Category Archives: Conversation

Dear Diary: a Cranky Publicist’s private record of spa week 2017

Dear Diary,

It’s lowering to admit that my spirits fell in the approach to spa week. The company is wonderful, the setting lovely, the services superb — and yet.

The specter of the Stupid Scoreboard loomed with all the inherent horrors of last year’s Biggest Loser status.

I bravely persevered in the face of such agonizing memories, packed up the soft clothes, the books, the magazines, said goodbye to the dh and headed to the Fortress of Silence (aka Nora’s house). The drippy Saturday weather narrowed the day’s goals to cozying in nest to a roaring fire in a lovely suite.

First though, I had to run the gamut of happy dogs.  I haven’t been up to the Fortress since February so my arrival was my first interaction with Atticus.  His human woman proudly reports he’s house broken but they’re still working on not jumping. Apparently I was that perfect storm of new human AND wearing a white sweater.  He jumped. Lesson learned.

Nora and BW had already loaded the car with her clothes, champagne, workout gear, the Wii (blech :0) and Fabulous Prizes.  JoAnne, Mary Kay and I arrived at the same time so we completed the loading in and got on the road.

I felt a prickling on the back of my neck and when I looked over my shoulder there was the Scrabble box, staring down at me.  The memory of the Stupid Scoreboard mocked me, but I resolutely ignored it for the drive.

Nora navigated through increasingly bad rain over the mountains and gaps from Maryland to Pennsylvania and got us to our home for a week before 12:30 (her personal goal). We piled out of the car, happy to let the hotel staff deal with unloading the intricate puzzle of bags and stuff.

While we waited for the keys to the suite, Nora began the dread discussion: “what games should we play tonight?” Then my “friend” looked directly at me and said “Laura, you should play Scrabble tonight so you can get it over with.”  JoAnne and Mary Kay laughed.

I sulked, Dear Diary, I sulked.

We toasted the week of friendship (Diary, I had reservations about who my true friends were at that point), unpacked, snacked and then those who had treatments went on their way.  I’ll admit, Diary, that I stewed about the Scoreboard, games and the perfidy of “friends” during my treatment, but then a revelation struck:  what if I embraced the Stupid Scoreboard and became One with it?  (What can I say, when you’re floating on the clouds of a treatment, the brain opens up to all possibilities.)

Kat arrived with her 2017 edition of The (Non) Stupid Scoreboard, drawn free-hand.  And this time she created a rebus for the title:

Drug + Inns + paw + grills + turnip + mint = Drunken spa girls tournament

I contemplated this new idea of accepting the scoreboard through dinner, then accepted the inevitable when I was part of the first Scrabble group which included the fearsome and mighty Elaine (past Grand Winner and killer Scrabble player — the last time I played with her, Elaine scored 47 on the first word.  I suggested we stop playing right then, but my “friend” said we had to play.  Elaine won by 47 points.  Who was right Diary?) But I digress.

With my newfound Zen attitude: One with The Scoreboard, I concentrated on words, ignored the score.  At one point, Nora — who was organizing the Just Dance portion of the tournament — wandered over, checked the score and was amazed I was competitive.  I didn’t actually know the score so I just kept going.  The highlight of my round was Peaky, which I tied into dog to make Doge.  And came up with a boatload of points

My “friend” Nora, took a photo to commemorate.  I had to contort myself to fit in the frame but it was done: 

Diary, I completed the round first!  As Elaine tallied up the score, she commented, “Laura, you’re just three points behind ME.”   She swears she didn’t mean it the way it came out.  But I wonder if I have another person to put in the “friend” category.

So I came in second, three points behind the mighty and fearsome Elaine.  Not a win, not a loss.  Very Zen.

Nora, Kat and JoAnne worked out the Just Dance song for the week. They practiced with Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), then chose Don’t Wanna Know as the song we all have to perform.  JoAnne stunned us with a win in her round.

