Just in Time Inventory

My husband is and always has been a car guy. In 2000 when Porsche Boxsters were still fairly new on the block, I wanted to get one for him for his birthday, so we paid a visit to the local dealer here in Bellevue. We spoke to a salesman who told us there was a long waiting list and he couldn’t be bothered with putting us on said list. Had I been a sports star, I have a feeling things would have gone differently. At any rate, we went to Tacoma where the dealer was happy to put us on his waiting list. We also signed up to take European delivery.

We picked up the vehicle at the factory in Stuttgart, and leaving there to get on our first Autobahn was an eye-popping experience. But delivery also included a factory visit. I didn’t expect that to be especially interesting, but I was enthralled. Each mechanic was required to sign off on his individual part of the vehicle’s construction. If that part somehow failed during testing prior to the vehicle’s exiting the factory, that particular mechanic was called to account.

In addition they showed us their system for “just in time” inventory. Parts needed for the various vehicles under construction arrived at the factory a bare twenty minutes before they were to be installed. It was a fascinating process to observe.

But today, reading the blog comments, I had my own “just in time inventory” experiences. It’s time for me to sit down and start the next Ali book—as in TODAY! And once I finish writing the blog, that’s exactly what I intend to do. But I’ve been stalling, I’m pretty sure B. Simpson’s first wife is going to play an important role in this upcoming story, but my little grey cells have somehow forgotten her name.

The last time that happened, I sent out an SOS to my fans, and one of them, Donna Tipton, helped me out by locating her name. Today Donna mentioned that when she saw the character’s name, Clarice by the way, in Unfinished Business, she was happy to see it. By making that comment, she spared me from having to go looking for the name on my own. So thank you, Donna, for providing some just in time inventory for me to launch off on writing the next book. And no, it doesn’t have a name yet. I’ll get around to naming it later.

But one other blog comment really struck me this morning. That one came from a lady named Jane Kirkpatrick who attended a Willamette Writer’s Conference in the late eighties where I was one of the panelists. I remember that conference well. I was on a panel with Pierce Brooks, the retired LA cop who wrote Officer Down, Code 3, which remains textbook reading in police officer academies to this day.

Because I was going to be sharing a panel with Mr. Brooks, I went to the effort of reading his book. In it he details the ten fatal errors police officers make. One of them is called Tombstone Courage. That’s failure to call for backup. A few days earlier I had been asked to come up with a title for Joanna Brady #2. As soon as I read that section of the book, it turned out to be exactly what I needed as a book title—Tombstone Courage. And that’s yet another instance of just in time inventory.

But something else struck me about Ms. Kirkpatrick’s comment. She said that she went to the conference as an unpublished author and now has forty-some published books to her name. She recalled how, at one of the panels, some of the authors were complaining about their fractured relationships with their publishers while I maintained being published was a team effort. She said she decided then and there that she was going to try to follow my lead, and she has.

That got me to thinking. I signed with my first publisher, Avon Books, in 1984. When other authors suggested I dump the original paperback format, I stayed with Avon and eventually Morrow for hardbacks. When publishing went through a rough patch and Avon was purchased by HarperCollins, I stayed on. All these years later Harper still does three of my four series—Beaumont, Joanna Brady, and the Walkers.

When my first publisher, Carolyn Reidy, moved from Avon to Simon and Schuster, I maintained a cordial relationship with her. And when my Ali Reynolds series needed to be re-honed, I contacted her. Carolyn passed away several years ago, but the Ali books remain part of the S&S catalog.

It turns out, following that advice was good for Jane Kirkpatrick, and it’s also been good for J.A. Jance. And Jane’s comment also provided some just in time inventory for this week’s blog.

In case some of you have wondered if I ever bother reading the blog comments, now you have your answer straight from the horse’s mouth.

I read every single one!