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Rediscovering New Orleans

The thing about New Orleans, it doesn’t let you completely leave.

Dec 5 Discovering New Orleans The Big Uneasy Pauline Baird Jones

After 18 years, our “foreign” assignment in New Orleans ended. The hubs and I left the Big Easy courtesy of a company transfer. 

The thing about New Orleans, it doesn’t let you completely leave. It lingers in your mind. And yeah, in your taste buds. You find yourself trying to find food as good and you keep sniffing the air for those rich, distinctive smells. 

I didn’t expect to write about New Orleans again (Do Wah Diddy Die is set in New Orleans), but a friend of mine found some chapters that I wrote for a long gone agent. When the agent and I parted ways, I shelved the story to write Out of Time. 

My friend emailed me and asked me about the partial. Was I ever going to finish it?

I had put it away because my story with the agent hadn’t had a happy ending. But enough time had gone by, the sting of it was mostly gone. 

I hunted around on my computer and found it, opened it, started reading…

…and started remembering. 

It felt like New Orleans reached out and gave me that old familiar hug, one filled with scents and sights and sounds like no where else on Earth (okay, I don’t know that but it feels like it’s true). 

And I knew that I needed to finish what I’d started all those years ago. There were some challenges in traveling back in memory but not in reality. The hardest part was trying to figure out what I meant to do.

I take lousy notes when I’m writing. Most of the story happens inside my head, so I had to try to figure out, try to remember what I’d meant to write. And then I need to figure what I should write. 

As always, my characters got involved and surprised me. It was also new for me, because I knew going in that it was going to be a series of books, not just books about a city I learned to love. It was a story about a family. 

A big family. My Baker’s Dozen. My Big Uneasy.

The other story-behind-the-story of this book is what it wouldn’t be what it is right now if my agent hadn’t decided we needed to part ways. 

It’s possible that the book I would have written back then would have been more marketable (by New York) standards. I will never know that. I do know that the Baker family would have lost some of the thirteen siblings, and that would have been heart-breaking.

I love all of them and I love writing about them. 

I’m glad I waited to write this book. I think I needed to learn what it means to miss New Orleans—and to learn the writing lessons from writing my Project Enterprise series—before I could write Relatively Risky. 

I think the series is better than it would have been had I written it ten years ago. I’m grateful to that agent for realizing that our goals for my career didn’t mesh and moving on. She did the right thing for both of us.

All thirteen siblings will get their story told, which makes me so happy. And Zach got a story, too, which is why I’m on book eight, but I still have six books to go. 

So, what I felt at the time was a door hitting me in the face, turned into a window opening onto a better opportunity for me. 

I just had to get far enough out that window to realize it. 

Have you had that happen? Had a kick that turned out to be a hug? Are yousSitting there wondering what hit you? Feel free to share the joy or the sorrow. I will commiserate or cheer.

Perilously yours,

Pauline

P.S. I don’t always see opportunity in suffering, but when I’m going through a storm, I funnel the angst into hosing my characters. It helps me be more mellow during my trials and tribulations—and to finish books. 

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