You Gotta Have a Dream

I just looked at the calendar and was amazed to see it’s already the twenty-second of March. The Ides have passed and April is looming on the horizon. How is that possible? Wait, I know how. Between the Tucson Festival of Books and the book launch/Left Coast Crime combo, I’ve spent close to two weeks on the road. It’s been fun and gratifying and tiring.

There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as arriving at an event half an hour early to find the room already filled to more than capacity with an enthusiastic audience. Since no one else could get in, I told the librarians not to turn anyone away but to let them know that if they came back in an hour, I’d do a second seating. Which I did. That made for three full events that day rather than two.

I had a few technical difficulties on the road. I’m not revisiting the Hertz Hurt here. That was last week’s sad story. On the way home at Sky Harbor, with my boarding pass safely loaded onto my cell phone, I left the check-in counter and went to my gate where I learned that my plane would be departing an hour later than scheduled. Since all my devices were on borrowed time as far as battery life was concerned, I located a chair in the boarding area that came equipped with a power source and spent that extra hour charging them.

But then…. Isn’t there always some kind of but? When the gate agent announced it was time for boarding, my phone suddenly quit speaking to me. It showed a teeny-tiny boarding pass at the bottom of the front screen, but it wouldn’t open enough for the gate agent to read it, and the phone wouldn’t turn off, either. When I pushed the two shut-down buttons, the phone vibrated and then a tiny siren sounded, but the phone still wouldn’t turn off. I arrived in Seattle with a cell phone that was dead as a doornail. When I explained what had happened to my driver, he let me use his phone to text Bill to tell him that I had landed and was on my way home. The driver also told me that when I got home and the phone hooked up to our wifi network, it would probably come back to life. He was right about that. It did come back on line once I got home, but since it went down again today while I was outside walking, I believe it may be time for a new phone.

So what was the trip like? Spending an entire weekend having people telling me how wonderful I am is pretty astonishing, but I did my best not to develop a swelled head. In several introductions I was referred to as “legendary” and “iconic. That was surprising since I generally view myself as just barely average—except for my height, that is. Several people stared up at me in amazement and said, “I didn’t know you were so tall. You don’t look that tall on your books.” Hello, that’s because for author cover shots, I’m usually photographed sitting down.

The one comment I heard over and over that really did surprise me was: “I didn’t know you were so funny.” I suspect that readers of this blog have already figured that out. I grew up in a family where humor was a way of life. During meals we laughed and talked. When I brought a friend from the reservation home to Bisbee for a visit, as we walked away after a long lunch spent laughing and talking, the friend asked, “Is your family always like that?” Well, yes, that’s how life was growing up in the Busk household.

When I’m on tour, my most meaningful interactions are always with my fans. During college, I was impeached as the song leader of my University of Arizona dorm for encouraging singing bawdy songs at dinnertime. The one that really corked it as far as the house mother was concerned was one of Rusty Warren’s memorable ditties:

Roll me over, in the clover,
Roll me over, lay me down, and do it again.

Rusty Warren happens to be the woman who coined that memorable female rallying cry, “Knockers up!” I ended up putting that catch phrase in one of my books. At the time Rusty was retired and living in Hawaii. When someone pointed it out to her, she contacted me, and I sent her a copy of Clawback autographed in red pen on the appropriate page. She’s since passed away, but Liz, her longtime manager, caregiver, and heir showed, up at one of the signings and presented me with a Knocker’s Up tee-shirt as well as a 45 rpm recording of Roll Me Over In the Clover. I no longer have access to a 45 record player, so I’ll probably have that one framed.

At another event, someone wanted his book signed to “A friend of Bill W.”, a code phrase that suggests someone is involved with AA. In this case, the man indicated that he had been in AA for 29 years and that J.P. Beaumont had helped him sober up. Another woman told me that when a friend gave her a copy of After the Fire while she was involved in a problematic divorce, it was the most meaningful gift anyone anyone had ever given her.

