Some Days Just Suck

When a day planned for the keyboard and the book ends up being spent in the car and in two dentist’s chairs–with the bonus of a root canal–it definitely sucks.
 
But I now know I can get from my pajamas into street clothes, slap on enough makeup as to not frighten small children in approximately five minutes. When the goal is to make an emergency dentist appointment at an office forty minutes away (if no slow pokes hog the road in front of me), with fifty minutes to make it with a banging tooth, it can be done.
 
I’m grateful my guy squeezed me in so fast, and when the issue required the specialist, they booked me an appointment the same day. Enough time to get to the pharmacy in Boonsboro to fill the Rx for antibiotics–and pop the first of those suckers in the parking lot. Enough time to consider running back home to get the phone I left, in my rush, on the kitchen counter, then scrap that and live dangerously.
 
So a couple hours poking around at Turn The Page before driving back to Hagerstown, and into another dentist chair. But got the four tubs of books signed while I was there.
 
I don’t like needles–who does?–but I’m thinking: Jab that thing in there and numb this bitch. And ahhh, numbness=relief of pain. And the endless drilling will mean fix. This is not my first root canal, and I try to find my Zen. Not an easy task, but you gotta try.
 
Six and a half hours after my mad dash out of the house, I’m home again. Yay.
 
I find it almost inevitable that a crazy tooth thing will explode on me over a weekend. Is this a test of character? I’d like to skip it next time.
 
However, on Saturday it was just sore and annoying, with my plan to call for help on Monday morning. It wasn’t bad enough I skipped my workout. In fact the workout was a nice distraction. Domestic stuff also distracted. Time to shovel out the rest of the holiday stuff, start putting the house back together.
 
I’m having my living room furniture reupholstered–Kayla is pleased with me here–so my empty living room echoes.
 
With my house back in shape, and my man preparing to have an evening with football, I get myself ready for A Night With Nora at the inn.
 

We’re going to do a little meet and greet over wine and cheese, then a Q&A, then some photos. An easy, fun evening–despite the crap weather. It’s warm and cozy at the inn, so who cares about the ugly, chilly rain spitting outside?

A rapt audience.
Nancy and Nora.
Group shot — though Nancy had gone upstairs.
I think we all had fun. Enough I’ll definitely consider doing this again. We had husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, girl pals–such a nice, happy mix of people. And the ice held off, so driving home wasn’t bad at all.
 
However, waking up before dawn with a tooth banging like a hammer? Not fun. Working out distracted, a little, and I started my annual purge. Gotta keep the mind off the banging! I hit my One More Room, which is always satisfying. Then my shoe closet. I think my friends who wear size seven will be pleased.
 
I decide to make soup because I know I’m going to need it.
 
Kayla has her State champion cross-country team here for a little celebration–and the surprise of State Champ jackets Nana and Grandda bought. In rural area schools, especially, football gets all the bucks. These girls ran hard, and deserve their rewards.
 
I can hear them chattering and laughing down in the family room–this is after a scavenger hunt outside, and a trip from here down to the mailbox at the start of our lane. A quarter mile. The coaches come up to thank me while I’m cooking–and happily say they expect Kayla to use that quarter mile for training over the summer.
 
The team gets to swim, eat pizza and snacks, enjoy each other. These are, seriously, delightful girls.
 
I pop Motrin–and actually consider taking one of BW’s pain meds. Sanity comes back when I calculate he’s got fourteen inches and about ninety pounds on me. I’ll stick with Motrin and add some wine to that.
 
Can’t pop the Motrin for another four hours, but you can always pour another glass of wine. I do.
 
Colt comes up to hang with me. He’s had enough of girls. Nana doesn’t count! So he eats his pizza at the counter while I cook, and distracts me from the banging.
 
The girls come up to give me a framed picture of the champs. I’d just told BW I wanted to get a picture, and boom–wish granted. And they’ve all signed the mat inside the frame. I love this, a lot.
 
I’ll say again, absolutely delightful girls with caring, devoted coaches. Kayla chose well–and we’re told qualified to run in the County meet (she’s doing indoor track over the winter) this Friday.
 
Run, Kayla, run!
 
