For a while now, I’ve run book discussions on the two Facebook pages. On the JD Robb page, we take each book and novella in the series in order — slowly. I started this in the fall of 2018 and we’re only up to Imitation in Death. There are pauses for new book information, Nora’s travel, my own travel, but on the whole I stick to the discussion Monday – Friday.
On the Nora page, with a far larger scope of books, I’ve bounced around through the backlist. Shelter in Place was our last discussion and that one took about 6 weeks.
How does it work? I choose quotes from the books, post them — with a comment or question — and let readers chat. It’s not really a book club, more a discussion session.
I recognize there are blog readers who choose not to use Facebook and thought maybe it was time to institute some discussions here.
Share your thoughts in the comments and we’ll see if there’s interest. Once that’s done, I’ll figure out the best way to do this — one post per book with quotes added regularly? Individual posts? The logistics are my area so I’ll consider all the angles.
In the meantime, I did a Facebook live from Inn BoonsBoro the other day and thought you all would enjoy.
Today’s the day — Under Currents is available for your next summer read! And this is the place to discuss the book with other readers.
I know you read the excerpt a while back so here’s the book description to refresh your memory:
Zane Bigelow feels like a prisoner of war. While strangers and even Zane’s own aunt see his parents as the epitomes of a successful surgeon and his stylish wife, Zane and his sister Britt know there is something terribly wrong. As his father’s violent, controlling rages and his mother’s complicity become more and more oppressive, Zane counts the years, months, days until he can escape. In fear for his life, he plays along with the insidious lie that everything is fine, while scribbling his real thoughts in a secret journal he must carefully hide away. When one brutal, shattering night finally reveals cracks in the facade, Zane begins to understand that some people are willing to face the truth, even when it hurts. As he grows into manhood and builds a new kind of family, he will find that while the darkness of his past may always shadow him, it will also show him what is necessary for good to triumph and give him strength to draw on when he once again must stand up and defend himself and the ones he loves.
Share your all your thoughts in the comments — and be ware: spoilers ahead.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
And now the year can really start — Connections in Death arrives in stores/on e-readers today. And here’s the place to discuss it all.
A quick reminder of the cover copy:
In this gritty and gripping new novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, Eve Dallas fights to save the innocent—and serve justice to the guilty—on the streets of New York.
Eve and Roarke are close to opening build a brand-new school and youth shelter. They know that the hard life can lead kids toward dangerous crossroads—and with this new project, they hope to nudge a few more of them onto the right path. For expert help, they hire child psychologist Dr. Rochelle Pickering—whose own brother pulled himself out of a spiral of addiction and crime with Rochelle’s support.
Lyle is living with Rochelle while he gets his life together, and he’s thrilled to hear about his sister’s new job offer. But within hours, triumph is followed by tragedy. Returning from a celebratory dinner with her boyfriend, she finds Lyle dead with a syringe in his lap, and Eve’s investigation confirms that this wasn’t just another OD. After all his work to get clean, Lyle’s been pumped full of poison—and a neighbor with a peephole reports seeing a scruffy, pink-haired girl fleeing the scene.
Now Eve and Roarke must venture into the gang territory where Lyle used to run, and the ugly underground world of tattoo parlors and strip joints where everyone has taken a wrong turn somewhere. They both believe in giving people a second chance. Maybe even a third or fourth. But as far as they’re concerned, whoever gave the order on Lyle Pickering’s murder has run out of chances…
So, how fast did you read it? Did you find all the teasers?
I’m not on Twitter. I’ve said before and will say again, I’d rather be poked in the eye with a burning stick than tweet. I’m only on Instagram and Facebook because the amazing Laura runs the show.
I write. I spend my days working, my evenings either working or with my family. Or zoned in front of the TV, basically brain dead.
I don’t spend much time on social media. I recognize its power, I appreciate its ability to connect writers with readers. And I also understand how easily it can be weaponized to incite flame wars. So I’m very careful with my use of it–and Laura is even more so.
I write. It’s what I do. What I love and what I’ve spent three decades learning how to do well. Or as well as I possibly can.
But there are a lot of authors who spend a great deal of time on social media. Some are absolute geniuses with the tools, and use them beautifully.
Others. Not so much.
I don’t believe, and have never believed in taking personal issues onto public forums. I don’t believe, and have never believed–will never believe–in a writer attacking another writing on a public forum. It’s unprofessional, it’s tacky and the results are, always, just always, ugly.
Recently another writer used her social media forums to baselessly, recklessly accuse me of stealing the title of her book–which is bullshit right off–to attempt to profit from this theft. She had no facts, just her emotions, and threw this out there for her followers.
First, let’s address the particular title which happens to be similar. I titled this particular book, wrote this book, turned this book into my publisher nearly a year before her book–a first novel–was published. So unless I conquered the time/space continuum, my book was actually titled before hers. Regardless, you can’t copyright a title. And titles, like broad ideas, just float around in the creative clouds. It’s what’s inside that counts.
It’s just a title.
By accusing me, in public, of attempting to ‘shamelessly profit’ off of her creativity, she incited her readers into attacking me–on her feed, then on my pages, then on the internet in general. She did nothing to stop this. I have been accused of theft, of trying to use this first time writer–whose book has been well received–for my own profit. To ride her coattails as I have no originality. This after more than thirty years in the business, more than two hundred books.
I was accused of plagiarism–for a title–of stealing her ideas–though I had never heard of her book before this firestorm, have never read her book.
And trust me, I never will now.
This is what happens when a reckless statement is made on social media. It becomes a monstrous lie that spreads and grows and escalates.
I don’t know this woman; she doesn’t know me. She lit the match, foolishly. Perhaps being young and new and so recently successful she doesn’t fully understand the relationship between a writer and her readers, or the power of an ugly insinuation posted on Twitter. But, God, you should know how tools work before you use them.
We should all take a lesson here. Think, then think again, before you post. Be sure of your facts before you take a shot at someone. Be prepared for the vicious fallout once you do.
Could you have dug a little deeper to check facts? Could you have contacted the person in question and had a conversation? In this case–writer to writer–could you have spoken to your publisher, your agent, about the fact that a title can’t be stolen in the first place?
Could you have, perhaps, checked the timeline? If your book came out a few months before the other book (and if you know SQUAT about publishing) you’d certainly realize it was written, titled and in production when yours hit the stands. So how could a damn title be ‘stolen’?
To be accused of plagiarism by some faceless reader on the internet, one who felt entitled to spread that lie gutted me. I’ve been plagiarized, and will always have an open wound from the blow. To me, plagiarism is the most terrible sin a writer can commit.
I have worked my entire career to build a foundation of professionalism, of teamwork with my publisher, to create a community with other writers, and to show readers I value them–not just with communication, but by doing my best to give them good books.
No one who knows me would believe any of these accusations. But that’s the problem. Those making them don’t know me, they simply lash out because they can.
This foolish and false statement has damaged my reputation. Vicious and ugly accusations and names have been tossed at me when I did nothing but write and title a book.
While this writer issued a kind of retraction after I reached out to her, it didn’t stop some of her readers from calling me a liar, and worse. We reached out again, asking her to put out the fire.
We’ve had no response, not from her, not from her agent.
Shame on them.
I had every intention of letting this go, until the flames kept burning, until the attacks kept coming. And nothing was done by the person who lit the match to stop it.
I don’t like taking my issues public. But I will stand up for myself. I will defend my integrity and my reputation and my work.
I’m appalled by this, sickened by it. I’m disgusted that people who don’t know me would feel free to say vicious things about me. I know very well the anonymity of the internet can foster such nastiness, but it still disgusts me.
Words have great power–to harm, to heal, to teach, to entertain. A writer, one who wants to forge a career with words, should understand that. And use them, as well as the tools at her disposal, wisely.
I’ve very deliberately not mentioned the name of the writer who started this, or the title of her book or mine. I don’t want this to escalate any more than it has. I don’t want my readers to go on the attack. It’s not cool. I simply want to set the record straight.
I’m Nora Roberts. I’m a hard-working writer, and an honest one.
Shelter in Place is on sale today (May 29, 2018). And this is the place to discuss so spoilers are very much ahead.
A quick reminder of the book description:
It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at the video-game store tended to customers. Then the shooters arrived.
The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies’ room, hopelessly clutching her cell phone until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.
But one person wasn’t satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.
I read Shelter a couple of months ago and loved it. Some readers will focus on the opening chapters (I know this from some email already in my box). Yes, the initial chapter is taut and scary and emotional. The rest of the book gives us a picture of people both strong and weak, some who run toward the past, some run away, some build better lives and some just sink.
Please share your thoughts in the comments, and remember to keep replies kind and polite.
Some of you may be aware we had a bit of a tangle on the Dark In Death Discussion thread last week. A reader had strong (very) objections to the word skank as used to describe women Eve and Peabody warned about possible danger.
I don’t want to get more specific on the plot itself as some of you may not have read the book.
However, I will say, in this case, one of the women the reader sees in interview is wearing cock and ball earrings. The other has Sexy Bitch tattooed over her well-displayed chest. They are, basically, party girl groupies looking for the next score–sex, drugs, action. Whatever.
Peabody uses the term.
The reader had many objections–terrible to denigrate women (such terms are NEVER used to describe men)–cops would never use such terms (she included skirt and sidepiece in this claim) as they would be ‘raked over the coals’ for doing so. And it was her opinion as I wrote the book, I am therefore sexist and should correct this in the future.
Well, bullshit on all counts.
First, as I pointed out–pretty politely at first–I am not my characters nor are they me. And cop talk is cop talk. I also reminded her that a recurring sub-character is nicknamed Dickhead.
Not good enough–even when a couple of other posters who have some experience working or being around cops explained that yeah, cops talk to other cops in often harsh shorthand.
The reader escalated, got very personal and rude–not only to me at the end, but to other posters–until Laura had to step in, tell her she’d crossed all kinds of lines, and banned her.
First, I’ll say Laura doesn’t take banning a reader lightly. It has to be extreme, and this was.
It occurred to me during this incident, that the particular reader obviously didn’t get one of the main points of the book–from the perspective of the character whose books are being used to plot. murders.
This is fiction. This is a story. We who write try very hard to craft entertaining stories with compelling, interesting characters. We’re not writing about ourselves when we write fiction, and the actions, dialog, internalization, motivations of those characters must fit those characters. Not those of the person writing the story.
Just to take Eve Dallas as an example:
I love to shop; she hates it. She drinks gallons of coffee; I don’t drink it at all. She has a cat; I have dogs. Shoes for her are something you walk in. For me, shoes are . . . pretty much everything. I’ve never been in a physical fight–and hope that continues.
I could go on and on.
Part of the fun of writing is creating people, and the writer may have little in common with those people. Their worldviews may or may not mesh. Their backgrounds are very unlikely to.
Some readers may project the writer into the character, but that doesn’t make it true.
Moreover, it’s always struck me as very strange that certain readers will ask, insist even demand that I write what they want, or stop writing what they don’t.
You must stop using the word fuck! People don’t talk that way.
First do you live in the actual world? Second I’ll use whatever word I like as you’re not the boss of me. And more to the point, if my characters use this very versatile word, it’s because THEY’RE using it.
Your books have too much sex. Your books need more sex.
My books have the amount of sex that I, as the writer, feels suits the story and the characters having sex.
You need to go back to writing nice, sweet romance.
No. I need to write what I’m driven to write.
I’m sending you this religious pamphlet because you use the name of the Lord in vain, and I’m worried about your immortal soul.
Thank you for the thought, and maybe you shouldn’t read my books.
You write about witchcraft so I believe you’ve embraced Satan.
(Yes, all the above are true stories.)
Does a reader honestly believe I’m going to read one of these posts, emails, letters and say: OH! Sue in Tulsa doesn’t want any swearing in my books. No more swearing for my characters!
Or I won’t write about fictional witches because I’m suddenly afraid I’ve invited Satan into my life?
These readers don’t know me, and yet feel perfectly righteous about telling me I’m immoral or sexist or an animal hater (killed a fictional cat in a book once) or whatever their personal values dictate.
Laura gets most of this–and recently got an all-caps rant on my language, which included a slam at Diana Gabledon for using fuck in her books. Which the raging reader claimed hadn’t been invented by the time of Outlander (which she called Highlander in the screed). Well, as Laura said, she supposed the reader had never read Chaucer whose work well precedes the Jacobite Rebellion.
Readers don’t get to dictate. They don’t get a vote. They have tremendous power–to buy or not, to read or not. The reader who provided the springboard for this blog claimed that since she’d read the book, she had the right to critique it, and obviously all I wanted was constant praise.
Well, I’d rather get praised than slammed. Human here. Yet over three decades I’ve somehow managed to shoulder mixed or poor reviews, or handle readers’ individual complaints.
However, reading the book doesn’t give anyone the right to hurl personal insults at the writer of the book. That’s not a critique on the work.
Let me add that the fall back–you just want constant praise–is the often-used blast that usually comes when the person’s losing an argument.
It should be a clue when a reader is alone in an opinion in a group of other readers, when reasonable responses have been given. Instead of buying the clue, this type of person then hurls those insults at everyone.
And honestly, when one claims I’m sexist and need to knock it off because a cop character in a story uses the term to describe women whom I deliberately crafted to earn the designation, I tend to believe that particular reader is a little scary.
I know perfectly well some will read this and be insulted–claim I’m disrespectful to readers. But I don’t push readers into one lump. You are not the Borg. And some individuals who happen to read need to learn to separate reality from fiction. And need to understand my world–personally and professionally–doesn’t revolve around their demands.
To end this on a happier note, I spent yesterday in the kitchen (catch Eve doing that!). I made a couple of rounds of sour dough bread, which I’ll freeze as I made a pretty amazing beef stew with dumplings.
Leftovers tonight! So my afternoon will include reading someone else’s book.
Note from Laura: As Department Head of Answering Letters, I see a lot of fascinating messages. There are the ones that move — loving stories about readers and the people in their live, for example the widower who reads the In Deaths because Eve reminds him of his wife, or the people who share how reading brought them closer to family members, or how just reading one of Nora/JD’s titled helped a reader out of a morass of depression because she saw a woman of strength in that book.
As the Department Head of Reading Complaints, I see all the examples Nora listed above. With a few extra thrown in like “I’ll show you! I’ll borrow your books from the library!!!” As a daughter of a librarian, sales to libraries are golden for an author so I just smile and wish them well. Recently, a woman complained on behalf of herself, her mother, her sister, their hairdresser and other assorted people (many of these come in from the group spokesperson) about Year One and how they just didn’t like it and all agree Nora should write happier books. When I replied that maybe they’ve just outgrown Nora and should stop reading her for a while she came back with “You’re telling me NOT to buy Nora’s books???” Well, yes. Borrow them, give yourself a break. How does it serve anyone’s purpose for you to set yourself up to be miserable?
I’ve taken to charting when the standard complaints come in. Around a full moons I see a rise in language complaints. There are two full moons this month, so I’m extra braced.
Recently there’s been an uptick in emails like this one: “Please stop showing so much of your boobs on morning television. My 12 year old son is in the room and he doesn’t need to see it.”
She meant to write to Norah O’Donnell of CBS The Morning. But I had a good laugh thinking of our Nora flashing the nation on morning TV. And then I sent a correction.
Shelter in Place is Nora’s “big” book for 2018. (Isn’t the cover gorgeous?) We waited until the Year One release was a bit further back before bringing Shelter front and center.
Here’s a quick description:
Sudden violence turned a typical evening at a mall into a nightmare. Those who survived the chaos and carnage would find their lives forever changed. One would dedicate himself to law enforcement, determined to find answers and justice. Another would struggle to block off all memories of that horrible night, pouring her emotions into her art.
I’ll add to the description and we’ll discuss Shelter in Place much more over the coming months leading up to the May 29 release. For now, here’s an excerpt.