A murder of crows. A quiver of cobras. A charm of finches. A mischief of mice. A tower of giraffes. A scurry of squirrels. To this list of wonderfully evocative group names, I’m adding “a thrill of books.”
When I was young, I used to love coming home from the bookstore or library with an armful of books. I’d study the covers, read the blurbs and acknowledgments, open the book and sample a few words. It was a special thrill, this stack of new worlds that would soon be a part of me. Where would I go? Who would I meet? What challenges would I have to overcome?
The years did their damage, as they always do. Or maybe the culprit wasn’t the passing years, perhaps it was too many trivial stories, too much homogenization of genre, too much corporate policy infringing on the art. For whatever reason, I lost the thrill of having new books to read, and I thought it was gone forever.
I mentioned in my previous blog that I offered to review a few books, and today I received two of them in the mail: Steel Waters and Toxic Shock Syndrome by Ken Coffman. I looked at the covers (okay, I did more than look, I ran my hand over them, savoring the feel of the brand new books). I read the back covers, the acknowledgements, the author’s signature — “To my friend and fellow writer, Pat Bertram. I wish you all the best with your work.”
Already I could feel the glimmer of that old familiar feeling. Then I opened Steel Waters to the middle and saw, “I looked and smelled like a Bolivian sewer rat.” From comments others had made, I knew this was no homogenized piece of corporate bilge, but right then I felt it — the thrill.
So thank you, Ken, for giving me — one more time — a thrill of books.
See also: Pat Bertram Introduces Glen Wilson, Hero of Five Ken Coffman Novels
On Writing: Style and Cadence by Ken Coffman
A Cheapskate Guide to Creating a Publishing Company by Ken Coffman
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.
March 23, 2009 at 9:01 pm
Pat, loving to read as I do, even through the years I’ve seem to find enjoyable books regardless of the homogenization of the corporate publishers or some flooding of trivial works. If a genre flooded and seem to lose it’s oomph then I checked out other genres.
Ken’s books, they are far from trivial, and not at all homogenized. I’ve enjoyed reading his works. Glen’s a hoot on many levels. Even Dan likes his stories. Dan loves Robert B Parker and a handful of other authors. He picked up one of Ken’s books just to see what I got in the mail and just never seemed to put it down, lol! I should have told Ken, but just forgot all about it. 🙂
March 23, 2009 at 10:00 pm
Pat, you are about to embark on a wonderful ride. I can’t remember the moment I became addicted to Ken Coffman’s books, but I am and there’s no turning back. His Glen Wilson character burrows under your skin and there’s no cure for the rash except another Glen Wilson/Ken Coffman book. I have been privileged beyond words to read some of his yet-to-be-pubbed works, and I can tell you, Ken’s style is so fresh and original and unique, it can’t be matched. OK, so I’m addict. And glad of it.
March 23, 2009 at 10:27 pm
I like to see a brand name on the spine personally. It means the work has been vetted. The genre doesn’t matter, only the process of quality control between author, editor, agent, copy editor. When these are all the same person it just doesn’t work. The finished product never does either.
March 24, 2009 at 6:07 am
Stephen King is right, it takes a dozen passes to convert a draft into something acceptable. I wish there was a shortcut, but there doesn’t appear to be. I’m so very lucky to have people helping me with the process and patient while my writing skill evolves.
Mark has a point I won’t argue. The traditional publishing track has key processes for turning a rough manuscript into polished print. This creates a needed level of quality control. The book might still stink, but it won’t have a lot of typos, fractured formatting and other pernicious bugs. For we who don’t have these support systems in place, we have to work harder. Every day with every draft cleaner and closer to perfection. Watch and learn, Mark. We have a tough road and a long way to go, but we’re making progress.
March 24, 2009 at 10:52 am
You guys are making me blush. Somebody insult me quick to bring me back to earth. Someone other than Mark. His voice is like wind through brambles…pointless background noise while we’re trying to have a conversation.
March 24, 2009 at 11:29 am
Yes well, most writers have a long way to go. Professionals are quick to point that out. Only when one says, “I can sell this,” will you know what you’ve learned or haven’t. Hard to do that when the mistakes are for sale on Amazon. It’s too late then.
March 27, 2009 at 5:56 am
I believe in the Japanese theory of continuous improvement, which means continuous change. I can and do go back and fix old sins while creating fresh sins. My novels, my writing skill and my life are works-in-progress and I confess to a feeling of inevitability and destiny. Maybe my grave’s memorial marker will say: “The critics were right.” Maybe it won’t.