3 QQ for Victoria Dahl

3QQ is an ongoing blog feature in which we ask authors joining Nora for an upcoming Turn the Page Bookstore signing some questions about their current release, upcoming books and anything else that strikes our fancy

This Saturday, October 26, from noon – 2 pm Turn the Page will be lit up with love and magic.  Nora is signing Dark Witch, the first book in her brand new Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy.  And she’ll be surrounded by magickal writers, including Victoria Dahl who brings her own brand of small town magic and love to contemporary romance.

VictoriaDahl15percentVictoria will be flying in for the signing from her home in Utah to sign copies of her books, including So Tough to Tame the third book in her Jackson Hole, Wyoming trilogy.  In So Tough to Tame, Charlie Allington is supposed to be on the fast track to the top—a small-town girl who was making it big in her career. Instead, she’s reeling from a scandal that’s pretty much burned all her bridges. Now, out of options, she needs a place to lick her wounds and figure out her future. True, working at a ski resort in rugged Jackson Hole, Wyoming, isn’t her dream job. But if there’s one perk to coming back, it’s a certain sexy hometown boy who knows how to make a girl feel welcome. 

Walker Pearce never expected a grown-up Charlie to be temptation in tight jeans. She’s smart and successful—way out of league for a man like him. But he’s not about to let that, or his secrets, get in the way of their blazing-hot attraction. Yet when passion turns to something more, will the truth—about both of them—send her out of his life for good…or into his arms forever?

Victoria was willing to answer the 3 QQ’s plus a bonus!

1. Like a certain other author who’ll be at this signing, you write trilogies — most recently the third book in The Jackson Trilogy — So Tough to Tame.  What appeals to you about telling individual stories linked by an overall arc?

dv-touch150dv_hot150dv_tough150

Trilogy writing feels very natural to me, but I’m not sure why. I really enjoy writing secondary characters, and connected books are a great way to flesh out characters that even I don’t know much about when I first start writing. It’s also fun to get a perspective on a new couple from someone you already know from a previous book. But my short attention span and terrible memory mean I could never pull off one of those epic fifteen-book series that some authors write. I would forget SO many things! 🙂 

 2. You capture small towns so well — do you live in a place where everyone knows everyone else or do you just like to imagine them?

I was actually raised in cities. Minneapolis, Dallas, Tulsa, Denver. But my family is from a very small town in Minnesota. There are about 2000 people total, and I lived there during the summers with my grandparents. My experience with that, and the perspective I think I bring to it, is that there are good and bad people in any community, whether you live in a small town or a city. And even though you might think you know everyone else when you live in a small town, people still have secrets. Big secrets.  

Small towns can be charming and sweet and cozy, but they can also be claustrophobic and unforgiving. I like to be fairly realistic about that. 

All that said, I live in a fairly small town right now. It’s hard to run to the grocery store with unwashed hair. You’re guaranteed to run in to someone you know. 

 

3.  What’s your favorite part about meeting up with readers?

It’s like a party! I’m very much an introvert, with all the awkwardness that entails, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve kind of given up on that. Instead of worrying that I’ll say the wrong thing, I just treat everyone like I already know them. After all, at a book signing, we’re almost all introverts, but we all have something great to talk about. Books!

 
Bonus Q — What’s your favorite Halloween candy?
 
Almond Joy! And my kids HATE them! Yaaaaay!

Even if you can’t make it to the signing, you can take advantage of Turn the Page’s Virtual Signing feature by ordering a book and having your favorite author personalize it for you before the event is finished.

Where else can you find Victoria?  Word is that she posts on her Facebook page when she can but Victoria rolls right along on her Twitter feed and her Tumblr.

 

 

A wedding at Nora’s

The Bride Quartet resonated with so many readers for a variety of reasons, mainly for how four women pooled their talents and friendship into a business meant to make wedding dreams come true.   To all the wedding suppliers, coordinators, florists, photographers and bakers out there – our hats are off to you!  The bywords of a wedding day for the behind-the-scene planners is organization and stamina.  And I say this with all the admiration and respect in the world.