[From JoAnne’s Spa Notes:
Dear Diary — who was that holding my Wii remote tonight??]

Sarah and I danced — me against yet another Grand Winner — and I handled it respectably.  Meaning I came within 1,000 points of Sarah.

The final act of the night was bowling.  Nora decided to capture all the moments in the round:

JoAnne didn’t like the shot.
Sarah, strike. Of course.
Me, dancing during bowling.
Mary Kay, the winner of this round.

[Excerpt from Mary Kay’s Girls Spa Week 2017 diary:
I won my round in bowling!!!]

And that was the end of Day 1, Dear Diary.   Much more to come.

Laura

Objects Hidden behind the Echoes In Death cover

Did you know the US hardcover edition of Echoes in Death has a surprise on the inside of the jacket?  It’s an amazing poster of the night around the Flatiron Building.  Did you also know that St. Martin’s Press thought it would fun to give readers a little extra with a hidden object game in that poster?

Here’s the key and some visual clues.

J.D. Robb in the window


Badge

Fingerprint

Devil mask


Macmillan logo

Wine bottle

Galahad


Chalk outline

Scarf

Snowflake hat

Computer screen

Gun

Handcuffs

Clock set to 10:10 for Nora’s birthday

Some Cranky Publicist notes:

  1. Except for JD Robb, all the objects are symbols, not exact representation of the items.  For instance — the snowflake hat is blue in the books, but blue wouldn’t show up in such a dark picture.  Please go with the flow on this.
  2.  Somewhere down the road, St. Martin’s Press may provide a digital image for all readers, but for now, the only physical place for the hidden object poster is on the inside of the hardcover jacket — US edition.

Enjoy,

Laura

Snow Day This and That

When you only get one big storm in a season, the snowsteria can overwhelm.  Monday is my regular grocery day so I was a bit impatient with the crowd at the store frantically stocking up everything from cookies to milk to Easter candy (just in case).  And I mentally rolled my eyes at the person in front of me in line who had two huge bunches of green bananas in her order.  Spring will be here before they are ripe.

But the hysteria did give me an opportunity to post this on social media:

Yes, they are all books scheduled for release later this year.  Yes, it’s a tease.  Yes, I know, I’m a meanypants.

And yes, I loved them all.

This year’s Home Alone time was a two-parter for Nora and BW is off to parts unknown for a few more days.  Since I’m a sensible meanypants and never poke hibernating bears, I’ve left Nora in her Fortress of Solitude.  Pretty sure she’s deep in the current WIP (work in progress) but taking regular trips to Poop City with Atticus.

Finally, St. Martin’s Press never stops!  The team created this short video to continue the excitement about Echoes in Death.  Enjoy!

The snow is pretty much done in Maryland and it’s just after noon on Tuesday so I suppose I need to get my workout in by shoveling.  I hope everyone north of us is getting through the storm in good shape and that storm provisions hold up well.

Laura

First Look: Year One

Nora discussed her upcoming trilogy in this post last fall.  Today, I’m so excited to share the cover reveal video St. Martin’s Press created for this amazing cover along with our first look at details of the book.

The video is here: Year One cover reveal

Synopsis:

It began on New Year’s Eve.

The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.

As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

And the umbrella title is Chronicles of The One.

Laura

Nothing Much

 Which is what’s going on around here. I’m in hibernation mode–mostly–so it’s just work, work out, dinner, sleep. Repeat.
 
It’s what I call the best.
 
I do break hibernation a bit here and there. The kids are allowed into the cave. With Kayla off to run in States–go, team!– to end her track season, and Logan’s basketball season winding up, I may see a little more of them. That’s always a bright spot in this relentlessly gloomy winter.
 
As a sign they’re pretty grown up, what was once a toy room/guest room is now, after my purge, just a guest room. Nobody plays with the toys any more, so it’s time to pass them on. A little sad, but then I remember a couple weeks ago after a sleep-over, Kayla and I putting our makeup on together in the bathroom mirror. Every stage has its little pleasures.
 
Plus, I picked out new paint and bedding for the room. I’ll enjoy seeing it freshened up. And our Sarah who often bunks there after a book signing will, too.
 
And thanks to Sarah’s gift of an amaryllis kit, I have a gorgeous February bloom.
 
While I ‘appeared’ in New York to celebrate my first release with St. Martin’s Press, I didn’t have to leave home to do it. My amazing publisher projected the cover of Echoes In Death, front and back on the Flatiron Building. This is just too cool. It’s also pretty sweet having a publishing team who thinks of the just too cool–so I can stay home and write while they do innovating marketing, create fun contests and design fabulous covers.
 
I can’t count the ways I love my home with them, and the people in it.
[Note from Laura:  Because I DO leave my house in the winter, I drove to NYC to see this in person and “reported” on the display. https://www.facebook.com/jdrobbauthor/videos/10154891568726132/]
Last weekend I serious broke hibernation when BW and I went into Fit In Boonsboro to take their first Cize Alive class. I’m a big fan of Cize and of Shaun T, and use his DVDs regularly in my workouts at home. Knowing this, our manager Heidi gave me a little nudge to attend. And since my pal JoAnne planned to go, and added a second nudge, in I went. And BW decided to give it a go with me.
 
Fun stuff–fun, sweaty stuff–with a happy class and seriously energetic instructors in Heidi and Teri.
 

And we have video! Oddly, muscle memory goes to crap when you turn from the front of the room to the side to get the video, but I think the class pulled it off. I’m absolutely sure Fit’s members are going to love this addition.

The last break–and it will very likely be the very, very last until spring–hits today. If you’re a fan of NPR, you’ll have listened to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. If you haven’t, you’re missing something. I’m delighted they invited me to be their guest on the Not My Job segment. I recorded it live Thursday night–by phone–and it airs today and tomorrow on NPR. You’ll want to check your local listings if you’re interested.  (And the segment is now online.) 
 
Now with the annual house purging done and nothing on my schedule for WEEKS that takes me out of the house, I’m hunkering down. I’m working on the second book of the new trilogy, and can say without hesitation, it’s sucking my brain dry by the end of every day. It’s hard, complicated writing, and I couldn’t be happier doing it.
 
So nobody better poke the bear until April!
Nora

 

Echoes in Death discussion thread

The day is finally here!  I write this post at 7:15 am on Tuesday, February 7 and I have a feeling some of you are just rounding third and heading for home in your first frantic read.    Just as I know there are many others who cleared this as a holiday from work to read in peace.  And then there are the strong and patient readers who have many different reasons to wait a little while longer.

However you approach reading an In Death book, I hope you enjoyed it.  IMO, Echoes is a lot of case and a really interesting one.  What did you think?  Did you find any of the things I mentioned in the teasers?

This is the safe space to discuss any and all of Echoes in Death.  And to forestall the inevitable question that follows — usually with a wink or smiley face but I know you sincerely mean it — Secrets in Death will be out on September 5.

Laura

 

 

Echoes in Death teaser thread

We must be less than a week out from release if I’m putting together teasers for Echoes in Death!  As always these do not spoil the case in any way, just consider them some nuggets you’ll unearth along the way.

As a refresher, the Echoes in Death excerpt is here.

And I recently shared the Echoes in Death commercial from St. Martin’s Press on social media. I think the universal response has been “Cool!!!”

I’ll add a teaser to this post the next three days.   Come back and check tomorrow.

Feb. 1

Three small things:
1) When Peabody sees how Eve dressed for the charity ball, she immediately coins a new word.
2) Sticky buns get to everyone, even Eve.
3) New closets can get to her too.

