Tales from the DOTB Trail, Final Edition

As I’ve been doing presentations on this tour, I’ve been talking about the importance of things coming full circle, not only with regard to life on the reservation but also in terms of my own life—like finally having the opportunity of meeting the grandson of my second grade teacher, Mrs. Spangler, and having the opportunity to tell him what a huge difference his grandmother’s presence made in my life.

Sometimes closing circles are good things; sometimes not so much.

At first glance, last night, in St. Louis, was one of the latter.

In the late fall of 1990, I was on my first-ever national book tour with my first-ever hardback, Walker Family book number one, Hour of the Hunter.  One of the stops was in Bellingham.  As I drove north for one of my first-ever signings at Village Books, I listened to the radio as Wolf Blitzer, from the roof of a hotel in the Middle East, reported on the bombing in Baghdad.  The rest of the world may have been glued to their television sets that afternoon and evening, but I was driving through rain, heading north from Seattle.

When it came time for the signing, there were only five people in attendance. Realizing that, for whatever reason, those five people had chosen to leave the war behind in favor of coming to a book signing to see me, I did the whole-meal-deal for them, putting on a show that cut no corners.  Those five had come out that night to be entertained, and entertain I did.

Last night in St. Louis, in a wonderful new auditorium in a recently remodeled main library, it was deja vu all over again.  In a space that most likely would have held 250 to 300, there were only five people.  FIVE!  Two of them were people from my database who had come after receiving notices from me.  The other three, presumably, came from publicity efforts on the part of the library.

It was, to say the least, a shock to my system.  Most of the time on this tour, I’ve been speaking to audiences numbering in the 150 to 200 mark—to say nothing of Monroe, Oregon, where there was a standing-room-only crowd of 275. On tour, part of what sustains me, is the energy that comes back to me from people in the audience—their laughter and applause.

As a public speaker, one who is accustomed to being engaged with the audience, it’s terribly distracting to be faced with disinterested people.  In Salt Lake, for example, I encountered a young couple who spent the entire event whispering back and forth to one another.  I kept wondering why they were there to begin with, since they were so clearly disinterested in what I had to say. I was sorely tempted to call them out on it, but I didn’t.  Boorish behavior on the part of the audience doesn’t justify boorish behavior on the part of the speaker, so I ignored them as best I could, because the other people in auditorium WERE interested.

Unlike the couple in Salt Lake, the five people in attendance in St. Louis last night were with me one hundred percent. It took me time to come to terms with the fact that they were the ones who DIDN’T stay home last night to watch the Cardinals win their divisional title.  And even though they may have been few in number, they gave me the energy and focus to put on my big girl panties and give them the full-meal-deal.  To Betty, Jan, Mildred, Angie, and the other one whose name escapes me, thank you for that!  Thank you for being there.

As I write this blog posting, it’s Thursday morning.  There are only two more ‘live’ events on the schedule—one tonight in Des Moines and one tomorrow in Omaha.  Based on last night’s experience, I’m wondering what those will hold, but whatever the numbers, I’ll do my best.

The real point of this blog is to say thank you to all the fans who have shown up at events—not just the ones on the DOTB tour, but the ones on other tours as well, down through the years.  Over time, some fans like Richard and Ruth, in Albuquerque, have become friends.  Or like Terry, who drove across Colorado to see me, only to be turned away because a fire marshal said the room was too full.  Or like Micki in Caldwell, Texas, or Lillian in Plano, who both stepped up and joined the Relay for Life Cancer Fighting Flamingo fight when we were losing our son-in-law to melanoma.  Or like Bev in Peoria who told me about losing her husband during the Vietnam war and who now, because of our meeting on a book tour, has a Michael Reagan portrait of her lost Captain Barden hanging on her bedroom wall.

Inevitably, in a fan base like this, there are losses as well.  For a long time, a man named O.V. Barlow, a Vietnam vet from Phoenix—who was battling four different types of cancer—would send me interesting comments on both my books and my blogs.  Despite being in a wheel chair, he made a huge effort to come to a Second Watch event in Peoria, Arizona, when Bonnie Abney and I were there.  He bought the book and then, due to his personal history, waited for months before was finally able to read it and tell me how much it meant to him.  O.V. stopped commenting on the blog earlier this year and there were no replies to the e-mails I sent, asking if he was okay.  A week or so ago, while in Phoenix, I called the V.A. Hospital, hoping he was an in-patient there.  It was on the phone that I finally learned his first name was Otto.  That’s also when I learned that he passed away this past April.  Rest in Peace, Otto Barlow.  And thank you for your service.

These are only some of the people whose presence and friendship in my life have come about as a result of my being out on book tours.  There are plenty of others—and I count them all, each and every one—as a blessing in my life.

This is a shout out to all of you who have come to my events, including those precious few ladies, in St. Louis, who have given me the strength, determination, and energy to carry on. And it’s also a shout-out to the people in publicity in New York who have invested time and energy in making this tour the very best it could be.  They’ve managed to snag far more interviews than I’ve had on ANY of the preceding tours.

Tomorrow night, after Omaha, we’ll fly home to Seattle.  The jet will touch down briefly in Spokane to drop off my son, Bill J., who has been driving Miss Daisy and wrangling luggage and misbehaving electronics on this month-long venture.

By midnight tomorrow, I’ll be home with Bill and Bella and Jojo.  In the morning, I’ll be able to put on my robe and drink my own coffee.  A little later, I’ll don my  walking shoes and go walking in the garden.  It was still summer there when I left.  It will be fall when I come home.  I’ve fallen down on the number of steps on this trip, but I expect to get them back once I’m home.

