So you can read my books

Thursday, November 29, 2012


{Image of Alice asking for Victor's hand in marriage by the fantastic Leonora Roy}

In life, you can't swing a cat without hitting a Catch Phrase (and really angering the cat).

"Reserve not met" is one of them. If you do business on eBay, you know it.

But there are all kinds of RESERVES NOT MET:

1.) Lung cancer:

How many cigarettes will trigger the reserve number for easy access to cancer in your life? 

 Often you smoke to calm your nerves.  Stress weakens your immune system. Add the two together, and you may hit that lethal reserve faster than you think.

2.) The JACK IN THE BOX beside you:

As a child, I was told by Mother that each person we passed was actually a JACK IN THE BOX.  She cautioned me that we did not know how many "cranks" each person had wound up in them. 

We were walking down a grocery aisle as she hummed the JACK IN THE BOX tune and prodded my chest with her forefingers to the beat.

She pointed out a woman, picking up a can of peaches, and murmured as if the woman were speaking, "$2.50 a can?  WHERE'S MY GUN. I'M GONNA SHOOT EVERYONE HERE!"

Mother jabbed me in my most sensitive ticklish spot, "POP GOES THE WEASEL!"

Everyone you meet has those cranks.  When will they meet that reserve number of cranks before they pop?  It is best to ask that question of yourself before you add any more cranks to that number.


When we think "reserve not met," we think in terms of highest dollar amounts.

Yet, the reserve to meet the needs of a lonely, bruised soul may be heartbreakingly low.

Perhaps only one heartfelt smile in a day of unrelieved gloom for that soul. Perhaps only one small greeting card sent out of the blue to a person lost in the crush of life.

Sometimes ONE means all the world to someone lost in the dark.

Take Alice talking to the Olympian, Apollo, of the meaning to the life of the now dead Victor Standish from THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT:

           “When the one you love is gone and you are alone, you begin to see that it was not just shared laughter, not just dancing in one another’s arms, not just battling enemies together or worrying over tomorrow or even if there would be a tomorrow. It was everything: it was the why of your life, every smile and precious moment of it. The answer to your long years of lonely prayers to God is the love you shared, and when the loss awakens you to the utter beauty of it, to the sacredness of it, you cannot get the fingers of your mind around it for a long time.”

She sighed in that odd British accent of hers.  “You are staggered not by the weight of the loss but by the gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day the emptiness is not, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to cheapen the gift of love.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Yesterday, I promised to tell you how you could win an AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF RAY BRADBURY'S FROM THE DUST RETURNED!
But first, Sandra, my ailing but feisty best friend, said I would be wise to follow her advise.
So since she is usually right, I am taking her advise:
I will count any of the Victor Standish books in your tally for my contest:

That way you can give a friend the complete Victor Standish saga for under $10
(half of what you would pay for ONE hardcover)
and YOU get FIVE in your tally for a SIGNED STEPHEN KING!
How cool is that?
Now ...
1.) On your blog, post about these two parts for THE VICTOR STANDISH CONTEST
2.) Write a review of THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT and "Like" it.
3.) Do both and get two entries into a chance to win the signed FROM DUST RETURNED.
* DRAWING: January 1st.

I wish all of you the best of luck.
The future of Victor and Alice rests
in your hands.



Shameless Author here -

Christmas is a time for presents ...


for yourself and you get a FREE revised LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH with 6 new chapters!

Buy THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT as presents for your friends.

They don't read urban and apocalyptic fantasy?  Expose them to new vistas and yourself to another chance to win big!

Those of you with the most books bought in descending order will get the choice of winning:

1.) STEPHEN KING signed first edition of ROSE MADDER ($400 value)

2.)  AVATAR cast & JAMES CAMERON signed movie poster. ($400 value)

3.) 27 X 40 poster of THE COLOR PURPLE signed by STEVEN SPIELBERG, QUINCY JONES, & KATHYRN KENNEDY ($400 value)

4.) CLINT EASTWOOD signed Press Package for FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS. ($400 value).


