One of my favorite lines of poetry comes from Charles Bukowski, the great California poet, novelist, and postal worker: “And the days run away like wild horses over the hills…” I watch them go now, the days, in exactly the way Bukowski said, and every year they seem to vanish faster than before. What they leave behind is a cloud of dust and memory.
As the dust settles this year, and I consider the memories, I’m a little overwhelmed. It’s been a momentous twelve months. Between early March and late August, I published two books, something I’ve never done before. I toured for both these novels, visiting old friends in bookstores across the country, and making lots of new ones. In fact, I signed at eighty stores, mostly independents. I love these booksellers who, in this market so dominated by the online giant Amazon and by big chains, are like scrappy kids battling bullies in the schoolyard. In truth, I owe independents a great debt. During the kerfuffle that went on between my own publisher, Simon and Schuster, and Barnes and Noble, when my books—and those of so many S&S authors—were ignored by the big chain, it was the independent booksellers whose dedicated hand-selling helped both Ordinary Grace and Tamarack County hit the New York Times bestseller list. To all of you who own the small brick and mortar stores out there, God bless you!
I also visited more libraries than ever before, thirty-five altogether, all across the Midwest and the Rockies. Oh, do I love library events! Those in small towns are especially memorable, because often they’re accompanied by a potluck dinner. There’s nothing that makes a Minnesota author feel more welcome than a potluck meal.
I attended several mystery conferences and book festivals, traveled a spider web of gorgeous back roads, battled through blizzards and driving rain, rose again and again in the bleak predawn hours to catch early flights, and although all this travel was exhausting, I have to say I pretty much loved every minute of it. I adore book events, the opportunity to talk to readers and answer their questions and hear their own stories. So many of these stories are better than any I could ever imagine on my own.
So, when I look back, I see a year that seems to have fled quickly over the hill but has left me with a profound sense of fulfillment and gratitude. It’s also filled me with that fire I so need, which is an anticipation of things yet to come. There’s much to do 2014. I’ll complete the manuscript for the next Cork O’Connor novel, titled Windigo Island, which is scheduled for release in August. I’ll also plunge back into the writing of a companion novel to Ordinary Grace, a book I’m calling This Tender Land.
I will, of course, continue to travel. If you and I haven’t met yet, maybe 2014 is the year our paths will cross. I’d like that.
A few 2013 highlights:
I had a ball at Chicago’s annual Love Is Murder conference. A stellar lineup of fellow genre authors (including Lee Goldberg and Libby Fischer Hellmann, pictured above) and a host of welcoming fans, always a hallmark of this lovely, intimate Con.
April: Me, in the Big Easy with a few jazz greats. I play the harmonica–badly. We–my lovely wife Diane and I–had a great time in Nawlins and a terrific welcome from the folks at Garden District Books.
Just a couple of days after driving through snowflakes, the temperature hit ninety. Here I am with two of the loveliest things on earth: My wife Diane, and, in the background, the maze of islands on the Mississippi River near Winona, Minnesota.
August: My wife and I spent a night in the famously haunted Palmer House Hotel in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. We had a marvelously spooky stay. The creepy goings-on were capped when a water glass that had been left on the abandoned dinner table next to ours flew off the table and slammed to the floor with a force as if someone had angrily throw it there. It shattered into a hundred pieces. No human being was within ten feet of that glass. We looked with astonishment to the bartender, who simply shrugged and said, “Happens all the time.”
November: I spoke at the centennial celebration of the opening of the first library in Detroit Lakes, MN: a Carnegie, now a National Historic Landmark building. For the celebration, they commissioned a cake constructed as a perfect replica of that original library. The most awesome baked good I have ever laid eyes on!