Thus endeth Tales from the DOTB Trail.  Thanks, too, to those of you who have followed the tour through this blog.  I may not always respond personally to your comments, but your encouraging words are always greatly appreciated.

As for that five and five circle?  This morning in the clear light of day, I can smile about that newly closed circle.  And I can also go do what needs to be done today.

Onward to Des Moines.

15 thoughts on “Tales from the DOTB Trail, Final Edition

  1. I was the lady in St. Louis whose name you couldn’t remember. I truly enjoyed seeing and listening to you. Whenever I find out you will be in the area, I put it on my calendar and show up. I think many people went to the other library to see you because of the change in venue. I had to search out where you were going to be because we are on automatic and I had just written down library in my planner. I do follow your blog and it was clear where you would be, but I don’t always “stay in the moment”. Looking forward to your next book.

  2. Kudos to those 5 women for making a choice to have their lives enriched by attending one of your engagements. As I said to you in Mesa, Az two weeks ago, you are inspiring! From “another Cochise County girl” .

  3. I LOVE your books, and look forward to adding DOTB to my library! I do wish you would come further East in your tours! I live in MD and work in Washington, D.C., and am willing to take a road trip to see you! (VA, PA, DE, WV. . . .!)

    Thank you for writing such awesome stories, and keeping me entertained for so many years (and many years to come!)

  4. It was so wonderful to see you in Albuquerque on Monday, September 28. When you signed my book before your talk, I mentioned I’d spent time with you at Bouchercon in Long Beach last year. But there were so many people at that event and you were, after all, the guest of honor, I wasn’t surprised that you didn’t remember me out of that swarm of people. I brought my friend, Joan, with me, and this was her second time to come to one of your Albuquerque signings. She was blown away by your talk. She’s pretty new at going to book signings, and didn’t fully grasp how each one can be completely different from any others. We both became so engrossed in your story (we were on the second row, right in your line of sight!) that we talked about it all the way home. Although my star, as a published mystery writer, will never shine as brightly as yours, you’ve taught me so much about gratitude for those who show up, despite the challenges of the date and time. Thank you again for giving us “your all” for a relatively small audience (although better than five!) I promise to always be there for you as long as I can.

  5. I looked for an article on the Des Moines Register site this morning about your appearance, but didn’t see one. I think you have to be a football or baseball team to get mention in that paper.

    I hope you had a good crowd. I used to go to the old library in Des Moines years ago, but have never been to this new building. Nice to have you come to my home state. The library had a nice write-up and photo of you.

  6. I love reading your blogs!! Even if you came East it would be unlikely I could actually get to see you since I don’t have a car anymore.
    I listened to two of your books again (Joanna Brady series) this week and a JP Beaumont before that. I bought Second Watch because the library does not have it on audio. I shuddered over Beau’s knee replacements because I should have had one a few years back.
    I am glad another person commented on change of venue being a problem because where I live, we have 3 libraries with similar names and I can’t tell you how many time we had someone turn up asking about a certain meeting that was not in our library.
    I always go back to your books for a very satisfying story. I don’t do road trip very well anymore so don’t know how you do it.
    So glad I could get to know Washington State and Arizona through your books – exciting and satisfying!!
    ~Nancy~

  7. Reading your blog is like reading a personal letter from you. I am getting the impression that you are,having a wonderful tour. I am sure it has, had it’smoments but it sounds like it was successful. I also am thinking you are really glad to be going home.
    Enjoy your rest time and get back to your normal life.. Have a great week.. Jan

  8. Sorry about the 5 but figured there had to be something different than just a sporting event. Perhaps the change in venues did matter. I love your blogs. I love how the family pitches in and helps. You’ve earned a “rest”, so take advantage of this time. All the time I’m writing this, I am thinking when is the next book? Happy Fall!

  9. Has anyone ever referred to you as “the energizer bunny?” Travel is a killer, but you seem to thrive on it because of your fan base. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading. Looking forward to the next Ali and Joanna. I’ve enjoyed DOTB. Question: Will there ever be any overlap for Ali like there has been with the other three series … or have I missed something along the way?

  10. My friend and I enjoyed your book signing at RH Johnson library in Sun City West. It was the first book signing I had ever attended. I have read all of your books and especially love Beau. Look forward to finishing DOTB and seeing you on your next book tour.

  11. It is a cold and miserable day in CT, but I got the new Beau book from the library this morning. Guess what I am going to do today? I don’t care if it snows!

  12. As one of your fans who has been fortunate enough to hear you speak in person, let me apologize for the rudeness of the couple in Salt Lake City. You are a divine and delightful presence- they were the losers in their inattention.
    It makes me cringe to think of that forming your experience here. I brought my mom to see you at the Whitmore Library and we were both thrilled to listen to your talk and meet you in person. We were touched by your rendition of “17” as well.
    Thank you for many years of good reading and for following your talent to the benefit of us all.
    Much love! xxooxx Gabi

  13. We have enjoyed your presence in our lives for many years now, and thank you for staying the course and for making us feel like we’re involved in events.

  14. I am reading “Dance of the Bones” and was tickled to read your description of a man as beyond evil with murderous ways. He is a creative writing instructor.

    Long time readers will know this character is based on the nasty creative writing instructor who refused to let you take his class many years ago. I love how you’ve gotten even. Do you know if he is still alive?

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