Two years ago, Nora, her son Jason, daughter-in-law Kat, our good friend Sarah and I teamed up with some fabulous contractors to help create a picture perfect wedding for Nora’s older son Dan at Inn BoonsBoro.  Last Saturday, the team was back in action, this time for a backyard wedding for Sarah and her new husband Jack.  And it was a lovely family affair.

invite
Invitation created by Kathryn Pong

Nora and Bruce hosted the ceremony and reception up at their house. Nora worked with Sarah on the flowers; Jason handled the layout, tent, lighting and sound design; Kat hand-crafted the invitations, made candles, made bows, decorated the tent and came up with so many small touches to make the day lovely.  In the larger scheme of things, I had a small role – officiating the ceremony and doing the bride’s makeup.

Since there were no expectations of an impossible perfection, the day — the whole weekend — just ended up being perfect for them.

Set-up was scheduled for the Thursday and Friday.  The tent arrived early Thursday morning and Kat set about hanging tulle, fairy lights and the first of her ribbons and bows inside the perimeter.

Sarah washed all the pumpkins and Nora tied fabric ribbons around the stems.  The pumpkins lined the driveway wall, candles (mason jars filled the water/food color, olive oil and wicks) were added on Friday and flowers were added on Saturday.  Here’s the completed look.driveway

Thursday night was about Kat making bows from her bag of every single orange and hot pink ribbon in all the land.  The rest of us drank some champagne while watching in awe.

Friday morning Kat and Sarah had mani/pedis, Nora (who was getting over a bad, post September signing illness) worked out and then got the house and the yard ready for the rehearsal dinner.  Jason began hooking up the lights and the sound system, while I finished up writing the ceremony.

By 5 pm,  the lights were pretty much done to Jason’s satisfaction, the father of the bride was tying more ribbons and my daughter was enlisted to do the same. Here’s everyone at work.IMG_1504

After some get-to-know-you time, we had two rehearsals.  Homer (Nora and Bruce’s older yellow lab) decided the best place for him was lying in the aisle so Sarah had to step over him both times (I was afraid she would impale him since she rehearsed in her wedding shoes).  Pancho had a ball.  He dropped it whenever he could.

Here’s a glimpse of Homer and Pancho doing their thing on Saturday morning.the dogs

And here are the wedding shoes – the reason why I was afraid she’d impale Homer — B Brian Atwood ‘Baccina‘.DSCN0233

We had a nice dinner under the tent, simple food and lots of relaxed conversation as the day drifted into night.  Here’s what the tent, set up for the ceremony, looked like in the early evening.

IMG_1505

Saturday morning dawned early.  I took Sarah to get her hair done, while Nora, Kat and Jason worked with the florists, put linens on the tables and finished the many small tasks left before the 2 pm ceremony.  By the time we got to Nora’s house, the florists were just about finishing up.  Sarah had chosen hot pink and orange as her colors and Kat’s brilliance showed them to their best advantage.

IMG_1518

The bride remained calm throughout the day.  We’d done a trial run of the makeup on Friday so it went smoothly on Saturday.  IMG_1523Here’s how she looked 30 minutes before the ceremony, even with a minor crisis when Nora helped her into the dress which no longer had an eye for the hook above the zipper.  The bridal shop had forgotten it after some final alteration, but Nora and Kat solved the crisis within minutes.

Photos were pre-wedding so the bride and groom could move quickly to the party – and to respect that Sarah’s soon-to-be stepson is four and that early photos would be best.  By the time the ceremony started, we were all more than ready to celebrate the new family.

We kept it to a sweet minimum, vows for the bride and groom, rings for each and then a small ceremony with the groom’s son, LJ, in which they all promised to be good to each other as they formed a new team, then Sarah put a Green Lantern ring on LJ’s finger.

