So you can read my books

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


It is now the time of Mardi Gras here.

Masks play a major role in the festivities.

But Masks also play a pivotal role in our novels.

How many masks does your novel wear?

Each person we meet wears a mask. 

Beneath that mask lies several faces ... all true in different seasons. 

But those seasons are known only to the heart of the one wearing the mask ... if then. 

We have to guess.

Life is a masquerade. 

The dance steps are complex. And sometimes our feet get stepped on. 

Why should they not? Each person dances to the music they alone hear.

Of course, my use of "mask" is a facade itself. 

I use it in one sense to mean Symbolism

Do you use symbolism in your novel? 

Do you use the interweaving of names, objects, and experiences to stand in for universal truths in your story?

You don't have to. I do it for me. 

I do it for those who would re-read my novels and discover something new with each new visit.

The names in my novel mean something: 

Samuel from the Hebrew 'Shemu'el': heard of God.  

Those in crisis and pain cry out to God in my novel, and in stalks Samuel.

Is he the answer to their prayers? I do not say. 

By the time of FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, Samuel has become agnostic. 

The irony is that he, no longer having the heart to believe in God, is still the answer to the prayers of those in pain.

Meilori means 'beautiful laurel.' 

The irony there is that the eternal woman feels neither beautiful nor a winner 

{laurels were used in Ancient Rome to fashion victors' garlands.}


Google 'DayStar and Isaiah' to find the possible scope of Samuel's enemy. 

Another irony when you realize Samuel's eventual disillusionment with the being he calls the Great Mystery. 

The irony increases with FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, 

when Samuel's very lifestyle becomes Renfield's, the vampire-priest, 

main reason for clinging to the faith his best friend no longer has.

The transatlantic steamer Samuel finds himself on in RITES OF PASSAGE is the DEMETER

the name of the Greek Corn Goddess who in myth contends with Hades

Samuel befriends a little psychic girl on the voyage whom he likens to a small Corn Goddess

And she is instrumental in fighting DayStar.


The ship's voyage in itself is a symbol for the journey all of us take on the unpredictable seas of fate. 

Many of the doors aboard that ship take people to places far different than they expected ... 

just like the doors in our own lives.


Phrases are repeated throughout the novel. 

I will only state one example:

 Twice, once in the middle and again at the ending, 

DayStar gestures to the bloodied Samuel when he means to sacrifice him and sneers Pilate's words

"Behold the Man."



They, too, are used as symbols in my historical fantasy:  (Only $1.99)

the young girl, Rachel, is murdered and her face removed to be used as a mask by the killer. 

Masks are worn by the passengers to hide their true motives for being on board. 

Some remove them. Some change masks. Others see through those of others. 

Still others realize that the face they thought was their own was, in fact, a mask worn to protect and conceal their fragile illusions.

Those aren't all the symbols I used, of course. I don't want to bore you. I just wanted to ask:


Do you use symbols in your novel?

Are you aware of the underlying themes of your novel?

Those themes, those symbols are the rudders that direct the flow of your novel's story. 

If you are unaware of them, you are not in control of your narrative. 

And that's how novels run aground. Don't let yours be one of those that do.

Symbolism, Themes, Ironies --

 they all work best when not noticed. 

Our major task as a writer is to tell a rousing, entertaining tale. 

Our main goal is to keep our reader on the edge of her/his seat, 

so caught up in the tension and striving that they find themselves lost in the narrative. 

And when they look up at the clock, they are amazed at how much time has flown by.

The symbolism, themes, and ironies mixed in artistically will add depth to their enjoyment of their reading without their ever really noticing them. 

They are the spices of the meal ... 
not the meat of it. 

The teacher in me adds them for my own pleasure. 

The artist in me strives to introduce them subtly and gently. 

I just wanted to ask you if you added symbolism, themes, and ironies to your novel as well.  

Do you?



  1. I know the underlying theme, but the symbolism comes by accident. I usually don't see it until after the book is polished.

  2. Symbols for me usually come "accidently", but probably from the subconscious.

    This is a great post. I can relate to masks as easily as I relate to roles. To me, masks cover up something, the most interesting, of which, are lies. I've discussed this many times with my daughter, the psychologist. :) We would like to think that truth prevails and is what everyone wants to hear, but that's not my experience. I think most people would like for the mask to stay put. :) That probably doesn't make sense.

  3. Alex:
    Freud would say the "accidental" symbolism is the most authentic. :-) Who am I to argue with the ghost of Freud?

    It does make sense. We put on masks to be comfortable inside our own skin and in the presence of others. The people we grow to like -- at first, it is the mask they wear that draws us. If we are lucky, when they trust us enough to nudge away the mask they wear, we will like the person underneath as well.

    Wilde wrote: "Give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth." Perhaps that is because his essence is not at risk. The hoods of the KKK allow those individuals license to release the hate within without fear of reprisal.

    I think sometimes masks hide the truth of who the people are underneath them -- for fear of being rejected ... or being repulsed.

    I'm glad you liked the post, :-)

  4. I use some symbolism, but much of it comes by way of stumbling upon it when the muse and I detour from the main road and discover new and interesting things on the unexpected path.

  5. Angela:
    Beautiful covers to your new books by the way. The unexpected path, as Robert Frost would agree, is the most educational! :-)

  6. I'm not nearly as thoughtful or creative with symbolism as you, and your use of symbolism reminds me of Huxley's. One of my favorite character names is Mustapha Mond from 1984.

    Take care, Roland.

    I'll keep you posted on my progress (at this point, I've made none) on your latest venture.

  7. Masks are a part of our clothing -- from ball gowns to jeans we act accordingly. The mask slips when one has too much to drink at a ball and acts as if wearing jeans at a picnic.

  8. You name it, I got it in my stories: themes, metaphors (or symbols), and I love foreshadowing. To me it's funny that this is what Lit professors and critics emphasize, yet what's far tougher is to write a story that readers love, with characters they care about, and with pacing as perfect as possible.

  9. Robyn:
    I come at writing from my years as an English teacher, teaching about symbolism and themes. It rubbed off on my style!

    Don't worry about Wolf Howl. Take care of what you need to. He is far wiser than I! :-)

    We all wear masks, you're right. Your analogy about drinking at a party with a mask is why I don't drink! I get into enough trouble sober!

    You and me, both, do it all in our stories -- and hopefully, at the same time, entertain our readers. And perfect pacing is really hard!! :-)