Category Archives: Nora at home

Here’s How I work

Before I start, the latest count from the plagiarism mess is 85 books and 36 authors.

So, some of the fallout from this clusterfuck seems to have generated a lot of questions, speculations, idiotic statements (as if fact) and–to me–strange arguments about my writing process, my output, and my honesty.

In all cases by people who don’t know me, at all.

In a, probably doomed, hope to set the record straight, I hereby take the time before I get back to that process, to outline it.

I write every day

I write every day. It’s just my job, and I’m very fortunate to love my job. Not everyone is half as lucky to be able to make their living doing something they love.

Every day is, at this point in my life and career, mostly a regular work week. I will, if necessary or I just feel the need, put in a few hours on the weekend.

I am disciplined–that’s my wiring. I have a fast writing pace–also just wiring. I was educated (nine year of Catholic school) by the nuns. Nobody lays a foundation of discipline like the Sisters. Trust me on this.

I was raised by parents who instilled, and demonstrated by example, the responsibility of doing your work, doing it well, meeting your responsibilities.

I don’t miss deadlines.

In the normal course of events, I work six to eight hours a day. Some of that is staring into space–writing requires this, or mine does. Some of it’s spent looking stuff up because how do I know until I know? I don’t use researchers because they’d annoy me, want to talk to me, expect me to be able to tell them what I was looking for. And again, how do I know until I know?

I don’t have ‘staff’, which just sound so pretentious to me. I don’t knock anyone for having staff, but I don’t want staff. They would annoy me, want to talk to me at some point. They’d be in my space which includes my entire house. And the land around it. The air.

What the hell would I do with staff? They could open the door for the dogs, I guess, or bring me another glass of water or Diet Pepsi. The trade off would be too great. In My Space. That’s a deal-breaker.

I have a weekly housekeeper who’s worked for me for decades. So in the normal course of events, I’m not doing the vacuuming and so on. And this is great. (She’s only in my space one day a week, and I’ve trained myself to block that out.)

I do not, never have, never will use ghostwriters. I’ve stated my opinion, many times, on the use of ghosts in fiction. My work is my work, start to finish. If my name is on the book, I wrote it. A reader, another writer, a stranger on the internet is entitled not to like my books, or any particular book. They’re not entitled to call me a liar.

I love and treasure alone

I don’t use ghosts, co-authors, I don’t have collaborators. Why is that so hard for some to accept? I don’t brainstorm with other writers, with my editor or my agent on storylines. It’s not my wiring. I love my agent, my editor, and respect them just as much as I love them.

If either or both of them insisted we brainstorm, I will be forced to kill them until they were dead.

I’m a solitary woman. I love and treasure alone. I also love my family, and am thrilled to be part of my grandkids’ lives, to see them, watch them grow. I adore my daughter-in-law beyond the telling of it. Ditto my sons, my husband.

But every day, when BW finally calls upstairs that he’s leaving for work, I have a little internal celebration.

My space.

I’m an early riser (wish I wasn’t, but wiring). I fiddle around with email and whatever for awhile in the morning–mostly hoping BW might leave a little sooner. (Sorry, BW.) But I’m usually in work mode by 8. Sometimes before, sometimes later, that’s just usual.

I work. Stare into space, wonder WTF should happen next, look stuff up, and somehow by around 3 (sometimes earlier, sometimes later) I’ve actually written a decent chunk.

Yay.

Then it’s time to go workout. 90 minutes, daily. That’s my routine, and I’m a solitary woman who thrives on routine.

Then it’s actually speak to BW, maybe have an alcoholic beverage. In good weather, get outside, walk the gardens with the dogs. Whatever.

Three nights a week I sign tubs of book orders from our bookstore. Some nights–like tonight–I’ll proof galleys for an upcoming book.

I work on a three-draft method. This works for me. It’s not the right way/wrong way. There is no right or wrong for a process that works for any individual writer. Anyone who claims there is only one way, or that’s the wrong way, is a stupid, arrogant bullshitter. That’s my considered opinion.

The first draft, the discovery draft, the POS (guess what that stands for) draft is the hardest for me. Figuring it all out, creating people I’m going to care about enough to sit here with hours every day in order to tell their story. Finding out information about the setting, the careers involved, and so much more.

