A Mind Divided Against Itself

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and maybe that’s true of heads, too, because today I’m sitting here in my writing chair driving myself nuts, and my head is in danger of exploding.

This weekend I was supposed to be in Lead, South Dakota, for the South Dakota Book Festival which ended up being cancelled due to Covid. (For those of you who’ve never set foot in SD, here’s some news from the front, Lead, the town in South Dakota, is pronounced Lead as in leadership training as opposed to lead as in get the lead out. Isn’t English fun? And for those of you who’ve never been to Arizona, Bowie, the town in Cochise County, is pronounced Bowie as in boots as opposed to Bowie as in bow and arrow.”)

Oops, there I go off on another tangent. Sorry. Back to this weekend’s book festival. Rather than flying into Rapid City and maybe having a brief side trip to Mt. Rushmore, I’ll be doing a virtual talk from Zoom Station Central in my dining room here in Washington. The event was supposed to be at a library branch in Rapid City. In it I’ll be talking about my books, yes, but I’ll also be talking about my South Dakota roots. The event is scheduled for 3 P.M. Central, on Sunday, October 3. That means 1 PM in Seattle and 2 PM in Arizona. If you’re interested in attending, here’s the signup link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2021-south-dakota-festival-of-books-tickets-166215736743.

I’m writing the blog on Tuesday afternoon, pub day for the paperback edition of Missing and Endangered. That book may be brand new to some of my readers, but from my point of view, it’s a long way in the rearview mirror. I finished writing it in the early days of Covid when I was trying to figure out if it was even possible to be creative in the face of lockdown. (It was, but it wasn’t easy.) A few months after I finished writing that, the next Ali book, Credible Threat counted as my first-ever totally virtual book tour. (Still not my favorite, by the way.)

Due to Covid proposed pub dates got shifted around. By the time Missing and Endangered came out in hardback in February of this year, I could barely remember it. It’s a lot worse now, because in between, I finished writing the next Ali book, Unfinished Business, which was published in June of this year. I also finished writing the next Beaumont book, Nothing to Lose, which is due out next February and started on the next Ali, Collateral Damage.

Whew, are you confused yet? But just wait. It gets worse. This week, I had to stop moving forward on writing Collateral Damage so I could go back and do copyediting on Nothing to Lose. Copyediting means going through the manuscript, word for word, correcting typos and punctuation, yes, but also making sure characters’ names don’t get inadvertently changed midstream or that weekdays have been inexplicably dropped or, worse yet, added in.

I still remember my first ever copyediting letter, the one for Until Proven Guilty. It’s engraved in my heart. “This book takes place over a two-week period. All days are consecutive; no days are skipped. Unfortunately between the second Thursday and the second Friday there is an extra unnamed day. Please fix.” I did, but it wasn’t easy. I had to go back to each scene that occurred on that extra unnamed day and figure out a way to duct-tape that action into some other part of the story. I was able to manage to transpose every scene but one because it happened in the evening, and I didn’t have any extra evenings available. It was a scene I loved, one in which Beau goes to Anne Corley’s hotel looking for her. When she’s not I her room, he goes downstairs to the bar and is in the process of getting hammered when she comes looking for him. I loved that scene. I hated having to leave it out, and I still miss it. Too bad for each of you because now, everyone reading today’s blog entry is going to end up missing the little scene that isn’t there, too. That’s what I call sharing the wealth!

But back to copyediting Nothing to Lose. That took several day’s worth of keeping my nose to the grindstone. In the meantime, I asked my beta-reader-in-chief, Bill, to read what I had written so far in Collateral Damage. Yesterday, with the copy-editing in New York, I tried to get back on the Collateral Damage train. That didn’t exactly go swimmingly, so today, once I’ve but this to bed, I’ll get back on the horse and take another crack at it.

So yes, my mind is definitely in pieces. Tomorrow morning, if one of my paperback readers asks me a question about Missing and Endangered, I’ll probably have to look it up before I can answer, but answer I will.

So much for the perpetual merry-go-round of being a writer. Any minute now my HarperCollins editor is going to ask me if I’ve thought about what I’ll be writing next? Right this minute, I have no idea.

37 thoughts on “A Mind Divided Against Itself

  1. Thank you for sharing two things in particular. First is how writing during covid has been difficult in some ways, and second, and reminding me that I’m not the only one that has two or three or more projects going on at the same time and that things tend to get muddled occasionally. LOL wonderful column

  2. What will you be writing next? You had no idea. If you still have no idea, I’d like to suggest one. How about a new Walker story, with another good dose of Tohono O’odham cultural sharing?

