The Cruelest Month

T.S. Elliot hit the nail on that one. April teases us with warm breezes, climbing temperatures, pretty pink and yellow blossoms, tenderly greening trees–then slaps us silly with frosts and sudden plunges into winter.

Not sure what it says about me that I still love April. It holds out its sweet green hand, then yanks it away and blows cold white. You can just hear the snicker.

And still, it’s the promise, the knowing May’s coming. It’s looking out my dining room window–even though I have a fire going–and seeing my cherry trees brilliantly blooming.

pink tree

On Monday afternoon, I walked around with my two oldest grandchildren, all of us in tee-shirts, checking out the blooms and buds. Today I put on boots, a sweatshirt, my warmest hoodie, a scarf, and was still cold as BW and I went to the nursery. It’s yet to hit 50 today.

 

While I loaded up carts with plants that will make me incredibly happy, I chatted with a couple who told me they drove through snow to get there. They’re only a half hour north, and had snow. That’s pretty damn cruel.

truck of flowers

I can’t plant yet–who wants to garden when it’s 48 degrees anyway? It kills me, I admit, it kills me not to get out there and play. But I have a truckload of gorgeous plants that will, eventually, fill my beds, my pots with color and scent. I’ll enjoy every minute of digging in the dirt–when it doesn’t freeze my fingers off.

Since it’s my oldest grandson’s birthday (yesterday officially) he’s having a swim party here this afternoon (indoor pool, best thing I ever did), so the house will be full of happy–and a big-ass Call Of Duty cake, at his request.

As I can’t garden today, I think I’ll bake bread. I might as well make soup while I’m at it. They’re calling for a drop to 32 degrees tonight. But maybe tomorrow, if April decides to be kind, it’ll be warm enough to dig.

If not, well, May’s coming. And spring better be ready to bust out all over.

Nora

…and then we went home

Nora 20150418_214806chose Wii Tennis as the tie-break competition on Saturday evening.  After an entertaining match and unrestrained viewer commentary, Nora crowned Sarah the winner of the Drunken Spa Girl tournament.  She won the Dance and Trivia categories while Kat won Scrabble and Wii Bowling.

Family commitments called Sarah and Nicole home on Sunday, while the remaining eight used Sunday for final treatments, walks or quiet reading time.  A rousing game of charades on a rainy Sunday evening was the perfect way to end the week.  Turns out that Nora is an excellent charade-er unafraid of critiquing and trash talking the other team.  (I was on that other team.)

The rain let up early Monday morning (I took this photo from the lounge on our floor as the clouds began to lift) and everyone was on the road home by 11.

20150420_080252

 

The ride home through a spring green landscape was easy.  The conversation a little quieter since most major topics were covered, then re-covered during the week.  Nora delighted in all the growth near home in less than a week and discussed her planting plans for this weekend. When we reached the end of her driveway, a gift awaited:  the tulip magnolia is still covered in blooms.

tulip magnolia

A most fitting end to a fabulous week.

Laura

 

GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS!!!!

I have many things to be grateful for in my life, many joys and blessings. One of the brightest blessings is my girl pals. One of the biggest joys is the chance to spend a week a year with a group of them.

Every spring we come here to the spa for a week of fun, pampering, conversation, laughs and competition.

We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather this year, and today is about as perfect as days get. Sunny and 70s. Even in morning chills my pal Jo and I gear up and do a long walk to start the day, come back find our pals in the center lounge here and reconnect before everyone heads off for whatever’s on their slate for the day. Jo and I, and sometimes one of the others do some yoga, etc in the big suite. Then that’s it for work. Absolutely done.

Laura’s knee’s better, but better yet with some acupuncture here. Mary Kay got a fabulous make-up lesson–with several of us as spectators. We have been rubbed, scrubbed, polished–including toes. Which are all adorable.DSCN0403 (2)

We don’t go out to dinner. That would mean real clothes, maybe make up. We do room service, (and Mary Kay arranges for ice cream sundaes THREE evenings during the week. Yay!) which is a kind of theater, then get down to the tournament.

The competition is fierce and fun and foolish. It’s pretty perfect, too. At this point in the week we’re down to the two leaders–my Kat and my Sarah–great, good friends and roomies here. We have to have the tie breaker tonight. It’s going to be a fight to the finish to see who’s crowned (and we have one) this year’s Drunken Spa Girls Queen.

