Category Archives: Nora at home

Counting Down

We’re starting the Baby Clock around here with three weeks to go until due date. And we started it off with a happy weekend.

I called dibs on giving Kat’s shower pretty much thirty seconds after she announced baby on board. I love giving showers because what could be happier than sharing the anticipation of a life together (wedding) or a new life (baby) with female friends and family? For me, it’s one of the sweetest of rituals.

And for me, the weekend starts off with a short work day on Friday to make room for a workout before the kids come up for dinner. Since Kayla has a meet on Saturday, that means pasta for the runner. I happen to have red sauce I made from Jo’s garden tomatoes bagged in the freezer–so that’s easy.

It’s nice to have the kids around at the end of the week, to catch up on what they’re doing, and how they’re doing. I can report Logan’s gained another inch. It’s so cute how he kind of leans over to hug me now.

As the shower’s on Sunday, I have all day Saturday to prep. And I have two young men to help out in Logan and Colt. I admit I wasn’t sure if Colt would really pitch in, but boy, did he. And Logan’s a solid workhorse when motivated.

Pavers and walkways swept, deck chairs cleaned, trash out, this hauled up, that hauled down, kitchen floor scrubbed, and chairs, chairs and more chairs carted into the living room for an expected party of about 40.

Thanks, guys!

I have (personally stuffed) a boatload of party favor bags waiting in the backroom, along with some of the gifts sent here, the game supplies and prizes organized, and many, many bottles of champagne chilling.

And the cake arrives. Oh just wow!!! Kat wanted a dinosaur theme, and Lacy the amazing baker has created a truly delightful masterpiece. I have to do a driveway happy dance when I see it.

Dinolicious!

Then hold the dogs who are just as delighted with her and the scent of her dogs on her shoes while Logan runs up to open the door so she can carry the cake inside. She takes it down to the laundry room where I’ll close the door to keep the dogs from sampling it.

Wake to rain on Sunday, the all-day kind. But that’s not going to dampen the party. Natoma (Gifts Inn Boonsboro manager and excellent caterer) arrives with her daughter Hannah to set up. At Kat’s request the dino theme continues with some cute touches like dino-shaped chicken bites, dessert ‘Dirt’, dino gummies, blue punch (it’s a boy, after all) and a terrific array of food.

No one’s going to leave this party hungry!

Laura arrives with the flowers I asked her to pick up–and pick out. So, so pretty, all those rich fall colors. Just perfect. Sarah comes early, too, to lend a hand.

Dogs, sad for them, now locked on the front deck so they won’t enthusiastically jump on arrivals.

The house starts to fill, time to pour champagne, wine, sparkling blue punch. Time for girl energy and hugs and greetings. When the guest of honor arrives, she’s glowing. A sweet ritual, yes, but also an important one, one that celebrates women, their power, their bonds, their strengths.

And more special here, Kat has such a lovely and diverse circle of women in her life. From our Kayla at sixteen, to women in their 70s, from college friends, work friends, aunts, cousins, a woman she met Panera and bonded with over knitting.

And so my house is filled with joy and love, with laughter and female voices.

Game time!* A little baby word scramble to start–and we actually have one contestant who got every one. Some brain in there. For the next game–listing songs with Baby in the title, we have a tie between spa girls (obviously veteran game players!) Nicole and Kat. I have to run up to the One More Room for another prize. The final game has all those women holding a card to their foreheads and trying to draw a baby without looking. Mama-To-Be will judge the winner.

Most turn out like you’d expect. But two somehow managed to draw actual babies. This is quite the skill and requires another trip to the One More Room for yet another prize as it’s another tie.

Game winners!

Time for more food!

I let the dog off the deck, and–as I should’ve known–they sneak into the house. The ladies are just as pleased to see dogs as dogs are pleased to be seen so I let them stay for a bit.

Then banish them outside.

It’s time to open all those wonderful gifts.

Such fun, and all those adorable baby things. Jo had suggested we request a favorite book in lieu of a card to start the baby’s library. While there were a few duplicates, it’s amazing to me how much variety. So many beloved children’s books piling up. My choice, Where The Wild Things Are, as I read that one over and over to both my boys. Now my boy can read it to his.

