Tales from the Trailette

Posts from book tours usually come under the heading of Tales from the Trail. For this abbreviated book tour Trailette is the best I can do—and I can tell you that the fact-checking spellchecker on this computer doesn’t like the word Trailette AT ALL!

The first day of the tour took me to Fort Myers, Florida, for the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. I’m a night owl. Having to be up at five AM for a five-thirty pickup isn’t in my wheelhouse, and I did that whole day’s worth of travel on two hours and thirty-four minutes’ worth of sleep. I know that for a fact because my watch is like Santa Claus—it knows when I am sleeping, and it knows when I’m awake.

Upon stepping out of the airport in Tampa, I found myself in a strange new world. Some people were wearing masks, but most weren’t, and I was overjoyed to see faces again. I’ve missed being able to see people laughing and smiling. And I’ve missed conversations, too. Until Covid, I had no idea how much of my hearing was connected to being able to see people’s lips moving. By the way, having masked people make announcements in airports isn’t such a good idea, ether. I didn’t hear a critical announcement about a gate change and had to hustle to make my plane.

I hadn’t been to the Fort Myers festival before and didn’t know what to expect. Usually at festivals, authors are booked in to do a series of panels, and my strategy for surviving book tours is to wake up in the morning, check the schedule, and then do whatever the schedule says I’m supposed to do that day. So, on Saturday morning, when my hostess came to the hotel to pick me up, I asked what time my panel was. “You don’t have a panel,” she said. “You have an hour-long solo appearance starting at eleven-fifteen.” What? A solo appearance? Well then, okie-dokie!

When I arrived in Seattle in the early eighties, I was still selling insurance. A few months later, my employer offered to pay for the Dale Carnegie course on Winning Friends and Influencing People. Thinking it would make me better at insurance sales, I signed up. During the first class I discovered that this was actually a course in public speaking, so I tried to back out, but the only way to get my tuition reimbursed was to finish the class. I did so and am I ever glad I did! It was during a coffee break in one of the Dale Carnegie classes when someone suggested I should write a book. I decided she was right, and four days later, I did exactly that—started writing my first book, and the rest is history. But by completing that course, I also learned how to do be comfortable doing public speaking. A year or two later, when I sold my first manuscript and knew that eventually I’d be out doing live appearances, I spent a year in Toastmasters as well.

In other words, when that hour-long solo appearance in Fort Myers dropped on my head with no advance warning, I was ready—for everything EXCEPT the height of the podium.

There’s a reason the risers on stairs are all of a uniform height. I’m not exactly sure what that measurement is. I’m writing this on another early-morning flight, and I can’t Google it at the moment. I believe the standard is height is six or seven inches. So, when I was escorted into the festival tent with two hundred or more people already seated in the audience, I was faced with a stage that was a good sixteen inches off the ground—two and a half of that standard riser height and way more than I could manage.

I stopped short and said, “I can’t do that.” Here’s what happened next. The emcee and two others—literally two men and a boy—grabbed me by the arms and hauled me up onto the stage like a landed halibut. Talk about a dignified entrance! The people in the audience thought it was hilarious. I did not! After the introduction, it took a moment or so for me to gather my wits. Then, realizing that the people in the tent were there to have fun, I channeled my inner Carol Burnett and told the story of another less-than-dignified author event.

This was back in the old days—back when I wore heels and No Nonsense Panty Hose. (Now I wear Skechers. If you wanted to see me in heels and hose, you should have been at book events twenty or thirty years ago!) In this case, the event was scheduled for the Sun Lakes Library south of Phoenix. It turns out that I’m very popular in Sun Lakes. The library has a room that holds maybe a hundred and fifty folks, but the demand that day far outstripped available seating. As a consequence, I agreed to do a second seating—one book talk and signing followed by another.

