So you can read my books

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


“At the end of the day, let there be 
no excuses,
 no explanations, 
no regrets.”
Steve Maraboli


The joy of being able to breathe deeply and often most of us take for granted.  Not so much anymore, right?

I had double pneumonia 3 times as a child in Detroit.  Moving with my parents to Louisiana probably saved my life.

Take in a deep breath now and let it out slowly.  Covid-19 may take that away from you.

Enjoy the ability while you can.


"There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” 
- Mark Twain

If the full page ad Tyson ran in THE NEW YORK TIMES Sunday is any indication, Americans may become like those people.

As famines of "biblical proportions" loom, the UN Security Council urged its members to "act fast."

I hope you have prepared your pantry for hard times.


"Being taken for granted is an unpleasant but sincere form of praise, don't you know? 

Ironically, the more reliable you are, and the less you complain, the more likely you are to be taken for granted." 
 - Mark Twain

How many good friends have you allowed life to tug from your everyday thoughts?

How hard would it hit you if you heard they were dying in a hospital with Covid-19 and you could not even visit them for a last goodbye due to regulations?


 “There’s power in the touch of another person’s hand. We acknowledge it in little ways, all the time. 

There’s a reason human beings shake hands, hold hands, slap hands, bump hands. 

 It comes from our very earliest memories, when we all come into the world blinded by light and color. 

And what changes that first horror, that original state of terror? 

 The touch of another person’s hands. 

Hands that wrap us in warmth, that hold us close. 

Hands that guide us to shelter, to comfort, to food. 

Hands that hold and touch and reassure us through our very first crisis, and guide us into our very first shelter from pain. 

The first thing we ever learn is that the touch of someone else’s hand can ease pain and make things better." 
- Jim Butcher

Now, Covid-19 has taken that balm of touch from everyday life.

When, if ever, will it return?

I keep Survivor Duck on my mantel to remind me that laughter and life can survive even the strongest storms ... 

like this little rubber duck survived Katrina and waited for me to come back to the rear door of our battered blood center.

Appreciate the little things you have before they become large by their absence.

Stay Well, my friends ... Roland

Monday, April 27, 2020


We never saw this coming, did we?

This is something completely
new for us.

We have to become our own
Indiana Jones
making it as we go along.

Insecure is the least of what
we feel, right?

doesn't feel GOOD.

Out of the discomfort of it,
you may strive to grow
so that you do not feel it
as deeply.

Life is a balancing act.

Our dreams always seem to be in
danger of toppling us over

when Life insists on tugging
on the tight-rope.

INSECURITY is that inner demonic voice that murmurs you are not good enough.

So you strive to grow in your ability to put wisdom in your actions

to  put prose on paper, 

to see beneath the masks that all people wear, 

to view life from a perspective that will make the commonplace the magic that it truly is.

Insecurity can spark growth. 

Insecurity can prompt our desire 
for self-improvement. 

It can jolt us into action 
push us toward higher goals.  

Insecurity is only harmful when 
we compare our weakest link 
to someone's strongest link.

 It’s time to tell the truth

 so that everyone can relax a bit and know they’re not alone in wondering if they’re okay. 

 You’re not flawed or defective. 

You’re experiencing this thing 
we call Life

There will be times 
you’ll feel on top of the world 
times you’ll doubt your worth. 

This is normal. 

It’s a part of our forward movement 
as we take stock of who we are, 
in transit to who we’re becoming. 

How is your journey 
coming along?

Thursday, April 23, 2020


We all know what to leave out:
1.) It’s Open Season on anything ending in –ly.

2.) Clunky sentences and long paragraphs that dull the readers’ mind and attention-span.

3.) Any word that you wouldn’t pay a quarter to keep in your manuscript. Ernest Hemingway learned to write lean when a foreign correspondent. EVERY WORD cost his employers money.

Elmore Leonard suggests: “Leave out the boring stuff.”

In reverse logic: 

we leave in the riveting stuff:

1.) Primal is riveting

THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA is riveting. 


Because the fish means more to the old man than just something to keep hunger at bay. Catching the fish would say to those who jeer at him that he is not old and useless, 

that he is still a man.

2.) Sex is riveting

Without it, the species would end. 

 But we don’t live for abstractions. We live for attractions. 

Flirting is only verbal fondling. 

The act doesn’t have to be literally on the page, blow by blow. Still, the sparks should be seen.

3.) Danger is riveting

But only if we care for the characters at risk. 

And the danger must flow out of the natural development of the narrative – not just be thrown in for spice out of nowhere.

4.) Empathy is magnetic

We care for characters to whom we can relate. 