Right now, everyone’s off doing something. Kat and Nicole took a walk (they biked earlier in the week) Mary and Mary Kay are having some lunch, Laura’s heading to a treatment. I think Sarah’s about finished with one. Jo’s going to take a nap before hers. Jeanette–her daughter–had to leave us today as HER daughter’s wedding is just a couple weeks away. Pat and Elaine? I think they went to the gym.

By four or five, we’ll all gather up again, for wine and the rundown of our day–and the final contest for the crown.

Activities are great, and they’re fun. Treatments are just glorious. But what ties it all together in a big, shiny bow is the friendships.

DSCN0401 (2)

Top: Mary Kay, Elaine, Nicole, Sarah, Pat/ Middle: Mary, Kat, Jeannette, JoAnne/Front: Laura, Nora

Save those bows, treasure them. They’ll always shine.

Nora

Note from Laura:  Obviously, the remote incident is forgotten. Will report on the winners soon!

 

Report from the spa trenches – Laura’s version

Spring was all over the place as we drove up to the spa on Monday.  Rather, Nora drove and I was a passenger since for the first time, my trip to the spa did not mean an 8 hour drive to and from Raleigh.  I just packed up, drove over to Nora’s and let her handle the driving duties.  Our friend Mary Kay McComas was along as well.  Conversation ranging from gorgeous weather to dig-down discussions of various television shows we all favor made for a fast trip.

When we were 20 miles away from the final destination, Nora started singing and doing a wriggly sort of dance in the driver’s seat.  I held on to the armrest in the back row.

Once on here we headed for the suite that serves as a de-facto HQ for the week.  Nora threw open the door to the sunlit patio , I opened the champagne and we toasted to the arrival, friendship and sunshine.

Everyone else (there are 11 in all) arrived over course of the afternoon into the evening, the stragglers as we ordered dinner.

We eat in the suite all week long — 11 women sprawled on couches and chairs or sitting around the big dining table.  Hair spiky from treatments, faces scrubbed of makeup, in various states of sweats or pjs — it’s a grown up slumber party in some ways.  But mainly it’s a week long conversation among friends — some of whom don’t see each other during the months between the spa week.

However, all is not light and frivolity — not under Nora’s watch.  The minute the sun goes down, friendships are flung aside in the face of the evening activity: The Drunken Spa Girl imageTournament.  You think the tournament in Happy Ever After is fiction?  I’m here to tell you it’s based on the real life throwdown created by one Nora Roberts — scoreboard included. The categories are Wii bowling, Scrabble, Just Dance and You Don’t Know Jack trivia.  There are first rounds, then semifinals, then finals.  There are winners in each category and one person is crowned Champion.

As I see it, our field of 11 has sharks and the shruggers. The sharks scent blood in the water in the first heat then steam their way through the shruggers to the prizes — which are fabulous and include a plastic tiara and a sceptre (courtesey of the butlers on the floor).

Nora plays along but since she brings the fabulous prizes she doesn’t win.  She just likes to watch us all suffer — that is, compete.

Now I’m not a game player by nature.  I’m competitive but honestly I’m not a shark.  So Monday night I played the first round of Scrabble, then the first round of Wii bowling with the same three women (including Elaine, the reigning Drunken Spa Girl Tournament champion).  Elaine is a Scrabble killer, but for some reason when I said why didn’t we just call the game before we started and give it to her I was shot down.  Forty-seven minutes later, she won with a score of 201.  At one point my tiles read I A A I A I G.  I scored a 66.

Now I’ll admit I was grumpy when we started to bowl.  The grumpy escalated as Elaine bowled the night of her life.  Insults flew, the volume of laughter rose, the inevitable conclusion drew inevitably nearer when it came to my turn in the 9th frame.  I stepped into the throw of my virtual ball (with some force) and the remote slipped out of my hand and off my wrist and hit the tv stand like a bullet, just missing Nora’s head.

An accident!  I swear!  I had the strap around my wrist!  But the women convulsed in laughter to the point of tears didn’t believe me.

BTW, I had a spare that frame.

Elaine scored another 201 and won that round as well.   So I was off the hook for more competition, right?

