Category Archives: General

Be Strong, Stay Safe

This is a terrible and scary time. Most of us have to stay in our homes, losing the freedom of movement and society we’ve all taken for granted, well, forever. But we give up that basic freedom for the good of all. For our families and friends and neighbors. For strangers we’ll never meet.

Not all of us can stay home and safe, and we need to thank all those on the front lines. The doctors, nurses, interns, the lab techs, cleaning services, maintenance people, support staff in hospitals and clinics everywhere.

They’re heroes.

The cops, the firefighters, the truck drivers and delivery people, the mail carriers and all who leave the safety of home to help and protect us are heroes.

We have staff at Vesta and Turn The Page and Gifts going to work on limited hours to provide food for take-out, on line ordering for books and other things that make life for those of us at home easier and more bearable. At FIT, our Renee is streaming yoga videos from her home to keep that connection, to offer ways to relax. Our inn staff is doing videos of room tours, and posting on FB to, again, keep that connection, offer something to help people get out of their own heads for just a little while.

Heroes.

The teachers doing their best to send out lesson plans, to keep our children from losing progress, to keep their minds occupied, more heroes.

The child care providers tending children so those medical and essential people can do their jobs, just more heroes.

For myself, staying home is natural to me—but . . . I miss my grandchildren, I miss spending a fun week with my girl pals. And, like all of us, I worry.

Kayla’s missing the best part of her senior year—her last chance to run competitively, her prom, her moment of walking across the stage for her diploma. And the trip we planned for this summer, taking her to Italy.

And this sweet, smart, strong young woman is handling these deep disappointments without complaint. She’s sad, but knows how lucky she is—she told me so—to have a home, to have internet, to have books and movies, a family right there.

She’s one of my heroes, too.

I mourn for Italy, one of my favorites places in the world. I have dear, dear friends in New York, and am sick what this virus is doing to a city I love. I have friends with underlying conditions, with elderly parents, with young children.

I light candles—that’s my way of sending out light and hope and strength.

I have my home, my work—plenty of food and alcoholic beverages. I work out daily—it helps gets me out of my head. I have books, I stream movies—and when watching the news gets too much, I switch on HGTV, or turn to a book or movie.

A kitchen view

When the weather warms, BW and I can do yard work, something we both enjoy. I hope we can get annuals to fill out the beds, but if not (after my sad) I can divide and plug perennials into empty spaces.

I walked around outside—it’s brisk but sunny out there today—and took pictures of blooming things. It helps remind me that seasons change, hope springs, and we have to look for beauty to find it even in horrible times.

The Tulip Magnolia

Last fall I sliced a tomato, stuck it in a pot. And today, I picked the first perfect little ripe tomato. I’m going to send it down the lane with Kayla—she’s bringing me a few back-up groceries after her mom gets to the store.

Tomato.

Yesterday I made chocolate chip cookies, so my treasures down the hill can have that little bit of love from me.

Later today we’re FaceTiming with Jason, Kat and Griffin. They send pictures and videos, and I gobble them up every day.

This virus is a bastard, and we all have to take it very seriously. We have to protect each other. I hope you, too, can find little things to do to help push away the worry for awhile. Spring cleaning, crafting, books, movies, keeping in touch with friends and family, playing games, baking, whatever works. Do something to ease your mind while you stay safe and strong.

I read a story about a young man who heard an elderly couple in the grocery store say there was no more bread. He told them to take the loaf he had in his cart. Heroism can be just that simple.

Social distancing doesn’t mean we stop caring. It shows we care enough to give up those freedoms, that movement, those activities to protect others.

This is long and rambling, but heartfelt. Stay safe, wash your hands (We’re going through soap and lotion like crazy here!), be loving enough to keep your distance so we can all hug again one day.

I’m lighting candles for all of you.

Nora


Note from Laura: With so many people away from their regular routines, I think this is the right week to start the FITS book discussions. I will start a post with the first graphic and add to it as the week passes (like I do with the teasers for the In Deaths). I’ll be using graphics some of you may have seen on Facebook because I have a backlog of them.

The first book we’ll discuss is Birthright. Look for a Monday morning post.