A quick benediction and then one hell of a kiss were all that were left before I introduced the couple and son.

The kiss2

Then the party started.  The groom and his band recorded a song for Sarah that was the first dance, then he had Sarah come up and duet on The Cure’s “Love Song.”

We danced and hung out as the sun went down on a truly lovely day. When it was time for the town car service in Houston Texas to drive our lovely newly weds home, everyone was in a blissful mood.

closeup

The only thing we didn’t cover were photos of the team.  As soon as I get some from Sarah, I’ll post them as well.

Questions?  Comments?

Laura

Dark Witch, an excerpt

dwlarge

Dark Witch, book 1 of The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy, will be in stores on October 29.  Just four short weeks!

I had a chance to read Dark Witch over a couple of rainy August days.  The dark skies certainly set the tone and I loved the first meeting of the cousins.  Nora created such vivid images I wanted to throw on a heavy sweater, then set out in the cold and wet to find a cozy pub.

Of course, it was 90 degrees in North Carolina so I had to imagine the sweater and the firelit pub, but it was a lovely daydream.

Here, to set your own imagination on fire, is an excerpt: DW excerpt.

If you haven’t already done so, you can pre-order Dark Witch from many places, including Turn the Page Bookstore.

Slainte!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3QQ for Kate Quinn

3QQ is an ongoing blog feature in which we ask authors who are joining Nora for an upcoming Turn the Page Bookstore signing some questions about their current release, upcoming books and anything else that strikes our fancy.

kate quinn-210TTP’s next event is this Saturday, September 14 from noon-2 pm.  Joining Nora is historical romance author Kate Quinn, a lifelong history buff who has written three novels set in ancient Rome: “Mistress of Rome,” “Daughters of Rome,” and “Empress of the Seven Hills.” She recently made the jump from ancient Roqk_mistress-150me to Renaissance Italy for her fourth and fifth novels, “The Serpent and the Pearl” and “The Lion and the Rose,” detailing the early years of
the Borgia clan.
Let’s learn a little bit more about Kate:

1. You’ve set books in the Roman Empire and Renaissance Italy.  Have you been to Italy?  If yes, what were your favorite places and food?

Yes, I love Italy.  I did a few of those whirlwind high-school trips that whip you through the whole country in three-to-five days, and then later my husband-to-be and I took our very first trip together, and spent a week in Venice.  That might very well have been the trip that sealed the deal for us: wandering hand in hand over the canals, feasting on risotto and bellinis at a little trattoria around the corner from our hotel.  We were so broke we had to stuff our pockets with rolls from the breakfast bread basket because we couldn’t afford lunch, but we were incredibly happy – Italy is magical that way!

2. The Serpent and the Pearl is your current release and first one set in  Renaissance Italy.  Challenge question: what’s your four sentence  synopsis?

qk_serpent-150

Take one Renaissance beauty with floor-length hair and the undying love of a Borgia pope.  Add a cynical dwarf on the hunt for a serial killer, and a fiery cook with a secret past and a mummified hand in her pocket.  Throw in one papal election, three Borgia weddings, a French army, and enough delicious food to throw anybody off their diet.  Light on fire and serve for a fun, fast-paced Renaissance romp!

3.  What’s your favorite part about meeting readers at events?

It brings the other half of the writing experience so suddenly and wonderfully to life!  Typically I see only my half:  curled up for hours in my yoga pants with a lap-top balanced in my lap, working on a book which I hope readers will enjoy.  But for the most part I don’t meet those readers; the book goes into their hands completely independent of me.  Getting to meet readers face to face, hearing them talk about what they liked best from my book or what part made them cry – suddenly I get the chance to see my book from the readers’ side of things, and it’s wonderful!

For more information about Kate check out her websiteFacebook page or Twitter feed.

And even if you can’t make it to the signing, you can order books now and the marvelous Turn the Page staff will have the authors sign the books before the event is over.

3QQ for Elaine Fox

3QQ is an ongoing blog feature in which we ask authors who are joining Nora for an upcoming Turn the Page Bookstore signing some questions about their current release, upcoming books and anything else that strikes our fancy.

TTP’s next event is this Saturday, September 14 from noon-2 pm.  Joining Nora are the other authors who contributed to the Mirror, Mirror anthology — all of whom are good pals.

elaineToday’s conversation is with Elaine Fox, a newcomer to the JD Robb anthologies, but an author with an impressive list of books that cross romance subgenres from historicals to romantic comedies.  A creative soul, Elaine’s varied interests include needlework, jewelry making, wine, and yoga.  And writing.

1. All the stories in Mirror, Mirror are loosely linked by an overarching fairy tale theme.  You chose a classic in your novella “Beauty, Sleeping.”  Were you a fan of fairy tales growing up?

mirror150

Of course I loved all the Disney versions, and had a book of Grimms’ with some wonderfully gruesome and detailed pictures, but I chose this one in kind of a backwards way. In trying to choose my fairy tale, I joked about how hard it would be to use Sleeping Beauty because one of the main characters is unconscious throughout the nearly whole story. (“Darling, at last I’ve found you!” cried the prince. “    ,” said Beauty.) Talk about a challenge!

But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became, and once I decided that the ‘sleep’ could be metaphorical, I hit on the idea of a ghost – ghost stories being right up there with fairy tales in my pantheon of childhood muses.

2. Could you tell us a little about “Beauty, Sleeping?”

Sure. So, the ghost idea. Instead of sleeping, my character would be a ghost – but not a dead-person ghost. No, in keeping with the original fairy tale, my character was cursed by an evil fairy because his parents didn’t invite her to his christening. (Really. Evidently fairies hate not being invited to parties.) But instead of being sentenced to sleep for a number of years he was turned into a ghost.

In a further twist on the tale I made my sleeper the hero, and it isn’t until the heroine buys the house he’s caught in that he has a chance to be made ‘real’ again.

More subtly, I wanted to play with the idea of other beautiful things sleeping too, such as the house – which stood empty for decades – and my heroine, who had never found love before, etc., so the story is about a kind of beauty in general, sleeping.

3. You’ve written romances with a fair amount of history, romantic comedies and romances with dogs as important secondary characters.  What compelled you to try different types of stories?  And what are you reading now?

I started out writing time travel romances, which can have the benefit of being both contemporary and historical. So for somebody who’s indecisive like me they’re perfect! Which makes the short answer: I just change my mind a lot. But mostly I like variety because it keeps my writing fresh. Time travels offer a writer the challenge of creating a story the reader has to recognize as ‘real’ (because they’re living a contemporary life too), and turning it into the fantasy world of the historical. After that, writing a straight historical – which requires a different kind of voice – was another challenge. Writing a completely contemporary story was for me the final frontier.

The dog books were a way to indulge my love of dogs, and to appeal to people who, like me, love their pets. Using dogs as devices to either get the hero and heroine together or keep them apart also made for great comic opportunities, which I am always looking for (and not just in writing!)

Right now I’m reading Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, who is so creatively uninhibited it’s inspiring. I also just finished reading Secret Sister, by Emelle Gamble, a book that makes you believe in the magic of love even in the complicated, confusing and messy world of modern life.

For more information about Elaine check out her website and  Facebook page.

And even if you can’t make it to the signing, you can order books now and the marvelous Turn the Page staff will have the authors sign the books before the event is over.

 

 

3QQ for Mary Kay McComas

3QQ is an ongoing blog feature in which we ask authors who are joining Nora for an upcoming Turn the Page Bookstore signing some questions about their current release, upcoming books and anything else that strikes our fancy.