Talks at book signings generally run an hour in length. After doing the first round at Sun Lakes, my energy level was depleted, and I asked if there was a stool I could use for the second seating. (This was a library after all, and librarians have stools!) The one they brought was tall enough and had wheels on it. Unfortunately the room had a polished concrete floor. I’m sure you can already see where this is going. When I tried to hitch my butt up high enough to sit on the stool, it went slamming out from under me and crashed into the wall behind me. And there I was, heels, pantyhose, and all, flat on the floor in front of a roomful of appalled people!

Two men in the front row jumped up to come to my aid. One was very tall and one very short. On construction sites, when it comes to lifting heavy loads, they use tall cranes as opposed to short ones. So I pointed at Mr. Tall and said, “You’re my guy.” Together we managed to lever me up off the floor.

When I finished telling that story in Fort Myers, people were pretty much rolling in the aisles, and by the time the talk ended, I was in a room filled with friends and lots of new fans. (Thank you, Carol Burnett!).

I can tell you that watching people smile and laugh during a talk and hearing them applaud afterwards, is very different from sitting in my dining room at home, talking to a computer screen that may or may not choose to freeze up at any given moment.

Something I’ve really missed during the pandemic are the personal interactions with audience members. During my talks, I often tell about my challenging sojourn with a first husband who died of chronic alcoholism at age 42—a journey that forms the basis of my book of poetry, After the Fire. I’m always moved afterwards when people approach the signing table and share their own similarly difficult backgrounds. Those quiet, personal moments really touch me. On my Zoom events, the only real social interaction is often between me and my two dachshunds, Mary and Jojo, who abhor the gardener’s leaf blower and will launch off into a spasm of barking should that dreaded piece of equipment fire up anywhere within their hearing distance. I can yell NO at them ’til the cows come home, but they’re doxies, and it makes no difference. Instead, it usually better if I simply give up and sign off.

My public events are generally more storytelling than they are readings, and they’re often similar in nature. In other words, if you’ve seen one, you’ve more or less seen them all. I share things about my family background, my history and often my characters’ histories as well. Most of the time I try to include insights into the origins of the book that happens to be the “new” one at the time.

In Fort Myers, panels were taped. On Tuesday of this week, they sent me a YouTube link to the various panels featured at the festival. I’m including the link in case you’re interested, but I’m pretty sure that opening pratfall is not included.

Southwest Florida Reading Festival 2022 Author Spotlight: J.A. Jance

This tour being done solo, and it’s a lot different from being on the road with Bill, my husband, pal, and media escort extraordinaire. It’s also the first time I’ve attended the Tucson Festival of Books while staying at a hotel rather than having a Tucson residence to go home to each night. Boy howdy, has life ever changed in two years of not doing book tours! But this morning that’s where I’m headed—back to Tucson and to my alma mater, the University of Arizona.

With any kind of luck, orange blossoms will be in full bloom!

35 thoughts on “Tales from the Trailette

  1. Hopefully you enjoyed the warm Florida weather. Expecting snow here in North Alabama tonight.

    Big Beau fan

    • Larry, where are you in Alabama? I lived many years in Florence and just recently had a month in Muscle Shoals. Lovely area!

  2. Sadly, you are a bit too early for orange blossoms. Bummer! Love your weekly updates. And love you! Diane in Tucson

  3. OH, and BTW, it is 36 here now. Dress warmly for early mornings or evenings. Well, you know the drill. You went to the U here.

  4. I also rely on reading lips and have spent quite a bit of time during the past two years yelling “what” through my mask and the plexiglass divider.
    Steve says the stair rise is based on the rise and run of the stairs, usually between 6 and 7 inches with no more than ? inch difference between riser height.
    See you at the Poisoned Pen

  5. How I wish I could have been at your book tour in AZ. This BLOG would be just great to be in another book! I’m so glad I have a good imagination. Carol Burnett is one of our favorite comedians, she reminds me so much of when my sister was voted “CLASS CLOWN” in her high school yearbook. Gertie was 10 years older than me and I have many memories, especially when she’d try to speak German, just for laughs. Stu and I love the old Carol Burnett shows, now on Youtube so often. Her contagious laugh sounds just like when my sister laughed. She resembles my sister in many ways. As in “AFTER THE FIRE”, I lost Gertie at 79 from alcoholism.

