Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Stepping Out Into a New World with HID FROM OUR EYES

Virtual Event: Julia Spencer-Fleming and Jenn McKinlay in conversation on Facebook Live, tonight, April 7, at 8pm EST!
Hosted by the Poisoned Pen Bookstore; information here.



JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Reader, they've published it.

After the better part of a decade, disease, death, drop outs and dysfunction, HID FROM OUR EYES is finally, finally here.

In the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Yay?

Here's the thing: I've been looking at my novel for the first time since finishing the (ugh) copyedits back in July, and I'm starting to notice an odd pattern. This book has something to say about our present moment.

"But Julia," I hear you say, "Isn't it about three identical murders taking place decades apart, and the three police chiefs working the cases?" Well, yes, that's what the plot is. But a novel is always about a lot more than the plot. Here's what I saw on my reread of HID FROM OUR EYES that I see differently in April, 2020:

1. Penny wise, pound foolish. At the end of the previous Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne book, the leaders of Millers Kill decide to put to the vote the question of whether or not to dissolve the Miller Kill Police Department and replace it with patrols by the State Police, saving thousands and thousands of dollars. But through the eyes of police chiefs Harry McNeal, Jack Liddle, and Russ Van Alstyne, we can see how much care, attention and dedication each man puts into his job.  As Russ points out to a voters group, the local cops on the beat stop annoyances before they become problems. 

Sort of like how stockpiling masks, PPEs and ventilators before they're desperately needed means having them available without paying premium marked-up prices. (To say nothing of toilet paper.)

2. Do we really want those people here? In HID FROM OUR EYES,  we get to see the Millers Kill area summer people up close and personal - folks with gorgeous mountain houses who spend money on local businesses and services - but who may not have the interests of the year round residents at heart. Places like Millers Kill - and Maine, where I live - have a love-hate relationship with seasonal visitors, and these days, the feeling is tipping toward one end of that spectrum, as people with second homes in more bucolic areas flee, not unreasonably, from urban areas that have become hot spots for Covid-19. 

In Maine, we've had incidents of petty vandalism and harassment, as natives fear people "from away" bringing contagion with them. In Millers Kill, the relationship between flatlanders and locals takes a darker turn... which, hopefully, we won't see in real life.

3. Blaming the outsider. The three murders in HID FROM OUR EYES may be decades apart, but they take place at the same time of year. One group that comes up again and again in the investigations are the carnival workers who arrive for the county fair each August - closed off, looking down on the marks, with their own lingo and mores. Each of the police chiefs sets the carnies high on their list of persons of interest. Yes, they might be right. But the first reason the ticket-takers, roustabouts and game tenders fall under suspicion is because they're outsiders - a society emphatically set apart from both the townspeople and the second-home crowd.


I don't think I need to point out the parallels in our country today. Bad things start to happen, and it's the fault of the Chinese, or Asians generally, or Italians, or all those people south of the border. They must be behind the problems. Why? Because they're not us.



4. The heroism of ordinary lives. We've been talking about this at JRW over the past couple of weeks - how the nurse next door, your mailman, the kid delivering take-out and the cleaning crew disinfecting the grocery store have become heroes in many people's eyes. Ordinary folks, just doing their job, and in so doing, enabling the rest of us to stay home, flatten the curve, and save lives. Scared sometimes, and worried, and stressed, but still showing up.

I think of my characters like that. The three police chiefs aren't heroes. They aren't climbing any higher on the career ladder. Their goals are to do the job for their small town, one day after another, until retirement. Reverend Fergusson and the people at her church don't think of themselves as heroes, either - they're focusing on helping others in small ways; fixing a meal, listening to a story, offering shelter. And despite pain and PTSD and problems big and small, they all show up, every day, the very act of doing so making the world a better place.

Honestly, dear readers, I kind of wish I had a funny, light-hearted book to offer you, or a thrilling escape into the past, or adventures in lovely and exotic locales. (Lucky for you, you can get those and more from my blog sisters!) But this is what I write, one small, economically depressed corner of the real world, and so this is what I give you. I hope you take a look, and maybe buy it from your local independent bookstore (they ship!) or check it out of your library (librarians are some of those ordinary heroes, working to put ebooks and audio books in as many hands as possible.)

And may we all enjoy better days in which to read and write.



