So you can read my books

Friday, January 29, 2016


Steve Rogers looked down at the old woman in the casket.

"This isn't Peggy," he whispered.

He thought: 'This body is just a cloak she wore for a time.  My Peggy is still waiting for me on that dance floor.'

"I still owe you that dance," he murmured. "I didn't mean to let you down."

Sharon Carter touched his hand on the casket's rim.  "You know she understood, don't you?"

"I do," he said, flinching a bit inside at the two words he'd wanted to say aloud to a quite different question concerning Peggy. 

Sharon squeezed his hand.  Steve knew she had feelings for him, but she was related to Peggy.  

To go out with her would feel ... incestuous somehow as crazy as that sounded.

In the days that followed, Steve's world went truly crazy.  

Crossbones sacrificed himself to discredit the Avengers. Wanda tried her best to stop him, but she was still green.

The Accords came quick on the heels of that explosion, Accords passed by a Select Few.  The rights of the individual never counted to the Select Few.

To keep his best friend from being shot on sight by those "Select Few," Steve became an outlaw.

Now, facing Tony Stark in his battered armor, Steve knew what he had to do.

Steve smiled bitterly at the rubbled enclosure around the two of them: a Kill Box.

Tony said, "You've become what you fought against your whole life."

"That would be you," said Steve. "You fought the Establishment all your life. 

I've always fought for the little guy against bullies whether they were Nazis, Loki, Hydra, or the Select Few behind the Accords." 

Tony snapped, "If we don't accept limitations, we're no different than the bad guys."

"We already had limitations!  They're in the Constitution."

Tony's eyes went flat.  "Too many people have died on both sides.  This ends now!"

"Yes," said Steve, "with my life."

Tony's eyes flicked up behind him, and Steve sighed, "In the back?  You're going to have the sniper shoot me in the back?"

"You knew this was a trap?"

Steve laughed bitterly, "You're the genius; I'm the soldier, remember?  Of course I knew."

"Then why did you come?"

Steve wearily rubbed his bruised face with gloved fingers.

"Because I'm an outlaw now.  I can't fight for the little guy anymore.  But you killing me?  You'll be the hero.  

YOU will be able to fight for the little guys.  I'm buying you that chance with my life.  Don't blow it."

Tony's eyes softened.  "If you feel that way, come in with me."

"You have Pepper to go back to.  I buried the only woman I loved.  Now, give that 'Kill' signal!"

"N-No, there has to be another ...."

Steve drew back his shield as if to throw it at Tony.

Tony yelled at the top of his lungs, "Don't shoo ...."

The Drill Sergeant at Camp Pendleton had been right.  

Steve Rogers never heard the shot that killed him ...

Steve frowned.  He was still standing, surrounded by soldiers. But they were in the wrong uniforms.  

They were dressed as WWII G.I.'s.  And they and Steve were on a dance floor.

Steve felt a gentle tap on his left shoulder and heard a velvet voice he never expected to hear again.

"You owe me a dance, soldier."

He turned slowly.

Peggy that stunning scarlet dress she'd worn to that London Pub so long ago.  

She was breath-taking, her wet eyes sparkling with happiness.

Steve smiled hesitantly, shy in her presence as always.

"I ... do."

Then, Peggy was in his arms, and his world was whole again.  

Their second kiss was much better than their first ... for this kiss would last forever, for ....

All became black. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016


I am at the 70,000 word mark on

   And the silence is loud, the inertia of writing weighing down on me. 

After all this work, will anybody really WANT to read this novel?

I hear gruff words above me: 

"Tarnation, Son!  Let me tell you about two hellions who wrote ...

to each other ... and to the world at large."

It is the ghost of Mark Twain:

"Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald

had a lot in common. They were both drunks ... let's not be PC about it, shall we?"

Mark wrinkled his moustache.

"They both had intense and complicated marriages. They were both deeply committed to their craft.

Most importantly, they were literary giants at a time when the Great American Novel was more than just a myth—it was a real possibility."

"I don't want to write the Great American Novel ...." I began.

