Category Archives: Conversation

Writers Are People Too

[Note: the italics and bold words are my doing. ~Laura]

In my normal routine, weekends are for domestic stuff, family, taking a breath. There were many times back in the day that I put in time writing on weekends. There are still occasions I work weekends, or go back to work in the evening–but mostly I try not to.

I need to enjoy my home, my family–and tend to both, just like most people.

This weekend, after a fun gathering here on Friday evening, I got in an early workout before hitting the domestic and family. Fun for me that when I started wrapping the last of the Christmas presents, a pretty snow began to fall. Light, fluffy, and the perfect backdrop for my tradition of watching (as Kayla calls them) cornball Christmas movies while I wrap.

Snow through the kitchen window.

 

Done with that, I headed down, put on more cornball as the snow fell and I kneaded bread. And while the bread rose, started making soup. It’s another routine in the life during the fall and winter. Making soup and bread on the weekends.  

Bread
Soup

 

My house smelled glorious. As a reward, during the second rising, and while the soup simmered, I got the book I haven’t had time to pick up for two weeks, poured myself some bubbly and sat in the library. A fire, a snowfall, an adult beverage and a most excellent book. Nice. 

A little space to read

Today, we had a window before Logan’s basketball game to do some cookie baking. Another tradition–one that now had Kayla mostly in the lead. The girl’s a good cook. A double batch of chocolate chip, some peanut butter blossoms, and after they had to head out, I finished up with candy cane kiss cookies.

Worker bees
The finished product, part 1
The finished product, part 2

Yum to all. My kids took a break in there, took advantage of Nana’s soup. Next weekend we’ll add Colt in and do our famous painted sugar cookies. Fun, chaotic, messy, adorable and delish.

If I didn’t take this time for family, for homey chores I very much enjoy, my life would have no balance. All work will, no question, eventually lead to burn out. That’s not beneficial to anyone.

I get readers fall in love with a book or author and want more. And more, and faster, quicker–and often NOW. The book I finished in my library was John Sandford’s latest Virgil Flowers novel. I am a HUGE fan. And now I wait a year to see where Virgil goes next. I’d love to have the next instantly, but that’s simply impossible, and so very unfair to Sandford. I assume he also enjoys having an actual life.

None of us who write can write as fast as readers (myself included) read. We can’t. And we shouldn’t try–because the work will suffer. Readers can and do gobble up a book in hours. Writing that book takes months, and in some cases years.

I’m thrilled many readers enjoyed Year One, are supportive of this new direction I followed. I’m flattered readers are looking forward to the second book.

Where this breaks off is where some readers feel entitled to demand, or are outraged by a wait for a book, or jump to conclusions about the publisher or marketing or whatever. I don’t include in this those who say: Oh, I can’t wait!! Or how will I wait!! Or I wish I had it now. I wish I had the next Sandford in my hot little hands. I’m a reader, too. (And the last line in that book had me going: Hot Damn! But now I wait.)

I’m talking about those who complain the books should be published one after another, or closer together. I can’t write them to suit those readers because these books are longer than my previous trilogies and so very much more complicated to write. And I just insist on having a life in there, too.

I haven’t written the three books in a trilogy one after another for years. I used to be able to do so. I haven’t so longer than I can remember. Same with the Robbs, which I could, at one time, do nearly always, three in a row. Life, creativity and scheduling have made that impossible.

I have not, as some have claimed, written all three already (so my publisher can hold them back). These books are brutal and fascinating and scary to write, and it takes a lot of time, a lot of effort. And so much figuring out, my brain hurts at the end of the day when I’m into one. I want to produce the best books I can, and I can’t do it like a machine that pumps them out on demand.

I think part of the problem is that I write fairly quickly, and readers have gotten used to more and more. I still write four major books a year. Four. It’s all I can do well. Frankly, I think the other part of the problem is that some readers are used to how quickly the self-pubbed produce–and don’t look at the fact those stories are generally a LOT shorter, don’t go through a serious editing process, a cover art process, the scheduling process, the marking issues, and so on.

All those processes take time.

When my editor and agent came here for dinner (and the holiday signing) a bit ago, we sat in my kitchen going over the schedule for 2019. St. Martin’s, like all publishers, have other authors, and consider placement carefully because YES, publishing is a business. If the publisher doesn’t make some sort of profit, the publisher can’t stay in the business of publishing. They can’t pay writers, editors, sales reps, marketing and publicity staff and on and on.

SMP would, absolutely, be thrilled if I could write a book every month. They’d find a way to publish all of them. I can’t. Physically, creatively, realistically, I can’t just pump them out like gum drops. If I did, the quality would suffer, and every single reader would, rightfully, complain.