6.) PLANET TERROR 27 X 40 movie poster signed by Robert Rodriquez

 Priceless when your buddies stumble into your man-cave and spot Rose McGowan as Cherry Darling with her machine gun left leg!

Their mouths will stand agape in awe and envy. Your man-cave may well become a  city-wide shrine for fan-boys!

For an added bonus, I will throw in with that poster the Rose McGowan AUTOGRAPHED 27 X 40 movie poster of CONAN, the infamous reboot that managed to make Rose unattractive!

Imagine your buds walking into your man-cave and seeing both of those posters next to each other. By Crom, they will rend their MAXIM T-shirts!)

7.) ANGELINA JOLIE signed 27 X 40 international movie poster of LARA CROFT AND THE CRADLE OF LIFE

(Put that up in your man-cave and it will become a certifiable fan-boy shirne!)


Michael Whelan signed litograph Passage to Sanctuary


1.) Bruce Willis

2.) Robert Downey, Jr.

3.) Arnold Schwarzeneger

4.) Antonio Banderas

5.) Scarlet Johansson

6.) Halle Berry

7.) Jennifer Lawrence (Whatever you think of THE HUNGER GAMES, don't miss her SILVER LINING PLAYBOOK)

* DRAWING: January 1st




Monday, November 26, 2012


Have you ever wondered what happened in the first two weeks Victor Standish was learning the French Quarter? 

Where did he and Old Suze live?  How many close calls did they have and what happened to their attackers? And who were they?

Did you know Victor "marks" his territory?  Knowing Victor, can you imagine how he did it in the French Quarter?  How did Victor learn about the living shadows who hunger and live to speak of it? 

When was the first time Victor met Mesmer, the magical cat who owns a restaurant in the French Quarter?  Did you know that Victor could draw like Leonardo?

You only thought you knew Victor Standish.  The legend keeps his secrets close, his intentions closer.  Victor comes to life in a stunning new way in the revised THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH.

The night sings its haunting song, but dawn's light brings the shadows to life in startling detail.  Such is the way of the revised prologue and first chapter, followed by SIX completely NEW chapters.



 and email me Amazon's confirmation of your purchase,


Plus you are entered in my NEW YEAR'S EVE CONTEST!  But more of that later. 

{Some of the prizes are autographs of Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, and Clint Eastwood!}


{Image of Victor's Mother courtesy of the talented Leonora Roy}

That's the question the prospective reader asks when reading your book blurb.

Book Blurb?  You know, the copy on the back cover or on your Amazon book page.

After the title,

It is the most important prose you will write in regards to the book that you have slaved for months to produce.

How do you manage to spotlight your book and NOT torpedo it?

1) Seduce the reader with your protagonist or world.

Amy Wilkins, Assistant Manager of Digital Content and Social Media at Harlequin, says a SHORT TEASE can win readers to your book in a heartbeat as in

STONE KISSED by Keri Stevens:
“When Delia Forrest talks to statues, they talk back.”

 a.) A hint of the plot: "Secret Experiment. Tiny Island. BIG mistake. (Scott Sigler, ANCESTOR)

Other times it’s more important to set the scene by establishing the world of your story, especially if it’s set somewhere unusual.  SHORT again is the key word.  One paragraph.

b.) Idea of setting: Washington DC, Rotunda (Dan Brown, Lost Symbol);

“from the Roman Coliseum to the icy peaks of Norway, from the ruins of medieval abbeys to the lost tombs of Celtic kings” (James Rollins, Doomsday Key)

2) Hooks: yes or no?

Hooks are that bit of bolded text at the start of a blurb or between paragraphs that grab the reader’s attention and entice them to read on.

Good hooks are unique, short, and convey at least one KEY QUESTION to the story.

 Unsuccessful HOOKS are tired clichés, too long or don’t add anything of value.

 3) I'm a writer, Jim, not a doctor. 

Prose Triage. 

