So you can read my books

Saturday, January 11, 2014



BloggerJeremy [Retro] asked today:
"What is your process, how do you get to the end of your stories? Do you see the characters sitting around the table?"

(Ah, actually buy it ... please)  :-)

It began with a scene: 
Samuel McCord, in chains, standing before a pompous official in Egypt.  The official sneers, "You are not in Texas anymore, Cowboy!"

That scene simmered in my mind for months as I went about my other novels.  It later became:

            Baring’s smile was as bright as a prostitute’s promise and about as warm.  He did not offer to shake hands, and I did not genuflect.  Both of us seemed pleased with that arrangement.

            Baring snapped at me.  “You meddle in affairs of which you know nothing!  You are no longer in Texas, cowboy!”
           I faked shock.  “Why, sir, that is certainly a relief.  And here I thought I was going deaf, not being able to understand a word of what those pilgrims on the streets were saying.  Not in Texas, huh?  Sure is hot enough for it though.”

            Baring snarled. “If I could execute you twice, I would!"

But how to get McCord to Egypt?  Why would he be there?  And when?  Why did the official want to execute McCord?

And then, Leonora Roy, my muse, came to my rescue with her image of Meilori which became the cover.

McCord would be in Egypt for his beloved Meilori.  But why would she be there?

That is where having a detailed backstory for your characters comes in very handy.

I knew that Meilori was long-lived, being from another dimension. 

I have sprinkled flashes of her time as Empress of the Aztecs, watching unmoved as screaming sacrifices were brought to her. 

In THE RIVAL, I showed Meilori as imperious Empress of the Ningyo race with her People in key positions in the New Orleans of 1834.

I have indicated that the Nameless Ones drove her, her sister, and the survivors of her People out of their home dimension and to Earth. 

In THE END OF DAYS  and CREOLE KNIGHTS, I showed those beings striving to come here to finish their ravaging of Earth and the Ningyo's here.

Meilori would come to Egypt to protect her People.  A weapon.  She would return to Egypt for a weapon she had secreted there ...

in the vessel in which she and her People fled the Nameless Ones ... now buried forgotten under the simmering sands.

In my research on Egypt, I discovered the existence of the Houses of Life, universities of the various fields of knowledge known in Ancient Egypt.

And there is where I found my title.  The best titles stem from a paradox.  And what better paradox for a House of LIFE than DEATH?

But why would Meilori discard a powerful weapon that could defend her People?

I smiled.  Another paradox:

she did it for love ... for the love of McCord. 

But she cast it from her in the distant past before he was even born.  How did this come to pass?

An answer to be found in the book.  Hey, I am not going to give everything away!  :-)

Then, there was the reason for McCord's execution.  Why did Baring want him dead ... other than his sense of humor?

Knowing McCord's backstory came to the rescue again:

I knew that he and Mark Twain had broken Oscar Wilde out of prison when Queen Victoria refused his plea for mercy on the playwright's behalf. 

McCord had saved her life when she was a young girl.  But the gratitude of Queens is fleeting.

I knew he had met Winston Churchill as a young man in Egypt, had championed Nikola Tesla when he, too, was young. 

In CREOLE KNIGHTS, I had introduced Bastet in Meilori's and mentioned Ada Byron being in Egypt with McCord.

I had the major ingredients.  I had the crisis.  I had the skeleton of my story.  
I studied my first chapter and saw where I could make the last one evoke it both in symbol and narrative -- making of the whole a completed emotional circuit.
And yes, Jeremy, I sat my characters down in the table of my imagination and let them tell me their story. 

It veered in directions I had not expected but grew out of their natures and the evolving plot. 
The sands parted.  The heavens descended.  Ancient Evil unleashed.

It was fantastic fun.  (For me. For my heroes ... not so much)


  1. The longer you spend with this world, the more back stories, side stories, and complicated twists and turns emerge. That will be one tightly woven cloak by the time you complete it.

  2. Alex said that very well, Roland, and I say, 'what he said'.

    The more we learn about your characters, the better we can see the interconnections. Readers love that. I think Death in the House of Life is one of your best.

    Great question by Jeremy!

  3. Alex:
    That is very nice of you to say. And DG is right: the way you said sparkled. So much I used it on Twitter. Hope you don't mind. :-)

    As I drive my long blood runs, I imagine the lives of my varied characters, crossing and intersecting in a weave of kismet and karma: a mystic sort of cloak as you say. :-)

    Yes, in my head I see those connections. Some have wondered why Major Strasser hated Victor Standish so, seemingly at first sight. Those who read of their "first" meeting in 1834 New Orleans in THE RIVAL understood his hatred in 2005!

    And those who read RITES OF PASSAGE will smile when they see Strasser on the cursed steamer in 1853.

    I hope you're right, and the readers do like those interconnections. I certainly do. :-)

    And it was a great question by Jeremy, wasn't it?

  4. Excellent post! Glad Jeremy asked in the last post.
    I do love how you weave your stories together.

  5. Belief in, or longing for magic keep me sane(ish). And I love that your characters speak to you as well as through you.

  6. David:
    Thanks. I was concerned that some might not like that my novels were woven together -- each separate but linked to make a greater whole. Jeremy did spark my mind today!

    Elephant's Child:
    I believe in the magic of love and compassion to do miracles. You should read my 99 cent GHOST OF A CHANCE, an entire book where I interact with my characters when I am on the run for the murder of the ghost of Ernest Hemingway! Mark Twain comes to my aid and Shakespeare tries to murder me since I have murdered his prose!

  7. I always enjoy reading how worlds - and characters - achieve development. Its such a beautiful, rewarding process. Making all the changes could not have been easy, but it all turned out well in the novel.


  8. Thanks, Donna:
    It was fun for me -- time consuming, but fun!

  9. Hi Roland ... did you start off this way - wanting to write more, or did the 'development' just happen as you wrote more stories?

    Intriguing .. as I mentioned in my other comment - I must read them! Cheers Hilary

  10. Hilary:
    RITES OF PASSAGE was my first McCord novel (it has brackets, as it were, set in the New Orleans of the 1920's, but the meat of the novel is aboard a cursed transatlantic steamer in 1853, heading to Paris).

    I mused a long while on Samuel McCord, etching a rather detailed history of the cursed Texas Ranger -- I had to, for most of his chickens were coming home to roost on the doomed Demeter.

    When Hurricane Rita and Katrina exiled me to Baton Rouge, I saw firsthand the horror of the shambles of New Orleans. I thought what a setting for my cursed Texas Ranger -- so I wrote FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE and CREOLE KNIGHTS in that time.

    But to bring him to what was then to me the present, I had to fill in the blanks of what he had been doing between 1853 and 1923 and then between the Roaring 20's and 2005.

    Then, young Victor Standish swaggered into my mind, and McCord, being McCord, stepped in between the wolves and the young street orphan -- and I had a Creole KIM or THE PRINCE & THE PAUPER (the Errol Flynn version, of course!)

    And so was born my linked universe -- but of course, THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS was first, though Sam, Elu, Rind, and The Turquoise Woman blazed their way through that fable too. :-)

  11. i just read this... thank you!
    i saw my ugly mug and thought, oh boy what did i do now...

  12. Jerermy:
    I am like you -- whenever I hear my name spoken I wonder what trouble I am in this time!! :-)