Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Open Road

Open Road is a new type of publishing company that revives reverted titles and sells them,  employing social and electronic media. The company is located in New York and must have the most distinguished list of authors and titles in existence. It is run by gifted people, mostly from mainstream NY publishing, who know how to repackage and sell books that most authors considered defunct.

A friend of mine, Gatz Hjortsberg, has been telling me about it; the company is packaging a new title of his, and will launch an impressive sales effort with electronic and trade paper editions. The company is selective about its clients, but I thought I might at least inquire whether there might be some interest. I e-mailed them, noting that I had a long career as a professional author, some fine reviews, some of them starred, and a broad background in several genres, including westerns, historical and biographical novels, and some mysteries.

To my delight they have expressed interest in my thirty or so reverted titles, and we are working out an arrangement. Their standard offer is excellent: after they recover their initial costs, they split the net proceeds fifty-fifty with authors, on a seven-year contract. If all this succeeds, it means that some of my defunct titles will begin earning for me once again, no doubt modestly because I don't have the credentials or reputation possessed by major authors. Still, it is a comfort to approach old age with a new income from some of my old books. Their packaging is gorgeous and their skill in presenting these old books to new readerships in new media is unsurpassed. I suspect that their promotion of my early titles will help the sales of current titles still in print with various publishers.

For me, this is all part of a marvelous new world that has opened to me since my time of trouble; a world filled with helpful people, able people, kind people who have made advanced age a time of comfort and joy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Vocation

Could I write again? Did I want to? Yes, if only to make life meaningful. I had devoted nearly four decades to creating stories. They were my bread and butter as well as my vocation. But for what? Sue and I had a friendship marriage that lifted and inspired my life. We shared our joys and sorrows. She would tell me about the music education student who was at best semi-literate and ready to graduate from the education college of her university except that she could barely write a sentence. Sue was tutoring the young woman in basic English so she could get her diploma. I would tell her about the bad review I had received, and how, just maybe, the reviewer was right and it had been a revelation to me. And so our lives flowed on until this year, when I no longer had my dear friend at my side, or any reason to continue.

The other question was my cognitive skills. Had the seizures damaged my thinking processes? Yes, but also no. When I was released from the hospital I could not conceive a simple e-mail or type it. But these powers gradually returned. I am far from where I was in June, though. I struggle to compose sentences and write them without a multitude of typos and errors. But yes, I could write, if slowly.

Soon I will be tackling one of my Axel Brand mysteries I had started and abandoned because something was very wrong with it and I couldn't say just what. But I find now, after being taken through the valleys of age and illness, that I have new insights, and I have some idea what went wrong. Maybe this time I can transform it into a good story, better than what I had written before. I will begin it soon, maybe after the first of the year, and bring to it the sharp-edged sadness of loss and a depth of insight that didn't exist in me not long ago.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Posting Again

A year ago I closed this web log, largely because I was at the end of my literary career.  I ended it by posting the best review material about my stories, and have not returned in subsequent months. I have now decided to reopen the blog and discuss what happens to an author after his literary life winds down. The business side of writing seems to continue on its own, no matter that I am no longer active. But so, too, does the storytelling.

But first a brief description of my life since December of last year. After Christmas, 2013, my wife, Sue Hart, who had Lewy Body Dementia, was moved to an assisted living place three blocks from my home. I visited her daily, and often read to her, which she enjoyed. But she was rapidly failing, and could respond less and less. In May the board of regents made her a professor emeritus, and she was able to attend the ceremony in Billings. In early June I drove her out to a Livingston cemetery lot I had purchased, and asked whether she would join me there in due time. She said she would, and squeezed my hand, her remaining way of expressing deep commitment. She died August 25, with her four children and I close at hand, greatly loved and honored. We had eight good months together, our last passage in Livingston.

On June 25, while at lunch with friends, I toppled over and have no recollection of the next five days. I had suffered two seizures caused by a nonmalignant brain tumor. The second was a grand mal that broke my collar bone and fractured my left arm in two places. I've recovered, with help and therapy, but the arm remains weak, and the pain never ends. Also, I lost my driving privileges and won't get them back until I have gone six months without additional seizures. Five of those are now behind me and I am awaiting a meaningful Christmas gift from my doctor. I hope, on Christmas day, to drive around the block.