New York Times bestselling novelist Julia Spencer-Fleming took up writing while still a stay-at-home mother, creating Clare Fergusson, first female priest in the small Adirondack town of Millers Kill. Her series has won or been nominated for every American mystery award available, including the Edgar, the Anthony, and the Agatha. HID FROM OUR EYES is her ninth book. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

79 comments:

  1. Happy Book Birthday, Julia!

    Since the previous eight books in your series have spoken to real life, it comes as no surprise that this one does, too. And, frankly, I’m glad that it does. It’s one of the many things I enjoy about the series.

    Since I pre-ordered the book and “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” [nor, apparently, a virus] will stop the heroes who deliver the mail, it will show up here soon and I will have the pleasure of reading your timely story once again. I’m also sure those better days in which to read and write will arrive, and I’m looking forward to many more Millers Kill stories for all of us to treasure. Thank you for giving us a new one . . . .

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    1. Thanks for being such a supporter all these years, Joan!

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  2. I will do curbside pickup from my local indy bookstore this afternoon so I can do nothing but read for the next day or two. I will not mind a darker story as long as it's yours.

    Whenever I'm outside gazing at spring flowers and seeing things growing, I know we'll enjoy better days.

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    1. Yay for curbside pickup! And yes, even up here in Northern New England, the crocuses have been out and the narcissius (narcissii?)leaves are growing daily. Spring is coming.

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    2. Edith, I said the same thing to several authors at the Left Coast Crime conference in San Diego. I told them that I do not mind a darker story as long as it is their stories.

      Stay safe,
      Diana

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  3. Hid From Our Eyes is the book that many of us were looking forward to reading, and it's finally here! It was such a great read (I held off reading the ARC until late February) and got one of my rare 5-star reviews.

    Interesting how you are seeing the book with new eyes after re-reading it in our COVID-19 pandemic world.

    Although the in-person book tours are no more, I look forward to watching tonight's Facebook live event. Hooray for technology and the Poisoned Pen!

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    1. Right? I'm thrilled at how many bookstores have shifted nimbly to virtual events instead of in-person. I'm so grateful for the chance to be able to talk to readers and answer questions. And Grace, thank you for the rare 5 star review!

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    2. Grace and Julia, isn't it wonderful that there are virtual events like Zoom events.

      Diana

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  4. HOORAY! It's here. The day has come! I cannot wait to dive into this book and revisit the world of Clare and Russ...and baby! Too bad that I have to put in a day's work first.

    Congratulations, Julia.

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    1. Thank you, Amanda! I hope the book will be a nice 5 o'clock treat when the workday is done!

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  5. Yaaaaay! This book is so fabulous—it is going to be the book of the year! Hmmmm—have you heard anything from Publishers Weekly? :-)

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    1. No! Should I expect a thick letter in a fancy envelope, like when you get into the college of your choice? :-)

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  6. I love this series so much, Julia - and this new book is in a class by itself. Really special and especially poignant. I was sorry to get to the last page (will there be more?) Because when I got to the end I wanted to turn the page and find out what happens next...

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    1. Hallie, this is how I feel every time I finish a book in a series by my favorite authors--I always want to turn the page and see what comes next.

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    2. Hallie, yes, I'm working on Book no. 10 right now. And I feel the same way as a reader, Flora - I get to the end of the latest in one of my favorite series and I wonder why the next book isn't available Right Now!

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  7. Yaaaaaay is right! May it have many many sales

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    1. From your lips to BookScan's ears, Lucy!

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  8. What a special day! Hope to have it in my mailbox later today.

    It just hit me, Julia, that this book will be remembered in a different way from all your others. Years and years from now people might say "oh, I can never remember titles but it was the one that came out during the pandemic and everyone was raving about it." We'll all know exactly what book they are talking about.

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    1. Oh, gosh, Judi, there's a thought. And I bet you're right, about this and a lot of things. "It was that series we binged the first month of the pandemic, remember?"

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  9. A red letter day, to be sure! Congratulations on birthin' your new baby, Julia. It's been more like giving birth to an elephant than ever before, I suspect.

    In 2001, a friend and I had just started an online business to connect craft manufacturers with hobby customers. It was a great idea, and we were just getting rolling, when 9/11 shot the hell out of everything in daily life in the US. Many of our target companies were located in New York City and nearby areas, and of course they were devastated, and the last thing they wanted to discuss was how to get projects using their products to people online.