When the soup’s simmering and the house is quiet again, I decide to get into my pjs and watch bedroom tv. Actually fall asleep for about twenty minutes. Pain is lessened. I know–from experience–this means the abscess is leaking, relieving the pressure. I don’t really care as the pain’s gone from ringing the bell at ten to about a five. I’ll take it. And the soup BW brings me on a tray.
 
So a crappy, annoying weekend can still have it’s high points and bright spots. And now it’s in my rearview mirror. Bye-bye!
 
My jaw is sore and tender this morning, but that’ll pass. And there’s always wine at the end of the day! It’s gloomy out–the world outside my office window is gray and brown. I don’t have to go out into it. Instead, I’m going inside a story–the best distraction ever. And may just write in my pjs all day.
 
Best job in the world!
Nora

Come Sundown excerpt

In view of the winter weather practically everywhere in the US right now, how about a little taste of summer?

Come Sundown is Nora’s 2017 June release, just in time for vacations and relaxed reading.  What’s it about you ask?  Well…

The Bodine ranch and resort in western Montana spreads a family business over a little over thirty thousand acres, and provides home and history to four generations. Bodine Longbow runs the resort operation with the help of a large staff, including her older brother’s best friend and new hire Callen Skinner, just returned from California. Like Cal, Bodine’s Aunt Alice ran off for bright lights. Alice, gone before Bodine was born, never returned. The Longbows don’t talk about her much. While the younger generation never met Alice and presume she’s dead, she isn’t. She’s not far away, part of a new family she never chose. And her mind has been shattered…

If you subscribe to Nora’s News, you were first to read the excerpt from Come Sundown yesterday.  I’ll keep it here for future reference for everyone. Read Chapter One now.

Laura

Time and Time Away

After the rush and fun of the holidays, BW and I spend a week away with friends and family at a resort/spa a convenient couple hours drive from home. We’ve been doing this, we figure, for about fourteen years.

The front entrance. Photo by Laura
The snowy landscape. Photo by Laura

It’s a lovely, lovely break. It’s familiar for this creature of habit, it’s comfortable, and it’s pretty.

This year it’s also COLD! Seriously cold, and we’ve had a pretty (since I’m not out in it) snowfall. I had my first spa treatment a few hours after our arrival, and just let everything go. That’s the best. It’s relax and recharge time for me. Read lotsa books time, work a little here and there time, and cook not at all time. And it’s an extra gift to spend that time with people you love and enjoy.

I’ve finished two books, and will start another this afternoon while I wait for my mmmmm deep tissue massage. Which I earned  as I went full out for a two full hour cross-training workout this morning.

I’ll come back, pour myself a glass of champagne then think about what to order for dinner, the one I’m not cooking.

I had a good, solid stretch of writing one day between workout and a facial. Good deal. I worked on a non-book-related project and did a little shopping. When I go home, I have a routine doc’s appointment, and then an event on the weekend, followed by hosting at our house our Kayla’s State champion girls cross-country team.

Girls rock!

Squeezing writing in there as I go. But that’s days away.

I love what I do for a living, love the time and the effort I’m required to put into crafting a story I hope readers will enjoy. I love being able to take some time off with friends and family, love spending the weekend making soup and bread or whatever appeals in my own kitchen. Because I love all of that I’m bound to do a better job of it than if I disliked or resented it.

Here’s what I don’t much like, and more have no real skill for. Handling social media. Coming up with topics for Facebook that will engage readers and make them happy. Laura is queen of all that. If I had to handle it? I wouldn’t have FB pages. Simply wouldn’t. I’d resent every minute I had to scratch my head over what to write, and detest every minute it took away from the work I love. So I’d simply eliminate the annoyance and distraction, and focus on what I love, what I’m good at, and what I owe the reader. My best work.

That’s the bottom line. A writer of fiction owes readers this: The best book he or she can write at that particular time. She also owes them gratitude, of course, for reading, owes them basic courtesy if and when she engages with readers IRL or on line.

And, that’s it.

Though some may disagree I don’t owe readers FB pages or blogs or contests and give-aways to repay them for reading my books, whether they buy them, listen to them, borrow them. I owe them a good book. FB is a marketing tool and a great way to communicate. Laura does an amazing job of crafting posts, selecting photos or quotes that springboard reader conversations. I would not, though I do scan the posts, sometimes the comments, and if it applies, add a comment of my own.

I enjoy writing this blog when I have something to say, or can document through words and pictures something I think readers will have fun with. Otherwise I wouldn’t do it. Actually my Jason gave me the basic thrust of how to handle blogging here when years back I whined about it. Days in the life, little bits and pieces with photos, fun stuff, personal stuff.

Okay, I think I can do that, and so far, so good.

In the normal course of events, I write 40-50 hours a week. Parts of that schedule maybe eaten into now and then by the business that surrounds writing. Generally I proof galleys in the evening, not during work hours. I sign, routinely, four tubs of books three times a week, not during work hours.

In there I live a life I really enjoy. It’s a really good balance for me.

If I added in what the amazing Laura does, that balance would tip, and tip hard. I’d be unhappy, and believe me, so would you, the reader.

So for those who might wonder why I don’t write all the FB posts, there’s the answer. It’s certainly not because I don’t value the reader, new ones, or ones who’ve read me from day one.

It’s actually because I very much do.

Anyway, I think I have time for a glass of champagne before that massage. After all, this is time away.

Nora

Courtyard chairs waiting for spring. Photo by Laura

Note from Laura (did you expect anything else?):   Since the very first FB post in 2008, I’ve signed what I post though many speed readers do miss it.  For everyone who pays attention, they know it’s me.  And that NR chimes in when time allows.

While neither of us would ever want to live the other’s life, Nora and I have developed a rhythm and understanding and synchronicity over the past 12 years works.  I know what it’s like to be a faithful reader.  I also see clearly how routine and hard work built a career that spans three decades of quality storytelling.

I see the (imo) whiny “why doesn’t Nora love us?” comments and think “she does — she gives you multiple books every single years.” And so we’ll continue to not fix what ain’t broke.

 

2017

It’s here. All new, 365 blank pages waiting to be written–and won’t that be fun?

Around here we ended the book of 2016 with friends and family, cooking and chopping and stirring for our annual New Year’s Day open house feast. For me New Year’s Eve starts early. Time to get those red beans I soaked overnight on the simmer with a ham hock, spices peppers and onions, and let’s add some wine to that water. Eggs to boil for later deviling. Can’t forget that old standard green bean casserole, but lets add some grated cheddar this year. Keep those herbs and spices out for a whole buncha ground round for meatballs.

Laura arrives in time to help roll 151 meatballs–I counted this year–and Sarah and Kayla are close behind. With a kitchen full of helping hands and girl power three dozen eggs are peeled, veggies peeled, chopped, sliced for roasting. Kayla makes brownies for the trifle, and my pop’s bread pudding.

Sarah and Laura at the Waldorf salad chopping portion of the day.

Kay;a on bread pudding duty.

And here are Kat and Jason with more supplies and more helping hands. My men head down to hang the gorgeous new sign by our bridge before they run out to get ice for all the coolers we’ll stock in the morning with soft drinks, beer, wine.

The new sign.

They have manly work to do, and I’m more than happy to be in the kitchen with my girls. There are two big-ass hams to bake, a million more veggies to chop for the crudite–and Kat’s got a design in mind for that. She is Kat, after all.

Champagne for the big girls and ginger ale for Kayla as we work through the afternoon. Chop, chop, chop fruit for a Waldorf salad. Girl pals are the best of the best.

Please keep those dogs out of my kitchen! Especially after we discover Parker has snatched what was left of the now discarded hamhock (that hadn’t quite made it out of the kitchen trash to the outside trash) and is gnawing on it on the living room rug.

After Laura and Sarah–thanks ladies–leave for their own New Year’s Eve celebrations they rest of us finish up. Let’s boil up some pasta and test out those meatballs. Mmmmm!

Hams glazed and done, food stuffed in fridges, with spillover outside–with dogs locked off the deck. And since Kayla’s staying over it’s time for games. A little Wii bowling–I am champ–a lot of Pictionary–BW and I are soundly defeated.

