A Garden update

A garden update for all who wonder…

Very happy pots

Very happy pots.

Thriving corner

A thriving corner.

Purple coneflowers

Purple coneflowers.

Pretty trough

A pretty trough.

Nora's mom's snakeplant, repotted countless times

Nora’s mom’s snake plant, repotted countless times.

Monarda

Monarda.

Longer view of garden wall

Longer view of garden wall.

Kayla's impatiens with pig

Kayla’s impatiens with pig.

Herbs -- the dill has run amok

Herbs — the dill has run amok.

Happy faerie garden

Happy faerie garden.

False sunflowers and purple coneflowers

False sunflowers and purple coneflowers.

Boomerang Lilies, boomeranging

Boomerang Lilies, boomeranging.

The Moth on the Terrace Wall — the sequel

It was like waiting for the end of a trilogy!  What happened with the moth?

Did the silence from Nora’s email account signal that the moth did dastardly deeds in the dark of night???

After a nearly sleepless Friday night, I demanded an answer this morning.  How could we rest easy otherwise???  And the suspense was driving me to using way too many “?” in my writing.  Here’s the reply:

Much to my sorrow, and somewhat to my ick, I’d been observing a dead moth.

We saw it flutter around the evening before my observations, then land on the terrace wall. Wow, big moth, pretty, pretty.

Apparently it came here to die.

My initial response when BW told me of its demise, was like Monty Python’s dead parrot: No, no, it’s only sleeping! And being a guy he plucked it off the wall and brought it inside to show me. Being not a guy I ordered him to get it out. As he’s still a guy he laid it out on this flower-shaped hammock in the parlor (sort of appropriate) where the other guys could admire the dead moth awhile.

I decided it had lived a short but happy life of adventure and romance, produced many pretty moths, then returned here where it met its first and truest love to die peacefully in its sleep.

However….

Though not a guy, I am the sort of nana who suggested to the young boys in our party it might have been a zombie moth who’d come to eat our brains while we slept.

You have to make your own fun.

 

Wired for stories

I was getting ready to post some more garden photos when an email from Nora arrived in my inbox.  She’s away from her desk on a short family trip — the sort of getaway in which everyone does what they want during the day then gets back together for the evening.

This afternoon’s subject line was “Moth” and starts out:

I’m generally not an insect person, but this moth is sort of spectacular. And it’s been on the wall of the terrace like this time since last evening. What’s it doing? What’s on its mind? Is it just taking a really, really long nap?

All I could think was photo (60)this must be how a writer’s brain is wired — always seeing the potential story behind interesting things.  Aren’t we all lucky Nora’s brain is wired that way?

Three hours later she sent me another one:

Sitting on the terrace. Moth’s still there.

An hour after that:

Back on the terrace. Moth hasn’t budged. How does it just cling to the wall for like 16 hours straight. What’s it waiting for?

It’s starting to creep me out.

While I may never think — Hmmm a trilogy about moths would be great! – I’m pretty certain Nora would make it entertaining (and probably a little scary).  And I’d be first in line to read it.

Laura

 

 

Nora, Ireland, Ashford and you?

Nora’s going back to Ireland for vacation this year so we’ll all have a chance to live vicariously through her travelogues.

This year, though, there’s a twist!

Nora’s UK publisher, Little Brown Group, will host a once-in-a-lifetime event on Sunday, August 17: An Audience and Afternoon Tea with Nora Roberts at Ashford Castle.  For all the details, please visit: http://www.nora-roberts.co.uk/2014/06/27/meet-nora-roberts/

When I posted that news on Facebook this morning, the comments included a chorus of “will you come to (fill in the blank)?”   Let’s face it, if Nora visited every city —  or even just various central hubs — of readers, she’d never get home again.  It’s just not possible.

She asked me to post this on her behalf and I’m copying it here:

I wish I could go everywhere and meet readers, but mostly I stay home and write.

Several times a year I participate at events at Turn The Page Bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland — and that offers opportunities for readers east of the Mississippi.  The next event is Saturday July 19 from noon – 2 pm.   For more details please visitwww.ttpbooks.com.

