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J.A. Jance and My Weekend With the Literati, Part II

April 8th, 2007

When last we left this narrative, Dear Reader, I was filling you in on the evening of Sunday, April 1, when I was sitting around on Judy Jance’s back patio with her, her husband Bill Schilb, Sue Henry, and Betty Webb, drinking wine and spilling our deepest, darkest secrets. It’s not quite right to say that I got hammered, but in truth I’m not much of a drinker, and perhaps I was affected by the grape a bit more than I expected. I went to bed that night and dreamed that we were all sitting around the patio table talking when we were interrupted by a bunch of bare feet running across the yard unattached to any bodies.

In any event, I slept a somewhat disturbed sleep that night in the luxurious Beaumont room, and woke up with something of a headache. Bill and Judy took us out for breakfast at the Arizona Inn, which is a spectacular historic Tucson inn and resort. Afterwards we toured the inn and wandered around the grounds admiring the landscaping. Sue Henry had to catch a flight back to Alaska, so Judy took her to the airport while Betty and I sat and chatted in the back yard. The schmoozefest continued for another hour or so after Judy got back, until everyone began to droop and retired to their respective corners to nap, write, do some yoga (in my case), and beautify for the upcoming evening event.

Back to the Arizona Inn we went for an early supper before we were to show up at the Special Collections room of the University of Arizona Library. The Monday evening event was an invitation-only mix and meet followed by a panel discussion on mystery writing. The director of the Women of Mystery Collection, Sam Huang, had a lovely buffet of fruits and dips and cheeses, cakes and cookies and punch set up in the foyer. We stood around noshing and visiting for half an hour or so, then repaired to the Special Collections reading room, where Judy, Betty, and I were ensconced at a table at the front of the room. The panel was moderated by Chris Acevedo of Clues Unlimited Bookstore.

I’ve done a few panels in my writing career, some better and some worse, and this was a very good one. We all seemed to be on our game that night, and Chris asked some quite insightful questions that really ignited the conversation. My favorite was : Why did you all decide to write mysteries instead of “literary” fiction? Talk about incendiary! (My favorite quote on that topic was from Tony Hillerman. “Literary fiction is when nothing much happens to people you don’t much care about.”) There were a lot of questions afterward, and Clues Unlimited sold our books while we signed. I’m pleased to report that they sold out of Buzzard.

Everyone was “up” after the event, and we ended up sitting on the patio talking – again! – until no one could keep her eyes open. Judy showed us her lovely collection of Tohono O’odham baskets and we talked for a long time about our mothers. I slept a lot better that night.

Betty’s husband and ride had had to leave the day before, so she hitched a ride back to the Phoenix area with me on Tuesday morning. We talked all the way home, which made the trip back infinitely more fun than the trip down. In case you’re wondering, yes, I was hoarse when I got home. All in all it was an enlightening occasion for me. Not only did I get to bask in the presence of a really famous and successful author, I began to see myself as an author in a new way. All of this seems to have happened to me incredibly fast, and to quote Judy Jance, “you haven’t gotten your head around it.”

I begin to get a clue.

Happy Easter, Dear Reader

One Response to “J.A. Jance and My Weekend With the Literati, Part II”

  1. Randy Edmond

    Donis, I’ve read all of J. A. Jance’s Joanna Brady series since the first, Desert Heat, was published back in 1993. I’ve also read many of her other books, especailly those with an AZ setting. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed them a great deal. I know that she is a famous mystery writer and has made a great deal of money from her writing, but in my humble opinion your books are better than hers — not a lot better, but better nonetheless. I think the main reason yours are better is that your characters are more real, more believable. I truly look forward to Alafair Tucker’s next adventure. — Randy

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