On Readers, Writers and Ghosts

From Laura:  I’ve been working on a recap of RWA with photos, but a post on Facebook caught our attention and we thought it important to address on the blog.  Photos/recap by tomorrow afternoon.  Promise!

A note from Nora:

Respect isn’t always a two-way street. In a perfect world, it would be. In a perfect world, every book written would satisfy every reader. Also no one would be allergic to chocolate or puppies, and shoes would always be buy a pair, get a pair free.

Since it isn’t a perfect world, we have to pay for that second pair of shoes, not everyone can embrace the joys of chocolate and puppies, and not every reader will be satisfied with every book.

Respect, however, is a different matter because respect is, at the base, a choice. We can all choose to show respect.

I choose to respect my readers, and those who may become my readers by first, writing the best book I can. That’s also a matter of respecting myself, the work and my publisher. Happily, I find most readers also choose respect. I’ve met countless readers over the years of touring, signings and events. Routinely when I toured booksellers would tell me I had the best readers they’d ever dealt with. Happy, enthusiastic, polite, patient. I always loved hearing it, and loved experiencing the truth of it.

 I choose to respect my readers when I meet them, by trying to give them a little time, a little conversation even over a six-hour signing as we just experienced last month at Turn The Page. They’ve come to see me, and I’m incredibly flattered by that, seriously delighted (even after six hours) to have a moment with someone who’s read my books and enjoyed them enough to take their time, make the effort (even after six hours) to meet me.

 I choose to respect my readers on-line. I don’t comment often on Facebook, because I’m writing, but I often skim through the comments, and occasionally respond. The amazing Laura speaks for me there, most often.

 But here, on-line, is where that two-way street often turns into a sudden and surprising one-way path.

 We all know it, we’ve all experienced or read stunningly rude and personal comments posted on-line. Something about the lack of face-to-face can eliminate basic manners and courtesy. I often say nothing or little about this because life’s just too short to have on-line conversations with the rude.

 But sometimes a comment will push my buttons, and I’m compelled to respond. Again, it’s a matter of respect–for myself and my work.

 I honestly don’t give a rat’s tail about Amazon reviews. I don’t read Amazon reviews. Anybody can go on there, anonymously, and praise or defame a book. I’d rather be writing than reading Amazon reviews. However, when readers come on my Facebook page, intimating I use a ghost writer because, hey, they read this rumor on Amazon reviews, I’m not going to let it stand.

 The latest case of this is a reader who hasn’t read the book itself, only the reviews. And based on them feels the book must be bad, I don’t respect my readers because of this lousy book, and thinks I should come out and be honest about using a ghost.

 That’s crap. Every bit of it, rude and pretty stupid crap.

 Respectfully here, and wherever this post may end up, I write my own books. I always have, always will. I do not, and never will use a ghost writer. I may write a book that doesn’t hit a chord with all my readers–and that’s a shame for me and for the reader who isn’t happy with the story. But I will have written it.

 While it’s difficult to hear a book I’ve worked on and sweated over didn’t hit the mark with some readers, that’s part of living in an imperfect world. It’s part of the job of being a writer, and I accept it.

 Having someone state, allude, question or accuse me of using a ghost writer, particularly after I’ve categorically stated I don’t and won’t repeatedly, is offensive. I don’t accept it, and I will go head-to-head with anyone who insults me and my work by spreading rumors–or in some cases stating they know I use ghost writers.

 I spent all last week in San Antonio at The Romance Writers of America conference. Fun, yes, and work, too. I got home this past Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning I was back at my keyboard, writing. My choice. I chose to write, I chose to write hard. The result of that work, good or bad in any reader’s opinion, is on me and me alone.

 I’ll end by saying I not only respect my readers, but value and appreciate them, tremendously. If I write a book that doesn’t sing for you, I hope the next one does. That’s really the best I can do.

