I know the Apprentice in Death excerpt included in the last Nora’s News only whetted the thirst, but it didn’t quench it. (Let’s be really honest though: for many readers the entire book doesn’t quench the thirst. <g>) So I thought you’d like a little bit more on this hot Friday in July.
First came the packing. A week away, especially a professional week away requires a lot of shoes. Then there’s the clothes that go with the shoes. As I had a big weekend–TTP’s anniversary signing on Saturday and the Fall Into The Story brunch on Sunday, I had to pack early.
I opted for Thursday packing so I could get it off my head and focus on writing all day Friday. Lots of events at RWA, so many decisions to be made. Past experience tells me no matter what the city or the temperature outside, it’s going to be really cold inside the hotel. (Despite Laura’s claims to the contrary.) So this requires jackets and/or sweaters for every outfit.
It’s a lot.
But with that out of the way, I can give the current book my full attention for one last day.
Saturday’s signing is now a blur, but I remember lots of happy faces. I know for most attending–and waiting in line–it was hot. For me, perfect weather. I just bask in high summer. But many thanks to all who aren’t me and braved the heat.
Still, again for me, the highlight was our youngest author. At twelve, Gage Shepherd has written two books. The kid’s talented, charming, professional and just all-out adorable. I’m pleased to say he told his equally charming mom the TTP signing was the highlight of his career. I suspect he’s going to have a long and successful one.
Sunday’s reader brunch was lovely in every way. It affords a quieter, less fraught atmosphere with plenty of opportunities to just hang. And thanks to the fabulous staff at Vesta, great food and cheerful service. So happy to have had a couple of hours to just hang out and chat with readers.
And Monday it begins. Load up the car–my luggage, Laura’s and Kat’s for the drive to the airport where we meet up with Janeen, TTP’s marvelous manager.
And we’re off to San Diego via Michigan where we pick up our beloved Ruth Ryan Langan. Having a week with Ruth is always one of the biggest perks of RWA, and we start it off at 41,000 feet with champagne. I hate to fly, but you gotta get there, and having my circle of women–and that champagne–make the long flight easier.
San Diego’s beautiful, and the weather’s just amazing. The hotel’s huge and airy with fabulous views and the huge advantage of generous and lovely outdoor spaces.
We dump our bags and have lunch by the pool. And the weirdness of travel fades a bit. It fades more when we head up to our suite. It’s huge–rooms all connecting so while we’ll all be in that wonderful space, we have our own areas, too. And the view from the balcony is just awesome. The marina with all its pretty boats, the bay with more boats skimming along, and beyond to the Pacific.
We have arrived!
Unpack–need to make our nests, make this space our own–then just sit on the balcony and absorb.
More friends come by–hugs and kisses!–and we do a quiet and casual dinner in before we East Coast girls fall into bed.
Tuesday is for acclimating and shopping. But first a little more basking on the balcony–something that becomes a daily ritual for our happy group. After Kat and I workout to Shaun T. Kat introduced me to Cize at the spa. I’m now a big fan. So we work it out, sweat it up, (laugh a lot) feel righteous. And shower it all off before heading out.
We walk in this fabulous weather, find fun little shops. Pack ‘O Girls shopping is ridiculous fun. We break for a little lunch, shop some more. Kat and Janine break off to hit a market for supplies–sodas, water, amazing fruit and so on.
Much more basking on the balcony, watching the boats, relaxing before we take another nice walk to dinner.
Wednesday, our basking, our workout, and it’s time to get a little more professional. The hotel’s filling up–more writers than the baseball fans who’d come in for the All Star game.
Which reminds me. Sitting on the balcony, the game comes up. My beautiful Kat says: What’s the All Star game? (I wept a little.) And Janine says: It’s the Super Bowl of baseball. And there both Laura and I wept and laughed our asses off. And eventually explained what it actually is.
We orient ourselves, as the hotel is really big, run into friends, wander out to the pool area for margaritas. Mmmm. Time to gear it up for the Literacy Signing. It’s a busy, noisy couple of hours, another chance to connect with readers, with other writers, and to raise money for literacy. It’s my favorite event of the week.
After we need food, and our tradition is to go for red meat. Dinner at Morton’s steakhouse. We’ve connected with our pal Mary Blayney so all toast another successful event. Ruth and I split a steak and still can’t finish it–but there’s souffle! As is girl tradition we order a couple of desserts to pass around. If you ever have a chance to sample Morton’s lemon souffle, don’t pass it up.
Then we waddle and moan our way home. I couldn’t so much as think about food for nearly twenty-four hours.
Thursday’s not too busy. Except for Janeen who has a whole business day. The rest of us? Bask, workout, clean up, and we decide we’d hang outside, open the Tequila Bar. Big comfy chairs, shade–and breezes cool enough Ruth and I were all about lighting the big firepit. It’s a perfect way to hang out, to again connect with industry friends who chose the same venue. My editor and publishing team are arriving today. It’s great to see them, spend some time.
I have a meeting–and how nice to be able to hold it in the suite with those lovely views.
There’s pizza when I finally want food again. Nothing’s more perfect than pizza.
Friday’s packed. After the morning routine–more boats on the water now as the weekend approaches–I have my Chat With session. It’s always fun, easy, and I hope interesting for the attendees. We have lunch with the St. Martin’s team, also easy and fun. I already feel at home.
Time to get our fancy on for party night. St. Martin’s is on property and filled with happy faces. Cocktails and pretty finger food, and for those who want it, a great patio to enjoy the sunshine.
Off to the Harlequin party–for that we need a car and driver. The very short drive becomes long as the Padres have a game, and traffic is amazing. Still we get there early enough to snag a table near the dance floor. Tonight is all about kicking off your shoes and shaking that thing.
We shook those things a lot. It’s no small deal to have a couple hundred women (maybe more) rocking it out. So much energy and spirit. We have a few men sprinkled in, but this party really is all about girls just wanting to have fun.
We really, really do.
Saturday’s not too busy. This week contrasted nicely with my packed schedule of last year. We bask–several boats have left their slips, and the bay’s full of action. Sail boats, motor boats, jet skis, kayaks. Work out–with a nice yoga session to top it off. Wandering, outdoor time, reconnections. There’s a Hamilton Sing-Along scheduled, and Kat (a major fan) is so excited. She, my theater girl, is determined to find herself a costume. And being Kat, she finds one in a thrift store (boots included) and picks up some pillow cases to make a cravat and cuffs. She’s the Amazing Kat Hamilton.
She’s the hit of the event–and the one who pulled people up, got them involved. Don’t just sit there! It’s my opinion she made the event.
We have to tidy up for my annual Champagne Celebration pre awards ceremony. And since my gown for tonight has deep wrinkles that didn’t hang out, the whole team works on pressing and steaming them out. I love girls.
The hotel staff has been marvelous throughout the week. Special shout out to Gwen, our delightful in every way housekeeper. The catering department is no less marvelous. We have a beautiful spread of fun food, loads of bubbly, and this gorgeous space. Laura has to sweep guests off the balcony in shifts to give others a turn. Everyone has their finery on, and looks just fabulous.
I’m presenting the last award of the evening, and my favorite. Best First Book. Imagine the thrill of having your very first book honored and recognized by your peers, and holding that Rita.
Back to the room and into pjs! Yay. Hit the food as there’s just no time to eat at your own party. Hang with pals. Leslie, my editor, is heading back to NY first thing in the morning, and our well-loved Brit, Sarah Morgan, is flying back to England. We have to say good-bye.
We start our last day as we’ve started all the others. On the balcony sighing over the view. A shorter workout–it’s been a busy week!–and clean up to head to Coronado Island for the day. What a perfect last day. A delicious lunch at the Del, bellinis, sea breezes and sunshine. Followed by (we’re girls) shopping. None of us walked out empty handed. Kat ran down to the beach to get her toes in the Pacific, and our happy, satisfied group traveled home again.
Packing to be done, dinner to consider. Take-out works just right. And we’re all really happy we decided to eat in as we’re sitting or standing on the balcony, wondering what might be going on at this pavilion down below (a wedding earlier in the week, a concert.)
It’s another concert–but not just any concert. It’s Diana Ross. Diana Ross is in concert right THERE. We can hear every note from our balcony. What a way to end the week. That iconic voice, the moon over the water, the sparkle of lights from boats that moored in to listen. We dance, sing along, cheer–and if you’re me whistle.
We head off to bed tired and delighted.
Last minute packing and organizing Monday morning. My suitcases are heavier than they were when I flew west. A last bask, a final goodbye to our home for the week. Somehow the clever bellman got all our suitcases and bags of books and shopping bags in the car. Off to the airport–a little GPS snafu–but we get there. A pretty smooth flight back to Michigan where we have to say goodbye to our Ruth. Hugs, hugs, giant hugs.
In the air again, and on the ground in Maryland in an hour. Now it’s goodbye to Janine, and the drive to my place. Goodbye to Laura and to my amazing Kat–but I’ll see them both on Saturday when they come to help me prep for my annual summer party on Sunday. (Can’t think too much about that yet!)
Hello to BW and dogs. A little catching up, and I was out for the count by ten o’clock.
A great week, start to finish, a million memories banked.
Before you read any further, please know that when I set up the blog all photos are right side up. I’m doing my best to figure out why they translate sideways on mobile devices. Laura
We started off Wednesday with movement. While Nora and Kat did a dvd workout in the suite, I walked up to the Midway. Loved this huge statue just by the water.
The day was free until the fabulous Literacy signing. Nora and I went down to see exactly where she’d sit and we ran into Mary Rhoades — the first person in line. The Marriott staff got her a chair so she’d be comfortable, then I offered to snap her photo with Nora, along with the second person in line, Amy who flew in from North Carolina (and if that’s the wrong name, please let me know!).
We met so many wonderful readers who patiently waited for a chance to meet Nora. The event brought in over $39,000 which put RWA over the $1 million mark for donations to Literacy over the past two decades.
Thursday was another free day. Nora and I took a turn around the conference area, then we met Ruth and took advantage of the glorious San Diego weather. As you can see below, it was cool in the shade so we had the fire pit turned on until Ruth could bask in the sun. And Nora wore boots.
I did not.
Friday was the busy day — Nora had her chat, then we lunched with the St. Martin’s team, then parties all around. I’m sure she’ll share more about it, so I’ll share some photos.
The start of the evening.
Saturday was all about the prep for Nora’s champagne reception. This year we had the fabulous view along with food and wine.
We cleaned up pretty well too.
We spent the final day over on Coronado, lunching at the Hotel Del, browsing through shops and breathing in the sea air. I’ll share photos when we’re back in Maryland, but for now we have another plane to catch.
Monday’s trip to San Diego was smooth as could be — the only real adventure was watching our driver figure out the way to pack all of the bags and five women in. Fortunately we had Kat on stand by to work her car magic just in case.
All the rooms, except Nora’s suite, were ready when we arrived. So did the only sensible thing: head down to eat by the pool. Margaritas, nachos and chips for all!
The continuing thread of the narrative this week will be the epic battle of heat v. cold. I’m traveling with a group of thin skinned shiverers! When we walk through any hall, go into any room, all I hear is a chorus complaining about how coooooold it is! My advice to suck it up is met with great disdain. But on Monday I was actually chilly in the shade with the stiff breeze.
We disbursed to unpack and settle. Then time to settle in on our balcony nest for the rest of the day.
Bed before 9 for everyone because we’re still on east coast time.
All of us were up early on Tuesday. I took a walk with Jill Shalvis, while Nora and Kat tackled dvd workouts. Then it was on to the serious part of the day: shopping. We found interesting clothing stores, the Nordstrom Café for lunch, then some more shopping before heading back to check in for the conference.
Once we checked in, it was back up to our balcony nest to listen to a concert and watch the water. A lovely early dinner ended the first full day at conference.
Honestly, I’m not that cranky but I thought this was the best way to let you know it’s a Laura update, not a Nora one.
(Nora’s well, but I don’t expect her to collect her thoughts and share a blog post until later this month.)
We’re into Nora’s the busiest week (non-writing category) of the year. The Turn the Page Bookstore Anniversary event on Saturday went off well, despite heat and humidity. Yesterday’s Fall into the Story Brunch was wonderful as always — so much fun to visit with happy readers (who all came to see me, of course!)
My husband and I joined Nora and family for a few days at the spa and an oasis of down time in late June. Our little crew of dedicated walkers clocked steps and miles every morning before 10 am while the rest of the group moved at their own pace. Every day offered activities for the kids, spa treatments for adults, plenty of reading, chatting and eating time. I took photos that made me happy.
Extra bonus (for me?): no scoreboard! Woo-hoo! There was a modified competition after we left, but if I’m not in the room when a game is played, did it really happen?
Now we’re off to RWA for the week. If you’re in the San Diego area, don’t forget the Literacy Autographing on Wednesday, July 13 from 5:30-7:00. I’ll let Nora tell you a little bit more about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7gfxfnVDW0
I’ve played with designs this spring and have posted quotes from various books on Facebook. Here are two examples. If you’d like me to make the quotes and discussion a regular feature here on the blog, please let me know.
Need to shut down the computer and get to the airport. I promise to share recaps and photos this week, so stay tuned.
Before I get to that. There’s more chatter cropping up, as it does, on Eve finding blood relatives. I’ve blogged about this before, and won’t go into a bunch of detail on why this isn’t going to happen. I’m just going to say it’s Not Going To Happen. I am not going to change my mind as if often suggested, or ‘listen to the readers’ as is often pressed.
I can only try to again make it clear. She won’t seek, ask Roarke to seek, find or accidentally stumble onto any other blood relations. That’s the way the series has been, is, and ever will be for all the reasons I’ve already outlined in detail.
Last week was a short work week as our Kat had a birthday. Our tradition is to celebrate this with an all-girl shopping spree which added on an overnight last year.
And I think this may have been the best yet!
We met up Friday morning, me, Laura, our pal Sarah and the birthday girl. Clothes, shoes, bags, champagne! (Not so much on the champagne for Kat who is endearingly an alcohol lightweight.) I work with an amazing personal shopper and team at Saks–I do this intense shopping twice a year–and they’ve selected some terrific choices for Kat–and for me. Plenty for Sarah and Laura to play with, too.
Kat and I are very interested in pretty conference clothes as RWA is around the corner–and Kat also attends conferences for our foundation. Girls wanna look good! And girls understand the fun of trying on clothes, putting outfits together and showing them off to other girls for opinions.
Girls are gonna look good!
We also have signings, vacation and just life to deal with, so try on and consider clothes (shoes!!) that will work there, too.
We’re at this for hours, with a lovely lunch break courtesy of the team, and head off to our hotel room well satisfied on all counts for an easy, relaxing evening–rather than driving a couple hours in ugly traffic.
Lots of girl hugs before our leisurely departure in the morning.
Then I get to work. No, not at the keyboard. In the closet. If I’m bringing all these pretties in, some things have to go. It’s my personal rule. So I purge, and pretty ruthlessly. I bought shoes and booties and sandals. So some of the same that have served me well must now make room–and will serve someone else just as well. I bought dresses, so others have to make room. Shirts, jackets, all of it. I was strict enough I culled out at least double what I’m bringing in. And so I can put all the new away with a clear conscious.
I have pals who will be delighted with my closet rule.
With the fun, the purging, the putting away done, I can devote a good chunk of my Sunday to the gardens.
A good workout to get the blood moving, and out I go for my weekly weeding and deadheading. My nasturtiums are huge and starting to bloom! The purple coneflowers along with them. Lots of new flowers to enjoy. And the misery of finding a big section of Black-Eyed Susans consumed by deer–not in a far-flung bed, but right along my drive. The repellent’s working, but right after the last dose we had a major storm. When I discovered this deer damage earlier in the week, it was about ten minutes after the damn storm. They must have raced to the banquet.
Come on, girls, let’s eat!
I have to accept what’s lost and enjoy what I have. I have my first tiny little tomato on the vine and lots more Susies about to burst into bloom. And I manage to garden without once seeing a snake. That’s a very good deal. The basil that faded so in all the May rains has perked up beautifully in their pots.
When I make dinner Sunday night, I use herbs from my gardens, and that’s as satisfying as a closet purge.
I very fine three-day weekend for me–with the capper of Game of Thrones awesome season finale.
Now it’s a very short work week as we leave in the middle of the week for our family/friend week at the spa.
I’d better get to work and make the most of the keyboard time I have.
The Summer Solstice is my favorite day of the year. The light that lasts and lasts–for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere–draws me out into the warm, into the sun, into the green and the flowers.
I may spend a good chunk of the longest day inside at the keyboard–but the sun still beams. I may spend another chunk inside my little gym, but I leave the windows open to the air (and the fan on!) instead of closing them up for the AC. And I work up a good, healthy summer sweat.
Then, as the Wheel of the Year turns to Litha, as the calendar marks the official start of summer, I can pour a glass of wine, stick a couple of Milk Bones in my pocket, and go outside to walk in that strong light.
My gardens celebrate with me, growing and blooming and showing off all the work of spring. The bees are very busy, and a deeply blue, iridescent dragonfly enjoys the flowers as much as I do.
I’m going to ignore the dog poop on the pavers–BW has to have something to do when he gets home. And despite discovering Parker has nosed into TWO of my pots (WHY???) I dispense the marvel of the Milk Bones.
It’s so quiet, nothing but birdsong, and the perfect end to my workday. A nice chance to wander, a nice chance to sit awhile by the water feature–and admire how BW secured the doors I bought in Louisville in the spot we chose.
My lilies have begun their dance–the deer repellent’s working!–and seeing them glowing in the sun is such a joy for me. Hydrangeas are heading up, and a single one has already bloomed blue. Purple coneflowers, astilbes, false sunflowers bursting with color as the foxglove and delphiniums bloom off in a cycle, a circle of growth and life.
Summer is light and heat and color. It’s lush green shade, kids playing, dogs napping. It’s trips to the beach and backyard barbecues.
It’s a time to bask in those long, long days and warm nights. However you spend your summer, I hope you take time to pour that glass of wine (or beverage of your choice) and sit awhile in sun or shade, and bask.
This year Kayla turns 14 and starts high school. So we’re celebrating in New York, just us girls.
Friday morning Laura, Kayla and I piled in a limo for the drive up, while Kat would follow later in the day. Much excitement, many plans. First on Kayla’s list? Sephora. Two years ago, the first on her list? The American Girl Doll Store. A couple years makes a difference in a girl’s life.
After a pretty drive on a pretty day, we arrive–a few hours from country quiet to urban bustle. I’ve stayed in this hotel for years, find a comfort in that continuity, being able to exchange greetings and how are yous with the desk staff, the housekeepers, the bellmen. And I appreciate so much they’ve taken extra and personal steps to make this special for the girl of the week. In our suite the dining table holds a display of fruits, cheeses, breads AND two cakes, the gorgeous chocolate one with birthday greetings for Kayla.
After we unpack, we hit the streets–and hit Sephora hard. We are girls, after all, and makeup equates to girl toys. One of the staff comes over, assumes with Kayla’s hair bun and long, long legs, she’s a dancer. He becomes our valued consultant, suggesting products, brands, gathering them up. I think the kid talked me into three eyeshadow palettes. I had a list myself, and checked that off.
Clothes, clothes, clothes are next, and we have some suggestions on venues from my editor’s daughter. Off we go. Tops appear to be Kayla’s target.
But we have to get back to the hotel, get a little dinner and get ready for Broadway.
And here’s Kat! Shortly after, here’s Clare (Laura’s lovely daughter who lives and works in NY). Since the weather’s so pretty, we opt to walk to the theater. We’re seeing Matilda, and I bought the tickets last winter after Kayla made her choice and our dates were set. We’re front row, and in this case, that means all but on stage. We could literally touch the stage (though discouraged from doing so).
I expected to enjoy the play–there’s nothing like live theater, and there’s really nothing like Broadway. I hadn’t expected to be blown away, and we were. It’s marvelous on every level, and the girl in the lead roll is simply amazing. We’re a very happy group walking home after a fabulous performance in balmy weather.
Saturday’s shop till you drop day, so we start it off with a good breakfast, and are out of the door by around ten. The next recommended shop is a hit for all five of us. Shopping with girls is its own entertainment. What do you think of this? Does this color work? You NEED that! I explain to Kayla I’m happy to be her bank, but won’t be her sherpa, so she’s going to schlep her own bags. And by the time we leave, we’re all so loaded down, Kat and Clare volunteer to walk everything back to the hotel and meet us at the next stop. We need to eat! Must have fuel. And it’s a perfect day to eat outside, right across from the skating rink in Rock Center. Also a fine day for the adults to have some bubbly with lunch.
More shopping–that’s what we’re here for–and more success for all. Shoes! How can we resist shoes?
Saks for makeovers and makeup–and wow, my girl looks so beautiful and grown up.
Finally, we’ve pillaged midtown enough, back to the hotel, time to play with all our goodies, think about dinner–my girl wants room service and I’m with her. We’re fortunate to have a terrific rooftop terrace here, and after dinner, head up, hang out, and under the moon indulge in the hot tub. It feels like a movie, sitting in a hot top on a rooftop in NY looking out on the city lights.
I sleep like a rock.
Sunday is for downtown, a walk along the High Line. Subway rides, lots of walking. A worn-out girl is ready to come home, have a lie down. Once she’s settled, with Kat here, Laura and I head up Madison for a couple of things on my list. Back for food–and Laura’s sister Margaret joins us–bringing snacks for our little Tony party.
Not only is it wonderful fun to watch the Tonys with girls in NY, but it had to be one of the best shows, the most uplifting and fun. We did lose the TV for about ten minutes early on (a wind thing) which caused panic, but got it back. I’ve had a crush on James Cordon for awhile, but now I think it’s true love.
Monday, and another fine day it is, starts with another trip downtown and a visit to my new publisher for a tour of the Flatiron Building. This has been one of my favorite buildings for a very long time, and now we get to go in, go through, and are treated to stories by the clever and knowledgeable Sunny. He’s worked there for 28 years, met his wife when he replaced a ceiling tile in her office–and admits he took about five hours for a ten minute job. Sweet.
My long-time and awesome editor has also moved to St, Martin’s. We get to see her new office, hang out, then are taken up to the roof. Oh my, the views of the city! I’m so pleased to see how much Kayla enjoys this, how engaged she is. We see the unique and incredible offices in the front point of the building–I don’t know if I’d get any work done as I’d be too busy basking in my space and the views.
I love when Kayla says, as we walk through the halls, that it smells like Nana’s house. It smells like books.
Leslie joins us as Kat leaves us—-she has to drive home for a meeting that evening. Big hugs on the street, and text when you get home.
We hit Lombardi’s for pizza. Ummm, yumm.
More walking, a bit more shopping as Kayla new makeup obsession (I think she now has enough to last her through college) includes a stop at Makeup Forever. We’re the only ones in the store, and it just adds to the fun.
A couple more stops, a few more purchases—and finally a bathing suit for the girl, something she seriously needs considering she’s now taller than I am, so about two inches taller since the last bathing suit. I’m also pleased to say she’s got not only a sense of her own style, but of appropriate for her age. No string bikinis–too much skin showing she says. Nana agrees.
Once more back to the hotel, with Leslie joining us. Hang out, have a drink. My agent and my new publisher come to visit. Up to the roof! A lovely time, and just one more bright sign for me that I’ve found exactly the right home for me and for my work.
Clare comes from work as the others leave—and Kayla’s starving. Dinner time, and bed time not long after.
Today is what we’re calling Fill In Shopping day. The kid could use another bathing suit if we can find one. We all want a trip back to Uniqlo, and may wander more uptown on our last day.
I’m so lucky to be able to have this time out of time with Kayla, to experience her experiencing the city as a teenager, to observe her learning the things girls learn–how to have fun with girls, how special that is, how to blend eye shadow and pick the right lip color, how to have conversations with adults and strangers–and NOT roll eyes when adults comment on how much she’s grown. I love how she’ll reach out to hold my hand when we’re walking, or put her arm around my waist, and love how she always has something to say.
We’ll make the most of our last day in the city, bank much for the memory book, and head home to country quiet tomorrow.