North to Home
When Nolee Burnett moves from Texas to the San Juan Islands, her life changes. So does her reality.
After her divorce, Nolee Burnett leaves the dusty plains of West Texas for an island cabin nestled in spruce trees in the Pacific Northwest, determined to craft a new life for herself. Next door is her mysterious neighbor Keet Noland, who owns and runs a sailboat charter company. Weary of his own unhappiness, Keet plans to leave the life he’s built behind.
Rumors surrounding Keet intrigue Nolee; he swims in the cold Salish Sea at night and seems as comfortable in the water as the large male orca Nolee spots swimming in the bay outside her cabin. Keet has an unusual affinity with the local killer whales, and Nolee is drawn into his world, even as she rebuilds her own.
As Keet and Nolee get to know one another, they embark on an odyssey of discovery, leading them to experiences neither could have imagined. This is a story about choosing to love despite differences, and the liberation that happens when we tell ourselves the truth.
From Horses to Killer Whales I woke up in the early morning dark in November 2020. Like many, I was pandemic fatigued, but that wasn't why I was awake. For the fourth time in as many nights, I'd had the same dream: a killer whale shimmering under the turquoise water in a concrete tank. Dreams have many meanings to me. Some are trash can dreams: those images, fears, and worries that your subconscious needs to dump. Some dreams are inspirational: flying through the clouds, or galloping across a vast stretch of green land. Some dreams (though these are far fewer) are portents of things to come. This dream, however, left me with more curiosity than answers. I grew up loving dolphins and horses. My original plan was to become a marine biologist and live in San Diego. Once in college, it only took one semester for it to dawn on me that science (and its evil twin, mathematics) wasn't a skill set my brain could absorb. I finished college with a degree that suited me, and then it was a natural progression to pursue my love of horses. I was teaching by the time I was twenty, and training when I was twenty-six. I haven't stopped since. So why the killer whale dream? I hadn't read anything about cetaceans in years. Maybe, I thought, the killer whales are a sign for something else, a metaphor. After reading a couple of books and scouring the internet, I had a few answers. This didn't stop the dream. When I woke up on the fourth morning, bedeviled and enchanted, I decided to sit down in front of my computer and write what I saw. That singular image, only one page in length, gave birth to a story that is over 300 pages long. The idea that enchants me is how our species can communicate with other species. Although I allude to it in my books about horses, I do believe that all people are born with an innate capacity to listen to the world around them. North to Home explores this theme (and others) in the context of a love story where killer whales make an important appearance. Marine biologist I might not be, but it seems something was calling to me from the oceans that cover our beautiful planet. Once I had committed the image of the killer whale in a tank to words, the dreams changed. I wrote them down, and when one scene was done, a different dream would appear. The order of the scenes was random, and it wasn't until almost the end that I began arranging the scenes into chapters. It was a truly magical process, arriving at a time when it seemed magic was on its way out of the world. The second book is in the editing and rewrite phase, and I've discovered that there's now a third book waiting in the wings. This series has allowed me to explore ideas that fascinate me, through a story whose origin is as mysterious as the ocean's deep waters. I hope you enjoy the exploration, too.