Without A Trace

I don’t know if many of you are familiar with the work of Iris DeMint. One of her songs in particular has always spoken to me:

Sweet is the melody
So hard to come by,
So hard to make
Every note blend just right.
You lay down the hours
Without a trace
’Til a tune for the dancing
Is there in its place.

Writing books is the same thing—you lay down the hours without a trace, or at least, I do. Some of those hours are spent sitting here in my writing chair in the family room as I am just now, with my computer on my lap, my fingers on the keyboard, and with Mary and JoJo lying side by side on the hassock next to my knee. By the way, Mary has little patience with all this keyboarding stuff. When she reaches her limit, she comes over, puts her long doxie nose between my fingers and the keyboard, and brings typing to a sudden and complete stop.

Other hours are devoted to thinking about the story rather than typing in words. Those can happen when I’m driving my grandson to youth group or getting my steps. By the way, both inside steps and outside steps apply here. When characters become recalcitrant and won’t do what I need them to do to move the story forward, I often end up tossing and turning in bed for hours on end, an activity I refer to as “wrestling with the devil.” By the way, Mary doesn’t approve of that very much, either.

I learned early on in my writing career that characters don’t always do as they’re told. In the second Beaumont book, Injustice for All, I was seventy pages from the end of the story when I discovered that the person I thought was the killer didn’t do it. Readers were probably surprised when they discovered the identity of the bad guy. I know I was!

So here I am creeping up on the end of the next Ali book, Unfinished Business. I figured out some time ago that due to the location and the nature of the storyline, J.P. Beaumont would be making a cameo appearance in this book. The Beaumonts are written in the first person–in his voice and through his distinctive point of view. The Ali books are written in third person. My assumption was that in this book Beau’s part would be written in third person as well. Boy was I wrong about that! As soon as it was time for him to show up, there he was in all his curmudgeonly first person glory.

First person is how I know him, from the inside out. That’s how he’s been from the beginning, and it turns out I really couldn’t teach that old dog any new tricks.

It’s Wednesday. I have probably three more tiny chapters to write. By Friday of this week Unfinished Business should be finished. Maybe we’ll go out to celebrate. That’s what we usually do.

Oh, wait. It’s still Covid Season around here. Maybe we’ll celebrate the same way we celebrated our wedding anniversary years ago when we were snowed in. That anniversary dinner consisted of champagne and Honey Nut Cheerios.

Whatever we do, it’ll be A-Okay!

And then it’ll be time to start another book and lay down a few more hours without a trace.

25 thoughts on “Without A Trace

  1. Oh Beau, I have enjoyed his bossy, grumpy, alpha character for years. It is strange to be reminded that he really lives in your creative mind and the pages of your books. I’m looking forward to this book. Another meeting with old friends. Enjoy finishing this book in what ever way COVID will allow.

  2. Not being a fiction writer I have no talent for it), I cannot imagine characters not behaving properly. But I can relate to 2 things:
    Willie my cat sitting on the arm of my chair with his paws on my left wrist and hand while I try to type with the laptop on my lap. He wants to be petted as I type!
    I can relate to having sentences form and reform in my head when it is a sleepless night, driving along the highway, listening to a lecture or sermon. I assume all writers have this invisible self-conversation at the least convenient times.

  3. I am so looking forward to this next book, and love your descriptions of how you create these for us all. A well deserved celebration, Cheerios and all!

  4. I love all your books and read them as soon as they are out. The only problem–I read them too fast. I hope your next book is about Joanna. I miss her. I’m glad I’ll be getting my J P fix in this new one.

  5. Yes, it’s fascinating to read that although I would think YOU’re the boss, as YOU’re the writer, and should be able to make the characters do what YOU want them to, they seem to have a mind of their own. Also surprising is that the plot is not so firmly fixed in your mind that YOU can’t be surprised as to who the killer ends up being.
    We don’t seem to be the boss of our pets either, do we? Before I fell and broke both my thumbs, I used to practice classical guitar, and our cat would insist on jumping up and sitting right on my lap–what was left of it after the guitar took up most of it–while I practised, effectively preventing my fingers from plucking the strings.

  6. I am soooo looking forward to your next book.
    I’m in a reading dry spell.
    Any suggestions?
    Just finished The Virgin River Series.
    Not to be mean but your books have so much more depth.

  7. It’s been a while.
    First saw Iris on Austin City Limits many years ago along with Emmylou and Gail Davies. Quite a show.
    I really need to get caught up on my reading.
    Champagne and Cheerios, never tried it.
    Oreos and light beer, yes. Not a good idea.

  8. It’s not what or where you eat just being together is what’s important as you know . I know you would enjoy time with family no matter where .

  9. Thank goodness for Joanna,Beau and Ali! They and you have helped me keep my wits about me and my sense of humor intact. I’ve read all of your books through the years and was despairing that I didn’t have any new ones…so I just stacked them all up in order on my bedside table and have read my way through them a second time!!! Heaven. You and they have been “gifts of the ‘vid” and I am forever grateful.

  10. I’ve just recently began reading your Blog! I’ve been reading your books for years and feel like the characters are my friends! Currently I’m reading all the Beaumont books that I’d missed. I love your honesty and transparency in your blog . I feel like I’ve just reconnected with a much loved friend!

  11. What a great insight into your writing experience. I know you have done others, but I like the ‘full shot’ on this one. Thank you.

  12. I hope there will be reason to celebrate finishing the current book. Try Taco Time for a drive through take home dinner. Or Panera’s. I can hardly wait for this newest book to be released!

  13. I believe I was introduced to Iris DeMint when she sang on “Prairie Home Companion”, sometimes with Garrison Keillor and sometimes not. I think of her as the person who epitomizes how country western was sung way back when. I also loved the stories of Lake Woebegone and Garrison’s excellent story telling skills and his very calming voice. It takes a very special person to spin a good yarn and both you and he are at the top of my list.

  14. What a shocker when the “known” murderer turns out to be innocent, especially when it is you who finds that out. Congratulations early on a book almost done. You don’t need to stay with the honey nut Cheerios because at least there is carry out these days!

  15. Please let that other book be another J.P. Beaumont. I am reading Sins of the Father and know it’s the last one written so far. I just love J.P. and want his stories to continue for a long time.

    Have not tried the Ali books but maybe now I will till another J.P. and Joanna Brady come along.

  16. I’m not surprised you actually become the character you are writing about in your book. I feel like I’m totally living in Seattle in Beau’s condo and eating at his favorite diner throughout the story. He literally takes over my life for the period of time it takes to read the book. Needless to say, I’m always a little sad when I come to the end and don’t have the next day to look forward to sharing Beau’s life. I also love the Ali books, but for some reason I feel closer to Beau. Maybe b/c he’s closer to my age? LOL Really looking forward to the next Beau book and looking forward to this next Ali saga, also. Thanks JA for all my wonderful reads!

    • You have described perfectly how I feel about the Beau books. I was thinking this morning that I wish I had a picture of Beau in the car driving with Lucy’s head on his shoulder!

  17. I never know where these blogs will lead me. This time it was to seek out Iris DeMent (this is the correct spelling) music. I’m guessing that my wife knows her work; she plays a lot of blue grass and country with her jam buddies. A Covid bonus for her: the weekly jam is now on Jam Kazam and it meets every day, since no one is driving anywhere. So now Iris is playing in the background.

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