More Tales from the Remains Trail

It’s tired out tonight–two weeks exactly into a tour that started two days after our return home from two weeks in Europe. If that’s too many twos for you, welcome to my world.

One of my e-mail correspondents sent me something this week that made me laugh out loud. She told me, “You’re not just pushing seventy. You’re pushing it over the cliff.” But as I sit here tonight, barely upright in my chair at the Ritz in Phoenix, I could use a little of Lucille Ball’s Vitameatavegamin.

So tonight I’m going with what’s struck me about the last few days on tour. First, I cannot tell you what an honor it was to be at the Moving Wall Ceremony at the Veterans Museum in Chehalis last Saturday. It was hot–dreadfully hot, well into the nineties. The chairs were lined up in direct sunlight on a blazing afternoon. But the crowd listened in respectful silence as Bonnie Abney and I told the story of her lost love, Leonard Douglas Davis who died in Vietnam 48 years ago that very day. The event was on August 2, 2014. Doug, a schoolmate of mine from Bisbee, Arizona, and Bonnie’s fiancé, died on August 2, 1966. Bonnie and I stood on stage next to the portrait of Doug that was drawn by Michael Reagan of the Fallen Heroes Project. The portrait is taken from a photograph that came to light less than two years ago as a result of Bonnie’s involvement in my book, Second Watch. That book may be mostly fiction, but it includes Doug’s and Bonnie’s very real and terribly tragic story.

Then Michael Reagan told how he has spent the last ten years drawing portraits of fallen heroes from more recent wars. Now, starting with Doug’s portrait which he did for Bonnie, he has embarked on a path that has him bringing fallen soldiers home from Vietnam, including several that are a direct result of Michael’s being pulled into the Second Watch orbit. In drawing those portraits–two were delivered on Saturday and a third was promised–Michael is bringing healing and comfort to literally thousands of Gold Star families. But, as he said in his talk on Saturday, he’s finding his own healing as well.

Today, in Sun City, I ran into Bev Barden, the widow of one of a lost hero and the recipient of one of Michael’s portraits. She told me she hung it in her bedroom. That picture is the last thing she sees before she goes to sleep at night and the first thing she sees in the morning when she wakes up.

That’s the serious side of being on tour. Here’s something a bit more light-hearted. In 2000 the University of Arizona awarded me an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. I don’t refer to myself Dr. Jance although that’s my handle in some places–mostly notably on junk mail offering cruises to exotic destinations. It seems, however, that some of my readers are taking the Dr. title to heart.

One woman wrote to say that after reading an Ali Reynolds book in which a homicide suspect talked about sleeping soundly due to her C-PAP machine, she decided to follow her doctor’s orders and try using one herself. She now credits my book with helping her have two years of restful sleep.

Another woman, in Eugene, went to war with her orthopedic surgeon when he wouldn’t agree to replace both her bad knees at once. “I don’t know why not,” she told him. “J.P. Beaumont had both of HIS done at once.” The doctor gave her a puzzled frown. “You’re not the first person to tell me that,” he said. “I guess I’m going to have to check this J.P. character out.”

And yet a third reader wrote today, saying that my stories have kept him company during the last several years he’s spent battling oral cancer. When faced with sleepless nights, he’s found comfort and escape in reading my books.

Those are all good stories, and there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t have heard any of them if I hadn’t been out here on the road, living out of a suitcase, going to signings, and doing my best to be charming, 24/7. Not easy. And glamour is pretty hard to come by when the rooms at venues are so overheated that my makeup and sweat is literally dripping off my nose!

So yes, it’s tiring. It’s hard work. But the stories mentioned above constitute what Bill calls the “psychological income” of being an author, and you know what? Tired or not, I wouldn’t want to miss out on any of them.