Year One is a departure, and won’t appeal to all readers. The In Death series doesn’t appeal to all readers. The stand-alone I write every year doesn’t appeal to all readers. I like the diversity, and I need it to stay creatively fresh. But I can’t write faster, I can’t give more than I do. If I tried, I’d burn out within a year–and spend my time gardening, making soup and bread.

I prefer the balance. I hope readers who enjoyed Year One will anticipate Of Blood And Bone next year the way I anticipate the follow-up to Sandford’s Deep Freeze. And in the meantime, read and enjoy the multitude of wonderful books out there.

Me, I’m going to dive into King’s Sleep Beauty first chance I get.

Nora

Year One discussion thread

Today’s the day!  Year One is finally here — in stores or on your ereader.   A little over a year ago, Nora shared the new direction in which this trilogy — The Chronicles of The One — would go.  Now you get to start the journey.

I simply devoured Year One when I had the chance to read the ARC in the spring.  I truly believe that the direction may be different, but this is a Nora book filled with relationships, evocative imagery, great dialogue and people you will love.

This is the place to discuss Year One, so be ware: spoilers ahead.

Laura

More bits/more pieces 11/4/2017

Here are a few things that popped up on social media this week. Hope you enjoy!

Here are the solutions to the crossword and cryptic puzzles on the inside of the US/Canada Secrets in Death hardcover jackets:

As we speed toward release date, St. Martin’s asked me to shoot a short video of my reaction to seeing the finished edition of Year One.  I posted it on You Tube for easier access: Laura’s Reaction.

And finally, here’s the video St. Martin’s created for Year One that will show in Target later this month.

Laura

Work and Reward

I’ve been working pretty hard since our return from France. I like working hard, so that’s all good. But I like play time with pals, too. I had a great day/evening/night with good girl pals this week on our Try To Make It Annual Girls In Boonsboro trip.

I get into town early enough to take a new class at Fit In Boonsboro with my pal, JoAnne. Grabbed 45 on the elliptical first, then did 45 of boogying cardio after. Got my 90 in, and had fun doing it. That’s some work.

Reward came with lunch and champagne at Vesta with Jo, Laura, Pat, Mary Kay, Mary and Elaine. Good food, good pals, good wine.

Then it’s shopping–lots of opportunities for that in B’Boro. Josie’s On Main first stop geographically.

This mug caught Laura’s eye at Josie’s. Photo by Laura

I found myself a fun Witch Please tank that amused me–and has already been worn for a later workout. Among other things I picked up a few Christmas gifts, then we wandered down Main to Gifts In Boonsboro. Earrings! A gorgeous vase I’ve had my eye on–and a gift for my pal Ruth in Michigan. A just because as the black/white/gray soft as a cloud hand-made afghan said I Am Ruth’s. 

Among the amazing art on display at Gifts– a wedding cake of Savor the Moment pages. Photo by Laura

Onto TTP for more, and whee, they’ve put Stephen King’s new book written with his son Owen aside for me. Can’t wait to dig in.

Reward!

Then on this perfectly gorgeous October afternoon, it’s time to check into the inn, hang out in The Courtyard. More bubbly, yummy snacks, those good pals–and a couple of fun guests. 

The ingredients for a leisurely spell in The Courtyard. Photo by Laura
The very surprised Jane and Michelle. Photo by Laura

And presents for me as my birthday’s coming. Cake, too. That’s a good deal.

I nearly forgot the photo! Photo by Laura

Before the evening ends, the webmaster for our businesses stops by on his way home from a Boy Scout meeting. He has his amazingly adorable son–also Owen. Owen is one of the top popcorn salesmen for the Scouts–and it’s easy to see why when he starts his pitch. My fave is when his dad said he could get the key for the storage place, break in and get the forms. Dad, says Owen, how do you break in with a key?

I bought the 22 pack of microwave Movie Theater (extra butter!). It’s delicious.

A fun day, a quiet night, another morning workout, then mmmm breakfast. I’m not a breakfast eater but it’s hard to resist the offerings at the inn.

All in all a lovely reward.

Then back to work.

Thursday my perfection of a hairdresser comes to do my cut and color, give BW a trim, get Logan’s hair cut before he catches the bus for school. This time Logan has a picture of the cut he wants. Harold makes it so. The result is a seriously happy teenage boy. Handsome, too. 

Logan. Hair by Harold. Photo by Nana.

And back to work. Sticking hard with it to get it off to my agent and editor before I pack for a week in NYC. Another reward.

Flowers come–calla lilies. Every year I give myself the gift of flowers every month. It makes me happy, especially in the winter. 

The calla lilies in bloom. Photo by Nora.

Friday I make red sauce for pasta for Kayla our running girl. She has a meet on Saturday. Logan, however, is done with pasta every Friday and gets to pick the main meal. He wants Grandda’s flank steak, my roasted rosemary potatoes. 

