Category Archives: General

Forgotten in Death excerpt

A little surprise on this Tuesday morning — the Forgotten in Death excerpt!

The body was left in a dumpster like so much trash, the victim a woman of no fixed address, known for offering paper flowers in return for spare change–and for keeping the cops informed of any infractions she witnessed on the street. But the notebook where she scribbled her intel is nowhere to be found.

Then Eve is summoned away to a nearby building site to view more remains–in this case decades old, adorned with gold jewelry and fine clothing–unearthed by recent construction work. She isn’t happy when she realizes that the scene of the crime belongs to her husband, Roarke–not that it should surprise her, since the Irish billionaire owns a good chunk of New York. Now Eve must enter a complex world of real estate development, family history, shady deals, and shocking secrets to find justice for two women whose lives were thrown away…

Forgotten in Death is out September 7. You’ll find the excerpt here: Chapter One.

EDITED TO ADD on August 31: As a little surprise, here’s a small peek at Chapter Two.

Laura

The adventures of a cranky publicist

Well dear readers, I won’t bury the lede:

Elaine played a triple word score on the third play and never looked back.

The final score was 323-235.

Oh look! I just played bilker and tripled my score!

My luck with letters vanished. The last four pulls from the bag gave me seven vowels. Elaine pretended sympathy, but I sensed her delight in finding her ground on the Scrabble board. Fortunately I still like Elaine. And I was relieved of the stresses of winning.

Before a certain NYT best-selling author gives you her side of the story, I’d like to share a few pertinent details.

We stayed in a private house (called Arden Estate) on the Nemacolin property instead of the fifth floor of the Chateau. While everyone in the house had been vaccinated, we opted to keep the house reservation as a cautious way to return to travel.

It’s a huge house with decks running on two levels on the back, providing gorgeous views of the Laurel Highlands. With six bedrooms, a huge dining area, an even huge-r deck with picnic table, a game room, a pool table, fireplaces, two hot tubs, Arden offered enough to do, enough space to sit and read or talk, that you didn’t even need to leave for spa treatments. (Though everyone did at least one.)

Just a portion of the lower deck.
The view from the dining area.

BTW, in the fall of 2020, the most recent season of The Bachelor was filmed entirely at Nemacolin. The resort was closed to guests for two months, all employees of the resort who worked during that time as well as the entire cast and crew were sequestered on the property and subject to two Covid tests per week.

Arden was used for group dates and one-on-one interviews in front of the fireplace. I’m not a fan of the show, but it was a conversation starter with everyone I met. And it seems to be a lure for visitors to the resort now that spring has arrived.

Oh, the one thing I DID know was our friend Claire Hardy created the vivid, engaging rose paintings that were visible on the show. Nora owns several of Claire’s pieces and she had a show at Gifts Inn BoonsBoro in March 2020.

While I mentally (and maybe somewhat vocally) bemoaned the Stupid Scoreboard, I firmly put my foot down about playing Hearts with Kayla. “That,” I said grandly, “is a Greenbrier activity.”

Shows me what I know. My plan was to bed by 10:30 on the first night, but as I was about to say goodnight, Kat had to go downstairs to Griffin and I was dragooned into sitting in her place in a game of — you guessed it — Hearts. I proceeded to tank on purpose, but still didn’t get to bed until 11:30. Sigh.

On the positive side of the Stupid Scoreboard tally, we bowled with the Ninendo Switch instead of the Wii. Turns out I have mad skills bowling with the left Switch remote in the right hand.

The time Laura entertained Griffin by bowling with both hands. Please note the strikes.

Eventually I helped the group learn that six strikes in a row are called a six-pack. Unfortunately, my talents only showed up for exhibitions to delight Griffin who chortled whenever anyone bowled a strike.

Overall, the days were lovely. Forecasted cold weather and rain never materialized. We had enough room on the decks to take in the magnificent sunsets (instead of crowding at a hotel window).

Sunset

Even though it’s not everyone’s idea of a vacation, I really wanted to get my hands on the grill on one deck and make dinner for everyone. (I enjoy cooking for larger groups and it’s been a long, long time.) The group was all in so Kayla and I went out to buy chicken and vegetables and the ingredients for Nora’s Roasted Potatoes.

Since everyone will ask: Nora took the boatload of Yukon gold potatoes I bought her, washed them, quartered them, coated them with olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped garlic and rosemary. Put them in a 375 oven for 30 minutes, then took out of the oven and stirred them so nothing stuck to the pan. Then she rechecked/stirred them every 15 minutes until they were done.
When I’ve made them, I use Yukon Gold baby potatoes, do the same oil/spice thing, then start the stirring at 15 minutes instead of 30, since they cook faster.

