The Cranky Publicist answers a question

Cranky PublicistCostumes are always part of the TTP signing near Halloween.  Last year, Nora dressed as a cowgirl but I’m not really into costumes.   I said I’d dress as what I am, a cranky publicist.  Kat kindly made me a button that said just that.  I was very happy.

So I thought I might use The Cranky Publicist moniker from time to time to answer questions or address comments, starting with this:

For nearly 11 years, I’ve watched trends in reader questions come and go.   Usually the top three are:

  1. Can you add another book to the [fill in the blank] series?
  2. Why do we have to wait so long for the next book [In Death or trilogy]?
  3. The dread In Death baby question (applied to nearly every character except Anna Whitney and Sheila Feeney).

But the question currently trending with a bullet (as Billboard magazine used to say) is:

Can you share your recipe? 

For soup (after a Nora-at-home blog) or pancakes, bread, stew (after reading a book).   Most recently it’s for Mr. Mira’s Hot Chocolate.

hot choc

Nora and I have explained quite a bit that she doesn’t actually have the recipes she creates in books.  She imagines food as the characters would create them and charts the ingredients, some of the prep, usually amid conversation that’s propelling the story.

But still there are the requests —  pleading, straightforward, sarcastic — to share a recipe so a reader can really feel like she/he is living in the book.

In the seven days since Brotherhood in Death hit the shelves, the Mr. Mira Hot Chocolate requests have escalated to the point where I decided to refresh my memory of the scene.  I grabbed the book, a notebook and started reading chapter 6 when Dennis first puts a pot on top of a pot, then adds chocolate.

Ok, I thought, melt the chocolate in a double boiler.   Wrote that down.

He puts a bowl into the freezer, to Eve’s confusion.  Ahh, I thought, the cold bowl for homemade whipped cream.  (Side note for those interested:  Nora and I have long discussed how homemade whipped cream is both delicious and easy to make.)

Eve questions, Dennis answers and as he does, he adds milk to the melted chocolate.  Then puts a bean in a bowl and crushes with a wooden dowel.  I’m going to go with vanilla on that one, which he adds with sugar to the milk.

Then he gets the frozen bowl, pours cream in it, adds some sugar and then beats it until — to Eve’s utter amazement — he has whipped cream.

I finished the scene and thought — OK we have the process, not the amounts.  What would I do if I were curious about that?

I googled “double boiler hot chocolate recipe” and there were five immediate results — the first was pretty much the same steps I’d read.

(Which set this Cranky Publicist to wondering if I somehow am magic with the Google searches or if people really just want things handed to them.  That’s an entirely different post.)

If you’re itching to try your hand at creating something akin to Dennis Mira’s Hot Chocolate here are a couple fun ways to do it.  But really, the best part is that you can take the basic recipe and add dark chocolate or a little chili or some mint or coffee — to make it suit your tastes to a T.

Fancy-Ass Hot Chocolate via A Cozy Kitchen (this recipe has the chocolate going into the milk instead of Dennis’ method).

This one just has chocolate added to hot milk: Ina Garten Hot Chocolate Recipe 

Belgian Hot Chocolate (via David Lebovitz)

Since there may be questions on other techniques, you might enjoy these two links:

How to melt Chocolate in a double boiler (video)

