All posts by Laura

Laura is Nora Roberts' personal publicist. She can be found on the Nora Roberts and JD Robb Official Fan Pages on Facebook, by Nora's side at book signings, and on the road from her home in Raleigh to Boonsboro every few weeks.

Notes from the Cranky Publicist desk

Time to share some social media updates!  We’ve had two cover reveal videos on Facebook  recently. (The first is also on the  St. Martin’s Press You Tube channel.)

The first for Of Blood & Bone, book 2 in the Chronicles of The One, out December 4.

 

 

You can pre-order Of Blood & Bone at your favorite retailer now:

Turn the Page: http://bit.ly/2FmYnoZ

 

Then, in early 2019, there’s Connections in Death — #48 in the series —  out February 5.

 

Again, you can pre-order everywhere now.

Turn the Page: http://bit.ly/2xcrzjq
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IICyCB
Kindle: https://amzn.to/2xb4Owf
BN: http://bit.ly/2IMTzvA
Nook: http://bit.ly/2×93078
IndieBound: http://bit.ly/2IMbaUg
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2xjlu55
iBooks: https://apple.co/2x9S6Ov
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2xa3rOl

Nora and JD are on Instagram! OK, we’ll be completely transparent here:  I’m posting on the Instagram pages.  Some people prefer to bypass Facebook but like IG for the photos.  Not all the content will repeat on all social media but I think it could be fun to follow. Search for Nora Roberts  (@norarobertsauthor) and JD Robb (@jdrobbauthor).

Finally, some #randomkatness (and a repeat photo).  Nora mentioned Kat’s design for the baby blanket in the Girls in the City post, right?  Well not only is she designing it to honor the family that came before the baby, but it’s REVERSIBLE like this one she made for her niece.    My mind is completely blown.

Hope you all have a good weekend.
Laura

Girls in the City

Kayla was eleven the first time I took her on a girl trip to NYC–and this mother of sons spent a LOT of time in the American Girl Doll store.
First trip. Photo by LMR
Second trip. Photo by LMR

My own American Girl is now on the cusp of 16, and we spent considerable time in Sephora.  And the new and amazing makeup cathedral on the second floor of Saks. And the eighth floor (shoe sale!!)–plus Lululemon (two locations) and various other venues where girls just wanna have fun.

And fun we certainly had.

Laura and Kat drove up separately–Laura to visit some family first, and Kat as the limo trip brings on car sickness. So Kayla and I had the big-ass limo to ourselves, chatting away a good part of the trip.

Just finished sophomore year. Photo by NR

Selfie as they set out. Photo by NR

We arrive at the hotel on a pretty afternoon with Laura already in and Kat only minutes behind us.

Made it to NY! Photo by LMRTime to unpack, hang a bit, then take a nice walk around to stretch out the legs, do some quick shopping, form our plan of attack for the next day. A trip over to B&N for cards and jigsaw puzzles. Plenty of time left for hanging out on the roof terrace, a spin in the hot tub. And at Kayla’s request–and no argument after a travel day–room service. Some work on a 1000 piece puzzle–one that looked simpler from the cover than in reality.

But Kat has a genius eye for shapes and tiny variations in color. Much progress before we turn in for the night.

Finished first puzzle.

In the morning, Kayla and Laura head to the gym, and I do my workout in the suite. Time for breakfast, pulling it together. Kayla and I walk over to a Lens Crafters–my girl recently got glasses, and as she also has her learner’s permit (!), I decree she needs prescription sunglasses as an early birthday present. We discover we’ll need the doctor’s prescription, which we’ll get faxed, so back we walk to meet Laura and Kat at one of Kayla’s nirvanas–Sephora.

I appreciate her love of makeup, and more her excellent–and age-appropriate hand–with it. I’ve a good hand with makeup myself, but I learn things from the girl. Onto Free People then Anthropology. Good hauls, and pregnant Kat finds some fun stuff, too. Nobody walks out empty handed as we take a nice lunch break.

Yes, we’ll have champagne–or Laura and I will.

Lunch on Wednesday. Photo by NRTime for a little lie-me-down for mama-to-be, and the rest of us hit more shops. Since Kayla’s a runner and I work out daily, Lululemon works just fine for us. Kayla’s issue is a mile of leg on a size 0, maybe a 2. But she does pretty well. I do, I believe, some better.

We walked miles, literally, before calling it for the day.

More puzzle time, more hang out time. Laura has a dinner out with her daughter Clare and some of Clare’s friends. The rest of us, again, opt happily for room service. And I’m drawn into a new card game for me. Nertz. I win–which Kayla insists is beginner’s luck.

Maybe, but hey. I win!

Kayla has given Laura a curfew <g>, and fortunately Laura makes it back with a couple minutes to spare. 

Made it by curfew. Photo by LMR

In the morning, Kayla has her first Shaun T experience with me–and does quite well. Then she and Laura need to get ready for the day while I do the rest of my workout. They head to one of Kayla’s goals, the top of the Empire State Building. * I’m grateful Laura took this on as I have no need to subject myself to that height again, and Kat isn’t up for it either. But Kat is up for fancy braiding Kayla’s hair on their return, a skill I don’t possess as a mother of sons.

