Saturday, January 6, 2024

What We're Writing: Julia Closes In on The Finish Line

 JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I kid you not, dear readers. I'm now in the fourth and shortest act of AT MIDNIGHT COMES THE CRY, and there's just not that much left to go. Well, my heroes have to save the day, and tie up all the loose ends, and we have to see what happens  - or doesn't happen - in the romance department. Honestly, if I hadn't basically taken off the entire month of December (please don't murder me, Hank and Jenn!) it would be done by now.

I'm feeling excited and impatient and more than ready to buckle down and put this baby to bed. We've got our first big snowstorm moving in tonight - six inches to a foot predicted for my area. Sounds like great weather for starting a roaring fire, keeping the tea kettle on, and writing!

 Here's an excerpt from the beginning of that fourth act - Clare, Russ and Hadley are on their (unofficial) way to what may be a hostage situation...

 

 

Could we please hurry a little more?” Clare looked out the window. “I swear I saw a one-legged man pushing a wheelbarrow pass us.”

And this is why I'm driving.” The chief resettled his hands in the classic two-and-ten position on the steering wheel.

 

 

A good thing, too, Hadley thought. The last Sunday before Christmas was as busy a day for traffic as they'd see until the Fourth of July holiday. She had heard about Reverend Clare's lead foot, and she had no interest in seeing how fast she could speed through the bag- and package- laden vehicles around them.

What's the plan?” she asked.

You and I should go in first.” Clare twisted in her seat to talk to her. “He's never seen you, and you don't look like a cop.”

So you want to give him two more hostages?” Van Alstyne shook his head.

Just long enough so I can see if Tiny and the baby are there. Then you and Lyle can come in with guns blazing.”

Oh, yeah, that would make the set-up even better. You and this woman and an infant caught in a crossfire. And what if March just shoots you on sight?”

He doesn't want to kill me. At least not right away. He wants to humiliate me. He wants to see me scared and weak.” She turned around again to face Hadley. “Right?”

She sighed. “I know the type. Men who don't feel tall unless they're standing on a woman.”

 

The other exciting news you've been hearing about is our members-only group, Reds and Readers. I have a video up today, taking advantage of the fact that the Feast of the Epiphany is still considered part of Christmas to show off my decor. And yes, there's a prize to be won as well! Please consider joining us.
 
Dear readers, how do you feel when the end of a major project is in sight?

Photos by Pexels and CatCampbell from Freerange Stock

105 comments:

  1. Oh, thank you, Julia, for this delightful glimpse into the story . . . I can just imagine Russ rolling his eyes as Clare chatters on, planning this encounter. I was chuckling until Hadley’s comment put the seriousness of the situation back into the discussion . . . I am so looking forward to reading this book :)

    How do I feel when the end of a major project is in sight? Relieved, mostly, but also a bit excited for what comes next . . . .

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  2. I can't wait to read this next book!
    When I get near the end of a big project I feel relieved, exhausted, and desperate to finish!

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    1. Sharon, when I finally am within 10,000 words of the ending, I often write 6 or 8 thousand words in a session. NOT my usual output!

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  3. Yikes - hostages, a baby, post-Christmas, a gun. Go heroes, go!

    I feel like you do toward the end of a book - eager to finish it but wanting it to be perfect. And, since I have three deadlines a year, the next book is already knocking at my brain wanting me to dive in. I'm nearing the end of final polishes on a manuscript myself, and we're getting the same big snow as you. Perfect for shutting out the world and staying in the fictional one.

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    1. I have four days worth of wood inside and half a tank of oil, Edith, so I'm ready!

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  4. A perfect lead-in to a scene where something is sure to go wrong before it goes right. Love the title of this book, too.

    When I'm in the home stretch of a project, I get antsy, just want it to be done. To the point that new projects start popping into my head. I have to jot them down and remind myself to focus and finish.

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    1. Elizabeth, that happens to me as well - it's one of the ways I know I really am getting close to the end - my subconscious starts "working" on other books.

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    2. Tell your subconscious to behave, Julia, and finish this one!!

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    3. My two favorite writers in creative dialogue!! Be still my cardio-emotive faculty!!

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    4. that wuz me.

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  5. Julia, I'm so excited at the prospect of spending more time with Clare and Russ! And what a sample you've shared!!!

