A Journey of a Thousand Miles

Someone wrote to me last week and said that I’m lucky to be able to work from home, and he’s right. I’m very lucky that not only can I work from home, I’ve been doing so for almost forty years now—starting in 1982. I believe I was an early member of what eventually came to be known as the “pajama media.” When Bill and I first married, I’d work on my writing in the mornings and then get dressed in time to go meet him for lunch at noon. It was a huge shock to his system when he retired and discovered that I usually didn’t get dressed until noontime. FYI, nothing has changed on that score. I much prefer wearing my robe and nighty to any other attire, but I digress.

So yes, I do work from home. In this time of self-distancing, I’ve been able to write the blog with no problem because I actually ENJOY writing the blog. For a writer of novels, writing a weekly essay of a thousand words or so is what my mother, Evie, would have called a “bus-man’s holiday.” Because how did bus drivers go on vacation back in the old days? They took a bus, of course.

I write the blog for fun. It allows me to mull my history and pull out interesting bits and pieces that may resonate with my readers many of whom occupy the same demographic I do. That’s why many of my blogs end up being trips down memory lane. The problem is, writing the blog is not my job. Writing books is, and writing books is a whole other kettle of fish.

In order to write a book, I have to think it into existence. Long ago, one of my kids said he hated it when I just sat in my chair, staring off into space. But staring into space is exactly what I have to do on occasion, because writing books requires almost as much thinking time as it does keyboarding time. It requires finding that creative spark or moment of inspiration that reveals a story I want to tell.

At the moment, I have two completed books written and in the hands of my editors before starting the next one. It’s never happened to me before, but hat means I have some time right now, but in this time of great uncertainty, that’s not much of a favor since creativity, like toilet paper, seems to be in very short supply.

In these challenging circumstances, there’s obviously plenty for me to write about, but the question is do I want to? I don’t remember who taught me the Latin term in medias res. It could have been my high school Latin teacher, Mr. Guerra, or my senior English teacher, Mrs. Medigovich. What the term means is: In the middle of events. And that’s where we are right now—in medias res!

I believe that one of the things that makes my blog interesting to both my readers and to me is that I’m recounting events from my past—from my childhood and young adulthood—with the benefit of hindsight, and hindsight, as you know, is pretty much 20/20. With perspective it’s possible to see how event number one inevitably led to event number two which resulted in event number three.

That’s the problem with what’s happening around us at the moment—in media res, we don’t have any perspective. There’s a good chance that all the fear mongering promulgated by the media will lead to corrective measures that are far worse than the pandemic itself, but the only way we’ll know that for sure is to get to the other side of where we are right now, and that reality has led me to a writerly dilemma: How can I write a book about my characters and put them into a here and now that may be totally out of line with how life ends up happening in the long run? The answer is: I can’t!

Fortunately for me, my books have fallen a couple of calendar years behind in terms of the passage of time in real life. Credible Threat, due out in June, has Ali Reynolds and her cast of characters living in the fictional fall of 2017. So I made the decision to set the next Ali book, as yet unnamed, in the spring of 2018. I’m reasonably sure I can remember what life was like in 2018.

One thing recent events has brought home to me is that we are all mortal. With that current landscape of darkness all around us, I can tell you that the next Ali book opens with the funeral of a character my readers have grown to care about over the years. No, I’m not going to mention which one. You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out who.

But at least I’ve started. So far I’ve written only part of the prologue—1500 words. That leaves me with 93,500 words to go, but who’s counting? I am, of course, but just like taking that first step on a thousand-mile journey, I’ve at least written the first few words. I’ve made a start, a small one to be sure, but a start nonetheless. As for how my characters will weather the pandemic of 2020? That will be fuel for other stories a couple of years down the line once we all know what happens.

In the meantime, you keep reading, and I’ll keep writing.

26 thoughts on “A Journey of a Thousand Miles

  1. I’ve loved your books over the years; especially the J.P. Beaumont series!!! He is my favorite character…May you and your family be healthy and safe! Hoping God will let this nightmare pass!! A long time fan!!!

    • I first read a J.A. Jance novel while in the hospital in 2015; then read all I could find in the library. I just survived an 11-hour robotic surgery and can’t wait to read the two novels that are with your editor. It almost make being home for 6-8 weeks worth it. Our library is closed so now I have the pleasure of anticipation.
      Thank you for the great reads!