    Of course the world changed, and now it's changing again. Luckily, there is now already a lively and massive online universe, and you have the option of not only dispersing your new book digitally, but also "appearing" in many different venues, right from your kitchen, if you need to. Heck, people are stuck at home right now, so you have a captive audience. That's a positive, right there.

    Here's to Hank's prediction of book of the year!

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    1. Thanks, Karen! Yes, thank heavens for the 2020 level of connectivity we have. I was telling my girls a bit about 1987's Black Monday crash (it's been coming up on the news because of the stock market gyrations, obvs) and it got me to thinking - what would it have been like if we'd had Covid-86? No emails, no streaming services, no virtual meetings between coworkers and family and friends.

      Books and audio books in physical form only! It would be a lot grimmer, and we'd all be feeling a great deal more isolated right now. Which, perversely, makes me feel a great deal better about our world today!

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    2. Yes, so true. In 1999-2001, I was part of a virtual company, and we communicated daily via many, many emails and weekly conference calls. That all seems to primitive now, in comparison. And yet it was a vast improvement over anything that had come before.

      I think this crisis is going to change the world in many ways, and that it already has. Maybe it's just what we needed to stop, take stock, and rethink how we go about nearly everything.

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  10. Congratulations, Julia! I am eager to read your take on the dreaded effect of people "not from around here." I'll get my Kindle copy from Amazon and spread the word!

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    1. Thank you, Susan! Since you write about the Adirondacks, I'm sure you know that "them not from around here" are usually up to no good -even if it's just making someone wait for their coffee at the Quik-Stop because they're buying the New York Times. :-)

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  11. Congratulations Julia for Hid From Our Eyes !
    Before coming here , I checked and yes, it was downloaded: YAY !
    After reading one of your books every month since last summer, I was very anxious to get this one and I know what I'll be doing in the hours to come.
    If the day is as beautiful in Maine than it is here now, it is to celebrate you and your accomplishment. 🌞

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    1. It is gorgeous here, Danielle, and I'm going to get away from the computer for a walk with the dog even if I have to set an alarm to do so! I hope you enjoy your read.

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  12. Congratulations, Julia! I am eagerly anticipating the phone call to tell me my book is in, come and get it. I hope you'll forgive me for not devouring it immediately, but I have books 4-8 to read first. So I'll be able to look back in a few weeks (months?) and see the parallels.

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    1. Liz, if you read really, really slowly, you may be able to avoid along wait for no. 10. Maybe - no promises!

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  13. I read the ARC back in the the Fall when you gave it to me, Julia; but I will admit that last week when I desperately needed a comfort read with all that was going on, HID FROM OUR EYES was the book I gravitated to. Of course, part of that was that I needed to write my review and I wanted it fresh in my mind at that time, but it likely also had much to do with what you wrote above. I needed to see folks struggling and overcoming when faced with adversity.

    I loved the book, as I have loved every one of those in the series. I hope that the wait for the next one is not as long - but if the end product is as strong as HID FROM OUR EYES, I am willing to wait any amount of time.

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    1. Thank you so much, Kristopher, and thank you for the generous and thoughtful review on BOLO Books. It is much appreciated.

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  14. Happy Publication Day Julia! It must be a great feeling that HID FROM OUR EYES is no longer hidden from the eyes of the teeming masses of eager eyes for the new Clare and Russ adventure!

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    1. You've got that right, Jay. Fingers crossed for teeming masses!

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  15. Congratulations on your book birthday, Julia! Cannot wait to get it in my hands - will order today - and sending you best wishes for it.

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  16. The Happiest of publication days Julia. You have worked so hard to birth this book, and under tough circumstances which +outdated never have been dreamt up as you finished it last year. Your skill in taking our present circumstances and lining them with HID FROM OUR EYES, story, simply attests to your talents as a story teller. I am waving my magic wand, why yes, I do have one, and wishing you on all the best seller lists with record sales and stunning reviews.

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    1. Thank you, Celia, I feel the glittery effects of your magic wand from here!

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  17. Happy Book Birthday, Julia! Like all of the others i have been eagerly awaiting this day. My computer told me this morning that Hid From Our Eyes had arrived on my Kindle and I am beyond excited. It's going to be hard not to just let everything else go and just read. However I am going to savor it and reward myself with a little each day, and I know that all over other readers will be doing the same. I may be in isolation but I am not alone. I know there is a community out there who is reading with me.

