Before I go any further, I must tell you that the lovely young woman pictured with this blog isn’t one of my granddaughters—but then again, in a way, she is, so stay tuned.
I’ve been a mystery writer for a very long time—coming up on forty years in March of this year. In a way it seems like no time at all, then again, it does.
When my first Beaumont book, Until Proven Guilty, was about to be published, I asked my editor about a book tour. “What book tour?” was the response. “This is a paperback. Nobody signs paperbacks.” But a paperback was all I had, and I was determined to do signings, come hell or high water. So my agent set up a tour—all expenses NOT paid—and I went out and did a total of thirty signings, not only for that book but for the next eight as well. It wasn’t until my first hardback came out that my publisher started funding my book tours.
In the beginning, signings consisted mostly of my sitting at a table and signing books for people who happened to wander into a B. Dalton’s or Waldens. The publisher had carefully calculated how many books a first-time author would sell, so the print run for UPG was 30,000. They printed that many and shipped same. Then when all the orders for those signings came in, the book was already out of print. Eventually they had to do something they never expected to do—a second printing. That was in 1985, and Until Proven Guilty has been continually in print ever since.
Eventually book signings morphed from my sitting at signing tables into my doing talks as well. I thank my lucky stars every day for the Dale Carnegie Course my insurance company encouraged me to attend, as well as for the year I spent in Toastmasters. Both of those gave me a good grounding in the art of public speaking. With the help of those two organizations, I really did me learn how “to make friends and influence people.”
Over time I came to love that part of the book world—the public part. While answering questions at the end of a talk or while chatting with folks in a signing line, I got to know some of my readers. I heard firsthand from them about what they thought of my various books and stories. I also heard about how what I had written had affected their lives. And that’s one of the reasons I’ve mourned the fact that Covid has probably ended the whole idea of book tours as they once were, and boy do I ever miss meeting my readers!
To that end, comments on the blog and the emails folks send to me directly have been a real lifeline throughout the dark days of 2020 and 2021.
This week I heard from a woman who had just read After the Fire. She told me how my story of walking away from an alcoholic first husband in order to save myself and my kids reminded her of the time when she’d had to do the same thing with a similarly affected sister—walk away and decide to stop trying to fix the unfixable. Losing a spouse and losing a sister may be two different things, but with the common denominator of booze, the story of my journey resonated with her. And I truly appreciated reading what she had to say.
That’s one connection story. Yes, I know I still haven’t explained the photo, but stay tuned. Here’s another one.
Last November I heard from a reader in Louisana—a guy named Brent. His father, George, was a great fan of mine. In March of 2020, when Brent was flailing around, looking for something new to read, his father suggested my books, and all of a sudden, Brent was hooked. For years people have told me that reading my books is like eating Fritos because you can’t read just one. That certainly proved to be the case with Brent. Then, in December of 2020, after a brief battle with Covid, George passed away. (End of sentence or not, I can’t bring myself to use the word passed without the added presence of that much needed preposition. That’s probably due to a regional dialect, but there you are! Live with it.)
Brent told me about the garden fence he and his dad had been working on together before George died. He also mentioned that seeing the garden now and reading my books reminded me of his father, and asked if there would be any way he could obtain a copy of Nothing to Lose signed in memory of his dad when it comes out in February. Asked and answered, and that will definitely happen! Then, because Brent was intent of tracking down all my work, he asked where he could obtain a copy of a short story called “Second Fiddle.” I vaguely remembered writing that, but I no longer had the file and I had no idea about where it had been published. Fortunately for both of us, Brent’s wife, Rebecca, is a librarian. She managed to track down a copy of an anthology called First Cases, published for Bouchercon in Nottingham, England, in the mid-nineties. No wonder I no longer had the file! That was back in the old, old days when I was still working on Toshiba laptops with floppy discs—the three-and-a-half inch ones encased in plastic, although I remember even older ones—the five-and-a quarter inch floppy floppies from my Eagle days back in the early eighties. Not only did Rebecca manage to locate a copy of the book for Brent, she found one for me, too.
Then Brent wrote again saying that as a Christmas gift he was planning a trip to Southern Arizona over the holidays for Rebecca and himself and for their daughter, Danielle, and son-in-law, Grant. He asked for suggestions about things to see and do. In addition to visiting Bisbee, which they loved, they also toured the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. The photo is of Danielle outside their Tucson area condo having just finished reading her first J.A. Jance book, Desert Heat.
That makes Danielle a third-generation reader of my books, so she’s not a grandchild, exactly, but certainly a Grand-reader—a GR as it were. There may be other GRs out there in addition to my own grandkids, but she’s the first documented one to be brought to my attention.
Just knowing about my connection to three generations of her family makes me very happy.