Are You Paying Attention?

P. J. Tracy is watching you...have you noticed? A New York Times bestselling author, Tracy returns with Deep into the Dark, a brand new series set in LA and featuring up-and-coming LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan and murder suspect Sam Easton.

🚨BONUS: Sign-in and comment on this post to enter for a chance to win a copy of Deep Into the Dark!

I’m that weirdo you occasionally see at an airport gate or in a waiting room; totally anomalous because I’m not a lonely planet orbiting around my digital sun. You can’t even see evidence of a digital sun on my person, which makes me rarer than a unicorn and appreciably suspicious. Of course, you might not notice me at all because I’m not as spellbinding as what’s on your device’s screen. But if you happen to be paying attention (kudos if you are), you’re intrigued by how alert I am while doing absolutely nothing. You might wonder if I’m a sky marshal, a stalker, or—if you’re delinquent on that loan you took out in an alley after last call—a mob enforcer. If this is the track your mind takes, you and I have a lot in common.

I’m none of those things (though if I was, I couldn’t admit it.) I’m just a writer, watching you. Creating multiple scenarios about you and your life that might spark an idea for a novel. You might be a sky marshal or stalker or mob enforcer. You have secrets and I want to know what they are. No need to tell me, I’ll fill in the blanks. As my dearly departed mother and writing partner PJ was fond of saying: ‘We get to make stuff up for a living, how great is that?’ She was absolutely right. Making stuff up is great. It’s the best one-person party game ever and a thrill that never gets old. Truly, you can’t find anything online as entertaining as your own imagination. Try it sometime, you will be amazed. This is not only how I write, but one of the reasons why I write.

I’ve always been this way (you wouldn’t believe the double life my kindergarten teacher led.) Consequently, I have never been bored in my life. Except for the time my father took me to a kabuki performance when I was ten. I used to wonder why such highly stylized theater put me to sleep, but I’ve figured out it was sensory overload. My own imagination is more inclined to subtlety and it couldn’t compete with the clamor on stage.

A writer’s first job is to be a sponge, and there is inspiration everywhere, even in the most mundane occurrences of daily life. You have to immerse yourself entirely in your surroundings in order to craft and tell a story. That means putting the electronics away and paying attention. Before anybody gets offended, I’m not judging you by the amount of screen time you log each day or what you do there. Distractions to allay boredom are necessary and as old as the human race. Archaeological sites from every ancient civilization reveal evidence of games and alcoholic beverages—two enduring ways to keep yourself entertained. Once the goats have been milked, you’ve got to do something while you wait for your new batch of wine to ferment, right? Nobody is bored when they’re playing backgammon or drinking.  Doing both at the same time is even better.

But that sort of fun doesn’t fly these days—the digital world is too compelling, our attention spans too short and demanding to roll dice and push chips around a board, even if we are buzzed. Before phones and computers, we had to suffice with magazines and newspapers while we waited. But they are limited in scope and never entirely captivated our attention, so we would occasionally glance up and notice what was going on around us. Today, we literally have the world in our hands and in our laps. Wherever we are, we can silently conduct important business, shop, commit criminal acts, argue, propose marriage, or sign divorce papers. The convenience is very private, very myopic, and very isolating, I think. It’s ironic that being so connected seems to ultimately disconnect us in a fundamentally human way. Participating in the world immediately around us has become a lost art.

And it’s a very important art for not just writers, but everybody. We all have an elemental need to share, connect, and communicate. We’re not healthy if we don’t. But we can’t do that if we don’t pay attention. Anything available online is there forever and can be accessed at our leisure, but the real moments happening in real life around us are the ones that can’t be missed. They can be ordinary, sad, poignant, uplifting, or disturbing, but they happen fast and once they occur, they’re gone forever if we’re not watching and documenting. I think of writing as an internalized form of photography. In either medium, the goal is to tell a story.

This is another reason I write. Everybody has a story, big or small, and they’re all worth knowing. Humanity is a collection of actors in a grand play, and characters in a novel are a reflection of that—actors on a psychological stage devised by their creators. Due diligence is the only thing that brings them to life in a substantive way. I do exhaustive research, but before my writing begins, my job is to observe and interact with as many strangers as I can at every opportunity. That’s the most important research I do. Even the briefest exchange can and often does inspire an entire novel. There is an appropriate time to leave behind the legitimate exhortations of parents—don’t talk to strangers!—and dive full-on into this reckless practice of real-life interaction. (This is assuming COVID isn’t permanent.)