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    1. And isn't that a nice feeling, Atlanta. In some ways, all of stuck in our houses and apartments and what-not feel more connected in community than we did before, when we were out and about.

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  18. It is on my iPad and after reading this column I may start it today. I have found it hard to concentrate lately, but I really miss Clare and Russ.

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    1. Wishing you the gift of concentration, Teri!

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  19. It showed up on my Kindle over night. I feel like Santa was here! Happy Book Day, Julia. :)

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    1. Thank you, Cathy! There is something a little magical about ebook pre-orders, isn't there. My favorite is when I'd forgotten I'd ordered a book and surprise! Here it is! It feels like getting a present.

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  20. Happy Book Birthday Julia, may you have many more. And I join the others BTL in rejoicing. Even your title alludes to the pandemic. I read you because you have such an understanding of character, for your theme of PTSD. Your works most likely are used in book therapy sessions. Most of all I read for love. One of your main characters pondered love, and instant love. I breathed in and out and identified. I added a new "bookshelf" in my goodreads account - 5 plus stars. HFOE's is shelved there. Thank you so very much.

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    1. Thank you Coralee, for being a reader and for such kind words!

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  21. So okay, I will tell myself to read slowly and make Hid From Our Eyes last a week, a few days...Who am I kidding?? I will hide myself from prying eyes (Where's dinner? The cats are hungry. Do we have any clean towels/clothes/whatevers, etc.) and read until my brain freezes or I finish the book, whichever comes first. Can't Wait! And so happy that you decided the book was worth finishing and stuck with it, Julia!!

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    1. So am I, Flora. I give all credit to the Reds - they all gave me so much support and urged me to keep going when I felt like throwing in the towel, and they were entirely right. I did need to finish this book, and I'm so glad I did.

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  22. Congratulations on your long-awaited book day, Julia! I'm hoping my copy will land on my porch today and I just can't wait. Big love to you. Do you get to sit back and bask for just an hour or so before you start prepping for your event with Jenn?

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    1. I may have to save the basking for later in the week, Gigi. It's all social media and emails all the time today!

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  23. Congratulations, Julia! I enjoyed your Zoom interview last night and will look forward to the Facebook Live event with you and Jenn tonight. In between those two talks, I am waiting for the Amazon truck to drive by so I can get my hands on the book and get started! Hooray!

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    1. Thank you, Mary - I had a great deal of fun on the Print Bookstore/MWPA Zoom as well. It continues to amaze me how connected I can feel just by the fact of seeing people's faces on the screen!

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  24. Congratulations, Julia! Happy book birthday! I have several book reviews to read and am editing my first interview for my blog. Adding your book to my reading list.

    Question: Do I need to read your Clare / Russ novels in order or can I start with Hid From Our Eyes?

    Diana

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    1. Diana, you should be able to get everything you need to follow the plot and characters "within the four corners of the document." (A little flashback to my legal education, there.) So dive right in and see what you think!

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    2. Julia, thank you. Did you go to law school? I took paralegal classes at a law school. I will let you know what I think!

      Diana

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  25. I loved this book - so many layers, so much insight, such a great mystery - it’s fabulous! Can’t wait to visit with you tonight! Congratulations, JULIA!

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    1. Thank you, Jenn! We're going to have fun tonight...

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    2. Jenn and Julia, I will look for the interview on Facebook. Will the interview be on Julia or Jenn's Facebook page?

      Diana

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  26. Yay! Just yay! I was lucky enough to read a copy through NetGalley. I will be stewing about what happens next to our Millers Kill family. I ordered a copy from our local indy and will no doubt read again and probably stew some more!

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    1. Laughing at you stewing, Pat - that's such a compliment, when characters become so real readers carry them around in their heads. And than you for supporting your local independent book store!

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  27. Julia, congrats on book b'day in the strangest of times that we're living through! I'll be tuned in at 8PM tonight.

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  28. Happy Book Birthday Julia. I pre-ordered and I was delighted to see it download onto my Kindle this morning! I'm looking forward to the Facebook/Poison Pen event this evening. Most especially because I will have had the day to enjoy Hid From Our Eyes by the time I sign on. Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks, Lyda. I think Jenn and I will have a good time tonight!