Hair by Kat. Photo by NR
My fabulous editor joins us for some hanging out and a terrific and oh-so-pretty lunch at Rockefeller Center’s summer cafe on the ice rink. My poor Leslie broke a bone in her foot a few week ago, so she’s in a boot, and Kat’s carrying my sweet baby. But we stroll into a couple of shops before Leslie heads out, and Kat heads back to put her feet up.
Lunch spot. photo by LMR

More shopping for the rest of us. Kayla knows how to shop, knows what she likes, what suits her. The shoe floor of Saks suits her, and me for her as SALE. I’m an indulgent Nana, no doubt, but a 16-year-old only gets Pradas at 50% off. And she does, and they’re adorable. As she’s most always in running shoes, I enjoy seeing her try on stacked heels, pretty flats. And I find the red shoes I was after.

Success!

I’ll add the girl hauls all the bags without complaint. She is designated Sherpa. I also notice how her confidence in the city grows every day. At first she sticks to me or Laura or Kat basically hip-to-hip. But as time goes on, and I explain every day the grid that’s midtown, she eases up, remembers which direction to go.

I also notice, proudly, how polite and engaging she is with hotel staff, with store clerks, waitstaff. Never fails to thank them, to make eye contact, to smile. To make a little conversation.

Good girl.

It’s room service again, and that’s fine. We’ve walked our feet off. And as the puzzle’s complete, Kat decides we need another, and takes herself off to get one–and finds more happy mama clothes on the way.

I love the way pregnant Kat looks, how she dresses that gorgeous bump!

Time to eat–do a little puzzle, and Kayla wants to play Hearts. Kat is a novice, so we walk her through it. I win, again. Ha ha. Then we drag ourselves off to bed.

Second puzzle under way. Photo by LMR

Kayla opts to sleep in on Friday while Laura and I do our workouts. Then, after breakfast (the size 0 can eat!) Kayla and I head over to pick out sunglasses. I approve her pick, and really didn’t intend to get another pair for myself. But fun and cute, and since I pop on sunglasses every time I step outside, justified.

She’s made an appointment for a facial at Saks, so we head over there to meet up with Laura. Lots of scent on the second floor, and since it doesn’t hit pregnant Kat well she takes a day of rest.

Did you know Lancome does customized foundation? Neither did I. I’d decided it was time to switch up my makeup and skincare–it gets tired after a few years. So the Lancome ladies hit me at a good time. Laura, the makeup queen, gets her own custom foundation. It’s so cool to watch the science of it and the little machine that mixes it.

Kayla loves the facial, gets her makeup done. We now, between the two of us, own enough new makeup for a dance troupe.

The girl wants a wallet, and I promised Colt an Ugg blanket like his siblings have. So it’s uptown for the two of us where Kayla–who admired my Ugg sneakers (they weigh nothing and are super comfortable) finds then in light pink. I find some great sandals, also really comfortable, she gets some short boots, some slippers. No wallet, but there’s a Coach right there.

 

Sale!!! 1/2 price sale! She finds a pretty and practical wallet, a couple of the little cross-body purses (all she’ll use) and I end up buying a pink purse. I don’t have a pink purse, so now I do.

Haul it all back.

Clare’s going with us to the theater, staying the night with us. We’ve decided on an early dinner–pizza delivery–as we have an eight o’clock curtain for Mean Girls. Really good pizza, and after Kayla gives Kat some makeup advice as Kat plays with some of her new girl toys. Kat pays her back with another adorable braid.

We leave in plenty of time to walk across town to the theater and settle into our seats.

 

Nearly showtime. Photo by LMR

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen many shows on Broadway, and happy enough to have taken my girl to several. Mean Girls ranks really, really high. It’s such fun, it’s so bright, so pretty. The voices are amazing, the choreography just freaking fabulous.

Tiny Fey is a genius, a comedy-writing genius. She’s translated her terrific screenplay (just love the movie) into an equally terrific book for the stage.

We’re all completely happy during and after. Just a great show if you have the opportunity to see it.

After, Kat heads back, and Laura, Clare and I fulfill our promise to face Times Square on a Friday night so Kayla can hit her very favorite store in the universe of stores: American Eagle.

She simply won’t consider non-AE jeans. And they do fit her perfectly. So I’m shopping in Times Square at eleven at night–a new experience for me. AE has three, count them three, floors. We do them all, and she hauls back the bags. It’s an absolutely gorgeous night in the city, and the walk–once through the madness of Times Square–just a delight.

Spires of St. Pats on Friday night. Photo by LMR

Kat’s still up, so we hang and talk until nearly one in the morning.

A little later start, understandably, on Saturday. I squeeze in a workout, clean up, find a few puzzle pieces.  Since we’re heading downtown, and separating, Kat draws Kayla and me a little map. I’m not as familiar with the downtown streets and stores. We cab down, Kayla and I get out to hit the downtown Lululemon first, and Kat and Laura cab on to the yarn store.

We strike gold for the tiny size in the downtown store, and she stocks up on running shorts, sports bras, leggings. I cave and get some leggings and capris myself.

Saturday, downtown. Photo by NR

Using Kat’s clever map, we find Alex and Ani–another wish. The girl loves to stack little bracelets, and we find one with a K charm. Text our yarn-seeking companions to let them know we’re heading toward Lombardi’s, our lunch destination.

Pizza, fun girls, a glass of wine. Ah.