Deep into the Dark is quite a departure from the Minneapolis-set Monkeewrench series and it was so exciting and energizing to write with an entirely fresh palette. This book takes place in Los Angeles, featuring a new cast of characters navigating thrills, chills, and general mayhem against the backdrop of the City of Angels’ edgy urban zeitgeist. If I hadn’t lived there for a decade, assiduously engaging in cultural immersion and observation, I wouldn’t have been able to write about the city or the people who inhabit it. Being truly present makes life more interesting and more rewarding. Social distancing should only be physical, not psychological. And even if you’re wearing a mask, you can connect with others in meaningful ways. You might just find yourself making stuff up, too. I hope you enjoy that as much as I do.

More: Read an Excerpt of Deep Into the Dark here!


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Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Deep Into the Dark!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

The Deep Into the Dark Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/are-you-paying-attention/ beginning at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) January 11, 2021. Sweepstakes ends at 5:59 p.m. ET January 25, 2021. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10010.


About Deep Into the Dark by P. J. Tracy:

Sam Eastona true survivoris home from Afghanistan, trying to rebuild a life in his hometown of LA. Separated from his wife, bartending and therapy sessions are what occupy his days and nights. When friend and colleague Melody Traeger is beaten by her boyfriend, she turns to Sam for help. When the boyfriend turns up dead the next day, a hard case like Sam is the perfect suspect.

But LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan, whose brother recently died serving overseas, is sympathetic to Sam’s troubles, and can’t quite see him as a killer. She’s more interested in the secrets Melody might be keeping and the developments in another murder case on the other side of town.

Set in an LA where real people live and work—not the superficial LA of Beverly Hills or the gritty underbelly of the city—Deep into the Dark features two really engaging, dynamic main characters and explores the nature of obsession, revenge, and grief.

P. J. Tracy is known for her “fast, fresh, and funny” characters (Harlan Coben) and her “sizzling” plots (People); the Monkeewrench series was her first, set in Minneapolis and co-written with her mother. Now with Deep into the Dark she’s on her ownand it’s a home run.

Learn More Or Order A Copy

Comments

  1. elvinoray

    Would love a copy

    • CarolK

      You got me at obsession, revenge, and grief.

    • Sylvia Dominick

      Thanks so much ❗ ❤️ I would love to read and review your book ❗

    • Maria Riumbau

      This would be a first for me from this author. I’m always looking to read new voices. Keeping my fingers crossed.

  2. Karen Queen

    I’m excited!!!!

  3. Shirley Evans

    This book looks oh so good, would love to win. Thanks for the chance.

  4. Desmond Warzel

    I’d love a copy…

  5. Julie Kodama

    I would love to win this book!

  6. Zara Altair

    Yes, a sponge! I’ve been known to record seemingly innocuous conversations, just to get the rhythm.

  7. Laini

    This mystery sounds intriguing. A fabulous author.

  8. April

    This is a captivating mystery. Thanks.

  9. susan beamon

    I have been a fan of the Monkeewrench series. The new one sounds as interesting. I’d love to win a copy.

  10. Leeann Gaddy

    I met you guys when I worked in Waldonbooks in Tx and I am so EXCITED for a new series. I tell every one I can to read your Monkeewrench series. (still a bookseller at heart even though I’ve moved on to another occupation.) Wishing you much success with your new series and I ordered the book today!!!

  11. Pat Dupuy

    I’m a sucker for a book featuring military veterans. Every time!

  12. Melissa Baird

    I can’t wait to read this. I loved the Monkeewrench books!

  13. Beth Shaw-Meyer

    Thank you for doing a giveaway!!

  14. Barbara Bibel

    This sounds intriguing. I really want t read it.

  15. Dianna

    I want to know about the kindergarten teacher’s double life!

  16. lasvegasnv

    looks intriguing

  17. gary rejsek

    Yes please

  18. Deb Philippon

    Re: The digital world: “The convenience is very private, very myopic, and very isolating”. I’ve always enjoyed people watching while having to wait. It’s not as interesting now that people don’t interact with each other as much. Even people sitting together in movie theatres interact more with their devices than with their friends sitting beside them. I’m amazed at the number of lit screens I can see from the back of a movie theatre.

  19. Teresa Warner

    Thanks for the opportunity!

  20. S M LIGHT

    I’m looking forward to trying the new P.J. Tracy solo by Tracy.

  21. Linda Zierle

    I’d love to win! It looks like a great book.

  22. Cindy

    Sounds like my kind of book!

  23. Tammy Brasic

    Oh I have always loved your series! Would love to get a copy of this one to read right away!! Keep up the great work.

  24. Lori P

    Interesting discussion of observation, especially set against the excerpt for “Deep into the Dark”. Definitely need to turn my observational skills up a few notches!