Cake! Countless pictures have been taken of that cake, and more than one bemoans cutting into that work of art. However, what’s inside is just as fabulous. Kat’s favorite strawberry shortcake. Mmmm.

As guests leave, more hugs. Pals load all those baby gifts into cars–and Kat’s still glowing. I get one more rub of that beautiful baby bump as the next time I see Kat will be at the birthing center.

Nora


*I played no games.  But took photos. ~Laura

Did I miss the games?

Catching Up

Doing a lot of that now with the summer travel behind me. Lots and lots of fun had by all, and now it’s time (or almost) to dive back into routine.

We finished up the summer travel with an earlier-than-usual trip to NYC. With Kat due next month, we moved that fall tradition up. And were gifted with my kind of weather. Hot and sunny!

Hot and sunny didn’t stop me from the hunt for more Christmas presents. I did pretty well on that front. It also didn’t stop me from indulging my weakness for boots. Mmm, boots. The best thing about cold weather, imo.

BW and I hit a street fair the day we got in–and there I scored some adorable onsies for you know who. Later in the week, Jason and I hit The Gap, naturally ended up in the baby section. TBD (they haven’t settled on his name) can now celebrate his first Halloween as Chewbacca (cutest little one-piece, winter weight deal) or a cat (adorable cat hoodie with little ears!)

Nora at the 6th Avenue Street Fair

More fun for me to see how into the baby clothes my baby boy was.

Spent a great day shopping and hanging out with my fabulous editor and amazing agent–so we, too, were able to catch up in person. We had Waitress picked as our Broadway night, but said amazing agent was able to score Hamilton tickets.

Wow. Just wow. A stupendous show. Glorious. Oh, the voices, the music. The energy. We just loved it.

Temps dropped and rain moved in as we packed up last Sunday. We figure this is the last trip with Pregnant Kat. Next time: BABY!

Our girl is doing great, looking great as she comes down the last leg.

Back home to delighted dogs.

Really happy to get back to work last week, to dive into that routine.

Kept a close eye on Florence as she pushed her way toward the Carolinas. Scary and awful, and I’m hoping any of you who might have been in her path got to safety. Heart-breaking to see the damage she’s done.

Nora and Kayla

Here, while we had rain, rain, rain last weekend and into the start of the week, it went back to warm and sunny. Warm, sunny–and very humid for yesterday’s booksigning. But that didn’t stop readers from traveling to Turn The Page, and helping make it a really fun day for everyone. My favorite visitor was a young boy who came with his mom and some friends. He wanted to know if I was His Grandmother’s Author, and was skeptical at first because I wasn’t wearing the same earrings I wore on the book jacket.

Another fave brought their aunt in Puerto Rico to the signing via FaceTime. Now that’s fun!

Technology works!

It’ll be back to routine for me on Monday, and I’ll have a good, solid week of work before the weekend. And . . . Kat’s baby shower next Sunday. Seriously can’t wait. We’ll have friends, family, games, (sorry, Laura!)* prizes, all those adorable baby things for Mom-To-Be to open, good food, wine–and an amazing cake. We’ll be sure to take some pictures.

After that, it’ll be time for Countdown To Baby!

Nora


* She’s not sorry.  ~Laura

The quiet is nearly over

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.

Here she is! Photo by LMR

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?

Fine.

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.

A girl and her trifle. Photo by LMR
Trifle closeup. Photo by LMR

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.

Classic and classy: Linda Howard, Nora, Barbara Delinskey

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.

Someone forgot her shirt, but remembered the wine!

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.

Nora and Nora.

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.

Evening sky over The Greenbrier. Photo by LMR

Yesterday’s shoot went very smoothly.  I can’t show much but these are  snaps I put on Instagram.

Nora prep. Photo by LMR
Post JD Robb prep. Photo by LMR

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.

James Palmer, JoAnn, Nora, Laura and Sarah

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.

