Category Archives: Nora at home

This, That, Plus a Whole Lot More

I haven’t had a good space of time to sit down and write a blog since we got back from New York.

Griffin’s first trip to The Big Apple turned out to be nothing but fun and adventure. As soon as we drove into the city, he started making his oooh happy, excited, interested noises.

Not sure about Nana’s toy.
Successful pen. For parents and babies.
Less happy about the bucking bronco than in Ireland.

For myself, it proved an excellent time to expand on the Christmas shopping I started overseas, and having the boy along just added tons of fun.

We had a trip to the Central Park Zoo, which brought out more happy, excited and interested noises–until exhausted from it all–he fell asleep.

For an adult evening we had an amazing time with my agent and editor and their husbands for dinner and a show. We saw Tootsie, and if you ever get the chance, don’t miss it. It’s absolutely fabulous, on ever level.

A Mavis-style shoe from the shopping trip.

Our weather proved nearly as wonderful–one day of rain, then wonderfully clear until the day we left. No complaints!

Back home for some serious catching up, and buckling down to work.

One of the very best parts of coming home was delivering to Colt–my voracious reader–a signed copy of the new Dogman book. Happily, Dav Pilkey and I have the same agent, and she made the arrangements. As you can see, the kid was beyond thrilled. I swear every inch of him lit up–and he must’ve looked at the signed page a hundred times. I seriously can’t thank Amy and Dav enough for giving our Colt the thrill of his life.

Colt is dazzled.

I did have a weekend–a nice fall Saturday–to make soup and focaccia bread. So, mmmmm.

I had to devote the next weekend to organizing. All those gifts and packages from New York had to be dealt with. Fortunately for me, Kayla came up to help–and I really needed it!

My One More Room is now holding big-ass boxes with each person’s gifts inside so I can keep track. I’m not going to think about the wrapping marathons yet.

While I was at it, I did a solid purge of my closet as I had a girl day planned for the following Tuesday. My closet got reasonably purged and organized–and my girl pals hauled off bags. Salad, champagne, pizza, cookies–and trying on new-to-you clothes and shoes?

The lone male at the girls afternoon.
Belated cake personalized for Nora.

That makes a most excellent girl day.

Back to the buckle down to work part until Friday, and (drum roll!) Griffin’s First Birthday! Since we had a signing on Saturday, we celebrated here, and I can testify our birthday boy had a fine time.

Like Colt, he just lit up when everyone sang happy birthday. He may not understand what that all means, but it was just delighted everyone sang to him.

Then came the smash cake. I hope Laura can get the video up. He was initially intrigued. Oh, it’s soft, and I can play with it a little. Interesting. Then Nana gave him a little taste–and he got the idea, big time.

Got it!

After a few fists-full, his parents wisely removed the thoroughly smashed cake before Birthday Boy got sick.

One year later.

I can also testify, he remains the sweetest, happiest baby in the history of babies.

Saturday, it’s gear it up for TTP’s Halloween signing. We had a pirate theme this year, and we sure pulled it off. I have a fondness for Jason costume. He wore a post-in note he’d made with the Pi symbol and a drawing of a rat. Get it? Made me laugh. We had Captain Griffin, The Scourge Of The Seven Seas, First Mate Kayla working under Captain Kat, Seaman Wilder and–naturally–The Dread Pirate Roberts to round out the family on board.

Captain Griffin
Dread Pirate Roberts deals with the unruly crew.

Our visiting authors got into the costume spirit, as did a number of readers. We had a wild, crowded, LONG and happy event. And a separate thrill for me to meet Meg Tilly ( adorably costumed as a cat). The award-winning actress has written a number of well-received books, and is writing a Romantic Suspense series. I have Solace Island–the first of the series–on my bedside table.

Meg Tilly, Jason, Dread Pirate Roberts

She, and all the visiting authors, did a wonderful job connecting with the readers, with each other, and graciously handling a four and a half hour signing.

Kudos as well the the readers for their enthusiasm and their patience.

And huge ones to the ever-efficient, patient and hard-working staff of TTP–as well as our stalwart signing day additions who pitch in above and beyond.

The A Team

Today, with workout done, this blog up (and plenty of leftovers for dinner!) I think I’m going to shovel out around here, get my house in order. Then fall asleep in front of the TV.

Nora

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!

Nothing Much

Not a lot going on this past week, which is just how I like it!
Just work straight through to the weekend, all pretty calm and satisfying.

A full Saturday for certain with a lot of gardening chores–also how I like it. With packing squeezed in there for the family trip to the spa. BW’s going to meet us there mid-week as he’s off to a music workshop to work on his Cajun accordion playing. Kayla and I head out Monday morning, and the rest of our gang will dribble in through the day.

Spent the evenings signing books and finishing up galleys as I really don’t want to take work with me.

We get our first little harvest of tomatoes–a very pretty Roma and some cherries. Setting them and the peppers in this new spot made all the difference. While I weed the front of the beds, BW braves what I like of as Snake Haven and does the back. (No snakes spotted.)

And as our wild berries are ripening, he has himself a handful, then gets another handful for me. Yum. We don’t often beat the birds to the berries that climb all over the slope behind the raised beds.

Last week, he discovered a nest of ground hornets under the furled loosestrife when he started to install some low fencing support as they’ve gotten so big. The hornets were not pleased, nor was BW when he got stung–fortunately only twice.

We just can’t have hornets buzzing around right outside the house,  but whatever he sprayed didn’t bother them a bit. Time for the exterminator.

The plants and pots look good!

We have an incident last week with a raccoon and the dogs. The dogs behave like dogs, so the raccoon is no more. In the battle, they break my favorite pot–my face pot–in two. Handy BW glues it back together, but I’m letting it rest for the remainder of the season–and happily save the plants.

A couple of problematic shady spots we’ve worked on are coming together. In one area, after many failures due to deer, I tried astilbes–deer-resistant, and they’ll take shade. Not my prettiest spot yet, but since the ones planted last year survive, we add more this spring. Eventually, when the little guys catch up, I hope for a nice flow of color and texture the deer ignore.

I chase one away from another area just the other day after work. They’re pretty, but relentless. 

I’m having serious good luck this year with hummingbirds and butterflies. We have a couple of hummingbird feeders, and I like watching them. One enjoys the boomerang lilacs outside my gym, and often comes to feed and visit when I work out. Sweet.

Happy boomerang lilacs

My herbs are thriving (harvest a lot for dinner last night). I’m letting one patch of oregano bloom because the butterflies like it, and I like them.

My favorite of the weekend is the stone lantern BW gave me for our anniversary, and installs yesterday. So pretty during the day, and what a lovely glow it gives at night. I think it’ll be my favorite thing for a long time. Across from that, my Rose of Sharons are about to burst into bloom.

Stone lantern
Rose of Sharon on the bring of bloom

Purple coneflowers and Susies bright in my beds, cardinal flowers ready to pop. Spilling nasturtium, bold begonias, cheery garden phlox. Hydrangeas lush and lovely–and so plentiful I cut some to enjoy inside.

Coneflowers, Susies, nasturtium
Hydrangea display

It so satisfies me to see the rewards for the years of work, to see each area we tend develop its own personality.
It’s even more satisfying to see it all on an evening walk after a good day’s writing.

I’ll miss that this week, but I’m pretty sure the family time–and a couple of good massages–will more than make up for it.

Nora

Time for fun

If you don’t have time, you need to make time for fun now and again. This was my week for making fun time.

What could be more fun that a day with girls–sisters and daughters–and the happiest baby in the world?

It’s our tradition to do a shopping spree at Saks in Tyson’s every year for Kat’s birthday. The team we work with there aren’t just the best, but have become family over the years. We start off in an area they’ve closed off for us and transformed into a garden–with a harpist!

Oh, the peonies! So fragrant, and fat as soccer balls.

Griffin likes the music, and also the selection of handsome baby clothes to pick from. Nana shows his some options. Yeah, that’s okay, hmm not bad. But when she holds up a little man suit, this is met with enthusiasm. Obviously, every handsome boy must have a little man suit.

We have delicious shortbread cookies–butterflies, dragon flies, blue birds–and an incredible cookie birdhouse made by Lily from the Graff department. She’s an baking artist. Some of these I have to take home for Kayla as my girl is extremely fond of Lily’s creations.

Delish!

Then it’s time to get serious about wardrobe for girls.

Griffin hangs with us, hangs out with the team, has a walk-about and even takes a nap. When we break for lunch the teams presents us with an amazing gift. They will have a dogwood tree (which happens to have been Kat’s mother’s favorite) planted wherever Kat wants, and have included a really lovely plaque. It’s so touching, so thoughtful.

Kat and Jason will find a spot in their lovely yard where they’ll be able to watch it grow and bloom.

We have a simply wonderful day, and are now outfitted for all our summer adventures.

Because fun days should be expanded whenever possible, we learned years ago to stay overnight. After a post-shopping room service dinner, we have to say bye to Mary and Sarah–both have obligations in the morning. But Laura, Kat, Griffin and I get comfortable.

Griffin isn’t interested in sleep because this is too much fun. Laura can make noises by rubbing her fingers over the sofa, and there’s nothing funnier than that. Still, eventually it’s night-night for all.

I wake as usual about five-fifteen. But I wake to the sound of a baby laughing. About the best wake-up call ever. I join Kat and Griffin and a glorious sunrise for amusement with hands and sofa noises.

Mama’s tired, and Nana’s up, so Kat can catch more sleep while I get more play time. The boy doesn’t last long before he starts the eye-rubbing, head scratching that says: I need a nap. While he naps, I get my workout in–a good deal for all.

After-nap munchies

All good things must end, so we pack up–it’s quite a load–and head out. Happy Almost Birthday, Kat!

Back to work for me, but a slightly shorter day of it Friday as my older babies are coming to dinner. A good time to catch up on what’s what at the end of the school year. The two oldest will be joining the work force this summer around vacations–a very nice balance, imo.

We’ll be having fun with Logan shortly as it’s his turn for a summer trip, and it’s coming right up. Details to come.

Saturday, it’s work out, get in some quick gardening because we’re spending the afternoon in Baltimore at an O’s game. Kayla’s going with us. Logan declined as he considers baseball boring.

I love the boy, but this is heresy!

It’s a perfect day–low 80s, low humidity, sunny, and there’s nothing prettier than a baseball field. And no field is prettier than Camdon Yards.

We’re a happy group, guests of my broker and his team. Kayla and I settle in to watch them finish prepping the infield as the stands fill up.

And here comes Griffin for his first ballgame. Unlike Logan, he doesn’t seem to find it boring. He also samples his first crab cake, and like a good Maryland boy, enjoys it.

A pretty little blonde girl flirts with Griffin who flirts right back.

We have a fine time despite watching the O’s lose. They just fell apart after the fifth. But I’ve had time with my oldest and youngest grandbabies, hang out with Jason–who loves baseball–and Kat–who simply doesn’t understand it–on a perfect June day.

Thanks, Bill!

Today, I get my workout in, and focus on finishing some gardening. Then it’s deal with my seriously disordered house.

Because tomorrow, solid work time starts again. And that’s fun, too.

Nora

In The Groove

That’s what June feels like so far, and that’s the best in my world.

A solid work week for me is a treat, so the weekend really is the carrot at the end of another carrot. Right now, I’m back in Eve and Roarke world, and that’s always fun. So I spent the week catching up with old pals and murdering people.

Sweet deal.

For Saturday, I have an agenda, and it works! Get my workout in. Check that off. BW and I apparently had a mind meld as on Friday I thought: Wouldn’t it be nice to have bbq ribs over the weekend–and he comes home with a pack of ribs thinking same.

So I wrap those babies in foil on Saturday, stick them in the oven awhile. During the awhile I plug a few plants into the pots where Parker–before we added red pepper flakes to the soil–decided to dig them out.

Check ribs, have time to weed and deadhead the beds. This is kind of a zen activity for me. It’s quiet, relaxing, pleasant.

Ribs out, make up sauce/marinade, cover the ribs with it, and into the fridge.

Back outside to see about using this old trellis on a big–BIG–rose bush. One of BW’s cousins gave us the bush for a wedding present, so it’s 34 years old, taller than me, and blooms like crazy.

Turns out this isn’t a one-person job, so BW gets his sledge, makes holes for the trellis, and we get it up. It’ll do better next year when it’s not so full, and I can more easily thread it through–but those long arching branches are now off the ground.

He’s put this wonderful old gate–tall and really heavy–in our shady hosta area. I love it so much I ordered a smaller Tree Of Life Gate to go in another deep shade area where I can get nothing to thrive.

BW’s gate

We haul the new gate–to be used as decor–down the lane to the stubborn spot. I hold, he and his sledge do the work, and there we have it. Nice.

Tree of Life gate

I decide, when I’m done outside and back in the house, I’ll look for some lawn art on line. We can make that space prettier.

Since I’m out, I throw the ball for the dogs. The dogs watch me throw the ball, obviously think: YOU fetch. It makes me realize that in the last year or two of Pancho’s life we stopped throwing balls. He loved chasing and fetching more than anything in the world, so we had to stop when he really couldn’t run.

I’m going to work on this with these guys as the vet tells us Parker’s gained 9 pounds. Dog needs to work out!

Meanwhile, the pavers are coming along. It’s not going to be quick, but it’ll be worth it.

Today, after the workout, a few inside chores–maybe some ball-throwing–I get to pack for our girl overnight/Kat birthday spree. The best kind of interrupted work week!

Then BW will throw those ribs on the grill, and we’ll feast.

Another pretty sweet deal.

Nora

The Good Life

For me, that’s a solid, uninterrupted writing week followed by a pretty weekend in the garden. All my stars aligned, and it feels like it’s been awhile since they have. That makes it all the sweeter.

Since it somehow decided to be June, and June’s pretty busy, I’ll take the pretty perfect last week of May for that solid work week.

It’s a pleasure–mine anyway–to work steadily along, then shut down for a workout. Through this week, I work out with the sound of stone saws outside my little gym. Progress there, too! Every day I saw more of our wall going up–so pretty! It’s satisfying to take a walk around, see that progress, see new blooms–after a full day.

The wall project near completion

Then to start June off in the garden? It doesn’t get better.

In my continuing war against deer, I bought a couple of big garden spinners. Fun, colorful. I was perhaps overly proud to put one together solo. Mechanics isn’t my strength. I did need BW assistance with the second–one with a solar light–mostly because it had more parts and needed three hands to manage it easily.

Whether these will spin and chase off deer is debatable. But I like them anyway. So far spraying repellent’s doing the job (knock on every available piece of wood). And I do plant a lot of deer resistance varieties.

I have a whole flow of astilbes in a shady spot at a distance convenient for deer to sneak up. I saw one nibbled on yesterday, and imagine some deer taking a bite, then going PTUI! Serves her right.

BW spent most of his first day of June on his little Cat cleaning up the area behind his shop. This is an area I mostly avoid in order to keep BW alive. I will say he made some serious inroads.

We found a better spot for our tomatoes and peppers–already have tomatoes on the vine!–and he had the idea of using an old wagon as a stand. Cute.

I weeded, dead-headed, swept, pruned, rearranged and had a very fine time.

Mermaid lounging spot.

Today, post-workout, I’ll see what else I can play with before we have a family dinner. No Jason, Kat, Griffin this time as they’re out of town for a wedding. Griffin had his first plane ride–and seemed to enjoy it.

Right now, I’m looking forward to a summer filled with work, fun, flowers. It’s time to hit the gym so I can get started on that.

Nora

Weekends

I’ve had the good, the best and the ugly recently.

The ugly I spent knocked out with a really nasty bout of vertigo. As anyone who’s dealt with it knows, vertigo sucks hard.

But that’s done now.

The next, the best, I had a weekend of baking, gardening, family dinner, and Griffin! Our boy is full of fun, which probably comes from being–honestly–the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. Life’s a perpetual picnic for Griffin. He plays peek-a-boo, but likes being the one doing the peek-a-booing by holding a napkin up to his face then dramatically yanking it away.

Hello!

It’s great having time with all the grands. There’s Kayla who was prepping for races–and took First in the 3200 in Regionals–and Third in States! You go, Legs!

Way to go Kayla!

And Logan who’s now the second tallest man around here. He has to bend over to hug me! Next month I get him for five days when we take him to Montana. Really can’t wait to see how he likes his first trip west.

And Colt who can have a conversation about pretty much anything because, as he says, he read it in a book. He’s like Sam from Game of Thrones. The kid’s in third grade and can talk about the universe.

I had a girl day here between weekends, just a lovely day with girl pals. Salad, pizza and champagne. And a special guest appearance by Griffin. The boy’s happy to go to any lady who wants a baby fix. And now he’s got his first tooth, so we have to watch how much he gnaws on pizza.

Food! Glorious food!

Girl pals are the best pals. You need to take time to embrace and enjoy them.

This weekend–so far–the rain’s waited to pour until evening, giving me nice weather to weed and fluff and enjoy the garden. Things are popping, and blooming and spreading. I’ve got lots of pots, and a bunch of them waiting until the lower patio and wall project’s finished.

We had the–ugly to me–fence taken down at the end of the parking area, and are replacing it with a stone wall to match our other garden walls. It’s going to be great! But meanwhile, it’s a mess. But we’ve reached the point where I can actually see how good it’ll look when it’s finally done.

Today, after my workout I’ve got some indoor chores to deal with. Then I may do some side dressing with compost in the garden.
Tomorrow it’s back to work, and I’m hoping for a good, solid week of that before June pops out at me.

The summer, as it always seems to be, is packed. So a nice, quiet, solid work week, a good, gardening weekend is just the perfect prelude to the busy summer to come.

Enjoy your holiday weekend doing what makes you happy.

Laura and I send our gratitude to all who served, for all who fell so that we can live free.

Nora


Note from Laura: I didn’t share the Girl Time fun, as I opted to work at the beach for three weeks. I mean, I seriously love my girl pals, but I really adore my view at the beach.

Here’s How I work

Before I start, the latest count from the plagiarism mess is 85 books and 36 authors.

So, some of the fallout from this clusterfuck seems to have generated a lot of questions, speculations, idiotic statements (as if fact) and–to me–strange arguments about my writing process, my output, and my honesty.

In all cases by people who don’t know me, at all.

In a, probably doomed, hope to set the record straight, I hereby take the time before I get back to that process, to outline it.

I write every day

I write every day. It’s just my job, and I’m very fortunate to love my job. Not everyone is half as lucky to be able to make their living doing something they love.

Every day is, at this point in my life and career, mostly a regular work week. I will, if necessary or I just feel the need, put in a few hours on the weekend.

I am disciplined–that’s my wiring. I have a fast writing pace–also just wiring. I was educated (nine year of Catholic school) by the nuns. Nobody lays a foundation of discipline like the Sisters. Trust me on this.

I was raised by parents who instilled, and demonstrated by example, the responsibility of doing your work, doing it well, meeting your responsibilities.

I don’t miss deadlines.

In the normal course of events, I work six to eight hours a day. Some of that is staring into space–writing requires this, or mine does. Some of it’s spent looking stuff up because how do I know until I know? I don’t use researchers because they’d annoy me, want to talk to me, expect me to be able to tell them what I was looking for. And again, how do I know until I know?

I don’t have ‘staff’, which just sound so pretentious to me. I don’t knock anyone for having staff, but I don’t want staff. They would annoy me, want to talk to me at some point. They’d be in my space which includes my entire house. And the land around it. The air.

What the hell would I do with staff? They could open the door for the dogs, I guess, or bring me another glass of water or Diet Pepsi. The trade off would be too great. In My Space. That’s a deal-breaker.

I have a weekly housekeeper who’s worked for me for decades. So in the normal course of events, I’m not doing the vacuuming and so on. And this is great. (She’s only in my space one day a week, and I’ve trained myself to block that out.)

I do not, never have, never will use ghostwriters. I’ve stated my opinion, many times, on the use of ghosts in fiction. My work is my work, start to finish. If my name is on the book, I wrote it. A reader, another writer, a stranger on the internet is entitled not to like my books, or any particular book. They’re not entitled to call me a liar.

I love and treasure alone

I don’t use ghosts, co-authors, I don’t have collaborators. Why is that so hard for some to accept? I don’t brainstorm with other writers, with my editor or my agent on storylines. It’s not my wiring. I love my agent, my editor, and respect them just as much as I love them.

If either or both of them insisted we brainstorm, I will be forced to kill them until they were dead.

I’m a solitary woman. I love and treasure alone. I also love my family, and am thrilled to be part of my grandkids’ lives, to see them, watch them grow. I adore my daughter-in-law beyond the telling of it. Ditto my sons, my husband.

But every day, when BW finally calls upstairs that he’s leaving for work, I have a little internal celebration.

My space.

I’m an early riser (wish I wasn’t, but wiring). I fiddle around with email and whatever for awhile in the morning–mostly hoping BW might leave a little sooner. (Sorry, BW.) But I’m usually in work mode by 8. Sometimes before, sometimes later, that’s just usual.

I work. Stare into space, wonder WTF should happen next, look stuff up, and somehow by around 3 (sometimes earlier, sometimes later) I’ve actually written a decent chunk.

Yay.

Then it’s time to go workout. 90 minutes, daily. That’s my routine, and I’m a solitary woman who thrives on routine.

Then it’s actually speak to BW, maybe have an alcoholic beverage. In good weather, get outside, walk the gardens with the dogs. Whatever.

Three nights a week I sign tubs of book orders from our bookstore. Some nights–like tonight–I’ll proof galleys for an upcoming book.

I work on a three-draft method. This works for me. It’s not the right way/wrong way. There is no right or wrong for a process that works for any individual writer. Anyone who claims there is only one way, or that’s the wrong way, is a stupid, arrogant bullshitter. That’s my considered opinion.

The first draft, the discovery draft, the POS (guess what that stands for) draft is the hardest for me. Figuring it all out, creating people I’m going to care about enough to sit here with hours every day in order to tell their story. Finding out information about the setting, the careers involved, and so much more.

I don’t outline. I have a kind of loose mental outline, then I sit down, get started and hope it all works one more time.

I don’t use visual aids, don’t have color-coded note cards. I scribble notes, then irritate the crap out of myself because half the time I can’t find the one thing I scribbled down I want now, right this minute.

Outlining, visual aids, note cards–not wrong. In fact excellent if any and all work for that writer.

I don’t know how long it takes me for that first draft. I don’t care. Am I getting the story out, are these people interesting, layered, human, am I putting myself, and therefore the reader, into the setting?

Setting, pacing, character development and evolution, connections, relationships, transitions, conflicts, beats, hills and valleys, dialogue, description.

I can’t analyse how they come out of my head and onto the page. I’m not an analytical person. I just know it’s work, often frustrating often fun. But work.

I don’t go back in the writing of that first draft, fiddle and fix, I just plow on, get the story, the people, onto the page, taking it on faith (and through a lot of experience) that I can fix what’s wrong, shine up what’s right later.

Get it out, get it down, put the words on the page. Every day. Hours a day.

And when the first crappy draft is done, I go back to page one. Now, second draft, fix it, expand it, get rid of it, work more thoughtfully on the language. Is it all holding up? Does it make sense? Is it a good, solid story? I can do a chunk of a second draft every day. This is for me, the easier part of the process. It’s fun to fix things up, to play with the words, to add more layers.

It still takes time, but it’s the happy middle of the work. Look what I did there, that’s not bad. I’d forgotten about that. Aren’t I so damn clever? Or–oops, that sucks. Must fix.

Again, I don’t know how long it takes me. I don’t care.

When I finish the second draft, it’s time for the third, the last, the polish. Not as big those daily chunks now. This is what I’ll send to that agent and editor I love and respect. I need to make it the best I can. I might find spots that sag, so I try to shore them up. I might find I’ve taken a quick angle that works–maybe add to that–or doesn’t, change it until it works.

I don’t know how long this takes. I still don’t care.

This is also where I spell check. My spelling is miserable, so I’m grateful for the technology. Except when it doesn’t work. What do you mean Word Not Found? It’s a damn word!

When I feel this is the best I can do, I send it off, make a wish, then definitely have an alcoholic beverage.

I’ll add I do all this work with my very, very old Word Perfect program–that’s DOS. Many of you will have to look that up as you’ll never have heard of such a thing. It’s like a strange tool from an ancient era. I like the blue screen–easy on the eyes. I like it doesn’t have bells and whistle that would get in my way (like staff).

I do all of the above myself, alone, solitary, ass in the chair, mind in the book, fingers on the keyboard. Someone asked me once, in a Q&A what three pieces of advice I had for other writers. Here they are:

Stop making excuses and write.
Stop whining and write.
Stop fucking around and write.

I take my own advice.

I don’t, as claimed in some article long ago and has become the stuff of myth and legend, write a book every 45 days. When I started selling I had several mss, rejected, in the drawer I could then take out, fix, polish, submit. So those first couple of years, I sold a lot of 55k word Romances to Silhouette. I had that jump start.

At this time it’s being winged around I write five books a year. It’s actually four. Two Robbs, one stand-alone Roberts, one portion of a trilogy. That’s a lot, but the pace and process suit my current life.

If I did write five books a year, they would still be all written by me. Just me.

Back to process. My editor–that’s Leslie Gelbman, St. Martin’s Press–works fast, too. I’ll hear back from her on the new ms in a very timely fashion, which I’m very grateful for because even with that quick turnaround, I’ll have started the next book.


Routine is my god.

It’s what I do. A day or two off to recharge, to maybe start fiddling with research, to play with that mental outline, then it’s close the cage door and go again.

I may have to stop the current work if Leslie wants any changes. Since she’s going to be right about those changes ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I don’t argue. The one time I KNOW she’s not right, she doesn’t argue.

Respect.

I’m able to produce a lot of books because I work every day. Because I don’t go out to lunch or dinner, or to events, go shopping, have hobbies or socialize all that much. I don’t want to.

I like home. I like my space. I have plenty of people living in my head for company.

I don’t spend a lot of time, sometimes none at all, on social media. It’s a time suck. My time’s valuable to me.

And routine is my god.

Get up, fiddle, write, write, write, workout, engage with my husband, make dinner, maybe have the kids over for dinner a couple times a month and enjoy grandkids.

I garden in the spring and summer, bake bread, but that’s weekends.

I make soups and breads in the fall and winter, again, that’s weekends.

When on vacation I’ll write here and there. Because I miss it if I don’t. I don’t slave while on a break, but I’ll write now and then.

And I think about the book all the time. In the shower, in the workout, in the garden, in the kitchen. I can work out plot points while kneading bread dough, so good for me.

There’s no secret, no formula, no magic spell.

It’s called writing, regularly, consistently, daily. It’s discipline and drive and desire. The three Ds I also tout when asked. Talent’s great, but without the three Ds, it’s hard to produce.

Fortunately for me I have them, and I use them.

I love my work, even on a bad day, I love my work. Being a writer is a gift I’m grateful for, even when it’s a bad day.

I value and respect the reader. Lying, to me, equals devaluing and disrespect.

So to the readers–whether or not you enjoy my books, have read any of my books, read my books occasionally or all the time–I write every one, myself, alone, in my space.

Whatever you think of the finished product, it came from me.

Nora

Freedom!

I haven’t posted a blog in weeks as I’ve been hip deep in a book. The result? Brain drain at the end of the work day, and a zillion tasks to deal with on weekends.

Yesterday, finally, I sent the manuscript off to my agent and editor. And today I unlock and throw open the cage door for a couple of days.

After I finish this blog, I may sit in the corner and stare at the wall for several hours.

Things have happened besides the book in these first chilly weeks of the new year.

Our annual New Year’s Day Open House was–as they say in Regency novels–a crush. Lots of people, lots of food. Laura and Kayla and Kat helped me make and bake and stir and chop on New Year’s Eve.

For the crudite, Kat created a little Christmas tree out of broccoli, with bits of red peppers for ornaments and a star carved from a radish. Who else but Kat would think of that?

#randomkatness

So I got to ring out the old, ring in the new with friends, family. And got plenty of Griffin time.

We had our annual January trip to the spa–which meant I had the glorious Griffin with me for a week. (Oh, and his parents, too.) One of the butlers brought in his personal rocking chair for our use–what a guy.

The Magickal Griffin

Griffin and I seriously appreciated it.

Then, despite the ugly and annoying head cold that struck me on my first day home, it was a return to work–with no afternoon massage.

And the start of my annual purge. Due to ugly cold this got a slow start, but progress was made. By the second weekend of purging, I hit my office.

For a zillion years I’ve kept a ton of research books–ones I really haven’t cracked open in about a half a zillion. This year, I determined to cull them down brutally, and give my office shelves some breathing room.

Clear space on office shelves

And poor BW had to haul the heavy boxes (box after box) downstairs. They’ll go into storage, then the next library sale. And my office is reborn!

I haven’t hit the lower level yet–always a big chore–but the third floor is purged, and I only have the library and guest room left on the main.

At BW’s request I cleaned out my candle cupboard. Apparently I actually have a candle cupboard. And okay, I didn’t purge there, because candles, but I organized it.

And as Parker suddenly developed–we’ll be delicate and call it heroic flatulence–my scented candles came in really handy. So does yogurt mixed with his dog food (thanks Google) as we seem to have solved the issue.

Thank all the gods as if was far too cold to banish the boy outside.

As January slid into February with those shockingly cold temperatures, I stayed snuggly and smugly at my workstation, and in the book. It was so cold, the house couldn’t keep up, so I worked with a blanket over my lap. We got some snow, which from inside, looked very pretty.

Atticus, brave snowdog

Writing can drain the brain, but you don’t have to shovel out your car and go out into the world.

The really good thing about February is it’s short–and spring training starts. This one’s been busy and eventful in my world. My running girl and her teammates took first in Regionals in indoor track (four years running!) In a couple weeks, she’ll compete in States. And she got her driver’s license.

The newest driver in the family

How strange and lovely it is to have my first girl old enough to drive and my latest boy laughing and cooing.

We snuck in a signing at Turn The Page last Saturday that turned into a door buster. The cold finally broke, lifting the temps into the 40s–with sun! Actual sun. Maybe it was the break from frigid and sunlight, but we had the happiest group of readers and authors for our mid-winter event.

And I got more Griffin time. It’s incredibly rewarding for me to see happy recognition in his eyes when he sees me. He knows his Nana!

Happy, happy boy.

Mid-month we’re celebrating Inn BoonsBoro’s tenth anniversary. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade. Especially when our truly incredibly staff keeps it looking as fresh as it did the day it opened.

I’ll end the shortest month with pals coming up to whip through the bags and bags (I’ll hang and organize) of clothes I purged from my closet. Girl time! (With Griffin attending as the token male.)

That’s a fine way to move into March, and start pining for spring.

But for today, before and after work out time, I’m going to play sloth as I expect to slam the cage door again on Monday.

Nora

Happy and Merry

Christmas is coming, and I’m sure, somewhere, there’s a goose getting fat. Around here, we’re ready for it.

It felt good to get a solid work week in, and now that’s in the rear view. Next week won’t find me at my desk very much, and that’s fine. It’s time to celebrate and enjoy the rewards of all the preparations.

Our tree’s trimmed with presents at its feet. All that wrapping and ribbon and bows will soon be pulled and ripped in the rush to find the wishes inside.

The stockings are hung, and happily stuffed as the kids won’t be around until it’s time to dig in. I love finding stocking stuffers, from the useful to the goofy. In our family tradition all the adults do the same, so those stockings will overflow and provide a lot of fun before the rush for the ribbons and bows.

This year I enjoyed creating a candlescape on my dining room table. Of course, I’ll have to dismantle it for the feasting, but in the evenings leading up, it’s given me a lot of pretty light.

I haven’t quite OD’d on schmaltzy Christmas movies yet. I’m fascinated by how many ways they can turn a misunderstanding or complete lack of communication into a conflict magically resolved into a happy ending by Christmas.

I’m a sucker for them.

We have lots and lots of cookies, thanks in very large part to Kayla. And for Christmas dessert, in addition to cookies, I do a sundae bar, so that’s easy and delicious.

Yesterday I made some mighty fine tortilla soup to get me and BW through the weekend. Today I’m going to bake bread, but other than my workout and this blog, that’s pretty much it for the day.

It’ll be nice to have the bulk of a Sunday afternoon without chores.

So as the hours count down, Laura and I wish you and yours all the magic of Christmas, warm times with family and friends, good cheer, happy faces, and a joy in those moments that last you through the coming year.

Since we do, I’ll end this with a picture of the sweetest of Griffin smiles.

Nora