You’ve Got Mail

I read and respond to my emails first thing every morning. Believe me, it’s a mixed bag. There are usually a few brand new names in the mix as well as the ones who are regular correspondents. There are also usually an amazing number of items that are purely junk mail. For those, I have a trigger finger on my delete key.

There are folks who are first time readers who have no idea how they’ve managed to miss my books for all this time. I can’t figure that out, either, but I always tell them that I’m glad they’re on board now. There are often new readers who are also IORs—in order readers—who need to be pointed in the direction of the Books in Order list on my website. There are SERs—sharp-eyed readers who are always on the lookout for typos, in both my blog and in my books. They delight in pointing out errors and omissions in books that are decades old, but I always thank them for correcting my linguistic shortcomings. This morning someone who was under the impression that I had put characters named Athena in both the Beaumonts and Bradys in an effort to confuse readers. The Ali Reynolds Athena has been in the stories for years. I sent the lady a copy of my blog entitled “The Good Guys Won” to let her know exactly how the Beaumont Athena came into existence. There are also readers who, while reading books written in the mid-eighties, are SHOCKED beyond words by my blatant political incorrectness. (I’m relatively sure neither Geoffrey Chaucer’s works nor William Shakespeare’s would measure up to current standards of political correctness!)

Sometimes people finish reading a book and immediately fire off a note let me know how much they enjoyed it … or not. And I’m always interested to have access to their opinions, because those reactions let me know whether or not I’m doing a good job.

This week was unusual in that my mailbag contained three separate thank-you notes, two electronic and one snail mail. The snail-mail one came from three sisters, and it requires some explanation. Yup, another one of my “long stories,” so here goes.

In early October of 2001, I was scheduled to appear at a book festival in Nashville, Tennessee. That was less than a month after 9/11, and air travel was still in disarray, so Bill and I decided to drive—from Seattle to Nashville and back. It was a long trip! We might have murdered one another along the way had it not been for J.K. Rowling. We listened to all the Harry Potter books then in existence, coming and going.

When people request being added to my database, I always ask for their city and state. That way, if I’m going to be doing a public appearance nearby, I can let people in that area know that I’m coming. And I had done so in advance off the Nashville appearance.

One of my Tennessee fans was an older woman who lived in Memphis. She had been in my database for a long time, and we had corresponded from time to time. Once she knew I was going to be in Nashville, she asked her daughters to bring her to the event. Then she let me know that she would be arriving in a wheelchair, but that she was coming—come hell or high water.

But when the event started, there was still no sign of a wheelchair. I had been introduced and had started speaking when I saw them enter at the back of the auditorium. So I stopped in mid-sentence, told the rest of the audience that my number one fan had just arrived, and said that I had reserved a place for her in the front row. Then, once the talk itself was over, my fan and I had coffee together in private.

This week I heard from my fan’s three daughters, writing to tell me that the drive from Memphis to Nashville had been their mother’s last trip and to thank me for making her feel like royalty when I welcomed her to the room. I had forgotten that small piece of kindness, but it has resonated in my fan’s daughter’s minds for almost twenty years. Being reminded of that event made me feel warm all over and caused me to think about some of the other fans I’ve heard from over the years, some of whom, like the lady in Memphis, are no longer with us. I can tell you that I’m blessed to have had all those folks in my life.

Which brings me to the two emails. They came from two different folks—a man and a woman—both of a certain age who, in retirement, have launched off on living their long-held dreams of becoming writers. Both credit me with inspiring them to get with the program. Neither one of them sat around bemoaning the idea that they were probably far too old to start writing. They just did it. The one, a self-described “geezer” of seventy-five is just now sending out his first manuscript in search of an agent or editor. The other is a retired teacher from Washington State who has written a six-book series of cozies featuring Sylvia Avery. For those of you who are what I call GRs—Geographical Readers and who only read books set in certain places, here’s a hint. Jan Bono’s whole series is set on the coastline of southwestern Washington.

So that’s what’s been in my mailbag so far this week. And guess what? When next week rolls around, there’ll be a whole new batch. I wonder what I’ll find there, but we’ll all have to wait and see.

PS. I wrote this yesterday afternoon. This morning I heard from someone in the UK who just bought a thrift shop copy of Fatal Error while on vacation and is now a self-declared fan. See what I mean? I didn’t even need to wait until next week.