I don’t outline. I have a kind of loose mental outline, then I sit down, get started and hope it all works one more time.

I don’t use visual aids, don’t have color-coded note cards. I scribble notes, then irritate the crap out of myself because half the time I can’t find the one thing I scribbled down I want now, right this minute.

Outlining, visual aids, note cards–not wrong. In fact excellent if any and all work for that writer.

I don’t know how long it takes me for that first draft. I don’t care. Am I getting the story out, are these people interesting, layered, human, am I putting myself, and therefore the reader, into the setting?

Setting, pacing, character development and evolution, connections, relationships, transitions, conflicts, beats, hills and valleys, dialogue, description.

I can’t analyse how they come out of my head and onto the page. I’m not an analytical person. I just know it’s work, often frustrating often fun. But work.

I don’t go back in the writing of that first draft, fiddle and fix, I just plow on, get the story, the people, onto the page, taking it on faith (and through a lot of experience) that I can fix what’s wrong, shine up what’s right later.

Get it out, get it down, put the words on the page. Every day. Hours a day.

And when the first crappy draft is done, I go back to page one. Now, second draft, fix it, expand it, get rid of it, work more thoughtfully on the language. Is it all holding up? Does it make sense? Is it a good, solid story? I can do a chunk of a second draft every day. This is for me, the easier part of the process. It’s fun to fix things up, to play with the words, to add more layers.

It still takes time, but it’s the happy middle of the work. Look what I did there, that’s not bad. I’d forgotten about that. Aren’t I so damn clever? Or–oops, that sucks. Must fix.

Again, I don’t know how long it takes me. I don’t care.

When I finish the second draft, it’s time for the third, the last, the polish. Not as big those daily chunks now. This is what I’ll send to that agent and editor I love and respect. I need to make it the best I can. I might find spots that sag, so I try to shore them up. I might find I’ve taken a quick angle that works–maybe add to that–or doesn’t, change it until it works.

I don’t know how long this takes. I still don’t care.

This is also where I spell check. My spelling is miserable, so I’m grateful for the technology. Except when it doesn’t work. What do you mean Word Not Found? It’s a damn word!

When I feel this is the best I can do, I send it off, make a wish, then definitely have an alcoholic beverage.

I’ll add I do all this work with my very, very old Word Perfect program–that’s DOS. Many of you will have to look that up as you’ll never have heard of such a thing. It’s like a strange tool from an ancient era. I like the blue screen–easy on the eyes. I like it doesn’t have bells and whistle that would get in my way (like staff).

I do all of the above myself, alone, solitary, ass in the chair, mind in the book, fingers on the keyboard. Someone asked me once, in a Q&A what three pieces of advice I had for other writers. Here they are:

Stop making excuses and write.
Stop whining and write.
Stop fucking around and write.

I take my own advice.

I don’t, as claimed in some article long ago and has become the stuff of myth and legend, write a book every 45 days. When I started selling I had several mss, rejected, in the drawer I could then take out, fix, polish, submit. So those first couple of years, I sold a lot of 55k word Romances to Silhouette. I had that jump start.

At this time it’s being winged around I write five books a year. It’s actually four. Two Robbs, one stand-alone Roberts, one portion of a trilogy. That’s a lot, but the pace and process suit my current life.

If I did write five books a year, they would still be all written by me. Just me.

Back to process. My editor–that’s Leslie Gelbman, St. Martin’s Press–works fast, too. I’ll hear back from her on the new ms in a very timely fashion, which I’m very grateful for because even with that quick turnaround, I’ll have started the next book.


Routine is my god.

It’s what I do. A day or two off to recharge, to maybe start fiddling with research, to play with that mental outline, then it’s close the cage door and go again.

I may have to stop the current work if Leslie wants any changes. Since she’s going to be right about those changes ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I don’t argue. The one time I KNOW she’s not right, she doesn’t argue.

Respect.

I’m able to produce a lot of books because I work every day. Because I don’t go out to lunch or dinner, or to events, go shopping, have hobbies or socialize all that much. I don’t want to.

I like home. I like my space. I have plenty of people living in my head for company.