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  29. Happy pub day, Julia!! I'm checking my front porch every few minutes to see if my copy has arrived! I'll be glad to be staying home this week! And I'm so excited to see you and Jenn live on Facebook tonight. I think this virtual book tour thing totally rocks!

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    1. We may never go back to touring, Debs! Although we may all need to get a version of Margaret Atwood's remote signing pen...

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  30. Happiest of days, Julia. And how appropriate the title is for the times. So much is HID FROM OUR EYES at present.

    I'm one of those readers who is finding reading/concentrating difficult right now. So I went to utter trash, but of course that didn't last, bored me to tears instead of letting me escape. Last night I picked up THE SATAPUR MOONSTONE, which I'd started months ago, and wonder of wonders, I can read again. I'll finish it and then dive into your book, one that I know took so long to write because life -- and death -- got in the way.

    Congratulations, dear Julia, and now that you're steadily riding that bicycle, don't get off again. xox

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  31. Yay for your book birthday! Meant to pre-order it, but will get that order in today. My sister and I are huge fans of your books. I live in California, but we have a family cabin in the southern Adirondacks and I discovered your first book at the Ice Cream Parlor in Chestertown & was immediately hooked - & got my sister hooked as well (a book pusher!). To illustrate how real your characters are to me: I do genealogy and saw that my Albany area ancestors had Van Allstyne neighbors & wondered if Russ knew about them. Several hours later I started laughing as I remembered that Russ is fictional :-) Congratulations & hoping for many more in the series!

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    1. Thank you, Jean. And yes, there are LOTS of Van Alstynes, van Alstines, Van Allstynes, etc. etc. all up and down the Hudson Valley. There's even a John Van Alstyne who is a detective lieutenant with the Colonie PD!

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  32. I am so glad this book has been delivered both figuratively and actually. I look forward to reading it after my normal work day, There may be a pandemic but those mundane and new legal issues still need to be addressed. Attorneys are exempt in California, our work continues. I will be watching the Poison Pen event and start reading your book this evening. Congratulations on its delivery! Your books are thought provoking and contain enthralling stories and themes! I hope ten is easier to formulate and deliver. I’m happy you were able to finish Hid From Your Eyes. Again, congratulations!

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    1. Susan, I was answering emails and writing stuff late last night and found I had written HID FROM YOUR EYES, HID FROM HER EYES and HID FROM MY EYES. You definitely get a pass on the mistake!

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  33. Happy Book Birthday, Julia! If you've read my review on my Reading Room blog, and I hope you have, you know just how much I love Hid From Our Eyes. One of the aspects of the police chiefs you mentioned is something I remarked upon, too, their genuine care for their community, which your story shows. I'll be running the review on my FB page again today. It's such an outstanding book. Your comparison to our current times is so interesting and spot on. I'm going to try to catch your podcast this evening.

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    1. Kathy, thank you for the awesome review. I did see it, and I'm grateful for your generosity! I feel a little like Sally Fields in her "You like me!" moment!

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  34. Happy Book Birthday, Julia. It was the very first book I purchased for my new Kindle and when I got up this morning it was already there. I do love this series. Good luck with all of your on-line promotions.
    If you reschedule the Stuyvesant Plaza book store event, and I know enough ahead of time, I just might make a pilgrimage to Albany, dine at Peaches, and drop by your event.
    Wishing you all the best!

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    1. I hope we do reschedule in Albany, Judy, because every time I go there I eat at Peaches, too!

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  35. Hooray, hooray! Facebook today, CHECK! Just keep talking until the end, okay? I'm taking a short lunch today, 8pm east coast is 5pm here and I can't leave the office until 5:15. I'm going to visit my mailbox daily until Copperfields sends me my copy. I've been rereading the series and just have the last two left. So excited. It's nice to be excited about something good instead of being anxious about the other things, even for a little while. Hooray, hooray!

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    1. Don't worry, Deana, I'm pretty sure with me and Jenn involved, there's not going to be ANY problems in the "keep talking" department. The tech guys will probably have to pull our plugs to get us to stop!

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  36. Happy book birthday, Julia! It arrived at 9 pm last night (I'm in California, so we get a bit of an advantage) and I'm just finished devouring it. And loved it. Would I be an awful person if I asked how the next book was coming? The ending left me with some anxiety.... Thank you for another amazing read!

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