2014 has been an interesting year. The world was full of political and social unrest, and for me, personally, there was great news and sad news. I suppose the year has been Dickensian: the best of times and the worst of times.
I’ve always been a bit of a recluse, so 2014 brought changes in my lifestyle. I published a new novel, my first after a 14-year absence from publishing. My new publisher, Random House, insisted that I join the social network brigade, so in August I finally arrived on Facebook. I was sent on a “virtual book tour” when my novel was published in October, 23 book blogs and websites in 19 days. I “friended” and was “friended” by nearly a thousand people (so far), real friends from my past and new friends in the mystery publishing world. I’ve been interacting with people online, and anyone who knows me will know how alien this is to me. The surprise is that I enjoy it.
I have a small group of close friends, and we lost one of our number this year. Jennifer Jaffee, my friend and fellow bookseller, lost her long battle with lymphoma on August 6. A lot of my year was spent at her bedside in Memorial Sloan-Kettering here in NYC. I miss her, but I’m glad for the time I had with her. We all lost some wonderful writer colleagues this year, and I was particularly affected by three of them: Mary Stewart (an early inspiration), P. D. James (an all-time fave), and every mystery writer’s pal, Jeremiah Healy. Jerry’s loss devastated all of us, I think, leaving a huge space in our profession that can never be refilled. As I get older (I’m 59 at the moment), I’m losing more family and friends, and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.
My novel, A Penny for the Hangman, got good reviews, but it isn’t selling particularly well. It’s only available in e-book form, which accounts for the minimum of publicity opportunities. It’s ironic that this 20+-year bookstore employee would now have a book that can’t be sold in conventional bookstores, where all my bookseller friends are. I didn’t attend Bouchercon or any other gatherings this year for the same reason–signings require having a physical entity to sign, and an e-book isn’t one of them. But I was published, and people like the book, and Random House just took a second title from me. It will be published (again, only as an e-book) in 2015. All of my earlier novels are now available as e-books, too, and my first collection of short stories, Jumbie Tea and Other Things, has just arrived from Cliffhanger Press (also e-book-only). So I’m 100% back in print, if only electronically. But after several years out of print, it feels good.
I’m writing a new novel, and my writer friends are writing new things as well. This is good, too. With all the recent woes in the American publishing world, I’m glad there are still so many good mystery writers who continue to work. I’ll be interested to see what happens next in the ever-more-crowded book world.
America’s longest war has officially ended, but there’s serious trouble all over the world. The mid-term elections were disheartening, as is the ongoing clash between American police and private citizens. A major American film was held for ransom, apparently by a comically obscene little despot in a tin-pot non-country on the other side of the globe. The hacking of the film company was accompanied by several other major breaches of online security, which is the single most worrisome trend in our electronically connected world. Today a stupid movie, tomorrow our bank accounts. We’re all lying awake nights, thinking about that.
But I still have my health. That cliché has been around forever, but I’m only now beginning to appreciate the truth of it. As each year ticks by, I’m another year older. Funny how that works. And so far, so good (knock wood). I’m healthy, I’m writing, I’m publishing, and I’m finally on Facebook. I lost some friends, but I’ve made nearly a thousand new “friends.” My family is getting smaller, but those who remain are doing well. And that stupid movie was released, after all, so the forces of censorship were dealt another blow–for now, anyway. The American police forces will endure, and I hope they’ll improve. The so-called “1%” haven’t yet taken over the world, and I don’t think they will, despite their billions. And in the wake of the shameful mid-term elections, this old Left Wing Liberal might see some good news in the 2016 Presidential election. In order for that to happen, we’ll all have to turn out and vote next time, so let’s do that, okay?
At the end of 2014, I’m already looking forward. I live in hope, and I want everyone to live there with me. A single candle belies the dark, so let’s all light one and see what happens. Happy New Year to all, and a safe and healthy 2015.