TTP’s next event is this Saturday, September 14 from noon-2 pm.  Joining Nora are the other authors who contrimary_kay_mccomas3_smbuted to the Mirror, Mirror anthology — all of whom are good pals.

Today we’re chatting with Mary Kay McComas, a long time Nora pal.  Mary Kay spent the first part of her career writing Loveswepts for Bantam.  She’s been a frequent contributor to the JD Robb anthologies with novellas that take the overall theme and tweak it to Mary Kay’s point of view.  Her first two books from William Morrow/Harper Collins Pub

have garnered positive reviews and she’s hard at work on her next book.

Oh, and her math skills go in some interesting directions.  Read on!

mirror150

1. The stories in Mirror, Mirror are loosely connected by a fairy tale theme.  You chose to retell The Little Match Girl — what drew you to that story?

Actually, I’ve always thought that particular Hans Christian Andersen tale was pretty grim –hardly the sort of story I’d tell my children before bed. I’ve never liked it. So when I saw it on a list of potential fairy tales I curled my lip at it and moved on. Until I remembered that the Brothers Grimm also wrote a story about a little orphaned girl, poor and homeless, who kind-heartedly gives away what little she has to those even less fortunate and ends up naked, starving and freezing in the woods. Then, as she clings desperately to her last ray of hope, a bright star passes overhead and rains down a great fortune to repay her selflessness. Yes, okay, another dark story but it has a more upbeat ending … and a moral!

Also, as it happened, I had just read about the Once in a Civilization comet ISON that is due to appear around Christmas time of 2013. It’s predicted to be 15 times brighter than a full moon and in some places visible to the naked eye in daylight — it seemed like a sure fit for the magic in my story.

And there you have my 6 – 4 + 7 – 2 + 4 = 10 process for storytelling. My tale is a mix of The Little Matchstick Girl and The Star Money and my fascination with ISON, The Christmas Comet.

2. Could you share a little of the story of “The Christmas Comet?”

Sure. Natalie was a child of the streets until she was adopted by a family who gave her love and taught her that any kindness given to others would be returned to her 10 fold. She’s caught in the giving phase of this theory, and while there is peace in her soul and joy in her heart, her tangible returns are exactly nil and she’s dug herself into a financial and legal pit that’s about to cave in on her. There’s an adorable policeman who watches over her while she tends to the indigent and a happy ending that’s more Grimm than Andersen, so to speak.

3. What are you writing now?

mmk_sophie-150hannah-sm

 

 

 

Presently, I’m working on a third novel set in the same town as my last two stories — What Happened to Hannah and Something About Sophie. So far I have a title, Don’t Ask Alice, and that’s about it. All I have to do now is figure out what not to ask her. So here I am again 3 + 5 – 4 ….

For more of about Mary Kay, though I can’t promise more math, check out her website and  Facebook page.

And even if you can’t make it to the signing, you can order books now and the marvelous Turn the Page staff will have the authors sign the books before the event is over.

3 QQ for R.C. Ryan (aka Ruth Ryan Langan)

3QQ is an ongoing blog feature in which we ask authors who are joining Nora for an upcoming Turn the Page Bookstore signing some questions about their current release, upcoming books and anything else that strikes our fancy.

IMG_1226

TTP’s next event is this Saturday, September 14 from noon-2 pm.  Joining Nora are the other authors who contributed to the Mirror, Mirror anthology — all of whom are good pals.