 

A Garden update

A garden update for all who wonder…

Very happy pots
Very happy pots.
Thriving corner
A thriving corner.
Purple coneflowers
Purple coneflowers.
Pretty trough
A pretty trough.
Nora's mom's snakeplant, repotted countless times
Nora’s mom’s snake plant, repotted countless times.
Monarda
Monarda.
Longer view of garden wall
Longer view of garden wall.
Kayla's impatiens with pig
Kayla’s impatiens with pig.
Herbs -- the dill has run amok
Herbs — the dill has run amok.
Happy faerie garden
Happy faerie garden.
False sunflowers and purple coneflowers
False sunflowers and purple coneflowers.
Boomerang Lilies, boomeranging
Boomerang Lilies, boomeranging.

The Moth on the Terrace Wall — the sequel

It was like waiting for the end of a trilogy!  What happened with the moth?

Did the silence from Nora’s email account signal that the moth did dastardly deeds in the dark of night???

After a nearly sleepless Friday night, I demanded an answer this morning.  How could we rest easy otherwise???  And the suspense was driving me to using way too many “?” in my writing.  Here’s the reply:

Much to my sorrow, and somewhat to my ick, I’d been observing a dead moth.

We saw it flutter around the evening before my observations, then land on the terrace wall. Wow, big moth, pretty, pretty.

Apparently it came here to die.

My initial response when BW told me of its demise, was like Monty Python’s dead parrot: No, no, it’s only sleeping! And being a guy he plucked it off the wall and brought it inside to show me. Being not a guy I ordered him to get it out. As he’s still a guy he laid it out on this flower-shaped hammock in the parlor (sort of appropriate) where the other guys could admire the dead moth awhile.

I decided it had lived a short but happy life of adventure and romance, produced many pretty moths, then returned here where it met its first and truest love to die peacefully in its sleep.

However….

Though not a guy, I am the sort of nana who suggested to the young boys in our party it might have been a zombie moth who’d come to eat our brains while we slept.

You have to make your own fun.

 

Wired for stories

I was getting ready to post some more garden photos when an email from Nora arrived in my inbox.  She’s away from her desk on a short family trip — the sort of getaway in which everyone does what they want during the day then gets back together for the evening.

This afternoon’s subject line was “Moth” and starts out:

I’m generally not an insect person, but this moth is sort of spectacular. And it’s been on the wall of the terrace like this time since last evening. What’s it doing? What’s on its mind? Is it just taking a really, really long nap?

All I could think was photo (60)this must be how a writer’s brain is wired — always seeing the potential story behind interesting things.  Aren’t we all lucky Nora’s brain is wired that way?

Three hours later she sent me another one:

Sitting on the terrace. Moth’s still there.

An hour after that:

Back on the terrace. Moth hasn’t budged. How does it just cling to the wall for like 16 hours straight. What’s it waiting for?

It’s starting to creep me out.

While I may never think — Hmmm a trilogy about moths would be great! — I’m pretty certain Nora would make it entertaining (and probably a little scary).  And I’d be first in line to read it.

Laura

 

 

Nora, Ireland, Ashford and you?

Nora’s going back to Ireland for vacation this year so we’ll all have a chance to live vicariously through her travelogues.

This year, though, there’s a twist!

Nora’s UK publisher, Little Brown Group, will host a once-in-a-lifetime event on Sunday, August 17: An Audience and Afternoon Tea with Nora Roberts at Ashford Castle.  For all the details, please visit: http://www.nora-roberts.co.uk/2014/06/27/meet-nora-roberts/

When I posted that news on Facebook this morning, the comments included a chorus of “will you come to (fill in the blank)?”   Let’s face it, if Nora visited every city —  or even just various central hubs — of readers, she’d never get home again.  It’s just not possible.

She asked me to post this on her behalf and I’m copying it here:

I wish I could go everywhere and meet readers, but mostly I stay home and write.

Several times a year I participate at events at Turn The Page Bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland — and that offers opportunities for readers east of the Mississippi.  The next event is Saturday July 19 from noon – 2 pm.   For more details please visitwww.ttpbooks.com.

This year I’ll be in San Antonio for the Romance Writers of American conference–and am delighted to participate again in the Readers For Literacy signing– on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter Hotel in the 3rd floor ballroom. For more details, please visit www.rwa.org.

That might make it easier for those of you west of the Mississippi to attend an event.

Then, in August my husband and I, along with our younger son and his wife, will travel to Ireland. The August 17 event at the gorgeous Ashford Castle should be just wonderful — and may make it easier for those of you in Ireland, the UK, and western Europe to attend an event.