How to make Whipped Cream via The Kitch’n blog




Not so deep thoughts

I’m pleased to say my Facebook pages are pretty much a happy place for me and for readers. The idea behind them has always been to offer information to readers, to provide some fun and a platform for interaction.
Laura works hard to make that so.
I’ll always be baffled by those who come on to take swipes–and now since the infamous BITE ME blog, our policy is to delete a post and/or ban a poster who crosses the line. It helps maintain that happy, informative place for all of us. So now my bafflement is more about the passive-aggressive type posters who bounce into a thread, make some half-assed complaint or snarky comment that generally has nothing to do with the actual thread.
Here are my rambling and circular thoughts on that–which I hope I’ll round up by the end of this blog.
I had a really solid writing week–always grateful when that happens, when nothing much interrupts. (Dogs in/dogs out is routine around here.) It’s a simple fact that when I’m working, I’m not giving this type of poster a single thought. Their opinions, or bids for attention, or sad need to take shots–not just at me, but other posters–aren’t in my universe when I’m writing. The story and characters are all. My story, my characters, my job, my responsibility. There are times when I see this kind of comment I’d like to say: Babe, do you honestly think you have one iota of influence on me when I’m into the work?
But anyway.
Excellent streak of writing time, which is almost the only thing I like about winter. And the weekend focused on more of the annual purge. This year, I emptied out the DVDs and VHS tapes from their cabinets. And asked myself WHY am I keeping these VHS tapes? Is this not 2016?  I made a list of those movies I really want, and ordered them on DVD for the collection. In organizing the DVDs I optimistically shelved them by category (this will never last). But it doing that it illustrated clearly, I love a variety. I have the wonderful classics (To Have And To Have Not remains one of my all-time faves) right up to our latest addition, The Martian. Dramas, comedies, musicals, thrillers, film noir, mysteries, action movies, science-fiction (klaatu barada nickto). I have the entire 7 seasons of Buffy on DVD. I have horror and Disney movies. If they make a movie from a Marvel comic, I have it (and have probably watched it multiple times). And okay DC comics, too.
Not everyone would like every movie I own. Some, in fact, may seriously dislike many of them. We are not the borg. We are not all the same with precisely the same tastes and interests. Movies, like books, are written and produced to entertain, to make us feel or think, laugh or cry, excite us or soothe us. What a story, in any form, evokes in an individual is personal. There are scores of popular or renown books/movies I dislike–some intensely. I may very well say so, giving the reasons for my reaction, in a group of pals. I would not go to the FB or fan page or whatever for same and post comments saying I hated that movie–or take the passive-aggressive approach with: It could have been better if…
One, I have better things to do. Two, it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever what I think. It doesn’t change ANYTHING. The book, the movie remains the book, the movie. The writers, publishers, producers, directors aren’t going to suddenly say: OMG, Jane Smith doesn’t like it–pull that sucker, or reform the current project to suit Jane!!
If they reformed a project to suit (some of) my tastes, it would probably read: Buffy and The Avengers Travel To A Galaxy Far, Far Away Where They Go Singing’ In The Rain On The Way To Silverado To Inherit The Wind.
Hmm. I should make one of those refrigerator magnet scrambles out of all my DVD titles.
Point is, most of us wants different types of entertainment at different times. We want something that suits our mood as well as our tastes. And there’s so much to choose from, we can have just what we want.
I also purged and organized my exercise DVDs in the gym. It just reinforced my particular needs and desire for variety. Some days I just need yoga, others I want some sweaty cardio–maybe Latin dance style, maybe hip-hop. Or I want to pump some iron (okay, it’s only 5-10 pounds, but I PUMP it) or I feel like I need some strong Pilates. I can choose. I can mix it up (always better to cross-train anyway). If I buy an exercise DVD, decide it’s not for me, I can give it to a friend who it might suit better.
I won’t even get into the fact we–finally–bought a wireless music thingie and boxed up hundreds of CDs. Or the big cabinet full of beloved vinyl. It’s the same thing–variety and taste and mood.
We all have favorites–we have likes and dislikes in our entertainment tastes. Okay, workouts aren’t entertainment, but you get me. The world’s just chock-full of choices to suit everyone’s needs, tastes, moods. Sometimes we choose something that just doesn’t work for us. Or doesn’t work at that particular time (because moods change). So the smart thing is to move on to something that does work, at that particular time.
Life’s too short to spend time reading, watching, sweating or listening to something that doesn’t engage us, make us happy.
And it should be too full to spend time poking into FB threads where people are engaged and happy to try to change that mood to your own unhappy one.


Brotherhood in Death teasers

Less than a week until you have the chance to read the first of the 2016 In Deaths — Brotherhood in Death.


First, a brief summary:

When Brotherhood opens, Mr. Mira just learned his cousin Edward arranged a secret meeting with a real estate agent about their late grandfather’s West Village brownstone, despite the promise they both made to keep it in the family. He heads to the house to confront Edward about it, and gets a blunt object to the back of the head.

When Eve arrives on the scene, he reports the instant before the attack, he’d seen Edward in a chair, bruised and bloody, but when he came to, Mr. Mira found himself alone in the house. With the mess cleaned up and the security disks removed, there’s nothing left behind but a few traces for forensics to analyze.

As a former lawyer, judge, and senator, Edward Mira mingled with the elite and crossed paths with criminals, making enemies on a regular basis. He also made some very close friends behind closed and locked doors.  As the case builds Eve shines a light on the dirty deals and dark motives behind the disappearance of a powerful man, one part of a brotherhood of equally powerful men with secrets to keep.