  25. CORTNEY SPARKS

    Sounds very intriguing

  26. samantha cox

    Can’t wait to get my hands on this new book. The discussion about observation skills was intriguing.

  27. Jennifer V

    Loved the Monkeewrench books; so excited for a new series by P.J. Tracy!

  28. Ginny

    Sounds like a greatat book!

  29. Mary S

    All of your books a great and inspire me to write!

  30. Margaret Raver

    I would love a copy! As a retired librarian and former Minnesotan, I love reading books by authors from my home state.

  31. Kathryn A Defranc

    This story sounds smashing and I am so ready to dive in!!!

  32. Carolyn J Yapchanyk

    Sounds great, I’d love to read it.

  33. Judy Kahn

    Sounds right up my alley.

  34. [email protected]

    This book sounds really, really good! Thanks so much for the chance.

  35. Wendy

    Looking forward to the book.

  36. R J Newhouse

    Should I be the lucky one to win and read this book, I shall no longer be “in the dark.”

  37. Wendy

    looking forward to the book

  38. Susan Wilkinson

    I have the series, like to try new ideas. Russian studies? High five. In college, I tried to learn a Russian song for convocation, had to pass as it didn’t come easily for me as the other languages.

  39. Kris

    I loved what I read in the excerpt! I would love to win the sweepstakes!

  40. K T

    I would LOVE to read this book from a Minnesota author, as I’m from MN too!

  41. Karl Stenger

    Sounds exciting.

  42. Carole McKinney

    Sounds good! I would love to win this.

  43. BoysMom

    Your essay caught my eye because our (now Zoom) Midweek Mystery Book Club (Irving, TX) has the Monkeewrench series on the 2021 schedule. I look forward to having another series to add to our list to read and discuss! Pick me!

  44. Mary D

    Wow I can’t wait to read this one!. The excerpt was very intriguing.

  45. Kate L.

    Much as I enjoy Monkeewrench, police procedurals are an earlier and ongoing love, so I’m looking forward to this new series!

  46. Jana

    Enjoyed the post. This new book is very intriguing.

  47. pc lemos

    Book sounds great just put a copy on hold at my library – I would love to win a copy though.

  48. Joan Schramm

    I can’t wait to read this!

  49. Jean

    Loved Monkeewrench series. I am looking forward to this new book.

  50. Cindy Filippone

    Looks like my kind of book!! Thanks for the chance!!

  51. Joyce Wilking

    Looks like a very interesting story.

  52. MaryC

    Looking forward to reading the latest P. J. Tracy book.

  53. sskrout

    Wow! I am already sucked in! I have to know what happens next! My goodness, if this was in my possession right now, I wouldn’t be able to sleep until after the last page. It sound like a true white-knuckle thrill ride! Thank you for the opportunity!

  54. MM

    What a great beginning! I’m hooked and can’t wait to read it! Thank you for the chance!

  55. Elaine B Fitt

    Mesmerizing characters and plot; can’t wait to read.

  56. ravensfan

    I would love to win a copy.

  57. Christine Smiga

    Sounds exciting!

  58. Harley Christensen

    “A writer’s first job is to be a sponge, and there is inspiration everywhere, even in the most mundane occurrences of daily life. You have to immerse yourself entirely in your surroundings in order to craft and tell a story.” ~ P.J. Tracy

    Couldn’t agree more! Congrats on the new book/series!

  59. Vicki

    Welcome back to Los Angeles, at least metaphorically. Such a wide, sprawling collection of opportunities. When I was there as a teen to a young adult, it felt as if anything could happen there, in the dazzling sunlight or in the dark of the night. Looking forward to reading your take on this place that is so dear in my memories.

  60. Patrice

    Read all of the Monkee series. Excited to see a new series.

  61. SeattleReader

    I’m a huge fan of the Monkeewrench series, so I’m excited to read this new series! Thanks for the chance to win.

  62. Patrick McGouran

    Looks interesting

  63. Debbie Delwiche

    Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of Deep Into the Dark!

  64. Mary Kearney

    Sounds good, would be a new author for me.

  65. Suzanne McMannis

    I can only imagine how happy winning this book will make me.

  66. Reilly

    Sounds as engaging as other PJ Tracy books.

  67. Linda C

    I’ve read all of the Monkeewrench books and have been waiting for this book. It sounds terrific. Love her style and characters.

  68. Michael Carter

    I would love to win.
    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks!

  69. Karen Tracy

    Saw your name and my heart stopped for a second. My step-son, who died 15 years ago, was Patrick James Tracy – PJTracy. The headline I saw said “P J Tracy’s highly anticipated return…” Needless to say my heart skipped a beat..