You are going to have to become a specialist in prose triage in order to sell your book to a stranger. 
As you write your blurb, ask: Does your reader really need to know that? (and be harsh)

Could it be considered a spoiler?
Are you telling the whole plot, including how the conflict will be resolved?

 Don't give away the punchline:
Oh, you will never believe that the psychologist was dead all along!

4) Learn from drug dealers.

Give the potential customer a free taste -- a SHORT snippet of your prose to present your voice and prose style as a tease.

5.) Think of your blurb as a movie trailer.

End in conflict.  End in a question.  The stakes are high.  The heroine is sexy.  The world is at risk. 

Make the reader want to read more.

Do movie traliers tell you how the movie will end?  Keep your potential reader in suspence.

6.) How long?

SHORT!  About 100 to 250 words.


“When reality bites, bite back.”  - Victor Standish.

The chimes of midnight have tolled for the last time.  The End of Days has swept away the valiant heroes in the Katrina-devastated French Quarter.  Only one survivor: Alice Wentworth, the Victorian ghoul.

But in the darkest nightmare sometimes a feeble light still burns.  One lone figure returns from Oblivion, refusing to accept defeat and the end of light.

Victor Standish, son of the Angel of Death, returns to find only his great love, Alice, still alive.  The others he loved are gone.  When they needed him, he was not there.

“They are gone,” sobs Alice.  “There is no getting them back.”

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

His rage against the darkness has begun.  His friends will be saved.  Though his efforts endanger all reality, Victor fights on.  The End of All Things billows into being. 

Foes from past and present, even the future encircle Victor and Alice.  From the last day of Troy to the mysterious Off-Reality Betting Parlor to the dreaded Citadel of Tyme herself, the battle rages across the face of existence.

The hooded figure of Destiny watches from the sidelines.  And the most dreaded, loathsome being in the memory of Man, SHE WHO BREEDS, slithers to end all hope for the one she hates most:

the THREE SPIRIT KNIGHTthe latest name for the French Quarter gypsy, Victor Standish.

Does Victor stand a chance to survive, much less save his friends and all reality?


Sunday, November 25, 2012


For all of you weary souls furiously typing your fingers into nubs on the end of your NaNoWriMo novels,

I thought the answer to that question might interest you.

I have just finished (edits and all) my novel, THREE SPIRIT KNIGHT and its ending was important to me.

An inept ending can kill your otherwise great book. So what questions do you need to ask about your ending?

1. Does it resolve the core conflict of the novel?
This is the big "this is what my book is about" question that your protagonist has spent the entire book trying to achieve.

 This is a biggie for series books, as there's a larger story arc across multiple books. But the goal in that one book needs to be resolved.

 2. Does it satisfy the major questions posed in the novel?

You don't have to tie up all the loose ends, but there are probably a few major things in the story readers will want to know answers to.

3. Is this the ending most readers are hoping for?

 We've all read books where we wanted one ending, but the book ended another way. Let down the reader, and you can bet she or he will not recommend your book.

4. Is your last line memorable, summing up your entire novel?

The trick of a good ending, of course, is that it must capture and equal everything that has gone before.

The line “He loved Big Brother” (from a novel that ends as masterfully as it begins) means very little until you understand exactly who Big Brother is. 

A great last line will have your reader putting down the book on her lap, murmuring, "Wow."  Guess what book she next recommends to her friends?

5.  A bad ending will unfailingly kill a good story. Is your ending such a one? 

 The ending is why the reader just invested their valuable time reading your story, and if it stinks, then they've wasted that time

6. Is there CHANGE at the end?

What makes a good ending hinges on the same things that make a good story. And the most important thing that makes a good story is change.

If nothing changes, nothing happens. And if nothing happens, you've got no story.

7. Do your characters save themselves or at least those they love?

If the U.S.S. Enterprise sails over the horizon to zap the bad guys in the nick of time. Say good-bye to repeat readers.

8. Resonance is the new Closure. Does your ending have it?

One symbol, or moment, from the beginning of the story is repeated at the end. By the time the story is done it means something else completely.

