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CITY SERENADE is on the shelves. Number six in the John Bowers series. Check it out at Amazon, Powells, Barnes and Noble or wherever you book browse.

Detectives John Bowers and his partner Minola Raye catch another case in Portland, Oregon's Central Precinct robbery/homicide unit. There's more of the continuing ingredients in the police procedural genre that draws certain folks to a menu of tasty sexual drama, forensics, street-level reality and gritty cop plots. And, of course, the continuing personal sparring of cops caught in trying to figure out how to handle the regular sexual attraction comrades share on the job and off.

With every book that comes out, a little reflection is provoked. It's no secret that writing in any genre can be less than rewarding for most of us. The "us" is the overwhelming mass of those who aspire to achieve a little success commercially but even more important to feeding the soul, a little garden-variety respect from fellow wordsmiths and artists.

Long before I ever saw any of my books in print, I was buds with a sculptor. He dragged what looked like firewood or beach snags into his workshop and then slowly coaxed out an amazing true-to-life image of wild things -- bears, beavers, otters, fish. Suddenly where I'd seen only something good for feeding my fireplace, creatures had morphed into something beautiful. Original. Able to draw oohs and awes from a crowd of rubes. We used to sit in his workshop among the wood shavings and discuss the magic of creating a work of art from only the musty musings of our imagination. We were childishly naive about the process. Creation is the easy part of the labor. It's when we stick our toe in the shark-infested waters of the commercial world that we most often fall in and drown with all the other lemmings who misread the cruel world of art.

So my sculptor friend took the only sensible path he could find to artistic acclaim and OD'd on something, which was probably illegal and expensive. While his passing was a personal tragedy, it did wonders for his rep. After the funeral, his old lady sold three carved grizzlies. (He'd hate me for using 'carved' instead of sculpted which he often assured me was the proper term for his work). Next there was a blurb in the local press about his struggle to achieve success for his "amazing re-creation of Nature's beauty". Six months after that, I visited his clan and found his workshop stripped except for the piles of wood chips swept into mole hills everywhere. I was told how eager-beaver buyers had taken it all, positive his carvings would be worth ten times what they paid before his buried remains were mulch.

I take some comfort in my friend's life. He chipped, buzz-sawed and whittled his way from obscurity to fame just by living a normal life of inspiration, labor, a little love and then a hole in the ground at Mount Scott Cemetery. May not seem like much to some folks who have never felt the thrill and exultation of carving a thing of beauty or composing an inspirational opus or stringing together words and punctuation to create an alternate reality.

I'm hoping that what I write will mean something to somebody once in a while. While I'll admit to wanting that film option or a literary prize bigger than a bowling trophy, I'm reconciled to anonymity. But if someone I'll never know picks up one of my books, and it makes them feel better, understand someone else's feelings a little better or sees the world a little differently or just makes them laugh at the screwy lives other folks lead, then that's my reward. May not seem like much given the labor and soul-searching involved in telling stories. But we keep writing. Because there are as many paths to that hole in the ground where we'll all be planted someday as there are stars in the universe.


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