Uber back, organize a little, and Kat heads off to buy a sketch book. She’s designing the baby blanket she’s going to make out of the pretty pale blue, dark blue yarn she scored. Did you catch that? She’s designing the blanket.

Clare’s coming back for dinner, which is room service again.

We hang out, Kat sketches, we play puzzle and finish number two. Eat, talk poor Clare into learning Hearts. Kayla won this time (beat me by two points!)

Then everybody but mama-to-be, who isn’t allowed, heads up to the hot tub. Gorgeous night, fun, relaxing interlude. Time to hug Clare goodbye.

I take a look at Kat’s sketch, and OMG! She’s done a dragon with Celtic knots around it, and it’s gorgeous. At the corners she has circles and is going to pick animals that represent the grandparents. Her mom, her dad, BW and me. So clever, so unique. It’s going to be an heirloom.

Tumble into bed.

Up to pack, squeeze in a workout, shower, dress, pack more, organize and condense shopping bags. Start a Mom check on the suite. Say goodbye to Laura–drive safe! Another Mom check, bag count–remind Kayla to look under her bed, just in case. A final Mom check (I’m obsessive here).

Call for bellmen (plural!) say goodbye to Kat as she’ll be heading to the garage. Check out. Brent and his limo arrive exactly on time, so it’s load it up, and time to say goodbye to New York. The city treated us very, very well.

And it’s been wonderful, all that female energy for a few days with girls you love.

Kayla talks running on the way home. Training, meets, coaches, meets, her teammates, meets, her goals. It’s so rewarding to see her passion and her determination for something she’s so good at, something she loves.

Then I have to say goodbye to my best girl, and hope she’s as loaded with fun and happy memories as shopping bags. I know I am.

She really makes me proud.

Nora

 

Note from Laura

* Our Empire State Building trip was perfect.  We walked 16 blocks at a face pace around 9 am. took the elevator to the 86th floor, then another elevator to the 102 floor.

View from Empire State building. Photo by LMR

After souvenirs for her mom and brothers, Kayla and I decided to set the stopwatch and see how fast it took to get back.  We did agree with a pause in the stopwatch to take a photo in front of the NY Public Library.

A girl and a lion. Photo by LMR
We made it back to the hotel in 16:24 for Kayla, 16:30 for me.  Nora and Kat were highly impressed by how short and efficient our trip went.

All Kinds Of Bunches

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me, starting in the dentist chair. The tooth had to go, and that part turned out surprisingly easy. In and out, over and done–including a bone graft deal. Huh, I thought, naively, no big.

The big, literally, came the following day when I woke up looking like I had a tennis ball tucked into my left cheek. Whoa! I’d done the whole ice, ibuprofen, soft food thing–and didn’t have much discomfort. Now I had a cheek the size of Kansas, and a book signing in a couple of days. Won’t that be interesting?

Still pretty bad the next morning, but by evening more like a good-sized plum in there. Now it’s the moist heat treatment.

Fortunately it shrank down to like a half golf ball by Saturday morning, and went down a little more by signing time. Good thing because it’s a big, bust out signing day. Here’s where a little theater training comes in handy. Doing photos with a swollen left jaw? Cheat out your right cheek.

Now I’ve got until Tuesday for it to go down more, we hope, before I go out in public again.

I’d been asked to give the commencement address for my alma mater–Montgomery Blair High school. As I did a million years ago, the class of 2018  graduates from the University of Maryland. Blair’s a big school, with a big graduating class, in fact, with close to 700 grads, the biggest in the state.

I’m so impressed with these young people, found myself amazed as their principal read off some of their accomplishments, the GPAs and academic achievements, the community involvement, the scholarships–one earned himself a full free ride to MIT. You have to be pretty damn smart and dedicated for that.

The principals — elementary, middle and high school — who oversaw the MBHS Class of 2018. Photo by LMR
Nora at the podium. Photo by LMR
On the big screen. Photo by LMR

I listened to the senior class president speak, saw her brains, her poise, her commitment.

I looked out at that sea of red gowns, white gowns–Blair’s colors–and saw the future. It looks good. If this class is representative, the future is in strong, creative hands.

Go, Blazers. You’re astounding.

Because the U of M is a good 90 minutes away–with traffic add an hour–Laura and I had the treat of staying at Jason’s and Kat’s the night before. I got to see the garden they’ve worked on, visit with their cats, have a lovely dinner (and get in a few rub the baby bumps!) and a solid night sleep before the event.

Then it’s back home and a few days of solid work–and back to workouts, which had been off the list.

And a happy, happy Saturday for me weeding, deadheading (pretty much off the list, too for awhile). I decided, since I felt all the way back to myself again, I’d take myself to my favorite nursery for some shade-loving, deer-resistant astilbes to finish off a couple areas. I also wanted one more hydrangea, and a few more annuals to fill things out some.

On the rise. Photo by Nora
Down the front hill Photo by Nora
Thriving pots. Photo by Nora
A spot of color. Photo by Nora.
Front patio pots. Photo by Nora.

Deer continue to be a problem, and I’ve caught them more than once just in the nick as they try to sneak down and snack on my plants. I will say Atticus–when he spots them–barks mightily, so that helps.

A truly lovely Saturday morning and afternoon for me.

I spent some of the late afternoon packing for our upcoming girl trip–for Kayla’s 16th birthday. A month early, but July’s as packed as June. I can’t believe my baby girl’s going to be 16, AND has her learner’s permit. She also made the all-county A team again for her distance running.

We leave in a couple days, then Kayla, Laura, Kat (and Laura’s daughter Clare who lives and works in NYC) will take the town. The first time I took Kayla on one of these NY trips, her biggest thrill was The American Girl Doll store. I can’t remember how many trips we ended up taking there.

This time it’s makeup, clothes, shoes–all of which I can get behind!

I took a quick walk around the garden–had to be quick as it started to rain–then began to pour. Things look good!

I’m going to finish packing for whole bunches of fun, then I hope to spend a couple hours repotting some of my pool house plants.

That’s a fine weekend for me. Hope you have one, too.

Nora

Note from Laura:  It’ll be our little secret that sometimes when I tell Nora I’m leaving her home, I actually poke through the gardens and take pictures .  Keep it between us, ok?

A peek through the branches. Photo by LMR
One of many happy toad houses. Photo by LMR
That face. Photo by LMR

Shelter in Place discussion thread

Shelter in Place is on sale today (May 29, 2018).  And this is the place to discuss so spoilers are very much ahead.

A quick reminder of the book description:

It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at the video-game store tended to customers. Then the shooters arrived.
The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies’ room, hopelessly clutching her cell phone until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.
But one person wasn’t satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.
I read Shelter a couple of months ago and loved it.  Some readers will focus on the opening chapters (I know this from some email already in my box).  Yes, the initial chapter is taut and scary and emotional. The rest of the book gives us a picture of people both strong and weak, some who run toward the past, some run away, some build better lives and some just sink.
Please share your thoughts in the comments, and remember to keep replies kind and polite.
Laura

Happy (Early) Birthday, Mama-To-Be

Every summer a few girls attend Kat’s birthday spree at Saks. We’ve–Kat, me, Laura, Mary and Sarah–started making this an overnight, because why not? This year, as June’s so packed, we celebrated nearly a month early.

And this year, we’re looking for Pregnant Kat clothes. WHEE!!!

The amazing team at Saks did even more than finding terrific clothes for our girl (and some for me!), but set up a really spectacular baby shower in a screened-off the area outside of The Club. Fun, gorgeous decorations–a fabulous balloon arch, an adorable diaper cake, yummy cupcakes, champagne (juice for you-know-who), and scads of beyond adorable baby clothes and accessories, sweet stuffed animals, books, the works.

Festive! Photo by LMR
Surprise! Nora and Kat with Dawn. Photo by LMR
Nora, the Saks team and the guest of honor. Photo by LMR
Laura, Nora, Kat, Mary and Sarah.

A big, and incredibly touching, surprise for all of us.

Nana, obviously, had the best time ever selecting clothes for our boy. He’ll be very well dressed! And tiny, tiny little shoes no nana could resist. Cute as a button outfits, soft as a cloud swaddling blankets, onesies and footed one-piece outfits a baby goes through faster than you can say poop.

And after all this, the team presented Kat with a basket full of more baby essentials as a gift.

Such a kind, thoughtful gesture.

Then we get to outfit Mama, who looks fantastic in everything.

Pretty dress for a mama-in-waiting. Photo by LMR

A truly delightful and memorable day thanks to the fantastic team at Saks. Hugs and kisses to you all!

After a day of shopping–including a delightful lunch—Kat needs a little lie-down. Small wonder!

Then there’s room service dinner, a movie, just hanging out before bedtime. Laura and I are up early to workout–more hanging out for all over breakfast, then it’s homeward bound.

For me, hitting home means putting my wonderful new duds away–and purging some as I go.

More serious purging and organizing this morning–including finally switching out winter clothes for spring and summer. A job of work, but done now!

Time for a workout!

A quick trip outside to cut some of my lovely, lovely peonies so I can enjoy a few inside. BW and I have more work to do out there after I finish the blog. Things are really popping–my iris is up, my shade garden has filled it beautifully. I want to weed, water, walk around and enjoy.

Iris in the garden. Photo by LMR

Peony closeup. Photo by LMR
And I want to sit, at some point, by my wonderful water feature with a bellini. It seems fair.
Water feature, in bloom. Photo by LMR

A busy June’s on the way. Unfortunately for me, I have to fit in a tooth deal in there. For those who wondered, the stupid tooth–lower back molar–has to go. I haven’t had an extraction since I had my wisdom teeth out.

Since I was pregnant when that happened four decades ago, they’d only use novacaine–and no drugs but baby aspirin. Horrible. I expect this will be a lot easier. Not fun, but easier.

And best of all, it’s not aching anymore–so we’ll slip it in between signings and speeches and trips to NYC, and get it behind me.

Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy my garden.

Nora

Note from Laura:  Before I headed home yesterday, I took the flower photos and then thought I’d share a moment of Zen at the water feature.  I’ll probably call it up on my phone whenever I’m stressed.  Enjoy!

Strange Days

I don’t mind rain–good for the flowers–and I enjoy a good, wicked storm. But.

We had about ten days of solid rain here, along with most of the East Coast. Drenching, drowning, flooding rain day after day. With seriously wicked storms at night. Bombs of thunder. Parker, never bothered by storms, took to sleeping on the floor by BW instead of on his doggie bed.

Roads flooded–and one just a couple miles from me, buckled under the endless attack.

Buckled road. Photo by SAB

As a bonus, BW brought home a souvenir bug from Derby. The second generation thereof (passed to me) kicked my ass. Thursday after Derby while working out–huh, a little tickle in my throat. An hour later? Throat on fire! Ears slammed shut, vicious headache, low grade fever, dry, hacking cough. And the rain, rain, rain (low barometric pressure) added to the fun.

While I was able to work Friday, I knocked off early, crawled into bed. Saturday, we hit the nursery (fever broken) for the few flats of annuals I needed to finish my pots. Finished pots, crawled into bed, and pretty much stayed there until Monday. Hey, it’s raining anyway.

Last week a bit better, and able to do a workout on Tuesday–then slept about ten hours. Jeez, some souvenir. Finally down to the hacking and blowing portion of our program, and able to deal with all the crap around here that piled up while I was down.

The house smells of must and wet dogs. Light many fragrant candles.

Saturday? How about some rain? I actually made soup because rain and because Friday night, hmmm, little toothache. Saturday, bigger toothache. Why do these things happen on weekends????

Sunday, at last, at last, Here Comes The Sun! BW and I spent all day working outside–me, thanks to Motrin keeping the stupid tooth tolerable. Gardens are gorgeous, sun and warmth is a balm for the soul. Weeding is Zen. Pots and planters are filling in beautifully. I see little yellow blossoms on our tomato plants, and peonies waiting to open and scent the air. 

Filling in.
Happy pots.
Just outside the kitchen window.
Nasturtiums starting to pop.
Just outside back door.
Tomatoes.
Sunny spot.
Color down the driveway.
Herby goodness.

And my first stupid snake of the season. I’m not pleased by this sighting, tell BW. He, as always, asks what kind of snake. I get it’s important because we get copperheads and they’re poisonous, but snake is enough for me altogether. I tell him–black snake, yellow stripe. Oh, that’s nothing. Show him where I saw it–just the end of it slithering (shudder) under the spirea at the corner of the garden wall, outside the kitchen–where I often walk on the path, or weed.

Oh, says the MAN, yeah, they live there. They what? Why has this information never been passed to me before? They’re harmless, blah blah blah.

They are snakes. He may not understand my phobia, but it’s real.

Anyway, any weeding that needs doing in that area is now his job.

Despite the snake sighting, it’s amazing what a day of sunshine, gardening, just being outside can do for the body, mind, spirit. And seeing the results of the work we’ve put in over the years is so, so satisfying.

Monday (still hacking and blowing), I switch my regular dentist appointment–set for next week–to Wednesday with time worked in for my guy to take a look at this problem tooth. Dentist is out sick Monday or I’d have gone in. I betcha it’s the same deal I had.

Wednesday works as the tooth’s better, now just weird but not really painful. And after Monday’s work, after workout, I get to take my habitual walk around the gardens with wine and dogs. Ahhh.

Now, as I write this, it’s raining. I’m trying not to be annoyed, and won’t be as long as it’s just today.

Hear that rain gods? I have a lingering cold and a bad tooth. You don’t want to piss me off. Do not mess with my wine, walk and dogs.

Do not.

Nora

Leverage in Death excerpt

What would you do to protect your family?When Paul Rogan sets off a bomb at his office, killing eleven people, no one can understand why. He was a loving husband and father, with everything to live for. Then his wife and daughter are found chained up in the family home, and everything becomes clear. Rogan had been given a horrifying choice – set off the bomb, or see his loved ones suffer and die.Lieutenant Eve Dallas knows the violence won’t end here. The men behind the attack are determined, organised and utterly ruthless. In this shocking and challenging case, both Eve and husband Roarke are heading into serious danger.

You’ll find the first chapter of Leverage in Death here.

 

Laura

The First Saturday in May

There’s nothing like Derby, and we’re so fortunate to go every year. The experience continues to be amazing, entertaining, special and just plain fun.

Kat and Jason joined us this year (baby’s first Derby!) as we flew out Thursday morning. For an added treat, two long-time pals planned to attend this year, and though the generosity of our fabulous hosts and spectacular coordinators, the York sisters, were included in some of our fun.

We touched down after some showers to a pretty day, happily met by our Derby pals, Kathy our usual host and Brian our cop. Family reunion! Time to transfer luggage and people into the cars and head off for lunch. Kathy, Kat and I catch up along the drive. We’re not going to have our Kathy all weekend this time as her son’s being promoted to Captain (US Army) and his pinning ceremony’s on Friday. We have to fit a lot of Kathy into a short amount of time.

Good food, good company, and it’s off to the hotel to visit with Kathy a little more, to unpack. Then Kathy’s off for her eight-hour drive–good mom–and our Kat (mom-to-be) takes a little nap.

It’s Club Night, and time dude it up a little. And here come Isabel and Stephen! Our schedules haven’t meshed in way too long, so this is really special treat. Isabel was my fantabulous editor for most of my run at Silhouette. It’s so good to see them, and as they’re Derby virgins, to introduce them to the whole experience.

They’ve had a few days in the area already, done bourbon tours, visited the backside at the Downs, soaked up plenty of barbecue, so they’re primed.

Club Night brings us all together with our Derby family. It’s great to see familiar faces, do more catching up. And in a venue like the Frazier Museum, it’s a terrific kick-off. We’ve got food, drink, music, poker–and best of all friends.