The ending echoes the beginning. It gives a sense that the story has come full circle.

9. Does it establish a new normal?

The heroes begin a new life. Sometimes the farm boy returns to the farm. Sometimes the farm boy becomes king. Sometimes the hero decides to set out on a new journey.

It's a chance to show how the character has been altered by the journey, and what they're going to do with that new knowledge.

10. What are your favorite kind of endings?

The best endings leave me full, and remain with me for days.

The best books make me wish they never end, but I know they have to.  Which is why I enjoy series books.

That's the sort of ending I like. What about you?

Saturday, November 24, 2012


{Image of Meilori mourning Sam McCord courtesy of the talented Leonora Roy}
William Faulkner, ghost, here :

Roland is sleeping, his head settled on his folded arms as he sprawls in front of his electronic journal ... laptop he calls it.

I wanted to check in on him. We ghosts have a fondness for him. He listens.

You'd be surprised how few undead or living do that. Most spirits and living souls just wait impatiently for you to take in a breath so they can jump in with their concerns.

Samuel Clemens couldn't wait to inform me how Roland had gone wrong with his "Bizarro Books" post. Old Sam seemed sure he knew how he'd gone wrong.

And as usual that old talespinner was both right and wrong.

Like Roland, I taught creative writing in a university. I had been so sure I had a firm grasp of reality and how to portray it. Death showed me that only the dead see clearly.

So I do know where Roland went wrong, where so many of us writers go wrong :

People do not read to see what you think or to learn about you. No.

They read to learn about themselves, to come into contact with who they truly are.

They read that which speaks of their own hopes, their own dreams, and their own fears.

If a tale resonates with the haunting music of their unhealed wounds and silent insecurities, they will be drawn to it as if to a magnet.

Only that story which tells of a heart in conflict with itself is truly literature.

That is why you must read, my friends. Read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it.

Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master.

Then write. If it's good, you'll find out.

If it's not, throw it out of the window and start again wiser.

Don't be 'a writer'.

Be writing.

A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

And to work well you must write with the embers of truth stinging your eyes.

You can have 13 people looking at a black bird and none of them will get it right. No one individual can look at truth.

Even simple truth. Look deep enough, and the simplicity disappears in the murky depths.

Truth blinds you. It is too much for one set of perceptions to take in. To a man with rose-tinted glasses, the whole world is rose.

And so it is with the writer looking at Man.

We call ourselves Homo Sapien, the reasoning animal. But Man is not made of reason.

A man is the sum of his misfortunes.

One day you'd think misfortune would get tired, but then time is its own misfortune as well.

And so all human behavior is unpredictable.

Considering Man's fragility and the ramshackle universe he functions in, how could it be otherwise?

So how does that affect you as a writer?

1) The writer must not set himself up as judge:

He must focus on action, the character's behavior.

Maybe your protagonist, like so many people, has no concept of morality,

only an integrity to hold always to what he believes to be facts and truths of the human condition.

2) The character does what his nature dictates.

He acts not as the writer would, not as a man should do, but what he will do --

maybe what he can't help but do. Which leads me to my greatest fear:

3) I fear that Man is losing his individualism, his sense of self, in doing what the herd does in order to stay safe.

Which is why I do not belong to anything besides the Human Race, and I try to be a first rate member of that.

4) You are first rate as a human being and a writer if:

you do the best you can with what talents you have to make something positive that wasn't there yesterday.

How do you do that you ask:

The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones. And he makes his home of the stones of his efforts.

How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home until I realized that home to a writer is where his mind, his heart is.

5) Most men are a little better than their circumstances give them a chance to be. Strive to thrive where you are. "How?" you ask again. And I will tell you:

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything good.

You have to have courage. Courage is not so hard to have in writing if you remember that:

All of us have failed to match our dream of perfection.

6) I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. If I could write all my work again, I'm convinced I could do it better.

This is the healthiest condition for an artist. That's why he keeps working, trying again: he believes each time that this time he will do it, bring it off.