Mark laughed, "Shoot for the moon, son.  Anyway, the two of them wrote to each other on how things were going for them."

The ghost of Hemingway sat down beside me, grumbling,

“Scott took LITERATURE so solemnly. He never understood that it was just writing as well as you can and finishing what you start.”

He lit up a cigar.  "You quit, kid, and I will kick your butt from here to Putin.  He loves you, don't you know?"

He shook his head. 

"I was a believer in self-discipline while Scott depended on his Muse ... and week long benders, scribbling frantically and pushing his lank blonde hair out of his eyes."

Hemingway snorted,

"Me?  I wrote like clock-work -- standing up at the typewriter, at the same time every day -- pushing through even the 'dry' days when the words came slowly."

He jabbed his cigar at me.  "In life, you are either a doer or a dreamer."

Hemingway gruffed, "You just have to go on when it is worst and most helpless—

there is only one thing to do with a novel and that is go straight on through to the end of the damn thing.”

Mark lit up his own cigar.  "Sometimes even Hemingway is right."


"Sex without love is a meaningless experience,

but as far as meaningless experiences go, it's pretty damn good."
- Woody Allen

Sex does help. Just not the way we would think in our novels.

Sex sells.

You roll your eyes and go, "Duh!"

I mean, just look at the skyrocket sales of 50 SHADES OF GRAY and its two sequels!

(With the movie, not so much since the books did well because of the use of the imagination.)
Yes, sex sells ...

but not always for the reasons you might think.

Men, of course, are hard-wired to see a beautiful woman and have their hormones go into a conga line ( )

But we men are more complex than the cliches written in COSMOPILITAN.

Sex. Lust. Love.

The first two are primal instincts. The third gives birth to legend and magic.

Every writer is in much of his work. But it is not as straight-forward as that.

J.R.R. Toilken rarely, if ever, wrote love scenes. 

Instead, he wrote distantly of Love, the concept with which Tennyson teased but never consummated in THE IDYLLS OF THE KING.

He was a shy man, and it shows in what he chose NOT to write.

He reflected his times -- as we must reflect ours in what we write and for whom we write.

But for whom do we write? And what exactly are "our" times?
We live in a lonely age. 

From teenager on up, we feel outside, misunderstood, and alone --

 the three labor pains that give birth to the possibility of love.

A reader is drawn to a novel by what is lacking in her/his life.

We've already touched on some of the things most people feel lacking in their lives. 

It can be summed up in one word: 

Intimacy --

Sex is only the tip of that iceberg floating in the existential void of our modern times. 

There is much more beneath the murky surface.

How many of us feels valued, loved for who we truly are - bulges, skin blemishes, and other imperfections not withstanding?

Not many.

How many of us have such passion and fire in the night that we tingle in the morning light?

Even fewer.

Many of us settle for half-relationships, tepid gropings in the dark that leave us feeling empty, not full, the morning after.

Why is that?

In the process of love-making, we leave a bit of ourselves with the other. 

If we make love without feeling love, the other fails to leave a bit of themselves within us.

Inside we have become less ... not more. 

Do that enough times and a void is carved within us.

That is why we have become the Hollow People

seeking to fill that emptiness within with all the wrong things:

Sex without satisfaction.

Passion without permanence.

Lust wearing the mask of love.

Think of the words of John Masefield:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Why did I quote Masefield's poem?

We all long for that handsome, beautiful Other who will tenderly stroke our cheek,

fan the fires of our passions,

and fill our hearts and head with the laughter of two souls meant for each other.
Romance. Magic. Love.

Those are the stars a winning author steers by.

Fix them to your mast, and you will never go wrong.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016


It was a pleasant night at Meilori's, there had only been two exsanguinations, one exorcism, and a few polkageists 

(those are irritating poltergeists who insist on playing polkas at your table.)

Terry Ervin pulled at his collar.  "Quite a place you picked for the interview.  Ah, I did ask you to interview me for my new book RELIC HUNTED, didn't I?" 

