So you can read my books

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Is "FIRST PERSON" the last person you need?

I recently read a writing teacher rail against first person.

To her ...  Instead of seeing what the author sees, she is forced to watch the author "seeing" it;

Instead of being permitted to react in her own way to the images presented,

She was forced to share the author's reactions. In short, the author can't get out of the way.

The author is standing between the reader and the image or experience the author seeks to convey.

To me, the reader learns a great deal about the character by what the narrator sees and how he sees it,
by what feelings are evoked by images and objects ... and why.

Take this scene from FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE
as Father Renfield and Samuel McCord step out
onto the Katrina-flooded street by his jazz club:

No wonder Renfield was shaken.  I looked at the battered club fronts, the boarded windows, the two-by-four’s driven like crude knives into the very mortar of the buildings, and the crumpled remains of people’s lives floating down the flooded streets.  It was eerie.  The utter blackness of a once bright street.  The deep quiet of a mortally wounded city. 
Renfield bent down and picked up a floating child’s doll, its false hair soaked and hanging.  Its glassy eyes eerily reminded me of too many human corpses I had seen floating down this same street.  Renfield stroked the plastic cheek softly as if it had been the flesh of the girl who had lost her doll.  Closing his eyes, he dropped the doll with a splash that sounded much too loud.
          That splash said it all.  The world had always been dangerous and full of fear.  It had only been the lights and the illusion of civilization that had kept it at bay.  But the world was patient.  It knew its time would come sooner or later.  And in the gamble called life, the House always wins.  Renfield looked my way with eyes that clawed at me and smiled as if his lips were an open wound.
          “Perhaps that doll will find the spirit of the child who lost it.”
          “You and I have seen stranger things, Padre.”
            He nodded.  “Yes.  Yes, we have.  I will choose to think the child’s ghost reunited with her doll.”
          The thought seemed to give Renfield some small measure of peace.  I think Lincoln had it right: we have the peace we choose to have.
The same writing teacher posted:
"First person is the one most often poorly done among new writers.

If the writer isn’t careful, the story can degenerate into a kind of monologue that fails to engage the reader.  

In essence, writing in first person is easy and a cop-out. It's easy to forget how to include description and emotion;

easy to spend far too much time thinking, and not enough time in the here-and-now of the story."

"It is drearily frustrating to see how much bad writing comes to me in first person," she ends.

What do you think?  Does FIRST PERSON deserve its bad rep?  What POV do you usually use in your novels
and short stories?


Some writers claim that those who re-read are arrogant, narrow-minded, or dim.

Arrogant in that they have read all the good books out there. 

Narrow-minded in that they insist
on staying in their own narrow area of reading pleasure. 

Dim in that they didn't get the book's
full measure the first time.

For me, reading a favorite book for a second time often feels like a different experience -

now scientists say that it actually IS different.

The habit of watching films or reading books multiple times encourages people to engage with them emotionally.

The 'second run' can offer profound emotional benefits, says a new study, based on interviews with readers in the U.S. and New Zealand.

By enjoying the emotional effects of the book more deeply, people become more in touch with themselves.

Few would question looking at a great painting twice, or watching a favorite movie again and again.

But, perhaps because rereading requires more of a commitment than giving something a second look,

 it is undertaken in the face of guilt-inducing awareness of all the other books that you should have read at least once but haven’t.

But to me, an authentic life contains no "should's" only those rare
fragile moments that "could" exist if we but brave the censure of
the milling masses.

“If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads.”

François Mauriac


“One cannot read a book: one can only reread it.”

- Naboko


“What a scholar one might be if one knew well only five or six books.”

- Flaubert

What books appear on your reread list?
Are they bound by a common theme?
What do these books say about you?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

CURSE OF THE GODS_William Faulkner, ghost

{Image of Meilori mourning McCord courtesy of Leonora Roy}

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

The ghost of William Faulkner here:

I have found that the greatest help in meeting any problem is to know where you yourself stand. That is, to have in words what you believe and are acting from.

But there is a terrible irony in that.

It took me dying to understand life. I thought I knew what life was as you think you know.

I was wrong, as you are wrong.

Life is ephemeral, elusive, and beyond the capacity of words to adequately convey.