Of course he won't. Which leads us to the next point.

7) The phenomenon of writing is its hermaphroditism:

the principles of victory and of defeat inhabit the same body

and the necessary opponent, the blank page, is merely the bed he self-exhausts on.

8) I learned in the university as did Roland: You can learn writing, but you cannot teach it. A paradox but true despite that.

And what have I learned from my novels?

I learned how to approach language, words:

not with seriousness so much as an essayist does,

but with a kind of alert respect, as you approach dynamite;

even with joy, as you approach women: perhaps with the same secretly unscrupulous intentions.

Are you a writer? Really? Then, what are you doing about it?

Go, write. And remember:

Dreams have only one owner at a time. That's why dreamers are lonely.

And that's why a dream is not a very safe thing to be near...

I know; I had one once.

It's like a loaded pistol with a hair trigger:

if it stays alive long enough,

somebody is going to be hurt. But if it's a good dream, it's worth it.
For Siv Maria (A Norwegian horror film!)

Friday, November 23, 2012


Bizarro books.

I've read them. You've read them. Sure you have. You just didn't use that term.

Bizarro was the character from the Superman universe who was a mirror opposite of the Man of Steel, doing everything backwards.

Hence my photograph of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks.

He wrote backwards in them. Some say it was because he was left-handed. Others say it was because he was dyslexic {which would help explain his difficulty in completing paintings and assignments.}

Still others say it was to keep his secrets : dissecting human corpses was considered proof of witchcraft and necromancy by the Catholic Church in those days. I guess it's not smiled on by them when done by private citizens these days either.

But back to Bizarro Books :

You know the path of good writing : you create tension, you increase the dangers crowding in on your heroes, and you narrow the focus like a lab tech with a microscope. Your narrative is a spear hurled with all your creative might. And remember :

A spear has no branches.

Stephen King and Zoe C. Courtman both endorsed Justin Cronin's THE PASSAGE. That was enough for me. I downloaded it onto my Kindle.

While I was being forgotten by the Beaumont blood center at the wild gas station we couriers call "the Star Wars cantina" in Orange, Texas, I had an unexpected hour and a half to read 20% of it {between politely refusing four crack addicts the opportunity for affordable romance, that is.}

Mistakes happen. The couriers at Beaumont just plain forgot about me. But if that's the worst thing that happens to me all weekend, won't I be a lucky man?

But back to THE PASSAGE. One review said "I couldn't turn the pages fast enough." And he was right. I was skimming page after page while shouting in the van, "Get on with it, already, Justin!"

There was more backstory than story.

My mother was once a chaperone to one of my first junior high dances, and she came to me after two young ladies suggested I leave the dance with them and not my original date.

After the second one, she slipped silently beside me and smiled, "That one was very pretty, Roland. It must have been hard to say "no.""

I shook my head. "I'm going to stay with the one I brought, Mother."

"Those are wise words, son. And they apply to more than just a dance."

She started to ruffle my hair but stopped when I whispered, "Not in front of everyone!"

She laughed all the way back to her corner.

But "Stay with the one you brought" is good advise for writers, too. We get tempted to stray into sideroads of different characters. No. Stay with the narrative you started.

No detours, no matter how artistic they are. If they slow down the story, roadblock them in your mind.

Critics praise THE PASSAGE. But in the words of Bizarro : "I R not critic. I R audience. I pay 10 bucks. I get "Arteest writing for self not reader."

Two-thirds of Justin's backstory could have been trimmed, making the story flow smoother, faster, and more enjoyable. {Trust me. If his book is made into a movie, it will be.} He wasn't building reader tension -- he was building reader frustration.

I love the poetry of words. When I skim through pages at a gallop, something is wrong. Those are just my opinions. But they were also my ten dollars. If he had been getting closer to the danger, to the supernatural mystery, I would have felt better.

No, I got the sense he actually hated the supernatural aspect of his story. Somehow he got forced into it, and he took every chance to veer away and write artistic literary fiction. I'm all for literary fiction. But don't promise me pizza and give me oat meal. I had my mouth set for pizza, darn it!