This year I’ll be in San Antonio for the Romance Writers of American conference–and am delighted to participate again in the Readers For Literacy signing– on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter Hotel in the 3rd floor ballroom. For more details, please visit www.rwa.org.

That might make it easier for those of you west of the Mississippi to attend an event.

Then, in August my husband and I, along with our younger son and his wife, will travel to Ireland. The August 17 event at the gorgeous Ashford Castle should be just wonderful — and may make it easier for those of you in Ireland, the UK, and western Europe to attend an event.

Only one of me, and thankfully, lots and lots of you. It’s just not possible to visit all the fabulous places where you live, and continue to write the books you enjoy. NR

 

 

Let’s All Take A Deep Breath

Yesterday we announced on the JD Robb Facebook page that Amber Entertainment has optioned the In Death books. And the comment section exploded. Reactions ranged from excitement and delight to abject despair and even anger–with every possible emotion that falls between. Casting suggestions (and demands) flew like grapeshot.

I’m going to take this opportunity to address some of those concerns, suggestions, demands.

 First the option is for a feature film, and is in the very early stages of development. I’ve met face-to-face with the producer, twice. She has not only read the books, she gets them–and the characters. I’ve turned down option offers before, for this series and for my other work because I didn’t feel it was a good fit. This feels like one.

Will it be? No absolute guarantee, but I have to trust my instincts.

No, no and again no, I will not write the screenplay. I have no idea how to write a screenplay, and have no desire to learn. I like writing books. I will, however, have input. I’ve already seen a very rough outline of the script, and when I saw something that felt off-character, I pointed it out–and my input was respected.

Will the movie be an exact reproduction of the book? Again, no. It can’t possibly be. It’s based on the novel, translated from the novel to the screen, interpreted by a director, a cinematographer, a screenwriter, and far from least of all, by actors. Both the producer and I agree the film must, absolutely must, remain true to the core of the book and the characters. But yes, some things will be left out, some things will change in order to make the shift from page to screen. Those who demand any movie be a pure copy of the book are going to be disappointed.

Movies are a different form of storytelling, but adaptations can and do work, and often beautifully. Yesterday, I answered a comment, one (of several) that claimed all adaptations fail, with two examples of excellent ones–and did this straight off the top of my head and after a glass of wine. I could name more, dozens more, but then this post would go on forever.

I could also name dozens that failed–at least for me.

Did those failed adaptations ruin the book for me? Absolutely not. The book remained exactly the same, and I only had to pick it up, read it again to be pulled back into a story I loved.

I value so much the investment readers have in this series. The depth of that investment often staggers me. And I understand some concern. Believe me, I have a pretty big investment in the series myself, and want it done right, want it done well. I’m realistic enough to know not every scene will make it to the screen. It can’t.

The investment, the concerns, I understand. The anger from some is a little astonishing. Let me reassure all. No one will drag you from your homes or places of business and force you to watch the movie, if indeed it happens. Watching a movie, like reading a book is a choice. It may very well be, as a reader, you prefer your own image of the books and characters, and don’t want another vision to mix with that. No problem at all.

To those who demand: Why, oh why, is she doing this! She doesn’t need the money! I ask: Why, oh why, do I write the books? They matter to me, and I’m thrilled the characters and stories I created have this chance to appear on screen, in theaters, to reach an audience who already loves them, or has never read a single book in the series. I write for money–it’s my job. But if money was the driving force for me, I’d never have put the first word on a page.

On to casting–which is far down the road as I haven’t yet seen a finished script. The contrast in readers’ wishes and hopes and visions (and the brisk dismissal from other readers of those visions) illustrate just how diverse those readers’ images of the characters are. Some of the suggestions leap to actors a decade–often more–too old. A wonderful actor can certainly shave some years off, but a decade or more? I don’t think so.

However, the popular insistence that any actors cast be, basically, physical clones of Eve, Roarke and the gang isn’t going to make top of my priority list. Do I want, and hope for, a cast that reflects and embodies those characters? I really, really do. But you know, I’m not going to turn thumbs down on an incredible actor for Eve because the actor doesn’t have a dent in her chin, or one for Roarke if he isn’t quite as tall as I’ve written. My priority will be, again, that good fit–and talent. I want the characters interpreted well, I want them respected, and my fondest hope is that they just rock it out.

I’m not in charge of casting–I wouldn’t know where to begin. But again, I’ll have input. Actors act, and a really good actor becomes the role. Gregory Peck became Atticus Finch, Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lector. For me Tom Cruise became Lestat, Michelle Williams Marilyn Monroe, Jennifer Lawrence became Katniss (and Mystique!) That’s what I’m looking for when the time comes–actors who can make me believe–as their creator–they’re the characters.

And even with what I consider gorgeous performances, when I pick up the book the movie was based on, I’m back into it, and into my own vision of the characters. The movie is a movie. The book is a book. Two ways of telling a story.

Whatever happens–if indeed it happens–I can promise you everyone involved wants this to work and work well, everyone involved understands the readers’ investment and emotional attachment and will do everything possible to respect the work itself, and that investment.

I love books. I love movies. It will be an incredible thrill for me, as a writer, to see characters I love, pulled from books I’ve written given a chance to kick some butt on the big screen.

BIRD!

Nora and I do most of our work together virtually.  I drive up to Boonsboro for events but on the whole, I work in Raleigh while Nora works in her Fortress of Solitude.  So we do many things by email — conveying information, ironing out details, discussing all things Justified, gardening tips.  She lets me know when she’s finished a book (just did).  I occasionally offer stellar advice like naming every heroine Laura (she’s yet to agree).

And then there are emails like yesterday’s (she said I could share):

Came down from my office, preparing to go down to the gym to work out. I hear something bang into the front window.

See a bird. As this happens often enough, my mind immediately went to: Bird outside.

No, bird inside.

Creep over, see the bird on the back of the chair looking dazed. Ease in, gently capture bird who just sits there. Take bird outside, put her up on the garden wall so she’s safe.bird on a wall

Two minutes later, the damn bird, feeling feisty, flies right in the back door I didn’t think to shut all the way.

She’s now in my dining room, and not at all dazed.

Not sure what comes next.

 

Four minutes later this comes next:

I finally herded her, if you can herd a bird, out the dining room door leading to the deck and outside.

Doors are closed now!
Nora

See?  Writers are real people who have bird problems too!  And here’s an album of garden updates:

Thriving pots

  Thriving pots 

Sunflowers getting bigger!

Sunflowers getting bigger!

Snapdragons with delphinium

Snapdragons with delphinium

Pretty pots

Pretty pots

Potatoes!

Potatoes!

More basil and lots of herbs

More basil and lots of herbs

Lavender with nasturtiums coming along

Lavender with nasturtiums coming along

Knockout roses first bloom

Knockout roses first bloom

Kayla's impatiens with roses

Kayla’s impatiens with roses

Foxglove

Foxglove

Faerie garden

Faerie garden

Cute boots and wild lush ferns

Cute boots and wild lush ferns

Dogs, Disasters and Determination

I thought about this when I took my little after-work stroll around the gardens on Friday. Everything’s looking so pretty, color and texture already changing. Then I got to one of my favorite spots, what I think of as a little faerie garden.

I literally stopped dead, stunned speechless.

Pancho

Pancho

During my earlier workout, I’d heard Pancho 

barking incessantly–and yelled out a few times for him to knock it off. I didn’t think much of it–until I saw my dragon wing begonias, my pretty mini fuchsias, some of the yellow bells and foxglove had been trampled on, and many broken.

It didn’t take much for me to get the picture. Some critter had wandered in, and the dogs had gone wild. Now if a deer passes by, they generally just lie there, maybe give it a glance. I hear them thinking: Okay, it’s bigger than us, we’ll just stay where we are. But a raccoon or possum, that’s fair game.

Homer

Homer

And the games must’ve been vigorous. 

A moment–okay longer than a moment–of heartbreak, and a stern talking to given to the dogs.

While I’d planned a quick trip to the nursery for Saturday, it was for a couple of specific things to fill particular gaps–and didn’t include fixing up that section. Now it would. After I gathered up some of the broken plants–sticking them in water on the faint hope they might shoot some roots–I scribbled down a short list of what I’d need.

Saturday’s trip took longer, and well, there I am in the middle of all those gorgeous plants, so four and a half flats later, I come home. I’ll also confess, I had to make myself stop. So tempting to get more–and somehow I’ll always find room. But enough already.

BW isn’t home today, but will be pleased I only have a single plant I want him to do–pretty big hole needed, and in a tricky spot.

I’ll do the rest.

As I’m setting them out, getting a visual, switching them around, next visual, I realize I never have any real plan when I garden. I have a basic concept I may or may not follow.

That’s just the way I write. Huh.

Both are jobs and joys for me, and I approach both in a way I’ll call organic. Let’s start here and see what happens. After the first draft in a book, I’m going to need to start from the beginning again, start weeding what doesn’t belong, prune out what needs to go. Maybe I have to move what I thought should go here to there. 

I’ll need that third pass in a book, doing all the fussy work, making sure this is the best I can do, making sure it all holds together.

Gardening’s the same with my process.

There are going to be gaps that need filling. More color, more texture, maybe a different angle. My nasturtium seeds have only sprouted two little plants. I think about this, move one carefully and plant it with the other.

new home for two lonely nasturtium, lavender in bloom behind

The new home for two lonely nasturtium, lavender in bloom behind them.

In its place I fill in with mini fuchsias (I bought far too many for the faerie garden anyway), and some wishbone flowers (not on my list, but too sweet to resist) that should spill nicely over the wall.

Wild indigo in bloom along with dragonwing begonia and azuratum; mini fuschia and wishbone flowers in front.

Wild indigo in bloom along with dragonwing begonia and azuratum; mini fuschia and wishbone flowers in front.

Not what I’d intended, but it works. It works really well, and I think, that’s just how it should look. Readjusting with a story is the same. You go where it works.

Water, compost, conversation. You want a strong story, you want strong plants–and I want to be intimately connected to both.

It’s marvelous to watch things bloom, in a story, in a garden–whether it all blooms the way you anticipated at the start, and even more so when it blooms its own unexpected way.

You’re going to get sweaty and tired–and there can be some disasters–having both my hard drive and backup crash simultaneously years back, costing me an entire chapter isn’t so different than seeing a pretty, thriving section of my gardens trampled by a couple of enthusiastic dogs. There I had to go back,reconstruct–and tell myself, as I am with my faerie garden, it’ll only be better for it eventually.

Faerie garden, redone.

Faerie garden, redone.

With a book, it’s going to end. You’ll have done the best you could with the story, and you’ll move on. A garden is a constant work in progress. But for me, getting there is pretty much the same.

Single Iris, the others seem to be waiting

Single Iris, waiting for the others to bloom.

shady spot with bench on the correct side this time

Shady spot with bench on the correct side.

Rhododendron with bird feeder

Bird feeder amid the rhododendron.

Peony tree blooming!

Blooming peony tree.

patio pots already filling in

Patio pots filling in.

mountain laurel likes the dappled shade

Nora’s mountain laurel likes dappled shade.

Herbs thriving, especially oregano

The herbs, especially the oregano, are thriving.

delphiniums about to bloom with green edge petunias in front (new)

The delphiniums are about to bloom with green-edged petunias added in front.

coral bell for bw to plant behind the boots.

Coral bell (the plant for BW to put in the ground) behind the boots.

verbena with star flowers, heliotrope, purple cone flowers

Verbena with star flowers, heliotrope and purple cone flowers.

Nora’s 2014 In the Garden album

A favorite shady spot

One of Nora’s favorite shady spots

Nora was out in the garden yesterday and sent in these photos.  We’ll update them as the season progresses.

How’s your garden growing these days?

 

azaleas by the steps

Azaleas by the steps.

boots

The boots have a new set of flowers.

columbine with dianthus and monarda

Columbine with dianthus and monarda

Butterflies like the verbena

Butterflies like the verbena!

False Indigo, Drawgon Wing Begonia, Azuratum, nasturtium seed planted in front

False Indigo, dragon wing begonia, azuratum and nasturtium seed planted in front.

girl with dianthus, violets and foxglove

Girl with dianthus, violets and foxglove (one of my favorite photos – L)

Lilacs

Lilacs. (The bench was a 2013 Mother’s Day gift!)

Petunias in old watering can

Petunias in an old watering can.

pretty patio pots different angle

Pretty patio pots (there’s that face again!).

solomon seal with cone flowers

Solomon seal with cone flowers

sunflowers germinated!

Germinated sunflower seeds!

verbena with star flowers, heliotrope, purple cone flowers

Verbena with star flowers, heliotrope and purple cone flowers.

 

Derby weekend 2014

We arrived in Louisville Thursday afternoon to cool temps and a seriously brisk wind. Delighted to see our BFF in Louisville, Kathy, and our fabulous cop Brian at the airport. Load up and head to the hotel. Time for a little catch-up, and our traditional lunch at the Dizzy Whiz–on to the hotel for unpacking, then it’s already time to change for the evening events.

We have a big bonus round this trip as we’ve been invited to have drinks with Sue Grafton and her husband Steve at their home in Louisville. I’ve been a fan of Sue’s and her brilliant Kinsey Milhone since A Is For Alibi, so it’s a real treat. As if that wasn’t enough, their home and grounds are absolutely amazing. They’ve rehabbed an gorgeous old mansion, and Steve particularly is an avid and creative gardener. Jason, Kat and I had a delightful time wandering the hedge maze they’ve built–I’ve ALWAYS wanted to try my hand at a maze, and this one was just great. We eventually found our way out where BW waited for the adventurers with Sue and Steve.

This visit was a perfect kickoff to our Derby time. 

Then we’re off to Poker Night. We don’t play–Texas Hold ‘Em confuses me–but it’s a great time catching up with friends we’ve made from previous trips. VERY cool evening, and cool inside, too, so I’m grateful for my topper. Never took it off. 

Friday is Oaks Day for BW and Jason, and Girl Day for Kat, Kathy and me. As is tradition we start off at City Nails for manis and pedis. I love this place, everyone’s so happy and friendly. I get bright orange toenails to go with my Derby Day outfit. Fun! 

Time for lunch, and a glass of champagne for me. It’s Derby! Then onto Rodes for shopping. I spy a bag within ten seconds that had to be mine, and it just got better from there. Another tradition is finding BW (size 14!) cool shoes in the men’s department as a Father’s Day gift, and they don’t let me down. Bags, scarves, a jacket, BW’s shoes, some baubles. Where has the day gone?

It’s back to the hotel where the Louisville goddess of hair, Sarah, is waiting to make us beautiful for the gala. I have to find the pictures we took of the back of Kat’s updo. Just stunning. We all look pretty glam even by the time the guys get back from the track. My filly didn’t come in, but I figure okay, I’m saving my luck for Derby. 

The guys change into their tuxes, and we’re a pretty awesome group. Head to the gala, do the Red Carpet, and dive into the crowd. They do wonderful decorations for the ballroom. Fountains of lights, flowers, so festive and elegant–and not stuffy. I need more champagne! And must check out the silent auction offerings. They benefit Blessings In A Backpack, an organization I support, so I’m happy to bid on what catches my eye. A few things did. 

We mingle, we eat, we check on my bids (still holding!), then it’s time for the first round of live auction. I got BW the Indy 500 package a couple years ago, and it’s up again. He really loved going, so I bid on it. A spirited if confusing short time later, and BW will be heading to the Indy again in 2015 or 2016 (his choice). Happy! 

Kat discovers they’ve got the photo booth up again this year. It’s a do-it-yourself, with props. We have a fun and silly time there. Can’t wait until the pictures are on line. I have some great ones from our last trip. 

Check on silent auction bids, and I’m all good. I’m kind of surprised, but pleased, no one seems overly interesting in what I’m bidding on.  

By eleven-ish, I’m beat. They’ve got some glitch with the silent auction check-out, but will handle my wins the next day. Great, because I’m ready for bed. 

Out of finery, into pjs, crash. 

Derby Day dawns, and it’s perfect weather. The kind of day tailored made for Derby. I’ve already decided California Chrome is getting my main bet. I loved his story, I loved his owner, his trainer. Everything about him works for me–and I happened to catch an interview with his owner before I dressed that morning that just cemented it. It’s not just about the race, the money with this guy. It’s first and last about the horse. I’m betting on this guy and his beautiful horse. 

I have to say, again, the four of us look pretty damn good! Traffic’s just awful, but Brian handles it. Then we’re there, that spectacular place. The spires, the crowds, the color, the excitement that’s like light in the air. Blue skies, warm breezes. Perfection.

Do the Red Carpet, funnel into the waiting area. We’re assigned a guide, and she zips us right through–knows a short cut–and wham, we’re into our area, at our table. Couldn’t have been smoother. I have to go out on the terrace first thing, because there’s nothing, just nothing, like that view. The rich brown oval of the track, the green of the infield already filled with color from the crowds, the circling stands, those spires spearing up into blue skies. But I see we have like three minutes to post on this race, grab the program. I see a horse named Faerie Dancer. Well, obviously. Ask BW to bet $10 across the board. He adds $10 for himself. I get to watch this race before I’ve gotten my bearings. And watch Faerie Dancer streak across the finish line in first. Woo! 

A most excellent start! 

Derby is first, for me, about the horses. They’re more magnificent than I can say. Watching them walk out on the track, riders up in their colorful silks, is awesome. Some of them will trot around with their companion horse like they’re saying, oh yeah, I’m ready for this. Others will have their heads together with their companion like their telling secrets. Those moments when they’re loading in the gate, the seconds before those gates open, so exciting. Then watching them run is pure thrill. Those long legs flying, the thunder of sound, the jockeys glued to their backs, it’s such a stunning experience. 

It’s also about the hats, and there are many. Big ones, tiny ones, sparkling little fascinators, whooshing wide brims that need their own zip code. Color and shape and most of all fun. 

And as we realize this is our tenth Derby, it’s also about the people we’ve met, sharing the day with them, consulting on bets, sharing wins and losses. And lots and lots of laughing.

Despite the hats, the fashion, the people, it always comes back to the horses. Anticipation builds all afternoon toward that single, spectacular two minutes. 

At the last minute, I decide to up my bet on California Chrome. I’m a pretty conservative gambler–it’s about fun for me. But I have such a good feeling about this horse. Even if he loses, I’m enchanted by his story, so I bet more on him (surely considerably less still than many of our companions) than I’ve ever bet on a horse before. 

Then I forget about the bet because it’s nearly here. 

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat, it’s glorious and heart-tugging when they play My Old Kentucky Home. Maybe it’s the tune itself, how it’s played here at the Downs before this race that spawns all the chatter and excitement, all the work of the horses, the grooms, the trainers, the hot walkers, the jockeys, but it’s a truly special moment out of time. 

And oh my, here they come for their walk around the oval to the gate. All of them gorgeous, and the crowd already cheering them. I see my horse and he’s so relaxed, like he’s thinking, I was born for this one, I’m ready. I’ve got this.

It builds and builds, that all but visible anticipation and excitement, the noise coming in waves as they approach the gate, as they’re loaded in. 

And they’re off. 

It’s simply like nothing else. Even over the oceanic roar of millions, you can hear that thunder. As I always do, I forget everything else for those two minutes–too awed to think. Somewhere in the din, the announcer’s voice is piping to tell us which horse is in the lead or coming around the outside. There’s a HUGE screen at the Downs now, so you can watch the horses when they’re on the far side of the track. 

Somewhere in the gigantic thrill of it, I pick out California Chrome, and he’s everything and more. I actually think: Yeah, you’ve got this. 

Around the final turn, streaking for the finish line, and he does that change of gears some horses can do. And oh boy, yeah, he’s got this. 

It’s wonderful to win. Fun to win. But nothing comes close to that two minute experience. 

I have to watch the replay as then I can really watch him, just him, run. That’s some horse. 

We hang out for the last two races, saying goodbye to Derby friends, back to the hotel through miserable traffic–but it can’t dim the day. 

Fall into bed early, wiped out. Up to pack. Off to the airport, and home again. 

A whole lot of fun packed into one long weekend. That’s Derby.

Nora

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