Laura

All Kinds Of Bunches

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me, starting in the dentist chair. The tooth had to go, and that part turned out surprisingly easy. In and out, over and done–including a bone graft deal. Huh, I thought, naively, no big.

The big, literally, came the following day when I woke up looking like I had a tennis ball tucked into my left cheek. Whoa! I’d done the whole ice, ibuprofen, soft food thing–and didn’t have much discomfort. Now I had a cheek the size of Kansas, and a book signing in a couple of days. Won’t that be interesting?

Still pretty bad the next morning, but by evening more like a good-sized plum in there. Now it’s the moist heat treatment.

Fortunately it shrank down to like a half golf ball by Saturday morning, and went down a little more by signing time. Good thing because it’s a big, bust out signing day. Here’s where a little theater training comes in handy. Doing photos with a swollen left jaw? Cheat out your right cheek.

Now I’ve got until Tuesday for it to go down more, we hope, before I go out in public again.

I’d been asked to give the commencement address for my alma mater–Montgomery Blair High school. As I did a million years ago, the class of 2018  graduates from the University of Maryland. Blair’s a big school, with a big graduating class, in fact, with close to 700 grads, the biggest in the state.

I’m so impressed with these young people, found myself amazed as their principal read off some of their accomplishments, the GPAs and academic achievements, the community involvement, the scholarships–one earned himself a full free ride to MIT. You have to be pretty damn smart and dedicated for that.

The principals — elementary, middle and high school — who oversaw the MBHS Class of 2018. Photo by LMR
Nora at the podium. Photo by LMR
On the big screen. Photo by LMR

I listened to the senior class president speak, saw her brains, her poise, her commitment.

I looked out at that sea of red gowns, white gowns–Blair’s colors–and saw the future. It looks good. If this class is representative, the future is in strong, creative hands.

Go, Blazers. You’re astounding.

Because the U of M is a good 90 minutes away–with traffic add an hour–Laura and I had the treat of staying at Jason’s and Kat’s the night before. I got to see the garden they’ve worked on, visit with their cats, have a lovely dinner (and get in a few rub the baby bumps!) and a solid night sleep before the event.

Then it’s back home and a few days of solid work–and back to workouts, which had been off the list.

And a happy, happy Saturday for me weeding, deadheading (pretty much off the list, too for awhile). I decided, since I felt all the way back to myself again, I’d take myself to my favorite nursery for some shade-loving, deer-resistant astilbes to finish off a couple areas. I also wanted one more hydrangea, and a few more annuals to fill things out some.

On the rise. Photo by Nora
Down the front hill Photo by Nora
Thriving pots. Photo by Nora
A spot of color. Photo by Nora.
Front patio pots. Photo by Nora.

Deer continue to be a problem, and I’ve caught them more than once just in the nick as they try to sneak down and snack on my plants. I will say Atticus–when he spots them–barks mightily, so that helps.

A truly lovely Saturday morning and afternoon for me.

I spent some of the late afternoon packing for our upcoming girl trip–for Kayla’s 16th birthday. A month early, but July’s as packed as June. I can’t believe my baby girl’s going to be 16, AND has her learner’s permit. She also made the all-county A team again for her distance running.

We leave in a couple days, then Kayla, Laura, Kat (and Laura’s daughter Clare who lives and works in NYC) will take the town. The first time I took Kayla on one of these NY trips, her biggest thrill was The American Girl Doll store. I can’t remember how many trips we ended up taking there.

This time it’s makeup, clothes, shoes–all of which I can get behind!

I took a quick walk around the garden–had to be quick as it started to rain–then began to pour. Things look good!

I’m going to finish packing for whole bunches of fun, then I hope to spend a couple hours repotting some of my pool house plants.

That’s a fine weekend for me. Hope you have one, too.

Nora

Note from Laura:  It’ll be our little secret that sometimes when I tell Nora I’m leaving her home, I actually poke through the gardens and take pictures .  Keep it between us, ok?