And a totally cool exhibit. The museum’s showcasing Mona Bismark. Who’s that? you say. So did I. She was a famous local socialite, fashion queen and much photographed beauty (with pals like Salvador Dali) who reigned for decades. We get to see samples of her wardrobe from the 40s to 70s, and it’s amazing. The photographs, the handwritten letters to and from her, the collection of shoes! All of it. Gorgeous gowns, sleek suits, all showing the fascinating changes in fashion.

My favorite, hand down? Cocktail pajamas! This is a fashion statement I can get behind all the way. Mona, with this one concept, you are my hero.

Cocktail pajamas. Photo by Isabel
Description of pjs Photo by Isabel.

We eat, drink, mix, mingle, enjoy. And it’s a lovely night, walk the four or five blocks back to our hotel. Which gave us a chance to admire the biggest Louisville Slugger in the world.

#randomkatness Louisville style. Photo by kat

Fall into bed. Friday’s going to be a long one.

And it’s a gorgeous day. The guys, in Brian’s care, are headed to the Oaks and sporting pink. We girls, with Ann as our host, are off for nails at the best nail salon anywhere, imo, City Nails. As you can see, our pedis are magnificent!

Stephen, BW and Jason sport pink accents for Oaks Day. Photo by BW
Pedi-ready for the Gala. Photo by NR

After getting ourselves buffed and polished, it’s time for lunch. Ann makes it easy, hauling us around Louisville. Isabel and I split a grilled cheese sandwich. It should have a loftier name as it’s warm, melty brie inside toasted sour dough. I will never looked at a grilled cheese the same again. Match that with a bowl of thick, herby tomato soup, add a mimosa? Oh boy.

Our adorable waiter brought up a little sample of the Lily signature drink (Fillies for the Lilies today). When we told him Kat was pregnant (and I’d take her sample!) he went back and made her a non-alcoholic version.

Then it’s off to Rode’s to meet up with Beth and the team for some shopping. Always so much fun! And they’ve hunted up some very cool shoes for BW’s size 14 feet. It’s tradition for Father’s Day. BW gets a pair of very cool shoes, and our gal at Rode’s really came through.

I buy two scarves because they’re gorgeous, a really snappy hoodie, an excellent linen sheath dress and well, more.

Now it’s back to the hotel to meet up with Sarah who’ll make our hair look fabulous for the gala. And boy, does she.

The guys come back from their day at The Oaks. I think my pick for the big race, My Miss Lily (a gray) came in dead last. Oh well.

Now it’s seriously dude it up time for the Unbridled Eve gala.

I believe we pulled this off very well.

UnBridled Eve Gala ready (l-r) Stephen, Isabel, BW, Nora, Jason & Kat. Photo by BW’s camera.
Nora and BW on the red carpet. Photo by j a-b

Down to check in, hit the red carpet. Spot another Derby pal, and as we chat she points out she’s bringing a little something extra this year. She’s got a very sweet baby bump. I tell her Kat’s expecting, too, ask when she’s due. October. So’s Kat. I call Kat over, ask what day in October. 15th. Kat’s due the 17th! A sweet moment of serendipity.

This is Unbridled’s big night, full of music, color, stunning tablescapes. They have a couple of live auctions through the evening, and a silent one that runs all through. The proceeds benefit excellent causes, Blessings In A Backpack and The Jennifer Lawrence Foundation. It’s all about the kids, so bid generously!

I do! I have my handy phone app for the night, scout out the offerings–so much generously donated!–pick my targets.

Move through the crowd and into the ballroom. I buy a table every year (excellent causes) so we have our six, our Ann, and the fabulous Mike Mills (R.E.M) who we know from Derbys past. The music’s already rocking with The Crashers, a hot local band who performs every year at the event.

The gorgeous table decorations. Photo by j a-b

The entertainment’s seriously loaded this year–and one of the highlights is a set headed by Dennis Quaid. The man who played Jerry Lee Lewis can really rock it out. And the man who uttered one of my favorite lines in one of my favorite movies (The Big Easy–Your luck’s about to change, cher.) really gets the crowd moving.

Dennis Quaid, rocker. Photo by BW

Another highlight is John Rzeznik–Goo Goo Dolls lead singer, and his set. Wowzer! Then he auctions off the guitar he played. Nice.

Yet another highlight in an evening full of them is the big live auction. It includes a catered dinner by Paul Sorvino and his wife–known for the culinary skills–10 tickets to next year’s Oaks, 10 for the Derby–in the Jockey Suite at the Downs. This is big stuff.

The bidding’s pretty lively, and begins to top off at about 30k. You’re to hold up the lighted number of your table to bid. Toward the end, Stephen asks Jason to pass it to him. Honestly, I thought he just wanted to see it. But no, up it goes. And Stephen wins the bid! Obviously we’ve done an excellent job introducing them to Derby. And we’ll see them here next year!

I do my own (much smaller) part with the silent auction, and bag my Baubles, Beatles and Baccarat. Perfect. Lovely diamond hoops, a framed, backed on wood, picture of the Abbey Road cover (a fave), and six gorgeous Baccarat champagne flutes.

We have to hit the photo booth for fun, drag Mike and Ann along with us. Can’t wait to see how our shots turn out.