  6. How much fun you are, JA! You certainly have a gift. Thank you for taking time to write (and speak) for our enjoyment.

    I’m bummed that I didn’t get to see you in Ft. Myers, but when you say 200 people were in the audience, we were glad we didn’t even attempt to get there. Our friend lives not far from where you spoke and she knew it would be WAY crowded given how many people are down there for vacation, hiding out from Covid restrictions, or house hunting to escape less forgiving state governments. But thank you for the link. We all will enjoy it!

    Aren’t doxies fun? We’ve had 5 in our long lives. Noisy, but such companions. We so loved ours that the two who lived 17 years each with us left too soon.

    Take care of yourself. I think you and your hubby are national treasures.

  7. You started my day with a laugh. Thanks. Normally I would be in AZ at my daughters for the month of March. Weather in the northeast can be unforgiving.
    I am enduring chemo treatments for cancer. Not Fun. Thanks for the belly laugh.

    • Nothing like the GREAT NORTHEAST! We’re expecting a snowstorm tomorrow, looking at 6 to 9 ” heavy snow and it’s terribly cold here in the Albany area of NY.

    • My mother had chemo for many months for Esophageal cancer- It was very difficult, but she did survive a cancer with less than a 30% chance of beating it-
      The newer drugs for nausea work a lot better- Is Medical Marijuana legal where you live? A friend who is undergoing chemotherapy also takes CBD- It does really help, and is legal now- It’s important to get it from a reliable and valid source , as there are many scams out there– Your MD should be able to refer you to a bonified provider- I wish you the very best of luck- God Bless, You are in my prayers for healing and comfort, Robin, New York City

      • Yes.I have medicine for nausea. They work but my appetite is not good. We go to church every Sunday which is my saving Grace.
        I am enjoying your latest Beaumont book. Got it the day it was released???

  8. You are Great!! Thanks for sharing & wish I could be there to join/see you in person in Tucson (& not just because it’s Cold here! :- ) because I’ve seen you before & know it’s a treat! Your sense of humor helps everyone. Good Wishes & good travels!

  9. Your experiences and observations are so Parral to mine is uncanny. Had same issues with lipreading all most 2 years ago. Dale Carnegie has helped me thru many experiences Also. last Sunday had quick trip to SFO via SEA and was home Monday early after driving truck back from SFO area. whole trip was sort of unreal. Laughter got me thru it. Thank you again for being there for us and aiding us thru a changing Life as we are now, keep it up please. Aids my Sanity in these trying times. Chuck from Tacoma.

  10. I wish I could have been in Ft. Myers to hear and see you. My dad was born and raised there. I lived there and Naples from 4 months to 5 years of age and then we moved to my mom’s home state of SC. I had hoped to make it down there but the timing with my upcoming cervical surgery prevented it. The big question prior to surgery asked “Have you traveled outside the state or country in the last 30 days?” Did not want to chance a delay. Thank you for the link so I can visualize being there.
    Thank you for always keeping me entertained with your writing of books and your blog. I always look forward to Friday mornings.
    God bless on the rest of the tour and prayers for safe travel.

  11. Yes, the orange trees here near Phoenix are blooming. Lots better than Fabreze!
    Public speaking is so much easier as time goes by. At first it was really difficult for me in high school,and college . But when my job required cit on a regular basis it became so much easier.
    Once, here in Mesa we had an author sighing who just read passages from her book. The worst ever. And I’ve been to lots of them.
    I love it when the author ad libs like you do. Thanks for great memories.
    If you’re a new reader , I’ve suggested that if you really want to know her you should buy After the Fire. And probably, a I do, buy a couple extra to give to someone who needs one. They’ve been so appreciative!??