Aforementioned potatoes. Photo by Nora

We make this so. And I get more cake!!

Saturday I pack, or mostly. Workout first, then figuring out what I need for a fall week in the city. And then–reward–I take the DVD of Wonder Woman BW gave me and gorge on it and Owen’s popcorn.

Today, Jason and Kat will be here for a foundation meeting and dinner. BW made extra flank steak with this in mind. I have to make more potatoes, and they went over pretty big on Friday night.

Tomorrow, finish packing–not much there–and start refreshing myself on the Chronicles Of The One trilogy before I start writing the final book.

Work and reward. It’s a nice balance. Reward yourself!

Nora

On contests and publishing and such

From Nora: I want to address the disappointment from countries not included in the contests and giveaways offered by St. Martin’s Press.

First, I understand that disappointment. The announcements are presented on my FB page–which is international so everybody hears about them. Those who can’t participate feel excluded. However, St. Martin’s Press is my US publisher. They don’t publish me in Europe or Asia or any other country/continent. The rules and regulations in individual countries are, well, individual. They’re often complicated and restrictive. My US publisher offers these contests to US readers.

Canada is sometimes included–but then there’s Montreal, which has really odd rules and regulations on contests that make it weird and complicated to deal with.

I know my publisher in the UK has held contests and give-aways in the past–for the UK. The US and countries outside the UK were not included. The same goes for other publishers in other countries.

It is not, absolutely not, a matter of me–or SMP–not valuing or appreciating readers world wide. It’s a matter of those rules, regulation and logistics.

I can’t control this. I can’t change this. I know more about foreign restrictions on contests that I’d like to at this point. I don’t understand them, at all, but I know about them. The fact remains, I write the books. That’s it. That’s all. I don’t publish them, schedule them–in the US or anywhere else. I can’t control the fact that some of my books either aren’t published in your particular country, or are released way, way after they are in the US. Obviously, I’d love to have all of my books published everywhere across the globe, and in a timely fashion. But I can’t make that happen.

The best thing to do, regarding contests and giveaways when you’re outside the US is to contact my publisher in your country. Ask them, let them know you’d participate if they’d hold a contest. I’m assuming the publisher in your country has a FB page or a website. If not, there should be contact information in the book.

All I can do is write the books. Laura works hard to let readers know about the books, when they’re coming–but she’s in the US, too. It’s hard for her to know when one of my books is due to be released in all the other countries in all the world.

SMP is my US publisher, and they’re doing a lot of fun and creative and generous things for readers. Hopefully, you can convince whoever publishes me in your country to do something fun for you.

Nora

A note from Laura:  We all understand — from Nora to the publishers to me — that every reader has a choice about the way in which they read a book.  Some prefer libraries.  Some love to listen to a book to alleviate a commute or a workout.  Some prefer the portability of an e-book and the ease of having an entire library in a device.  Some like to hold a book but need paperbacks.  Some want the hot-off-the-press hardcover.

No choice is wrong but publishers can’t accommodate all readers in all ways.  The hardcover is the biggest push for a publisher and as a thank you to readers who make the choice to read them, to pay a premium price, they’ve added some extras.  Extras that don’t work on an e-reader or in a paperback.  I realize that disappoints readers who don’t live here in the US or who read other editions.  And while I sympathize, it’s not going to change.

BTW, you love hardcovers and borrow from the library, ask your librarian to make a copy of the back of the cover before they do the library binding.  As someone has said: if you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

 

 

 

Being Home

Summer–my favorite season–is winding down. We’re approaching Mabon, the Autumn Equinox. With that fleeting balance of day and night, most harvesting’s done. My tomatoes sure are. My garden’s got the late summer shabbies though there are some pretty fabulous spots and corners of color and bloom still. Before much longer, I’ll be thinking about making soups, pulling on sweaters and boots.

A little fall color.
Brilliant pots.
Happy flowers.
Thriving nasturtium

So, I for one, am holding tight to these last wonderfully warm days.

We had a busy summer around here. Lots of work, lots of travel. And we capped it off with our annual summer party.

That meant the weekend after we returned from France, we had party prep to deal with (and that’s after unpacking, putting awaying, nose to the grindstoning on the book).

While Jason and BW spent hours on a rainy Saturday setting up outside–awnings, tables, chairs, food stations–Kat and I spent hours inside (with some assist from our Sarah) cooking, baking, chopping, stirring. I think, in one day, we made up for our couple of weeks on holiday with no cooking involved.

Kat brought France back by making the amazing dessert we call pie-cream-pie. Labor intensive, creative and absolutely delicious.

Pie-cream-pie a la Kat.
Fruit salad in Kat’s carved watermelon.

Fortunately, the rainy Saturday turned into a pretty Sunday for the party. Lots of people, lots of food and drink. And that’s a wrap for another summer.