  70. Cindi Hoppes

    Hi, Okay, You have me at the excerpt! I adore the cover of your book, also…
    Many thanks, Cindi

  71. MaryAnn Forbes

    I have been a fan of the Monkeewrench series by what was then the great Mother/ Daughter writing team since the first book I read. So happy P.J. Tracy has continued to write. Thanks for this opportunity.

  72. Dawn

    I love writing but I am not created enough to make up stories! Thank you for writing yours.

  73. Jason Carlson

    Would love a copy, I would love a copy! Thanks for the opportunity!

  74. Sandy Radeke

    Excited for a new book from you!

  75. Lisa Altland

    I’ve read some of her older books and really enjoyed them. Would love to read her new series!

  76. CKANE

    You are a new author for me. Thank you for the opportunity.

  77. Karen Mikusak

    Looks like a great read!

  78. Linda Farabaugh

    Sounds like a book I would love to win. This is a new author for me. So thanks for a chance to win.

  79. Maureen Lestelle

    I was born in LA as was many generations before me. Yes, many. I’m always looking at how LA is portrayed and so am very interested in the new book. Plus ALWAYS interested in a new read!

  80. Amy mara

    Can’t wait

  81. Susan Porter

    Looks like a fantastic read!

  82. Jenny T

    ooh- looks like a thriller with lots of plot to offer!

  83. paul klumbach

    would love to have a copy of this book-signed if possible, of course. thank you for the opportunity to win one.

  84. LeMinou

    Sounds fascinating!

  85. Marilyn Riley

    I have enjoyed your Monkeywrench series. This series sounds like it would be an equally great read. Thanks for inviting us to enter for a free book.

  86. Sharon L. Garrison

    Can’t wait for this new book!

  87. Deborah D

    This is my kind of book.

  88. Robbie Lane Jackson

    I loved hearing the author speak, here, & talk about writing. I am really looking forward to reading this book. I’ve never read this author, but she’s good. Book looks great!

  89. tiggrztail

    I’d love to read this, as it sounds intriguing. Thanks for the chance to win.

  90. Anne Hardy

    I enjoyed your post about people-watching. The book sounds very compelling

  91. Amie Salerno

    This new series sounds very interesting. I love that it is written about the layer of LA that most authors ignore. It is nit crazy, glitzy Beverly Hills and it is not the underbelly of LA. I would truly love to have a copy of this book.

  92. Becky Hantsbarger

    Sounds like a winner to me!

  93. theresa norris

    I like your opening. In my experience we all recall more about and event than we realise.

  94. Alicia Kiehne Johnson

    Can’t wait to see you tonight at the Once Upon a Crime event!

  95. TCasteel

    I love to people watch too. It will be nice to read about L.A. in its real setting, because it is certainly not the glamorized So Cal location people make it out to be.

  96. katevocke

    Sounds like a really fun read!

  97. Gail kreis

    Love you and your mom’s Monkeewrench series.
    Looking to your new series set in L.A.

  98. Denise

    I can’t wait! I loved the Monkeewrench series!

  99. Karen B

    wow-wow-wow! Sounds fascinating!

  100. Marisa Young

    Interesting article about writers. Book sounds great.

  101. Saundra K. Warren

    This is gonna be great!!

  102. Nancy Wolfe

    I have been looking out for this new release; so excited for a chance to read it. Thanks so much for the chance.

  103. Susan Morris

    You are the “Ultimate People Watcher”! Can’t wait to start this series.

  104. Lisa Garrett

    I am currently reading Dead Run and am so glad that I found this series. I look forward to your new one.

  105. Joye I

    I am always looking for new authors to read. This book sounds like the kind I enjoy reading.

  106. Karen Terry

    Sounds like a great read

  107. Joyce Benzing

    Thanks.

  108. Jackie Wisherd

    Sounds like a book I would enjoy reading.

  109. Debbie Gallagher

    Ah Finally I cant wait to get my hands on this even if its not with the Monkee wrench crew I Love all your books.

  110. Vanessa Figueroa

    Sounds like an awesome book!

  111. CarolT

    Your post is fascinating, like your books.

  112. Rebecca

    I mean, the cover alone is enough to purchase this one!

  113. download image from instagram

    People like your posts due to your interesting captions, stickers, and hashtags. If your close friends and family members love your every look, they will not resist hitting the like icon.

  114. patricia sopel

    This would be a fascinating book! Thanks 🙂

  115. Dave Komula

    I would love to read this book! Thanks!

  116. Kathy Waxler

    Can’t wait!

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