Did you even doubt I’d miss the FUN (!?!) of spa week? I ended up trading my view of this:
and choice of activities like this:
About 24 hours after getting home, I walked into tea time at the spa and stories of the first 48 hours without me.
Nora bestowed a welcome-to-the-spa boon: a competition free first night. I know the real reason: Kat (the most beloved person in her world) wouldn’t arrive until Saturday so we would do the first round together. But I’ll take the stay of competition.
(Random flowers to celebrate.)
Saturday dawned busy with a workout, conversation, whiskey in my oatmeal (a thing I saw at Ashford), conversation and treatments. Kat arrived, bearing with her the hat she made to wear for the Derby in two weeks.
Yes, she made it. We knew she’s clever, but this hat outdid every expectation. So much so, I made everyone try it on.
And then. And then.
I WON a round of Just Dance. And a prize. The magic of Ireland may carry me through.
Then a round of Scrabble brought me right back to Earth.
Once I conquer the jet lag, I’ll fill you in a bit more. But a good start, don’t you think?
I’m sure you all wonder about the truest harbinger of Spring in these parts: Girls Spa Week. When does it take place? When will all that girl energy flood the posts?
When will Laura have to play games??? (It’s ok to admit that’s what you really want to know.)
The timing is a bit different this year and the fun (is It? Really?) starts this Wednesday. From all reports Nora spent the weekend in the garden and packing. But what of our lovable 2-time Biggest Loser?
Well, I’ve run away. I put an ocean between us and have been in Ireland since just after Easter. I’m scheduled to get home Thursday, do a ton of laundry and then join in the fun (definition – noun: enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure.Really????) on Friday. Do you realize how far behind I’ll be?
I went to Donegal for a photo workshop. I visited family in Sligo and Galway. I lifted pints of Smithwicks – more than one. And did the same with Jameson. Now why would I ever want to leave?
Since I trust you al to keep a secret, I’ll just say that Ashford Castle will be the testing ground . It’s our last stop and considering the FUN (definition – adj: amusing, entertaining, or enjoyable) activities that await, I may never leave.
The weather reports called for 60s–and heading toward 70 last week.
It stayed stubbornly in the 50s (if it got there at all) except for one brief, fleeting afternoon, dipping down into the 30s at night. And it rained. It rained again. It rained some more.
But this morning, there’s actual sun instead of gloom. A chilly weekend–again–as we roll toward April, but the sun helps.
Meanwhile my tulip magnolia’s starting to get frisky, showing some pink. Wait! I tell it just wait or you’ll get fried again this year. I hope it listens.
Despite the rain, chill, gloom, we had a fine time last weekend dying eggs with the kids. We tried the shaving cream trick this year–next year Cool Whip because yum. This was a big hit with all–so easy, and messy in a totally fun way. If you haven’t seen this trick, there’s nothing to it. Using a glass baking dish, squirt about an inch of shaving cream (not shaving gel) or spoon Cool Whip into it. Smooth it out, drip food coloring–a couple shades–then using a toothpick and draw horizontal then vertical lines through it. You’re going to want plastic gloves, trust me!
Roll your hard boiled eggs through the cream, set them aside on some cardboard or whatever. Let them dry about ten minutes, and gently wipe with a paper towel.
We used a couple of dishes for more variety of color. Much pleasure in the results.
After egg fun–and kids playing (even teenagers) in the left-over goop–we had family dinner. Jason and Kat came up so a nice gang for our early Easter. My lasagna and garlic bread–I baked Italian bread the day before. A big salad.
Who needs dessert when you have marshmallow Peeps and chocolate?
The weekend before, I braved the outside world to attend the photo exhibit at the inn. A terrific afternoon, so many gorgeous photos of Ireland, and beautifully displayed. Add a little champagne, friendly faces, and it’s a pretty good way to break hibernation.
Congratulations to all the artists! (Especially, of course, BW and Laura.)
This weekend, as March slides into April–and happy Ostara, Easter, Passover–I’m going to burrow in yet again, make some soup since the 60s are still a lovely dream.
But first I’m going to work out, and tell my magnolia to hit the snooze button.
