Mr. Sandman, Bring Me a Dream

It may be the Fourth of July—Happy Birthday, America!—but it’s also Wednesday and time to write this week’s post.

I arrived in Seattle from Phoenix on July 2, 1981, driving a 78 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Brougham with my two kids in the back seat and a U-Haul trailer that was hitched to the back.  Packed in with all our worldly goods in the trailer was my dream of becoming a writer.  Less than a year later, in March of 1982, I sat down to write my first novel.  Fifty plus books later I can truly say that I’m living that dream.  Next week, however, when I’m in NYC for ThrillerFest, I’ll be awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by Strand Magazine.  One of the other Strand honorees this year is Michael Connolly, so this is truly an honor.  Although, considering I was 38 years old when I started writing and am 74 now, I’ve only been writing 51.3% of my life—just a tiny bit over half, so maybe the good folks at Strand round up.

It should be a memorable event.  After the award cocktail party on July 11, Bill and I will be hosting folks from both my publishing houses for dinner. Visions of a banquet with the Montagues and the Capulets come to mind, but I trust the dinner will be fun, too.  Growing up in Bisbee, New York City as a sophisticated, exotic place.  I still can’t quite believe that I get to be part of it sometimes. In my heart I will always consider Arizona my home, but Seattle will always be my creative home because this is where I finally gave myself permission to live the dream.

When I’m out on the road, people often ask if I keep a notepad on my nightstand so I can jot down ideas that come into my head overnight.  My stock answer to that is, “No, I don’t.  If the idea isn’t good enough to last until morning, it isn’t a good idea.”  What started me on that path, of course, is that before the miracle of Lasik I was blind as a bat without my glasses—20/850 and 20/900.  So locating my glasses as well as a pen and paper in the middle of the night just didn’t work for me.  In other words, I didn’t get into the habit of doing that to begin with and see no reason to change over to some other system at this point in time.

What about dreaming books into existence?  Nope, dreams don’t work for building books.  Thinking builds books.  Early on, the kids were uneasy when I sat staring into space without saying a word.  My position is it takes about twice as much time spent thinking to write a book as it does time spent keyboarding.

But that doesn’t mean that dreams aren’t part of the writing equation.  As I was finishing writing Field of Bones, for example, one of the characters from the book appeared in a dream and we had a long, interesting conversation.  That had never happened to me before in my whole life.

Sometimes book tours surface in my dreams, where I miss a flight connection and get locked out of my hotel room while wearing only a robe.  The latter actually happened to me once, when I was sitting out on my patio at the Arizona Inn in Tucson, reading my paper and drinking my coffee.  Who knew that as soon as you closed the door, you wouldn’t be able to open it again?  I had to call the front desk on my cell phone and ask them to send a bellman.

This week I had another book tour dream.  I was on my way to do an event “on the other side of Ajo.”  To my knowledge, there isn’t anything between Ajo and Yuma but “the other side of Ajo” is where I was heading.  When we got to Ajo, most of the town had been wiped out by … wait for it …  a Tsunami!  Who says dreams have to be logical?  The body of water closest to Ajo would be the Gulf of California, and that’s a very long distance to cover.  Nonetheless, instead of going on to the signing, Bill and I stayed on to help dig people out of the mud.

But writing about the dream just now, reminded me of my time as a District Manager with the Equitable in Phoenix.  A lady came to work for me, claiming to be a CLU—a Chartered Life Underwriter.  She filled out the forms, I turned them in, and—mistakenly—assumed that someone in the home office would do some kind of background check.  She came on board with the potential for a “big book of business.”  She had a very wealthy and most likely certifiably nuts prospective client named Frank who wanted to turn Phoenix into a seaport by building a canal from the Gulf of California to Buckeye.  That never happened, and the book of business never showed up, either.  Then, one day at lunch, my newbie agent happened to mention something about being a Certified Life Underwriter.  Hello.  Accountants earn a CPA designation—Certified Public Accountant—but for life insurance folks a CLU is CHARTERED LIFE UNDERWRITER!