A peek through the branches. Photo by LMR
One of many happy toad houses. Photo by LMR
That face. Photo by LMR

Happy (Early) Birthday, Mama-To-Be

Every summer a few girls attend Kat’s birthday spree at Saks. We’ve–Kat, me, Laura, Mary and Sarah–started making this an overnight, because why not? This year, as June’s so packed, we celebrated nearly a month early.

And this year, we’re looking for Pregnant Kat clothes. WHEE!!!

The amazing team at Saks did even more than finding terrific clothes for our girl (and some for me!), but set up a really spectacular baby shower in a screened-off the area outside of The Club. Fun, gorgeous decorations–a fabulous balloon arch, an adorable diaper cake, yummy cupcakes, champagne (juice for you-know-who), and scads of beyond adorable baby clothes and accessories, sweet stuffed animals, books, the works.

Festive! Photo by LMR
Surprise! Nora and Kat with Dawn. Photo by LMR
Nora, the Saks team and the guest of honor. Photo by LMR
Laura, Nora, Kat, Mary and Sarah.

A big, and incredibly touching, surprise for all of us.

Nana, obviously, had the best time ever selecting clothes for our boy. He’ll be very well dressed! And tiny, tiny little shoes no nana could resist. Cute as a button outfits, soft as a cloud swaddling blankets, onesies and footed one-piece outfits a baby goes through faster than you can say poop.

And after all this, the team presented Kat with a basket full of more baby essentials as a gift.

Such a kind, thoughtful gesture.

Then we get to outfit Mama, who looks fantastic in everything.

Pretty dress for a mama-in-waiting. Photo by LMR

A truly delightful and memorable day thanks to the fantastic team at Saks. Hugs and kisses to you all!

After a day of shopping–including a delightful lunch—Kat needs a little lie-down. Small wonder!

Then there’s room service dinner, a movie, just hanging out before bedtime. Laura and I are up early to workout–more hanging out for all over breakfast, then it’s homeward bound.

For me, hitting home means putting my wonderful new duds away–and purging some as I go.

More serious purging and organizing this morning–including finally switching out winter clothes for spring and summer. A job of work, but done now!

Time for a workout!

A quick trip outside to cut some of my lovely, lovely peonies so I can enjoy a few inside. BW and I have more work to do out there after I finish the blog. Things are really popping–my iris is up, my shade garden has filled it beautifully. I want to weed, water, walk around and enjoy.

Iris in the garden. Photo by LMR

Peony closeup. Photo by LMR
And I want to sit, at some point, by my wonderful water feature with a bellini. It seems fair.
Water feature, in bloom. Photo by LMR

A busy June’s on the way. Unfortunately for me, I have to fit in a tooth deal in there. For those who wondered, the stupid tooth–lower back molar–has to go. I haven’t had an extraction since I had my wisdom teeth out.

Since I was pregnant when that happened four decades ago, they’d only use novacaine–and no drugs but baby aspirin. Horrible. I expect this will be a lot easier. Not fun, but easier.

And best of all, it’s not aching anymore–so we’ll slip it in between signings and speeches and trips to NYC, and get it behind me.

Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy my garden.

Nora

Note from Laura:  Before I headed home yesterday, I took the flower photos and then thought I’d share a moment of Zen at the water feature.  I’ll probably call it up on my phone whenever I’m stressed.  Enjoy!

Strange Days

I don’t mind rain–good for the flowers–and I enjoy a good, wicked storm. But.

We had about ten days of solid rain here, along with most of the East Coast. Drenching, drowning, flooding rain day after day. With seriously wicked storms at night. Bombs of thunder. Parker, never bothered by storms, took to sleeping on the floor by BW instead of on his doggie bed.

Roads flooded–and one just a couple miles from me, buckled under the endless attack.

Buckled road. Photo by SAB

As a bonus, BW brought home a souvenir bug from Derby. The second generation thereof (passed to me) kicked my ass. Thursday after Derby while working out–huh, a little tickle in my throat. An hour later? Throat on fire! Ears slammed shut, vicious headache, low grade fever, dry, hacking cough. And the rain, rain, rain (low barometric pressure) added to the fun.

