My letter would be neither one of those. He and I have a few things in common and it would simply be nice to chat about that.
I could start by telling him that I do a little writing myself. But then, that would be too much like writing to Picasso to tell him how much fun I had with the paint-by-number set I got for my birthday.
Maybe it would be better to talk about the writing itself, and how much I appreciate some of the skillful things he does. For instance, I just finished reading The Eyes of the Dragon to my teenage daughter. (Isn't that cool? She still enjoys listening to her Daddy read.) In the middle of our session one night, I stopped and talked with my her about how King handled the scene I was reading. In it, a jail guard delivers a note to the home of a judge. Some writers would simply describe the guard handing over the note and that would be that. In the hands of King, however, this simple act turns into a subplot of its own, with plenty of conflict and tension. The scene is told from the point of view of the judge's butler, who is torn whether to even answer the late-night pounding on the door. Then he thinks the hunched figure of the jail guard might be a troll and is afraid to let him in. There is much doubt as to whether the judge will ever see the note, which, of course, builds the reader's desire to see the delivery completed.
Skillful stuff. Then again, saying so would start to make it sound like a fan letter. Better to steer clear of that.
I could talk about car rides. As it happens, I can roll out of my driveway, stay within a respectable shouting distance of the speed limit, and pull up in front of Stephen's house in about three hours. We're close enough that we see all the same snow storms. I've actually made that drive a few times. He has a funky wrought-iron fence around his property with all these bats worked into the design. I don't drive to Bangor to see his fence, though; I have family members who live there. I doubt Stephen would be interested in knowing that.
I would really like to tell him about my favorite parts of his books. Whenever I receive a crisp new King hardcover, which typically happens each year at Christmas (Thanks honey!), I invariably turn first to the notes that King writes to his readers. Often these are in the form of "An Introductory Note," which discusses what was going on in his life as he worked on this book, perhaps a bit about the inspiration that led to this work or some of the particular challenges he faced. Occasionally one of his works appears with no such note. Desperation is an example, so I had to be satisfied with reading the brief Acknowledgements. In Four Past Midnight, though, he outdid himself by providing notes about the book as a whole, plus a separate introductory note for each of the four novellas in the book. Yum.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Stephen King's books are not about him. They are about ... well, you know what gremlins and ghoulies live within. In the same way, this blog is not about me. It's about you, Faithful Reader, and all your wonderful, wacky, traumatic, rewarding and infuriating relationships. Still, I enjoy getting a behind-the-scenes view and finding out about King the person, so I thought you might forgive me for indulging in the occasional bit of editorializing and navel gazing.
It looks like fun, you see, when I read so many wonderful personal posts on all of your blogs. I thought about starting another site for doing just that but I can barely do justice to one forum, let alone two. My compromise is to indulge myself today and write a bit about To Love, Honor and Dismay.
I have been working for some time to publish books. More accurately, I have been banging my head against the gates of the publishing industry. These gates open only occasionally for first-time authors these days, due to some challenging changes to the book market. In the old days, numerous medium-sized publishers could afford to develop new talent. Many of these companies have now been swallowed up into mega-publishing houses, which in turn are actually smallish wings of even larger corporate conglomerates. Publishers are under more pressure than ever to turn steady profits, at the same time CDs, DVDs and video games are taking the place that books used to play in many people's lives. The bottom line is the gates don't open as often as they used to. Still, those of us who fancy a bit of scribbling lumber on undeterred.
So one day I was watching Good Morning America and saw a fellow talking about using a blog to trade a big red paperclip for a house. Right then I said to myself, "Self, (because that's what I call myself when no one's around) you should start a blog." I already have a house but it still seemed like a good idea. Here are a few things that have happened since then:
- I was used to spending months and years working on a manuscript, and then waiting many more months to receive feedback from literary agents. The experience of publishing a blog is startlingly different. I write (almost) every morning, edit and polish right away (which is a skill worth honing all by itself), publish immediately, and then converse with readers later that same day. The pace is exhilarating and, at times, almost overwhelming.
- I try to post every day, but my day job gets in the way once in a while. I am a university professor so, of course, maintaining the blog became more challenging when September hit. My current biggest challenge is to find enough time to return the favor and visit other people's blogs. I'll keep trying. (And why do so many people seem surprised when I show up at their site?)
- I am grateful for all the comments and emails I have received. The format seems to strike a chord with many of you and the feedback has been wonderful, which is very satisfying. Even the inevitable bit of criticism is helpful to keep me on my toes.
- To date, 133 other folks have extended me the ultimate online compliment by linking their site to this one. That's more than one a day since I began. As a result, Technorati ranks To Love, Honor and Dismay in the top 20,000 blogs. I'm not sure how much that really matters, but it seems like a nifty thing to be able to say.
- A magazine editor emailed me right out of the blue earlier this week. She has been reading this site for a while and as a result she extended me an invitation to contribute to the magazine. Talk about a feel-great moment for me. More on this later when the details are firmed up -- the magazine has an online edition so you'll be able to see the results.
- I put up a new banner at the top of the page a while back, replacing the standard Blogger design with a picture that seems more applicable to the sorts of topics we discuss here. Not one you left a comment, though, mentioning you noticed the change. So, what do you think? (Not that I'm needy or anything...)
A corporate executive once delivered a speech to a few thousand of his customers at a user's conference. I'll always remember the first slide he put up on the big screen, because it epitomizes my own view of how we should approach life. He said:
Of course it is. Spend plenty of time and energy looking after the people around you and you'll be well on your way to a fulfilling life.
Be nice to each other. See you tomorrow.