The day Nora and family headed home from Montana, I moved my office to the beach for three weeks. While Nora settled back into her at-home routine, I’d pick up where I left off last year. And start with the sunrise:
Our little place is right on the ocean with steps down to the beach. My favorite part of the outdoor space is the spot at the top of the dune with chairs and a view.
The days at the beach have a basic framework: sunrise watch, work, workout, work, end the afternoon with a book* and a cold drink, watch night fall after dinner. Since I’m not my pal Nora, I head to the nearby Y to workout with other members of humanity. Just before we got here I was released from the post-eye-surgery workout restrictions and I needed to bench press something heavy and sweat through spin.
Two days in, I had the happiest email from Nora. The grandkids came up for dinner the night after they returned for a joyous reunion. Nora swore Logan grew another inch as he swooped toward 9th grade, Kayla had three weeks of cross country practices under her belt and Colt was ready to discuss all the books he’d read in the last three weeks. She spent time in the gardens, baked some bread, shook off the travel fatigue and couldn’t wait until Monday to get in some solid work on In Death #49.
Labor Day meant our kids arrived for the holiday weekend while Nora and BW packed up again for a week in NY. I think I mentioned it’s early this year to clear the decks for Master Yet-to-be-Named Wilder Pong Aufdem-Brinke’s arrival.
The NYC reports included days of hiking in search of remaining Christmas gifts. On a trip to find a new puzzle for Kat, Nora stopped by the Fifth Ave Barnes & Noble on Leverage in Death release day. She surprised (and thrilled) the staff there by signing stock. They shared on all their social media here. I shared it on the various Nora/JD social media as well.
I missed the annual shop and theater trip with Nora’s agent and editor, but Leslie kept me in the loop with photos of footwear Nora found. They saw Waitress, but I’ve yet to hear a review.
In the meantime, I kept to routine.
Nora heads home tomorrow and, other than baby showers, baby arrivals and signings will happily stay put until after Halloween. I have a few more days here, then head home Thursday so I’ll be at Nora’s side at the TTP signing next Saturday.
All signs point to mid-week as the best time to leave because after 18 days with no rain, Florence lurks in the Atlantic:
In the meantime, I’ll watch a couple more sunrises and breathe in the salt air.
* I also read Nalini Singh’s Rebel Hard, Illona Andrew’s Magic Rises and Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians.
I expect one last Montana wrap up post in my inbox today or tomorrow. (There were 20 new photos in the shared album when I got up this morning — the usual indication of a great day.) But since our intrepid travelers gather their gear and head east today while I move Control Central from Maryland to the beach this is a quick break.
Nora could stick to her habit and write up the post before they leave, but I’ll be on the road for six hours starting at 10 am my time so the likelihood of a Montana Day 17 post is tomorrow.
While it’s hard to get over post vacation blues, the fall swings into action with Leverage in Death (and Nora’s fall trip to NY) and doesn’t stop until Of Blood & Bone is in your hands. And, of course, in between the two we’ll meet Young Master Pong Aufdem-Brinke.
I’ll pop in with some beach photos over the next few weeks along with regular updates on books and such. If you’re curious about what I do when Nora’s not around you can follow me on Instagram here. BTW, don’t forget we now have official IG accounts: Nora Roberts and JD Robb. I’m having great fun regramming readers photos of books and where they read them on both pages.
Plus, coming really, really soon: the Of Blood & Bone excerpt.
See you on the beach side! (I’ll be working in the chair to the right.)
Hello from The Greenbrier! This is your friendly Cranky Publicist checking in to assure you all that Nora is alive and well — just finishing a book.
Last summer I noticed moving the “big” book (i.e., Come Sundown, Shelter in Place) from spring to summer meant instead of finishing before summer travel, Nora’s fitting in the finish while traveling. (Remember, she likes to be a year ahead of a release date.)
So what’s new? Well it was my birthday last week. And I’m having cataract surgery next month…
What’s that? You want to know about Nora?
The theme of Nora’s summer is Stop then Go.
After the Kayla’s trip to NYC, Nora had about a week of work before heading off on the annual family trip to the spa. One highlight was group painting night. Fascinating to see how everyone interpreted the picture, isn’t it?
Post-spa, Nora had four days of work before her and BW’s annual summer barbeque. I drove up the day before to serve as line cook and pot washer. I shelled 3 dozen hard-boiled eggs for deviled eggs, while Kayla made the trifle.
Nora? Oh she was there too.
Last week, Nora put in another solid four days on the book before she had to break to pack for our week at Greenbrier. Normally it’s an easy pack but she spent one day of the week shooting video for St. Martin’s Press, so she had to come up with wardrobe for Nora and for JD. She sacrificed a work day because the weekend was devoted to the Turn the Page Anniversary signing.
In another nod to classic writing at the TTP anniversary signing, Barbara Delinskey and Linda Howard visited the store and many happy readers.
You’ll see my reaction to Linda here:
We met sisters and cousins and moms thrilled to be together. Groups of sisters of the heart traveled to Maryland, including this Drink Therapy group from Chicago.
Despite rain setting in halfway through, the energy remained upbeat and excited for the entire 4 hours.
The next day was the Fall Into the Story brunch at Vesta. Nora picked five readers to sit at her table from the bag of raffle tickets then everyone else filled in spaces. I stopped at all the tables to chat, then came back with Nora for more chat and photos.
The brunch culminates in a raffle of baskets from Nora, Turn the Page, Gifts Inn BoonsBoro and Inn BoonsBoro. This year, the raffle raised over $1300 for Set The Stage – a non profit chosen by the Nora Roberts Foundation.
And then we came to The Greenbrier.
Yesterday’s shoot went very smoothly. I can’t show much but these are snaps I put on Instagram.
After Nora finished, we did a quick Facebook Live, then meandered out to watch the Houston Texans arrive for training camp. Nora could not care less about football, but she came along for the walk. Then we paused for a selfie in front of the cameras set up for a press conference with the Texans GM, and the NFL Networks James Palmer joined the snap.
The rest of the week, Nora will go through the final draft of the July 2019 book in the mornings, I’ll catch up with my own work and then we’re off to hang out with our friends.
Once back and after Kayla’s Sweet 16 party, Nora has a solid week of work before she, Bruce, Jason and Kat set off for Montana. Travelogues will again be the order of the day for a couple of weeks next month. Though as I mentioned above and on Facebook Live, I’m having cataract surgery on both eyes, a week apart in August. There may be a delay or two because of recovery, but I plan to keep things moving smoothly while Nora’s in Montana.
And that’s all the Nora updates fit to print.
One last order of business: Five lucky readers will win an advance reader copy of Leverage in Death at the end of St. Martin’s Press new sweepstakes. All the details here: Leverage in Death ARC sweepstakes.
The abbreviated rules of the contest: No purchase necessary. Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C. who are age 18 or older and of the legal age of majority. Entry period begins at 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) on July 16, 2018 and ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on July 29, 2018. Void where prohibited. For full Official Rules, visit https://read.macmillan.com/promo/leverageindeatharcsweeps18. Sponsored by St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
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 Citypost, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.