Now for a few gentle teasers.  I won’t spoil the case, I won’t give away big details.  These are just a few tidbits to look for as the case unfolds.

I’ll add one teaser each day between January 27-30 so bookmark the thread and check in when you can.

January 27
A two-fer:  within a few pages we learn Roarke exercised some restraint in the house design AND a suggested addendum to the Homicide credo.

January 28
A second two-fer:  Peabody has a much better locker room experience in Brotherhood than she did in Treachery.  Oh, and Whitney relays his wife’s interesting opinions on a matter close to the case.

January 29
Eve shares her theories about dolls.  Peabody may be scarred for life.
Oh, and remember Roarke’s reaction to coming upon Will Banner? A couple tables are turned this go round.

January 30
Dolls show up again. This time more people are scarred.
Eve and Peabody show off more than detective skills on scene.

That’s it, guys.  The book will be yours soon enough.

The Obsession excerpt


The Obsession — Nora’s 2016 hardcover romantic suspense — will be in stores on April 12 in the US and Canada (April 4 in the UK/AUS/IRE/NZ/SA).

The publisher blurb reads:

Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous. No matter how close she gets to happiness, she can’t outrun the sins of Thomas David Bowes.

Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, a rambling old house in need of repair, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the kindly residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up—especially the determined Xander Keaton.

Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But the sins of her father can become an obsession, and, as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away.

My review?  You’re going to LOVE it.

Click on this link for an excerpt to tide you over until April:  The Obsession.



Here, at least, the weather guys nailed it. They told us it was coming, be prepared, and so it came. We’ve been there, done that many times before, so being prepared is winter routine.
We have a plow for the lane, and usually that’ll do the trick. However, Snowzilla mostly came at night, (and laughed and laughed) started late enough so plowing at dusk or dark wasn’t wise.

I woke to about sixteen inches and still coming hard. BW had put out his dad’s old, kitschy snowman snow gauge, so I could basically judge the amount without using my old standard, a yardstick.

Stalwart Snowman gauge
By the time my own personal Mr. Plow got himself geared up, we had about 18″. Which proved too much for Mr. Plow. Jeep now stuck. Snowblower’s enough to clear some paths, and the dogs frolic.
wilder jeep
Stuck Jeep, happy Parker
wilder pool
The narrow driveway path
We have a guy–my landscape guy–who does snow removal. We get on the list, knowing he’s got plenty ahead of us. Doesn’t worry me–I’m not going anywhere.
I’m still into my January purge. Hit what I think of as the kids’ room as they use it when they sleep over. Hit the bathroom–the linen closet needs attention, hit the library. Then decide I can sit right down in there and read a book in front of the fire as my reward.
Snow’s now up to two feet, and still coming. My guy has decided to grill steaks for dinner later. Not odd for us as we grill year-round, so I figure I’ll make soup on Sunday.

I talk myself into a workout. No reason I can’t step outside, walk two feet to the gym. I put on my Uggs for the trip. BW’s cleared the path again, so no big. After my righteous workout, I’m grateful for the boots. Path has a good two or three inches on it again.

The roof of the house (left), the roof of the gym (right)
It’s gorgeous out there, no question, and a little spooky. On the deck, the snow’s just below the top of the rail. We’re heading toward three feet. But unlike my first experience living here with three feet of snow, I have plenty of provisions, I have a generator if power goes out, and I don’t have two little boys who need time and attention.
Post storm, snow on the deck
I eat steak, I watch a movie. We have that three feet by the time the snow stops–well after dark.
Sunday, when I get up before dawn (I just do) the world is absolutely hushed. It’s always quiet here, that’s country living, but the snow cushions all sound so the world is an empty church. I watch the birds attack the feeder for seeds and suet, watch the sun come up. The day brightens with that incredibly sharp contrast of hard blue sky against pure, untouched snow. Nothing but trees, sky, snow, birds as far as I can see. I love it–as long as I’m inside.
wilder driveway
Post storm Sunday look down the drive
More purging. The master bedroom this time, and it needs some serious work. Satisfying work. Then it’s time to make some chicken tortilla soup. Yum.
Quiet night, with me pleased my entire main level’s now been purged, a good bowl of soup–and the X-Files! Oh, how happy I am to see Mulder and Scully again. Now it’s time for a long, winter’s nap.
At about one in the morning, Parker barks like a maniac. And we hear the plow. That’s our Bryan, plowing the lane in the middle of the night. Bless his heart.
This morning, we have a plowed lane–but Bryan called to alert us our ‘main’ road is only plowed for one lane. I expect BW will take another day at home. How do you handle meeting another car with only one cleared lane and three feet of snow on the rest? No need to find out, at least to my way of thinking. The man, however, may think differently.
Me, I’m going to sit in my warm office, get to work, and look at the snowy postcard out my office window.
Hope everyone who got hit with Jonas stayed warm and safe.  