First up is Ruth Ryan Langan who also writes as R.C. Ryan.  Nora and Ruth met at the very first Romance Writers of America conference in 1981.  Both were newly published and very starstruck by the authors attending.  Fortunately, they found each other and a friendship that’s spanned three decades and counting was born.
Nora and Ruth have roomed together at RWA since 1983 — and the stories they have to tell about those conferences would take days to finish.  Unfortunately, they banished juiciest ones to the cone of silence, so you’ll just have to take my word on the subject.

mirror150
1. Mirror, Mirror is the 14th time you’ve teamed up with Nora and other writing pals for an anthology.  What’s the appeal for you in writing stories that are loosely linked by a theme?
I love the challenge of writing a story set to a  ‘theme’.  Whether it’s my version of extreme Twilight Zone,  what lies on the other side of this life as we know it, or my own take on a  familiar nursery rhyme, it challenges me. 
Writing shorter stories is an art form all its  own.  The author has to establish the characters quickly, engage the reader  immediately, and, of course, tell a satisfying story.  Since I cut my writing teeth on smaller books, I learned how to pare down my work and still satisfy my readers.  It’s all part of this on-going creative process.
And then, of course, there’s the chance to do all this with good pals.  These are people I love and respect. That makes it so much more fun. 

2. Can you tell us a little about “Stroke of Midnight”?

Sydney has had some hard knocks in life.  After  losing her mother at an early age, her artist father married again, to a  woman with older twin daughters, believing his beloved Sydney would be surrounded by women who would make up for that painful loss.  He was wrong.  Upon his death his widow dissolves his estate, selling his paintings for a quick infusion of money to start her twin daughters on their road to fame and fortune. 
In a poor section of New York City Sydney becomes a teacher, and to feed her artistic soul, teaches art in the evening at a local community center.  When her stepmother drops off a box of her father’s old  things, Sydney discovers something in the pocket of his favorite shirt that will change her life.  It is enough money for a visit to his hometown in Ireland. 
Thus begins a saga that will introduce her to a delightful man who could be the lover of her dreams, or a charming con-artist.  And it all happens in a magical place where, if you truly believe, dreams do come true.

3. Your books written as R.C. Ryan feature the patented Ruth Ryan Langan loving families, but with a more Western flavor.  What’s been the most fun about cowboys and what’s up ahead now that we’ve finished with Quinn, Josh and Jake Conway?

rr_quinn-smcr_josh-150 cr_jake-150
I just can’t help myself.  I love a sexy cowboy. Even more, I love writing the family saga.  Long, three-part series about several generations of cowboys and the women in their lives just  satisfies my soul.  There’s just something special about the rugged people  who live on the land, dealing with everything from the fickle weather, to  the demands of every-day life on a sprawling  ranch. 
For me, the most fun is that these are real  people.  They don’t dress up and go to fancy dinner parties.  They’re  not interested in Gucci bags and Manolo Blahnik shoes.  They wear faded denims and plaid shirts and wide-brimmed hats.  And that’s just the women. < g> 
They’re smart and savvy and read good books and travel, but their hearts are always centered on the things that matter to a  rancher – family, country, and doing the right thing even when it hurts.
As much as I love QUINN, JOSH and JAKE, I’ve already moved on.  I’ve just completed Book 2 of my next 3-book series for Grand Central Publishing.  We haven’t settled on a title for the series.   But as soon as we do, I’ll have it up on my website and on my Facebook page.  I hope all my readers will be as happy with this crazy, sexy, loving family as they’ve been with my earlier ones.  I can’t wait to hear from them.
If you can’t make it to the signing, you can always place an order for the books available at the event and have your copy of any of RC Ryan’s books as well as Mirror, Mirror signed by the authors.

Are you a “Norist?”

During a chat with Nora’s British editor at RWA, we discussed the upcoming Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy and wondered if Ashford Castle would see a bump in reservations from the series, the way Inn Boonsboro did on the heels of The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy.  (In fact, Little Brown UK plans a contest around the release of Dark Witch in October and the prize will be a stay at Ashford Castle!  Details to come.)

nora pix 014
Nora and Antonia Hodgson from Little Brown UK

Antonia, Nora’s Little Brown UK editor, said she liked to call that boost in guests at the Inn — and potentially Ashford Castle —  “Norism” while the readers who arrange travel based on Nora’s books are “Norists.”  It seems to me that Norists probably have more fun than any other sort of travelers: they are visiting places they loved reading about, they usually travel with like minded friends or (at the very least) patient family members.