And then there’s the lifetime achievement award. Being given one of those by Left Coast Crime was a thrill. Barbara Peters of the Poisoned Pen did the lifetime achievement interview. It was filmed, and once the video is available, I’ll post it here. The interview was on Friday afternoon. The actual awards banquet was held on Saturday night. I had been told that I was expected to deliver a short speech. I didn’t.

During my high school years in Bisbee, Arizona, I was the tall, gawky girl with glasses who never had a single date. Years later, when I heard Janis Ian’s song “At Seventeen,” it really resonated with me, even though at 4′-10″, Janis was at the opposite end of the height spectrum compared to my 6′-1″. The words of that song have stayed with me ever since, and one of the huge blessings of my life has been meeting and becoming friends with Janis Ian.

Last summer, while on what was supposed to be her farewell tour, Janis began having throat difficulties. A doctor’s diagnosis meant that her singing career ended abruptly without her being able to finish the tour. As a consequence, at the awards banquet on Saturday night, rather than delivering a speech, I sang Janis’s song in her honor.

It ends with the following words:

And dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me.

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend more than forty years living the dream I dreamed back then—that someday I would be a writer. It’s my readers—all of you included—who have made all those dreams come true. As my mother, Evie, would say, “Whoever you are, you know who you are!”

When I finished the song, the people in the ball room gave me a standing ovation. I can tell you, that meant a lot to me, and when I told the story to Janis, it meant a lot to her, too.

We may be the long and the short of it, but we’re both ugly duckling girls whose hopes and dreams have all come true.

43 thoughts on “You Gotta Have a Dream

  1. One wonderful part of your life is that because your dream came true, you brought so much satisfaction to millions of others. Both you and Janis Ian have the pleasure of knowing that because you realized your dreams, so many fans can spend hours engrossed in your talents.

    • Alaska Airlines has chargers onboard…. but SW doesn’t…and I used to fly SW all the time, and also SW only has two nonstops from Sky harbor to Sea Tac…
      Loved your book tour events, but haven’t been able to attend any this year ?.

  2. Loved your comment re “Ugly Duckling”. Yes, I too was an Ugly Duckling but now at age 80 – I feel lovely. Unfortunately, married the first guy that looked at me; married 2 alcoholics, etc., etc. Met you in Hudson, Oh where I bought your absolutely wonderful book After The Fire; cried all the way thru it. Believe it is the best book you ever wrote & would advise anyone married to an alcoholic to read it.
    Love your other books also!!!

  3. Looking at life with another view point allows perspective and depth of field, equalling detail and better understanding. Nice t see your views of Seattle as mine are hard to stomach

  4. Dear Judy,
    One of the absolute BEST days of my life was meeting you. I’ve been on Cloud 29 since March 14. Still giving you a standing ovation through every memory and recounting of that miraculous day!!!
    My heart breaks for those pain-filled days you experienced on the way to where you are now. I wish I could gift that away from your memories. Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, no matter what age we are, it’s near impossible to get it back in.
    Thank you for the personal time that you shared with me. La Pinata has a new forever fan… and so do you!! Hubs and I send our very best to the wonderful souls in the right and the left chair!!!
    Your favorite Yuman,
    Teresa Kennedy

  5. I’ve read all your books repeatedly! And thanks for the tip about Arnicare! It really works!

    Have a great day! – Don

  6. Loved your latest story especially the Janis Ian part. I’m sure she appreciate being immortalized.
    Hopefully you got your phone issue resolved.
    Hope you had a good week – and have a great weekend!


  7. What a lovely read. Your mother’s quote brought back such a wonderful memory to me. Her admonishment to me was, “Where ever you are, you know who you are and don’t you forget that”! That really stuck with me over the years.

  8. All ugly duckling girls need to remember that the ugly duckling turns into a swan.

    I used to teach with a tall red head. When asked her height, she would tell people that she was 5 foot 12. By that measure, I guess you are 5 foot 13.

  9. My parents had a Rusty Warren album and as children we would listen to it. We didn’t know what half the words were, but we sure did laugh a lot. I don’t think they ever found out we listen to it.

  10. It was a pleasure meeting you at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ! I have been a big fan of yours for many years loving each of the characters you bring to life. But, I’ve now become an even bigger fan of who you are as a person. It’s not always the personality of the actual writer is appreciated even more than their books. I adore your wit and the way you express yourself about your daily life. I share your humor and am confident we could be great friends if we lived near each other–and that’s just how I feel about your characters. Thank you for being you, Judy!

  11. I enjoyed your story and look forward to you each week.
    By the way I’m now reading your latest, “Collateral Damage” and can hardly put it down. Your books are all so good and I’ve read most all of them.
    Do you ever do book tours in California? I went to a couple here and met Earlene Fowler and had my books signed. Its special that way. I also miss her books.

  12. Ha ha ha…. Rusty Warren!!! My parents had her records 78s and played them for their friends often. I was a kid, maybe a young teenager who didn’t yet “get” the “other meaning” until I was older! (I was pretty naive!).

    Besides “roll me over in the clover” we sometimes sing (me & my hubby) “she had freckles on her ….. but, she was pretty, all the sailors gave her chase, cause they loved her naval base, she had freckles on her …but she was pretty!” That’s about all the words we remember! Loved how bawdy she was!!

  13. Wonderful! .. I met you at Poison Pen about 35 yr ago and you wrote me a note on one of your books. You remain an inspiration to me!

  14. Sorry I missed you. We were in the valley lastbweek but got in late on Wed. My son got married on Sat. in Scottsdale.

    When I was in the solar biz, I put a solar water heater on Rusty Warren’s house in Paradise Valley. I don’t remember meeting her but I’m pretty sure it was Liz that we dealt with.

  15. Those of us old enough to remember Rusty Warren are dating ourselves. Those were my Army years.

  16. JA, you are so much fun to read! I always have a smile on my face when I’m reading you.

    What a tech riot you had! As 75 year olds who are very set in our ways, my husband and I usually feel like we’ve fought WW3 when all those things go wrong online. We say a few unprintable words and try to march on. What gets to me the most is when my hubby, who usually has excellent road radar, tells me WAZE (our driving app) is wrong. Crike! This happens many times on our road trips. And he always loses. lol

    What a great life you’ve lived. You deserve it!

    A fan forever here!

  17. God bless all of us ugly ducklings! Proud and honored to be part of the gang!

  18. My daughter has accepted a job at Boeing. I told her that I knew a lot about Seattle, thanks to you, and recommended the Beaumont books. I am sure that she will enjoy them!!

  19. I was almost my full height 5′ 9″ in the 6th grade. That did not come with “boobs” as a lot of my shorter friends lives. And I was a stick with only one redeeming feature as I found when I started college……… nickname was “legs”. When I graduated from high school there were TWO boys as tall as I was at 17. Then I went t0 my 50 year high school reunion where so very many of the “boys” were taller than I. Then my next life’s hurtle. For the first 65 years of my life I had been called Gay which is my middle name. While working a big event I offered my hand to Bill Gates and said “Hi, I’m Gay”! And the looks on the faces around his back, looking back, were hilarious! And now when in my doctor’s office they call Rolla:-) Sometimes I answer.

  20. It’s not news to me that you are funny! Especially while reading the Ali Reynolds books I am often laughing out loud, and then quoting the jokes to my husband and friends, who always crack up upon hearing them!
    As for the pain and anguish you went through in your first marriage, on the way to realizing your dream, difficult as it was, I’m sure it had a lot to do with the with way you so intuitively create and develop characters, and the wisdom about life and hardship that always comes through in your mysteries-

  21. I, too, was an ugly duckling in the years where that mattered, 6 foot 2 and 128 pounds skinny and teeth in desperate need of straightening.