I’m saving my particular sanity with walks and photos every day. If you like to look at calming scenery, you’ll see them at https://www.instagram.com/lmreeth/

Frederick MD skyline.

MY POV on RWA

Laura’s note: To frame what Nora discusses here, please refer to this post on All About Romance. The author does an excellent job of laying out the timeline to the current situation.


To clarify: I’m not on Twitter. I haven’t been a member of Romance Writers Of America for several years. Those are both personal and professional decisions.

Even so, it’s been impossible not to be aware of the horrendous situation involving RWA, its leadership and Courtney Milan which, as it escalated, brought to light a long-standing and systemic marginalization of authors of color, of LGBTQ authors, by the organization.

I’m not going to comment on the Milan/RWA situation, but on what–through that–has come to light.

What I write here is my opinion. Some will agree, some won’t, some will be angry, some won’t. That’s how opinions work.

Writer, the middle word in Romance Writers of America, is a word without gender, a word without color or race, a word without sexual orientation, without creed. We’re writers, and as such must expect to be treated, must demand to be treated, fairly and equitably by our professional organization.

Period.

What follows is the viewpoint of a long-time member.

I joined RWA in 1980 (wow!). I attended the first conference in 1981 just a couple months after my first book came out. It was wonderful. I met my dearest pal Ruth Langan at that conference, and many others who’ve remained friends all these years.

RWA gave me a community, and though I have never been active in its leadership (nor did I want to be!) I attended every conference save two for decades. The organization was formed to provide support, education, networking opportunities, to stand as advocates for writers, published and unpublished.

I’m grateful for the community, the friendships, the opportunities.

Was the organization perfect? Of course not, but I felt, certainly in those early years, it tried very hard to support, educate, advocate and offer networking opportunities. I didn’t see marginalization–and fully admit I may have been blind to it–until many years in when the leadership crafted a statement defining romance as one man/one woman.

For me anyway, this came out of the blue. Who decided this was our statement? It sure as hell wasn’t mine, and surely we’d all evolved by–what was it–abut 2005.

A great many members were outraged by it–as they should have been. I certainly was, and took the rare for me step of writing a letter expressing same to the editor of the Romance Writers’ Report. We do NOT discriminate. I would not be a part of this kind of discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Jesus, it’s fine to have a character fall in love with a freaking vampire, but not someone of the same sex? Bullshit. Just bullshit.

Offensive, bigoted, homophobic bullshit.

I received an email from the then president urging me to be quiet, basically, explaining to me–and I am not kidding–I didn’t understand that the lesbians would take over RWA. Jeez, those terrifying lesbians!

After my brain stopped exploding, I emailed back telling her they could publish my letter–as written–or I would take out a full page ad to publish it.

If memory serves, it appeared as a letter to the editor in the next issue of the RWR.

That was a real crack in the wall for me, and left me disappointed and angry with the organization.

It was during this leadership era I began to see some pretty deep problems within RWA. This same president was in office during the Reno nightmare. I’m not going to go into all that here, just Google it, but I withdrew as MC of the awards banquet and again wrote a long, detailed letter. I think–not sure–this time I did take it as an ad.

I’ll say all of that put longer, wider cracks in the foundation for me. I nearly resigned my membership then, but decided to keep it. I went to conference, but now almost exclusively to be with friends, to see people I only saw once a year, to attend the kick-ass Harlequin party and attend the brilliant Literacy Signing.

But I thought, I believed, with leadership change, the organization was doing better, trying harder. I didn’t see the marginalization, and I regret that. I could have been a voice, and I wasn’t.

For several years our family foundation sponsored the Literacy Signing. Literacy is one of our foundation’s primary goals. My daughter-in-law, the amazing Kat, worked with the committee in charge to help enhance efficiency, and put a lot of her time and effort into it.

The Literacy Signing was the annual conference’s big kick-off, drawing many, many authors who signed their books, publishers who donated those books, many, many readers who bought books–and the proceeds went to Literacy.

This night was a source of pride–RWA was making a difference.

Bookending this week of workshops, hang out at the bar time, meetings, parties, networking was Awards Night. The last night, always a big celebration–published and unpublished. The Golden Heart Awards for the unpublished, the Rita for the published. And the Lifetime Achievement Award to a member who’d earned it.

I received a letter, through Laura, from the Board between the last conference I attended, in San Diego, and the next–can’t remember where it was slated to be held. Wait–Orlando, I think.

They’d voted to change the set up for conference week, and claimed to want my input–though they’d already voted and intended to announce the changes in about 24 hours. The Literacy signing would now be at the end of the conference–on a Saturday afternoon. The RITAs would be in the middle of the week, and the Golden Hearts presented at a lunch.

I get change, I understand change, but I felt–still do–this was stupid. And worse, imo, the Golden Hearts, the unpublished, were being tossed aside. Not right, not fair, not equitable. Why do this? And WHY make the unpublished feel they didn’t really count? The Rita/Golden Heart Banquet was our send off, our night to celebrate each other and the books we write. The Literacy Signing, always held on the evening before the conference officially started, drew huge crowds, and brought in impressive amounts for Literacy.
The unpublished members deserved their night to shine.

As the sponsor of the Literacy Signing, we should have had a little more warning of the decision, but we didn’t.

And in response to my response, it was basically: Done deal. We’ve decided the conference should be more reader-centric rather that author-centric.

And that did it. Romance WRITERS of America, not readers. We love our readers, we value our readers, but this was the professional organization for writers. Published and unpublished.

I resigned my membership. We pulled out as sponsor.

In the time since then and now, I haven’t paid too much attention to what’s going on with RWA or its membership. I’m not especially active on social media, so a lot would go over my head anyway.

This latest issue hasn’t.

Again, I regret all the years I didn’t hear, didn’t see, didn’t listen, remained unaware of all the sad and unfair things that are now coming to light.

I hope that light continues to shine, and by doing so may change RWA for the good, may remind those in leadership positions what the purpose was all those years ago. To support and advocate for romance writers. Not specific kinds of romance writers.

Let me add, as a personal note, that over the course of my life, the course of my career, the couple hundred books I’ve written, I may have–most likely have–said or done or written something that was offensive, racist, homophobic. Without intent–but intent doesn’t mean a damn to those hurt. So I’ll apologize without qualification.

I hope I’ve learned along the way. I intend to continue to learn and do better.

Nora

It’s never too early to plan ahead

It feels like publishing moves faster than any other business these days — we know about books so far in advance! As of this afternoon St. Martin’s Press has rolled out the pre-order links for Nora’s 2020 fall books.*

Nora’s currently writing The Awakening — book 1 in a new trilogy. She already finished Shadows in Death (#51). I know nothing about either title at this point, but covers and descriptions will be revealed in the spring.

For now, let the wondering commence.

*I have no doubt the Little Brown UK links will be live early next year. It’s just the US that’s this far ahead. But no fear, the books will be available under the same titles.

And to keep it all in line, this is the 2020 lineup:

Out February 4, 2020

All your Golden In Death order options can be found here.

Out May 26, 2020

Pre-order links for Hideaway can be found here.

Shadows in Death
TTP: http://bit.ly/38RlqrB
IndieBound: http://bit.ly/38jc73v
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2Pss26Z
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ryvGo3
Kindle: https://amzn.to/2S6fepR
Nook: http://bit.ly/2S27jKj
Apple Books: https://apple.co/36FgVi2
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2S3g32U
Google: http://bit.ly/2M6n4Mu

TTP: http://bit.ly/2M5qaAi
IndieBound: http://bit.ly/36k70ON
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Yy7oXb
Kindle: https://amzn.to/2PWWMxd
Apple Books: https://apple.co/2S4kkCY
Kobo: http://bit.ly/38PbwXB
Google: http://bit.ly/2S382ej
Barnes & Noble/Nook links coming soon!

The Rise of Magicks discussion space

On sale now

For those of you who wait for the entire trilogy, your time is nigh. (OK for the rest of us who read them as they are released, YOUR time is nigh as well.)

Here’s the cover copy:

In a world after the Doom destroyed civilization, magick is commonplace and Fallon Swift spent her young years learning its ways. Fallon can’t live in peace until she frees those who are prey for the government or the fanatical Purity Warriors, endlessly hunted or locked up in laboratories, brutalized for years on end.

Strengthened by the bond she shares with her fellow warrior, Duncan, Fallon has already rescued countless shifters and elves and ordinary humans. Now she must help them heal—and rediscover the light and faith within. For although from the time of her birth, she has been The One, she is still only one. And as she faces down an old nemesis, sets her sights on the enemy’s stronghold, and pursues her destiny—to finally restore the mystical shield that once protected them all—she will need an army behind her.

This is the place to discuss TROM and all things Chronicles of The One. So please be ware — spoilers straight ahead.

Enjoy the discussion!

Hi and Bye

Here’s a quick one before we take off in the morning. It’s Logan’s turn for a summer trip! We’ll send a report, and plenty of pictures when we get back.

I get to have my oldest and youngest grandsons for five fun days!

Meanwhile, I had a very solid, productive writing week. It’s always fun to spend time with Eve, Roarke and the gang. And to be able to stick with it, and them, without needing to stop and go anywhere! Yay!

Today meant getting that workout in early—and doing a little extra as tomorrow’s a travel day. Then packing. And packing, and figuring, and packing.

My wall/paver guys have done an amazing job, and are nearly done. It LOOKS done, but there’s backfilling, and lights to install, and clean up. I’m just so happy with the results. And finally, BW and I could move pots who’ve been waiting in far too much shade for their place on the lower patio. I expect my geraniums will thank me with lots and lots of blooms.

I got my weeding and deadheading done, and had a very fine time with it.

And discovered lilies! Two years running, the deer ate them all. We’ve been battling them fiercely this year, and we’re winning!

Happy, too, we’ve worked on problem sloping, shady areas, and are gradually improving them.

I bought my gorgeous new fairy, intending to use her in the shade. But her beautiful bronze skin would disappear. So I switched her out, and she’s lovely and happy where we put her. Now the very white reading girl pops in the shade with a cairn, an old hand plow and my tree of life gate.

My nasturtiums—Laura always gets me seeds—are throwing vivid blooms, and before long will spill artistically over my garden wall. I love adding them to salads—along with my thriving herbs.

It’s been great to spend so much time playing in the garden. I’m going to go spray my tomatoes and peppers with an epsom salt solution, then come inside, sign four tubs of books.

And done!

We head out and head off early tomorrow morning. I’ll miss my garden, miss Eve and Roarke, but I think I’ll be too busy having fun to notice.

Nora

Breaking news 2

This is a translated story from the Brazilian newspaper
O Estado de S. Paulo não
. ~Laura

Justice prohibits sale of Brazilian books accused of plagiarizing Nora Roberts

American bestselling author Nora Roberts won the first battle against Brazil’s Cristiane Ribeiro Allevato Serruya in a plagiarism case last week in Rio de Janeiro.

In her decision, Maria Cristina de Brito Lima, of the 6th Business Court of Rio de Janeiro, ordered the suspension of the sale of the physical books, e-books and audiobooks of Royal Love, Royal Affair, Unbroken Love, Hot Winter, Forevermore and From the Baroness’s Diary, and the inclusion on the cover and links made available on Amazon, Saraiva, Cultura, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and E-Bay websites of the words “suspended by court order”.

The judge also determined the blocking of royalties from the sale of these books in the bookstores mentioned. The amounts must be deposited in a judicial account. Failure to comply with Cristiane’s judicial decision of bookstores or publishers may result in a fine of R $ 5,000 per copy of work unduly sold.

“This represents a new level of judicial demand in the literary field,” says Gustavo Martins de Almeida, Nora Roberts’ lawyer. Mainly because it involves immaterial media – e-books and audiobooks – and because Nora Roberts, a foreigner without assets in Brazil, is giving as guarantee the copyright of his books published by three publishers. “It’s interesting to see the judiciary adjusting to new technologies,” says the lawyer.

Cristiane Ribeiro Allevato Serruya has 15 days to appeal the decision.

The newspaper O Estado de S. Paulonão got in touch with the Brazilian until the closing of the story.

To read the story as printed click here.

Plagiarism, Then and Now

I’m going to start with the then, to get it out of my system.

Back in the late 90’s, when those of us on-line used message boards to communicate with each other, a reader posted a concern about the similarities in my book Sweet Revenge, originally published in 1988, reissued in 1997, with Janet Dailey’s Notorious, published in hardcover in ’96, in paper in ’97.

It happened this reader read them back to back, and noticed, even cited pages. Initially, I was certain she was mistaken. I knew Janet, couldn’t imagine she’d plagiarize anyone. But it also happened my Jason was working at our bookstore that day. I asked him to bring home a copy of Notorious. Then I opened to the page the reader had cited.

I can’t describe what I felt in that moment, the shock, the grief, the sense of betrayal.

I flipped through and that shock, grief, betrayal increased as I recognized more and more and more of my work in her book.

I called my agent. While I vetted the books, so did my agency. It was massive and awful. My agent contacted her agent and her publisher, who of course, contacted Dailey.

And the first round of plagiarism bingo began. Absolute denial. Did not do this! But the theft was so blatant that didn’t last long. Assistant must have somehow . . . If she did it, it was totally unintentional, it was unconscious copying and so on.

I was asked to keep it quiet, to go through the manuscript for Notorious and remove my work. Because I knew her, because I’d never dealt with anything like this before, I agreed. (Hint: Never do this.)

I remember, clearly, sitting out on my front deck, crossing out line after line, scene after scene, and finally realizing it simply couldn’t be done. As I realized that, my agent called. Pretty steamed. Dailey’s agent had contacted her, very excited. Dailey’s publisher wanted to go back to press on the book, so could I hurry it up?

Jesus Christ.

My agent, the magnificent Amy Berkower and I had quite a conversation about the sheer arrogance, the utter insensitivity or sense of responsibility. Decision? A big, fat no, and you’re going to pull the book. Period.

…and I was done playing nice.

She hired a lawyer. I hired a lawyer. At one point through this process, her people pressed me and mine to allow Janet to call me, to explain and apologize. I didn’t want this, but I finally agreed.

This turned out, as it happened, to be the right choice.

I won’t go through the conversation except to say, through a lot of tears, she swore to me it had only been that one time. She’d been in such a bad place, just that ONE TIME. Her excuses, her (I thought) contrition made me cry.

But when I got off the phone, I went to another of her books as my agent and I had decided I would read her stuff, in case we found more. Five minutes–I swear to God, five minutes after she’d tearfully sworn to me it had only been that one time, I found the second time in the second book.

And that’s when the full rage rose. She’d lied to me, manipulated my emotions, and I was done playing nice.

We found more, quite a bit more in quite a few books over a span of publishing years. My lawyer called her a serial plagiarist.

The lawyers did their lawyer thing, and Dailey and I both agreed not to go public, at least until we had some sort of resolution. I kept that agreement. She didn’t.

She went to the press with her sad story of emotional trauma she didn’t know she had, how her dog died (I’m not kidding on that), how she did it all without knowing she did it. And she went to the press when I was in Florida, speaking to the Friends of the Library on the eve of the RWA annual conference.

I want to say I got a lot of support from the RWA board, from a lot of fellow writers. But there were many who took her side. She was an icon! Why couldn’t I just be quiet? I should be flattered, I was being a bully. I should just forgive her and move on. (My ass!)

A lot of the press had a great time making jokes about it, denigrating the genre at large, its writers, its readers.

It was a brutal experience from the minute I read that message board until the end, two ugly years later. I stuck, because if I don’t stand for my work, who will? And I won. Then I donated every penny of the settlement to select literacy organizations.

It was never about the bloody money.

That was then. Obviously, I’m not over it. You don’t get over it, you get through it.

Since then, I’ve had a couple more less public and ugly cases which we dealt with firmly and quickly. Because I’ll never play nice with a plagiarist again.

That leads to now.

…it’s always a reader, and bless you every one

A few days ago, Laura had to contact me to let me know my name and a couple of my books were listed as plagiarized in a long list of writers and books.

Twitter exploded (I’m not on Twitter, but I felt the aftershocks). There’s now a hashtag–#CopyPasteCris that follows the ever-growing nightmare. Over two dozen authors, about three dozen books–so far. One of the other victims let me know this morning that she found a line from Whiskey Beach woven in to HER love scene in this woman’s frankenbook. That makes four of mine, so far.

Courtney didn’t waste time playing nice, which gets a solid fist bump from me. She went public, straight off. She stood straight up for her work, and for the other authors involved.

In the usual plagiarism bingo, Serruya jumped on Twitter to deny. She would never!!! But again, so blatant, so egregious, that couldn’t hold.

Here’s where it takes an interesting turn. She then claimed the ghostwriters (note the plural) she’d hired on Fiverr (which I’d never heard of until this) had done this! Shame, shame on them, and she’d fix it asap.

She fixed it by doing a vanishing act. Twitter account down, Facebook page down, website down.

Two of her ghosts–independently–contacted Courtney. And both stated, again independently, Serruya sent them a mishmash of scenes, lines then told them to make it work. And apparently stiffed them afterward.

So this plagiarist lifted lines, bits, chunks big and small, from a slew of authors and books, mashed them together then hired ghosts off a cheap labor site to cobble them into a book.

This was her MO.

She did this for–I think my information is–29 books, put them up on Amazon, used Kindle Unlimited for some. KU pays by the page read. The freaking page read.

This culture, this ugly underbelly of legitimate self-publishing is all about content. More, more, more, fast, fast, fast. Because that’s how it pays. Amazon’s–imo–deeply flawed system incentivizes the fast and more. It doesn’t have to be good, doesn’t have to be yours–as I’m learning hiring ghosts is not really rare. Those who live and work in this underbelly don’t care about the work, the creativity, the talent and effort and time it takes to craft a story. Just the money, and what they must see as bragging rights. I’m a published writer they claim–even if they didn’t write a damn word.


If a book has my name on it, I wrote it. Every word of it.

Nora Roberts

They disgust me. Please note, I’m not talking about all writers who use KU, but the ones who use it to steal and deceive for profit.

I personally don’t believe fiction writers should use ghosts. Celebrity auto-biographies and such, that’s the job. If a fiction writer uses a ghost to help flesh out a book, or hires a book doctor to whip a book into shape, I strongly believe that person should be acknowledged–on the book.

The reader deserves honesty. The reader’s entitled to know she’s buying the author’s–the one whose name’s on the book–work, not somebody that writer hired for speed or convenience. And I’ll state here as I have before. If a book has my name on it, I wrote it. Every word of it.

I do not, never have, never will comprehend how someone can feel any pride claiming a book they didn’t write.

Some will point to Nancy Drew and its like. Different kettle in my eyes. That’s work for hire, book packaging. And a great way for a ghost to make a living writing fiction. Everyone knows (or should) that V.C. Andrews is long dead and therefore no longer writing.

The late great Robert Parker’s books list the name of the authors who write the current books on the front cover. There’s no deception.

But the bigger point is ghostwriters, honest, hard-working ones can be used by the scammer without knowing. The writer just trying to pay the bills by ghosting can be used this way. Honest, hard-working writers who self-publish are being stolen from, demoralized, hammered down by practices like book stuffing, buying reviews, piracy and outright plagiarism that’s become too common on Amazon.

A creature like Serruyo can have a decent run, make some money–make some best-seller lists–before she (or he, or they, who knows?) is found out. And the pain, the scars, the emotional turmoil this causes to the victims of plagiarism never ends.

Serruyo won’t be the only one using that underbelly, exploiting the lack of real guardrails on Amazon and other sites for a few bucks.

I’ll have a lot more to say about this, all of this. I’m not nearly done. Because the culture that fosters this ugly behavior has to be pulled out into the light and burned to cinders. Then we’re going to salt the freaking earth.

If we determine Serruya’s theft of my work reaches the bar of infringement, I will sue. I can afford to while many of her victims can’t. If it’s determined it doesn’t quite reach that bar, I will support every one of my fellow authors she harmed. And I’ll use every resource I can to speak out, to help pull these practices, this bastardization of the craft, into the light.

As readers, you deserve better than spending your time and money on a book that turns out to be a lie. As writers we deserve to have our work respected and protected.

Here’s a warning for anyone who’s stolen any of my work and claimed it as his/her own. I’m coming for you.

Nora

Laura Notes:
I was just getting to know Nora in 1997 and wasn’t her publicist then but I know that the timing of this was deliberate and cruel — it was the week Nora was honored with RWA’s Lifetime Achievement award, a week in which the honoree is feted the entire conference. So the revelation completely undermined anything good about that week.

If you ever see something that makes you uncomfortable about another person’s work compared to Nora’s email me at LMReeth@gmail.com and I will look into it.

Edited May 23, 2019

All Kinds Of Bunches

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me, starting in the dentist chair. The tooth had to go, and that part turned out surprisingly easy. In and out, over and done–including a bone graft deal. Huh, I thought, naively, no big.

The big, literally, came the following day when I woke up looking like I had a tennis ball tucked into my left cheek. Whoa! I’d done the whole ice, ibuprofen, soft food thing–and didn’t have much discomfort. Now I had a cheek the size of Kansas, and a book signing in a couple of days. Won’t that be interesting?

Still pretty bad the next morning, but by evening more like a good-sized plum in there. Now it’s the moist heat treatment.

Fortunately it shrank down to like a half golf ball by Saturday morning, and went down a little more by signing time. Good thing because it’s a big, bust out signing day. Here’s where a little theater training comes in handy. Doing photos with a swollen left jaw? Cheat out your right cheek.

Now I’ve got until Tuesday for it to go down more, we hope, before I go out in public again.

I’d been asked to give the commencement address for my alma mater–Montgomery Blair High school. As I did a million years ago, the class of 2018  graduates from the University of Maryland. Blair’s a big school, with a big graduating class, in fact, with close to 700 grads, the biggest in the state.

I’m so impressed with these young people, found myself amazed as their principal read off some of their accomplishments, the GPAs and academic achievements, the community involvement, the scholarships–one earned himself a full free ride to MIT. You have to be pretty damn smart and dedicated for that.

The principals — elementary, middle and high school — who oversaw the MBHS Class of 2018. Photo by LMR

Nora at the podium. Photo by LMR

On the big screen. Photo by LMR

I listened to the senior class president speak, saw her brains, her poise, her commitment.

I looked out at that sea of red gowns, white gowns–Blair’s colors–and saw the future. It looks good. If this class is representative, the future is in strong, creative hands.

Go, Blazers. You’re astounding.

Because the U of M is a good 90 minutes away–with traffic add an hour–Laura and I had the treat of staying at Jason’s and Kat’s the night before. I got to see the garden they’ve worked on, visit with their cats, have a lovely dinner (and get in a few rub the baby bumps!) and a solid night sleep before the event.

Then it’s back home and a few days of solid work–and back to workouts, which had been off the list.

And a happy, happy Saturday for me weeding, deadheading (pretty much off the list, too for awhile). I decided, since I felt all the way back to myself again, I’d take myself to my favorite nursery for some shade-loving, deer-resistant astilbes to finish off a couple areas. I also wanted one more hydrangea, and a few more annuals to fill things out some.

On the rise. Photo by Nora

Down the front hill Photo by Nora

Thriving pots. Photo by Nora

A spot of color. Photo by Nora.

Front patio pots. Photo by Nora.

Deer continue to be a problem, and I’ve caught them more than once just in the nick as they try to sneak down and snack on my plants. I will say Atticus–when he spots them–barks mightily, so that helps.

A truly lovely Saturday morning and afternoon for me.

I spent some of the late afternoon packing for our upcoming girl trip–for Kayla’s 16th birthday. A month early, but July’s as packed as June. I can’t believe my baby girl’s going to be 16, AND has her learner’s permit. She also made the all-county A team again for her distance running.

We leave in a couple days, then Kayla, Laura, Kat (and Laura’s daughter Clare who lives and works in NYC) will take the town. The first time I took Kayla on one of these NY trips, her biggest thrill was The American Girl Doll store. I can’t remember how many trips we ended up taking there.

This time it’s makeup, clothes, shoes–all of which I can get behind!

I took a quick walk around the garden–had to be quick as it started to rain–then began to pour. Things look good!

I’m going to finish packing for whole bunches of fun, then I hope to spend a couple hours repotting some of my pool house plants.

That’s a fine weekend for me. Hope you have one, too.

Nora

Note from Laura:  It’ll be our little secret that sometimes when I tell Nora I’m leaving her home, I actually poke through the gardens and take pictures .  Keep it between us, ok?

A peek through the branches. Photo by LMR

One of many happy toad houses. Photo by LMR

That face. Photo by LMR

Leverage in Death excerpt

What would you do to protect your family?When Paul Rogan sets off a bomb at his office, killing eleven people, no one can understand why. He was a loving husband and father, with everything to live for. Then his wife and daughter are found chained up in the family home, and everything becomes clear. Rogan had been given a horrifying choice – set off the bomb, or see his loved ones suffer and die.Lieutenant Eve Dallas knows the violence won’t end here. The men behind the attack are determined, organised and utterly ruthless. In this shocking and challenging case, both Eve and husband Roarke are heading into serious danger.

You’ll find the first chapter of Leverage in Death here.

 

Laura

February. Why?

I don’t know why this month’s always so difficult. Okay winter, but it’s short. It should be easy.

But we have ice on the lane, ice on the patio, dogs who don’t want to be outside more than five minutes. Who can blame them?  We have cold. We have gloom. Then how about some more gloom? With some ice and sleet and whatever else February wants to toss down.

Then we have Thursday. Suddenly it’s sixty degrees. I hear birds celebrating. I don’t get outside myself for long, but when I do, it’s ahhhh. Between the rain and the sudden warm, the ice is just a bad memory.

Then Saturday happens. Gloom is back, and cold. And let’s just throw in some snow. It wouldn’t be such a thing, except psychotic February gave us Thursday. Why?

Winter as far as the eye can see. Photo by NR

So due to snow, and the fact my guy’s coming home, I spent most of snowy Saturday in the kitchen. Pasta e fagioli sounds good, and the traveler’s very fond of my sour dough pretzel rolls.

Soup on simmer. Photo by NR

Pretzel bread at the ready. Photo by NR

It’s a nice way for me to spend a February day, and it’ll be good to see my guy again. Even though . . . this is my kitchen counter without a man in the house, even after making soup and bread.

Then, Photo by NR

And this is my kitchen counter after BW.

Now. Photo by NR

It soothes my double Libra soul to have the tidy. Clutter and chaos just bring on a underlying stress I mostly ignore because, well, life and I do share that life and the house with a male.

I’ve always shared life and houses with males. A father and four brothers. A husband and two sons. I happen to know not all men are messy, but mostly the ones who aren’t don’t live in my little world.

The offset here, other than I actually love my man, is someone else will go outside on the frigid mornings to feed the dogs, take out the trash and recycling. That same someone will plow the snow off the lane. That someone will do the dishes after I cook, even if he appears to be genetically incapable of cleaning off the counters or stovetop.

Note to BW: (A few swipes with a questionable dishcloth is not cleaning off.)

Still, February’s more than half over. I don’t wish time away–ever–but that doesn’t mean I can’t think about spring while I’m looking out at my snowy woods. It’ll be harder to take when they’re forecasting close to 70s later in the week.

Psychotic February. You just have to take it as it comes.

Nora

 Cranky Publicist note (or…And Now something different):

As the winter yang to Nora’s winter yin — in the summer we reverse — I must speak up for those of us who go outdoors in the cold months.  While I’m grateful on the truly miserable days to work in a home office, I need to put on layers and get outside at least once a week to breathe and reset.

The rewards abound: I found gorgeous blue skies and ice sculptures in Frederick.  Roses under sulky gray skies in NYC.  Reds and golds and dragons in NYC’s Chinatown to celebrate the dawn of the Year of the Dog.

Summer will be here way too quickly (the mid-week forecast is closer to 80 in my elevation — yikes!) for my thick blood, while Nora will embrace the warmth with thanks and celebration.  (And WHY does the summer contain TWO months with 31 days?  The winter haters get February.  I want a February.)

And yet, the seasons will turn and we’ll each have our moments in the sun.

Blue skies, white spires, red brick. Photo by LMR

Dragon-y ice. Photo by LMR

NYC roses in winter. Photo by LMR

Dragon on parade. Photo by LMR

Lanterns. Photo by LMR