Your worldview, as was mine, is as simplistic and crude as an Etch-A-Sketch rendering of the Mona Lisa.

I would say that music is the easiest means in which to express life,

but since words are my talent, I must try to express clumsily in words what the pure music would have done better.

You believe McCord is only a creature of Roland's mind.

But then, how can you explain that I can remember meeting McCord in New Orleans in the 1920's?

Is the power of the spirit, of the mind such that it can transcend time itself?

I could try to explain what my ghostly senses have seen but it would be as pointless as giving caviar to an elephant.

Instead I will write of that time when I still was alive, still saw as a human sees.

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.

And that is what I will try to do now for you.

The best job that was ever offered to me was to become a landlord in a brothel.

In my opinion it's the perfect milieu for an artist to work in. McCord offered it to me. And I took it for awhile.

I got more than money for that job, I received a way of looking at life that transformed me into the writer that I became.

McCord became my Socrates. He hardly ever spoke but guided my thoughts with a stray word or question, letting me come up with my own conclusions.

The first thing he taught me:

                                          the past is never dead. It's not even past.

The second thing he helped me see:

                                 the salvation of the world is in man's suffering.
                                 The scattered tea goes with the leaves,
                                 and every day a sunset and a dream dies.

One day during the time while McCord and I walked and talked in New Orleans – or I talked and he listened - it was a time that would later be called

the Roaring Twenties -

I found him sitting on a bench in Jackson Square, laughing to himself.

I got the impression that he had been there like that for some time, just sitting alone on the bench laughing to himself.

This was not our usual meeting place. We had none.

He lived in his French Quarter night club, Meilori's. And without any special prearrangement, we would meet somewhere between his club and the Square after I had something to eat at noon.

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

I can see him still –

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

All of which made the silver star on his jacket stand out like a campfire in the night. It was said he had once been a Texas Ranger.

He never talked to me of those days - at least not before that afternoon.

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

"I am," he said.

And to me that was the great tragedy of his character, for he meant it. He knew people did not believe he was who the legends claimed. How could he be?

They thought him an actor paid to play a part.

Except when the darkness came for them, then they came running, praying he was what the tales on the street whispered : a monster who killed monsters.

He expected people nowhere near his equal in stature or accomplishment or wit or anything else, to hold him in scorn and derision ... in the daylight.

In spite of that he worked earnestly and hard at helping each wounded soul he met.

It was as if he said to himself : 'They will not hurt as I have hurt. I will show them that they matter because their pain matters to me.'

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

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

"Of what?"

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

And that evening I did just that. We sat, with a bottle now, and we talked.

At first he did not mention the hundred year anniversary. It was as if he was slowly working himself up to something long avoided.

We talked of everything it seemed.

How a mule would work ten years for you willingly and patiently just for the privilege of kicking you once. How clocks kill time, that only when the clocks stop does time come to life.

And how given a choice between grief and nothing, he would choose grief.

When he had said those last words, McCord met my eyes with his own deep ones and said,

"There is something about taking a stand against the darkness, something that makes you feel good. Perhaps it's the risk, the gamble. In any event it's a thing I need.

His eyes seemed to sink into his wolf's face. "But there is a price."

"What price?," I whispered.

"To understand the world, you must first understand the human heart. But none of us understand that mystery. So we make mistakes."

He closed his eyes. "And those mistakes kill those we love."

He rose from the table, walking into the shadows and speaking to me from over his shoulder.

"No battle is ever won. They are not even fought for the reasons you tell yourself. The battlefield only reveals your own folly and despair. And victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools."

The darkness swallowed him, and the night suddenly seemed to be my enemy.

Is BOOMER LIT the new genre trend?

Sandra, my best friend, always surprises me in where she goes mentally and physically.

Last night she emailed me that Boomer Lit will be the next
big trend
and that I wrote one of its first books years ago.


Those who were born with the bomb are now a huge chunk of the population with disposable income ...

and who still do that quaint thing called ... reading.

From ABOUT SCHMIDT to REDS (retired spies dealing badly with mortality and being shelved by life)

to SKYFALL (the weathered James Bond and the haunted M dealing with regrets and mortality) ...

