Category Archives: Cranky Publicist

A Cranky Publicist Summer Recap

Dear FITS family,

Well, it’s been a long while since Nora or I posted here — as a worried Sue King mentioned in an email yesterday. While life has handed out a few surprises in August, we’re both fine. I think the slow, hot and humid days have made time blur even more than it did in the winter. Or at least that’s how it feels to me.

We were able to take our annual trip to The Greenbrier in the middle of July. Our little group drove down on a Sunday with two cars packed high — though admittedly with far less stuff than our May trip to the spa.

Ahhhh.

The Windsor Club concierge team greeted us at the lobby door, then walked us over to The Presidential Suite. One step in and I swear everyone (including the ghosts) took a deep breath and just let go of any tension.  I’d emailed in our dinner order so first night was a matter of unpacking, then sitting on the patio sipping champagne.

A tradition.

[It’s important to mention here that the first half of this post is very Laura-centric because on our first full day at The Greenbrier, I turned 60.]

Bright and early Monday morning, I headed to the concierge to go over a quick list of things before I stopped work for 24 hours (I gave everyone three hours, then would be off until Tuesday).   I finished my list and then she said, “Are you the person I spoke to about the special order…”

I held up my hand and said, “I’m the birthday girl, you want to talk to someone else.”  I felt a little guilty about it later, but in the moment I was very clear.

I was the only one with a treatment that day (because: birthday) so I headed to the spa area around 11:15. As I limped over (first milestone of 60 looks to be a hip replacement in early 2022) I decided to add a soak in a sulphur bath to help relieve the pain. Texted Sarah (who was playing Laura that day) to say I’d be back for sandals between treatments.

After the 90 minute session, I was relaxed and ready to soak. As I headed up the lawn to the suite’s patio entrance, I idly wondered what everyone was up to.

Opened the door and there were Nora, Kat, Sarah, Kayla and Joanne waiting for me in a wonderland of balloons and Happy Birthday signs, a glass of champagne at the ready.  (There are no photos of the moment, but these will do.)

That arch and my name in silver.

The Dining Room


Once I recovered from the surprise, I heard about all the strategies to make this happen. Apparently they were on tenterhooks until I left, but didn’t let down their guard until they knew I was truly gone.  Nora and Sarah watched me from the dining room until I disappeared into the main doors.

On Sunday, they’d smuggled the supplies into the spare bedroom and monitored my every movement closely so I wouldn’t inadvertently walk in that room. Which meant when I kept heading down that hall to make sure the hotel tech fixed the lock on JoAnne’s bedroom door, I ratcheted up their tension a thousand-fold.

On Monday, once I was gone, they sprang into action: Kat built the balloon arch, JoAnne created paper flowers, then herded Griffin away from the balloons. Nora, Kayla and Sarah blew up more balloons, hung up more signs. A frenzied 90 minutes for them. A calm one for me. <g>


I sipped champagne in the equally festive dining room and opened my gifts — my gorgeous crown came first.  Accepted the love, thanked them all, congratulated them on the fabulous strategies and results. Sarah and Kat said the decorations weren’t what the concierge meant earlier.  That was coming. 

I decreed we had to dress up that evening, then went back for a soak followed by a nap, before the birthday dinner.  The big surprise was a cake made with a recipe from my favorite childhood bakery in Brooklyn, NY (the now defunct Ebinger’s) — yellow cake with a mocha frosting.  And it was perfect.  Our superstar concierge, Lane, made that one happen when the kitchen initially balked.

After dinner, we drank – a lot. Finally I turned on a Spotify playlist and we danced for over an hour (which helped with Hangover Tuesday).  And so I turned 60.

From left: JoAnne, Kayla, Laura, Griffin, Kat, Sarah, Nora

Hangover Tuesday was quiet, but we did start the card games. When my daughter Clare called on Monday, I put her on speaker so everyone could catch up. Just as the called closed, she said “You know, my mom keeps it a secret, but she LOVES games.”

I’ve disowned her. Stupid games.

Sigh,

We traditionally have one day of work at Greenbrier, usually the Wednesday. On the line up this year was an interview with the German podcast Eat, Read, Sleep, filming a video Q&A for Little Brown UK, a photo shoot for new social media pictures and our traditional Facebook Live.  I was director and cameraman, the rest of the Smart Girls helped with hair and makeup, and we completed the tasks before our one dinner out in a restaurant. (The rest were on our patio.)

The remainder of the week fell into the tried and true pattern: workouts for Nora and JoAnne, some pool time for Kat and Griffin, reading and puzzles, champagne and conversation for all.

A kiss from Griffin.

The non-birthday highlight came at the end of the week: glassblowing with the amazing Max Clair at the Virtu studio. We divided into two session with Kayla and Nora going on Saturday; Kat, Sara and I went on Sunday. Kayla wanted to make a paperweight this year. Since she made a paperweight last year, Nora wanted to try blowing a small vase. Kat and Sarah wanted to do some more complex vases this year and I opted for a small pitcher.

Nora blowing hard while Max keeps a close eye on the glass.
Kat rolling through all the colors.

You know how things flow when you have a good teacher? I’d say each of us found that flow as Max gave us confidence to build on what we’d done last year. Glassblowing remains a group favorite and stays at the top of our must-do Greenbrier activities going forward.

From left: Laura’s pitcher, Sarah’s b&w vase, Kayla’s paperweight, Nora’s vase, Kat’s rainbow vase.

We finished the week on a different birthday note: ice cream cake for Kayla who would turn 19 after we returned home. Next year, she turns 20 when we’re at Greenbrier. We’ll see what strategies and planning bring for her surprise.

Then it was time for the party to end and head north.

Balloons down.

We tend to keep things positive here, but in recapping the summer I have to talk about the good and the bad.

Reality resumed on the way home from Greenbrier. JoAnne is Nora’s lifelong friend and business manager. While driving back they came to the decision for Nora and BW to announce a vaccine mandate for all their Boonsboro businesses. While some employees quickly got their shots this spring, others were hesitant. Watching the numbers increase over the summer, Nora and JoAnne felt a mandate was the best course of action.*

When the announcement came, some employees felt differently. Several abruptly resigned and left in the middle of a shift. Which meant the first week of August was a scramble to find replacements and new hires with JoAnne in the lead on the interview and schedule front.

That Greenbrier Ahhhhh? A thing of the past.

Things seemed to be steady when Nora and BW left for the family week at Nemacolin at the start of the second full week of August. Within 24 hours they received word of a two-alarm fire at Vesta. While the restaurant was closed on a Monday, a crew was in for cleaning in the morning. The fire broke out around 3:30 pm. Two of the residents in the apartments upstairs were home, but got out safely.

The fire has been deemed suspicious and remains under investigation at this point in time. Nora and Bruce have offered a $5,000 reward for anyone giving information that leads to the identity and apprehension of the person or persons responsible for the fire.

While the scene is cleared for repairs, there is no reopen date.

And there you have it FITS family: a rather fun and celebratory July. A nose-to-the-grindstone August.

What’s up going forward here on the blog? We shake off the late summer doldrums next week with teasers for Forgotten in Death followed by the excerpt from The Becoming over Labor Day weekend.

So stay tuned.

We’ll talk soon,
Laura

*Please note: Comments are not open to debate about vaccine. Nora and I have clearly shown support for them all along. Any arguments against will be deleted.

Girls, Games, Griffin and (Uninvited) Guests

Laura’s done a roundup of our Spa Girls Week, but I’ll fill in a few details before I continue the adventures of our last night.

First, the house was all Laura said, and so perfect for our needs this year—though we SORELY missed our butlers. The weather struck me as more March than May the first few days, but the indoor space provided all we could ask for. (And a little more than we wanted!)

Kayla had her first spa girls experience, and that was a bonus for all.

The best was just seeing each other face-to-face again after a very long year-plus. HUGS!!! Lots of laughs, lots of catching up, and of course, the annual tournament.

Griffin’s also had a long year-plus unable to socialize, but he got used to a house full of women pretty quickly.

I had bags and more bags of clothes purged from my closet—no chance to see each other since 2019, so a lot of bags.

How Kat managed to load luggage for five women, one toddler, two cases of champagne, two enormous bags of games and prizes, snack food and more as we’d be in a house instead of the hotel, a case of toys, etc into two vehicles remains one of the greatest achievements known to womankind.

Ample room to watch the contest unfold

So the tournament began. Fierce competition, as always, and Elaine, our oft-reigning queen seemed a bit off her game. Youth nipped experience in Just Dance time after time with Kayla taking the lead and holding it. Laura and Nicole proved Bowling For Giggles experts. Nothing made the boy laugh harder than watching the ball roll down the alley, strike or gutter ball.

 And, again Nicole and Laura proved dark horses in Scrabble. Kat unmercifully crushed all comers in her first round, but a steady feed of vowels in her second defeated even her mad skills. In the semis, Nicole looked poised to send Elaine, our other Scrabble Queen, packing, but at the very end, Elaine slipped past her by one point.

One soul-shattering point.

As Laura reported, she faced off with Elaine in the Scrabble finals. Though she went down in defeat, I feel her complaints about the score board now ring hollow. The Cranky Publicist bagged an array of Fabulous prizes this year.

I will say it’s interesting for a nana to play Cards Against Humanity with her granddaughter. Interesting, yet hysterical.

And Reverse Charades is, always, just brilliant. Fave of this year: Sarah bending over, pointing at her butt. And Kat guessing—pretty instantly—Full Moon. It was a moment.

Sarah also shared bacon with Griffin at breakfast each morning. So when we gathered at the dining room table one evening, Griffin reached over took the end of bacon peeking out of Sarah’s bacon cheeseburger, and slowly, carefully, pulled it out.

Plotting his next move to corner ALL the bacon.

He enjoyed the bacon almost as much as we enjoyed THAT moment.

So you have the girls, and you have the games. Now we’ll discuss the (unwanted) guests.

The first morning while Jo and I are doing our workout in the communal living area, Sarah comes out. She’s laughing, but her eyes are very large. As they have just seen the dead mouse in her bathtub.

This, we agree, is A Problem.

We also agree we’re not going to deal with A Problem ourselves. We call for disposal.

A Problem is solved. Maybe not as quickly as a group of women on a spa vacation might like, but it is solved.

Until, a couple days later, the unfortunate mouse’s sibling—alive and well—makes an appearance in the kitchen. 

Ten women, a toddler, and a mouse is A Problem. 

All of us but Laura are country girls. And all of us have seen a mouse in our lifetimes. But we do not want its company. We call for a solution to A Problem.

I have to say the solution didn’t arrive as quickly as any of us liked, and wasn’t solved in a way I’d have chosen. Setting snap traps under the stove isn’t ideal in a house with ten women and a toddler.

The problem solver promised to return to check said traps. But he did not follow through until more calls for solutions. However, the second mouse joined its sibling in the Great Mouse Hereafter.

We had a amazingly fun time at our group paint session. Everyone’s painting was fun and pretty. Kat’s isn’t yet finished as Griffin woke from his nap. But I can already see it’ll be amazing.

All the color! (From l: JoAnne, Kayla, Kat, Pat, Nora, Elaine, Laura, Mary, Sarah, Nicole)

 Nicole taught Elaine how to make other art with dried flowers. Gorgeous!

For our last night we were a smaller group as Pat, Elaine and Mary had to leave. Hated saying goodbye, but so grateful we had our time together.

Laura and Kayla had shared the loft bedroom, but that evening, Kayla informed Laura she’d moved her things, and herself down to Mary’s room due to the Big Spoder on the skylight.

I didn’t see said spider, but am assured by those who did, it was BIG. And what’s left of it after Nicole smashed it as it was too high and too BIG to catch and release—remained on the skylight.

Laura also moved down to Mary’s room.

For our last evening, we decide (poor Laura!) to play Hearts.

We’ve enjoyed our dinner. Kat’s on the lower level putting Griffin to bed. We’re enjoying our champagne. While chatting with Nicole, JoAnne knocks over his glass. Broken glass on the carpet. A (new) Problem.

Jo claims there must be a vacuum, but we pay no attention and call Housekeeping. We watch the sunset, and have the array of tiki torches lit. Lovely!!

Housekeeping arrives with a broom and dust pan. No, we said vacuum cleaner because carpet. Come back with a vacuum cleaner please.

Meanwhile Jo finds we DO have a vacuum cleaner in some random closet. We’re stunned, but clean up the glass in case Housekeeping doesn’t return. And in case they do, we leave the chairs pulled out, in innocence.

Nicole discovers we’re out of tequila, and she wants some. Since the intrepid butlers said we could call for any reason, she tries them to ask how we might acquire a bottle of Patron. She leaves a message.

Housekeeping does return, and as Kayla supervises the clean-up, she spots A Problem. Apparently the mice have yet another sibling and this one dashes across the kitchen floor.

Nicole and Sarah begin devising a cunning plan to capture this one as the mouse problem solvers have proved neither efficient nor timely. And the housekeeping guy looks stunned speechless when we suggest he deal with it.

We let him off the hook as Nicole and Sarah are determined they will capture the mouse, removed it and take it out to the woods and release.

Jo turns off the kitchen lights as she thinks this will bring our quarry out of hiding. I think, the lights haven’t stopped him yet, but we try that while Sarah and Nicole finalize The Plan.

There’s also discussion about how the poor mouse will starve after we go as no one will drop crumbs on the floor.

I am long past caring about the mouse’s welfare. But that’s just me.

Brendon the Butler calls back. As Nicole’s asking him the best way to acquire the Patron, Jo—obviously forgetting about the mouse—strolls into the kitchen.

The mouse makes its dash at her feet.

The scream should’ve broken another glass. And her leap was Olympic level.

The scream brings on a chorus of screams, curses, shouts, hysteria, all of which Brendon hears. The screams of six women would alarm even an intrepid Butler who’d just asked Nicole if a half bottle of Patron would do.

Nicole responds: It’s the mouse. Gotta go! And hangs up on him.

And so the hunt begins.

Nicole snaps out orders: Shut the door, move that towel, guard that door.

The rest of us shout:

It’s under the chair. It ran over there! Now it’s under that chair! Under the fridge!

Laura is The Flusher, following Nicole’s or Sarah’s orders to Herd It This Way! Which she does by stomping. There’s chaos, confusion, more screaming as the mouse skitters under one of the small refrigerators.

Sarah is battlefield calm as rear guard, bowl at the ready as Nicole hunts with her bowl and Laura drives.

It’s making for the hallway to the bedroom! Cut it off! No escape!

Laura prepares to pick up the fridge, Sarah and Nicole pursue doggedly with two stainless steel mixing bowls.

I think, I admit it, this will never work.

Laura stomps, they pursue, the mouse streaks across the floor desperate for cover. Nicole tosses the bowl! A miss.

Another toss—missed it by THAT much!

Sarah follows up, tossing hers. It wobbles, wobbles, wobbles over the surely exhausted and traumatized mouse. Then settles.

The mouse is Under The Dome.

Cheers, screams of triumph, wild laughter.

For those who follow me on Instagram, there’s a mouse was the correct caption.

Nicole and Sarah celebrate with a double high five. Unfortunately, Nicole missed with one hand and smacked Sarah in the eye. Sarah deemed it worth it.

Then the thought: Now what?

Nicole asks for tape. We must tape the bowl to the floor in case Griffin comes up in the morning and picks up the bowl.

I say: It’ll be gone in the morning, and mean it.

I helpfully offer the bottle of Dawn dish detergent (A big one!) to weigh the bowl down. This offer is rejected.

We must remove the mouse from our house. We’ll slide something under the bowl, trap it, carry it out of the house and release it into the woods. We are not murderers!!

A paper plate? But we discover the plates have lips, so won’t do.

The cutting board? The question: What do we do with the board after, is met with: Toss it out.

Fortunately cooler heads prevail, plus the board’s too thick for the job.

Nicole takes the big glass turntable out of the microwave. I think, but….

Laura actually asks: But how will we clean it after?

It’s suggested (Sarah!) we put it back after and turn the microwave on to kill the germs.

Again, cooler heads—and it also won’t work.

Sarah says: Someone’s coming down the drive, and they’re coming in hot!

Brendon arrives—and as we’re a serious distance from the Chateau, he must’ve flown. He says: I heard you screaming. I heard all of you screaming! Every one of you! And he brought Patron!

He volunteers to help dispose of the mouse (impressed by the capture). Maybe we have a box. A box will not do. He agrees the paper plate is also a bust.

While we’re discussing solutions, Jorge—who has been our stand-up guy throughout—arrives. He also came in hot.

The poor guy looks so upset that we’ve had yet another A Problem. He has something rolled under his arm which makes Nicole ask: You brought a tube?

No, he and the guy with him have a piece of FLAT cardboard (rolled up)—exactly what’s needed.

The mouse, cardboard, bowl and all are removed. We see Jorge stop the car at the woods, and so the mouse lives to scamper in the woods—until he meets an owl or hawk. But that’s not A Problem for me.

Tequila shots, relief, ridiculous laughter.

Then Kat, who’s been trying to settle Griffin for the night comes up, with a narrow look in her eye. When the Asian Goddess give you The Eye, you feel it shiver in your bones.

Ringing phones, screaming, stomping, more screaming. But when she hears the story, we are forgiven. She also said that it was a relatively short amount of time. Felt like hours, but there you go.

Kat who rarely has more than a sip of wine, makes herself a tequila shot.

Then we played Hearts.

Nora


Thus ends the 2021 Spa Girl Recap — Wait! It’s not official until we have a photo of the winner of the tournament. This year, the crown went to Nicole!

Nicole with her crown, scepter and small dinosaur.

And in another step toward life without restrictions, Nora and family will travel back to Paw’s Up in early June — so stay tuned for the return of travelogues!

A november-ish update

November, how can that be? I mean, I know HOW it can be, but still am stunned there are 61 days left to this year.

Before 2020, Fall into the Story was full of bright, interesting travel, family and life updates from Nora along with lively book discussions. This year, while the book chats continue to bring up differing points of view and some charged opinions, the life section has simmered down to monthly updates with varying degrees of Groundhog’s Day (the Bill Murray movie, not the weird shadow day. Though I admit to preferring Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow for a movie about a day without end.)

I volunteered to take November. For those who love Nora’s own voice, I know she’ll be back with an update around the holidays. Today you’ve got the Cranky Publicist.

In Nora’s world, she and BW celebrated her birthday in the 2020 way — lots of virtual love and gifts by mail. Plus a visit from the ever entertaining Griffin and his parents.

C’mon Atticus, show me a downward dog!

Writing-wise, Nora’s immersed in the second book set in the world you’ll meet in The Awakening (out November 24). It’s hard sweaty work to build a world, but I sense it’s also daily respite from the stress of the world where it’s 2020.

Last weekend, Griffin turned 2! (Ok, if I can’t believe it’s November, I’m really having issues with Griffin and two.) He celebrated in fine style with his Nana and Grandda (and those necessary chauffeur parents). Word is he wanted everyone’s cake — especially Mom’s — instead of his own piece.

Yours looks more interesting. Mom!

Time for the first #randomkatness in a very long time! I know long-term readers have asked occasionally about the blanket Kat was knitting for Griffin. I have proof she finished it before the 2nd birthday:

One side…
the other.

In the Cranky Publicist world — outside of Nora responsibilities — my very first solo photo show opened at Gifts Inn BoonsBoro yesterday. When we planned it in January, the opening coincided with TTP’s Halloween signing. While events at TTP are canceled (the store remains open), the talented team at Gifts continues to forge ahead with in-person and virtual exhibits of interesting art from creatives all over the Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania area.

Including, it seems. Me.

As some of you know, I tend to take photos as I go on my daily walks. The pieces I chose for this show feature walks from 2018 until last month. I framed 12 pieces, then made cards and a calendar.

Framed, ready to go.
A selection of cards.
Outside the shop on delivery day.

And all will be on display/online until the end of November. You can see my pieces here.

I’ll close in the best way possible: a sweet little boy on a tree stump. I KNOW you don’t find that every day.

Perfect form.

As always, stay safe, stay well, and be kind.

Laura

Do you want to Join a Book Discussion?

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.

Eve to Roarke, Portrait in Death
Mi to Simone, Shelter in Place

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.

Laura

Catching Up, Buckling Down

At least that’s what I’ve tried to do since getting home from a really lovely, fun, relaxing and adventurous holiday.

Because our summer schedule was packed, we found the only weekend we could manage our annual summer party was the weekend right after we got home.

Yikes!

But we pulled it off with Jason and BW doing the manly outdoor set up and Kat, Kayla and I doing our girl thing in the kitchen. As always Kayla made a pretty–and delicious trifle–and stuck with her nana all day. What can I say about Kat? She’d left her carving tools at home–mom brain will do that–and managed to create a fabulous butterfly (Kayla’s request) fruit salad bowl out of this year’s watermelon with whatever she could find.

Trifle by Kayla
Healthy food too!

A good day with perfect weather, lots of food, lots of friends and family. A really nice way to ease toward the end of summer.

We followed that up–bam-bam–with our September signing at Turn The Page. Scheduling conflicts had my pal JoAnne playing Jason, our wonderful Sarah standing in (and standing is required!) for Laura.

JoAnne, Nora, Sarah

Griffin assisted his mom at the register.

Just up from a nap.

BW left after the signing for his guy week at the beach. Me, I hit my late-summer-shabby garden for some much needed work. I lost count of the number of tubs I filled with weeds and bloomed off flowers.

Then I buckled down for a week of solitude and serious work.

My reward? Finishing the 51st In Death–and no, you don’t get the title yet!

Secondary reward–gobbling up King’s new book, The Institute.

And now, it’s flow back into routine, with Laura back from her adventure in the UK–what a wonderful and fascinating trip she and her dh had.

A new book to start for me while I watch the leaves start to turn and fall outside. I’m going to harvest at least some of my herbs today. That’s a process I find rewarding and sad. Rewarding that I grew those suckers and will now have cubes of them to pop into soups, stews and sauces all winter. Sad because it signals the end–or nearly–of my garden.

For now, we still pick tomatoes and peppers off the vine and bush, and I snip a few blooms to bring indoors. But it’s nearly over, nearly time to put the gardens to bed.

And soon I get to spend a week with Griffin and Company in New York. Our boy’s on the edge of walking, and remains the world’s happiest baby.

But now, it’s time to work out, then harvest those herbs.

Nora


Note from Laura: Our adventure was my husband’s dream trip with some wish list items of my own thrown in. Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that the hash tag probably shouldn’t have been #lauraandmarksbigadventure but #canthatsmilegetbigger

I did write out a trip long recap but mainly sent back daily photos as we traveled from Edinburgh — where we stayed at the other end of a much-less-crowded-than-Festival-month Royal Mile.

Then on to a town named Reeth (a familiar name) in the Yorkshire Dales.

Down to Windsor for a delightful visit with the lovely Sarah Morgan and her husband.

On to London.

Then we sailed home to New York.

And now it’s back to regular programming!

Easing into reality

Greetings from the Travelogue Editorial Desk.

The trip home was smooth and Nora sent her “We’re home Mom” text to me by late yesterday afternoon. (Seriously, that’s written into our unwritten rules of working together — tell me when you get there safely. It goes both ways.)

Where’s my sock? Who cares? Nana, we’ve got pizza! Photo by Kat

I thought I’d ease you into life empty of daily travelogues with some extra photos and links to places Nora and family visited while they were away.

How does this travelogue thing work, you may wonder. Well, I’m part of a shared Google album to which Nora, Bruce, Jason and Kat upload photos daily. Nora sends me her copy in the morning, then I pick and choose the photos that best fit the narrative. Captions are all mine. Maybe I need to copyright them.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh was basically a three-day layover. The comments that followed the posts on Facebook offered a ton of recommendations for places outside of the city, but there was only so much time and Jason was on chaperone duty until the second day. We’ll have to see what calls to Nora when next she feels drawn back to this particular part of the world. I’ll bet it won’t be Fringe Festival time, though. For a person who works in a Fortress of Solitude, the LZW horde used up a lot of her precious I’m around other people energy protection.

OK, so maybe the photos will all be of Griffin. Photo by Kat
From J and B’s Excellent adventure. Photo by j a-b
Jason’s take on the Scott Monument. photo by j a-b
I think we all need crests on our homes, don’t you? Photo by BW
Looking up. Photo by Kat
Edinburgh blooms. Photo by Kat

Balmoral Hotel
Edinburgh Castle
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Thistle Do Nicely

Co. Kerry, Ireland

The second stop was Sheen Falls in Co. Kerry, Ireland. I find themes emerge during the course of the travelogues. Some years it’s food shots, some years it’s vista shots. This year, obviously, was the pint-sized traveler. Nora and Kat sent some really great flower photos that just didn’t work for most recaps, so I’ll share a few here.

More green patchwork from the descent to Ireland. Photo by Kat
Mother, I want to go there. Please convey me. Photo by Kat
Outdoors inside. Photo by Kat
Color on a rainy day. Photo by Kat
From one of Nora’s walkabouts at Sheen Falls. Photo by Nora
Pub night. Photo by Kat.
I can sleep anywhere agree Father and Son. Photo by Nora
Flowers at Carriganass Castle. Photo by Nora
Excuse me, Grandda, but if you don’t look at me, I’ll have to hold your shirt. Photo by Kat

Sheen Falls
Kenmare
Carriganass Castle
Killarney
Rob’s Ranch House, Killarney
Killarney National Park
Torc Waterfall
Flappers in Tulla (No website, but you can see reviews on Trip Advisor)

Co. Mayo, Ireland

The last time Nora and the Gang stayed at Ashford Castle (in 2015), the estate was in the middle of renovation. I think they got a peek at some of the new rooms while they were there. When I came home last spring with photos and delight in everything Ashford, Nora declared it was past time they went back. And as she wrote in the travelogue about their transition from Kerry to Mayo, something settled deep inside when they arrived at Ashford Castle.

Because even when I’m not there, I’m always there, I chatted with Kate Kerrigan a few days before the Tea. She lunches on the regular with my cousin Annie May Reape, a Mayo Co Councillor. I know Kate’s books because Annie May opened a book signing for her and I saw the footage on FB. When the LB UK team asked me about the right sort of gift for Nora, I told them find something special and local. They approached Kate for Co. Mayo suggestions and one of them was a shawl by Lou Brennan (seen in warm action below). But she only found out the scarf was a go when Kate ran into Lou in town and she mentioned she was making a bespoke scarf for an American writer. It’s the smallest of worlds sometimes.

Part of the editing is fact-checking if a photo doesn’t match a description. Nora wrote that the bakery in Ballinrobe was Divine but I couldn’t find a bakery with that name. Since the gang was already out and about on the next day’s adventure and it went with the copy, I let it ride. It’s actually called Devour. Also appropriate. Link below.

Kat’s men changing the tone of the photo. Photo by Nora with Kat’s phone.
Alive alive oh! Alive alive oh! C’mon — Molly Malone popped into your head immediately, right? Photo by Nora/Earworm for the rest of the day from Laura
I used this on the JD Robb instagram account. Moody birds. Photo by Kat
Wilde and Mia — the stars of the show. Photo by j a-b
This? Just my newest accessory. Oh you meant the bird, not the scarf. Photo by j a-b
From Kat’s Galway adventure.
Flowers along the Cong River. Photo by Kat
Tiny friary heading into Cong. Photo by j a-b

Ashford Castle (Click through the site to find information about dining at the Dungeon or Cullens — or the fabulous George V – as well as the Hawk Walk and other estate activities.)
The Lodge at Ashford Castle
Lou Brennan – scarf
Paint Nite:
Inishmaine Abbey
Flannery’s
Devour Bakery
Glebe Stone Circle
Lydon’s Lodge
Killursa Church
Ross Friary
Kinlough Castle

To end this little recap, here are a variety of Griffin photos to tide you over until the next time.

Mom! You’re ruining my contemplative pose. Photo by Kat
Rain. Gravel. Some greenery. Best vacation EVER! Photo by Kat
Exhausted by the fun. Photo by Kat

And finally, here’s Griffin proving he knows who’s in charge of these travelogues.

Laura

Edinburgh to Kerry, Day four

Short workout, pack it all up—and we have a LOT of bags with the five of us. We drive out of Edinburgh in a steady rain. The forecast says we’ll land in the same.

A short flight, but a long process at the airport. Apparently this airport’s particularly finicky so we’re an hour delayed in take off.

Griffin’s thrilled to see his plane girlfriend. He loads on the charm and flirty smiles. I expect, with the weather, the flight will be pretty rough. I’m prepared to use the full power of my mind to keep us up.

And am more than pleasantly surprised when the hour’s flight proves pretty damn smooth.

I risk a glance out the window on our descent—I don’t like to remind myself I’m way up in the air—and there it is! Those stunning shades of green spread in patchwork fields, rich browns tossed in.

Editor note: Kat doesn’t mind looking out the windows.

Vibrant green patchwork. Photo by Kat
Cows in the center of the patchwork

Another surprise is the sun. It’s breezy, warm and bright in our part of Kerry, so we’ll take that gift.

The air smells gorgeous.

We rent a car, eventually pile in. And off we go for about an hour’s drive to our home for a week.

It’s a lovely drive, shining green under stacked clouds where the sun burns through here, then there. Hills rolling and rising, brown cows, white sheep.

Neat, pretty houses of creams and rose and pale yellows with flowers in the dooryards.

I’ve missed this.

We’re met on arrival, so welcoming, and our mountain of luggage taken care of while we all go out to the hotel’s patio, overlooking the river, for a light lunch.

Flowing river. Photo by j a-b

It’s perfectly beautiful day, and the tea colored fall of water makes its music. Griffin’s fascinated with the little falls, and absolutely cheerful.

He travels better than his nana!

He still wants to fly. Photo by Kat

We have a spacious, thatched-roofed cottage here with a river view—and if we get more fine weather, our own patio where we can sit and enjoy.

It feels good to fully unpack, though I need to do a little organizing—but that can wait. 

Let’s have some fun exploring the cottage—there’s a bedroom on the ground level where I can set up to work when the mood strikes. A pretty little kitchen should Kat and I have an urge to cook. Lots of room for Griffin to crawl around safely.

And outside the wide river, the green, green trees, the splashes of flowers.

Kat starts some laundry. 

The baby takes a late nap—he earned it—but his mama has to get him up for dinner (and so he doesn’t wake at ten and decide it’s party time!)

We have a relaxed, casual meal with Jason and Kat taking turns walking Griffin around and about before the meal comes. He wants to sit with Nana again, and she’s fine with that. He eats like a champ, veggies, chicken, mashed potatoes.

I swear he ate more than I did.

Back home to put Griffin to bed, and the rest of us aren’t far behind him.

Woke to rain. Looks like a damp, breezy day. I’ll likely gear up and go out to walk a bit at some point. We’re thinking of going into Kenmare for shopping and lunch, so we’ll see.

Workout’s done. Kat, BW and Griffin are at breakfast. 

Time to clean myself up, do some of that organizing.

It’s good, more than good, to be back in Ireland.

Nora


Meanwhile, back in the states an Unsupervised Cranky Publicist kidnapped Flat Nora from Turn the Page Bookstore and took her out on the town.

To shop at Gifts Inn BoonsBoro…
to shop some more at Josie’s on Main…
eat some Vesta pizza…
and to meet the delighted guests at Inn BoonsBoro.

I obviously have time on my hands. ~L

Connections in Death teasers

By this time next week, the louder clamor will be “What’s next?” * Right now, it’s all about anticipation. Which means it’s time for a few teasers from Connections in Death.

As always, these are not spoilers about the book or important things about characters, just little nuggets to notice on the way to solving the case.

Thursday, January 31
– Eve’s off duty Sundays sound exhausting (to me)
– Every band starts with a name
– Roarke nips nuclear war, Eve Style, in the bud

Friday, February 1
– March’s sheep has nothing over the lion in Eve’s opinion
– Eve practices social niceties, stunning all who know her
– Roarke is briefed on the consequences of fucking Eve over.

Saturday, February 2
– Some evening walks feature pearls and a hole.
– What’s worse: a being a dick or being a crook?
– Peabody obviously practices bad cop so she’s ready when called.

Monday, February 4
I took the post-signing/Super Bowl Sunday off but here are two more:
– Roarke gets an adorbs nickname
– Hey! Eve can think of stuff!

And now, we wait a matter of hours for the release. So that means a new gif, or two:

Is it time???
Waiting…

I’ll add new ones for the next few days, so you’re over-the-top ready for Connections. Oh no, wait! You already are.

Laura

*[Vendetta in Death, September 2019]

Readers, writers and the ties that bind

Last week, my pal Marissa at St. Martin’s Press emailed to ask if I’d boost their latest stroke of genius on Facebook to promote the In Death series: a sweepstakes in which 500 readers receive a connect-the-dot booklet, and one grand prize winner will get a booklet and a signed ARC of Connections.  (Sweepstakes link: here )

I agreed, even as I mentally rolled my eyes and shielded my energy.  Why? Mainly to not wilt under the inevitable chorus of readers outside the US unhappy with the rules that exclude them.  

Recently, the chorus has upped the ante and there have been declarations of “Well I won’t buy your books!”
“Why do you hate readers who live in [fill in the blank]?”
“Do you know what you can do with your books?”
Nora replied “Yes, I can write them.”

And there, my friends is the crux of it all.  Nora’s contract with readers is to give them the best book possible, every single time out.  That’s it.  She works long hours, one book at a time to achieve her end of the bargain.  Yes, there may books readers don’t enjoy.   But that’s a whole different conversation.

The perception of a writer with a worldwide following such as Nora’s is that one publisher handles all things.  Nora has explained this is not the case several time, I’ve explained as well.  I’ve added notes to contest information that it can’t be done.  But the immediate reaction from readers is pretty much “Why don’t you love MEEEEEEEE?”   I’m here to say she does, she upholds her end of the bargain and that’s where the story ends.

Once finished, a book goes off to her US editor.  Fairly soon thereafter, it’s off to her UK editor.  Each woman works for a different publisher.  The covers are different, the distribution is different, the rules are different.  For the rest of the world, it all depends on which international publisher has contracted to bring Nora or JD to their particular readership and when.  For instance, Brazil brought out the Bride quartet with fun promotion, lots of excitement — 4 years after it came out in the US.  

The last In Death to come out to a fairly wide readership was Apprentice.  By my count it came out in Czechloslovakia, Poland, Hungary,  France, the UK (Ireland/Australia/New Zealand/South Africa) and the US.

Each publisher promoted in the way that worked for their market.  At the time, Nora’s US publisher was Putnam and their method of promotion didn’t include giveaways and contests.  When she moved to St. Martin’s Press, the team there faced the challenge of rebranding, promoting and publicizing a series 43 books long, with an established reader base.  They chose to build the audience with clever, creative sweepstakes. 

The one thing they can’t do is offer these creative promotions to readers outside the US, including Canada more often than not.  The rules, the laws, governing publishers are specific to each country, global contests are virtually impossible.  In a recent conversation with Nora’s new Little Brown editor, she told me that once she’d tried to run a worldwide contest and it fell apart under all the rules.  By the way, for a company like Little Brown, contests are geographic as well — a contest in Australia can’t run in South Africa.  

My position is different.  In a lot of ways, especially with the advent of social media, I’m the axle in the wheel of Nora.  She’s one spoke, the publishers are another couple of spokes, readers are spokes.  I field questions about books, complaints about print runs, issues with audio books, ebooks, any books.  And I turn that information over to the appropriate editor as soon as I’m able. 

Believe me, I’ve encouraged non-US publisher to consider contests because at this point in time, readers want them.  They consult with their own sales & marketing departments and make their own choices.

Here’s where I empower you to reach out to the publisher in your country. I’ve included websites and the social media pages below and encourage you to speak up.  Let them know you want to play, want an option to read a book a little early.  

In the meantime, I’m figuring out how to have a worldwide contest through the blog.  There are a lot of hoops for me as well, so be patient while I work it all out.

UK/Ireland/Australia/New Zealand/South Africa
Publisher site: https://www.littlebrown.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/norarobertsjdrobb/

Poland
Pulisher site: https://www.proszynski.pl/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Proszynski

France
Publisher site: https://www.jailu.com/Nos-auteurs/roberts-nora
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jailu.editions

Czech Republic:
Publisher/distributor site:  www.alpress.cz
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Nakladatelstv%C3%AD-Alpress-196639247048865/

Laura

Cranky Publicist beach update

(Though it’s hard to be cranky at the beach.)

The day Nora and family headed home from Montana, I moved my office to the beach for three weeks.  While Nora settled back into her at-home routine, I’d pick up where I left off last year.  And start with the sunrise: 

Our little place is right on the ocean with steps down to the beach. My favorite part of the outdoor space is the spot at the top of the dune with chairs and a view.

My seat, my mug, a reflection.

The days at the beach have a basic framework: sunrise watch, work, workout, work, end the afternoon with a book* and a cold drink, watch night fall after dinner.  Since I’m not my pal Nora, I head to the nearby Y to workout with other members of humanity.  Just before we got here I was released from the post-eye-surgery workout restrictions and I needed to bench press something heavy and sweat through spin.

Just happened to arrive before I left Maryland.

Two days in, I had the happiest email from Nora.  The grandkids came up for dinner the night after they returned for a joyous reunion.  Nora swore Logan grew another inch as he swooped toward 9th grade, Kayla had three weeks of cross country practices under her belt and Colt was ready to discuss all the books he’d read in the last three weeks.  She spent time in the gardens, baked some bread, shook off the travel fatigue and couldn’t wait until Monday to get in some solid work on In Death #49.

Labor Day meant our kids arrived for the holiday weekend while Nora and BW packed up again for a week in NY.  I think I mentioned it’s early this year to clear the decks for Master Yet-to-be-Named Wilder Pong Aufdem-Brinke’s arrival.

The NYC reports included days of hiking in search of remaining Christmas gifts. On a trip to find a new puzzle for Kat, Nora stopped by the Fifth Ave Barnes & Noble on Leverage in Death release day.  She surprised (and thrilled) the staff there by signing stock.  They shared on all their social media here.  I shared it on the various Nora/JD social media as well.

I missed the annual shop and theater trip with Nora’s agent and editor, but Leslie kept me in the loop with photos of footwear Nora found.  They saw Waitress, but I’ve yet to hear a review.

I’ve got to admit that I crave these.
Because winter is coming.

In the meantime, I kept to routine.

Morning surfer
A short walk to the water.

Nora heads home tomorrow and, other than baby showers, baby arrivals and signings will happily stay put until after Halloween.   I have a few more days here, then head home Thursday so I’ll be at Nora’s side at the TTP signing next Saturday.

All signs point to mid-week as the best time to leave because after 18 days with no rain, Florence lurks in the Atlantic:

Unexpected guest

In the meantime, I’ll watch a couple more sunrises and breathe in the salt air.

Fiery sky
Eve Dallas hoodie available at TTP.

Laura

* I also read Nalini Singh’s Rebel Hard, Illona Andrew’s Magic Rises and Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians.