Attention DTRs–A New Book Notice and A Note

Hello, DTRs. Unfinished Business, Ali # 16, goes on sale in paperback on June 28. Yes, it’s an Ali book, but before you readers who only like J.P. Beaumont go rushing off in a snit, hold her there a minute, partner. Remember the good old days when there were real variety shows on TV? Yes, Dinah Shore, Garry Moore, and Carol Burnett were the hosting mainstays, but each week guest artists would show up as well—Dean Martin, Jim Nabors, Glen Campbell. It’s the same case here. It’s an Ali book all right, but when the people in Sedona require the services of a cold case guy in Washington State, guess who they call for help? Yup, none other than J.P. Beaumont who shows up in all his first-person curmudgeonly glory. So just in case you missed that the first time around, here’s a second crack at it.

For those of you who pay attention to subject lines, that was the NOTICE. What follows is the NOTE:

If you were to poll authors of all kinds and ask them which is their LEAST FAVORITE fan question, I’m pretty sure this one would top the list: Where do you get your ideas?

Where indeed!!!

The wide-eyed innocents who ask that question, often people sitting in the front rows of live events, make it sound as though ideas are everywhere, flapping around in the great outdoors. It implies that if writers happen to have the proper kind of butterfly net, they can dash out there, capture a few, and put then add them into whatever book happens to be underway at the time.

For me personally, that is definitely not the case. Due to separate inquiries in the last few weeks, I thought I’d share the story of how one such idea-turned-character came into being.

I grew up in a family of seven kids. We did our homework at the kitchen table while our mother made dinner. When it was time to set table, you can bet the homework was done or, as Evie would say, we’d all have “another think coming.” All these decades later in my writerly world that means can work with a fair amount of distraction. I do not write at a desk. I have a laptop and, as it happens, a perfect laptop lap since I also have exceptionally long thighs. While working I sit in my writing chair—sometimes in the family room or sometimes, as now, out on the back porch. In the family room, Bill’s TV chair is adjacent to my writing chair—as in hand-holding adjacent with no intervening end table.

One day, as I sat in my writing chair preparing to write the next Ali book, Bill said to me, “You know AIs are pretty interesting. You should write a book with an artificial intelligence in it.”

I’m a liberal arts major. He’s a retired electronics engineer, so I looked at him in some astonishment and asked, “Are you talking to me?”

Over the course of the next several weeks, Bill began handing me articles he’d plucked from various scientific journals, all of them dealing with AI, and I dutifully read through them one by one. My husband maintains that there’s a Waring Blender hiding inside my head. Information comes into my head through my various senses and then goes through the blending process. Later, when that same information leaks out through my fingertips into my keyboard, it is fundamentally changed. And that’s exactly what happened. The scientific stuff Bill provided went into my storyteller’s head and came out as a character—Stu Ramey’s pet AI, Frigg. As for the book? It turned out to be Man Overboard. Once I figured out who the bad guy was–a wannabe serial, Frigg turned out to be the AI had had created and trained to function as his partner in crime.

My favorite thing about Frigg is that she’s very like Joe Friday in that she’s all about the facts, ma’am, with a very limited understanding of idiomatic English. One day, when Stu demands in exasperation, “What does that have to do with the price of peanuts?” Frigg immediately launches off into reciting that day’s peanut futures.

By the end of the first draft and with the bad guy out of commission, control of Frigg is handed over to Stu. Aware of the possible dangers a killer-trained AI might pose, Stu decides to pull the plug on her. In the manuscript I submitted to New York, when the story ended, Frigg was dead as a doornail.

Once I finished writing the book, I liked it, but I was uneasy. At the time I submitted it, I was dealing with a new editor who was and remains to this day your basic technophobe. I worried that when she hit the AI part of the story, she would announce “This is terrible!” toss the manuscript over her shoulder, and then demand the publisher’s advance back. Since I’d already spent the advance money, the idea of having to return it was very concerning.

As it turns out, all that worry was for naught. When the editor finished the book, she called me and said, “You can’t kill Frigg.” And so I didn’t. I rewrote the ending of Man Overboard, and in the published version Frigg is no longer a goner. You’ll find that in Unfinished Business as well as in my upcoming Collateral Damage, Frigg, like the Big Lebowski, still abides.

Happy reading and happy summer!

52 thoughts on “Attention DTRs–A New Book Notice and A Note

  1. Ms. Jance – Thank you so much for writing your books and your Friday email. I look forward to both so much! I hope JoJo is still doing OK. It was wonderful that you were able to help her keep going. Have a good summer. Best wishes to you always!

  2. I really am glad that you did not kill Trigg off. I find her a very interesting character. She is a super hero with powers beyond that of mortal man. ?
    I understand having an unfavorite question. I make quilts. People do not ask me where I get my ideas. I guess they figure that I just used a pattern which may or may not be true. I regard patterns as suggestions not laws. My unfavorite question is how long did it take to make. I get asked ALL the time by non quilters. The answer is I don’t know. I.don’t keep track and I have many projects in some stage of production. I have finally just about finished one that I started in 2001. So if someone asks me how.long that one took, I guess. I’ll tell them 21 years.

  3. I guess I’m going to give Ali another chance. JP and Joanna have been my favorites. It’s time to let somebody else in.

  4. OK. I give up. I can’t find it with a search through acronyms or text-speak. What does DTRs stand for? I’m guessing “Dear Trusted Reader”s.

    • DTRs = Dead Tree Readers–those who prefer paper and ink in either hardback or paperback.

      IORs = In Order Readers–those who prefer to read book chronologically

      SERs = Sharp Eyed Readers–those who spot errors in my books or blogs and immediately let me know.

      RRs = Repeat Readers–those who read my books over and over.

      • Didn’t see you found it until after I had written my lengthy replay. Sorry for chewing my cabbage twice.

        • LOL…. hope the cud(cabbage) was good.
          this time of the year — all kids graduated, married, babied safe, sound and happy.
          tell JeanneT howdy and hugs and if I spelled her name wrong — I apologize…
          Stay safe and send those cold/cool fronts to Texas, 6 or 7 days of over 100 is enough — for June anyway.
          Micki daMouse

  5. Loved the book and so very glad the Frigg isn’t dead. And Jim Neighbors???? I’m still laughing over a recent text message I sent to one of my male golf friends about a upcoming tournament we were to play in together. I didn’t have my glasses on and dictated a short message and sent it. Got a phone call back asking what I was offering. Seems the autospell……..spelt SEX instead of SIX! Keep up the good work as I look forward to all your endeavors!

    • Too funny! I love auto.spell or.spell.check.but it does sometimes get you in trouble if you aren’t carefu!.?

  6. Thanks again for your caractures Frigg is helping me get into the 21st century. In being avail causes more questions and conundrums in my mind. The stimulation is helpful in continuing my late life. Chuck in Tacoma.

    • Saw your email. And it’s true. The algorithm behind the blog posting does not allow people to chew their cabbage twice–if they catch it, that is.

  7. Ali is my absolute favorite character of yours! I love Joanna Brady and JP Beaumont, but Ali resonates with my life. I love B., Stuart Ramey, and Frig. Can’t wait for the next one!
    Jackie Olsen

  8. Fascinating process! I’m so glad to be reading again! I haven’t managed to read your books in order of appearance, but they stand alone, and I have read so many that it works for me! Right now I’m reading Minor in Possession. Thank you!

  9. I am so happy JP gets involved with Ali. My daughter-in-law gifted me a JP book many years ago that started me reading you. When Ali came out I didn’t like it as well as JP (but still liked it) up until she got to Sedona and then came Frigg. I agree with your editor. I loved Frigg. I really enjoyed it when Frigg was given the bible to better understand morality, not just cut and dried legalism. Now I think Frigg should have a discussion with Stu or even Ali about what is “right” in how the government should react to COVID. So many sides, the individual rights, company rights, small vs. large, freedom to travel or locked up in our house? What a discussion that could be. Anyhow, I have read all your books at least twice and look forward to Ali with JP.

  10. How wonderful another book of yours to enjoy. I love all of your characters, and look forward to the cross over.
    You are a most industrus author who’s level of excellence never faulters. I thank you for the joy you bring to

  11. I am not a SCI fan and that’s where I put the subject of AI but…. I like Frigg. Just saying!

  12. At one point, I thought Frigg was gone, and then read on. She has become a favorite new best friends – although one of the many. It’s like having a NEW best friend. At one time in my life I didn’t realize that you could have more than one best friend. Now that I’m a Jance follower, JP and Ali and others have proved me wrong.

  13. I have read all of your book, and love them. JP and Joanna are my very favorites. I began to really like Ali after she discontinued her blogging program … until she went into her AI activities. I was glad to see Frig die. Maybe I am alone, but I didn’t find her interesting. So, PLEASE, don’t let Frig infiltrate the lives of JP and Joanna.
    You are a fantastic writer. You don’t need to listen to your editor.

    • Based on the comments, some of my readers enjoy Frigg and others do not. You happen to be one of the latter, and that’s not a problem. What’s wonderful is we’re all entitled to our own opinions.

  14. I know that many writers (eg magazines/newspapers) also get those *where do you find* questions. I was a magazine writer for abut 10 years and knew many others. Ideas come from all over!

    I ran across this today after reading your posting, about AI – it was a side story on someone’s twitter (I only read some like a webpage). And it is related to your piece – Bill will also be interested.

    It is 110 years since birth of Alan Turing – –and as the beginning states —

    On this day in 1912, Alan Turing was born. Often dubbed as the father of modern computer science, Turing created the first computer in 1936. Major milestones in his life included working with the allies on vital codebreaking efforts during the second world war and laying the foundations for artificial intelligence.
    Since his tragic death in 1954, Turing’s life and work has continued to inspire many around the world. Today, we celebrate and highlight Turing’s enduring and important legacy.
    (more information here

  15. I absolutely love Frigg’s literal-mindedness! She puts a personality on all the problems we humans have when we communicate with our non-AI computers. I have read enough science fiction to have encountered some “evil” fictional computers, and I am glad Stu made the effort to rehabilitate Frigg.

    I would also like to send a Thank You to Bill for the Waring blender image. Still smiling about that!

    My wife is an amateur songwriter who is often inspired by some random comment or news blurb. She usually works very hard after the initial idea is sketched out, researching and revising. I get to see the process at work. Songs are very short and sometimes the idea’s source is recognizable, though the best ones distill a concept into some universal message. In a full-length book, you have an opportunity to pull pieces from several sources and blend them more thoroughly. You also do a great job at incorporating messages that speak to the soul into your stories. So, thanks to you, too!

  16. I’m always pleased to see your blog show up in my emails. Thanks much.

  17. I’m pretty sure you mean Jim Nabors a true sidekick turned Gomer Pyle USMC with a great singing voice.

    • Thank you, Mary! I’ve been binge-listening to Jim Nabors (bless youtube) ever since I read your comment. Hadn’t thought about him for a while but what a pleasure!

  18. Yes, I wondered how you thought up Frig. At first I thought I would never be able to stick with the story. I hate science fiction. Lo and behold, you made it work! Now Frig is a friend, just as all your other characters.

  19. I can’t believe that a news story I read today included AI !
    It is related to drivers licence photos and a problem or two that have been reported (and probably many more that are not). This woman had problems getting her new photo as the camera would not accept it. I am not sure if it was actually her skin colour, but was reported to her as . CBC also included a couple of prior stories on the AI issue and facial recognition software and this one
    This story was of interest to me as I had recently gone for my new drivers licence photo (due every 5 years) – which during the pandemic were not needed to be new unless the customer requested it. They just used (pushed through) the prior photo. I thought that was a good idea for the future. However, it seemed this was discontinued as of June 1, 2022. I had called some offices to check before I went for my renewal (a month ahead of due date) and sure enough I would need a photo, so I was prepared for it. I had my photo – the agent even showed me the photo and asked if I wanted a re-take, which I took – and on my way to expect arrival in a couple of weeks. Ten days later I had a call from the agent to come in for another photo as my photo had not been accepted! I asked if this was unusual, and she said – actually, no – but I had not heard of it before. So when I went down (only a few blocks away) I saw the same agent who had taken the photo (not the one on the phone) – and he said that it was because of my headscarf it was rejected. Well. That was strange, as I had phoned to check if I would have to remove my headscarf (I have been wearing one outdoors for the past couple of years) and was assured it was no problem – and, though I did not add this part – this agent was the one who took the photo and said nothing. He said not to worry, he just had to phone the main office (we have public insurance for vehicles – MPI – and the same also handles drivers licences) – so he did – was on the phone for about 5 minutes, mostly waiting for the response after he described the problem – and sure enough, he was done and all is now fine and I should receive my new drivers licence with the photo he had taken originally.

  20. I’m glad you and Bill are “hand-holders”. In the RV, Stu got 2 recliners that were really great. I’m so glad Frigg is still “kicking” and I look forward to getting up-to-date with my JAJ reading material. Stu got me most of the Erma Bombeck books to read. I’m finishing a terrible book (The Brothers of Auschwitz). So hard to believe that schools are teaching our kids that the Holocaust didn’t happen as well as denying the existance of Jesus of Nazareth. Not only is prayer banned in schools, so is The Pledge of Allegiance to our country! Now, our idiot governor is letting all know that NYS WILL allow abortions (all expenses paid!!) Can u hear me screaming! Pat

  21. I am a confirmed RR. Reading both the Beaumonts and the Bradys through in order (IOR t00) right now, having recently been through the Alis ditto. Stu and Frigg are my very favorite supporting characters. Glad you resuscitated her and that they both continue to help the stories along.

    • JAJ always writes wonderful BLOGS. Her books become a part of her reader’s lives, they are fantastic to read about. Her creativity is awesome and that may be why Bill and Judy still hold hands while she writes. They are a really neat couple!!

  22. I am working my way through the Ali books after finishing the JP and Joanna books. (?) I am on #6 Fatal Error. I have already read some of the later books and remember Frigg. Will still read all of them in sequence. Then on to the Walker Family series.
    Very excited about the new book with JP.
    I love how you introduce real life situations into your books that really fit into my life. Like when you had JP visit an old friend with dementia.

  23. I am working my way through the Ali books after finishing the JP and Joanna books. (?) I am on #6 Fatal Error. I have already read some of the later books and remember Frigg. Will still read all of them in sequence. Then on to the Walker Family series.
    Very excited about the new book with JP.
    I love how you introduce real life situations into your books that really fit into my life. Like when you had JP visit an old friend with dementia.

  24. To be honest when I started reading the A1 book I was thinking that it might be the first Ali book that I wasn’t going to like. Very disappointing as a few authors I’ve gotten hooked on over the years have started writing stories that just didn’t compare to the ir previous ones and eventually gave up on that author altogether. I gave a few more of their books a try but finally realized I needed to find someone else to read. I did stick with the A1 book and finished it but was still doubtful. I gave the next Ali book a try with A1 still involved and finally got on board. Sci Fi is not my cup of tea but I have to say you do it justice as nothing else Sci Fi seems to interst me in a novel. And yes I now know that A1 is no longer Sci Fi in this crazy world but I’m old school and kind of stuck in the old days when things seemed much simpler. Keep up the great writing…please. I’d be lost without you even with Frigg in tow.

  25. Judy,
    I just read your Blog today and found myself “horrified” that Frigg was initially killed-off! I’m so relieved that your new editor challenged you to retain Frigg. One reason I like Frigg is that “she” enables Stu to harvest data that would otherwise be hidden. I makes the cases more complex and, of course, the source of the data has to be obscured.
    The other good news I found in this Blog is that there is a new Ali book where JP will drop in to assist. I’m happy I only have to wait a couple of days to begin my next read.
    I appreciate your writing style and characters SO MUCH! They are like a new group of friends. Your creations are a gift to those of us in “Readerland.”

  26. I’m so glad you didn’t kill off Frigg. We have enjoyed her part in the Ali books . Looking forward to the new Ali book! But i think we’d read anything you write.

    • The basic story line did not stick – here it is

      A Google engineer has created software that uses AI to help Holocaust descendants identify images of their loved ones.

      • I saw a.story awhile ago maybe on 60 minutes or CBS Sunday Morning. Holocaust survivors had extensive interviews on camera. Those were used to make holograms where people can have interactive discussions with the holograms. The idea is to seem as if you are having a real discussion with them. That way the survivors stories are not lost and seem more relevant. I don’t remember where it is located, Smithsonian perhaps.

          • I just looked it up. It was done by the USC Shoah Foundation and apparently will be on exhibit at various museums. Isn’t Google wonderful. I think I something like interactive holocaust survivor interviews.

  27. Yes, I was happy that Frigg wasn’t killed. Who knows how she might be needed and useful in future books? If she’d been “killed,” the option to use her services would have been taken away.

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