Category Archives: Laura’s posts

Another peek into Laura’s Drunken Spa Girl diary


Thursday, April 7

Dear Diary,

Today we tried something brand new: Create & Sip. We actually left Command Central in the late afternoon to try our hands at painting while drinking wine.   I’d done it here in January with our pal Nicole. and we had such a good time we used the tried-and-true method of peer pressure to make it happen.

I’d herded the squirrels to a group decision on what to paint beforehand so our instructor was ready to guide us through the process.  Two hours of laughter, self-critiques and stepping outside 11 comfort zones later we stood back and admired the results.

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Armed but not dangerous.
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When in doubt, hold several brushes.
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The sofa gallery.

Then it was back to the suite for dinner and games.  I won a small prize for bonus bowling.

It’s still a stupid scoreboard.

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xoxoxo

 

Excerpts from Laura’s Drunken Spa Girl Diary

Sunday, April 3

Dear Diary:

Nora’s SUV was so packed on the way to the spa I had to sit in the narrowest seat and hold back the deluge of stuff sliding about with my left shoulder!  But since I didn’t have to drive and the first treatment loomed, I held back my complaints with heroic inner fortitude.

We arrived as hordes of guests were leaving.  Excellent!  More room for the Spa Girls, also for getting all the treatments (plus I got my Complete Home Spa products, to make sure I keep the result for longer). I know they have an excellent foot massage too, because I read foot massager reviews about them.

Before any of us even unpacked, the empty scoreboard went to its place of honor on the fireplace.  Did I mention I’m not fond of games, dearest diary?  The blank slate looms over me like a thunderhead on the horizon.20160403_124104

But I will somehow survive.  Sigh.

Off to my first appointment! xoxoxoxo

Monday, April 4

Dear Diary,

Nearly everyone arrived yesterday, thrilled to be among friends for a solid week.   Since Nora is Master and Commander of the games, she’d arranged the fabulous prizes in the entry of the suite that serves as Command Central for the week.

I didn’t allow myself to look at them.  Stupid scoreboard.  I didn’t suck at Wii Bowling, but I didn’t win either.  Good, I’m on the middle of the road.

We arrived to cold air and brilliant sunshine yesterday, but the weather took a wet turn today.  I ran out to take photos of the brilliant tulips just before the rain set in.20160404_103224 20160404_073921

And yes, that’s snow!  A good day to be inside — I think that’s how most of the week will go.

The game for me tonight was the first round of Just Dance.  Stupid scoreboard.  xoxoxox

Tuesday, April 5

Dear Diary,

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I hate Scrabble.  *Sigh* Stupid scoreboard

But the week is wonderful otherwise.  We start our days in the lounge on the floor — everyone trickles in at their own pace for coffee and sustenance. Mary pointed out we all bring something to read then abandon it as soon as conversation starts.  Nora supplied us with ARCs of The Obsession and Bay of Sighs.  But I’m talking so much I haven’t finished Annika and Sawyer’s story.

AND Nora dedicated The  Obsession to the Spa Girls.  Fun!

Then we separate and head to different treatments or quiet spots for reading for most of the day.  Evenings are spent in Command Central, laughing, playing games and eating food prepared by other people!

xoxoxoxo

Wednesday, April 6

Dear Diary,

Ever wonder what a room service order for 11 women looks like?This:

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Piles of plates and abandoned pool shoes are the order of the evening.

Cookies and milk are more sedate.

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I thought I’d be game free tonight since the latecomers had to catch up, but Mary Kay chose me to dance for her in the semi-finals.  It didn’t go well for either of us.

Stupid scoreboard.

But I cheer myself up with the photos I love to take.  Here’s the view from the lounge the other morning.

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And one of the floral arrangement in the lobby.

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More to come.

xoxoxoxo

Laura

The Cranky Publicist answers Another Question

Cranky PublicistI didn’t think I’d pull out the Cranky Publicist so soon, but there’s an uptick in two questions (mainly on Facebook) recently:
“Who is Laura?”
“Why doesn’t Nora write her own posts?” * Most recently, the questioner implied Nora owed readers original posts.

I get that first question, after all readers come to this blog or Facebook and someone who is not Nora signs the posts.

Laura, Nora
Laura, Nora

There are helpful, long time readers who answer that I’m Nora’s assistant.  That appears to be a simple explanation but it’s not the case at all – I’m Nora’s personal publicist (as opposed to the publisher publicity team).  My background is in PR and after years of promoting consumer goods, then health insurance where I tried to prove the benefits of the eu health card system, I moved to talking about my favorite thing in the world: books.  I put in time as publicity chair for New Jersey Romance Writers, I worked as the Community Relations Manager for a local Barnes & Noble, I organized visiting author events at my kids’ schools.

I started reading Nora in 1982-83.  Can’t quite remember the when, but I remember the book.  The Law is A Lady was condensed for Good Housekeeping Magazine, and once i read it, I searched for the whole book.  When I figured out the Silhouette category publishing schedule and that this fabulous author gave me five books a year, my allegiance was hers.