St. Martin’s Press created this fun infographic for In Death basics. Some readers commented on Facebook that there are 54 published pieces in the series, but SMP took the facts from the Did You Know feature on the website where I deal with full-length books only. There’s so much more to add, but for a piece on the basics, I think it’s fun.

Now for today’s teasers.

Feb. 2
Two things that come and go quickly, one that is dear to my heart:
1. What do an inventor, a tragic Greek hero and an egg-laying mammal have in common?  Peabody will help you out on that one.
2. Dr. Mira is braver than Eve.
3. Who is Nora’s border collie?  (That may take some time.)

Feb. 3
Three more passing things:
1. A snowy night brings out Eve’s protectiveness to a certain butler, for pragmatic reasons.
2. A snowy night is a good time to fill in pop culture gaps.
3. Some gifts are sheer perfection.

That’s it for the teasers — a lot of this book is the case and you want to encounter that at your own pace.  Come Feb. 7 you can discover the rest for yourself.

Laura

Notes:  This is the final reminder of the Echoes in Death sweepstakes from St. Martin’s Press (open to readers in the US and Canada — except Quebec).  The grand prize is a leather coat and all the details are here.

There’s also time to  submit your pre-order receipt for a limited edition pop-art In Death poster.  Again, as this is Nora’s US publisher the offer is open only to readers in the US and Canada (ex. Quebec). Unfortunately rules on sweepstakes are imposed country by country and it’s just not possible to open this to international readers — as much as we’d like to.  For information and how to submit your receipt, please click here.

 

 

Time and Time Away

After the rush and fun of the holidays, BW and I spend a week away with friends and family at a resort/spa a convenient couple hours drive from home. We’ve been doing this, we figure, for about fourteen years.

The front entrance. Photo by Laura
The snowy landscape. Photo by Laura

It’s a lovely, lovely break. It’s familiar for this creature of habit, it’s comfortable, and it’s pretty.

This year it’s also COLD! Seriously cold, and we’ve had a pretty (since I’m not out in it) snowfall. I had my first emotionally focused therapy at the spa a few hours after our arrival, and just let everything go. That’s the best. It’s relax and recharge time for me. Read lotsa books time, work a little here and there time, and cook not at all time. And it’s an extra gift to spend that time with people you love and enjoy.

I’ve finished two books, and will start another this afternoon while I wait for my mmmmm deep tissue massage. Which I earned  as I went full out for a two full hour cross-training workout this morning.

I’ll come back, pour myself a glass of champagne then think about what to order for dinner, the one I’m not cooking.

I had a good, solid stretch of writing one day between workout and a facial. Good deal. I worked on a non-book-related project and did a little shopping. When I go home, I have a routine doc’s appointment, and then an event on the weekend, followed by hosting at our house our Kayla’s State champion girls cross-country team.

Girls rock!

Squeezing writing in there as I go. But that’s days away.

I love what I do for a living, love the time and the effort I’m required to put into crafting a story I hope readers will enjoy. I love being able to take some time off with friends and family, love spending the weekend making soup and bread or whatever appeals in my own kitchen. Because I love all of that I’m bound to do a better job of it than if I disliked or resented it.

Here’s what I don’t much like, and more have no real skill for. Handling social media. Coming up with topics for Facebook that will engage readers and make them happy. Laura is queen of all that. If I had to handle it? I wouldn’t have FB pages. Simply wouldn’t. I’d resent every minute I had to scratch my head over what to write, and detest every minute it took away from the work I love. So I’d simply eliminate the annoyance and distraction, and focus on what I love, what I’m good at, and what I owe the reader. My best work.

That’s the bottom line. A writer of fiction owes readers this: The best book he or she can write at that particular time. She also owes them gratitude, of course, for reading, owes them basic courtesy if and when she engages with readers IRL or on line.

And, that’s it.