Only one of me, and thankfully, lots and lots of you. It’s just not possible to visit all the fabulous places where you live, and continue to write the books you enjoy. NR

 

 

Let’s All Take A Deep Breath

Yesterday we announced on the JD Robb Facebook page that Amber Entertainment has optioned the In Death books. And the comment section exploded. Reactions ranged from excitement and delight to abject despair and even anger–with every possible emotion that falls between. Casting suggestions (and demands) flew like grapeshot.

I’m going to take this opportunity to address some of those concerns, suggestions, demands.

 First the option is for a feature film, and is in the very early stages of development. I’ve met face-to-face with the producer, twice. She has not only read the books, she gets them–and the characters. I’ve turned down option offers before, for this series and for my other work because I didn’t feel it was a good fit. This feels like one.

Will it be? No absolute guarantee, but I have to trust my instincts.

No, no and again no, I will not write the screenplay. I have no idea how to write a screenplay, and have no desire to learn. I like writing books. I will, however, have input. I’ve already seen a very rough outline of the script, and when I saw something that felt off-character, I pointed it out–and my input was respected.

Will the movie be an exact reproduction of the book? Again, no. It can’t possibly be. It’s based on the novel, translated from the novel to the screen, interpreted by a director, a cinematographer, a screenwriter, and far from least of all, by actors. Both the producer and I agree the film must, absolutely must, remain true to the core of the book and the characters. But yes, some things will be left out, some things will change in order to make the shift from page to screen. Those who demand any movie be a pure copy of the book are going to be disappointed.

Movies are a different form of storytelling, but adaptations can and do work, and often beautifully. Yesterday, I answered a comment, one (of several) that claimed all adaptations fail, with two examples of excellent ones–and did this straight off the top of my head and after a glass of wine. I could name more, dozens more, but then this post would go on forever.

I could also name dozens that failed–at least for me.

Did those failed adaptations ruin the book for me? Absolutely not. The book remained exactly the same, and I only had to pick it up, read it again to be pulled back into a story I loved.

I value so much the investment readers have in this series. The depth of that investment often staggers me. And I understand some concern. Believe me, I have a pretty big investment in the series myself, and want it done right, want it done well. I’m realistic enough to know not every scene will make it to the screen. It can’t.

The investment, the concerns, I understand. The anger from some is a little astonishing. Let me reassure all. No one will drag you from your homes or places of business and force you to watch the movie, if indeed it happens. Watching a movie, like reading a book is a choice. It may very well be, as a reader, you prefer your own image of the books and characters, and don’t want another vision to mix with that. No problem at all.

To those who demand: Why, oh why, is she doing this! She doesn’t need the money! I ask: Why, oh why, do I write the books? They matter to me, and I’m thrilled the characters and stories I created have this chance to appear on screen, in theaters, to reach an audience who already loves them, or has never read a single book in the series. I write for money–it’s my job. But if money was the driving force for me, I’d never have put the first word on a page.

On to casting–which is far down the road as I haven’t yet seen a finished script. The contrast in readers’ wishes and hopes and visions (and the brisk dismissal from other readers of those visions) illustrate just how diverse those readers’ images of the characters are. Some of the suggestions leap to actors a decade–often more–too old. A wonderful actor can certainly shave some years off, but a decade or more? I don’t think so.

However, the popular insistence that any actors cast be, basically, physical clones of Eve, Roarke and the gang isn’t going to make top of my priority list. Do I want, and hope for, a cast that reflects and embodies those characters? I really, really do. But you know, I’m not going to turn thumbs down on an incredible actor for Eve because the actor doesn’t have a dent in her chin, or one for Roarke if he isn’t quite as tall as I’ve written. My priority will be, again, that good fit–and talent. I want the characters interpreted well, I want them respected, and my fondest hope is that they just rock it out.

I’m not in charge of casting–I wouldn’t know where to begin. But again, I’ll have input. Actors act, and a really good actor becomes the role. Gregory Peck became Atticus Finch, Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lector. For me Tom Cruise became Lestat, Michelle Williams Marilyn Monroe, Jennifer Lawrence became Katniss (and Mystique!) That’s what I’m looking for when the time comes–actors who can make me believe–as their creator–they’re the characters.