Some of you may be aware we had a bit of a tangle on the Dark In Death Discussion thread last week. A reader had strong (very) objections to the word skank as used to describe women Eve and Peabody warned about possible danger.
I don’t want to get more specific on the plot itself as some of you may not have read the book.
However, I will say, in this case, one of the women the reader sees in interview is wearing cock and ball earrings. The other has Sexy Bitch tattooed over her well-displayed chest. They are, basically, party girl groupies looking for the next score–sex, drugs, action. Whatever.
Peabody uses the term.
The reader had many objections–terrible to denigrate women (such terms are NEVER used to describe men)–cops would never use such terms (she included skirt and sidepiece in this claim) as they would be ‘raked over the coals’ for doing so. And it was her opinion as I wrote the book, I am therefore sexist and should correct this in the future.
Well, bullshit on all counts.
First, as I pointed out–pretty politely at first–I am not my characters nor are they me. And cop talk is cop talk. I also reminded her that a recurring sub-character is nicknamed Dickhead.
Not good enough–even when a couple of other posters who have some experience working or being around cops explained that yeah, cops talk to other cops in often harsh shorthand.
The reader escalated, got very personal and rude–not only to me at the end, but to other posters–until Laura had to step in, tell her she’d crossed all kinds of lines, and banned her.
First, I’ll say Laura doesn’t take banning a reader lightly. It has to be extreme, and this was.
It occurred to me during this incident, that the particular reader obviously didn’t get one of the main points of the book–from the perspective of the character whose books are being used to plot. murders.
This is fiction. This is a story. We who write try very hard to craft entertaining stories with compelling, interesting characters. We’re not writing about ourselves when we write fiction, and the actions, dialog, internalization, motivations of those characters must fit those characters. Not those of the person writing the story.
Just to take Eve Dallas as an example:
I love to shop; she hates it. She drinks gallons of coffee; I don’t drink it at all. She has a cat; I have dogs. Shoes for her are something you walk in. For me, shoes are . . . pretty much everything. I’ve never been in a physical fight–and hope that continues.
I could go on and on.
Part of the fun of writing is creating people, and the writer may have little in common with those people. Their worldviews may or may not mesh. Their backgrounds are very unlikely to.
Some readers may project the writer into the character, but that doesn’t make it true.
Moreover, it’s always struck me as very strange that certain readers will ask, insist even demand that I write what they want, or stop writing what they don’t.
You must stop using the word fuck! People don’t talk that way.
First do you live in the actual world? Second I’ll use whatever word I like as you’re not the boss of me. And more to the point, if my characters use this very versatile word, it’s because THEY’RE using it.
Your books have too much sex. Your books need more sex.
My books have the amount of sex that I, as the writer, feels suits the story and the characters having sex.
You need to go back to writing nice, sweet romance.
No. I need to write what I’m driven to write.
I’m sending you this religious pamphlet because you use the name of the Lord in vain, and I’m worried about your immortal soul.
Thank you for the thought, and maybe you shouldn’t read my books.
You write about witchcraft so I believe you’ve embraced Satan.
(Yes, all the above are true stories.)
Does a reader honestly believe I’m going to read one of these posts, emails, letters and say: OH! Sue in Tulsa doesn’t want any swearing in my books. No more swearing for my characters!
Or I won’t write about fictional witches because I’m suddenly afraid I’ve invited Satan into my life?
These readers don’t know me, and yet feel perfectly righteous about telling me I’m immoral or sexist or an animal hater (killed a fictional cat in a book once) or whatever their personal values dictate.
Laura gets most of this–and recently got an all-caps rant on my language, which included a slam at Diana Gabledon for using fuck in her books. Which the raging reader claimed hadn’t been invented by the time of Outlander (which she called Highlander in the screed). Well, as Laura said, she supposed the reader had never read Chaucer whose work well precedes the Jacobite Rebellion.
Readers don’t get to dictate. They don’t get a vote. They have tremendous power–to buy or not, to read or not. The reader who provided the springboard for this blog claimed that since she’d read the book, she had the right to critique it, and obviously all I wanted was constant praise.
Well, I’d rather get praised than slammed. Human here. Yet over three decades I’ve somehow managed to shoulder mixed or poor reviews, or handle readers’ individual complaints.