    But I got lucky, and my body improved!!! Still understand, though, what all of that felt like.

    Bob Glass

  22. Congratulations on the honor & happy for you! What a last couple weeks you’ve had–wow! You have so much energy–rest on your laurels & enjoy now & I was lucky to meet you in person at Tempe library years ago & I agree w/others on your great sense of humor :- ) Bless you & thanks for your gifts of that humor, books & more

  23. I laughed reading about the bawdy song.

    When I was a kid rummaging in the attic, I came across some old records of my mom’s. One had a title I never forgot … “Do, Do, Do Just What Your Mother Did and I’ll Do Just the Same as Your Dad.” Since all can be found thru a Google search it seems, here from 1916, for your listening pleasure, tho not as bawdy as title implies

  24. Do you tape these events so the rest of us can be blessed to watch??? I would love to attend virtually. I enjoy these writing but I know I would enjoy watching you ‘in person’.
    I always envy those who actually got to attend and see you perform. I would have loved hearing you sing!

  25. Love this blog. I can identify with the laughter of a family. All my relatives were pranksters. One aunt put a new rubber night crawler in the green beans at a Christmas dinner one year. When someone started to dish it up, the night crawler slithered off the spoon. My grandma was so mad that she dumped out all of the beans. You may consider yourself an ugly duckling but to me you have a beautiful heart and that’s all that matters. Also, have always loved the “roll me over in the clover” song.

  26. This is Connie Miser (Lil’Pats daughter-in-law). I just wanted to let you know that Pat Miser passed away on Saturday March 25th. She was probably one of your biggest fans and I think she would like you to know how much she loved your books and kept reading them until a few weeks ago. She was 98 and lived a long full life. Thank you for being part of her life. We all miss her but she’s not hurting anymore and is probably starting a fan club for you in Heaven. Thanks again for being such a great writer and including Lil’Pat in one of your books ??
    Connie Miser

    • Dear Connie,

      Last Sunday at the Third Place Books event, someone told me that her mother had passed away and that she used to bring her to signing events. My first thought was, “Not Lil Pat.” It turned out not to be your mother-in-law, but I think it’s interesting that the day after her passing I was thinking of her. Please accept my condolences. Lil Pat was one tiny dynamo.

  27. I too related to Janis Ian’s song when I was that age because of the red birthmark on my face. Never asked out for a date in high school. Later settled for the first guy to ask me out. That didn’t end well. As for your books I have read all but the last 4 or 5 from all the series! I have all the ones I read displayed on a shelf in my bedroom. If I end up in a nursing home I told family they are coming with me. As you grow older you forget the TV shows, movies, etc you have seen so I am sure I will enjoy rereading your books again!!! Greatly enjoyed all of them. I look forward to reading the rest. Thank you for creating such wonderful mysteries!! When I tell friends and relatives to read your books I also tell them it is a shame they don’t make a TV series or movie out of them!! Blessings to you.

    • This week I heard from someone who had done just that–moved into Assisted Living and taken her J.A. Jance books with her. I like to think that at some time in the future people’s collections of my books will be shared with many others at a time when my stories will be able to help people whose time is in need of beguiling.

  28. We were so pleased to be able to see and hear you in Sun City West on Tues. Mar. 14, 2023. Thank you for talking and answering questions for well over an hour. Muchly appreciated and as a lot of people said, you have a great sense of humour and we really enjoyed hearing about the Man in your right hand chair. We are proud to say that we have been following your books (and you) for the past decade, having first started to read your books when we came down to Sun City West to see our friends from Washington state. We live in Chase, B.C., Canada and have enjoyed over 37 years of friendship with our friends, who used to live in Olympia, Wash. They turned us onto your books and we have not ever been disappointed. Thank you for sharing your talent as aa story teller + author, we simply love you. Dave + Deb

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