So we leave in those prose strokes that resonate with the pains, the dreams, the struggles of our readers – 

the search for love, the endurance of loneliness, the tragedy of being misunderstood.

5.) Great dialogue sparkles

No clichés – even for teenagers, for clichés or even modern slang has a very short shelf-life.

Think of your favorite movies.

Each one had snippets of dialogue that had you repeating them to your friends. 

Try to make your novel someone’s favorite in a like manner.

6.) Poetry in prose

Ernest Hemingway said the secret to writing great novels was that they contained poetry in prose.

Make each first sentence on a page memorable by use of metaphor, dialogue, or simply tilting an image on its ear.

Each of us must do that in our way. Read a page of Hemingway or Zelazny at random to see how they did it.

“She gave him a look that should have left bruises.”

“The sea was harsher than granite.”

*) I hope this has helped in some small way. Roland

Here is the video of Adiemus which Victor hears within his mind as he struggles to make it through a mystic ordeal for the sake of innocents depending upon him in END OF DAYS:

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

How to WOW the Reader With YOUR BOOK

We all want to write a best-seller.  Not for fame nor for fortune.  

Just to be able to support ourselves living out our dream.

But how to do that?

I could date Gal Gadot, of course, but I think her husband might object.  

And he looks mean! 


We will have to do it the old-fashioned way: by using the tools at hand the best way we know how.



The thinking behind the studio's thinking on making movie trailers of late is 


no matter what the critics say.

The first sentence to my story in TALES TO BE TOLD AT MIDNIGHT is

"The rape had been the best thing to have happened to her."

How could you not want to read on?  

And remember the FIRST LOOK option on Amazon will hook your reader 

if you just set the bait correctly.



Not free.  People value what they pay for.

But put out ... as quickly as you can with quality one after another.  

 You want to have other books to offer should lightning strike and you gain a fan.

Which leads me into the next point:


It won't hurt much, 

but it will give a new fan certainty 

of enjoying more adventures with the characters she or he has grown to love.

Readers who like one novel will confidently buy the next.

And the series name will draw the eye of past readers browsing thumbnails of your book covers.

Which leads me to my next point:



Choose a brief emotive title. Pack it with meaning, menace and drama.

 Why short? 

Your cover will shrink to a fingernail on Kindle and other mobile devices. 

So make it legible!

James Patterson uses such titles: 


Which, of course, leads me to the next point as well


TV sound bites, Twitter feeds, Buzz feeds, Facebook posts ...

All of them have conditioned those who still read to bore easily.

A bored reader is more dangerous to us than any lion, for you will lose them as customers.

Keep your sentences as short as models' skirts.

James Patterson is the expert here. 

His sentences average just six words. 

His paragraphs are typically no longer than five lines and often just one line.

Tell your story your way, but if it is to make an impact there is a model to follow.


Give your MC a foil character with whom to talk ... even if it is only the moon.

Even Tom Hanks had Wilson, the basketball, 

with whom to share his innermost thoughts and fears on that island.

Conversations with the buddy character can introduce conflict to keep a scene alive, 

give the main character a plausible sounding board for their woes and triumphs, 

and also prompt the protagonist to reveal  information.

 Foil characters also furnish sub-plots. 

Get them into troubles of their own. Make them victims.
Use a foil as a series character in your every novel as I do with Mark Twain 

in my NOT-SO-INNOCENTS series and in my Egyptian Victorian fantasies.


Dueling vampire empires, alien evil clashing with ancient darkness, 

Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Nikola Tesla -- 

all worrying less about saving the world than 

saving their friend who is married to a demon-empress,

poised to set all the world ablaze with her dark ambition.

Outlandish but so was SHE and LORD OF THE RINGS.

You must strive to craft a riveting plot worthy of your reader.


My blood center still has a water cooler and coffee maker where workers chat a bit during the day.

Work to have your dialogue be quoted at the water cooler of today's culture:

Twitter, Facebook, Buzz Feeds, personal blogs.

There is a reason NIKE sells ball caps and T-shirts with their logo.

Be as smart as NIKE, have your fans advertise for you.


Sunday, April 19, 2020


“Style is knowing who you are, 
what you want to say, 
and not giving a damn.”
- Gore Vidal

Like you, I have a brand.

Like you, I think I know what it is.

Like you, I am wrong.

Most authors do not know what personal branding is.  

We see big corporations and celebrities botch it all the time. 

We reach out and almost touch 
the fabric of what others see in our stories, 
but we never quite make it.

Your brand isn’t your book cover,

 and it isn’t what you say about yourself. 

Your brand is your characters' values 
and how they act on those values
on every page. 

What do you think your brand is? 

