By Tim Suddeth
Christmas is nearly here, and it could not have come at a more needed time.
This year, everyone’s routines and expectations were changed like never before when the COVID virus infected our world. Socially, economically, practically, everything has been upended to such an extent that we may not know how much things have been changed for several years.
Here in America, we have just gone through the most bitter political campaign I can remember. Both sides are still unable to accept each other. We cannot even agree on the facts We each have our own news networks that continue to feed the divides among us.
Even though, in the end, we are all Americans. And that should be the most important issue. That is not what we hear on the political ads or news shows that run continuously on our TVs.
This is the week of Christmas. My family plans to stay in most of the week. Maybe with a trip or two out to ride around and see Christmas lights in the neighborhoods.
My wife just came back from a short shopping trip for s few necessities. She said the crowds were out, but the spirit, the stockers and shoppers telling everyone Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, doesn’t feel the same yet.
I’m convinced the spirit of Christmas will return. First, it has to start inside each of us. Then, like lighting candles in a play, it will spread to people around us. And it’s that spread that we have to make sure we feed.
In our world, joy isn’t always welcomed. Joy doesn’t have a place in the corporate rat race. It doesn’t have a place in the battle to beat the Jones. It doesn’t have a place when we choose those in society who we have to keep below us so we can feel superior.
Joy doesn’t fit in that world. The world we live in.
Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t fit so easily into that world, either? Where we didn’t listen to society to find our personal value or the value of others. Where getting the biggest present didn’t decide the winner.
Maybe we shouldn’t expect our joy to come from the world.
Maybe, just maybe, that is what Christmas is here to remind us.
The shorter days and longer evenings of the last few months and given me a great time for reading. I have finished eight books this past month. One thing that has slowed me down is two large books that I picked up, The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries and The Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction. Each of them are slow reading, but they include great short stories by many of the masters of mystery. They are a great way of getting a taste of the legendary writers’ works.
I’ve picked out three of the books to highlight. First, is How I Got Published, edited by Ray White and Duane Lindsey. They give us the stories, in their own words, of how over eighty writers find their ways to getting their first works published. Writers like C. J. Box, Jerry Jenkins, Louise Penny, Hallie Ephron, Clive Cussler, and J. A. Jance.
It was encouraging to hear how the vast majority had to fight through numerous rejections. Some of them had successes only to have to confront defeat and battle back.
There were a lot of good lessons from the experiences the writers retold to us. The first is that there is no one way to becoming published, everyone has their own journey. You shouldn’t compare how long it takes you to find an agent or editor to someone else.
Another lesson is that the only way you lose as a writer is to quit. It isn’t about how many books you write or how many are sole or how much money you make. It is about you writing what your heart wants to. That you tell the stories only you can tell.
The book was very encouraging. And I feel I’ve met some new writer buddies.
It is that time of year when college basketball takes the stage. If you like March Madness and the stories that you find in college sports, I’ve got the book for you, Dick Vitale’s Living A Dream.
Written by Dick Vitale and Dick Weiss, they have done a terrific job in catching Vitale’s energy and passion, baby. Reading the book was like spending dinner or a cup of coffee with the ESPN sportscaster. He recounts the great games he has called for ESPN and some of the famous players and celebrities he has met. He didn’t try to hide his enjoyment at meeting famous people, like many of us feel. He, also, tells about the sure-fire stars that didn’t live up to expectations and the loss their coaches and fans felt.
Sometimes, Dickie V feels over the top, but you can’t deny that his enthusiasm is genuine. And he has a heart for the people he encounters, coaches, players, coworkers, and fans. He understands that because of the position he has been given, he has a responsibly to be a good role model.
Michael Connelly was a crime journalist before he started writing novels. In Crime Beat, a Decade of Covering Cops and Killers, he gives us his stories of some infamous murder cases and criminals he covered as a beat writer in South Florida and Los Angeles. On his job, he got to know the cops, the criminals, as well as the victims. Here we get to read his newspaper stories on 22 different cases.
After reading this, you can tell where he got the realism and characters for his stories. He told one story where there was a brutal murder. All the reporters were leaning against the police tape and the officers were coming out and not speaking. He moved further down the line and approached an officer he had spoken to “hundreds of times on prior cases.” The street-hardened officer whispered to him, “This one is really bad.” They learned that the mother had killed her own children. The officer walked away. A tear in his eye.
In Crime Beat, Connelly does a great job of showing the humanity of the officers and the hurt of the victims. This is something that every writer should remember to make their stories more realistic and engaging to their readers.
This month, over on the Killer Nashville blog, you can see my review on Killer Nashville. The Wayward Spy , by Susan Ouellette, takes us behind the scene of the intelligence community in our national capital. Ouellette worked with the House Permanent Select Committee, so she was able to take us behind doors and into a world that most of us will never see. And it isn’t all like James Bond. You can read my review here. I hope to see more of Susan’s writings.