Category Archives: Cranky Publicist

The Trilogy note

Dear reading pals,

Remember the agonizing days that ensued when you finished the Born in trilogy?  Or the Key Trilogy?  Or The Inn BoonsBoro trilogy?  

Heck, pick any trilogy that you hold dear.  

Remember the book hangover?  The absolute certainty you’d never meet characters as amazing as the Concannons, or the women of Indulgence or the Montgomery Brothers?  That life was bereft of light and laughter now that you didn’t know what would happen in their lives anymore and you were certain Nora NEEDED to provide more?

Even though you could always revisit the books any time you’d like, that first time was finished.  And oh, how it hurts to know you can’t read a book for the first time ever again.

But then…you met the Templetons of the Dream trilogy, the valiant Six of The Circle Trilogy, the amazing cousins of The O’Dwyer Trilogy.  Or you visited Three Sisters Island…the charming village of Ardmore…watched the world rebuild through The One.

Get the pattern?  We all experience deep sadness when we close the final book in a series, sure we’ll never feel that way again.  

And then less than a year later, Nora hands us the first book in a new series.  I know some wait until all three are out, some will read them on publication day, then reread before the next book.  But in the end, all of us will meet a new set of people, even knowing that book hangover awaits at the end of the series.

Isn’t that the reason we all read Nora?  How reliably she gives us new, entertaining adventures that only she knows we need to read? (She wrote about trusting her in a post this fall.)

For nearly a week, I’ve seen a ton of comments wanting –no NEEDING — more of the Dragon Heart Legacy. Dig down, it’s wishing for a little more time with characters before saying goodbye.

If you look at the arc of the three books, Nora finished all she set out to do:  take a woman who has no knowledge of her tremendous potential and lead us to the point when she knows who she is and what she will do with her life.
There has been loss, there has been sadness, but on the whole Breen made her choices and there is happiness ahead. 

Nora took us on that journey and left Breen in a very good place. And we can all use our imagination to think of what happens next.

In my head, I see the comments now:

But Nora wrote a fourth book for The Quinn Brothers!!!  Why yes she did.  She was very upfront that Seth would get a story — after he’d had time to grow up.  So that’s why there’s three years between Inner Harbor (1998) and Chesapeake Blue (2001). Twenty-one years ago.

But Nora wrote four books for The Bride Quartet!!!!  
She had a cast of four characters and took them through a year in the life — New Year’s Day to New Year’s Day.  Quite honestly, my friends, I could hear the wedding fatigue in her voice when she was in the middle of writing Happy Ever After.  Honest to goodness, I experienced ONE real life wedding this year. I’m not sure how she created the details for multiple fictional weddings throughout that series.  So when she wrote The End, she meant it.

But Nora wrote novellas! 
No, she wrote two very short stories for the now defunct Waldenbooks newsletter which you can find here.  The novellas she did write were planned into the writing schedule as a project with friends. And she stopped writing novellas 7 years ago.

Nora of 2022 writes a very different sort of book than the Nora of 2009 who Wedding’d Herself Out writing The Bride Quartet.  She’s creating more complex worlds in her trilogies as well as her stand alones.  Let’s be real here: she writes two In Deaths a year to vacation with Eve and Roarke in a world she already knows.

It’s a huge compliment for readers to want more of characters and the world you create.  Readers have to understand that Nora’s currently deep in the first draft of the first book of the NEXT trilogy and Talamh is firmly in her rearview mirror. It’s been in the rearview mirror since December 2021.

I know a smidgeon of what the next trilogy is about and I think you’ll enjoy it tremendously.  Even as we all know I’ll have to re-post this letter in November 2025 when The Lost Bride Trilogy concludes.

We’ve got a lot more fun ahead of us.  Let’s keep our eyes on that. And enjoy.

Laura

PS. Three posts in a week??? Can the blog be springing back to life? Stay tuned.