Saturday, April 18, 2020


"Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear 
in the winds, 
Whose breath gives life to the world, 
hear me, 

I come to you as one of your many children, 

I am small and weak, 
I need your strength and wisdom. 

May I walk in beauty
Make my eyes ever behold 
the red and purple sunset.

Make my hands respect the things 
you have made
And my ears sharp to your voice.
Make me wise 
so that I may know the things
 you have taught your children.
 The lessons you have written 
in every leaf and rock,

Make me strong! 

Not to be superior to my brothers, 
but to fight my greatest enemy...

Make me ever ready to come to you 
with straight eyes,

 So that when life fades 
as the fading sunset,
My spirit may come to you 
without shame."

Translated by Chief Yellow Lark - 1887

"The true measure 
of character
 is the smile
on a friend's face 
when the person
- Ingrid Durtz


A deep rumbling voice awakened me, "Hey, kid. Kid! Roland!"
Midnight growled his "Not another ghost" growl ...

which was rather funny since he spends most of the time I am gone curled up on the lap of the ghost of Mark Twain.

Though he maddens Midnight by calling him Bambino.

I pried open my eyes. And shot right up.

John D. MacDonald.

Sitting in his ghost chair, spectral smoke trailing up from his pipe into the mists of the night.

"You underlined passages in my book you were reading before you fell asleep tonight. It called out to me in the ShadowLands."

"You're a master, sir. I learn so much from your prose even after re-reading it for the tenth time."

His eyes gazed out over my shoulder to realms he looked like he wanted to forget but couldn't.

"I feel pretty much forgotten, son."

"Not to me, sir."

He nodded. "And because of that I wanted to drop by personally and give you a few pointers on how to write. I wanted you to learn the truth behind my words."

"What truth, sir?"


Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn't blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself,

and if you look in there and see a man who won't cheat, then you know you never will. Integrity is not a search for the rewards of integrity.

Maybe all you ever get for it is the largest kick in the ass the world can provide. It is not supposed to be a productive asset.”

I whispered, "That's what you wrote in THE TURQUOISE LAMENT."

He nodded. "But nonetheless true. At times it seems as if arranging to have no commitment of any kind to anyone would be a special freedom.

But in fact the whole idea works in reverse. The most deadly commitment of all is to be committed only to one's self. Some come to realize this only after they are in the nursing home.”

He sighed. "There are people who try to look as if they are doing a good and thorough job, and then there are the people who actually damn well do it, for its own sake. You are a writer of the later sort.”

He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "The only thing in the world worth a damn is the strange, touching, pathetic, awesome nobility of the individual human spirit."

He put them back on and nudged them up his nose. "I know just enough about myself to know I cannot settle for one of those simplifications which indignant people seize upon to make understandable a world too complex for their comprehension.

Astrology, health food, flag waving, bible thumping, Zen, nudism, nihilism --

all of these are grotesque simplifications which small dreary people adopt in the hope of thereby finding The Answer,

because the very concept that maybe there is no answer, never has been, never will be, terrifies them."

I said softly, "I think there is some kind of divine order in the universe. Every leaf on every tree in the world is unique.

As far as we can see, there are other galaxies, all slowly spinning, numerous as the leaves in the forest.

In an infinite number of planets, there has to be an infinite number with life forms on them. Maybe this planet is one of the discarded mistakes. Maybe it's one of the victories. We'll never know."

MacDonald husked, "Not on your side of the grave."

He blew out his cheeks. "But I came here to talk on how to write better not to speak of the damned. Speaking of which, I wrote THE DAMNED because I knew the locale.

I was interested in what would happen if a lot of people got jammed in the crossing. I knew a lot of things would happen."

He smiled crooked, "And that, son, is the definition of a story."

His smile dropped from his lips like the weight of sin. "I found living it in the ShadowLands is the definition of Hell."

He looked back to me. "Now, for writing characters:

We're all children. We invent the adult facade and don it and try to keep the buttons and the medals polished.

We're all trying to give such a good imitation of being an adult that the real adults in the world won't catch on.

Each of us takes up the shticks that compose the adult image we seek."

He brooded a look at me. "Which leads me to what character should drive the actions of your novel. I think that most of us have a greater liking for strong and solid people than we have for the wimps of the world.

With strong people you can tell where you stand. Nobody, of course, is too strong never to be broken.

And that is my protagonist's, Travis McGee, forte, helping the strong broken ones mend."

He put out a forefinger.

"One, people want to spend time reading about someone they would like to be, doing the things they would love to do if they could.

And getting away with it.

No one wants to pay to be depressed and defeated, Roland. That comes for free in life."