While I was able to work Friday, I knocked off early, crawled into bed. Saturday, we hit the nursery (fever broken) for the few flats of annuals I needed to finish my pots. Finished pots, crawled into bed, and pretty much stayed there until Monday. Hey, it’s raining anyway.

Last week a bit better, and able to do a workout on Tuesday–then slept about ten hours. Jeez, some souvenir. Finally down to the hacking and blowing portion of our program, and able to deal with all the crap around here that piled up while I was down.

The house smells of must and wet dogs. Light many fragrant candles.

Saturday? How about some rain? I actually made soup because rain and because Friday night, hmmm, little toothache. Saturday, bigger toothache. Why do these things happen on weekends????

Sunday, at last, at last, Here Comes The Sun! BW and I spent all day working outside–me, thanks to Motrin keeping the stupid tooth tolerable. Gardens are gorgeous, sun and warmth is a balm for the soul. Weeding is Zen. Pots and planters are filling in beautifully. I see little yellow blossoms on our tomato plants, and peonies waiting to open and scent the air. 

Filling in.
Happy pots.
Just outside the kitchen window.
Nasturtiums starting to pop.
Just outside back door.
Tomatoes.
Sunny spot.
Color down the driveway.
Herby goodness.

And my first stupid snake of the season. I’m not pleased by this sighting, tell BW. He, as always, asks what kind of snake. I get it’s important because we get copperheads and they’re poisonous, but snake is enough for me altogether. I tell him–black snake, yellow stripe. Oh, that’s nothing. Show him where I saw it–just the end of it slithering (shudder) under the spirea at the corner of the garden wall, outside the kitchen–where I often walk on the path, or weed.

Oh, says the MAN, yeah, they live there. They what? Why has this information never been passed to me before? They’re harmless, blah blah blah.

They are snakes. He may not understand my phobia, but it’s real.

Anyway, any weeding that needs doing in that area is now his job.

Despite the snake sighting, it’s amazing what a day of sunshine, gardening, just being outside can do for the body, mind, spirit. And seeing the results of the work we’ve put in over the years is so, so satisfying.

Monday (still hacking and blowing), I switch my regular dentist appointment–set for next week–to Wednesday with time worked in for my guy to take a look at this problem tooth. Dentist is out sick Monday or I’d have gone in. I betcha it’s the same deal I had.

Wednesday works as the tooth’s better, now just weird but not really painful. And after Monday’s work, after workout, I get to take my habitual walk around the gardens with wine and dogs. Ahhh.

Now, as I write this, it’s raining. I’m trying not to be annoyed, and won’t be as long as it’s just today.

Hear that rain gods? I have a lingering cold and a bad tooth. You don’t want to piss me off. Do not mess with my wine, walk and dogs.

Do not.

Nora

Enough Already!

I’m now officially obsessed with the weather. I’ve not yet stepped outside to shake my fist at the sky, but it could be coming. Sure, I should be grateful we didn’t get the snow this weekend as threatened–though there may be some Monday morning, so I’ll just save any gratitude.

Besides, here’s what my refrigerator told me this morning.
 This is not right. Usually by this time of year I’m starting to walk around, checking out perennials starting to push up. I’m thinking about how soon I can risk getting a truckload of plants so I can play in the dirt and have all that pretty color popping. But no, Spring’s decided to sleep in.
My tulip magnolia’s so anxious to bloom, and it keeps inching out more pink. So far, the temps aren’t welcoming, and it, too, is sort of sleeping in. I told it this morning–I can see it though the windows of my little gym–just wait until the middle of the week. I think it’ll be safe after that.

Here’s hoping.

I do have daffs trumpeting spring, such as spring is, but they don’t mind the cold.

 Obviously, I do!
Even the dogs want in more than they want out.

I’m telling myself spring will be glorious when it finally wakes up, and I’ll appreciate it more than every before.

Meanwhile I have a daily visitor in this enormous pileated woodpecker who digs on the suet cakes I hang. We’ve got a pretty redheaded one, too, and lots of little guys. They hang back when the big boy’s around.

So I can look out the window at the daffs and the birds, and that’s something.