We’re done–and tomorrow’s Derby. My only regret of the weekend is hearing Quaid came back late and hit the dance floor with the crowd. Really sorry I missed that.

Derby Day. Rain. The weather guy insists the worst will miss us and it’s going to clear by midday. Glad I didn’t bet on him! It will be the wettest Derby in Derby history before it’s done, but we don’t let that dampen our experience.

Set for the Derby. Photo by BW
Baby’s first Derby day. Photo by BW
Ready for Derby! Photo by BW

And, again, we look fabulous!

Another red carpet, and up we go to Millionaire’s Row. We get there before the third race–we want as much of the day as we can pack in. And I walk straight out to the terrace to take it in. It may be gray and gloomy, but the track is just stunning, as always. The richness of the dirt, the brilliance of the grass, the beauty of the twin spires, none of it ever loses its magic for me.

photo by j a-b

Back in to greet our traditional server. When Amy sees Kat’s pregnant, she vows to take extra special care of her. And she does.

Pick a horse, bet, win. Yay.

Our little group huddles with our programs, picking horses by our own methods. Names, colors, jockey or trainers–whatever works. And as Jason points out: They’re horses, so who knows?

Kat’s hat at the Derby. Photo by NR
Family shot at the Derby. Photo by BW
Tonya York Dees and Nora. Photo by BW.

I actually do reasonably well through the day–hit a couple good ones.

It’s even more fun when pals join us. Here’s Anita and Cate–and don’t they look great? Here’s Robert Williamson. There’s James–in his tie of real rosebuds, and his ridiculously beautiful wife, Lisa.

And on and on.

But now it’s coming up to time for the big one. I’ve gone with Mendelssohn — he’s got an Irish trainer and being hyped. Not the favorite, that’s Justify, but I think a good pick. Figure out a few more to put some money on, figure out how to box the favorite with a couple, pick out horses I’ll bet for the grandkids.

Now the excitement’s building and building. The track is beyond muddy–it’s going to be a sloppy ride.

Bets placed, terrace packed as they play My Old Kentucky Home. It always tugs at the heart. They’re in the gate, and the noise is amazing. But as they leap out of the gate, that amazing noise rises more, a wall of cheers for those stunning horses and their riders.

It seems my colt got bumped right out of the gate–and I can see he’s not likely to make up the ground. Doesn’t matter, because wow, they’re so beyond beautiful, so strong, so fast. Justify has this, you can see it even by the first turn. He’s just magnificent. I do catch that the horses I picked for two of the kids are really moving. (And I boxed one of them for me with Justified, made yet another bet for myself on one of them.

Then I lose all of that as they come around the final turn. The mud’s flying so horses and riders are coated with it. But those horses, they fly, too. Down the backstretch, and that thunder joins the cheers.

Two minutes, two astounding minutes.

Justify takes it. Kayla’s horse comes in second, Colt’s third. (Sorry, Logan.) 

Justify, the cleanest horse in the race, wins the Derby. Photo by BW

We stay for the last two races. Say goodbye to our Derby family, Head out in the insistent rain to have a late (for us country folk) room service dinner.

Then it’s goodbye to Isabel and Stephen–knowing our schedules will mesh for at least this first Saturday in May next year.

Up in the morning to pack, organize–we leave with much more than we came with–head down to Kathy and Brian. Gorgeous day, of course. Hugs by the plane, a last picture.

Farewell shot with Derby family — Kathy (center) and Brian, next to BW.

Our pilot warns us we could hit some weather in Hagerstown. It’s the same damn system that hit Louisville the day before. I’m a poor flyer anyway, but I tell myself to suck it up. We’re only in the air for an hour.

Our luck holds–and a lot of that luck is due to Jac and Joe in the cockpit. How they skimmed us through the two systems and kept us clear and smooth, I’ll never know. But we land in rainy Hagerstown
without me having to use the power of my mind to keep us safe.

Now it’s bye to my babies. (All three!) And home to happy dogs and a garden that’s already popping.

Another wonderful three days in Louisville with its color, its warm hospitality, its really good food and the best two minutes in sports.

See you next May!

Nora

YAY!

I had my wonderful week at the spa with my girls, crowned my pal of a half century (Jesus, Jo, how did we get this old???) Queen of the Drunken Spa Girls Tournament. Driving south toward home, I saw redbuds blooming, trees greening. At last.
 
I’m getting myself a brand new grandboy this fall. And our Kat looks wonderful. To celebrate the It’s a Boy part (just learned at the spa) I found a set of Marvel Super Hero onesies. About as cute as it gets!
 
Derby’s coming right up–first Saturday in May. More fun times, and since Kat and Jason are coming with us this year, I get to see that sweet baby bump again.
 
AND……I finally, finally, finally, got my hand in the dirt. There they stayed, all day.
 
BW and I hit the garden center first thing Saturday morning. Oh, all that color, the scents, the shapes, the textures. It’s such a happy place. We, as usual, filled the bed of the truck.
Ready, set, go! Photo by Nora
Back home with all that potential to the setting out, stepping back, studying, shifting. I had scores of Black-Eyed Susans to dig up and transplant. It may be our state flower, may be cheerful, easy to grow, and great for cutting, but it misbehaves. It likes to volunteer–great–and plant itself in the front of the beds–not so great. So I spent some time giving lots of volunteers new spots.
 