"Happy to do it," I said.  "Tell the readers here a little about yourself and your recent release."

 "Relic Hunted is the second book in the Crax War Chronicles, my SF series. It’s action adventure, para-military space opera."

I asked, "Second? Do readers have to pick up the first book to enjoy this one?"

"No. Not at all.  I am currently writing two series. The Crax War Chronicles (SF) and the First Civilization’s Legacy Series (Fantasy). 

With my fantasy series, after having the first novel published, 

I spent about six months studying how other authors had accomplished writing a series where each book could stand alone and tell a complete story in such a manner that, 

although there are recurring characters with developing relationships and events, a reader can pick up any book in the series and start there."

"Like The Dresden Files," I said. 

"Yes, readers can enjoy it, and then pick up any other book in the series and enjoy it. 

I learned the balance, so that readers who started with the first book 

can also enjoy the continuing story without getting bogged down in what ‘mentions’ of happened before.

Learning how to do that wasn’t easy, as I expected. 

Reading and rereading authors that did it successfully, and studying their techniques and methods of storytelling from book to book, 

well, it took a while. I took notes and left plenty of torn paper book marks.

For some evidence that I got it right, here’s a review of Soul Forge, the third novel in the First Civilization’s Legacy series by Fantastical Reads

The reviewer started with the third novel, enjoyed it, and plans to go back and read the first two."

I said, "Who are some of the authors you studied to get the ‘start with any book in a series method’ right?"

 "Steven Brust (Vlad Taltos series), Roger Zelazny (Chronicles of Amber series—mainly the first 5) and Laurell K. Hamilton 

(Anita Blake series—the early ones before she kind of went off on sexual content over plot and character development—in my opinion.) 

"Mine, too," I said.  "I love Steven Brust and Roger Zelazny was my writing mentor.  

Yet, Zelazny's 1st five books ended as if they were chapters.  You really had to read the prior books to get the full benefit of the current one.  

So how did you study them?"

"Since it was necessary to read and reread multiple times to figure out the techniques the authors used, it was very helpful to really enjoy the stories and characters. 

I needed to learn things like when and how to use dialogue, or character thoughts and flashbacks, 

or some other technique to work in necessary backstory for new readers, while not inhibiting the flow for readers familiar with other books in the series. 

Working the content within the context of the tale unfolding, more along the lines of unobtrusively reminding them 

of how relationships between characters were established and developed, and previous events that are impacting the current storyline, was the objective.

Actually, for efficient use of time, like while driving, I did some listening too, via audiobooks."

"I do the same when on my blood runs.  In fact I have a new audio book out today:

I asked, "How would you describe this novel so that a TV watcher would get it?

"Okay. I would say Starship Troopers meets Babylon 5 meets The Rockford Files.


Starship Troopers = gritty, high stakes combat against powerful alien forces.

Babylon 5 = an overall story arc and interesting characters, with interstellar travel and space combat.

Rockford Files = Security Specialist Keesay (the main character) sort of echoes Jim Rockford. 

Intelligent enough to usually figure things out, not always on the up-and-up, and often gets thumped while trying to get his own licks in."

I smiled, "You've got me interested in your Keesay. Would you flesh out his character a bit more for us?"

Terry nodded, "4th Class Specialist Krakista Keesay is a Relic or an R-Tech. It means he relies on late 20th century equipment and technology despite humanity having advance technology and interstellar travel capability. 

There are a couple reasons I did this, including keeping the novel relevant years beyond its publication date, and exploring how technology and how access to and use of it can be a socieo-divider, much like wealth can be a socioeconomic divider. 

It makes Keesay sort of a throwback, and sets him apart.

 Let’s face it, shotguns and bayonets and brass knuckles aren’t something you think of alongside interstellar space travel. (Okay, maybe Firefly, but I wrote Relic Tech well before the unique, but short-lived series. It just took me a while to get it published…and there’s a long story there, maybe for another time).

In any case, Keesay’s motto is: Nemo me impune lacessit (Latin that roughly translates to Nobody injures me with impunity). 

I said, "In other words: no one to mess with!"