Winter Week

In winter, I typically take the way of the bear and hibernate. My form of hibernation equals socking in, staying home, working. And on weekends starting in January, doing my annual full-house purge.
Last week wasn’t at all typical for this bear.
Monday I played hooky. Not much can pull me out of hibernation and into the world. Star Wars is an exception. The prospect of hitting a matinee–IMax, 3D–of the new installment of one of my all time favorite franchises? No-brainer. So BW and I headed out into the cold, met up with Jason–Kat, who’d set this all up, had to work (but she’s already seen it twice)–Laura and Laura’s husband, snagged some popcorn and settled down.
No spoilers, so I’ll just say I loved every minute, right from the first note of the iconic opening theme to the roll of credits. I will ask why, does anyone know why, a group of people would choose to sit directly behind another group of people in a HUGE theater that’s nearly empty? And then regularly push or kick the back of my chair? I have no answer for this.  (Laura’s note:  loved, loved, loved the movie.  I was further down from the kicker so the annoyance for me was the eating/crackling of paper in the quiet moments.  Eat during galactic explosions!!! NR and I are a pair.)
In any case, I enjoyed my playing-hooky day tremendously.
Mid-week, I had a routine annual screening–the medical sort–all good there. But another venture into the cold rather than being attached to my keyboard. And that evening yet another trip out to watch my grandson’s first chorus concert. Absolutely adorable.
As it happened, our Logan proved to be quite a trooper, as it turned out he was running hot. So the next day, with a 101 temp, he snuggled into Nana’s bed. I know how to work around a sick boy, got plenty done while keeping him fed and entertained. Plus I had a spanking new DVD of The Martian, which made him very happy. Because it was a short school day, his sister came up mid-afternoon. So a short work day for me. Kayla agreed to help me with dinner–her little brother was coming up later, and we’d send food home to their mom, who had whatever bug Logan had.
I decided rather than letting her help me, I’d play sous chef and instructor. We both really enjoyed me walking her through making scalloped ham and potatoes, with a side of roasted carrots. Both dishes the gang enjoys.
And she did a terrific job of it.
It’s incredibly satisfying to pass recipes down the generations, tutor a grandchild in basic cooking skills. She has good instincts on top of it–more satisfaction. And asked if I’d make her a cookbook with my recipes. That’s a big pleasure, and something I’ll spend some Saturday putting together for her. I have many of my mother’s, and my father’s recipes in my book. Whenever I cook one of their dishes, they’re right there in the kitchen with me. I like to think when Kayla uses mine, the same holds true.
I freely admit, that I ended the day by conking out by ten p.m.
But Saturday, after my workout, the purge began. And began in earnest in my office byclearing out dozens of old research books I’ve held onto for far too long. Many were ridiculously out of date, and while I still have more dozens, I lean heavy on the internet anyway.
Office shelves
My office and my one-more-room are purged and organized. And my embarrassment of a hall closet is an embarrassment no more. I confess, without shame, to being a scarf slut. I still can’t figure out how I still have three tubs full of them on my closet shelf when I filled an entire bag with what I’ll pass on.
A good Saturday start. BW hauled out boxes and bags of donations, and I have more bags for the annual clothes swap. And Laura and Kayla can have a grudge match over the scarves. (Laura’s note:  I can take her!)


Vegetable soup
Rosemary sourdough bread
Sunday, cold with snow flurries, means making soup and baking bread. (Note from Laura:  I know Nora cooks soup the way I do — with what’s on hand and to suit my taste — so there’s not going to be a recipe. ) A hearty vegetable soup in this case, with beans and pasta, and a couple rounds of rosemary sour dough bread. And since I was hooked to the kitchen, it was a good time to purge and organize that area. I can now open doors and drawers in the areas addressed this weekend without shuddering. That’s a good deal.
The better one is knowing I can now begin my hibernation. I have a clear week, intend to fully hunker down. And I’m hoping nothing and no one tries to poke the bear.