And the ball drops–three, two, one. Happy New Year.

2017 starts early for me, too. Get those hot dishes in the oven to warm, tidy what didn’t get tidy the night before, and soon my girls and boys are pitching in. Dogs banished from the kitchen. Up the stairs for this bowl or platter, down the stairs for this or that. Haul up the little bar, fill those coolers, light the candles.

From Kat’s brilliant mind and hands.

Kat’s crudite is, naturally, a piece of cheerful art.

Food everywhere–on the table, on the counter, the buffet the little server. And before long we have a houseful to enjoy all that labor in a big, noisy, happy celebration. Kids in the pool or game room, football fans in front of the big screen, friends here, there, everywhere. It’s time to spice some shrimp. Always time to open another bottle of champagne.

Lots of hugs, lots of laughs, LOTS of wine and food–a fine, fine way to write that first page on the book of 2017.

By ten the house is quiet. By about ten-fifteen I’m out for the count.

Up early again, but today I pack for a week at the spa. And let me say ahhh. The 31 pages of December, 2016 were written with the busy and the bright, with the happy and the occasional panic, were written with friends, family and a couple of tons of cooking time. I love ending the year with girls in the kitchen, beginning it with a houseful of friends.

The family holiday photo.

And love knowing I’m going to have a week–again with family and friends–where I won’t so much as boil a pot of water and at some point on any given day somebody will rub every kink and knot out of my body. I may write. I will definitely read what someone else sweated over. I expect to come back recharged, ready to hunker down and hibernate and write my way through the rest of the winter. Stories, on the literal page and the symbolic one, are waiting to be written.

I hope you all write happy and well through the year.

Nora

Happy, Merry and Bright

This weekend all the wrapping, planning, prepping, baking come together for the big crescendo.

I started my holiday weekend yesterday by knocking off at noon to get that workout in (likely the last of the weekend!) and baking a couple of sour dough rounds for Christmas dinner with Love, Actually on the kitchen TV.

Now that’s a happy day.

Today I’ll bake Italian bread and lasagna for Christmas Eve with the kids. We’re going to set up a sundae bar for dessert. I suspect they’ll care little–even Kayla at fourteen–about what’s on the plate. It’s all about what’s under the tree, what’s in those bulging stockings.

Santa Bruce buys scratch-off cards for the stockings every year. Hope springs.

I’m looking forward to the untying of ribbons, the ripping of wrapping, the happy faces.

A part of me might miss those late Christmas Eve sessions dealing with the Some-Assembly-Required for little guy Santa gifts, but those are memories in the bank. And Nanas get more sleep!

Tomorrow, it’s my Pop’s pancakes–a long-standing tradition– bacon, sausage, eggs, a pretty bowl of berries and mimosas for Christmas brunch. Then the adults get to empty stockings, untie and rip wrapping.

Then it’s hang-out time, hauling out the trash, doing whatever strikes until dinner. (Gotta marinate that pork loin tonight!)

Lots of food, lots of family, lots of happy.

Before the day begins I’d like to wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Yule, Happy Kwanzaa or whatever celebration you use to mark the season. May your day be all you wish for, and just a little more.

So light the candles, pour some wine (or the libation of your choice) embrace the magic with the wonder of the child in all of us. And grab some moments to bank those memories.

Nora

A quick PS from Laura:  Thank you to everyone who stops by, comments, commiserates and celebrates  with Nora (and me) on a regular basis.  Here’s to a wonderful holiday season and the happiest, healthiest of New Years.  

In the Spirit

It’s hard to be otherwise around here, despite breath-taking cold with some ice tossed in. In the middle of a busy, scattered week, we took a little time off for fun, and a new tradition.

BW and I invited the employees of our Boonsboro businesses to a little progressive holiday shopping. It’s a good, happy way to gather other busy people together, make connections, and let everyone see what the other businesses have to offer.

Just add wine and camaraderie.

The crowd at Turn the Page.

From Turn The Page to Gifts Inn Boonsboro, from Gifts to Fit In Boonsboro, and from Fit to the inn. It’s a nice way to give managers and staff a chance to show off their own and socialize.