And even with what I consider gorgeous performances, when I pick up the book the movie was based on, I’m back into it, and into my own vision of the characters. The movie is a movie. The book is a book. Two ways of telling a story.

Whatever happens–if indeed it happens–I can promise you everyone involved wants this to work and work well, everyone involved understands the readers’ investment and emotional attachment and will do everything possible to respect the work itself, and that investment.

I love books. I love movies. It will be an incredible thrill for me, as a writer, to see characters I love, pulled from books I’ve written given a chance to kick some butt on the big screen.

BIRD!

Nora and I do most of our work together virtually.  I drive up to Boonsboro for events but on the whole, I work in Raleigh while Nora works in her Fortress of Solitude.  So we do many things by email — conveying information, ironing out details, discussing all things Justified, gardening tips.  She lets me know when she’s finished a book (just did).  I occasionally offer stellar advice like naming every heroine Laura (she’s yet to agree).

And then there are emails like yesterday’s (she said I could share):

Came down from my office, preparing to go down to the gym to work out. I hear something bang into the front window.

See a bird. As this happens often enough, my mind immediately went to: Bird outside.

No, bird inside.

Creep over, see the bird on the back of the chair looking dazed. Ease in, gently capture bird who just sits there. Take bird outside, put her up on the garden wall so she’s safe.bird on a wall

Two minutes later, the damn bird, feeling feisty, flies right in the back door I didn’t think to shut all the way.

She’s now in my dining room, and not at all dazed.

Not sure what comes next.

 

Four minutes later this comes next:

I finally herded her, if you can herd a bird, out the dining room door leading to the deck and outside.

Doors are closed now!
Nora

See?  Writers are real people who have bird problems too!  And here’s an album of garden updates:

Thriving pots
  Thriving pots 
Sunflowers getting bigger!
Sunflowers getting bigger!
Snapdragons with delphinium
Snapdragons with delphinium
Pretty pots
Pretty pots
Potatoes!
Potatoes!
More basil and lots of herbs
More basil and lots of herbs
Lavender with nasturtiums coming along
Lavender with nasturtiums coming along
Knockout roses first bloom
Knockout roses first bloom
Kayla's impatiens with roses
Kayla’s impatiens with roses
Foxglove
Foxglove
Faerie garden
Faerie garden
Cute boots and wild lush ferns
Cute boots and wild lush ferns

Dogs, Disasters and Determination

I thought about this when I took my little after-work stroll around the gardens on Friday. Everything’s looking so pretty, color and texture already changing. Then I got to one of my favorite spots, what I think of as a little faerie garden.

I literally stopped dead, stunned speechless.

Pancho
Pancho

During my earlier workout, I’d heard Pancho 

barking incessantly–and yelled out a few times for him to knock it off. I didn’t think much of it–until I saw my dragon wing begonias, my pretty mini fuchsias, some of the yellow bells and foxglove had been trampled on, and many broken.

It didn’t take much for me to get the picture. Some critter had wandered in, and the dogs had gone wild. Now if a deer passes by, they generally just lie there, maybe give it a glance. I hear them thinking: Okay, it’s bigger than us, we’ll just stay where we are. But a raccoon or possum, that’s fair game.

Homer
Homer

And the games must’ve been vigorous. 

A moment–okay longer than a moment–of heartbreak, and a stern talking to given to the dogs.

While I’d planned a quick trip to the nursery for Saturday, it was for a couple of specific things to fill particular gaps–and didn’t include fixing up that section. Now it would. After I gathered up some of the broken plants–sticking them in water on the faint hope they might shoot some roots–I scribbled down a short list of what I’d need.

Saturday’s trip took longer, and well, there I am in the middle of all those gorgeous plants, so four and a half flats later, I come home. I’ll also confess, I had to make myself stop. So tempting to get more–and somehow I’ll always find room. But enough already.

BW isn’t home today, but will be pleased I only have a single plant I want him to do–pretty big hole needed, and in a tricky spot.

I’ll do the rest.

As I’m setting them out, getting a visual, switching them around, next visual, I realize I never have any real plan when I garden. I have a basic concept I may or may not follow.