  3. I just love reading your blog and look forward to it. Today’s was especially meaningful because I have JUST finished (yesterday) re-reading this first Beaumont book. I love, love, love all of the Beaumont books and am looking forward to re-reading them all again. There’s so much I missed the first time through – and I didn’t realize it! Of course, these days I tell my husband I’m getting to the point where I can purchase my own gifts and be surprised when I open them! This is proven just about every time a new Amazon package arrives…. what did I order?? Luckily once I open it I DO REMEMBER ordering it!

  4. Please keep up the good work – I absolutely love all of your books – I have read them all several times each and can’t wait for the next one.

  5. Since Arizona does not participate with daylight savings time, your blog will be at 1:00 Arizona time, same as Washington.

  6. I am told that keeping busy is what keeps us young. It sounds like you are getting younger by the day or week. Love your personal stories and experiences. Keep writing the blog, and definitely your books. Looking forward to the new ones coming out. As others have stated; I too am going back and starting to reread the books in order of publishing.

  7. I am amazed. You work so hard. I had no idea you wrote more than one book a year. I think that is because I only read Beaumont books. I am now enlightened and enjoying a Sheriff Brady book at present. You work way harder than I thought. You have my admiration.
    Meanwhile back to my current reading. Judgement Call. I have also just discovered your blog. You make life during lockdown bearable. THANK YOU!

  8. What to write next? Surely it’s time for Sheriff Brady (still my face series). I read ’em all though. And love ’em all!

  9. I love the Ali Reynolds series, especially when I realized she’s close to my own age! She and B both are fantastic characters and I love Frig. I hope your writer’s mind takes you to her next book soon!

  10. I appreciate your sharing your life as an author. I can relate to the copy editing part, having just gone through it once again.
    Although I am an Indie author (I decided I was too old to wait for traditional publishers to discover me and I wanted to get my books out before I died. A “Grandma Moses” of the publishing-rather than the art-world.) The publishing process is the same – even if I have to pay for it.
    Since I am no longer able to travel any distance for book festivals, I am interested in your experiences with virtual book tours and how they work. Whether they serve your needs. Thanks again for sharing.

  11. I don’t know how you can keep everything straight. My Mom put the fear of God in me so I don’t underline or write in margins of books. I make notes in pencil in back pages of turning points, solutions, details, etc. giving page numbers. I’ve found in re-reading the books details I missed the first time. That’s always surprising and fun.

  12. I got to read a library copy of Unfinished Business this week! Ali’s difficulty keeping all her balls in the air in this book is a perfect parallel to this week’s blog. Art imitating life! Or vice versa? I tried to stay awake till I finished it, but fell asleep at 4 a.m. and picked it up in the morning. Messed with my sleep schedule all week, but well worth it! I kept wondering when Beau was going to ride to the rescue, knowing he’d make an appearance. His part in the book was almost a coda.

    Reactions to the book: I wanted to write a condolence letter to a fictional family! And bring soup to Cami. I like Mateo and look forward to his future contributions; maybe he can pick up some of the community work that Ali’s dad had done, in his own way, of course, if Stu and B. ever let him escape the cyber world. He’s got the personality for it. I halfway expected the bad guy to have done the Seattle crime as well, but I guess that would have been too obvious.

    This is a new month, so my plan is to purchase Missing and Endangered with part of my monthly book budget, and fill in a couple of gaps, but re-reading will have to wait till the remaining library books are finished and returned. Unfinished Business jumped the line so I’m now in the middle of Patricia Cornwell’s latest. Priorities! Ali came first.

    Thanks for doing a masterful job with all the pieces that go into your books!

  13. At least I am thrilled that you are still writing so MUCH! Wow! I watch for every new one. Our public library is just reopening today after over a year of being renovated (it was in a temporary site), & I hope they are keeping up with all of your new stuff. Will be checking on that tomorrow when my daughter & I will be checking out the renovation. Please keep up the good work! Love them all!

  14. I really enjoy your blog every Friday morning. I have made a goal to read all of your books. Unfortunately my reading history goes back to the days before Kindle (way before) and I can’t remember which I read on paper. The easiest solution was so decided to simply go back and read everything not in my Kindle history.

    • Mike, many years ago I started keeping track of the books I read. If I got a book thru library loan or some place other than purchasing it or borrowing from my library I made a note of that. I have a separate book for Jance with pages for each of the three main detectives. That way I have a record of what I’ve read when. It’s helpful now that I am slipping into senility!!