The Gifts Inn BoonsBoro display.
The Fit In Boonsboro staff.

We ended the evening hosting a dinner for all at Vesta. And boy, did Vesta show off its own.

The Inn, dressed for the season.
The Courtyard at Inn BoonsBoro.

Good times, good people, and an excellent new tradition.

Saturday was for long-standing traditions. Cookie baking at Christmas has been part of our holiday festivities since my boys were just little guys. I have memories of them at every stage from pre-schoolers to teenagers.

Measuring.

We continued on with grandchildren. A big part of my enjoyment this time around was watching Kayla and Logan instruct Colt as I had instructed them. How to measure and stir, how to break an egg. (Nana picks out shells when necessary.)

Cutting.

It’s a full, fun-filled, messy day with happy, calorie-loaded results. Chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, mint blossoms, peanut-butter blossoms, and the traditional finale of painted sugar cookies.

With, naturally, much tasting included.

I see how cooking with Kayla has paid off as she competently puts the snickerdoodle dough together while I clean up behind–and deal with the ovens that have chosen today to go wonky. Just won’t hold the temperature.

Everyone paints the cookies.

Appliance repair, stat! I have a lot of cooking to do the following week.

We cap this tradition off with another–the early Christmas present. One gift, chosen pretty much at random for each kid to help them hold off for the endless week before the big day. Colt gets Legos, Logan a Risk game, Kayla some sweatpants.

And with that along with a big bag of cookies to take home.

And just about that time BW gets a call. Water is pouring out of the door of his studio in town. Uh-oh. Off he goes, so I push up my sleeves and deal with the mess, which is usually his job. Obviously he’s dealing with another mess which could be a lot more trouble than washing dishes and cleaning off counters spotted with cookie paint and sprinkles.

Plus I have time to catch my breath and have a glass of wine before he gets back. Sprinkler system busted, rained down. Water now shut off, mess dealt with and yet another repair coming.

Breath caught, it’s time to clean myself up, do a little prep for another tradition. My girl managers holiday party. A cheerful gathering of smart women’s a fine way to spend an evening. Some wine, some pretty food–and lots of home-made cookies along with easy conversation and plenty of laughs.

Today, after I write this, it’s time to workout. Maybe add a little extra cardio considering cookies. Then BW is off to a football game with Jason and pals.

I intend to do a whole bunch of absolutely nothing. A nothing-filled alone day to recharge the batteries for the rush and spirit of this last week before Christmas.

I wouldn’t mind making that another tradition.

Nora

Weekend Countdown

While I always get an early jump on the holidays, I invariably end up squeezing bunches into the last couple weekends before Christmas.

I don’t mind so much. I have an agenda, and it usually works.

It even works, usually, when life–as is will–tosses out extra stuff. Right now, we’re in the process of redoing the backroom of Vesta, transforming it into more of a loungey, cozy feel with sofas and chairs, board games, new lights. New paint, new art. This means those sofas, chairs, tables, lights, paint colors and so on have to be found, chosen, ordered.

I am a goddess of on-line shopping, and after BW grew frustrated in his search, I took over. About thirty minutes later, in my pjs, I’d outfitted what will be Vesta’s new space. You gotta love when it works. With the furniture ordered, I could get out the paint fan and find the tones and colors to compliment it.

And done.

In addition we found a fun and fabulous surprise when the crew tore off the drywall and plaster so we could expose the old brick. A fireplace! A little dance of joy! We’ll install electric logs–no open flames–scrape and paint one of the old mantels that came out of the building during one of its renovations, and have a terrific focal point.

Under-the-drywall surprise.
Under-the-drywall surprise.

It’s a busy time of year to deal with this, but it’s coming right along. I especially like that my part of it is complete.

Then there are parties and events–a booksigning, a Girls Night Out, a traditional shopping get-away with girl pals, prep and plans to entertain friends and family at home.

Girls shopping trip.
Girls shopping trip — Elaine, Pat, Mary, Nora, Mary Kay and Laura

Decorating. I want the festive around me, and was pleased to be able to schedule this year’s tree trimming when the kids were around.