Now that we’ve finished with the Italy travelogues, as the summer draws to a close in the Northern Hemisphere while spring dawns in the Southern Hemisphere, I have to ask:  Have you ever set a vacation around one of Nora’s books or series — for instance Ireland, Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Boonsboro?  Or do you plan to?

Please share in the comments. If you have any, please send along any photos of such a trip to me at LMReeth@gmail.com and we can create an album.

 

Home — and some notes

We left the villa and Tuscany on a gorgeous morning.  But first there were hugs and goodbyes–and a recipe from Antonella for her  amazing tiramisu. Kat has promised to make it for our New Year’s Day open house.  Yummmm! 

Our ladies would be greeting new guests that  afternoon–a party of thirteen–eight of them children!! I could make a kids electric cars list of brands and models by the time they were doing bringing in all the toys – as we loaded up our luggage
 
Kat didn’t sign the guestbook. Instead she did the  most amazing pencil sketch of the view from the bedroom window–with the window  as the frame.
Off we go for the airport with our printed directions  and our GPS. Sunshine and blue skies and the gorgeous hills, farmland and  gardens and pretty houses.
 
We only got a bit turned around once, in the town that  boasts the little airport we’re using–narrow streets, many turns, more traffic  than we’ve had the last week.
 
But there it is, the small regional airport. 
 
We’re surprised when we pull up and get out. It  appears to be closed.
 
One slight moment of panic, then Jason wanders off a ways, sees the plane out on the tarmac. It’s a bit of a distance, but I see a  guy in an orange vest, see the white shirt of the pilot. We wave and call, but  it’s too noisy. I, however, always travel with the skill I inherited from my  mother. I put my thumb and index finger between my lips, and blow. My whistle is  awesome.
 
The figures turn, return our wave. The orange-vested  guy finally comes up to the fence, tells us he’ll open up in a  minute.
 
And he does. We have to wait for a cop to clear our  passports, so he calls one. He puts our luggage on a cart. I ask about the Vat  return. It’s Saturday, he says, so we can just put the unsealed envelopes in the  box. On Monday they’ll stamp, seal and mail.
 
Okay then. When I do, I notice the box is stuffed with  envelopes. I’m sure they’ll get around to it eventually.
 
Onto the plane, headed by the same crew that brought  us to Italy. Since we’re, literally, the only ones there, we take off without  delay. The advantage of a tiny airport that’s basically closed on the  weekends.
 
Long, uneventful flight, a quick stop in Bangor for  Customs, then back up for the shorter leg home.
 
More hugs. We had such a good time traveling with  Jason and Kat. Lots of fun, lots of relaxing, lots of walking, shopping, eating.  A truly fabulous vacation all around.
 
Excited dogs greet us–Where have you been? Of course,  it’s pretty much the same greeting if we’re gone ten minutes. 
 
Managed to unpack one suitcase last night, then said  tomorrow’s soon enough.
 
All done now, and fun to organize all the Christmas  gifts, to put away all the pretty things.
 
I have sunflowers of my own out my kitchen window. Not  the stupendous oceans of them I left behind in Tuscany, but they make me  smile–and the view out my office window now is thick and green with summer.  It’s nice to be home.
Nora
 
And now, here are links to some of the things mentioned in Nora’s travelogues.
In Florence, they stayed at the gorgeous Relais Santa Croce.  In Tuscany, they found IL Palazzi by working with Via Villas.  Locally, the villa is known as IL Cocetto.
Nora’s workout library included the following titles (you can google them or go to You Tube for clips to see if they would work for you):
 

Rodney Yee’s Power Yoga – Total Body Workout

Kari Anderson Center Floor

Jennifer’s Kries’ Three  Dimensional Workout and Flow Power Yoga

Ten Minute Solutions: Pilates Perfect Body.

Zyrka Landwijt Yoga Flow, Saraswati  River Tradition.

Seane Corn Detox Flow Yoga

Denise Austin’s Hit The Spot  Pilates

Thanks for reading!

Laura

 

Italy travelogue, part XXIII

A pretty perfect final day–hot, sunny and breezy. After my workout  and a big, gorgeous peach, I do a little packing, a little organizing. Then BW,  Kat and I go of to La Foce with its big beautiful villa and gardens, its olive  groves, and its smallish–we’re told–olive oil business. It’s a nice drive,  fairly close, with Kat competently behind the wheel.
 
We don’t even get lost!
 
At a big archway leading to a courtyard there’s a sign, in Italian  and English. For olive oil tasting hit bell hard. LOL. There’s a big bell and a  hammer/striker. BW does the honors, and it tolls very, very loudly. 
 
We see people–kids. This part of the estate is also a kind of  B&B with several apartments for guests. Looks like a lovely place to stay. A  Brit couple manages it, and the woman answers the gong.
 
We wait briefly for her husband, and he takes us around, into a  good-sized basement area and the olive pressing equipment. A couple big, shiny  tankish things, a few big shiny vats. Since I tell him I do want to know, he  explains how it’s all done, from harvesting on Old Soul’s day with tools that  look like hands to the pressing machine that makes what he calls green pudding,  then the filtering, separating the slurry from the oil. The slurry, after a year  as it’s initially too strong–goes back into the soul as compost. Nothing’s  wasted.
 
They get about one bottle from each tree, which explains why they  have a thousand or so.
 
The oil never sees the light of day after going in the presser  until the can or bottle is opened.
 
We sample the four different oils they make–and a fifth that’s a  special blend of the four. Tiny little plastic cups, and you just toss the oil  back like a shot of tequila. The first is strong and peppery. I like it! Each  has a slightly different flavor, so we pick our favorites and buy some to take  home.
 
I ask him how long he’s lived here, expecting him to say years. 13  months only. They came for three months, as temporary managers during a  transition, loved it and talked the owner into keeping them on.

tuscany-003
The grounds, the buildings, the view? I can understand why they  wanted to stay on.
 
Back to our own villa. Kat and Jason are going on a last  adventure–another castle we can see high on a hill. I boil up some rigatoni and  toss it in some of Antonella’s wonderful red sauce. BW polishes off the last of  the risotto. A pretty, quiet last lunch looking out over the  hills.
 
Some reading, a little more packing, some walking to take in all  the views again.
 
Antonella’s here, fixing dinner. We requested some of our  favorites–a hard choice–for our ‘last supper’. I enjoy some conversation with  her, have some wine, hang out with my gang. We take a fun, trick photo–a  panarama. Jason at the camera, the rest of us posing on the west side of the  lawn looking out. As he pans away, we run  behind him, then plop down in  the chairs BW’s arranged, and are in the photo again on the other side. 
 
Our last sunset is beautiful, soft reds spreading.
 
Dinner is another marvel.
 
Asia comes, and as we’ve expressed interest, bring her two  dogs–both hounds she’s rescued. The first she’s had about a year–a little  thing, sweet as they come who was, she tells us, abandoned as too often hunting  dogs are in the area. Very sick and starving when Asia found her. The bigger  dog, so, so skinny, she found only last week. She takes her to the vet every day  for treatment as she has kidney issues right now. Such a sweet face, and so  gentle and calm. She’s already gained two kilos under Asia’s  care.

I liked Asia right away, but like her even more for her open and  generous heart.
 
We follow tradition and have a last drink with Asia and  Antonella–we’ll miss them!
 
Off to bed just as the moon rises over the trees to the north  east.
This morning, it’s finish packing, a final breakfast, then off  to the airport for the long trip home.
 
We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect two-week holiday, from  the bustle of art-washed Florence, to the absolute glory of the Tuscan  countryside.
 
Nora

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