Someone asked if I had a close-up of the shaving cream eggs the kids did for Easter. A goodly chunk went for egg salad and just a hard-boiled snack, but I had a few left which I deviled for my happy man. We have before and after.

Now, since it’s cold again and my man’s away for a couple of days, I think I’m going to clean myself up from my workout, pick up a bit around the house. Then maybe watch my Thor: Ragnarok DVD (again).

It feels like a good day to do pretty much nothing.

 Nora

Here Comes The Sun

At last!

The weather reports called for 60s–and heading toward 70 last week.

No.

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.
 Voila!
We used a couple of dishes for more variety of color. Much pleasure in the results.
Colt, Logan & Kayla
 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.)

David Thackston, Suz Thackston, BW, Fran Byrne and Laura
from left: Laura, Nora, Michelle, JoAnne & Karen
 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.

Nora

Marching On

It’s nearly the end of my winter hibernation. Though the weather itself wasn’t very pleasing–really cold, ice, rain, freezing rain, sleet, and not much snow to lift the gloom–I spent most of the long stretch inside looking out. And things got done. Pages written, house purged, soups and stews cooked, breads baked.

I don’t ask much more of winter.

The other day BW asked me when I’d last been out of the house (feeding dogs, filling bird feeders don’t count). I dunno. Six or eight weeks. What’s your point?

I’ll end my winter hunker in and down next Sunday for some out-of-the-house fun when I head into town for a photo exhibit at Inn Boonsboro. On March 18th from 1-3, Lush Emerald Fields And Ancient Stones will feature photographic art of Ireland by Fran Byne, Suzanne Hill Thackston–and our own brilliant photographers Bruce Wilder and Laura Reeth. 

If I’m going to venture out after a couple of months, it should be for fun, friends–and beautiful art. Stop by if you’re in the area. See some art, raise a glass.

The exhibit follows a ceili at the inn on Thursday–talk about fun! Food, drink, art and Irish music. Slainte!

For a portion of his winter, BW’s been down in his studio installing his dark room. While he’s embraced digital photography, he still loves film–and now he’s got a good, creative space to work on that part of his art.

BW’s darkroom domain. Photo by BW
For me, I kicked off the last hibernation weekend making family dinner. Well, not all, as BW made his famous flank steak–always a crowd pleaser. I did all the sides, including a last minute addition of spiced shrimp. I think Logan ate a solid pound of it.
Flank steak a la BW. Photo by NR
Logan’s portion of spicy shrimp? Photo by NR
The bread of the garlic. Photo by NR
Roasted herb potatoes. Photo by NR
Carrots a la Nora. Photo by NR

Before you ask: I really don’t post recipes. I’m a how does this look, taste, smell sort of cook, tossing in things as I go. However, the shrimp–and a few other of my dishes–are featured in the really fabulous Inn Boonsboro Cookbook, available exclusively from Turn The Page Bookstore.

This labor of love was produced and edited and created by our amazing Kat. She cooked every dish in her own kitchen–aided by Jason who served as supply chief, and photographed by her brother Adam. There are some fantastic recipes in there (including MY brother’s to-die-for peppermint patties), from friends, relatives, from the inn itself, and our other Boonsboro businesses.

In case that doesn’t tempt you, all the profits from sales of the cookbook go to local food banks. So truly a labor of love serving the community.

Now, since spring forward’s completely messed up my body clock, I’m going to go work out. And maybe make a nice red sauce for my last hibernation Sunday.

Nora

Note from Laura: As I HAVE been out and about the last six to eight weeks (Nora’s completely serious about that btw) I stopped at Gifts Inn BoonsBoro last week to drop off my photos and had to snap this gorgeous corner by the front window.  Manager Natoma Vargason and her creative crew always create displays that capture the season perfectly.
Gifts in BoonsBoro ready for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo by LMR

Stuff and Nonsense

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.

Sourdough with poppy and sesame seeds. Photo by NR
Beef stew with dumplings. Photo by NR

Leftovers tonight! So my afternoon will include reading someone else’s book.

Nora

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.

Laura