That’s just the way I write. Huh.

Both are jobs and joys for me, and I approach both in a way I’ll call organic. Let’s start here and see what happens. After the first draft in a book, I’m going to need to start from the beginning again, start weeding what doesn’t belong, prune out what needs to go. Maybe I have to move what I thought should go here to there. 

I’ll need that third pass in a book, doing all the fussy work, making sure this is the best I can do, making sure it all holds together.

Gardening’s the same with my process.

There are going to be gaps that need filling. More color, more texture, maybe a different angle. My nasturtium seeds have only sprouted two little plants. I think about this, move one carefully and plant it with the other.

new home for two lonely nasturtium, lavender in bloom behind
The new home for two lonely nasturtium, lavender in bloom behind them.

In its place I fill in with mini fuchsias (I bought far too many for the faerie garden anyway), and some wishbone flowers (not on my list, but too sweet to resist) that should spill nicely over the wall.

Wild indigo in bloom along with dragonwing begonia and azuratum; mini fuschia and wishbone flowers in front.
Wild indigo in bloom along with dragonwing begonia and azuratum; mini fuschia and wishbone flowers in front.

Not what I’d intended, but it works. It works really well, and I think, that’s just how it should look. Readjusting with a story is the same. You go where it works.

Water, compost, conversation. You want a strong story, you want strong plants–and I want to be intimately connected to both.

It’s marvelous to watch things bloom, in a story, in a garden–whether it all blooms the way you anticipated at the start, and even more so when it blooms its own unexpected way.

You’re going to get sweaty and tired–and there can be some disasters–having both my hard drive and backup crash simultaneously years back, costing me an entire chapter isn’t so different than seeing a pretty, thriving section of my gardens trampled by a couple of enthusiastic dogs. There I had to go back,reconstruct–and tell myself, as I am with my faerie garden, it’ll only be better for it eventually.

Faerie garden, redone.
Faerie garden, redone.

With a book, it’s going to end. You’ll have done the best you could with the story, and you’ll move on. A garden is a constant work in progress. But for me, getting there is pretty much the same.

Single Iris, the others seem to be waiting
Single Iris, waiting for the others to bloom.
shady spot with bench on the correct side this time
Shady spot with bench on the correct side.
Rhododendron with bird feeder
Bird feeder amid the rhododendron.
Peony tree blooming!
Blooming peony tree.
patio pots already filling in
Patio pots filling in.
mountain laurel likes the dappled shade
Nora’s mountain laurel likes dappled shade.
Herbs thriving, especially oregano
The herbs, especially the oregano, are thriving.
delphiniums about to bloom with green edge petunias in front (new)
The delphiniums are about to bloom with green-edged petunias added in front.
coral bell for bw to plant behind the boots.
Coral bell (the plant for BW to put in the ground) behind the boots.
verbena with star flowers, heliotrope, purple cone flowers
Verbena with star flowers, heliotrope and purple cone flowers.

Nora’s 2014 In the Garden album

A favorite shady spot
One of Nora’s favorite shady spots

Nora was out in the garden yesterday and sent in these photos.  We’ll update them as the season progresses.

How’s your garden growing these days?

 

azaleas by the steps
Azaleas by the steps.
boots
The boots have a new set of flowers.
columbine with dianthus and monarda
Columbine with dianthus and monarda
Butterflies like the verbena
Butterflies like the verbena!
False Indigo, Drawgon Wing Begonia, Azuratum, nasturtium seed planted in front
False Indigo, dragon wing begonia, azuratum and nasturtium seed planted in front.
girl with dianthus, violets and foxglove
Girl with dianthus, violets and foxglove (one of my favorite photos – L)
Lilacs
Lilacs. (The bench was a 2013 Mother’s Day gift!)
Petunias in old watering can
Petunias in an old watering can.
pretty patio pots different angle
Pretty patio pots (there’s that face again!).
solomon seal with cone flowers
Solomon seal with cone flowers
sunflowers germinated!
Germinated sunflower seeds!
verbena with star flowers, heliotrope, purple cone flowers
Verbena with star flowers, heliotrope and purple cone flowers.

 

The official blog for Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb readers