Nora in NY (Sung to I Love NY)

A fall trip to New York City is one of Nora’s fondest traditions that dates back to the years of fall book tours. New York would be the last stop on the tour, then BW and the family would meet her at the Palace to relax after weeks on the road. It was the breather before the holidays.

Well, a breather and a chance for Nora to finish her holiday shopping. She still does. [humbug]

Her favorite place to stay is the Champagne Suite at the Palace which is large enough for the entire family to stay comfortably.

The view from the suite’s living room. Photo by Laura

Covid interrupted the trip in 2020 and in 2021, the suite was taken for Nora’s dates. This year? She was back, baby. Broadway and dining out remain off the table for now, so BW opted to stay home. Kayla planned to come on her fall break, then had an opportunity to travel with friends. So Nora, Jason, Kat and Griffin rode up in a new-to-them small bus. Everyone was comfortable and Griffin loved it.

Champagne for the champagne suite in the large box. Photo by BW.

I love October in New York for the weather and the sports. My husband and I drove up a day early so we could see the Mets on Saturday night (the only win in the series against the Padres) and then the Jets on Sunday afternoon. We were 2 for 2 for in-person sports so happy, despite the Mets losing the series on Sunday night. We’re native New Yorkers and just keep hold of our teams.

Nora and family arrived Saturday afternoon after creeping so slowly through tunnel traffic I had to leave for Citifield before they reached the hotel. I popped up for a quick hello before football, but didn’t spend time with them  until Monday.

It was an absolutely gorgeous October 10 (aka someone’s birthday), even with the Columbus Day Parade screwing up our walk to the new flagship UGG store on Fifth. Nora, Kat and I spent a nice hour wandering, then an enforced 25 minutes watching the parade since we were held at a crosswalk until a break in the marchers.

Stepping off. Photo by Laura

Once allowed to cross, we headed back to the hotel for a break. Then I had a late lunch with my sister downtown and Nora decided to walk up Madison Avenue on a gift mission.

A side note: Sunday evening, Kat’s nephews and nibling came over from New Jersey with their moms.  When they got to the suite, they reported meeting Dennis Quaid in the lobby. Nora replied, “You should have called me – I love Dennis Quaid!!”  Please note, I only run into athletes and saw many San Diego Padres and the Cleveland Guardians — also at the Palace.

Back to Monday. We get on at the 53rd floor, then the elevator opened at the 51st and Mr. Quaid walks in, finishing up a conversation with someone who remained on his floor.  He was in front of me, looking ahead at the doors — as one does on an elevator.  I looked over at Nora who gave me bug-eyes.  (Later, Kat said he probably caught us in the reflection of the doors ruining all my fantasies of being cool.) 

Dennis Quaid half turns and asks what we’re all doing today.  I told him we were riding the elevator until we ran into him.  And then we all chatted a bit on the minute long ride.  He’s doing a project for HBO Max with Stephen Soderbergh.  (Ok, he mentioned Soderbergh and I googled the rest.) 

Guess who else is in the project? Timothy Olyphant!  We hoped to run into DQ again to find out where Timothy Olyphant is staying.  No such luck.  But a fun birthday story.

On Tuesday, Nora and Jason took Griffin to the Central Park Zoo.  I walked uptown with them to enjoy the lovely morning. Griffin was taking in all the sights and sounds. Every time he heard a horn or a siren he’d yell “Watch out!” as safety always comes first.

When they returned in the afternoon, Nora and Jason reported that Griffin took a couple moments to look over the Spider Web Scramble Net, but once he watched some kids playing, he climbed up and had the best time — never once letting go of his truck.

Griffin getting the lay of the web. Photo by j a-b.

After nearly an hour, Jason retrieved Griffin so they could take in some more sights at the zoo. That turned into a ramble in the park to find the carousel — which dad and boy enjoyed a lot.

Carousel smiles. Photo by j a-b.

On the walk back, they found a subway stop with Nora’s intials.

Nora’s station. Photo by j a-b.

In big Griffin news, next week he turns 4 AND starts school!

In Griffin and Nana news, Nora got in an extra 5K steps every day with Griffin — either chasing, racing or playing hide and seek.

Does a Cranky Publicist do any of that? Why no, but we got into a great rhythm of him doing a run and when he’d get near me, I’d ask “Stop or Go?” He’d reply “GO!” and keep on the move. Satisfactory exchange on both sides.

Wednesday was a walk around day. I’ve taken on an intern this year — specifically The Inquisitive Intern, to contrast with a Cranky Publicist. Paige is helping me with some social media graphics as well as behind the scenes research for future updates to the websites and this blog.

We shopped for sneakers for Griffin and more Christmas gifts (bah, humbug) then had an al fresco lunch near Rockefeller Center.  Nora and Paige bonded by the time the french fries were served.  And you’ll see more of Paige as the year goes by.

No ice skating until November — rollerskaters out in force. Photo by Laura
Paige, the Inquisitive Intern, and Nora.

Thursday was the only rainy day. Nora, Jason and Kat had a Nora Roberts Family Foundation meeting so I rambled around — down to the Flatiron Building and back up to St. Patrick’s. Then I met my husband for a couple beers at an Irish pub. A perfect NYC day.

NYPL on a rainy day. Photo by Laura.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Photo by Laura.

Friday was a matter of tying up any loose ends for shopping — which meant a stop at Uniqlo and later Sephora. I also had to show Nora the seasonal decorations on Papillon, a restaurant on 54th street.

That last afternoon, we sat down for a Facebook Live on the JD Robb page — we shared stories about the trip, revealed the title of the September 2023 In Death and answered a few questions. I know it will fill in some of the blanks: https://fb.watch/giBC6xltbK/

A few more favorite photos from the week.

Love this view. Photo by Laura.
Light at night. Photo by Laura.

A lovely week indeed.

Laura

A note from Laura

A Monday afternoon blog post is rare, but I thought this was important.  

Last week, The Washington Post ran this story.

Nora was appalled and asked me to find a way for her to help them bridge the gap — personally, not through the Nora Roberts Foundation.  I contacted the WaPo reporter who provided me with the GoFundMe information. 

Yesterday, Nora made a donation that will make all the difference to the Fund Patmos Library campaign.

Ron French at Bridge Michigan reached out to me after Nora’s donation.  Bridge Michigan ran the original story about the Patmos Library being defunded along with several follow-ups on the fundraising campaign.

Ron’s most recent piece went live today:  https://www.bridgemi.com/talent-education/romance-author-nora-roberts-helps-save-mi-library-defunded-over-lgbtq-books

I have many emotions about the vote to defund and Nora’s determination to help.  When I was 9 years old, the first place I was allowed to talk to on my own was the Brooklyn Public Library.  Eight blocks down Fort Hamilton Parkway to the magical place where I could choose my own adventure.  Where I could fill up summer days with stories.  I went pretty much every day.

My first paying job was working as a page at the South Orange (NJ) Public Library Children’s Room — spent all my college years earning $2.25 (might have been $1.75) an hour so I could be around books.  My mom decided after raising seven kids that being a librarian would be a good second career.  She was a Children’s Librarian, then the director of the Florham Park (NJ) Public library for over 25 years.

So libraries are in my blood.  And the thought that access to the services a library offers and the shelves full of interesting stories could be voted away because people don’t agree with all the information in those books is a nightmare.  

I’m grateful Nora stepped up.  Thank you emails from librarians have been streaming in.

And lesson learned, I will pay better attention to the salvos fired at the libraries around me so I’m prepared to fight for their right to remain open with access to all.

For those who would like to donate, the link is https://www.gofundme.com/f/fund-patmos-library-for-2023

Laura

Summertime news

Hello all,

How have you fared during the dog days of summer? Or the depths of winter, depending on your hemisphere? Nora’s currently with family at the spa while I thought it was time to get a regular summer cold. (Forgot how little fun they are.)

But before either of those things happened, we had some time together at The Greenbrier.

Previously, the resort was such an oasis of cooler weather I’d taken to calling it Brigadoon.  Unfortunately the magical properties of Greenbrier weather were no match for the current US summer reality.  While we didn’t scorch, we had three solid days of rain along with late afternoons showers on two other days, so patio time was limited severely to a couple hours on arrival day and the last two days.  That was a bit sad since we’ve mainly stayed outside/eaten dinner on the patio every visit.

However, the space is big enough that we made our own fun.  And there was no thunder and lightning with the rain so Kat and Griffin spent hours at the pool each morning.

A couple days before we headed to the resort, JoAnne sent out a report of filming a Christmas movie at The Greenbrier (rumor is it will be titled Christmas at The Greenbrier). 

As we turned on the main drive, there were all the trappings of a traditional Christmas — set among the mid-summer begonias, coleus and hosta.

Just a small glimpse of decorations.

The main building was decked out for a traditional Christmas, including the ice rink that Greenbrier has November through January (we’re summer visitors, who knew???).  We think they are going to CGI the ice.  

Skating rink amid summer green.

Pause for a second and consider any bride who dreamed of getting married at The Greenbrier — in the summer — arriving to find it decked for Christmas.  Guests were not given a pre-arrival heads up. But plenty of creative families got their holiday card photos taken against the gorgeous Christmas in July set ups.

There was filming in the lobby on our first full day.  A couple of us went down to watch for a bit.  We didn’t recognize the actors so I’ve taken to checking IMBD for a cast list

The hero and heroine. We heard it was a second-chance love story.

The sound guys must be brilliant because they had to deal with a kid screeching in a stroller as his parents — not extras — walked through the lobby off set.  Then there was a family coming down the hall, with someone giving instructions that echoed around the tiled lobbby, followed by a yelped “Oh S#*T!” when he saw the crew.

We stayed for three takes.  And now we have something to watch in December. The staff didn’t know if it would be Hallmark or Lifetime, so once I know, I’ll share.

The holiday decorations made for lovely evenings, even when it was cloudy.
The evening the purple sky competed with Christmas.

On the whole, the Greenbrier stay isn’t one to lend itself to daily travelogues. Nora and JoAnne worked out every morning. I went for walks or the gym. Everyone had books to read. Nora got a little work done. Kayla instructed me and Sarah on Instagram looks. The usual.

Mainly it lends itself to photos.

The best way to recycle.

We had three wonderful sessions with Max at the glassblowing studio. He plans to move on from rural West Virginia this winter so we made the most of our glass time. 

Kayla, hot glass and Max.
I wish all my days included blowtorches.
Nora applying color to her glass.
Finished work

Sarah organized trips to the two escape rooms on the property. I declined because it felt too much like a dreaded game. 

First day, Alice in Wonderland escape room crew: Kat, Sarah, Nora and Kayla.
Second day, Bunker escape room crew: Kat, Nora and Sarah.

Though I get credit for playing hearts.

The dread deck.

JoAnne was Chief Griffin Companion while the gang escaped from rooms. She was prepared to chase and hide and play, but both times, he opted to deal with his mother’s absence by napping in place.

There was a puzzle. Not as bad as the cupcakes from March, but a hard one. Nora and JoAnne completed it the last day.

Bright colors, big square.

Kayla turned 20 while we were there.

Crowned after 2 decades.
Ice cream cake for DAYS.

There was ghostly activity to entertain everyone. The keys stopped working daily. Nora, Kayla, JoAnne and Kat saw presences in the card room. I did my morning work in there for most of the trip. One morning I heard someone go down the hall to the kitchen. As she came back, Nora said, “Oh, good. A real person.”

Sarah had it the worst as a ghostly presence kept invading her room at night.  She finished the trip sleeping in my room after our sensible Kat went into the room and reported whatever was in there wasn’t nice. Housekeeping confirmed there was something in that room that didn’t play well with others.

I slept extremely well. I think the fact I sleep in Wallis Simpson’s old room scares them all away.  

Ghosts are afraid of her too.

Nora and I filmed our regular July Facebook live on Saturday afternoon. It was our first one since October 2021 and we were due for a catchup. Really hope this link works: https://fb.watch/eLKJQfU5mf/

We all dressed up for a fabulous dinner at Prime 44 (the steakhouse down the hall).

From l: Sarah, Nora, JoAnne, Kayla, Laura and Kat

And in our final tradition, we’ve already booked our trip for 2023.

Nora may or may not have a spa trip update. Once she’s home, she stays put until NYC in October. In the meantime, I’ll head to the OBX to work by the ocean for a bit.

Hope the rest of your August is a good one. Here’s to cooler/warmer days in the weeks ahead!

Laura


Once Nora readjusted to East Coast time after Italy, she recorded an interview for the LifeExcellence with Brian Bartes podcast.

Book Notes

Greetings from the Cranky Publicist desk.

And Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who’s a mother of the heart in any way, shape or form.

I know you’d all prefer a Kentucky Derby post, especially after that amazing race yesterday evening, but Nora and Bruce opted not to attend this year due to the crowds and continuing Covid risks. Griffin is still too young to be vaccinated and there’s a family vacation in June, so they want to keep him safe. Let’s hope for next year.

It’s 3+ months out from the hip replacement and I’m increasing my distance in walks, can do most yoga poses, am back to building strength in the upper body. So, I’m well on the path full movement – including dancing at my son’s wedding next weekend.

I’ve planned this post for a while. Right before surgery I pre-ordered a ton of books, then reached out to my pals in publicity at St. Martin’s Press and Berkley to beg for reading material. I just KNEW I’d spend days reading when I wasn’t doing PT.

Turns out that was not correct.

You know what I did during recovery? Work. Kept up with the social media, answered emails. The stuff that makes up a day. Fortunately, I did have evening time and dove into my little treasure trove of books already out, or coming soon. (Yes, ARCs are a reward for answering FAQs with kindness.)

I know a lot of you claim to only read Nora and JD Robb. Much as I love both of them, I do like to explore outside this universe and if you’re interested in some new material/authors, take a look.

Of course, I have to start with Nightwork. It’s Nora’s perfect summer read about a gentleman thief with some really high standards. It’s out May 24. I seriously know you’ll love it. Can’t wait to open the discussion thread!

Oh, and I may have read this:

Desperation in Death – out September 6

but we’ll discuss that later. (Loved it.)

The Christie Affair came out February 1. It’s an intriguing look at the time Agatha Christie went missing. It’s based on a true – strange – story: In December 1926 Agatha Christie disappeared from her home in southern England. When her abandoned car was found, it began the biggest manhunt in British history for a missing person. Eleven days later she was found in a northern spa town claiming to be the victim of amnesia.

Nina de Gramont writes from the point of view of the other woman – Agatha’s husband’s mistress. If you are a fan of mystery, star-crossed lovers, revenge, pick this one up.

The Suite Spot came out in March from St. Martin’s Press. I hadn’t read the first book in the series – Float Plan — but I didn’t need to. In this contemporary romance, a young single mom moves to a very tiny island in the Great Lakes to take a job at a hotel. The hotel owner is a grump but naturally they fall in love! (Ok that last sentence is from Marissa of Team Nora who loves both books, but it absolutely applies.) BTW, if I’m a sucker for anything, it’s a strong heroine who picks herself up and finds her path.

Ever Summer After (May 10, Berkley) is a second chance story about a couple who fell in love as teenagers over the course of six lakeside summers, but then it fell apart in one moment. Twelve years later, the two are reunited and they have to confront what separated them and decide whether their love is stronger than their biggest mistakes. My pal Erin at Berkley said this book’s happy ending was so hard won and beautiful she couldn’t recommend it highly enough! And I have to agree.

I’ve adored Katherine Center’s books since I read How to Walk Away and proceeded to purchase her back list in quick order. This was BEFORE I met her at a TTP signing in fall 2019 when I ended up loving her even more. The Bodyguard is out on July 19, from St. Martin’s Press. For me, it’s another joyful Katherine read with humor, family (blood and non) shenanigans, and a woman who can kick anyone’s ass learning about her other strengths. (BTW, Katherine’s newsletter is always a happy email that brightens a day.)

Last summer I devoured Beach Read by Emily Henry so I was looking forward to Book Lovers – just out from Berkley. A book about book people? Oldest sister responsibility (I’m the oldest of seven if you couldn’t tell)? Families breaking in order to heal? And really, two people good at what they do changing careers to do what they love? I devoured it.

BTW, if you haven’t read Beach Read — honestly one of the best head-to-head confrontations of genre and literary fiction — do yourself a favor and pick it up. You’ll find humor and fear and love all in one place.

You all know how much I love Nalini, right? Storm Echo – out in June — takes us back to San Francisco. We catch up with some familiar faces plus there are sightings of many favorite characters, including bears. I love Nalini’s bears. Even if they are far away. But there are also cats and a few wolves. And I’ll bet you love Ivan and Lei.

The only person I know with an output close to Nora’s is Nalini. And thank goodness for that — it fills in my Nora gaps. Nalini makes time to step away from the Psy-Changelings and Guild Hunter series to share her New Zealand Noir (see A Madness of Sunshine and Quiet in Her Bones) or to revisit the gang in the Rock Kiss and crossover Hard Play series. She surprised me with a get well ARC of Kiss Hard — Catie and Daniel’s story. It’s just released and a really wonderful outing with the Esera clan. Friends to lovers romance – done well — can be such a satisfying story.

Some of you may know of my love/competition with Lucy Score. We met at a TTP signing in February 2019 and have been pals ever since. She deserves a special place in my recovery reading for consistently making me laugh when I least expect it.

Maggie Moves On is Lucy’s first release for Grand Central, out June 21. What happens when a You Tube star who never stays put, starts a project in a town next door to a man fully rooted in that place? In Lucy’s hands, the project hits bumps, Maggie collects people who care and gets an eyeful of that nieghbor without his pants — among other adventures. Plus there’s a dog. Books about finding one’s place are also personal catnip and Lucy never fails to hit that kind of story out of the park. To fireworks. You can order a signed copy of Maggie Moves On From TTP.

I also loved Lucy’s Forever Never and Things We Never Got Over but I’m beginning to run out of space.

I couldn’t wait for Sarah Addison Allen’s first book in a long while and Other Birds (out September 13) completely delighted in every way. It’s pure SAA – love and magic and stories about the people who live in The Dellawisp on Mallow Island. When Zoey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment there she meets her quirky and secretive neighbors, including a girl on the run, two estranged middle-aged sisters, a lonely chef, a legendary writer, and three ghosts. As one does. It’s a book I’m sad to have finished. If you haven’t read Sarah Addison Allen, start with Garden Spells. And thank me later.

What’s Nora reading? Well, when she’s deep in writing (in this case, next year’s single title) she relaxes with TV shows and movies. Then, at the end of March she was slammed by vertigo — took six days to feel back to herself.

During those interminable days she watched all the Oscar nominated Best Pictures she had interest in, and was thrilled with CODA’s win. Lovely, lovely movie according to Nora. She also loved Belfast and thought Kenneth Branaugh deserved the award for best original screenplay.

Streaming-wise, she counseled me to watch Julia (her wisdom never ceases to amaze, it’s lovely). In turn I told her to watch Moon Knight (she is) and in return she told me to watch Outer Range. “Modern-day Western meets X-Files with a visit from Fringe,” she wrote. “Josh Brolin. I’m completely hooked.”

I know there’s more, but these are the most recent.

And there you have it, entertainment in all forms.

Coming next? Girls Spa for Nora, wedding for me. We’ll catch you up as we can.

Laura

PS. Wait, there’s one more: Lessons in Chemistry showed up everywhere I turned in April, so I finally heeded the Universe and purchased. And I love it.

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!