I put out an e-newsletter from time to time. It's supposed to be weekly, but sometimes I miss.
I'll give you my most recent e-newsletter, and, if you like it and would like to keep up with my books and what I'm doing, shoot me an email. I'll put you on the list.
Two things first.
The e-newsletter started life under the name Memo from the Sheriff's Office, so named because the main character in my first book, Early's Fall, was a Kansas sheriff.
Recently, I renamed the e-newsletter because Sheriff Early appears in only four of my 5 books. The new name? Word-Gram.
I'm a wordsmith. I stitch words together . . . to make stories, so Word-Gram the e-newsletter now is.
Now the picture above. In the very old days, before email, newsletters were delivered to you and me by U.S. Mail. The gun in the photo above is not a gun.
It's a mailbox.
Memo: June 29
Newsletter news . . . This one gets a new name!
I created this newsletter way back in 2008, to promote my first book, Early's Fall, to friends around the country. It needed a name, so I called the newsletter Memo from the Sheriff's Office . . . because the principal character in that first book was a sheriff, James Early.
Fourteen books since and Early appears in only three of those 14. So a new name for this newsletter is appropriate.
Word-Gram works for me. Because that’s what I do as a writer. I work with words, stitch them together into stories.
So here’s my word for you today . . . contemporaneousness. It’s a noun meaning the quality of being current or of the present.
Memo: April 24
Fellow crime writer comes north
Tomorrow – yes, Saturday – Chicago crime writer Michael Black journeys north to my state, to Mystery To Me Bookstore in Madison, where he will talk with crime and mystery fans about the CSI Effect . . . how real is what we see on television?
Hi . . .
I spotted The Race on the bargain table at the bookstore where my writers group meets. An airplane on the cover. Actually, two. And written by Clive Cussler.
No, it was written by Justin Scott. Cussler probably came up with the story idea, may even have outlined the plot, but he turned it over to Scott to do the tedious work of writing.
Scott’s written eight others in Cussler’s Isaac Bell Adventure series.
The Race . . . Clive Cussler and Justin Scott . . . J.P. Putnam’s Sons . . . 2011
The first chapters set me back. The writing was over the top with volumes of details that, while decorating the story, didn’t advance the story. Also, the hero was oh so good and virtuous and heroic, and the villain oh so bad and dastardly and villainous.
Two?dimensional characters, yet still vastly interesting because of the daring?do of the tale.
The tale is a cross?country air race in 1910, from New York City to San Francisco, featuring Josephine Joseph, America's Sweetheart of the Air, flying a Celere wire?braced monoplane—a fictional single?wing aircraft. Josephine is Amelia Erhart a couple decades before Amelia became a household name.
The villain, Harry Frost, wants to murder Josephine, who is his wife—it’s too complicated to explain in a paragraph—before she completes the race. The race’s sponsor, a newspaper mogul, hires the Van Dorn Detective Agency to protect Josephine, and ultra?handsome and super crack?shot Isaac Bell gets the job of leading the protection detail.
A third of the way in, the tale swept me up. I was flying along with Josephine and Bell, as unbelievable as the story was. After a bit, I took a break and popped over to Cussler’s website, to read up on the man.
Several parallels with uber?bestseller James Patterson. As young men, both had worked in advertising agencies, rising through the ranks to head them. Both are superb storytellers and very good writers. The books of both became so successful that Patterson’s and Cussler’s publishers wanted more books from them than either could write . . . so both took on writing partners to do the grunge work of cranking out those additional books that the publishers knew would sell, sell, sell, sell because Patterson’s and Cussler’s names were on the covers.
Then I turned up a statement of Cussler’s that he never intended his books to be compelling literature, merely compelling stories—techno thrillers he calls them. Says he, “I have never considered myself as much a writer as an entertainer. I’ve sincerely felt that my job was to entertain the reader in such a manner that when you reached the end of the book you felt that you had got your money’s worth.”
Cussler views his books as summer reading, as escapism, as “everyday, anyday adventures.”
I agree. That they are.
Wanted: People who like books
If writers are to prosper, if literature is to prosper, we need lots of readers, not just those who love books.
Chicago Tribune cultureal critic Julia Keller wrote about that a few years back. Here's what she had to say:
This is going to irritate about 97 percent of the writers I know, and it may even cost me a few precious friendships, but here goes:
You don’t have to love books. It’s OK just to like them.
It’s OK to be a casual reader, a sometime scholar, an occasional consumer of print.
It’s acceptable to read a book every once in a while, for the simple reason that you happen upon one that intrigues you – without quitting your job, selling your furniture and going back to graduate school in comparative literature.
In the midst of last weekend’s wonderful Printers Row Book Fair, I listened to author after author, moderator after moderator, panelist after panelist (including me), automatically refer to the assembled multitude as “book lovers.”
Now, book lovers are wonderful.
Book lovers are essential.
I love book lovers. But it occurred to me that the audience surely included a good number of people – perhaps even a majority – who, if pressed, would classify themselves as “book likers.” As people who enjoy reading, as people who respect authors and seek knowledge, but for whom reading is not a consuming, world-obliterating, walls-come-tumblin’-down passion.
If literature is to survive beyond the next few years, assailed as it is by the triple whammy of brutal economics, shrinking attention spans and unrelenting competition from less demanding pastimes, it will survive as much because of book likers as book lovers.
Book lovers remain a fairly stable unit from century to century, a crucial but relatively small segment of the population for whom words are life itself. Book lovers, that is, aren’t a growth area.
But book likers – those whose livelihoods don’t depend on the publishing industry, those who might be teachers, roofers, chefs, accountants, tow-truck drivers, financial analysts or waitresses – constitute a huge potential market.
The number of book likers can readily expand, depending on how solid a case we make for the merits of a particular book – and how well the book, once opened, does its job.
The miracle of the Harry Potter series, after all, is how many new readers it has lured into literature’s tent. Author J.K. Rowling performs her greatest magic on people who heretofore weren’t regular readers. Her works reach out to book likers, not just book lovers.
Book likers are literature’s only real hope; they are its last, best chance.