I went straight back to the office, found a copy of her job application, and did some checking of my own.  It turned out that not only was her “CLU” bogus, so were all of her references.  I fired her that very afternoon.  As I write this, I wonder whatever became of her.  She was an older woman who claimed to be a widow.  That may or may not have been true as well.  And I wonder whatever became of Frank.  I can tell you for sure that he never bought insurance from me or any of my other agents.

Most of the time, my dreams are entirely forgettable.  They disappear into the ether within moments of waking and are gone by the time I make it to the coffee machine in the kitchen.  This time the dream has stayed with me, and writing about it just now brought back a memory that I hadn’t thought about in twenty-five or thirty years.

So the old gray cells are still working away, and to quote another song from the Fifties, Memories are Made of This.


ThrillerFest 2018 Website

14 thoughts on “Mr. Sandman, Bring Me a Dream

  1. When I went to the ophthalmologist to be checked for Lasik surgery back in 1997 he told me that the tests were meaningless for me–my eyesight in both eyes was somewhere in the range of 20/2500–with both nearsightedness and severe astigmatism it was a MIRACLE when I woke up the morning after my surgery and could see clearly across the room. My vision isn’t quite what it was right after the surgery because my eyes have continued to change as I got older, but it is still possible to work at my computer without glasses. Another thing we have in common (besides being the tallest girl in the class at age 12). I love your books. Keep writing please

  2. Good story about the woman who lied on her job application. I think folks do hoping that no one will check up on them. Sooner or later they get caught. I’m glad you left the insurance business and became a writer. You’ve found your niche.

    I was in the insurance business for several years. Both life and property. It wasn’t for me.

  3. Congratulations on winning the Lifetime Achievement Award! Such a well deserved honor…I’ve read your books for years and have loved them all.

  4. Congratulations. Here’s hoping every adventure in NYC is positive and you and Bill can relax and enjoy. Although your blogs are always interesting when you tell us about misadventures,

    Looking forward to the upcoming release.

  5. You’ve come a long way baby…from Bisbee to NYC for the Strand Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award and your life continues to award us with exciting adventures. Now I’ve got friends not only in Seattle but Tucson hooked.
    CONGRATULATIONS.
    By the way, I’m very jealous you’re with Michael Connolly (& Bill too).

  6. Congratulations on your well-deserved award! I love The Strand. I can hardly wait to read about your adventures in NYC!

  7. It’ll reach 113 degrees here in L. A. today, and I’m so glad any water we’re privy to wasn’t diverted to Buckeye. We have fine friends who live there, but really!
    If I had been choosing two authors for the Lifetime Achievement award, it would have been you and Michael Connelly. Well done, ThrillerFest! So looking forward to your report from that gathering, and, even more, to the new Joanna Brady!

  8. I used to tell mom my dreams, and she wondered how I remembered them, since hers disappeared as soon as she woke up. Nowadays, most of mine do, too; although occasionally, some crazy bit of one sticks around long enough for me to recall it. Nice to know it happens to others also.

    Enjoy your time in New York and your well-deserved award!!

  9. Congrats and have a great time in NYC. My hubby thought I was the only person in the world to have outlandish dreams. I am sending your blog to him so he can see I am not the only one. He admires you so maybe he won’t think I am quite as loony as he currently thinks. See you at the next book signing.

  10. Love your books, JA Jance, love your email newsletters. I am 84 and groove on good plots, interesting characters, and a reason to keep reading my fav authors. You are up there in the top 5. Keep up the good work, ma dear!

  11. I don’t know about the tsunami in Ajo, but I suspect the dream about a canal may have come from news stories about the beginnings of the CAP which eventually went from Lake Havasu to Tucson.

  12. I’m a little behind in reading your blogs but I wanted to comment on this one about dreams. I think I’m weird because if I lie on my right side and have a dream and then turn over to my left side, I have another dream, but when I turn over to my right side again, the right side dream continues, and the same is true of turning over to my left side. I’ve asked people about this and it has never happened to them, so I think I’m weird.

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