Small clarification. For anyone not in the know, DTRs equals Dead Tree Readers—the folks who only read books consisting of paper and ink.
Having just finished up the tour for Blessing of the Lost Girls—# 15 on the NYTimes Best Seller list, thank you very much—Collateral Damage seems to be a long way in my rearview mirror right now, but not for my long-time paperback readers, and those are important to me. After all, original paperback readers are where I started out all those years ago.
But back to Collateral Damage. For one thing, it usually takes six months for me to write a book beginning to end. This one took a whole year—from March of 2020 to March of 2021. It’s a complex story with multiple points of view and multiple locations. When I got mired down in the writing process, Bill, my literary engineer, bailed me out by suggesting that I time stamp each chapter. Doing that made the writing process much easier for the writer, and, as it turns out, it makes life easier for readers as well.
So as you read, pay attention to those time stamps. They’ll let you know the physical location of the action in the next chapter as well as giving you a hint as to which characters will be involved. You’ll also know the day of the year, the day of the week, and the time of day. That’s especially helpful when you’re dealing with multiple time zones with some characters located on the West Coast of the US while others are going through their paces in the UK.
During the five years I was a K-12 librarian on the Tohono O’odham reservation west of Tucson, I told 26 stories a week in K-6 classrooms. Some of those stories are the ones those of us who aren’t Desert People all grew up with as children—Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Little Engine that Could. But I also learned and told the stories and legends of the TO Nation, the ones they call their winter telling tales.
Over time I learned that one of the principles of Tohono O’odham storytelling is that a story must end where it begins. It wasn’t until I finished writing Collateral Damage that I realized I had incorporated that tradition into my own storytelling. The book’s action begins in St. Paul, Minnesota, and it ends there as well. And if that final St. Paul scene doesn’t give you goosebumps, you may not have been paying attention.
The pub date, October 24th, happens to be three days before my birthday. Yes, J.P. Beaumont and I will both turn 79 on October 27th of this year. (I gave him my birthday so I’d be able to remember exactly how old he is from one book to another.) Yes, we’re both getting up there, but we’re both still alive and kicking. Beau may not be walking as much as I do—I’ve clocked 23,200,000 steps over the last 7 years, but he’s in pretty good shape for an old guy and will be back in the saddle in October of 2024 with Beaumont # 26—Den of Iniquity which is already written and in the can.
By the way, since Bill and I are no longer snow-birding, if you’re interested in a signed copy of Collateral Damage, please order through Brick and Mortar Books in Redmond, Washington (email@example.com). Their store is only a mile or two east of where I live and it’s easy for me to stop by to sign and personalize books.
When the first Beau book came out in 1985, several so-called experts told me “Nobody signs paperback books.” Since paperbacks happened to be the only books I had, I begged to differ, and I’ve been happy to sign books for my paperback fans ever since.
By the way, in case you’re curious about why I always sign in red ink, here’s the answer. Early on, I used to go into stores and offer to sign whatever stock of my books they happened to have on hand, aka stock signings. Later on, when someone wanted one of those pre-signed books personalized, I always had to go looking for the right color of ink to match that particular signature. By book number three, I wised up and started using red ink pens only and have done so ever since. That way I can always make that personalization look like it was that way to begin with.
In 1984, the marketing guys from the Avon Books insisted that I use the pen name J.A. Jance rather than my real name, Judith Ann Jance because they didn’t believe male readers would accept police procedurals written by someone named Judy. At the time, I was so thrilled at the idea of being published that they could have called me Late for Dinner for all I cared. But the truth is, I’m glad they did that. J.A. Jance is a lot easier to sign than Judith Ann Jance, and over the years those marketing guys have saved me miles of red ink!