I needed a tenderizer to get the chicken breasts around the same thickness. In the perfect example of #RandomKatness, she went out and found a rock for my approval. Then she washed it and covered with foil. And it was perfect fit for my hand, weight for the job.

Actually everything was pretty perfect. I grilled asparagus with lemon, broccoli, cauliflower while Nicole prepped portobello mushrooms stuffed with zuchini, squash and mozzerella.

Dinner time

Praise all around for our family meal. And we had leftovers for days.

As for the rest of our time away?

We painted.

Down the road a piece.

Went for walks.

Fireworks at sunset

Watched a surprise fireworks display.

Pat and Nora in the sunshine.

And took the time to catch up in person, rather than a monthly Zoom call.

Nora captures the magic of friendship and girl power far better than I do, so I’ll let her give you a fuller picture in her own post.

All I can say is it was a wonderful, restorative week away…

Until JoAnne screamed.

But that’s a story for next time.

Laura

Breaking News (Or Has Hell Frozen)?

In an unexpected turn of events, the Cranky Publicist is a Scrabble finalist in the 2021 Spa Girls World Games, hosted (aka forced upon her) by Nora.

“What can I say?” Shrugged the vivacious Cranky after scoring 168 in her semi-final match. “I was able to use a Y and J on triple word scores. The letter gods were with me.”

When she realized her opponent in the finals was past Grand Champion and Scrabble connessieur, she paled a little. Then composed herself and immediately claimed Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down) as her intro song when she enters the Scrabble arena (which doubles as a dining room).

“What can I say? Other than I’m not gonna waste my shot!” said this year’s surprise sticker winner and late round price picker.

Stay tuned for late breaking news!

And now, for something different

Every year the Nora Roberts Foundation awards a scholarship to a Boonsboro High School graduating senior whose higher education focus includes study of Journalism, Creative Writing, Communication, English, Education or related fields.

Applicants write a short story or essay–any topic, any genre, anything at all. We all read the entries, discuss them, consider them, debate them. It’s a big scholarship, and these college-bound young people deserve our serious attention.

Over the years, entries have ranged from the heart-rending to the delightful humorous, from the mysterious to the charming and everything you can imagine.  

It’s hard–really, really hard–to know you can only award one. Every senior who applies does their best, tries hard, takes the time, has that hope. It’s my hope that though only one can win, the others take their best, their efforts, time, hope forward.

I’m pleased to say we’ve had those awarded the scholarship go on to careers in Journalism, those who’ve become teachers, free-lance writers. I have a signed copy of a travel/hiking book on my office shelf from a previous winner. Others have gone into other fields as college is, and should be, an exploration.

In this long, long year of COVID, we can all use some strong, bright light. I got some of that from this year’s scholarship winner and her gorgeous love-letter to Boonsboro. I’d like to share Rebekah’s light and talent with you.

Congratulations, Rebekah, and wishes for all good things on your journey. You’re the future.

Nora


Click Kairosclerosis to read Rebekah’s winning essay.

A Statement from Nora

To set the scene for this post: Early this evening, I shared the news on Facebook that Nora’s Brazen Virtue will be adapted for a Netflix movie and provided a link to The Hollywood Reporter which broke the story.

Within seconds the reaction came — and completely shocked me. So much outright hatred for the actress. Nearly 1,000 comments in an hour with a large majority making rude, inflammatory comments about Alyssa Milano and how they would never watch the film. Ever.

I gave Nora a heads up about the comments and what she saw and read stunned her. So much so, she wrote a statement for Facebook and asked me to post it here as well. ~Laura

I’ve read many of the comments on Laura’s announcement of the Brazen Virtue adaption for Netflix, starring Alyssa Milano. And I’m simply and sincerely appalled.

The vitriol, the hatred, the anger, the bitterness and the demands are astounding to me.

By and large I keep politics off my pages. That’s my choice. Now many readers have dragged their own onto this page, so I’m going to state, for the record: I’m a liberal Democrat. Always have been, always will be. And as one, I’ve always believed everyone has a right to their political beliefs, and has a right to express their opinions. But I don’t have to tolerate insults and ugliness on my page.

For those who want to claim Freedom of Speech—look it up. This FB page isn’t the government. Some have comments on here using ‘liberal’ as a slur, an insult, equating it with communism. Others have used outright slurs against an actress, while claiming she should keep her opinions to herself. (No doubt those same people would be quick to assert their own First Amendment rights.)

Some will never read me again because Milano will headline this adaption. One reader stated she intended to BURN all my books in her collection for this choice of actress.

Think about that. Burning books. Get a visual? I sure do.

Another claims she can only support ‘like-minded’ artists. Really? I only imagine the books, songs, movies I’d have missed if I felt this way and refused to read, watch, listen to those who contributed to or performed them who hold different political viewpoints from my own.

Over this past long, hard year, we’ve lost over 400,000 friends, loved ones, neighbors to COVID. We’ve been isolated from each other, and I for one yearn for the company of my pals again. I wonder, truly, why this grief, this hardship hasn’t taught so many of us we need each other. Instead, as illustrated by that comment section, it’s hardened far too many into an us and them mentality.


The viciousness I read in too many comments below hurts my heart. And realizing because I’m a liberal Democrat, many of those comments are directed at me for that reason alone is a real eye-opener.

Watch the movie when it comes out, or don’t. But lobbing nastiness at an actress or threatening me doesn’t do anything but illustrate your own limitations.

Nora

I’m Ready!

The last little package arrived. I’ll gift bag that sucker and be done with the wrapping, ribboning, bowing and tagging.

Gifts to pals I won’t see this year, shipped weeks ago, and most landed where they’re meant to be.

Tree up, mantels dressed, candles lit.

Thanks to Kayla and a marathon baking day, we have tons of cookies. I stood as baker’s assistant while she did the real work–and a lot of work it was. Also delicious.

Getting Grandda into the act
Cookie Boss

 I’ll sneak in a Nana brag as our college girl got her grades. Straight As. 

We had a really fun, laborious day together. I miss seeing my grandboys, and having the gang baking in the kitchen. Next year–I hold onto next year.

I miss holiday celebrations and time with my friends. Next year.

Obviously, we won’t have our big bash of a New Year’s Day Open House this year. But next year.

And I admit, sometimes it gets me down. It’s hard not to hang out with friends and family, hard to cut out long-held traditions, hard to give up all those personal contacts, the hugs, the laughs, the simple, basic pleasure of being together. 

But next year.

I’ve got plenty of work to keep me busy. Writing, for me, has always been a blessing, but maybe never as much as in 2020. It gets me going in the morning, helps keep me from dwelling–too much–on everything else.

Then there’s the weekend cleaning/cooking/baking routine. It helps, too.

But boy, will I happily pass my toilet brush to someone else next year.I’ll buy them new ones! Gold-plated toilet brushes if they want. And shiny silver buckets, jewel-encrusted scrub brushes! Whatever it takes.

Meanwhile, it all keeps me busy, and somewhat sane.

Last week’s snowday view.

Also keeping us busy around here is Parker who had surgery last week for a torn ankle tendon. He’s recovering well, but JESUS! he now requires pretty much constant care. No opening the door so the dogs can stroll out and do what they do. Bag that cast, use a leash, walk him out, try to avoid having the Cone Of Shame bash you in the calves and shins. 

Parker and his new accessory.

He and Atticus both have the sads over the situation. But this, too, will pass. Next year.

Meanwhile meanwhile, the house is festive, and that perks me up.

Best, Jason, Kat and Griffin will come for Christmas as we’ve continued our careful bubble. I’m incredibly lucky there. We’ll have a late brunch once they get here, then tear into the presents. And won’t it be fun to watch a two-year old discover new toys under the tree?

Since Kat can’t eat mammals (reaction to a tick bite) we’ll have lasagna for dinner–with a salad bar to start, garlic bread from the Italian bread I baked last weekend, and an ice cream bar for dessert.

Then we’ll watch the new Wonder Woman. Yay!!

Not our usual Christmas, but we’ll make it happy. Then there’s next year. Next year, Kayla won’t have to haul all the gifts from here to her family because we’ll all be together. We’ll be together–family and friends–because we’re apart now keeping each other safe. And that’s the most loving thing we can do.

I’m wishing all our health care workers, our first responders, teachers, front line workers, delivery workers, USPS workers, grocery workers, and all those who’ve done so much, worked so hard to keep us all safe, to care for us, to keep it all going the best holiday possible. And a better, brighter new year.

I wish the same for all of you.

When I light my candles tonight, I’ll light them with that wish for all.

Next year will be better, and it will be brighter. But for now, we’ll make the now as solid and safe and shiny as we can.

Nora

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