  2. I’ve loved your books over the year, especially the J.P. Beaumont series!! He is my favorite character. May you and your family stay healthy and safe..Hoping God will let this nightmare pass!!! A long time fan…

  3. You continue to amaze me. You remember what life was like in 2018. That made me try to remember what life was like then. Such a short time ago but for many of us it hard to focus on life before now. I look forward to reading the new and in progress Ali book. Worrying about favorite characters now though. You have proven that you handle these story challenges well in your story lines. I smile at the thought of you working in your robe. Life taught me to get up and get dressed for the day. Early visitors ask if I am okay if I open my door in a robe. Be well and thanks for brightening our Friday.

  4. Just last night, my husband and I were wondering: What will the books written next be like? And TV shows– will the ladies on Mom be sitting 6 feet apart in AA? How will sitcoms continue if the kids can’t go to school and the parents can’t work and there are no visitors? It is all beyond my imagination.

  5. LOL. Let’s see if my email hangs on!!!
    hope all are doing well. I may have an idea on the sad news– but I would like to know which book had Ali’s wedding in it…
    Is the bird still bothering your fish — waiting for the fish to get large enough to attack the bird!!
    Take care… keep staring off into the distance — been working so far.

    take care .. be safe.. Micki D.

  6. About thre and half years ago, by shear accident I stumbled on to so called “biography “ or most aptly how who became a top rated story teller. I read one Ali book and got hooked. I have read every single one of your book (Ali, Brady, Beaumont and Walker family), each one is unique. Anyway. When I finished all you books two years ago, I started surfing the net to look for upcoming book (needed by kick I guess as I was hooked). That’s when I stumbled on to your web site and blog. All this background brings to the point I want to make. Like me there are crowd of readers who are hooked on your writing. Your blog has connected this “community”. For me during these insane times your blog acts as soothing balm. All can say is thank you for connecting us all.

  7. No one has tried to guess who died. I am guessing Ali’s dad. Two books from you this summer will be great. Enjoy your Friday visit and those Fridays sure seem to come around fast.

  8. Some years ago I read an article about working from home. It suggested you dress like you would if you were going to an office. That was supposed to make you feel like you were serious. I don’t think that applies to authors who are in a different category. Most seem to work a few hours in the morning and do other things like research in the afternoon.

    I have taken a break from re-reading the Beau books and have spent the last few days reading about life in Cornwall, England, during WWII. Those people had a tough time with everything rationed. It’s somewhat like that here now. I’m hoping it will end soon.

  9. I sure enjoy reading your books and my favorite is Joanna Brady, but also like Ali and JP.
    I identify with your nightie and robe. I am at the same age and PJ’s don’t work for me but a nightie is very comfortable.
    Be safe and keep writing.

  10. I hope I forget this blog by the time the next Ali comes out so I can say “I can’t believe she killed off ____________” .

  11. Another favorite author of mine, William Kent Krueger in Minnesota, writes mornings from his mom and pop neighborhood cafe. From the back booth with a carafe of coffee and no distractions. Isn’t that a strange idea? Whatever works!

    Thank you for the blog. They’re as enjoyable as your books. I think of them as appetizers and the books as a full meal.

  12. Once again an interesting blog. I don’t like knowing that a character we’ve all become attached to is going to pass in the next Ali book, but of course that’s just how life is. It will be interesting to see how your books evolve in the future, in light of the this horrible anxiety we’re now experiencing for who knows how long.

  13. I’m rereading all of your books. The only problem is I’m going through them much too quickly. And I read every word. No speed reading. I’m happy to know there are more books coming out.

    • One thing about re-reading books is that I find things I missed the first time. Also, my memory is going and I forget things. I remember how the different books ended, but not all of the details!

  14. I like your blogs. Please, keep writing them. And the books, too. I guess if we would look back on our lives, we could all write blogs. But would the be as interesting as yours? Thanks for keeping us reading.

  15. J. A.,
    I just loved the “Brady Novels”. I read “The Remains Of Innocence” Which I think was the last one. Please tell me you have written at least one more.
    I guess I’ll have to read the other series to get caught up to you.
    I got Joanna all read so I’ll continue on.

    Thanks for the entertainment.

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