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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Social Networking For Bookworms

I wasn't even aware of Facebook until it had (apparently) taken over the world. People had tried to get me to join My Space and I think I did create a profile once, but didn't do much with it. Same with Twitter. I tweeted up a storm for a few weeks or so, but never understood what the use was. Still don't, frankly. I don't find others' tweets very interesting. I don't think mine are all that interesting, either.

I was told "everybody" was on Facebook, and only losers weren't on it. I heard friends talking about statuses and walls, friends and likes, but it was all Greek to me. I finally joined due to advice that it was a fantastic marketing tool, and I had just published a book.

From a marketing perspective, Facebook has been a bust for me. But I did play some lame-but-addictive Facebook games for a minute when I first started. I made hundreds of new "friends," was found by relatives I didn't remember...I even found a couple guys from units I served in.

Joining Facebook was like opening a floodgate. Since then I've been inundated with invitations to join more social networks--of which the variety seems to be infinite.

Are you kidding me? I can't even keep up with Facebook! (And Twitter, and my blog, and the Kindle Boards, and Goodreads, and Shelfari, and Library Thing, and VPP, etc. etc. etc...much less my writing.)

I've got some quality pals on Facebook, but probably less than 5% of them like to read. (Read anything besides Facebook posts, that is.) That's how Genrebuds offers a significant advantage for booklovers. It's meant to be a network for literate people. Instead of compiling lists of activities and interests, favorite songs, movies, etc. (which will be obliterated during the next Facebook "upgrade"), you choose what genres you like to read when setting up your profile. There are freebies, different ways to earn points, ribbons and such if you're into all that.

The list of genres reflects the market shares of the publishing industry, so far as I can tell. Hence the sort of fiction I prefer will likely be under-represented. Even so, the chance to connect with potential readers there should still be far greater than on Facebook.

If it had been around when I first entered the social networksphere, I probably would have concentrated my efforts there.

If you like to read, and would like to network with others who do, this might be the site for you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Louis L'Amour...Need I Say More?


 This incredibly prolific author is to westerns what Stephen King is to horror and Agatha Christie is to mysteries. Modern critics who insist all heroes be flawed despise writers like the old merchant marine (that's right--he spent more time asea than he ever did on horseback--as you'll learn in the interesting introduction/L'Amour biography). And yes, his books do tend to be formulaic. But hey--he developed his own formula. He didn't copy Zane Gray, Max Brand or anyone else.

In West of the Tularosa, a compilation of some shorter fiction from his early career (most of it written for western pulps), the legendary author is a bit more versatile than most of us have gotten used to. Oh, sure: The hero of each story is pretty much the same guy with a different name and a different gun (once in a while a different occupation--like an hombre who traps mountain lions for circuses). OK. And the leading ladies are all the same fetching western lass, as well. Granted. And big surprise: aforementioned hero always beats the bad guys and wins the heart of aforementioned fetching western lass. But don't assume L'Amour was just conforming to the times he grew up in. Watch a boxing movie from the time period in these tales were written (late '40s-early '50s), or some film noir, or read some of the crime fiction of the period. Pop culture had its share of squeaky-clean, handsome, G-rated good guys up to this point, to be certain; but to stick with that ran against the artistic zeitgeist.

L'Amour's protagonists weren't just handsome good guys--they were good good guys. Clean, honorable and honest. This reflected the sentimentality he and his readers felt about the frontier stage of American history. As Gene Autry sang in "Back in the Saddle Again":

...Out where a friend is a friend
Where you sleep out every night
And the only law is right

The "wild west" is frequently characterized as lawless. Well, they certainly didn't have all the police and jack-booted federal agents harassing the citizenry that we do now. Or lawyers, either. Yet society as a whole functioned much better then, despite the respective technology (women and children were safer, statistically, in the very worst frontier towns than they are today in our cities, for instance). Why? Most of the citizens didn't know much about the law, but they sure knew right from wrong.

Can't really say that today, can we?

We could sure use the kind of men L'Amour wrote about in our country now. It would be nice if everyone could brag that their "friends" were truly friends, too.

There were some good yarns in this anthology. Some felt cut a little short, probably due to their original pulp-bound purpose. A few could (should?) have been expanded to novel-length. It's easy to see why so many readers relate to this author's protagonists--they're young, strong, brave, good-looking and honest to a fault. Oh yeah, and almost always a phenomenal gunfighter, even if they punch cattle for a living. As Jeff Cooper might say, "They ride (hard), shoot straight, and speak the truth."

My favorite yarn in the batch was the last, the longest, and the one from which the title of this anthology was taken: West of the Tularosa. It's on the complex side for a L'Amour tale, some whodunnit mystery mixed in with the familiar range conflict.

R.I.P. Louis, we miss you. And your heroes.