However, reading the book doesn’t give anyone the right to hurl personal insults at the writer of the book. That’s not a critique on the work.
Let me add that the fall back–you just want constant praise–is the often-used blast that usually comes when the person’s losing an argument.
It should be a clue when a reader is alone in an opinion in a group of other readers, when reasonable responses have been given. Instead of buying the clue, this type of person then hurls those insults at everyone.
And honestly, when one claims I’m sexist and need to knock it off because a cop character in a story uses the term to describe women whom I deliberately crafted to earn the designation, I tend to believe that particular reader is a little scary.
I know perfectly well some will read this and be insulted–claim I’m disrespectful to readers. But I don’t push readers into one lump. You are not the Borg. And some individuals who happen to read need to learn to separate reality from fiction. And need to understand my world–personally and professionally–doesn’t revolve around their demands.
To end this on a happier note, I spent yesterday in the kitchen (catch Eve doing that!). I made a couple of rounds of sour dough bread, which I’ll freeze as I made a pretty amazing beef stew with dumplings.
Leftovers tonight! So my afternoon will include reading someone else’s book.
Note from Laura: As Department Head of Answering Letters, I see a lot of fascinating messages. There are the ones that move — loving stories about readers and the people in their live, for example the widower who reads the In Deaths because Eve reminds him of his wife, or the people who share how reading brought them closer to family members, or how just reading one of Nora/JD’s titled helped a reader out of a morass of depression because she saw a woman of strength in that book.
As the Department Head of Reading Complaints, I see all the examples Nora listed above. With a few extra thrown in like “I’ll show you! I’ll borrow your books from the library!!!” As a daughter of a librarian, sales to libraries are golden for an author so I just smile and wish them well. Recently, a woman complained on behalf of herself, her mother, her sister, their hairdresser and other assorted people (many of these come in from the group spokesperson) about Year One and how they just didn’t like it and all agree Nora should write happier books. When I replied that maybe they’ve just outgrown Nora and should stop reading her for a while she came back with “You’re telling me NOT to buy Nora’s books???” Well, yes. Borrow them, give yourself a break. How does it serve anyone’s purpose for you to set yourself up to be miserable?
I’ve taken to charting when the standard complaints come in. Around a full moons I see a rise in language complaints. There are two full moons this month, so I’m extra braced.
Recently there’s been an uptick in emails like this one: “Please stop showing so much of your boobs on morning television. My 12 year old son is in the room and he doesn’t need to see it.”
She meant to write to Norah O’Donnell of CBS The Morning. But I had a good laugh thinking of our Nora flashing the nation on morning TV. And then I sent a correction.
I don’t know why this month’s always so difficult. Okay winter, but it’s short. It should be easy.
But we have ice on the lane, ice on the patio, dogs who don’t want to be outside more than five minutes. Who can blame them? We have cold. We have gloom. Then how about some more gloom? With some ice and sleet and whatever else February wants to toss down.
Then we have Thursday. Suddenly it’s sixty degrees. I hear birds celebrating. I don’t get outside myself for long, but when I do, it’s ahhhh. Between the rain and the sudden warm, the ice is just a bad memory.
Then Saturday happens. Gloom is back, and cold. And let’s just throw in some snow. It wouldn’t be such a thing, except psychotic February gave us Thursday. Why?
So due to snow, and the fact my guy’s coming home, I spent most of snowy Saturday in the kitchen. Pasta e fagioli sounds good, and the traveler’s very fond of my sour dough pretzel rolls.
It’s a nice way for me to spend a February day, and it’ll be good to see my guy again. Even though . . . this is my kitchen counter without a man in the house, even after making soup and bread.
And this is my kitchen counter after BW.
It soothes my double Libra soul to have the tidy. Clutter and chaos just bring on a underlying stress I mostly ignore because, well, life and I do share that life and the house with a male.
I’ve always shared life and houses with males. A father and four brothers. A husband and two sons. I happen to know not all men are messy, but mostly the ones who aren’t don’t live in my little world.
The offset here, other than I actually love my man, is someone else will go outside on the frigid mornings to feed the dogs, take out the trash and recycling. That same someone will plow the snow off the lane. That someone will do the dishes after I cook, even if he appears to be genetically incapable of cleaning off the counters or stovetop.
