Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Guest Blogger - John Lamb

THE MAGIC OF BEING A MYSTERY AUTHOR
By John J. Lamb

If you’d asked me if I believed in magic, back when I began my career in cop work, my response would have been a pitying sneer and a question of my own: “Have you been smoking crack?” Magic didn’t exist and people who believed in such nonsense needed to grow up. Twenty years later, I’ve come to accept the existence of magic, but I’m not referring to the gaudy computer-generated stuff of popular films. I still don’t believe in Gandalf, Sabrina, or Harry Potter, yet I accept a quiet and mostly hidden magic that can affect our lives if we’re merely open to the improbable possibilities.

To illustrate, as a retired homicide detective and hostage negotiator, you’d reasonably expect my books would be gritty, angst-riddled, police thrillers. Instead, I’ve written five cozy mysteries set in the world of artisan, collectible, and antique teddy bears. Some people assume that I simply found a cute gimmick, but that isn’t the case. My wife, Joyce, and I actually collect teddy bears. We love them and that’s where the subtle magic begins.

So, how did a veteran homicide cop with a reputation for being colder than a Martian winter end up in the sweet world of teddy bears? And how did those bears eventually become the basis for a series of mystery novels? The process began years ago as I stood at a Xerox machine at the police department, making copies of a homicide report. Enter fingerprint expert and crime analyst, Joyce, the intelligent and beautiful woman who’d eventually become my wife.

Until that moment, we’d spoken only briefly and only about work related stuff. That was about to change, however, and if you saw what happened next in a Hallmark Channel made-for-television movie, you’d dismiss it as the worst and most contrived schmaltz imaginable.

Joyce leaned over and quietly said, “You’ve got everyone here at the PD convinced you’re the coldest human being on the planet, but you’re not fooling me. You’re just a great big teddy bear.” Then, she scooped up her papers and walked away. I stammered out something stupid, like, “Oh, yeah? You don’t know me.” Meanwhile, my kneecaps had turned into toothpaste and I was going into cardiac arrhythmia.

Long story short: the very first gift I ever gave her was a teddy bear. We married and we began going to teddy bear shows together and became avid collectors. I’d entered an entirely new and wonderful universe of genuinely kind people and teddy bears. Then, I retired from cop work and began to chase down my lifelong dream of becoming a professional author. Joyce then retired from the police department and we moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

One day, my agent asked me if I had any ideas for a cozy mystery series. I thought about it and suddenly realized I was living in a cozy. I was married to a woman I adored, we lived in a picture postcard, shared our home with four golden retrievers and six cats, and owned hundreds of teddy bears. My agent liked the concept, as did Berkley Prime Crime, and I eventually wrote five “Bear Collector” mysteries, with The Treacherous Teddy coming out this past September.

There was more magic in store, however. I began to receive messages from readers all over the world and that’s when I learned that I hadn’t just written a book. I’d created a universe that entertained people and in doing so I’d become a part of their lives. And they’d become part of mine. I’ve gotten messages from folks who said the books helped them through chemotherapy or other illnesses; emails thanking me for providing some old-fashioned amusement; and even a photo taken on a Baghdad street of a soldier holding up his small teddy bear and a copy of one of my books. The accompanying brief note thanked me for the books, because I’d made his time in Iraq endurable.

It’s humbling and also a reminder. We all possess magic—powerful magic. To paraphrase the old cartoon character, Bullwinkle, “We don’t know our own strength.” We set invisible dominoes falling every day with every action we take and every careless word spoken. So we need to mix our magic with a large dollop of kindness. Not just during the holiday season, but every day.

In closing, I hope you have a magical holiday season that permeates throughout the year. Don’t believe in magic? Not to worry. I didn’t either and look what happened to me.

4 comments:

  1. This is a lovely personal story as well as an interesting tale about how you came to write your cozy series! I really enjoyed this!

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  2. I loved reading your story. And I love the teddy bear series, as it's full of things I love the most!

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  3. I love your story John and I hope that the magic of this blog touches others as deeply as it touched me.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on magic with us today.
    Pamela

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  4. Very, very nice story and one that brought a smile to my face on an "interesting" day at work. Thank you.

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