Recent movies are directing their attention to those facing grim questions and seeking relief and entertainment.

Baby Boomer novels address “coming of old age” issues
just as Young Adult novels
are concerned with just coming of age.

The word “age,” or “aging,” used to scare marketers
intent on targeting the young,
but no more.

With a huge and growing market of some 70 million boomers — technically, all those born
between 1946 and 1964 —

As I've written above, Hollywood was the first to notice the change in its audience.

You can probably think of even more movies ... such as  

BOOMER LIT is a moving feast that can accommodate all kinds of sub-genres,

from light comedy to tragedy, from romance to thrillers, and more.

Which brings us back to Sandra ...

She points to Samuel McCord, the eternal 50 year old,
dealing with increasing physical pains,
the loss of old friends, a broken marriage,
and the loss of his childhood faith in God ...

against a backdrop of supernatural horror and natural disaster:

To look at me you might think me nothing more than a freshly-minted fifty year old man with a taste for black Stetsons.  You’d be wrong on two counts.  I was at least two hundred and five years old.  And I was a monster.  I caught myself listening for the angry villagers with torches in their hands.  This was certainly the night for it.

          As if to deny the monster that I was, I closed my eyes and tried to focus on the scents and sounds of the three gifts from my wife for whom my club was named.  I opened my eyes and smiled sad.  Her gifts still remained though she had left me seven years ago.

          Seven years.  It seemed a lifetime.  An empty, lonely lifetime.

          The good thing about having lived the life I had was that I'd had two hundred years to get used to things going badly.  And they always did, humans being what they were.  Yet, I survived.  The bitter voice of my loneliness asked me why I bothered.  I had no answers.  Just questions.  Questions in the dark.  Story of my life.

          When they came for me tonight, would I struggle?  I made a face.  I knew I would.  Not just out of reflex.  Too many innocents depended upon me being there to stand between them and the hungry wolves.

          And then, there was my hope and my need.

          There is a need in Man, even such a man as me, to see himself.  Fortunately, not in mirrors, for I am denied that.  No, not in mirrors, but in the words of others.  A bridge of words between the solitary confinement of one mind to another.  It is the link to the common spirit within us all.

          I lost that link.  I lost Meilori.  I lost my light.  And I could no longer see my way clear.  I walked by hope alone.  Hope that one day around some dark corner, I would find Meilori waiting for me, having forgiven me when I could no longer forgive myself.
What do you think? Is BOOMER LIT the next trend?

Monday, February 25, 2013


I am Death.

Victor Standish calls me Mother.

And I walk beside you as you live each moment.

Choose wisely. Breathe deeply.

Love that which so quickly shall pass through your fingers … for soon or late your steps will lead to me.

Oh, what to tell you that you would comprehend.

I am remiss.

Victor always starts with a quote to point the way of his thoughts.

Here is mine:

“Riddle of destiny, who can show
What thy short visit meant, or know
What thy errand here below?”

Those lines were by Charles Lamb written upon the death of an infant soon after her birth.

Do not think ill of me. I give to each of you what I give to all – a lifetime. Make of it what you would.

What you love is mortal. What you love is not your own. What you love has its season like a rose in summer. Cherish the moment.

You believe you are heading towards summer.

You are wrong. Winter is coming.

Some of you wonder if your prose grows stale and flat, if you should continue. I cannot say. Mine are not mortal eyes. You can say better than I.

What I do say is this:

Your only rival is your potential.

Your only failure is failing to live up to your own possibilities.

As for "flat words," Samuel Clemens hated the “flat things” great men are reputed to have said on their deathbeds.

He wrote a fanciful praise of me to save him from that error.

Yet, when I bent over him, gathering up his spirit to my bosom,

his last words to his physician were incomplete:

“If we meet ….”

What was his thought? Who knows? What is your life? Uncertain. The only certainty is that we shall meet.

What are you doing with the time allotted you? Where are your ....

Excuse me. I am called elsewhere.

If you feel my hand upon your heart, you will know whose name was next on my list.

THE LAST SHAMAN is #88 on Amazon's bestselling Native American novels.

