So you can read my books

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


It was a busy night at Meilori's.  Off to my far right, the ghosts of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt were arguing over Obama's State of the Union address.

Off to my far left, the ghost of Al Capone snorted to the ghost of Benedict Arnold,

"That Beiber runt ain't important enough to be deported!  He just needs a spanking!"

My poker table was full.  Mickey Spillaine looked over his cards at me. 

"Kid, the first line of your book gets the readers to buy it.  The last one gets them to buy your next one."

Hemingway scowled at him. 

"As if you would know.  To call you an author is like calling a woodpecker a carpenter."

Mickey snorted,

"I'm not an author, I'm a writer, that's all I am. Authors want their names down in history; I want to keep the smoke coming out of the chimney."

Hemingway glared at him.

"What a horrible commentary on the reading habits of Americans to think that before J K Rowling, you had seven of the top ten bestsellers of all time."

Mickey grinned crooked, "You're lucky that I didn't write three more books."

The ghost of Mark Twain snorted and asked Mickey, "What's this I hear about your picture and Hemingway's having a duel at a restaurant."

Mickey shook his head. 

"Every summer I went down to Florida on treasure hunts, and there's this great restaurant called the Chesapeake and they had a picture of Hemingway behind the bar.

So one day the owner asks if she could have a picture of me to put up there, and she puts one there.

 One day Hemingway comes in and sees my picture and says 'what's he doing next to me? Either take his down or take mine down', so they took his down and he never came back to that restaurant."

Hemingway laid his cards down, "We could settle this like men."

The ghost of John Steinbeck sighed and said, "You can never tell about people, even their ghosts, Hemingway."

He rubbed his chin.  "You remember Audie Murphy, the most decorated American solider, became an actor in Westerns?

A patrolman once told me, he stopped a car on 101 in California, and Audie comes out of his car, dark, middle of the night, with a rifle.

 The patrolman said,

"I saw his eyes, he looked nuts, and before he could do anything I say, 'Audie, how're you doing' and stuck out my hand, and he stopped, and then stuck out his hand."

Steinbeck went on,  "He said it was like looking at death's eyes, and he was a sweet looking guy, like a little kid, but Audie'd been shot too many times."

Hemingway said low, "You disparaged my fondness for bullfighting in print, didn't you?"

Mark Twain chuckled, "Hemingway, you were a great reporter, but you just flat got carried away with all the other stuff, like this bullfighting."

Mark puffed on his cigar. 

"Myself, I'm always on the side of the bull.  In fact, I always hope the bull plows the stuffing out of that crazy guy in the clown suit down there.

I don't like to see animals hurt, not deliberately. If they're putting the bull out there, don't stick those daggers in him first."

Steinbeck rumbled,

"I know about bullfighting, Hemingway.  I know about the underweight bulls, the sandbags on the kidneys, the shaved horns and sometimes the needle of barbiturate in the shoulder as the gate swings open."

He sighed,  "There was also that moment of what they call truth, a sublimity, a halo of the invincible human spirit and unspeakable, beautiful courage."

His lips curled, 
"And then doubt began to creep in. The matadors I knew had souls of Toledo steel for the bull, but they were terrified of their impresarios, pulp in the hands of their critics, and avaricious beyond belief."

He shook his head, 

"Perhaps they gave the audience a little courage of a certain kind, but not the kind the audience and the world needed and needs. I have yet to hear of a bull-fighter who has taken a dangerous political stand, who has fought a moral battle unless its horns were shaved."

Hemingway looked close to exploding, and I hastily said, "Mr.Steinbeck, do you have a word of advice for my writing friends?"

Steinbeck smiled wryly as if knewing what I was doing, but only said, "I have written a great many stories, and I still don't know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances."

He laughed softly and said,

"It is not so very hard to judge a novel after it is written, but, after many years, to start a novel still scares me to death. I will go so far as to say that the writer who is not scared is happily unaware of the remote and tantalizing majesty of the medium."

"Bah!" snapped Hemingway.  "That is no help.  Roland's friends want concrete steps.  Here are three:

1: Always stop for the day while you still know what will happen next.

There is a difference between stopping and foundering.  If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell your friends so try to remember it.

2: Never think about the story when you’re not working.

That way your subconscious will work on it all the time.  But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”

3: Be Brief.
I am contemptuous of writers who never learned how to say no to a typewriter.

It wasn’t by accident that the Gettysburg address was so short. The laws of prose writing are as immutable as those of flight, of mathematics, of physics."

I looked to Mark Twain, "And you, sir?'

He beamed and laid his cards face up, "Twenty-one!"

Mickey groaned, "We're playing poker, Clemens."

He pouted, "You mean I've been dealing off the bottom for nothing?"
Don't miss Mark Twain's adventures in Dreamtime and in 1895 Egypt:


  1. Hey Roland. I know we both share a love of Hemingway, but it is a bit eerie when we post on the same day and post the same advice from Papa. That's great advice coming from the big 'uns. It was a much less frenetic time and the novels reflected this slowness. Nowadays, novels can be just as frenetic as life.

    Great way to post writing tips.


  2. A typewriter is now a nostalgic memory. Was it more intimate writing that way? (or more cumbersome) So now we'd have to say no to email, and blog hopping until writing done?)

