyrical magic to them?

No? Read them again, slashing as you go. Try to see if you can make the mental images clear and vivid in your mind. It can be done. Sometimes simple prose is best.

Write the simplest version of the trouble sentence you can.

Write the first words that come to mind. Like the first answer to a difficult test question, it will more than likely be the right choice.

5.) Every prose pothole you stumble across can be fixed.

You don't have to be a genius. You don't have to be Pulitzer Prize material.

You just have to care ...

about writing at your highest level.

about how people interact and how they hurt and heal one another ... sometimes one act right after the other.

You're a writer.

You've observed people around you. You've reflected upon your own words and actions on the job, at play, and at home.

Use those observations to lend depth to the interactions in your novel.

6.) Put Tab A into Slot B :

A frequent agent complaint is that your story doesn't hold together.

What does that mean any way?

It means the individual parts don't fit.

At the start of writing your novel, write what you believe will be your last chapter. Tie up all the loose ends you plan to dangle along the course of your narrative.

Present your protagonist, having learned all the hard lessons he picked up in the heat of the crucible. Have him admit to his failings of the past. Have him stand proud and laughing or silent, strong, and humbled by his hard-won wisdom.

Then, using this chapter as a guide, write your first chapter. Show the flaws in your protagonist that have been mended in the climax. Spotlight the areas where growth is needed, especially the ones to which your hero is blind.

Introduce the theme of your novel :
Love makes lust seem pale and unsatisfying.
Life is more than success.
True friends are your real wealth.
Family is the yin and yang of life, both pain and healing.

As you write the meat of your novel, keep your creative eye on both of these chapters to time your pacing, tension, laughter, foreshadowing, and ultimate victory.

*) If you dare to be bad, your novel will be very, very good.
{Image courstesy of the fabulously talented Leonora Roy!}
In an attempt to counter the advances of the mysterious Indigo towards Victor, Alice performs this song in Meilori's.
Victor almost swallows his tongue!