  15. How do you do it??!! The word “Busy” does not do justice to the rate at which you
    create and copy-edit all of your characters, themes, and plots- You have tremendous energy-

  16. Wow! I got dizzy just reading this. I guess there’s a reason editors were invented.
    I look forward to your blog every week. Yours is the first and so far only one that I read.

  17. Was the Lead cancellation done by South Dakotans or others? Having been in the Black Hills twice during the pandemic, life was pretty much normal!

  18. Judy,
    You know my favorite character of all is Joanna Brady, but I have read all your books so I know all the characters. As your fan, Patricia Parcells wrote, I want to contact each of them and offer my help, or my condolences or congratulations or whatever emotion is appropriate. I want to scold someone or hug someone. I am part of your character’s lives even if they don’t realize it. It is so amazing to have all these wonderful people in my life. I am grieving for anyone who has never taken up reading as a hobby. They are deprived and don’t know it.

  19. May I call an exorcist for you, I see your head spinning around? Good thing you are in possession of all your faculties.

  20. Note to self: clear the next open shelf underneath my existing J.A. Jance shelf, because more delights are coming.

    P.S. Yes, I now miss that scene, and have a sneaking suspicion I know where she was prior to coming to see him.

  21. I am one of your fans who looks forward to reading your Friday morning blogs. So thank you for sharing so much of your personal life and writing life.
    I have read everything you have published as well as all your blogs. I was grateful to find the Goodreads website where I keep track of what I have read and what I want to read. I make use of the extensive reviews and share my reading enthusiasm with my friends. Under each author they list all their books and beside each one it is noted if I have read it.
    I highly recommend it. They even have giveaways of which I have won several.

  22. Dear Judy~ I am delighted that I stumbled upon your Blog and can do some catching up after so many years. I continue to love your books, especially Beaumont, and think of you and Bill as I read them. I have no idea how you accomplish everything and keep story lines straight between series! Yet you do and it makes for wonderful reading for so many! Hoping to run into you one of these days…..it’s been way to long!!!

  23. I love, love, love all your series books. I think in order of preference, for me, it’s Joanna Brady, then Ali Reynolds, and then J. P. Beaumont. It’s interesting that the Beaumont books are written in first person and the others are not. How did you decide to do that, or is that just how the characters spoke to you?
    Also, I have side question. I’m a pretty good proof reader, and I often see errors maybe a wrong word (i.e., out/our), or a skipped or double word. Would it make your life easier to have those small errors pointed out? And if so, whom would I contact? The publisher? Would it be worth the trouble? I read mostly on Kindle because I like to be able to read with a dark background and change the font size.
    I’m loving your blog BTW!

  24. You’re allowed to pretend you didn’t hear that question from your editor….. and take a break. We would all forgive you.

  25. Your output amazes me! Keeping track of everything book related and real life is even more amazing. I enjoy the three series almost equally, thank God for libraries!

  26. I was feasting my way through the very first JP Beaumont series (which I had never read, although I was current on the newer ones) during the Covid months when I realized that I had not heard about any new books from you. THEN—out of the blue, days later, I got a notification about your blog. Time to do a happy dance!

    I’m so glad you found me. And in this latest blog I have more book titles to search for! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Btw, the Walker family series were my first time reading you, by browsing in the library because we couldn’t afford to buy books. Loved them. Wasn’t a movie made from one of them?

    Thanks so much for all your good reads. If one can read, one can do anything. I’ve figured that out after 73 years on this earth. 🙂

  27. I keep a spreadsheet of all books read. 145 so far this year. I was looking to reserve “Missing & Endangered,” & “Unfinished Business” & searched my list & discovered I had already read them.My 73 yrs brain isn’t functioning as good since had Covid (even w/vax)but not too serious. Awaiting “Nothing to Lose” & “Collateral damage.”
    I can’t believe how you keep everything in order & keep writing. & share your Blog with us.

  28. I was just thinking about you this morning and all the comments I have read about which series people liked.

    Of all your series, I like the Walker Family series the least.
    Why?
    I do not enjoy delving into the cesspool of a murder’s/stalker’s mind. When I get to those parts in the novel, I skip to the next section.
    What I enjoy most about the Walker Family series is the insight into Anglo Tohono’odam (sp?) relationships and life style. These I find fascinating.
    So, if you continue with the Walker Family series, I will continue to skip the parts I do not enjoy and enjoy the rest of the book.

    • I agree with you about the Walker books, I have read them all. I have started listening to books on audio while knitting. I’ve started going thru all of the Jance books. I listened to the Walker family books. I got stuck on the third one for awhile, but got thru it after skipping parts. I think that they are very well written but a little too dark.

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