We had a perfect day–sunny, then cloudy, then sunny–not too hot, not too cool–to spend outdoors with flowers. And we spent every minute of it.
 
Now the beds look happy–and those nasturtium seeds Laura gave me and I got in before the spa are just starting to poke through. 
 
I changed a few things this year, moved my herb bed a bit. Those Susie’s had started to take over there. Rather than move all of them, I decided to let them have that space, moved the herbs to an open spot. My French lavender didn’t come back this year, so okay, let’s try something else. Fun, fun to see what works, how it looks, to see the progress of reliable perennials planted in previous years, and what might compliment them best.

Herbs in their new home. Photo by Nora,

 
Cleaned, cleared and planted. Photo by Nora

Got some pots done, too. It’s always fun to sit, figure what should go with what in a mixed pot.

 

Pots! Photo by Nora

Coleus of all colors. Photo by Nora
After a full day, we had a handful of mixed annuals left–and several pots yet to fill. So I’ll make another trip–such a hardship!–hit the nursery after Derby and get enough to finish up. Or if I get everything on my plate done today, I might see if I can squeeze it in.
Nearly done. Photo by Nora
Pretty full plate, though, as I didn’t spend a single minute on the inside of the house, or the four tubs of books waiting to be signed, or organizing outfits for Derby time.
 
So, we’ll see. Either way, after workout, tidying up, organizing, I’m going to wander around and admire all our hard work.
Peaceful sitting area. Photo by Nora

 
It’s spring. At last.
 
Nora

Spaaa-tica: A new Queen ascends

and her name is not Laura (though I appreciate everyone’s belief in me).

When last we met, I’d won a round of Just Dance.  I added my sticker to the board (an homage to the nascent dark side) and otherwise turned my back on the Stupid(ish) Scoreboard.

Ignoring the grid turned out to be pretty easy since we had so many wonderful, non-competition distractions.  As mentioned in the past, we all pretty much go our separate ways during the days. Saturday morning, JoAnne, Jeannette and Mary planned to lunch at the casino on the property.   Just before 2 pm, JoAnne texted that Jeannette won big on the $5 slots. Much happy dancing from Nora — along with the strict instructions to come back NOW!

They stayed and won a bit more but the news and excitement spread among us quickly.

Then Kat arrived with her magic fascinator and her thrilling news. (We knew she was pregnant, but waited until the first trimester was cleared to share.)  If all goes according to schedule, Nana will share a birth month with the baby.   As for names, everyone in the room had opinions. For some reason my suggestions of Cornelius or Aloysius were not welcomed with open arms.

Kat and Jason have plenty of time to decide, and in all probability we’ll only share the name when the Young Master arrives.

After painting on Sunday night, we had to get a couple more rounds of games on the record to help Kat and me catch up and to accommodate Pat’s early departure.  Later, we realized that departure was not because of another trip but to flee the scoreboard results (they don’t lie).

Scrabble is either the apex or the nadir of the competition — depending on where you sit by Kat or Elaine or your particular talent in pulling all consonants or all vowels.  I placed a respectable third in my first round and happily retired from the field.

In the end, it came down to Elaine and Kat  (did anyone doubt this?).  They played a Monday night death match semifinal  with Nicole and JoAnne that lasted forever (ok maybe 2 hours).  Since Kat left Tuesday they decided to rest their brains overnight and play the final match on Tuesday morning.

To summarize: Kat played well ahead until — and we can blame pregnancy brain — she left herself wide open for Elaine to put EQUIP on a triple word with triple letter for Q.  While she played valiantly, Kat couldn’t overcome that and Elaine took the Scrabble prize.

The final board. Photo by Mary B.

Tuesday night, Elaine — defending champion btw — faced Sarah in Just Dance and JoAnne in bowling.

Their faces say everything about the dancing — plus Nora just danced for the heck of it.

In the best of three, Elaine barely squeaked by.

Nicole and JoAnne follow the dance. Photo by LMR

After dinner, Elaine and Jo started the final round of bowling.  Remember, friends, that Jo and I have shared Biggest Loser through the years.  This year, she won the wild card round (through bowling) and made the finals in bowling.

Sorry gang, this was my only action shot. Phot by LMR

Elaine was ahead through nine frames and it looked like we’d have an early coronation, but JoAnne bowled four strikes in a row to take that prize!

What to do?  Elaine and JoAnne each had two wins, but there’s only one crown (and necklace that was the ultimate prize).  I reminded Nora that tiebreakers in the past were the mega bowling on Wii — there are more pins to strike every frame.  All agreed that was the way to name the winner.

Long story very short, JoAnne was on fire and won.  And all was right with the world turned upside down.

Pat, btw, was biggest loser in absentia, but I fixed that with some tape and a tablet.

The Queen and the Biggest Loser. Photo by LMR

After that, we celebrated with Reverse Charades — because how else would one end a week of spa and games?

Thus ends another Spa Girl week.  What did we learn this year?  That the scoreboard is stupid if I let it be.  Ignoring is a smart move on my part (ok, and so is a lot of sarcasm).

Everyone is a winner.  Except Pat this year.

And from Ireland to Pennsylvania, sheep are the theme of my spring.

Sheep! PA version. Photo by LMR
Sheep! Connemara version. Photo by LMR

Laura