    I'm nearing the conclusion of my current work in progress, too, and I'm eager to jump in every day. I know how it ends, but I don't know how Matthias and Emma are going to get there, and I can't wait to find out!

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    1. That's just how I am, Annette - I know the ending, and have to see how they'll get to it!

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    2. Yay for another Detective Honeywell book coming (sorta) soon!

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  6. Oooh, more Russ and Clare.

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  7. Congratulations on nearing the finishing line Julia. That’s a great feeling. What will you do to celebrate and does it involve an adult beverage? It should.
    We are expecting 3-5 inches of snow tonight. That’s doable, especially as we’ve had almost none so far. When I moved here 23 years ago, we measured snowfall in feet. Now it’s mostly by a dusting to a fraction of an inch. Sigh.
    I haven’t faced a significant deadline for much of anything in eons. And that’s a great feeling. However back in the day I had last minute dervishing — my own geriatric gerund invention — down to a fine science. Now my only deadlines are finishing reading one book before I allow myself to start another!

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    1. Ann, I may steal the word dervishing. It's entirely descriptive of my behavior at times!

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    2. Feel free Julia. My dervishing days are done and it needs a new home

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  8. Julia, thanks for the snippet. Clare is a combat veteran, a smart and inventive adversary and an intelligent and compassionate woman. She can be impulsive. I am also glad that Russ is driving. I hope that you have as much fun writing the fourth act as we will have reading it. I don't want to rush you.
    Oh, don't forget about how much your fans love Kevin.
    My big projects these days are coming out of the oven, so, instant gratification.

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    1. Oh yes we do love Kevin, don't we. I am so anxious to know what is happening with him, Judy!

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    2. JUDY: YUM, oven projects are so rewarding...enjoy!!

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    3. I'll have bread coming out of the oven today or tomorrow!

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    4. I'll have another project coming out of the crockpot this evening - I figured a nice hot pot roast would be perfect for ushering in our first real snow.

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  9. What a marvelous line, that some men need a woman to stand on to feel tall. Thank you, Julia! Elisabeth

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  10. The end is in sight! Music to my ears. I, unfortunately, am at the halfway point in my WIP wondering if I "have enough" plot and subplots to fill the pages till the big climax. Enjoy your snowstorm writing.

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    1. Margaret, I often worry about the same thing, only to discover after I pass the half-way point and have to tie everything together that I've added almost too many ingredients to the plot stew!

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  11. Nothing too dramatic here, Julia, ho-hum. Just a race against time, in a snowstorm, in holiday traffic, with an armed hostage-taker, and an infant. Couldn't you add a ticking time bomb in there for dramatic effect? Good luck on kicking this project over the finish line at long last; we are all happy you are at this emotional point and able to get it there. I know that's a huge watershed for you.

    Ann, I am adopting your fabulous geriatric gerund "dervishing", forthwith!

    How do I feel? Chomping at the bit! Anxious that something could still stymie my plans, and exhausted from ten years of planning, for crying out loud. Yeah, the basement project. And when that is "done", I have another big project planned, hardscaping the area outside our back porch. Steve will have something else to complain about for years. He'll be so happy.

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    1. Does Claire still needs to write the Christmas sermon?

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    2. Karen, we've heard so much about the basement project, you're going to have to send pics when it's done so we can share them with everyone!

      Deana - that's a good question! She usually writes her sermons on Wednesday, but that's Christmas Eve in this calendar. She's going to have to hustle.

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    3. I hope you're as patient with me as we've been with your writing this book, Julia. It will be summer, at least, before it will be ready for photos!

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  12. I am so looking forward to having this next book in my hands, Julia!

    Having the end of a project in sight is exciting, but I mostly feel relief when it's over. Then I take a breath, tidy up, and contemplate what my next one might be. And that's when the excitement starts to build again.

    Lovely video up over at Reds and Readers! Thank you.

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  13. We are so happy to read this Julia, we are dancing in our pajamas! I do envy a good snowstorm though...

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    1. Well, I was envying the sights and sounds of Mallory Square in your video on Reds and Readers, Lucy. Snow is lovely... for about a month.

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  14. JULIA: YAY, fourth act is in sight! As for the snippet, SURE, just send Clare, Russ & Hadley on their way in a holiday snowstorm to confront a hostage-taker holding a woman & young-un before the dramatic climax!! That's what I expect from your books, and I can't wait to learn what happens next!!!