Noooooo.  I made it into the second round of bowling despite the near decapitation of our fearless leader (An Accident!! I swear!!).  And then I learned I was in the brand new wild card round for Scrabble with the other losers.  Darn.

I’ll report more later in the week.

Laura

 

Good Things Come

Though the wait can seem endless, good things do come around. Tomorrow I head out for a week with the best of girl pals for fun and serious relaxation at the spa.

Packing’s a lot, but pretty easy as it’s work-out gear, sweats and pjs. For seven lovely days, we don’t cook, we don’t clean, do laundry, work, and the biggest stressors tend to be what color to have our nails done and who’s moving onto the next round of Drunken Scrabble or Wii Bowling. We have a tournament. With prizes.

Yesterday was  a mega, major signing at Turn The Page. Today is recover from that, pack, do a weather check to help with that packing, get in a workout, and since it’s gorgeous out, take a walk around outside.

After what hphoto 3onestly feels like the longest winter on record, spring’s starting to pop. I can’t decide whether to be delighted or annoyed my tulip magnolia’s on the edge of bursting.I’m going to miss most of it, and it’s my favorite April treat. But the forsythia’s bright and sunny yellow on one of my hills, and I see some of my perennials in the beds, like delphiniums and dianthus and columbine, pushing their way up.

photo 4

So I’ll leave my daffs and hyacinths for a week. Then come home to serious work, and some serious gardening. I’ll be ready.

But starting tomorrow, it’s all girls all the time, and it’s a week worth waiting for.

Nora

Note from Laura:  I’m going along for all the fun.  Nora and I will take turns giving some updates.   And on Tuesday morning I’ll open a thread to discuss The Liar. Stay tuned!

 

 

A query letter by Nora

Dear Winter: How can we miss you if you don’t go away?

Yesterday I hosted my annual gathering/clothes swap for people in my local writing group. I used to do this mid-winter, but it proved so problematic with weather and travel, I’ve shifted it to early spring in the last several years.

When I sent out the invites a few weeks ago, I thought: This’ll be nice–end of March. Cool, but pleasant enough people could wander outside if they want.

Wrong.

A 28 degree high isn’t cool, it’s fricking cold. And morning snow flurries are not burgeoning daffodils.

Still, a fine time was had by all. It’s a total girl day with food and drink and talk, and the madness of a mountain of clothes–every style, shape and size–brought by dozens of women.

I’m ending the weekend making farmhouse bread, and a vast pot of chicken noodle soup as I had the chicken, and could take advantage of the leftover veggies from the party. And it had better be the last vat of soup I make this spring specifically because it’s so damn cold out.tulips on counter soup in pot

At least papansies in planternsies–who don’t mind the chill–give me some hope of spring, even if it’s cold enough to keep a fire burning instead of doing some early prep-work in the garden.fire in grate

I’ve got four tubs of books to sign, and when that’s done I believe I’m going to flop down horizontally and find some movie that won’t tax my tired brain cells.

It better be warm enough next weekend for me to at least plant my potatoes, or Mother Nature and I are going to have a serious conversation.  

Nora

Charity Hat Auction

Remember Nora’s posts about her whole house purge and the brand new closet?  Not only did it make Nora very happy, it brought to life an idea to benefit others.

Nora generously shphoto (57)ares recaps of her trips to the Kentucky Derby — one of her favorite annual events.  (Click the links to refresh your memory of the  2013 and 2014 races. )   Many years she’s worn gorgeous, custom-made hats by Penny Rieck that add even more flair and elegance to the experience.

As she cleared out and moved her closet, Nora realized that her collection of Derby Hats was just too big for the space and thought it might be fun to raise some money for charity by auctioning them off.  Over the next week or so she is partnering with Turn the Page Bookstore on eight ebay auctions of the hats to benefit the Shepherdstown (WV) Public Library.

Ever dreamed about owning a fabulous hat?  Well now here’s your chance.  The first two hats are up and bidding is open! Click here to see all 8 hats.  And if you win, we’ll want photos!

Laura

 

Social media round up – March 24

It’s been quiet here as Nora’s thrown herself into the first draft of next year’s hardcover.  I’ll share here what little I know: there’s a heroine and there’s a hero.  For some reason that’s all Nora’s willing to share at this point.  But since that’s all I knew about The Liar this time last year and now it’s one of my favorite of Nora’s books (and topping The Witness is very very hard) I’m pretty confident she’ll expand on that heroine and hero to give us a fabulous read in the spring of 2016.

What have I been doing as Nora writes in her office sanctuary?  Well I’ve been leading some discussions about trilogies on the Nora Roberts Facebook page.  Last week was The Circle Trilogy.

mc cover dotg cover vos cover

The questions were:

~ Which couple comes to mind first when you think of this series?  (Cian/Moira by a landslide.)

~ Since The Circle Trilogy’s Larkin and Blair (Dance of the Gods) got so little love in the last post, I’m going to start with them. I loved how they both knew exactly who and what they were — the fun was seeing how each realized the other complemented them in life and on the quest. What are your thoughts?

~ Let’s talk about the brothers — Hoyt and Cian. Judging from the majority of comments Cian is many readers’ favorite character in the series. Each has more than his fair share of arrogance, their faces are mirrors, but Cian keeps winning out. Is it the difference between a rule follower and a rule breaker? Studious v. sociable? I’m so very curious, so please share in the comments.

~ Day 4 of the Circle Trilogy and the question is about the women. Glenna, Blair and Moira — witch, warrior and scholar — all brought strengths that were honed and weaknesses that were shored up to the preparations. I think their bond was cemented when they helped Glenna choose a wedding dress. What other pockets of normalcy stuck with you?

~ We all trust Nora implicitly but let’s be honest: could you see your way to happy ever after for all of the six as Valley of Silence — The Circle trilogy book 3 (this is the Portuguese edition) — drew to a close?

The posts on the JD Robb Facebook page are coming at a slower pace now that Obsession in Death is in stores.  (The 40 days leading to the 40th book are a bit of a blur now.)

But on St. Patrick’s Day I did ask everyone to share their favorite Roarke scenes or quotes.

Leading directly from that discussion I asked:  1) do you find more In Death readers to chat with online or in your real life? And 2) have you ever had an online friendship start because of books?

And on Friday last I shared this: 23 Struggles Only Book Nerds will Understand.

Share any and all thoughts in the comments!

Laura

 

What are you reading/anticipating?

It’s a rainy Saturday in Maryland.  Word is Nora is making soup.  I am not.    But I am thinking about books and spring.  The Equinox approaches!  As the Northern hemisphere nears the end of a long winter and the Southern starts to shed the dog days of summer, I thought it was good time to shake off the dust on our reading lists and swap ideas of what to read.

9780399170867_large_The_Liar

The LiarNora’s 2015 hardcover romantic suspense, will hit stores in the US/Canada on April 14, in the UK/Ireland/AUS/NZ and SA on April 16.   To me, The Liar is book that simply sings spring from the setting to the blooming of one Shelby Foxworth.  And I’ve got to admit that Griff Lott hit #1 (with a bullet as Billboard Magazine used to say) on my Nora heroes list.  We’ll have to talk about that in April won’t we?

BTW, if you are anywhere near western Maryland on April 11, Nora will sign copies of The Liar at Turn the Page’s spring signing.  Kat Martin, Christine Trent, Shayla Black, Jennifer ProbstRobin Kaye and Adam Pelzmen will be there as well.

One small perk of my job is that sometimes I can beguile an advance copy of another author’s books from Team Nora.  Right now I’m waiting (impatiently) for Nalini Singh‘s Shards of Hope to show up on my door a little before the June release.  (BTW, did I mention Nalini is coming to Turn the Page’s 20th anniversary event on July 18?  No?  Did I say Jill shalvis will be there as well?  NO?  Well we’ll keep that between us for now ok? )

Everyone has favorite authors, right?  Nora’s shared some of hers here like Stephen King, John Sandford and Sarah Addison Allen.   Nalini and Jill are two of mine so July will be a fan girl moment for me.

What have I read besides The Liar?  Well I can’t say enough good things about Sarah Addison Allen’s First Frost.  It was one of those books that I finished completely convinced I’d never read another good book again.  But don’t worry, I know I will.

Sarah Morgan is a wonderful writer and the first book in her new Puffin Island series, First Time in Forever, is on my desk.  And I’m also anticipating Thea Harrison‘s Midnight’s Kiss — the latest in her Elder Race series.

What are you reading these days?  And what are you anticipating in the coming season?

Laura