I don’t spend a lot of time, sometimes none at all, on social media. It’s a time suck. My time’s valuable to me.

And routine is my god.

Get up, fiddle, write, write, write, workout, engage with my husband, make dinner, maybe have the kids over for dinner a couple times a month and enjoy grandkids.

I garden in the spring and summer, bake bread, but that’s weekends.

I make soups and breads in the fall and winter, again, that’s weekends.

When on vacation I’ll write here and there. Because I miss it if I don’t. I don’t slave while on a break, but I’ll write now and then.

And I think about the book all the time. In the shower, in the workout, in the garden, in the kitchen. I can work out plot points while kneading bread dough, so good for me.

There’s no secret, no formula, no magic spell.

It’s called writing, regularly, consistently, daily. It’s discipline and drive and desire. The three Ds I also tout when asked. Talent’s great, but without the three Ds, it’s hard to produce.

Fortunately for me I have them, and I use them.

I love my work, even on a bad day, I love my work. Being a writer is a gift I’m grateful for, even when it’s a bad day.

I value and respect the reader. Lying, to me, equals devaluing and disrespect.

So to the readers–whether or not you enjoy my books, have read any of my books, read my books occasionally or all the time–I write every one, myself, alone, in my space.

Whatever you think of the finished product, it came from me.

Nora

Freedom!

I haven’t posted a blog in weeks as I’ve been hip deep in a book. The result? Brain drain at the end of the work day, and a zillion tasks to deal with on weekends.

Yesterday, finally, I sent the manuscript off to my agent and editor. And today I unlock and throw open the cage door for a couple of days.

After I finish this blog, I may sit in the corner and stare at the wall for several hours.

Things have happened besides the book in these first chilly weeks of the new year.

Our annual New Year’s Day Open House was–as they say in Regency novels–a crush. Lots of people, lots of food. Laura and Kayla and Kat helped me make and bake and stir and chop on New Year’s Eve.

For the crudite, Kat created a little Christmas tree out of broccoli, with bits of red peppers for ornaments and a star carved from a radish. Who else but Kat would think of that?

#randomkatness

So I got to ring out the old, ring in the new with friends, family. And got plenty of Griffin time.

We had our annual January trip to the spa–which meant I had the glorious Griffin with me for a week. (Oh, and his parents, too.) One of the butlers brought in his personal rocking chair for our use–what a guy.

The Magickal Griffin

Griffin and I seriously appreciated it.

Then, despite the ugly and annoying head cold that struck me on my first day home, it was a return to work–with no afternoon massage.

And the start of my annual purge. Due to ugly cold this got a slow start, but progress was made. By the second weekend of purging, I hit my office.

For a zillion years I’ve kept a ton of research books–ones I really haven’t cracked open in about a half a zillion. This year, I determined to cull them down brutally, and give my office shelves some breathing room.

Clear space on office shelves

And poor BW had to haul the heavy boxes (box after box) downstairs. They’ll go into storage, then the next library sale. And my office is reborn!

I haven’t hit the lower level yet–always a big chore–but the third floor is purged, and I only have the library and guest room left on the main.

At BW’s request I cleaned out my candle cupboard. Apparently I actually have a candle cupboard. And okay, I didn’t purge there, because candles, but I organized it.

And as Parker suddenly developed–we’ll be delicate and call it heroic flatulence–my scented candles came in really handy. So does yogurt mixed with his dog food (thanks Google) as we seem to have solved the issue.

Thank all the gods as if was far too cold to banish the boy outside.

As January slid into February with those shockingly cold temperatures, I stayed snuggly and smugly at my workstation, and in the book. It was so cold, the house couldn’t keep up, so I worked with a blanket over my lap. We got some snow, which from inside, looked very pretty.

Atticus, brave snowdog

Writing can drain the brain, but you don’t have to shovel out your car and go out into the world.

The really good thing about February is it’s short–and spring training starts. This one’s been busy and eventful in my world. My running girl and her teammates took first in Regionals in indoor track (four years running!) In a couple weeks, she’ll compete in States. And she got her driver’s license.

The newest driver in the family

How strange and lovely it is to have my first girl old enough to drive and my latest boy laughing and cooing.