Meanwhile, what of my career? Am I able to write? Has there been cognitive loss? Can I bestir myself to return to my vocation? How does it feel to live without the woman I loved? Why do I want to write now? And what should I write about? Have I new insights? Will my novels be different? How has it been to live a literary life I no longer share each afternoon with my wife, Sue? I plan to put these things into a log, here, an ongoing account of life at the sunset of a literary career. I am finding there is much to talk about, actually, and maybe some experiences and meditations not commonly found in the vast new world of the internet. So look for posts here now and then, as I discuss what it is like to be an author going on eighty, an author who is struggling to grasp the rapidly changing world of publishing, and a widower who can no longer dedicate his stories to his living, ever-present companion and wife.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Reviews of Downriver, A Barnaby Skye Novel

Here are the assessments of one of my better Skye novels.

Downriver: A Barnaby Skye Novel (Forge, 0-312-87845-1)

[Starred lead review] Wheeler’s westerns just keep getting better and better.... This is the best of the Skye novels so far, an adventure mystery full of suspense, action, historical color and careful portrayals of men and women facing hard choices amid uncertainty and danger. Wheeler is a master of character and plot, and this novel showcases his talents at their peak.  — Publishers Weekly

Well-loved western writer Wheeler takes a big grip on the afflictions of the heart in each outing, as he does here in this 44th in over thirty years and the 12th in his Barnaby Skye series— which must be heading for the barn soon with Skye entering late middle age in chilly recent titles like Dark Passage and Going Home.... Is a damned well deserved hardcover reprinting of Skye’s early paperbacks originals a-borning? Let Forge paint Skye with a golden sunset.— Kirkus Reviews

Wheeler always does a masterful job of weaving Indian lore and culture into these stories... Teens who enjoy fiction about the Old West will enjoy this story and see how two people from diverse cultures facing hardships and dangers are able to make a life for themselves in a rapidly changing world.— School Library Journal

Wheeler turns in another stellar performance with his latest novel featuring the prickly mountain man, Barnaby Skye..... No one writes a mountain man novel like Richard S. Wheeler. His Barnaby Skye is a wonderful creation who is as real to the reader as the man next door, but a whole lot more interesting. I would recommend this book to anyone, be he or she scholar or general reader.— Roundup Magazine

An Assessment of My Life Work

Below, in numerous earlier posts, are review excerpts of my historical fiction, mysteries,  and other novels. Some reviews of my genre western fiction are not included here. In any case, genre western fiction is rarely reviewed at all. But there are assessments here of my substantive books.

I was hesitant to post this material, thinking that it would simply be advertisements for my books and life work, but what changed my mind was the realization that I'm nearing the end of my writing life, and an assessment is appropriate. In essence, I am creating in these posts a record of my writing life. The books are presented in no particular order.

I am writing one last historical novel, so far untitled, that follows an early vaudeville troupe through Montana and Idaho. I hope some day to add the reviews of that to this collection.

Reviews of The Fields of Eden

More verdicts about my work here.

The Fields of Eden (Forge, 0-312-87309-3)

It has become the author’s trademark to tell a vast historical drama through the eyes of multiple characters, and his skill at orchestrating massive movements is on display here.... Wheeler powerfully presents manifest destiny in action.— Publishers Weekly

Wheeler’s female characters who share the stage are all first-rate... The author skillfully weaves history with fiction, in some cases using actual players, such as McLoughlin.... “The Fields of Eden” is historical fiction at its best.— The Denver Post

Wheeler has written another solid historical novel with his usual seamless plot and superb characterization. One cannot avoid being caught like a fish on a line and drawn into his story. It is a gift he has.— Amarillo Globe-News

Reviews of The Honorable Cody

More advertisements of myself. This was an early venture with Sunstone Press.

The Honorable Cody (Sunstone, 978-0-86534-521-8)

Wheeler good-naturedly spoofs Buffalo Bill Cody and the many myths surrounding him in this clever take on the mustachioed millionaire who never believed his own press.... Wheeler’s many fans will not be disappointed.–Publishers Weekly

“The Honorable Cody” is a pleasure to read as Wheeler lets Cody’s heirs and friends and enemies duke it out. –The Great Falls Tribune

Yes, time has changed since Cody’s passage. But Wheeler’s book assures that the frontiersman’s show goes on in a revealing and engaging read great for old and new fans of Buffalo Bill. –The Billings Gazette