Then there’s the wrapping. The wrapping. The wrapping. The most excellent Kayla did a big chunk of this for me–and she actually wants to! But I still have what I think of as wrapping marathons on weekends. Today, I hope to have my last of the season. I wrap in The One More Room with schmaltzy Christmas movies on the little TV. I also appreciate the schmaltzy this time of year.

This marathon was on yesterday’s agenda, but one must be flexible. I worked out, baked bread (on the agenda). BW requested pretzel bread, and that takes a bit more time with those extra steps. And he requested tortilla soup, which is fine as it can be put together while the dough rises. BUT, he also found a rack of ribs he’d somehow stuck in TTP’s freezer, and decided they really needed to be cooked. The way I make them requires they marinate overnight in the barbecue sauce I make, so add those to the late afternoon list, and reschedule the wrapping marathon for Sunday.

Pretzel bread.
Pretzel bread — candle and bubbles.

Being flexible means I’ll make herby roasted potatoes to go with the ribs BW will grill tonight–but the upside is between the soup (which was most excellent) and the ribs, I shouldn’t have to cook this week–especially as we have an outside event mid-week that involves pizza.

Maybe I spent six full hours in the kitchen (with schmaltzy Christmas movies on the TV–the pool for them is not shallow)–and I expect to do a schmaltz double feature before the wrapping’s done. But, I see a little window for Absolute Me time today, and I want it.

The work week’s coming right up, and next weekend is cookie baking with the kids–a long, fun, interesting day, and some at-home entertaining.

Then boom, it’s The Solstice, then it’s Christmas, and before you catch your breath, New Year’s.img_1771

So I don’t mind the busy weekends, the long hours in the kitchen or at the wrapping table, writing Christmas cards (done and dusted), the on-line shopping or poking through crowded stores. Because time moves fast, and appreciating, embracing, enjoying the special times–no matter the work–are what make it last, make the memories, bring the joy.img_1770

I hope you find and take those moments with all the rush and work and carve out time to embrace and enjoy the holiday season.

Around here, we got a light dusting of snow overnight–the first of the season. It’s a little icing on the holiday cake.

Nora

Island of Glass discussion thread

island-of-glass
You’ve waited and waited and waited some more and now, finally, Island of Glass is in stores or on your e-reader.  (Remember when you didn’t even know what this trilogy was about???)

How will you approach the final installment of the Guardian’s Trilogy?

Once you’ve finished Island of Glass, this is the place to discuss anything and everything that pertains to the book and the series as a whole.  Spoilers very much ahead.

Have fun!
Laura

New Directions

A long time ago, on a hilltop far, far away, I started writing category Romance. With two pre-schoolers to run herd on, I fed my appetite for reading with short, satisfying Romances I could gulp down during nap time. So when stuck with said pre-schoolers inside for a week during a blizzard, I began to scribble down one of the stories in my head in a notebook. It was intended to save my sanity, and became a career and a passion.

Writing Harlequin-style Romances was a natural choice as I gobbled them during this time period. I’d grown up reading everything–everyone in my house read everything– but at this particular turn of my road, category Romances comprised the bulk of my reading.

My career roots in Romance spread over the next decade or two. One of the appeals to me was this was a genre that could, and did, include everything. You could, especially when the genre and the market evolved, add elements of mystery, suspense, paranormal, horror, comedy, fantasy. As long as the story contained a core romantic relationship, tied things up with a happy ending, you could rock on.

I continued to write category even as I expanded into writing mainstream novels, and produced 100 books for Silhouette before I turned off that road. With Bantam, then Putnam (which became Penguin-Putnam which became Penguin Random House), and now St. Martin’s Press I wrote and continue to write Romantic Suspense, I wrote trilogies–straight relationship or with elements of fantasy and paranormal. I began the In Death series as JD Robb.

The In Death series certainly took me onto another lane of the highway. I thought of these as relationship mysteries/police procedurals with continuing characters set in the near future–which gave them a science fiction light touch.

Mostly they were and are fun and interesting stories for me to write, with core characters I adore and enjoy. That makes them tremendously satisfying creatively.