Note to BW: (A few swipes with a questionable dishcloth is not cleaning off.)
Still, February’s more than half over. I don’t wish time away–ever–but that doesn’t mean I can’t think about spring while I’m looking out at my snowy woods. It’ll be harder to take when they’re forecasting close to 70s later in the week.
Psychotic February. You just have to take it as it comes.
Cranky Publicist note (or…And Now something different):
As the winter yang to Nora’s winter yin — in the summer we reverse — I must speak up for those of us who go outdoors in the cold months. While I’m grateful on the truly miserable days to work in a home office, I need to put on layers and get outside at least once a week to breathe and reset.
The rewards abound: I found gorgeous blue skies and ice sculptures in Frederick. Roses under sulky gray skies in NYC. Reds and golds and dragons in NYC’s Chinatown to celebrate the dawn of the Year of the Dog.
Summer will be here way too quickly (the mid-week forecast is closer to 80 in my elevation — yikes!) for my thick blood, while Nora will embrace the warmth with thanks and celebration. (And WHY does the summer contain TWO months with 31 days? The winter haters get February. I want a February.)
And yet, the seasons will turn and we’ll each have our moments in the sun.
Happy 2018 to our Fall into The Story family! While I’m here daily to review the comments — mainly about Year One — and keep some general order, it’s been a while since the last original post.
While she’ll fill you in when she has a moment, I can report that Nora and family had a busy Christmas and another crowded-to-the-rafters New Year’s open house. (I had to give that a pass as I never quite got over a germs that stayed in place since Thanksgiving.) Once she restored the house to order, Nora went directly back to work on her plan to finish the first draft of a new book before the January spa trip.
Did you have any doubt she met that goal? Don’t you know our Nora by now?
My husband and I met up with Nora and BW last Monday at a game-free, scoreboard-less spa. I resolutely ignored the mantel over the fireplace — the resting spot for the scoreboard — the entire time. I know the FITS family waits with bated breath to see if I can be the Biggest Loser three years running, but April is still a season away. I can wait.
I’m home now, Nora is back at her desk tomorrow. For the first time, ever, she wrote after her morning workout and before the afternoon spa treatment during the January trip. (This is the usual November schedule, but she’s determined to finish the current WIP in order to take the annual winter trip to see Eve and Roarke. I think we can all agree with that motivation.)
Next weekend the 2018 room by room, drawer by drawer purge starts. And Nora will get back to her winter pattern of work, bread, soup, clearing.
In other news:
The Year One conversation continues on Facebook. Since that’s a spoiler-free zone you may notice an influx of new readers to this space looking to chat about Year One. Welcome!
In important news:
The Of Blood & Bonerelease– book 2 in The Chronicles of The One — is now a week later: December 4, 2018. The final book will be out the first week in December 2019.
In Death news:
Here’s the TV ad for Dark in Death — out on January 30:
DID_WEB_011018 (1) (2)
And here’s some St. Martin’s Press artwork about DiD:
Inside the Dark in Death US/Canada hardcover is a 3-D image. This is a sample with a little message — I can’t read these, I’m way too nearsighted — but I do know what it says. *
In future news:
If you subscribe to Nora’s News (you’ll find the sign up box at the bottom of any page on either website) — the next issue includes an excerpt of June’s Shelter in Place.
If you are so inclined to read them, the Dark in Death teaser thread opens on Monday, January 22.
Talk to you soon!
*I will tell you what it says if you ask in the comments.
When last we met, Nora was home from work, ready to dive into a brand new book after a wonderful week in NYC. I stayed for a couple more days — mainly to take photos like this one:
but in the end, we each settled into routine back home. And routine is important, but not necessarily glamorous, so I’ll share some highlights:
Kayla finished 6th in the Washington County Cross Country meet last week. The week before, she placed in the to 20 of a large cross county meet that featured small and large schools. States are up next!
On October 17, we debuted the cover of the 2018 hardcover, Shelter in Place on Facebook:
I’ll create a separate thread for that book early in 2018.
This weekend was the Turn the Page Halloween signing and one of us went all out. One of us wore her Cranky Publicist pin. <g> When I walked into the house to drive to the signing, I called out “Hello!” but didn’t receive an answer. I turned into the kitchen, and there Nora was, in all her glory. I just laughed and took the photo.