Though some may disagree I don’t owe readers FB pages or blogs or contests and give-aways to repay them for reading my books, whether they buy them, listen to them, borrow them. I owe them a good book. FB is a marketing tool and a great way to communicate. Laura does an amazing job of crafting posts, selecting photos or quotes that springboard reader conversations. I would not, though I do scan the posts, sometimes the comments, and if it applies, add a comment of my own.

I enjoy writing this blog when I have something to say, or can document through words and pictures something I think readers will have fun with. Otherwise I wouldn’t do it. Actually my Jason gave me the basic thrust of how to handle blogging here when years back I whined about it. Days in the life, little bits and pieces with photos, fun stuff, personal stuff.

Okay, I think I can do that, and so far, so good.

In the normal course of events, I write 40-50 hours a week. Parts of that schedule maybe eaten into now and then by the business that surrounds writing. Generally I proof galleys in the evening, not during work hours. I sign, routinely, four tubs of books three times a week, not during work hours.

In there I live a life I really enjoy. It’s a really good balance for me.

If I added in what the amazing Laura does, that balance would tip, and tip hard. I’d be unhappy, and believe me, so would you, the reader.

So for those who might wonder why I don’t write all the FB posts, there’s the answer. It’s certainly not because I don’t value the reader, new ones, or ones who’ve read me from day one.

It’s actually because I very much do.

Anyway, I think I have time for a glass of champagne before that massage. After all, this is time away.

Nora

Courtyard chairs waiting for spring. Photo by Laura

Note from Laura (did you expect anything else?):   Since the very first FB post in 2008, I’ve signed what I post though many speed readers do miss it.  For everyone who pays attention, they know it’s me.  And that NR chimes in when time allows.

While neither of us would ever want to live the other’s life, Nora and I have developed a rhythm and understanding and synchronicity over the past 12 years works.  I know what it’s like to be a faithful reader.  I also see clearly how routine and hard work built a career that spans three decades of quality storytelling.

I see the (imo) whiny “why doesn’t Nora love us?” comments and think “she does — she gives you multiple books every single years.” And so we’ll continue to not fix what ain’t broke.

New Directions

A long time ago, on a hilltop far, far away, I started writing category Romance. With two pre-schoolers to run herd on, I fed my appetite for reading with short, satisfying Romances I could gulp down during nap time. So when stuck with said pre-schoolers inside for a week during a blizzard, I began to scribble down one of the stories in my head in a notebook. It was intended to save my sanity, and became a career and a passion.

Writing Harlequin-style Romances was a natural choice as I gobbled them during this time period. I’d grown up reading everything–everyone in my house read everything– but at this particular turn of my road, category Romances comprised the bulk of my reading.

My career roots in Romance spread over the next decade or two. One of the appeals to me was this was a genre that could, and did, include everything. You could, especially when the genre and the market evolved, add elements of mystery, suspense, paranormal, horror, comedy, fantasy. As long as the story contained a core romantic relationship, tied things up with a happy ending, you could rock on.

I continued to write category even as I expanded into writing mainstream novels, and produced 100 books for Silhouette before I turned off that road. With Bantam, then Putnam (which became Penguin-Putnam which became Penguin Random House), and now St. Martin’s Press I wrote and continue to write Romantic Suspense, I wrote trilogies–straight relationship or with elements of fantasy and paranormal. I began the In Death series as JD Robb.

The In Death series certainly took me onto another lane of the highway. I thought of these as relationship mysteries/police procedurals with continuing characters set in the near future–which gave them a science fiction light touch.

Mostly they were and are fun and interesting stories for me to write, with core characters I adore and enjoy. That makes them tremendously satisfying creatively.

The Romantic Suspense novels I write drive down another lane on the highway. They’re not a part of a series, sometimes have more than one romantic relationship, generally have other non-romantic relationships–friendships, family–as writing about people is what I do. For these it may be a setting that flicks on the light bulb, or a character type, or a situation. For The Obsession, for instance, that flash was: What’s it like to be the child of a serial killer?