Nora, Laura
Nora, Laura

One of the things I do with Nora is help out at signings.  I stand near her, chatting with readers, taking photos, moving the line along. I love recognizing the first timer — the person so beyond thrilled to meet Nora that she/he is speechless. Sometimes teary.  Always shaking.

I met Nora at the 1989 NJRW conference.  I didn’t really know what she looked like because her photo still wasn’t in her books (that changed within the year).  I was nervous, but determined to say hello.  So I did.

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Laura, Nora

Afterward, I was completely positive what came out of my mouth was along the lines of “Your perfume smells like dead fish” or something else equally socially horrifying.  It was a blur and I’d ruined my chance!   Nora doesn’t remember anything like that (she doesn’t remember the moment at all)– but she’s met a lot of people, so I forgive her for not recognizing how momentous the occasion was.

But I remember every single emotion the first timer feels and I do my best to make sure that even if they converse mainly with me, with Nora chiming in, they walk away thinking they had a great conversation with Nora.  That’s the job.

Let’s move onto the “Why doesn’t Nora write posts?” question. Nora and I started working together in 2005 on the very cusp of the social media revolution. Since then it’s taken over our lives and changed the way we interact.  Nora understands the role social media plays in publishing or for public figures, but as we saw in the recent Price Points, Discounts, Sales! post, she just wants to write books. Everything else distracts from that goal.

But me?  I can make small talk for days on end.  I can ask questions.  I can see the value in strengthening a community of readers who gather for one reason:  they love Nora’s books.   Since I started the Facebook page in 2010, I’ve signed  every single post because I believe in transparency.  No, it’s not Nora asking a question, but in certain ways you’re getting fairly close to it.

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The Laura-Nora Borg

So we’ll leave it at the standard answer:  I’m Nora’s personal publicist.  She handles writing the books while I handle the social media.  So far it works out for both of us.

Laura

*Nora writes all her blog posts, I just format and publish them.

The Cranky Publicist answers a question

Cranky PublicistCostumes are always part of the TTP signing near Halloween.  Last year, Nora dressed as a cowgirl but I’m not really into costumes.   I said I’d dress as what I am, a cranky publicist.  Kat kindly made me a button that said just that.  I was very happy.

So I thought I might use The Cranky Publicist moniker from time to time to answer questions or address comments, starting with this:

For nearly 11 years, I’ve watched trends in reader questions come and go.   Usually the top three are:

  1. Can you add another book to the [fill in the blank] series?
  2. Why do we have to wait so long for the next book [In Death or trilogy]?
  3. The dread In Death baby question (applied to nearly every character except Anna Whitney and Sheila Feeney).

But the question currently trending with a bullet (as Billboard magazine used to say) is:

Can you share your recipe? 

For soup (after a Nora-at-home blog) or pancakes, bread, stew (after reading a book).   Most recently it’s for Mr. Mira’s Hot Chocolate.

hot choc

Nora and I have explained quite a bit that she doesn’t actually have the recipes she creates in books.  She imagines food as the characters would create them and charts the ingredients, some of the prep, usually amid conversation that’s propelling the story.

But still there are the requests —  pleading, straightforward, sarcastic — to share a recipe so a reader can really feel like she/he is living in the book.

In the seven days since Brotherhood in Death hit the shelves, the Mr. Mira Hot Chocolate requests have escalated to the point where I decided to refresh my memory of the scene.  I grabbed the book, a notebook and started reading chapter 6 when Dennis first puts a pot on top of a pot, then adds chocolate.

Ok, I thought, melt the chocolate in a double boiler.   Wrote that down.

He puts a bowl into the freezer, to Eve’s confusion.  Ahh, I thought, the cold bowl for homemade whipped cream.  (Side note for those interested:  Nora and I have long discussed how homemade whipped cream is both delicious and easy to make.)

Eve questions, Dennis answers and as he does, he adds milk to the melted chocolate.  Then puts a bean in a bowl and crushes with a wooden dowel.  I’m going to go with vanilla on that one, which he adds with sugar to the milk.

Then he gets the frozen bowl, pours cream in it, adds some sugar and then beats it until — to Eve’s utter amazement — he has whipped cream.

I finished the scene and thought — OK we have the process, not the amounts.  What would I do if I were curious about that?

I googled “double boiler hot chocolate recipe” and there were five immediate results — the first was pretty much the same steps I’d read.

(Which set this Cranky Publicist to wondering if I somehow am magic with the Google searches or if people really just want things handed to them.  That’s an entirely different post.)

If you’re itching to try your hand at creating something akin to Dennis Mira’s Hot Chocolate here are a couple fun ways to do it.  But really, the best part is that you can take the basic recipe and add dark chocolate or a little chili or some mint or coffee — to make it suit your tastes to a T.

Fancy-Ass Hot Chocolate via A Cozy Kitchen (this recipe has the chocolate going into the milk instead of Dennis’ method).

This one just has chocolate added to hot milk: Ina Garten Hot Chocolate Recipe 

Belgian Hot Chocolate (via David Lebovitz)

Since there may be questions on other techniques, you might enjoy these two links:

How to melt Chocolate in a double boiler (video)

How to make Whipped Cream via The Kitch’n blog

Enjoy!