The Romantic Suspense novels I write drive down another lane on the highway. They’re not a part of a series, sometimes have more than one romantic relationship, generally have other non-romantic relationships–friendships, family–as writing about people is what I do. For these it may be a setting that flicks on the light bulb, or a character type, or a situation. For The Obsession, for instance, that flash was: What’s it like to be the child of a serial killer?

As I write without much of a structured plan, relying more on Let’s See What Happens next, I have to be very engaged in the story, very connected to the characters to see it all through. That first flick on has to pull me in.

The trilogies I do wind down another lane. For these everything’s broader and interconnected. The concept has to tell me, this needs more room, and has a theme or goal that can weave through three books. Whether straight relationship, like the Born In trilogy, or The Bride Quartet, or with those paranormal elements, like The Circle Trilogy or Three Sisters Island, the initial concept always included that central romance, and the romance highlighted in each book would be resolved in that particular book.

I conceived them as one big book in three distinct parts, each containing–whether it be mortal, wizard, business-woman or vampire–that elemental romantic relationship.

Writing on those different lanes of the highway has served to keep me fresh and creatively satisfied–and it seems to me gives readers a lot of choices in my work. Some like the Robb series, some don’t. Some like the more traditional relationship, some are eager for the more magickal, others prefer the suspense.

But when you offer a variety, the downside is those who prefer one gripe when you offer another. That’s just how it goes. If a writer discovers how to satisfy every reader every time, I really want to have a sit-down with him or her and learn the secret. But in the meantime, I have to pay attention to that flick of light and turn down the road where it shines for me.

And so, some time ago, that light flicked on a turn off the highway, a detour, an unexplored road. It’s a little risky to take that turn, see where it takes you. But it’s also exciting. And challenging.

The flash of this light didn’t beam on the Romance of my roots, or how my own work has evolved around it, and frankly, away from what the genre is today. It shined on something different, something I saw as more a Fantasy saga. Relationships, absolutely. Books and stories for me are all about the people in them, how they relate, or don’t. Touches of romance, sure, but at least in the opening book, the story can’t center on a central love story and hold for the rest.

I thought about it for quite awhile, played with it in my head, chewed on it, studied the concept from different angles. The light didn’t dim, so I turned off and followed it.

Year One — the first of this different sort of trilogy — begins a journey, for me as a writer, for the characters within, and hopefully for the reader who wants to take a chance with me. It begins with a global crisis, a pandemic that wipes away much of the population and opens a door to magicks. Black and white, courage and cowardice, the determination to survive and rebuild, the evolution of powers for good or ill. And the light again, that’s hope and love and bravery that shines through.

The process of structuring this story–and laying the groundwork for the two that will follow–presented a creative challenge, the need to take a leap, a lot of sweaty work, a larger cast of characters to develop and connect to, multiple relationships to weave, the logistics of world building. Because even when you’re basically destroying the world, you’re building another.

For the first time in too long to remember a book woke me up at night, or kept me up. What do I do about this, how will I resolve that, how does that even make any stupid sense? It wouldn’t leave me alone, so I knew it had me, however it turned out. I had to follow that light and see where it took me.

Writing it proved hard and bumpy and frustrating and tremendous fun. Finishing it was, for me, monumental. The relief that my editor didn’t say WTF when she read it, beyond enormous. It matters, a lot, to be satisfied with a finished manuscript. It matters, a whole giant bunch of a lot, when an editor a writer knows and trusts, whose purpose is to publish, package, market a book and help it be the best it can be, gives the work two thumbs up.

I already know the following two books that will comprise this trilogy will be hard and bumpy and frustrating and fun. But I’m on the road now, and I’m enjoying the scenery.

Normally, I wouldn’t have a lot to say to readers about a book that won’t be out for a year, or a trilogy that’s only just begun on my end. In this case, since it’s different, since it’s not Romance or built on the framework of the genre, and is a turn off onto a new road rather than a different lane, I thought it fair to let those who follow my work know something else is coming.

I understand some might think: But this isn’t what I want from her! That’s okay, don’t worry. The In Death series will continue. The Suspense novels with that core love story (or stories) will continue to pull me in. But you’ve got to follow the light, go where ideas pull you. And hope that readers take the journey with you.

Nora

The official blog for Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb readers