We snuck in a signing at Turn The Page last Saturday that turned into a door buster. The cold finally broke, lifting the temps into the 40s–with sun! Actual sun. Maybe it was the break from frigid and sunlight, but we had the happiest group of readers and authors for our mid-winter event.

And I got more Griffin time. It’s incredibly rewarding for me to see happy recognition in his eyes when he sees me. He knows his Nana!

Happy, happy boy.

Mid-month we’re celebrating Inn BoonsBoro’s tenth anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade. Especially when our truly incredibly staff keeps it looking as fresh as it did the day it opened.

I’ll end the shortest month with pals coming up to whip through the bags and bags (I’ll hang and organize) of clothes I purged from my closet. Girl time! (With Griffin attending as the token male.)

That’s a fine way to move into March, and start pining for spring.

But for today, before and after work out time, I’m going to play sloth as I expect to slam the cage door again on Monday.

Nora

Happy and Merry

Christmas is coming, and I’m sure, somewhere, there’s a goose getting fat. Around here, we’re ready for it.

It felt good to get a solid work week in, and now that’s in the rear view. Next week won’t find me at my desk very much, and that’s fine. It’s time to celebrate and enjoy the rewards of all the preparations.

Our tree’s trimmed with presents at its feet. All that wrapping and ribbon and bows will soon be pulled and ripped in the rush to find the wishes inside.

The stockings are hung, and happily stuffed as the kids won’t be around until it’s time to dig in. I love finding stocking stuffers, from the useful to the goofy. In our family tradition all the adults do the same, so those stockings will overflow and provide a lot of fun before the rush for the ribbons and bows.

This year I enjoyed creating a candlescape on my dining room table. Of course, I’ll have to dismantle it for the feasting, but in the evenings leading up, it’s given me a lot of pretty light.

I haven’t quite OD’d on schmaltzy Christmas movies yet. I’m fascinated by how many ways they can turn a misunderstanding or complete lack of communication into a conflict magically resolved into a happy ending by Christmas.

I’m a sucker for them.

We have lots and lots of cookies, thanks in very large part to Kayla. And for Christmas dessert, in addition to cookies, I do a sundae bar, so that’s easy and delicious.

Yesterday I made some mighty fine tortilla soup to get me and BW through the weekend. Today I’m going to bake bread, but other than my workout and this blog, that’s pretty much it for the day.

It’ll be nice to have the bulk of a Sunday afternoon without chores.

So as the hours count down, Laura and I wish you and yours all the magic of Christmas, warm times with family and friends, good cheer, happy faces, and a joy in those moments that last you through the coming year.

Since we do, I’ll end this with a picture of the sweetest of Griffin smiles.

Nora

Holiday Hustle

We’ve been in the thick of it.

We had our annual Progressive Shopping night with any employees who want to participate. That’s Turn The Page, Fit, Gifts, the inn, Vesta. It’s fun to go as a group from business to business, enjoy the company, do a little shopping. It’s also a great chance to socialize and get to know each other as your own work, your own business can create a kind of bubble.

The Inn, dressed for Christmas

We all end at Vesta for dinner. So much food! But before the feast we announce our winners in the year’s fitness competition.

And the Inn BoonsBoro staff defend their title, and keep the (wonderfully tacky) trophy for another year. The team’s led by Head Innkeeper Karen, this year’s individual winner, who I’m told seriously cracks the whip.

IBB Wonder Women

And those girls at IBB prove to be clever pranksters. Part of the inn’s holiday decor is a full-size Nutcracker. He’s huge! And heavy. It didn’t stop them from hauling him across the parking lot, putting him in the doorway of a side room. And scaring the pants off Heidi, Fit’s manager, when she opened for the day.

Nice one, ladies!

Boonsboro’s decked out, and that makes a festive canvas for Turn The Page’s holiday booksigning. A busy day, and lots of fun–along with Griffin’s first booksigning. (He slept through most of it.) When he was awake, he enjoyed being snuggled by various TTP staff. I think the staff enjoyed the snuggles even more.

I get my boy through the weekend as we have another holiday event on Sunday, which includes our very special guest. Santa! (Griffin also slept through most of it, despite all the noise.)