As I write without much of a structured plan, relying more on Let’s See What Happens next, I have to be very engaged in the story, very connected to the characters to see it all through. That first flick on has to pull me in.

The trilogies I do wind down another lane. For these everything’s broader and interconnected. The concept has to tell me, this needs more room, and has a theme or goal that can weave through three books. Whether straight relationship, like the Born In trilogy, or The Bride Quartet, or with those paranormal elements, like The Circle Trilogy or Three Sisters Island, the initial concept always included that central romance, and the romance highlighted in each book would be resolved in that particular book.

I conceived them as one big book in three distinct parts, each containing–whether it be mortal, wizard, business-woman or vampire–that elemental romantic relationship.

Writing on those different lanes of the highway has served to keep me fresh and creatively satisfied–and it seems to me gives readers a lot of choices in my work. Some like the Robb series, some don’t. Some like the more traditional relationship, some are eager for the more magickal, others prefer the suspense.

But when you offer a variety, the downside is those who prefer one gripe when you offer another. That’s just how it goes. If a writer discovers how to satisfy every reader every time, I really want to have a sit-down with him or her and learn the secret. But in the meantime, I have to pay attention to that flick of light and turn down the road where it shines for me.

And so, some time ago, that light flicked on a turn off the highway, a detour, an unexplored road. It’s a little risky to take that turn, see where it takes you. But it’s also exciting. And challenging.

The flash of this light didn’t beam on the Romance of my roots, or how my own work has evolved around it, and frankly, away from what the genre is today. It shined on something different, something I saw as more a Fantasy saga. Relationships, absolutely. Books and stories for me are all about the people in them, how they relate, or don’t. Touches of romance, sure, but at least in the opening book, the story can’t center on a central love story and hold for the rest.

I thought about it for quite awhile, played with it in my head, chewed on it, studied the concept from different angles. The light didn’t dim, so I turned off and followed it.

Year One — the first of this different sort of trilogy — begins a journey, for me as a writer, for the characters within, and hopefully for the reader who wants to take a chance with me. It begins with a global crisis, a pandemic that wipes away much of the population and opens a door to magicks. Black and white, courage and cowardice, the determination to survive and rebuild, the evolution of powers for good or ill. And the light again, that’s hope and love and bravery that shines through.

The process of structuring this story–and laying the groundwork for the two that will follow–presented a creative challenge, the need to take a leap, a lot of sweaty work, a larger cast of characters to develop and connect to, multiple relationships to weave, the logistics of world building. Because even when you’re basically destroying the world, you’re building another.

For the first time in too long to remember a book woke me up at night, or kept me up. What do I do about this, how will I resolve that, how does that even make any stupid sense? It wouldn’t leave me alone, so I knew it had me, however it turned out. I had to follow that light and see where it took me.

Writing it proved hard and bumpy and frustrating and tremendous fun. Finishing it was, for me, monumental. The relief that my editor didn’t say WTF when she read it, beyond enormous. It matters, a lot, to be satisfied with a finished manuscript. It matters, a whole giant bunch of a lot, when an editor a writer knows and trusts, whose purpose is to publish, package, market a book and help it be the best it can be, gives the work two thumbs up.

I already know the following two books that will comprise this trilogy will be hard and bumpy and frustrating and fun. But I’m on the road now, and I’m enjoying the scenery.

Normally, I wouldn’t have a lot to say to readers about a book that won’t be out for a year, or a trilogy that’s only just begun on my end. In this case, since it’s different, since it’s not Romance or built on the framework of the genre, and is a turn off onto a new road rather than a different lane, I thought it fair to let those who follow my work know something else is coming.

I understand some might think: But this isn’t what I want from her! That’s okay, don’t worry. The In Death series will continue. The Suspense novels with that core love story (or stories) will continue to pull me in. But you’ve got to follow the light, go where ideas pull you. And hope that readers take the journey with you.

Nora