With that wrap, the kids head back to school. Kayla’s back in cross-country training. Run, Kayla! And Logan grew TWO inches while we were in France. We’re now eye-to-eye.

And at last, one completely at-home weekend follows. Nowhere we need to go. BW and I both spent it doing chores around here. It felt wonderful to put the house and yard back in order. But that short spurt of–for me–domestic bliss–led up to this past weekend’s signing at Turn The Page.

I knew going in this would be a long one. We were lucky to host three writers (and personal friends) who rarely come to our area. Our stellar line-up included–in alpha order: Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Susan Wiggs. A nice bonus for me to be able to catch up with all of them. And since some 360 readers–give or take–came through the doors, I wasn’t wrong about the long one. Five and a half hours rates as long–for the writers and the readers.

Pre-signing pano
Nora has readers of every age.
Bottom row: Alisha Rai, Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora.
Middle row: Laura Treacey Bentley, Susan Wiggs, Kimberly Kincaid
Top: John Bede

Thanks to all who came to sign, to buy books, to be there, for their patience and fortitude.

Today, it’s warm and sunny–but I see one of the poplar trees out my window going yellow with September. I’ve tidied my house, done my workout (not easy to drag my butt out to my gym today!), and after I write this, I’m going to do exactly nothing for the rest of the day.

I want to add to anyone who’s had their lives and homes disrupted by Harvey or Irma, you’re all in my thoughts. I’ve been lighting candles for you, and will light one today before my nothing begins.

Nora

Note from Laura:  I came back from the beach to get to the signing. One last sunrise to hold me over until next year:

And in this week’s #randomkatness:

“May I help you?”

Year One Excerpt – Updated to include Chapter 2

Late last fall, Nora wrote a blog post about New Directions in which she shared the challenges and excitement of starting down a new path.  I watched from the peanut gallery as Nora sweated through writing Year One.  She’d share tiny bits and pieces of what was happening in the book so I first met the characters and situations through her verbal storytelling.

When I had an opportunity to read it in the spring, I nearly swallowed Year One in one gulp.   I remembered the verbal cues and would get to one, then press on for the next.  It’s an amazing start to the ride.

Now,  it’s time for you to get a first taste of the journey that starts December 5.  I’ve read comments from long time readers unhappy with the direction, wanting more traditional romance.  For those readers, I ask you to consider this:  relationships are the framework of this book and Nora’s approach to relationships is why you’ve read her for more than 30 years.  There’s enough familiar to balance the different so I encourage you to give it a try.  Borrow from the library if you’re not keen to invest in something unknown.  But try.

Edited 12/7/17 — Updated to include chapter two here.

Laura

In and Out

It rained a lot last week, and though the gray gets tiresome, I had a full week without leaving the house. Full work days without: Crap, I have to do this or go there.

That, for me, was pretty much heaven.

We did have a visitor one morning. BW found this stunned mourning dove–and afraid the dogs might go to town on it, brought it in to show me. Before he started back down, the dove pulled itself together, started to flap. So out it went, safe and sound.

And I broke a stupid crown, somehow or other.

Now, I’ll call the dentist office first thing in the morning, right before I leave for Kat’s birthday shopping trip and slumber party. We’ll see if the dentist can squeeze me in after that, and before we leave on Friday for Logan’s Excellent New York adventure.

Can’t believe my guy is thirteen.

So a crazy week coming after heaven, but much fun in there. Likely two more stints in the dentist chair, but what can you do?

After the week of work, workouts and rain, we had the sun shine for us on Saturday for the signing at Turn The Page. To my recollection, it’s the first time we’ve done a June signing, but Come Sundown’s hit the shelves, so we worked one in. We’ll still have our traditional anniversary signing in July, with the Fall Into The Story Brunch on the Sunday following the signing.

But for this past one, we had sunshine and nice temperatures–and an unexpected power outage in Boonsboro. That was interesting, and fortunately only lasted about an hour. The readers, authors and staff handled it all with patience and good humor.

Laura and I did a little Facebook Live chat–just a couple minutes, before everything got going. Maybe we’ll do another one when we’re in New York. Logan’s main wish is a trip to the Nike Store–the boy does love basketball shoes–but we also have tickets for a ballgame, plans to take him down to The Flatiron, maybe take a stroll on the Highline, eat pizza–and just give him a fun, Logan-centric time in the big city.

I need to pack for our Kat-centric overnight (Girl Fun!), but I treated myself to a walk around the gardens–without the work this weekend as I have too much else to see to–and clearly the flowers enjoyed all that rain.

Dianthus and lobelia
Impatiens in the barrel
First tomato!
Johnny-Jump-Ups pushing through one of the walkways

I expect I’ll be in the dentist chair one day this week, then it’s pack for Logan’s trip–with, I hope, at least a little writing time in there.

Nora

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