Give my Wattpad chapter a read, too -- it's FREE:

If you want to see what the new, REVISED version of THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH
is like:


No, I am not going to talk about the ACADEMY AWARDS:

The people I want to win won't.  The speeches will go on too long.

I have a longer than usual attention-span, mind you, but staying up until
midnight for BEST PICTURE seems a bit too much.

In fact, increasingly, we are all like the one-year-old in the recent viral video
who seems to think a magazine is an iPad that doesn’t work.

As this video demonstrates, to a 1-year-old, Apple's iPad is something that's
literally been around all of their lives.

So rather than be amazed at all the things an iPad can do,
this child is confounded by what a paper magazine cannot do.
Makes sense, right?

Pretend it’s 15 years from now, and the 1-year-old in the video is a teenager.
What would you tell her about what reading in 2013 was like?

What aspects of reading now do you imagine
will be different then?

What will you miss?

Take a look at just a few new models to get your mind thinking,
 including Al Gore’s new book
in which a reader can blow on wind turbines to make them turn.

The three models in “The Future of the Book” video from IDEO;

 This collection of 21 e-books for children in which the periodic table
of the elements comes alive,

and the illustrations for Alice in Wonderland move around the page at the reader’s whim;

and some books with soundtracks.

I find it hard to imagine reading a novel like “Anna Karenina,” though,

and jumping away from the book every page or so to follow some hyperlink,

in part because it would end up taking a year (or years) to read.

 Is Google making us stupid?

“We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf,

a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and
the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.

“We are how we read.”

Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency”
and “immediacy” above all else,

may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading

that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press,
made long and complex works of prose commonplace.

When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.”

Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form
when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely

{NO DOGS ALLOWED sign from Spain}

Experiments demonstrate that readers of ideograms, such as the Chinese,

develop a mental circuitry for reading that is very different
from the circuitry found in those of us whose written language employs an alphabet.

Sometime in 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche bought a typewriter.
His vision was failing, and keeping his eyes focused on a page had become
exhausting and painful.

The typewriter rescued him for a time.

Once he had mastered touch-typing, he was able to write with his eyes closed,
using only the tips of his fingers.

Words could once again flow from his mind to the page.

 But the machine had a subtler effect on his work.

One of Nietzsche’s friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing.
His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic.

The friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work,
 his “‘thoughts’ in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper.”

As people’s minds become attuned to the crazy quilt of Internet media,
traditional media have to adapt to the audience’s new expectations.

Television programs add text crawls and pop-up ads,
and magazines and newspapers shorten their articles,
introduce capsule summaries,
and crowd their pages with easy-to-browse info-snippets.

This generation will cling to their reading, but what about their children
and grandchildren?

Will we readers end up looking like those elderly men who wear their waistlines
pulled up halfway to their armpits?

Are books of depth and length a thing of the past?

Are books which demand reflection and thought becoming
the modern dinosaurs?

"A muscian must make music;
an artist must paint;
a poet must write,
if he is to be at peace with himself.
What a man can be, he must be."
- Abraham Maslow.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Do you ever wonder
                                      who buys your books?

{Image of Fallen, the last fae, courtesy of the genius of Leonora Roy}

I checked this morning to see if anyone from the U.K. had bought any books from me.
None had so far.  My eyes widened.  One person had bought LAST EXIT TO BABYLON.
I wondered who.  The Salvation Army would be the richer:
All the proceeds from my books sold this month go to them.
My Valentine's gift to heroes
          who are still helping the hurting of New Orleans.
It's in my sidebar this month.
I hoped they would like it. 
Had they bought the LOVE LIKE DEATH trilogy that
had preceeded it?  
What would they make of my world and the tragic trio of lovers who inhabit it?
Is there room for beauty in the heroic fantasies of today?
Or has lust usurped the throne from love?
Because this is my blog here is a snippet that you will either love or hate:

There is a dedication to LAST EXIT TO BABYLON:
Dedicated to Michael Di Gesu, Alex Cavanaugh, Donna Hole, and Susan Quinn who came to my aid when I needed it most.
"It was too late for Man,
  But early yet for God."
             - Emily Dickinson
{In Oblivion, Blake Adamson, clone of The Nazarene, is overcome with the deaths of the two supernatural beauties he failed to save}:
         Sobbing.  I heard sobbing on the night breeze, mixed with the rippling of bubbling waters.  And I knew that voice.  No, it was impossible.  She was dead.  Dead and lying naked in my cabin beneath the decks of The Bladeless Samurai.
          I staggered to my swollen, pulsating feet.  I almost fell back down.  I was so weak.  Wherever I was seemed to be draining me.  I straightened my shoulders.  ‘Please, Father, grant me the strength not to let those depending on me down.’
          I shivered.  Whether from the tingles that cascaded down my spine or from the sound of the one voice I had been certain never to hear again outside my dreams, I wasn’t sure.  I made my way slowly to the sound of the voice, of Kirika’s voice.  She began to sing, haunting and lyrical beyond my power to do it justice.
          “My black hair tangled,
             As my own tangled thoughts,
             I lie here alone,
           Dreaming of one who has gone,
            Who stroked my hair til it shone.”
          I eased through the thick trees until I slipped into another glade.  A shimmering stream was slowly flowing in its midst.  And there, laying along its side was Kirika, the filtered moonlight caressing her whole body. 
Dressed in her hunter green leather skirt and vest, Kirika seemed like a Japanese Maid Marion.  Her long legs were gleaming in the starlight.  Her green boots seemed new.  In fact, her whole outfit was fresh as if just put on.
 Her face was a magnet.  Not really Japanese, but Ningyo, Kirika had slanted, gleaming eyes that seemed to breathe mystery.  Gleaming and oh, so, sad.  No, haunted pools of despair were what they were.  Half of her ivory face was masked by her heavy, silken hair that seemed anything but tangled.  Her fingers were absently dipping into the passing waters.
          I froze.  Oh, Father, her fingers.  They were melting into liquid as was her right hand.  Then, I remembered.  She was Ningyo, born of water, mist, and starlight.  She was dying.  Dying because of me.
          She sobbed more than sang,
          “If we could meet but once more,
             Thy soul with mine.
           Softly, I would whisper in thy ear
           These words to thee:
           I am dying, love ... dying for thee.”
          I forced my throat to work, “K-Kirika, pull your hand from the stream.”
          She yelped at my words and sat straight up, her reformed right hand to her mouth.  “Blake?  Blake!  It cannot be.  You cannot be here.  Not here, at the end of all things.”
          “There is no place you will need me, Kirika, that I won’t come.”
          She started for me but the rippling brook was between us.  She looked at it fiercely as if at an enemy.  And with my heart becoming stone, I knew.  She could not cross over.  We were together, yet apart.  I ground my teeth.  Just like we had been all our lives.
          She sobbed in Japanese,
             Kono yo no hoka no,     
             Omoide ni                  
         Ima hitotbi no               
         Au koto mo gana.         
          (Soon I shall cease to be.
          When I am beyond this world,
          And I have forgotten it,
          Let me remember only this:
          This last meeting with thee.)
          “I won’t let you go, Kirika.”
          “You must.  I am dead, lost to you forever.”
          And suddenly, I knew one of the reasons Muninn and Huginn had wanted me here. “No, you’re not.  Look at your hand.”
          She stared at her reformed fingers in disbelief.  “This cannot be.  This has never happened before to a Ningyo.”
          She looked at me, fear and hope mixed in her gleaming, wet eyes.  “What is going on?”
          “We ate Idun’s apple together, remember?”
          She nodded and husked, “Yes.  When I said that beyond death, beyond oblivion, I would always stay by your side.”
          “And you will.  It comes with eating Idun’s apple together, Kirika.  As long as one of us lives, the other cannot truly die.  That’s why Nyx tried to trick me into killing myself, so that you and Fallen would both die.”
          Kirika’s face became a mask of hate.  “That one and I shall have an accounting.”
          Not knowing if she meant Fallen or Nyx, I put out a hand.  “First things first.  I’ve got to get back to you before they bury you.”
          She went pale.  “It is Ningyo tradition, Blake, to burn the body.”
So? Do you look at your book sales and wonder the identity of the buyers?
I am sure your numbers are much higher than mine. But do you wonder who bought your book and why?