{I've just gotten through reading THE NEW YORK TIMES review of the book. In part it reads : "As Justin Cronin clearly knows, if you’re a writer seeking to slough off highbrow pretensions — to reject your early efforts at “quiet” fiction and write something with commercial appeal, something that will, if not conquer the critics, at least pay for your kid’s college education — you’d be wise to opt for a vampire novel.

Ballantine Books bought the trilogy for over $3 million, and the film rights to the novel sold before the book was completed. If there’s a class at Iowa on exploiting publishing crazes, Cronin surely aced it." }

I bought the thriller, CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, by the New York Times bestselling team of Preston and Child. I found the same bloated side trips into backstory that slowed down the narrative. 

I put it down to two authors losing track of their story and each other. There were whole chapters not necessary to the flow of the story. In fact, they made the book feel bloated. The premise, as in THE PASSAGE, was intriguing. It just got lost.

I bought another in the series, STILL LIFE WITH CROWS, at the same time. It is collecting cyber-dust in my Kindle. And we're talking an albino Sherlock Holmes who works within an X-Files type department within the FBI here. And I still won't touch it.

Ever hear someone tell a joke you already know? But they were telling it so badly, you caught yourself going, "Somebody just shoot. Me or him. I don't care. One of us has got to have relief."

Now, backstory can be done well. THE KEEP is an example. Nazis getting picked off one by one by a supernatural killer their greed let loose from its ancient prison.

The book did so well that the publishers snapped up F. Paul Wilson's second book. They re-named it THE TOMB. He pleaded with them : "There's no tomb in THE TOMB!"

In true Bizarro fashion, their actual response was : "Yes, but the readers loved your book, THE KEEP, so much, they'll snatch up this one with a similar title. By the time the readers figure out there's no tomb in it, the book will be bought and enjoyed enough for good word of mouth."

Which they got in Stephen King, who became the President of The Repairman Jack Fan Cub. {THE TOMB was the first in the Repairman Jack series of urban fantasies.} If you haven't tried one of those books, please get a copy of the tombless THE TOMB.

{Repairman Jack is a fixer of situations -- situations wherein someone has gotten a raw deal and wants to set things right. He has no social security number, no credit cards, pays no taxes, and makes every attempt to avoid the spotlight whenever possible.}

The Wesphalen family is living under a curse; a death curse placed a century ago in retaliation for the murderous acts committed by a greedy ancestor.

Kusim Bhakti and his sister have come to New York City to carry out the curse and wipe out the rest of the Westphalen line. To assist with this task, Kusim has brought with him the Rakoshi, perversions of the human species brought about eons ago from the Otherness. You'll discover more about the Otherness in the books that follow.}

Such is the joy, you might say of selecting my own examples. True. So how about you? Have you ever picked up a book, caught up by the premise and a sampling of the prose, only to feel it bloated as if the author were being paid by the word?

Have you ever read a book someone raved about, only to feel it took forever to get to the point? And when it did, it was hardly worth the effort. The moral, being evil hurts people, is hardly earth-shattering.

Why do you read?

Is it for information, for research? I do that too. But why do you read fiction?

Isn't it to be caught up in a sense of wonder, of rooting for a character you care about?

The abandoning mother in THE PASSAGE was dealt with in such painful, long detail, I suspected Justin of enjoying inflicting abuse and abasement on a woman.

He truly only needed a third of that detail to supply the reader with her motivations. It got me hoping he wasn't married ... for the wife's sake.

Authors who spend fingernail-pulling amounts of time on the physical and emotional torture of their characters tend to make me think some of them might have issues with the parent of the characters' sex.

Have any of you felt like the author or the publishers teased you with a false promise, delievering another horse of another breed altogether? Which titles? What authors?

Feel free to tell me I'm full of apple sauce on this. It's just my take on the present world of publishing. I'm curious. And I bet our other friends out there reading this are curious on your take on this as well.