A Rock of Japan

On Feb 17, Dreaming Spies hits the shelves. As with the last few books, I’ll do daily blog posts from now until pub day, talking about various aspects of the book. There will be NO SPOILERS, I promise, other than telling you that the book takes place partly in Japan and partly in England. None of the snippets of the story I give will reveal any plot twists.

The idea is to enrich the story for you, with my thoughts about the writing process, or the research I’ve done, or travel I did for the book. You can also come back to these blogs when you’ve read the book, but if you read them beforehand, you may know more clearly what it is you’re looking at, when the topic comes up.

I hope you enjoy this posts, and that you love the book when it comes out—four weeks from today!


I turned my eyes from husband to granitic intruder.

Higher than my knee, with an interesting pattern of moss and lichen and a tracery of dark veins running through it, the stone had been planted—for planted was the word—in the herbaceous border encircling the terrace…. It looked as if it had risen from the Sussex earth long before juniper and peony were introduced. Before the old flint house behind me was built, for that matter.


A book’s opening needs to do just that: open a story to the reader, with a puzzle, a soupçon of the book’s flavor or concerns, something about the people and the issues at hand, maybe a suggestion of the period and pacing. Here one meets a homecoming, the taste of tea, and two people looking at a rock that should not be where it is.

And a door opens…

In Japan, the rock is central. This is particularly true of the “dry” or Zen gardenRock garden

made up of rocks, gravel, and a few carefully chosen shrubs, but it is also the case in more natural gardens. Rocks are the bones of a garden, the solid form around which water (be it actual water, or that symbolized by waves of meticulously raked gravel) circulates or pools: hard and soft, the unmoving and the fluid, in an eternal dance. Rocks also play symbolic, or evocative roles in the garden, reminding the eye of mountains or leaping carp or—in the case of a stone that crosses the seas—a chrysanthemum, symbol of the throne of Japan.

Moss garden rock

28 days until Dreaming Spies! Other posts about writing and researching the book can be seen here, or you can read a long excerpt here.

You can pre-order a signed copy from Poisoned Pen Books or Bookshop Santa Cruz, and unsigned or e-books from Indiebooks, Amazon/Kindle, or Barnes & Noble/Nook.

My upcoming events are here.

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  1. Merrily Taylor on January 20, 2015 at 6:36 am

    So beautiful! I’d like to see that rock in the Sussex garden…

  2. Constance on January 20, 2015 at 6:41 am

    Four long weeks to wait but these snippets will make the wait delicious! When will the audio version be released? I love the narrated version too! Such a great listen!

  3. Laurie King on January 20, 2015 at 7:10 am

    It’s supposed to be simultaneous with the print and e- versions–fingers crossed!

    • Constance on January 20, 2015 at 7:22 am

      Thanks so much. I have preordered the e version and do see a cd option but no audible version yet. I certainly don’t mind reading it once and waiting for the audio download. It spreads out the enjoyment. I have been eyeing the stones in my woods to see if there is one to drag home and set up. How they moved one into their garden is beyond me. Even the smallish ones are HEAVY!

  4. Mary Garrett on January 20, 2015 at 8:28 am

    You’ve made me want add a small rock to my garden, and perhaps visit the Japanese Garden here . . .
    If the mild weather persists, I think I just might do so.

  5. Margaret Wood on January 20, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Yippee! Audio version simultaneous! I’ve pre-ordered the print book but really love the audio versions. They are beautifully narrated and easier on my eyes.

    • Merrily Taylor on January 20, 2015 at 11:57 am

      I agree, Margaret – I’ve listened to all the audio versions multiple times and despite having also read the books more than once, I always hear things that I missed – or failed to appreciate enough – when I listen to the books on audio. Now when I read the books, it’s Jenny Sterlin’s Holmes that I hear in my head!

  6. Margaret Laing on January 20, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Thank you for the background — and for the insight on your wonderful way of putting the middle of the problem (er, story) into page one.

    • Laurie King on January 21, 2015 at 7:51 am

      Glad you enjoy them!

  7. Stephani on February 8, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    My heart leapt with joy when I saw that another story is coming ~ I enjoy Russell & Holmes and their incredible adventures more than any other duo in print. Thank you! Thank you! for such clever and endearing characters (especially the original Mary Russell). Would LOVE to come to a book signing ~ please come to Dallas!

    • Laurie King on February 8, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      Well, I’m afraid Houston is the closest I’m getting this year…

  8. Barbara on April 5, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    I am an avid reader but Russell and Holmes are my favourite characters. I am always thrilled when a new one comes out. I hope you continue with more.
    I am a Londoner living in Canada and I haven’t yet found you slipped up anywhere when mentioning England or the language.
    I loved the ending to Dreaming Spies.

    • Laurie King on April 6, 2015 at 6:04 am


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