The TTP staff gets into the spirit and in a moment of rare synchronicity, one of the Kims wore a costume in direct contrast to Nora’s. I said they channeled the late 1970s since Nora was CBGB and Kim was Studio 54.
Then there was BW:
And Kayla stopped by after practice with some of her teammates:
Which brings us to today. Nora’s back at the keyboard, I’m working on adding the recent FB posts here on the blog.
Much more to come as the weeks speed by until Year One is in your hands.
No, wait! Here’s some extra special #randomkatness. She just became an aunt and created this reversible baby blanket for her niece as a nod to their Hawaiian roots. Isn’t it stunning?
We arrive on Tues, to summer in October weather. After unpacking, our initial group—me, BW, Jason, Laura—hit the streets and the shops. I have an agenda every October trip, and that’s to get as close as possible to finishing my Christmas shopping as I can.
Get a good start on that agenda before it’s time for drinks, and a room service night.
Up early Wednesday, get a good workout in. BW and Laura, too. We’re having an Employee Fitness Challenge through our Fit In BoonsBoro back home. Fun stuff! BW and Laura get points walking a mile together. More shopping, more checks on that Christmas list. Jason and I have our own little FitBit competition, and while he’s usually 20-30k steps ahead of me, when we travel, I catch up. And hah, am am now in the lead.
Wall sits with drinks - aka multi-tasking. Photo by j a-b.
Lunch at a favorite pub, more shopping, and back home here where BW and Laura do their daily workout challenges together. Hysterical wall-sits (with alcohol) push-ups (and Laura’s wearing a dress for this one) squats, lunges. I get to watch as I did all that much earlier in the day.
Dinner’s a pleasant walk, then pizza.
Laura’s husband’s coming up, so she moves out of our space and into her own. We have a girl shopping annual tradition with my agent and editor. Kat usually joins us, but she has stuff so won’t be up until late Thursday afternoon.
So good to see my NY pals—and my editor brings the finished cover for Year One. OMG!! It’s just fabulous.
More shopping, a fun, light lunch when the guys join us. Then a little more shopping. I am hitting my agenda, and hitting it hard!
Back to the hotel as we have an early dinner—and here’s Kat!! We’re eating early because we’re going to see Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly. The Divine Miss M. Bette. I’m thrilled at the idea of seeing one of my icons on stage.
We walk to the restaurant—just gorgeous weather—have a wonderful meal, then walk to the theater. I’m not surprised the performance is sold out. It’s Bette.
As much as I anticipated this, the reality exceeded. Aside from Bette (for the moment) the costumes, the lighting, the choreography, the chemistry, the voices, the whole works is just stupendous.
Now add Bette. And stupendous doesn’t cover it. When she first walks on stage, the house explodes. She’s tiny and glorious, and obviously having the time of her life. In turn she gives us the time of ours. Then there’s David Hyde Pierce, whom I adore. I’ve seen him on stage before, and he’s just as marvelous this time around.
The Hello Dolly number brings the house to its feet. The applause goes on and on for her solos. This is what’s meant by bringing down the house.
I’ve seen a lot of wonderful, memorable, fabulous shows on Broadway. Nothing beats this.
Friday—after workout—Kat, Laura and I head out. Girl time, and more good shopping.
Laura’s guy is off with some of his NY pals, BW’s having lunch with a couple of his, and Jason’s doing the same. Laura peels off so Kat and I walk downtown to meet our men for the new Blade Runner movie in IMAX.
Cool! Intense! Fun!
The long walk back, and room service. Laura and her guy have dinner and a show on their schedule.
Kat has to leave early Saturday morning so I say bye to my girl, get in my workout (still in the FitBit lead!). Jason has an errand, Laura and her guy have brunch with their daughter (Clare works in NY). BW’s arranged a photo shoot with a model in our triplex.
I have some specific type items on my agenda—and need to pick up the new glasses I got after my eye exam here on Wednesday. I promise to check my phone often so I can hook up with Jason and Laura.
On the street I see a gorgeous young woman wearing a man’s white dress shirt—mid-thigh—over-the-knee gray suede stiletto boots, a beret and big sunglasses. She looks amazing.