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    1. No snow yet in Ottawa, forecasted to start tonight after 9 pm & continue into Sunday. They have raised the total amount expected to 5-8 cm/2-3 inches, so I'm happy. Zero snow on the ground during the first week of January is so wrong. Thanks El Nino.

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    2. We are expecting 6" to 12" of snow tonight through tomorrow, followed on Tuesday by 2" of rain. The weather is giving me whiplash.

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    3. I get it, JUDY. Our temperatures are colder, so we are expecting more snow from the Tuesday storm than this weekend.

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    4. I have the same forecast as Judy. Crazy weather, but my heating oil bill is happy for the (relative) warmth we've been experiencing.

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    5. It was supposed to snow most of the day here, but so far it's just wet and dreary. Which does not require shoveling, so I'm counting that as a plus.

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  15. So excited for you, Julia, to be closing in on the end, and so excited for me to have this story to look forward to. I always reread the entire series when I get a new one so I also have that to look forward to. Thank you for sharing it.

    They say we may get 6-12" of snow in Lake Placid but up here we are jaded by such predictions. A friend posted: "SNOW ALERT: Expecting: Zero (0) to 85 inches of snow. Starting: Saturday or Sunday or Monday maybe, but probably not happening at all. Recommendations: Stock up on all necessities and prepare for a snowcapolypse or a beautiful weekend, either one is possible." Our town depends on tourism and a winter with a scant inch of snow -- our current situation -- is ruinous to many local businesses. So we're all praying for a good blizzard. (Selden)

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    1. Selden, I laughed out loud at "Expecting: Zero (0) to 85 inches of snow." Sometimes it feels like that here as well. And yes, a lot of winter sporting in Maine has been delayed or stopped entirely - ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross country courses. It's a real blow to the economy in those areas.

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  16. Can’t wait! Enjoy the snow and cozy fire to wrap it up!😀

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  17. Yay, another Russ/Clare novel to savor this year! The end of a project is exciting, but that also means the opportunity to polish it and really make it shine.

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    1. I keep having to force myself to write forward, Liz, because I find myself wanting to go back and fix this and that. The struggle is real.

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  18. From Celia: great glance ahead, no teasing now. Who said, “I’m waiting!” https://youtu.be/3GwjfUFyY6M?si=1v3Vftpo3Ef9APDa

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  19. Julia, thank you for the snippet. Look forward to reading your mystery novel. The end of a project means "Now I can relax because I finished this big project". I feel happy. There are always new projects on the horizon.

    Diana

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    1. A wonderful way to think of it, Diana - there are always new projects on the horizon.

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  20. So excited to learn that your new book will be finished and out this year! Just 2 weeks ago I reread Through the Evil Days. My reason for reading it is because I couldn't remember how Clare and Russ wound up with the dog. I am so glad I read that book again and I am sure I liked it even more than I had the first time. The scene with pregnant Clare, hands tied asked the bag guy to let her go to the bathroom. What a hoot that conversation was!

    As for answering your question, when the final bit is in sight it makes me push harder. I am sure your new book will be worth all the time and effort you have put in. I need to know about Kevin!

    Good luck with the upcoming - or is that incoming? - snow. I've battened down the hatches here as well since usually I get a couple more inches than what the weather folks say is expected in my area.

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    1. It actually feels pretty good once you've finished all the preparations, doesn't it, Judi?

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  21. Ooh, great excerpt. I love the line "Men who don't feel tall unless they're standing on a woman.”

    When the end of a project is in sight, I feel like powering through, happy because I know I will finish.

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    1. I do tend to start powering through when I get really close to the end, Gillian. If I can resist premature editing, that is.

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  22. So glad that the end of the book is in sight! I often found when the monthly paper was about to be finished, my mind would wander and focusing was so hard – I would consider vacuuming (what volunteer to vacuum - never!), cooking something weird for supper, feeding the dog – anything, because I was anxious to finish, and yet somehow balking at the end. I see from your video that you don’t need to vacuum!, so you can just set about and write.
    Concerning yesterday’s murder possibilities (it was a crazy day here), Celia, I like your drop the 20lb weight on the victim’s head while he was tying his shoes. The reason – just because he could get down and tie his shoes – a fit of jealousy at something now just remembered! It would be very difficult to prove – “sorry occifer, my hands just slipped…”
    As for the weather, it looks like all of it will be dumped from your area to just before us, so we are holding our breath that we will be escaped. Meanwhile you better sharpen a pencil in case the power goes off, and remember to save, save, save!

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    1. Margo, I have my word processor set to save every ten seconds - and I'm not that fast a typist, so I can't lose that much!

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  23. Whenever I get close to finishing a work project or one around the house, I get an excited second wind. My desire to complete whatever it may be becomes almost obsessive and I get laser focused. I don’t want to stop until I’ve finished, can let out a breath and start to relax. It gives me such a thrill to accomplish the task at hand.

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    1. Kim, I feel the same. It kind of reminds me of the big burst of energy I got 24-48 hours before delivering each of my babies. It must be a deeply-rooted thing.

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  24. Hello, Julia! Finished watching your video just now. Lovely seeing an angel at the top of your tree. I seem to be interested in tree toppers. Is there a star, an angel or a tall colorful finial or something else. Do people use the same item every year? I use the same angel when I actually put up a bigger tree, and still have the little one we used when I was a kid.

    End in site of a big project... I think I can get so engrossed in a project that the end is there and I don't see it right away. Of course there are also times that the end seems to take forever. If I'm crocheting a baby blanket both can happen. I never use a pattern, I just have the yarn in place, pick a stitch and go. It will never get done , then, ta da, it's the perfect size and I need to put the border on.

    Can't wait for At Midnight Comes The Cry. Publishing this year or finishing this year and post writing reviews happen before the finished, published masterpiece arrives, sigh, next year?

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    1. That's a great question, Deana! We have a tree topper I was given as a gift in 1970, a tall glass globe and spire, with a cupid inside the globe. This year, though, I decided to top the tree with a fancy Santa hat I found with reversible sequins that change from red to green. I'll probably go back to the glass one, though.

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    2. Deanna, they'll tell me when the publication is going to happen - it all depends on the schedule at the printing house and what the marketing people think will be a good time.

      We have the same angel tree topper we've had since Ross and I picked it out as newlyweds for our first Christmas. I think my kids would stage an insurrection if I tried to change it now!

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  25. Great excerpt. I feel great when I can close the door on a project.

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    1. There's really nothing better, is there, Dru Ann?

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  26. Julia, this is weird, but I feel like Russ and Clare and company have just been plugging along doing their job and every now and then they pop in to tell us about where they are and what they're doing. And now we're getting to the final push of the investigation. So, it hasn't seemed like you're taking a long or should I say, a lo-o-o-ng time to finish this book. That said, can't wait to have it in my hands and start on page 1 and try not to race to the end.

    I just finished two small lap quilts meant to be Christmas presents. The beginning is so much fun--designing, piecing, tweaking, admiring the finished top. Then there's the long slog of doing the actual quilting. Then comes the final push--hemming the edges. That's a fun part because I can literally watch the end coming faster and faster right before my eyes. Then I'm happy and relieved and sort of bored and thinking about the next project. Waiting on my Tunisian crochet books to come in at the library--thanks, Jenn! We'll see if my next project springs from those and my yarn stash. (Flora)

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    1. Flora, you made me look up Tunisian crochet - what gorgeous textures! And the fabric seems so much more flexible than standard American/British crochet. I mean, I love the afghans my grandmother crocheted for me, but those granny square vests are long gone...

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    2. it's Jenn's fault. She mentioned Tunisian crochet last week in a comment and I looked it up. Gorgeous textures is exactly right! Can't wait to check out the books I've ordered through our library system.

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  27. So this will be a Christmas book, Julia! Brilliant. It will reappear on shelves every December! And hooray for FINALEEE

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    1. That's my hope, Rhys! You've been a great model for the rest of us when it comes to Christmas books.

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  28. Great Julia! It reads like TV drama. Very exciting.

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  29. “Do you want to give him two more hostages?” is such a great line! So visual! your books are always so dynamic, and the dialogue, so terrific and crisp. Love, love, love.
    Cannot wait to read this!
    As for me, suffice it to say, my new book is due in 11 days. And I have no idea what the ending is. One day at a time.
    See you on Facebook! Heading over there right now ..

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  30. I work better with deadlines. I need to start coming up with some so I will be more productive. It does feel good when a project is completed and checked off the to-do list!
    I hope Clare doesn’t get them all into a big mess with this hostage situation. If she does, I am confident that you will get them out of it.

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    1. If I don't, Brenda, I feel confident Lyle McAuley will. :-)

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  31. Julia, you’ve definitely left me wanting more!
    These days, I have more trouble getting projects off the ground. Never mind finishing them! I hope to someone be able to report that I’ve finally finished decluttering and reorganizing!

    DebRo

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    1. “Some day!” Not Someone!”

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    2. DebRo, maybe that's your subconscious telling you you need someone to do the decluttering for you!

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    3. DebRo, can only encourage you to find someone to get decluttering started. Took me forever to get started, but with the help of a friend and a professional organizer ( the friend called her “Ruthless Randi”) 6weeks and it was done. After 7 years of procrastination. Sending strength your way. Elisabeth

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  32. I always look forward to your new book

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  33. I love it! Russ the careful driver shooting down Clare's ideas. No doubt Hadley's eyes are about to roll out of her head. I can't wait to read it. What will Russ do for a living? And what about Flynn? I hope the new book will answer these questions!
    Snow is maybe hitting the mountains but here in the valley we are getting cold rain. Ick.

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    1. I do like to keep my readers wondering, Pat! Sorry about the cold rain - that's the worst in winter.

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  34. Julia! I am almost as excited as I would be if I were that close to the end!!! Let it snow, hunker down, and write through it!!! Love the excerpt, can't wait to read it all (hint hint), and isn't it lovely that after so long working on this book, you are finishing it in the appropriate season!! xx

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    1. Debs, I discovered the WCRB Holiday classical streams which plays Christmas music all year long! It's on background while I write to keep me in the mood.

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  35. Thanks for the preview of the fun ahead. Enjoy the snow too! Michael and Alexander

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  36. Oh, I am so excited! I have been waiting for this book. Sounds terrific, Julia.

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  37. Julia, I was avoiding reading the excerpt because I was sure I was a couple of books behind. I tend to savor series I love and hold back on getting to the most recently published book. However, I just checked and I am current with yours! My need to read a Russ and Clare book must’ve overcome my wait-and-savor tendencies. So I read the excerpt and now am so excited for this book! Best of luck getting to the finish line.
    As for how I feel approaching the end of a project, I’m unfamiliar with this term “end of a project”. Is one supposed to finish something before moving on to another? But what about the many unfinished craft projects, organizing chores? Do people actually finish something and put it away before they start something new? What a concept! — Pat S

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  38. I love the excerpt and your writing, Julia. Have from the beginning. Looking forward to reading Midnight as soon as it's out!

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  39. EXCITING!!! Love the excerpt and can't wait to read the finished novel. Go, Julia, go! I am sadly taking down my decorations today even though it's supposed to be freezing temperatures here tonight - yes, in central AZ. Maybe, I'll leave them up just one more day. :)

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    1. I keep saying that... Going to tackle the Christmas now!

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  40. So excited to be visiting Clare and Russ again - your work brings me much joy!

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  41. How wonderful!! Can't wait for the finished product.

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  42. “I swear I saw a one-legged man pushing a wheelbarrow pass us.” This line might be well-known to others, but it's the first time I've seen it, and it's a hoot. The excerpt sets up some dangerous action to come. And a Christmas book? It will be fantastic.

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    1. Sorry, the above comment was from Kathy Reel.

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    2. Kathy, in my family it was famously said by my birth father - the air force pilot - to his dad, who never really drove differently in his car and on his tractor. :-)

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  43. It is usually a mix of excitement, anticipation, and a bit of regret (if I have enjoyed the project) because I will be missing working on it. Love the pictures. Is that the New York North Country?

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  44. Ha Ha. - one legged man pushing a wheelbarrow! My finish line reaction depends on the activity being completed. My sewing projects are usually a combination of relief/satisfaction.

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  45. Clare… once the military is in the blood it never goes away. It can present itself in many various forms. It can be a great thing or a challenge. Obviously a rich source for your stories. Cheers!

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  46. So excited for a new book. When I read about the reason for delay in between books I so much understood. I also cared for and lost my husband in 2020. I adore this series.

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  47. I can’t wait to read it! 🤗

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