Terry laughed, "You've got that right!"

My stomach took a right turn at dead as I noticed DayStar headed our way, 

his body drinking in the shadows of all those he passed.  Time to seek safer hills.

"Ah, Terry," I said as I pulled him out of his chair and took him by the arm, leading him out of Meilori's.  

"Anything else you would like our friends to know before we blow this pop-stand?"

"I hope our friends will take a look at my novels…

heck, in addition to the Crax War Chronicles and my First Civilization’s Legacy series, there’s Genre Shotgun, my collection of short stories—SF, Mystery, Horror and Inspirational.

 And if they do give any of them a shot, I’d love to hear from them, get their thoughts.

They can learn more about my works and contact me via my website, and my blog, Up Around the Corner."

As soon as the door closed behind us, the screaming started from within.  Terry looked a question at me.

"Never leave a small tip at Meilori's," I said. 

It was the truth ... just not the explanation for the screaming.  

Some explanations just are too wild ... even for fantasy/science fiction writers.

Monday, January 25, 2016


Speaking of ensembles:

Take Ken Folett's Century Trilogy.

It begins with Fall of Giants

The first 7 pages of that novel consists of the list of characters.  Wow.  

How many people put the book down after seeing that?

J K Rowling knew how to handle an ensemble novel. 

 Despite one school of thought that urges 

an ensemble novel not to be just of two major characters with a supporting cast,

JK had a triad of heroes.  And her novels did just fine.

So what are some good guidelines 
for an ensemble novel?

1.) YOU know your characters.

Your novel's characters must stand out one from the other if they are to stick in the minds of your readers.

Readers will not have the advantage of being able to remember their faces as they would do in a large party. 

If you know your characters inside and out, then you will make them distinctive.


Remember that large party I was talking about up above?

Imagine if host of said party introduced you to a dozen people within minutes?  

How many of them would you remember ... even with aid of seeing their faces? 

Give each character AN IMPORTANT FUNCTION THAT PROPELS your novel along and an arc that is meaningful.


No subservient character that is not part of the group, but just follows along to serve as comic relief or sounding board for needful exposition.

In my The Not-So-Innocents Abroad

I took pains to not let 11 year old Nikola Tesla become that to my story-line. 

 Even his black cat, Macak, served an important function.

How can you tell if a character is not a Mini-Me but a supporting character 

(which is entirely all right, and is, in fact, necessary for ensemble novels)?

A supporting character has an actual life when not with the rest of the group ...

and that is mentioned in the novel.


Your novel is not SNOW WHITE so please no walking traits that masquerade as living, breathing characters!

People are mosaics of many traits, many interests, many flaws, and hopefully many virtues!


Avoid homogeny.  

Most groups have diversity in their ranks, even if they are performing the same task: Policeman, Fireman, Doctors.


Star Trek: Voyager seemed guilty of that to me.  

It smacked to me of tokenism, checking off boxes when writing the character into being,



 If you give your characters passions

—poetry, football, astrology—

those interests will influence their reactions and distinguish them from each other.


Not everyone speaks the same: their education, their social background, their interests will all shape how they speak.

After a few chapters, if you have done your job right, readers will be able to tell one character from another just by the way in which they speak. 


The prim and proper girl versus the cheerleader.  The poor student versus the wealthy socialite.

The jock versus the scholar.  The shy student versus the extrovert.

I did not mention one article of clothing but you saw the clothing difference in each set of individuals I mentioned, didn't you?


Name your characters with care.  

No Josh and Joe; no Kira and Kelly.  

Names that blur together in your readers' minds are the kiss of death.

Give your characters distinctive names that stand apart from every other character.


I haven't done a book tour since THE BEAR WITH TWO SHADOWS (Soon to come out in paperback)

I was wondering when BEAR and ABROAD come out in paperback 

if any of you would like to have me pay a visit to your blog.  

I would do the heavy lifting and write the copy for you.

Or you could ask me questions.  Your choice.

Let me know if you would be interested.  

Roland (Stetson in Hand)