On Saturday, January 11, 2014, I had a day of firsts. I was a guest panelist at my local writer’s meeting, I ordered a cup of mocha from Starbucks without assistance, and I had my life saved by Nora Roberts.
The morning started with a ninety-minute drive to Henrico County where I joined two other debut novelists to discuss our experiences the first year after signing a publishing contract. I was nervous, but, my two cohorts, Janie Crouch and Tracey Livesay, put me at ease immediately. The talk was fun and fresh and the attendees asked terrific questions.
I wanted to stay for the afternoon workshop with veteran authors on a different panel who discussed networking. It looked fabulous, but I had family obligations out-of-state. So, I hopped in my Mazda and prepared for the four and half hour drive through tumultuous weather conditions. And of course, since I’d been nervous the night before therefore didn’t sleep, and the adrenaline had worn off, I needed serious caffeine. My soda simply wasn’t cutting it.
That’s when I did my second first…I ordered a coffee drink all on my own. Sounds easy right? Not for me. It was only my seventh cup of coffee in my entire life. No seriously. The last three were consumed while finishing the manuscript currently in the hands of my editor. Anyway, walking into a Starbucks and staring at the menu for me, is a bit like reading a menu in Klingon. I recognize some symbols and sounds, but most of it makes no sense to me. Still, I did it! I ordered my first cup all on my own. Granted, I forgot to ask for milk to cut some of the bitter taste, but remembered the important stuff…the triple shot of caffeine. 🙂
Armed with my coffee, chocolate, a full tank of gas, and my trusty GPS, I headed to join the family holiday party already in progress at my in-law’s home. Since I detest searching for radio stations while driving, I opted to listen to my latest audio book, INDULGENCE IN DEATH by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts).
The weather was crazy. One minute the sky was blue and the next, I literally watched rain start at one end of an open field and cross the highway in front of me. Wild. About two hours from my destination, I thought I was between cloud bursts. I was heavily into the book, relaxed and listening to Roarke and Dallas move from dinner to seduction, when the music started up. The drone was low and almost inaudible.
“When did Roberts agree to music in her books?” I wondered. Then it occurred to me the sound might be coming from outside. With a yank of the cable, I disconnected my tablet from my car’s speaker and realized the drone of sultry music sounded more like a freight train without Susan Ericksen talking over it. And the sound was growing louder.
I glanced up and saw forty-foot-high treetops swing in circular motions. One tree, precariously close to both the road and my car, swayed violently. Then I spotted it. A very large branch, probably twenty to thirty feet up, cracking at the base and coming down.
It’s amazing how time both slows down and speeds up in life-threatening moments. I had time to think of my children. To think, quite clearly, “I can’t let this [tree] hit my car, I have to pick up my children.” To consider options and discard them; such stomping on the breaks and risk the limb landing on the hood or roof of my car, swerving into the other lane and risk hydroplaning in the standing water, and wondering, “What would Dallas do?”
Inspired by Eve Dallas, I gunned the engine. The car shot forward but didn’t hydroplane. The branch crashed to the ground close enough to my trunk it shook the car. The limb stretched from one side of the road to the other. Almost immediately, the road in front of me was swallowed by the next line of storms, but I still had time to glimpse that terrifying limb in the road behind me.
Two hours later, I arrived safely. I greeted my children, husband, parents-in-law, and the various cousins, aunts, uncles and nieces. Shortly thereafter–were talking like minutes because my husband handed me a drink when I came through the door–I raised a toast to Nora Roberts. Had I not been listening to Roarke and Dallas, I’d have missed the warning drone of the winds, and yes, tornadoes, ripping through that part of North Carolina.
So the next time I see Nora Roberts, you can bet I’m buying that woman a glass of whatever she wants to drink be it the most expensive champagne or fruit juice or coffee. I might be able to think my way through an emergency but Eve Dallas, gave me the inspiration to think in the right direction. 🙂