Then there’s a work week, with some bits and pieces of holiday prep worked in. The week ends with a holiday party here for the managers. Some fun food, a lot of champagne and all the good cheer you can hold.

Back row L-R: Renee, Michelle, Natoma, Heidi, Janeen, Laura Front: JoAnne, Holly, Karen (the whipmaster), Nora

Oh and those inn girls left me a little nutcracker on my workstation. I see what you did there, ladies! Gave me a laugh–and Mr. Nutcracker will enjoy being part of my holiday gang.

For the weekend. Cookies! Lots and lots and LOTS of cookies. Logan skips this year, and Kayla serves as head baker with some assistance from me and from Colt. The girl’s on a roll. We dive in with cheesy Christmas movies on the kitchen TV–which Kayla and I agree are just silly fun. (I don’t believe Colt paid any attention either way.)

We end up with a double batch of chocolate chip (a crowd favorite) snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter Blossoms, Candy Cane Kisses, with the grand finale of painted sugar cookies. We include a lunch break so real food goes in tummies as well.

Kayla and her sous chef, Grandda

With Colt serving as taste tester, we deem all cookies delicious.

It’s always fun to hold a marathon cookie bake, but seeing Kayla take over so willingly, and so skillfully is the best part. One day she’ll bake in her own kitchen, and I hope look back on the years she baked in mine.

Logan has no problem eating the cookies when we have the gang for dinner. And a big bag of them go with the kids after dinner.

Today, after my morning workout I have a few little gifts to bag or wrap. I need to check the bread situation to see if I need to bake. And, at some point, sign four tubs of books. But compared to a solid eight hours in the kitchen yesterday, this is a day off!

All the traditions that weave their way into the fabric of our friends and family make a warm and colorful cloth. I love watching the cloth unfold every year.

I hope you all have your own warm and colorful cloth to cuddle with.

Nora

Note from Laura: the 2018 finale to #random Katness:

First family holiday photo

Making a List

I’m a list maker. I like to see my tasks and goals in writing–and even more I like the satisfaction of checking those tasks and goals off when complete. In fact, if another tasks pops up and gets done that wasn’t listed, I’ll just add it to the list with its check.

Instant gratification.

My lists are plentiful this time of years. Gifts to buy, gifts bought, seasonal clothes to switch out, the standard weekend domestic chores. Holiday baking, present wrapping, organizing wrapping station again post-wrapping session, holiday decorating, Christmas card writing and so on.

Without lists, I’d be lost–and miss that satisfying checkmark.

This past week my list included one full day of writing–thank God!–then a trip to the dentist, who may start charging me rent, for a filling replacement. And then, preparation for the Thanksgiving feast.

Pies first. Wednesday BW sits at the kitchen counter peeling pounds of apples while I make pie crust. I bake two apple, two pumpkin, so that’s a lot of pie crusts. Apples peeled, he helps me add the leaves to the table. Then he’s off to the gym and the bookstore while I stir and fill and bake. I add buying those silicone crust shields to my list because I am DONE fiddling with making them out of aluminum foil.

While the apple pies bake, I make the pumpkin, then make the dough for sour dough pretzel rolls and set it aside to rise. Still have apples left, so quarter some up to simmer for apple sauce–my mother’s crowd favorite, so when I cook then down, mill them, add the sugar and cinnamon, that scent brings here right there into the kitchen with me.

I make cranberry sauce, letting the berries simmer while I roll those pretzel balls, set them aside to rise. Make the deviled eggs Logan specifically requested.

Then it’s the fun part of the pretzel rolls, boiling them in baking soda water, watching them plump up. Score, bake, add some sea salt and poppy seeds. Done!

I clean off the work counter countless times, watch the woodpeckers at my suet feeder, accept this is all taking more time than I’d budgeted so I’ll have to skip my workout. Still I get a decent amount of steps in as a lot of my few-times-a-year kitchen tools are stored on shelves in the laundry room, and some of the serving dishes I want are stored on shelves upstairs in The One More Room.

Why not go ahead and set the table–cross that off the list?

A long day in the kitchen–some seven hours–deserves the reward of a glass of wine. Or two.

Thursday is Turkey Day, so it’s me and the bird in the morning. My family enjoys the sausage stuffing I’ve been making for years, so it’s cook, stir, season, stuff. Slather that bird with butter, give him a nice massage, drizzle on spices, cover and into the oven he goes. Plenty of time for me to tidy up, the house and myself, before it’s back to the kitchen.

BW is once more on peeling duty–carrots for roasting, potatoes for mashing. Our rhythm is, as always, me cleaning up the potatoes for spots he’s missed.

Things are well underway before–oh boy, oh boy, here come Jason, Kat and Griffin! At last I get that baby back. He’s so ridiculously handsome, so warm and snuggly. And that enchanting baby scent. He’s one month old on Thanksgiving.

“Her” baby is here!

And now Nana’s got the boy. I do share him with Grandda briefly, but he wants a change, and he’s hungry. The dogs are fascinated, delighted–new human! They sniff, wag, and love shines from their eyes.

As Kat’s pumped, I get to sit with him, give him a bottle. He’s wonderfully alert and aware, just looking at everything. Like: Huh, new place, new colors. Interesting.

While the rocking chair where I rocked my own babies is no more, I get to rock him to sleep in the same chair where I rocked Kayla to sleep sixteen years before. There is nothing more relaxing than rocking a baby.

Ready for anything.

He naps in his bouncer while it’s back to the matter of cooking. Potatoes to rice, turkey to baste, more sides to make. Jason–our roving IT guy–and BW deal with some WiFi issue, and when Griffin wakes, Kat handles the vegetables and I get the baby. Very good deal for me.

Turkey out, time to make the gravy, put it all together.

We feast.

Clean up and baby time–as Griffin wakes from his mama’s milk coma–are group efforts. Which means it’s time to make some fresh whipped cream for pie.

At the end of the day, Mama and Griffin go up to bed, Jason and BW go down for the football game, and I unwind, and conk.

I’m up early, as is habit, fiddle around. Before long I hear the baby. When Kat brings him down, I get my morning Griffin fix–and so do the dogs. Sniff, sniff, wag, wag–a quick lick if they can manage it. And they take to guarding him whenever someone sits down with him.

While my youngest is getting many diaper changes–as soon as he’s wet, he kicks his feet like get this thing off me–my oldest is preparing to travel to New York for her first cross-country Nationals. A great opportunity for her. She and her mom come here first to meet Griffin, then they’re off with Kayla driving (!) the first leg of the trip. Some pumpkin pie (Kayla’s favorite) to take with them.

Oldest grandson, youngest grandson, their adults and a Parker on baby duty.

Logan’s coming here for Thanksgiving Redux, so I have my oldest and youngest grandsons together for the first time.

Deviled eggs for Logan to ward off starvation, more baby-rocking time for me–and I get baby smiles to bank in the memory book.

Love.

Heat it all up, dish it all out, and we have our second feast. (And a text from Kayla to let us know they arrived safe.)

Clean up–pie!–tub up leftovers for the young family to take with them. Baby snuggles and smiles, a hug from Logan who has to bend over to hug me now. More hugs all around, and then my house is quiet.

I’m so grateful for the noise and movement that was.

Saturday, finally a workout. Then a wrapping marathon with cheesy Christmas movies for company. Organize that mess again, finish up other chores while keeping an ear out for a text from my running girl.

She’s finished her race–had a great experience–and will text again when they get home. It’s raining now, and Nana worries. Hopefully, if she’s not worn out, she’ll be up today to wrap. Saves me hours, gives her some spending money. Logan comes up twice a month to do chores. It’s great having teenage grandkids close by who want spending money!

Also great is having a brand new light in my life, who’ll shine for me in just a couple weeks over signing weekend.

Meanwhile I have my annual holiday trip with great girl pals coming up at the end of the week. I’ll come home, hit my list and do the tree trimming, the holiday decorating. Cookie baking’s on that list, hopefully with grandkids if their schedule allows.

Today it’s workout and making potato and ham soup as we’re tired of turkey.

There’s a lot on the list for December. It’s work, but it’s happy. Here’s hoping whatever’s on your list is just as happy–and gives you satisfaction as you check things off.

Nora

And a wink and a smile before you go.

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!