Ring Out, Ring In

Around here we say goodbye to the old year by cooking, baking, slicing, dicing, and setting up for our annual New Year’s Day bash. The bash rings in the new.
I think it’s a fine way to spend the last day of the year–at home, with some wonderful helping hands, making tons of food. By ten I have over 120 meatballs simmering, two big-ass hams in the oven and a pot of red beans going.
My sweet Kayla is the first to arrive for kitchen duty. At thirteen she’s gotten the hang of things, and I have a couple of dishes earmarked for her. She always makes the bread pudding, from a recipe passed down from my father’s side. And I’ve taught her how to make pasta salad. She’ll also make the brownies for the chocolate trifle. She’s on it. It’s fun for me to have this time with her, with her chatting away, making food, and eating far too many cookies.
The finished trifle on the right of the side board.
Kat and Jason arrive next and dive right in. The dogs are mostly banished outside, and Parker doesn’t appreciate it. They manage to sneak in, must be banished again. Logan heads up to help with manly set up. And Laura arrives to help out. I’ve boiled three dozen eggs to devil. My girls are all over the peeling of same. And the chopping of many, many raw veggies for a crudite.
These were gone within an hour of the start of the party.
The results of Laura’s chop and Kat’s presentation.
We cook, stir–Kat is doing BW a solid by keeping up with the dishes. We chop and bake, and hey, it’s the last day of the year so we pop some champagne while we work.
Finished food must be stuffed into refrigerators, and when room runs out put outside on the deck–HIGH where certain dogs can’t get to it.
By evening Laura heads home, as do the kids. Jason and Kat will stay the night and be here to help in the morning. More champagne, and watching the ball drop. (Anyone else notice Ryan Seacrest has elf ears? Just wondering.)
I’m up early as there are things to do on the day. Like an enormous Waldorf salad–or my version thereof. I tell Kat when I see it’s nearly 11–and the party starts at 1–that every year I think I’ve budgeted my time well, and every year I wonder where the morning’s gone. But we get it all done. Pre-made food warming in the oven or on the stove, platters and bowls hauled in, set out. Kat’s artistic arrangements of veggies and cheeses, the bar set and stocked and so on. And I manage to get out of my pjs and dressed with about ten minutes to spare.

Just a few of Nora’s champagne glasses.
We didn’t have a full house. We had a bulging house. I think when the holiday falls on a Friday or Saturday people are more inclined not just to come but to hang out. And we did hang, cheerfully.

The gracious hosts just before the crowd descended.
It’s so good to have a day with friends, family, with kids running around, dogs wandering around, with food being devoured and enjoyed. After the party gets going I do about ten pounds of spiced shrimp. I think we have a little sandwich baggie of that left and a few scraps of ham. My pals JoAnne and Larry always bring a big pot of crab soup. We have one little serving left so BW can have it for lunch. Otherwise, those bowls, platters, casseroles and serving dishes were pretty much empty by the end of the party.
The new year started off with an appetite–which is satisfying for the cooks.
Good food, good friends, some sparkling beverages and a lot of noise. It’s a great way to write the first page on the story of a new year, as spending time in the kitchen with my girls was a great way to write the last page on the old.
Now I’m packing for a week at the spa, where there will be NO cooking for me!! 
Here’s wishing you all the happiest, healthiest, and most loving of new years.

Litograph contest update

I appreciate everyone’s patience as we worked in the expanded time frame for the Litographs Naked in Death design contest.  Our thanks to everyone who participated. (And thanks to everyone who backed up an “I can’t design” with “but I’ll  buy one!”)
Litographs products require a specialized style and formatting. While the five submitted designs were beautiful and creative, we (and Litographs) were afraid that they would not be properly recognizable when created from text, so they will NOT join the Litographs product line.
But we were so impressed by all of the submissions (below) that when the Litographs team suggested each submission be named a finalist, Nora agreed immediately.   Litographs will send each of these designers a $50 gift card to
0ae59280092d-NID_Lithograph_Contest_Entry (1) 26fbc053c173-image 3083ab0f8aa1-Naked_In_Death_Lito_Becque_Olson 51dbc4071270-NakedInDeathDesign_FinalB_W
What’s next?  Well, the project is still very much a go and Nora will work with  Litographs on new artwork for Naked in Death products.  I hope to share them with you in early 2016.   Then we’ll move on to Dance Upon the Air and Vision in White.
Stay tuned!

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