Laura

 

Litograph contest update

I appreciate everyone’s patience as we worked in the expanded time frame for the Litographs Naked in Death design contest.  Our thanks to everyone who participated. (And thanks to everyone who backed up an “I can’t design” with “but I’ll  buy one!”)
Litographs products require a specialized style and formatting. While the five submitted designs were beautiful and creative, we (and Litographs) were afraid that they would not be properly recognizable when created from text, so they will NOT join the Litographs product line.
But we were so impressed by all of the submissions (below) that when the Litographs team suggested each submission be named a finalist, Nora agreed immediately.   Litographs will send each of these designers a $50 gift card to Litographs.com.
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What’s next?  Well, the project is still very much a go and Nora will work with  Litographs on new artwork for Naked in Death products.  I hope to share them with you in early 2016.   Then we’ll move on to Dance Upon the Air and Vision in White.
Stay tuned!
Laura

Checking in

As Nora’s deep into packing for vacation,  I offered to write this Sunday’s blog.  So while you don’t have her weekend recap, we’re looking at two solid weeks of armchair travel (am I dating myself with that reference?) up ahead.  I won’t share where she’s going  — I think we’ll let the first report do that.  But I will say that she’ll be in a time zone behind the East Coast.

That last made me stop and think.  In the the time we’ve worked together, Nora’s never been in a time zone west of me.  I always play catch up to her.

This month marks a decade I’ve worked with Nora.  In 2005,  I lived in Arizona and ours was a virtual partnership of emails, a summer trip to Boonsboro and the RWA conference. When I moved to North Carolina in 2009 it remained virtual except that I drove up for all the Turn the Page signings.

I liked to tell people that contractually I had to live 5 hours by car or by plane away from Nora so that I wouldn’t be a bother.  And that was fairly true.  My trips up for signings provided time for face-to-face discussions and catch ups.  Since Nora and BW were kind enough to let me bunk in at their place (in what’s now know as Laura’s Room), we could talk as long as we needed.

As time passed, I became more and more immersed in Boonsboro which meant I drove north every 4-6 weeks. That’s a lot of time negotiating  I-85 and I-95, surrounded by trucks and cars and people anxious to thread their way through DC as fast as possible.

At one point in 2012 I had to be in Boonsboro every week in September so I asked Nora if I might stay during the work week.  She said that was fine, as long as I didn’t breathe the air above the ground level come Monday.

I’m reasonably sure she was serious.

So I  would work downstairs for a couple of hours every morning, then email Nora  (who was two floors above) that I was heading to town and worked the rest of the afternoon at Turn the Page.  It suited us both — I was able to breathe freely and chat with other people, Nora ran no risk of running into a live person in her house during the work day.

Last August, my husband and I moved to Frederick, MD.  We rented a flat in the historic downtown to give ourselves a year to decide where we wanted to settle. A half hour away from Boonsboro, a little more than that to Nora’s house, drivable distances to both kids — it made the sense.

But distance makes no difference in how Nora and I work — we’re still  a virtual partnership with a battery of emails flying between our offices daily.   I don’t call, I don’t pop in and we both get the work done.

I’m not certain when the travelogues will start — in view of the time difference it could be Thursday evening, but more likely on Friday.

Stay tuned!

Laura

 

RWA Days 3 and 4

Wednesday is the start of the work week at RWA.  Because I’m a slave driver, I set up interviews on Wednesday and Thursday with French and German media outlets in advance of the release of The Collector in Germany and the next In Death in France.  Nora sat with an interviewer from ARD and Focus as well as writers from Le Parisien and Maxi.  As soon as I know when the stories will be available, I’ll let everyone know.

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Media day shoes
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Media outfit

The Literacy signing was a huge success — so busy, I didn’t take a photo!  But as the Nora Roberts Foundation sponsored the event, we just learned the signing raised over $47,000 for literacy.  Thank you to everyone who came by!

Signing shoes
Signing shoes
The signing outfit.
The signing outfit.

Thursday, Nora took Q & As for an hour during her Chat With.  As always, she was entertaining and had the room convulsed with laughter several times.

Noras chat with shoes.
Noras chat with shoes.

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The last two interviews finished up by 4, then we all put on comfy clothes and hung out in the suite.

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Laura

TTP 20 weekend photo album

The TTP 20th Anniversary signing was tremendous fun.  Long, lines of patient readers, happy smiles as they met favorite authors, tired wrists and hands for all the authors.  My brain is still tired so I thought I’d just share some fun photos from the weekend.  ~Laura

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Noras shoes matched her sweater. And they were comfortable — I swear!
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Nalini Singh and Nora hard at work. Jason’s waiting for the next load of books to disperse.
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Nora’s wore wrist wrap for extra support. Piles of books — everywhere!
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Jill Shalvis brought her Alpha Man.
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There she is!
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Break time — Grace Burrowes, Jill Shalvis, Karen Rose and Beatriz Williams catch a quick breather.
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And when the authors take a break, I sit down. I took a moment to relax the smile muscles.
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All the authors!
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The entire group at Sunday’s FITS brunch.