    • We lived in Ahwatukee for many years and loved eating on the patio at Aunt Chiladas while the orange blossoms were out. Occassionally a stray one would land on a fork full of food giving an unexpected sweet flavor.

  12. I just finished watching the video from Florida. Enjoyed it immensely, thank you for including the link. Now I am wanting to start re-reading the Beaumont series. Prayers for your husband and for you. I am 80 and getting 0ld isn’t fun!

  13. You are a good sport! Not easy to endure a crowd laughing hysterically as you are
    feeling totally humiliated- However, you rose to the occasion(as you rose from the
    landed halibut position!) One of the most endearing and important qualities is the ability to laugh at oneself- I find that with my best and oldest friend, who can be obnoxiously bossy and judgmental at times, that her later laughing at herself about it, laughing at the jokes about it with her friends, turns it all into a lot of fun and camaraderie- It has just cemented our friendship, literally from birth, over and over- I would not trade it for anything-

  14. I love the scent of the orange blossoms in Phoenix and Tucson-
    However, I am living in New York City- I have tried to get essential oils that smell like Orange Blossoms, but Neroli, which is supposed to be Orange Blossom, does not have quite the same scent- Does anyone reading here have any advice?
    It’s always nice to be with fellow JaJance fans here- Such a smart and big hearted group of people from different states-

    • Bill and I are second-time-arounders who met at a widowed retreat. For our 25th Anniversary, we dug all our previous engagement and wedding rings out of the bathroom drawers and Bill designed what you see. It was supposed to be the more gentle curve of yin and yang, but there were too many diamonds. I say it’s an S for his last name–Schilb. He says it’s and S for what he calls me, Sweetie Pie.

    • Tell me about the “S” necklace. Thanks for sending me these emails. Hope you are having an enjoyable tour. I’m enjoying one of your Joanna Brady stories, the one about her 3 homicides. Surprising how much I’d forgotten because I’m enjoying it all over again. Thanks for your talented writing!!

  15. Thank you for sharing a bit of your time in Fort Myers. I’m a Washington state girl who followed a husband who insisted on moving to Naples, Florida, after I retired. I was not happy when I realized even living so close to Ft. Myers, I wasn’t going to get to see you in person. That would have “made my day!” So again, thank you for sharing the story of your “solo hour”. I laughed in the privacy of my own home!!

  16. Sounds like it was quite the show! I hope the rest of your mini-tour is much less eventful but no less successful.

    Enjoy the warmth – it’s a whopping 25 degrees here in New Hampshire with snow and a howling wind.

  17. Played the entire video. Miss your events opinion Oregon. It has been a very long time.

    • In Oregon, not opinion. Auto insert, I dislike getting caught no proofreading before posting.

  18. Hi. This is a different topic from this blog, but I just have to write and say how much I love your books. I recently discovered your books and so far have read( and saved) 25. Will be ordering more soon. They are all very interesting, although the Joanna Brady mysteries are my favorite. I read pretty much only mysteries and autobiographies, and yours by far are the best. Yours books really make these covid days not so bad. Thanks for the good hours of escape you have given me!!( and guess what , we have the same birthday( diff year).)

    • I’m half way through the book where Joanna is getting ready for the funeral for her parents. (Joanna is only 1/4″ shorter than me). Finishing the first re-read, with Joanna in a bubble bath, I thought I would have a stroke! This waiting for a baby to be born is not my favorite thing. Hope you are enjoying your current trip.

  19. Nothing like finding out you have been mispronouncing everyone’s name wrong.
    Ha! I’m so smart.
    Thanks for the link, I really liked your talk.
    I fall up stairs. Well, I did until my knees took exception. Old house with about 9 inch treacherous basement stairs.

  20. I live in Palm Harbor near Tampa
    I still mask as am a senior citizen
    Love your books

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