    Who is he referring to?
    (in this item)
    "3: Be Brief.
    I am contemptuous of writers who never learned how to say no to a typewriter."

    I saw the weather report and the swath of ice and snow covered your area, still. Hope you taking care. I've had to drive on ice before. My legs were like rubber when I got home. . .

    Saw your name on the A to Z. . .that's a good sign.

  3. Have you come across the book 'Hemingway's Boat' by Paul Hendrickson? I have always been ambivalent about Papa - at his best he was brilliant, but his private life was beyond messy. This book made me empathise with the man more than I have (and his sons) while still regretting rather a lot.
    And being brief is great advice - but usually soooo much harder than it sounds. Concise and clear is always a joy.

  4. I didn't realize Hemingway was so tightly wrapped. I do appreciate his advice about stopping when you know what's going to happen next. I never thought to do that. Naturally, I'd rather stop when I'm stuck.

    This was really fun, Roland. I liked the quip about Bieber too - that punk.

    Keep faith, my friend.

    Love and prayers,

  5. I liked the story about their photos in that restaurant.
    I do think about my story when I'm not writing because I'm usually running through a scene and working out the details. Then when I sit down to write, it's engrained in my head and I know exactly what happens and the best way for it to happen.

  6. I always love your ghost friends and their antics. We could learn a lot from Al Capone, like why he let Geraldo Rivera all those walls to smash for nothing!

  7. Denise:
    I guess his advice on writing shows up so often because it is, indeed, good advice. :-) And he appears in my posts a lot because he is a larger-than-life man, surly yet sentimental, brash yet introspective. Odd mix of a man.

    I like posting tips like this in a short slice of ghostly life. We get to know other sides of popular authors as well as how to write in a more crafted manner.

    Thanks for visiting!

    When very young, I had an electric typewriter -- and in my mind, I could see other greats typing as I did. But inserting new phrases, new scenes into already written prose is much easier now!

    Hemingway was talking about writers like Faulkner who used too many words (in his mind) to say what could be distilled into fewer, more concise words. (They refused to say NO to those typewriter keys which wrote those, to him, needless words!)

    The ice is mostly gone now thankfully. I know what you mean about those rubber legs! I also get them when driving in blinding rain!

    I decided to trust the Father's Hand in pulling me through and sign up for the A to Z: I've even decided on the subjects for the first five posts. If I don't lose the notes for them as Steinbeck always lost his own notes!

    Thank you for your continual friendship.

    Elephant's Child:
    I'll have to look up that book. I wrote a post on suicide (THE GOOD THING ABOUT SUICIDE), authored by the ghost of Hemingway, where he mused on how he failed one of his sons.

    Yes, concise and clear is a fine goal but, as you write, so hard to achieve!!

    Hemingway was a complex, troubled man: hard on those around him, harder on himself. He made a good antagonist for me in my GHOST OF A CHANCE (my NORTH BY NORTHWEST thriller where I am framed for the murder of his ghost -- yes, I made myself the protagonist of one of my books with the ghosts of Mark Twain and Marlene Dietrich as my companions in distress!)

    Stopping when you know what will happen next is great. Like Alex, I muse my work day on what will happen next, refining and polishing and coming up with new twists and turns that I would not have come up with if I had just kept on writing!

    I'm glad you liked my little visit to Meilori's. Beiber just got fame before he had the maturity to handle it: he is fame-intoxicated.

    Holding on to your support and to that of my other friends. Thank you. :-)

    I thought you and my other friends might find that restaurant story fascinating and revealing. :-)

    As I told Robyn above, I, too, think about my novel, twisting and turning it in my mind like a jewel, trying to catch new, unexpected facets to the story. The shower is a good time for me to do that with dialogue!

    Gypsy and Snowball always looked at me as I got out of the shower as if to say: "Who were you talking to? And you would look much better with fur!"

    Good old Al Capone who said, "You can get more with a kind word and a gun than you can get with a kind word alone!:

    Glad you liked this visit to Meilori's! :-)

  8. Funny how I can relate to all the guys around your table, except Hemingway. I haven't read him since I was young and I don't remember being impressed. And of course, the bulls....

  9. Inger:
    All those you could relate to didn't take themselves seriously. Hemingway was almost pathologically self-focused, stemming from his father's suicide perhaps.

    I hope you could relate to my people in HOUSE OF LIFE. I think you might have liked Ada Byron and felt empathy for the lonely, tragic Meilori Shinseen.

    I never have bullfighting or bull riding or rodeo horse bucking. You wrap a leather strap around my unmentionables, and I will buck too!

    Thank you for putting DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE on your sidebar. The buys are trickling in, and they are coming! :-) Thank you for your friendship.

    I hope your hip is much better. And shame on Samson! :-)

  10. Loved this! I think you have Hemmingway to a tee.

    Hugs and chocolate to you!

  11. This just makes me sigh with contentment. Your excerpts are like a glass of really good rum and coke. Love it!

  12. Shelly:
    I'm happy you think I nailed Hemingway. His ghost isn't talking to me! :-)

    Your comment made me smile wide which considering my apprehension is something!! Thanks. :-)