Jason’s errand’s done quick, so we text back and forth until we meet on the street. And he becomes my Sherpa. Head to hotel to dump bags, text Laura. Her guy’s meeting some of his old classmates, so she and Clare will hang with us while Jason and I have lunch.
Back to our favorite pub.
Clare heads off, and we head to The Gap—Laura and I both have specific wants here, and pretty much satisfy them. Then there’s the UGG store. I wasn’t looking for myself there—Kayla likes the classic tall UGGS—but found a pair of boots I couldn’t live without.
Oh, and sneakers in a deep orchid color—so light, so comfortable!
When we get back, BW’s about finished with his shoot, so we rest our busy feet and have a drink. We’re walking over to 9th for Italian for dinner. (Laura’s dh is having a fine time with his classmates.)
Long walk, but this weather! Good wine, great food, fun companions, and good service.
We meet up with Laura’s Mark after dinner, hang out in our suite awhile. I want to watch SNL, but conk.
Up early today, solid, cross-training workout. Then rest of our group is off to the Jets game (Laura and Mark are major Jets fans.) I bid them goodbye, clean myself up, and decide to walk uptown to Bloomie’s to hit that agenda again.
Do just fine, walk back, hit another shop. The housekeeper’s still dealing with our space when I get back. I see her once or twice a year, so we chat a little.
I show her a picture of Kayla on FB—who had her FIRST DATE last night. Homecoming. Oh, so beautiful, my girl. And she’s going with Handsome Henry. The housekeeper and I talk about how she’s just so grown up.
It’s lovely to come back to this same place year after year, because it adds such comfort to know the people who work here. I tell her I’ll see her in June when Kayla has her NY trip (just weeks before her SIXTEENTH!!!! Birthday).
Now on this Sunday in NY, I’ll finish this blog, which Laura will post after they get back. I hope the Jets are kicking it (not a football girl myself). I’m going to pour a drink, get my book and kick back instead of kicking it, for a bit.
We plan to head downtown tomorrow—have pizza, shop. Then we’ll see what we do for our last night in the city.
I love New York, I really do. The things you see, hear, the way it feels and moves. It’s so opposite where I make my home. So it’s nice to spend some time here, knowing my dogs, my quiet, my routine waits for me.
Notes from Laura: very sad to report that the Jets lost, but my photo of me and my husband was on the huge scoreboard, so that was fun.
We saw War Paint with Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole which was marvelous starting with this curtain in front of the stage. We’ll stay an extra day and see Donna Murphy play Dolly on Tuesday night.
I don’t want to lose touch this fall so on those weekends Nora doesn’t share a blog post, I’l share updates.
The adventurers arrived home safely on August 27. Word is that Nora got home, minimally unpacked, napped for a bit, then watched the Game of Thrones season finale. She had to do this because I’d have whined at her to catch up. since we share our GoT thoughts every Monday. (We loved the finale, btw.)
Then I left town for a long-planned working vacation at the beach with my husband. We’ve had the usual mix of Outer Banks weather and since I get up to watch the sunrise, I work early so I can have cocktails on the beach in the afternoon.
Nora adjusted to the time, dove back into the current WIP (an In Death, as we all know) for three days before it was time to prepare for the annual summer barbeque. I’m afraid she was short one sous chef (me) but I hear the party was a success. And Kat sent me a photo of her amazing watermelon carving for the fruit salad.
Once the Labor Day weekend was over, I hit my beach stride. Nora hit the manuscript. What can I say? We each have our priorities.
And, of course, September 6 brought Secrets In Death release day. The conversation continues on this thread.
On Wednesday, September 7, we shared the brand new author photo for Year One on all social media. Isn’t it amazing?
I shared a couple of quotes on Facebook.
As well as a great review of Secrets in Death on Criminal Element (don’t forget to click on the fun GIFnotes tour of Secrets).
Then suddenly, it was Friday and the end of the week and we knew readers were facing adversity in so many places — recovering from Harvey, preparing for Irma, breathing in ash from western fires — and we wished everyone a safe weekend.
Hope you had exactly that.
PS. Kat agreed to continuing with the #randomkatness, but only if I curated the photos and wrote the captions. I agreed.