He put out a second finger. "Two, writing is an adventure in and of itself:

I remember when I first started out --

I had four months of terminal leave pay at lieutenant colonel rates starting in September of 1945, ending in January 1946.

I wrote eight hundred thousand words of short stories in those four months, tried to keep thirty of them in the mail at all times, slept about six hours a night and lost twenty pounds.

I finally had to break down and take a job, but then the stories began to sell. I was sustained by a kind of stubborn arrogance.

Those bastards out there had bought one story “Interlude in India,”

and I was going to force them to buy more by making every one of them better than the previous one. I had the nerves of a gambler and an understanding wife."

He looked off into the shadows. "Mostly, an understanding wife."

He turned to me. "I can't find her in the ShadowLands, Roland. And it's killing me."

I cleared my closing throat. "I'll ask Samuel McCord ...."

He shook his head. "He's already tried, son. No luck."

He sniffed sharp and drew in a breath. "Where was I? Oh, yes."

He stuck out a third finger. "Three, series and first-person narrative. You're doing that with your Sam McCord, Victor Standish, and Dark Hollywood series.

Remember a series is only confining if you let it be so. If your imagination is large scope so will be your series.

As for first person narrative -

First-person fiction is restrictive only in that you can’t cheat. The viewpoint must be maintained with flawless precision.

You can’t get into anyone else’s head. The whole world is colored by the prejudices and ignorances of your hero.

Remember the child in your hero.

Adult pretenses are never a perfect fit for the child underneath,

and when there is the presentiment of death, like a hard black light making panther eyes glow in the back of the cave,

the cry is, "Mommy, mommy, mommy, it's so dark out there, so dark and so forever."

He rose and slapped his upper thighs, "If you forget what I've just said, remember this --

If you want to write, you write.

Unlike with brain surgery, the only way to learn to write is by writing. Take Stephen King --

Stephen King always wanted to write and so he writes --

books and fragments and poems and essays and other unclassifiable things, most of them too wretched to ever be published.

Because that is the way it is done.

Because there is no other way to do it. Not one other way.

Compulsive diligence is almost enough. But not quite.

You have to have a taste for words. Gluttony. You have to want to roll in them. You have to read millions of them written by other people.

You read everything with grinding envy or a weary contempt.

You save the most contempt for the people who conceal ineptitude with long words, Germanic sentence structure, obtrusive symbols, and no sense of story, pace, or character.

Then you have to start knowing yourself so well that you begin to know other people. A piece of us is in every person we can ever meet.

Okay, then. Stupendous diligence, plus word-love, plus empathy, and out of that can come, painfully, some objectivity.

Never total objectivity.

It comes so painfully and so slowly.

You send books out into the world and it is very hard to shuck them out of the spirit.

They are tangled children, trying to make their way in spite of the handicaps you have imposed on them.

I would give a pretty penny to get them all back home and take one last good swing at every one of them. Page by page. Digging and cleaning, brushing and furbishing. Tidying up.

Are you and I all together so far?

Diligence, word-lust, empathy equal growing objectivity and then what?

Story. Dammit, story!

Story is something happening to someone you have been led to care about.

It can happen in any dimension -physical, mental, spiritual – and in combinations of those dimensions.

Without author intrusion.

Author intrusion is: ‘My God, Mama, look how nice I’m writing!’

Another kind of intrusion is a grotesquerie. Here is one of my favourites, culled from a Big Best Seller of yesteryear: ‘His eyes slid down the front of her dress.’

Author intrusion is a phrase so inept the reader suddenly realizes he is reading, and he backs out of the story. He is shocked back out of the story.

Another author intrusion is the mini-lecture embedded in the story. This is one of my most grievous failings.

An image can be neatly done, be unexpected, and not break the spell. In a Stephen King story called ‘Trucks,’

Stephen King is writing about a tense scene of waiting in a truck shop, describing the people:

‘He was a salesman and he kept his display bag close to him, like a pet dog that had gone to sleep.’

I find that neat.

Nice. It looks so simple. Just like brain surgery. The knife has an edge. You hold it so. And cut.

The main thing is story.

One is led to care.

Note this. Two of the most difficult areas to write in are humour and the occult. In clumsy hands the humour turns to dirge and the occult turns funny.

But once you know how, you can write in any area.

Write to please yourself. I wrote to please myself. When that happens, you will like the work too."

His deep eyes locked onto mine. "Life is a coin, Roland. You can spend it any way you want. But you can only spend it once."

And with those words, he was gone. His wisdom stayed. I thought I'd pass it on.

Midnight just wants his undisturbed sleep back.
Here is a tune that John D. MacDonald likes: