Category Archives: writing

Trust Me

Desperation In Death comes out shortly. As always, I enjoyed spending time ( a lot on this side of the page!) in that world, with the characters who inhabit it. And hope you will, too.

Whenever we announce a new In Death, there’s excitement and speculation. There’s also—inevitably—a continuing complaint from some readers.

It goes something like this:

The last book (or books) disappointed me/ wasn’t up to par because —name a favorite reoccurring character or characters —wasn’t in it/them or wasn’t in it/them enough.

It’s difficult to address or explain the reasons for this in a two sentence reply on Facebook, so I decided to address and explain here.

First: Trust me.

If you’re invested and attached to these characters, it’s because I created them. I know them—and yes, gentle reader, even better than you because they came from me.

It’s my job to write the best book I can. To do that, I have to respect and honor the story, and the people in it. It’s simply not possible to craft the best book I can if I try to shoehorn every character—even your personal favorites—into every single book in the series.

When a recurring characters shows up, it’s because it fits the story, the scene, the tone, the purpose. When they don’t show up, they didn’t fit.

It’s my job to craft the story.

Trust me to do my job.

If I wrote thinking: I have to squeeze Mavis into this, and Bella, and Louise and Charles, and Nadine, Feeney, and so on, the story would suffer for it. I’m not going to do that. Not ever.

Let me add an aside. I absolutely love writing scenes with Bella. I find her a joy, and find more joy in seeing Mavis’s evolution as a mom. But the books aren’t about Bella, Mavis and motherhood, or Eve’s often baffled reaction to both.

When they do come in, it’s for a purpose. To further the story, to lighten or darken the mood, to provide information, to interact in a way that makes sense in the storyline.

I’ll add in the In Death world very little time spans between stories—much, much less time than the six months span in which they’re published. How would it make sense for Lt. Eve Dallas to interact with all the recurring characters every few days when she’s pretty busy investigating murders? It just doesn’t.

Connected to the above complaint is: There wasn’t enough Roarke—which I firmly believe a good portion of readers expressing this actually mean: Not enough sex with Roarke. (Hard to blame you!)

But the same reasons apply. I’m not going to shoehorn sex scenes in either. They, like any scene, either flow into the story, for a purpose, or they don’t. Also, Roarke’s pretty busy running his empire, and while I have crafted ways—that make sense to me—to have him on the page, contributing to the investigation, even just as a sounding board—he and Eve have their separate careers and duties to them.

Roarke doesn’t work at Central, or in the field. He’s evolved into a consultant—officially—because it made sense, and opened a way to give him more page time, and added to his understanding of and respect for what Eve does.

There are books in the series where nearly everyone finds a way onto the page—for a purpose. And there are books where hardly anyone outside the main characters show up. Because they don’t fit in that storyline.

Trust me to know when they fit, when they don’t.

Since I’m devoting a blog to this, let me address a couple more questions/hopes.

I have no idea—none at this time—if/when Baxter will enter into a serious relationship. I have no idea—none at this time—if/when Morris will find another love. The purpose of the series is clear in the name. In Death. It’s about a cop investigating murder. Each time, every time. That comes first. The primary purpose is not to hook up every character in a romantic relationship.

The secondary purpose is, absolutely, the connections—emotional connections, the evolution of long-standing characters, and/or the introduction of new ones. But the purpose is not romantic relationships for all. And for me, and I do know them, many of the characters are perfectly content with their lives as they stand.

I had no thought to write Nadine into a serious relationship. Until Apprentice In Death. It flowed out—from the scene where Jake first appeared because it fit, it made sense, and Jake’s character worked. The chemistry worked, a nice surprise for me.

The same thing may happen for one of the other characters in an upcoming book—as yet unwritten—or it may not. Ever.

And yes, Mavis is still pregnant, and will be for several more books. That’s how the timeline of the series works, it’s the way I structured it a couple decades ago. Decades for you and me, about three years for the characters in that world.

Some people may just be tired of the series, find themselves burnt out on it. That happens, and it’s okay. Some cycle through disappointment in a book or a couple in a row because they didn’t get to see their favorite(s) play a part.

I can only say to that: Trust me. They’ll be back when they have something to add to the story.

Again, I hope you enjoy Desperation In Death. And can happily tell you, Mavis, Leonardo and Bella all appear in this one. Because they fit.

Nora

Tuscany – Day 18

Morning mist. Photo by Nora.

First, for those of you wondering why we don’t/hoping we will walk down to see what Chain Saw Man is building, an explanation.

We’re on a hilltop here, overlooking the valley with more forested hills to the east and west. CSM is somewhere—best we can tell—on a ridge to the west, within one of the dense forests. We can’t see him, only hear.

No way to walk down anywhere from here as the first step would be a doozy!—which is why we have stone walls to prevent tumbling off the hill. Plus he’s not `down’ there, he’s over on another hill somewhere. I can see a vineyard on the top of the hill to our right—the west—and what looks like a dirt road going down, but even with all the sounds of building, we never see any movement.

Don’t know where he is, and there’s a lot going on over there this pretty Sunday morning. Sawing, hammering, and the first time I hear the sound of a vehicle. A tractor, maybe? A small bulldozer? Not sure, as it’s just not visible. I just heard a tree go down, and I was looking in that general direction, but didn’t see one fall.

Anyway.

Command Center request for an actual photo of the huge rosemary plant mentioned back on the first day at the villa fulfilled! Nora provides scale. Photo by Nora’s iPad.

After work out, I join the family for a pleasant time in what’s sort of our sitting room/Griffin’s play room. The cleaning crew’s doing what must be their Saturday ritual, and that’s thorough, so we’re staying out of their way as much as possible. Kayla appears late morning as she’s spent some Face Time with her guy as he and his family are leaving for a cruise and they won’t be able to talk for about a week.

Busy boy. Photo by Kat.

We think to visit the shop in the village, then make a quick hit on the market for fresh strawberries and what Kat needs to make cookies.

Daddy stays back with Griffin, and off we go.

Sadly the shops are closed. I guess Saturday isn’t a big hunt through shops day in Barbarino. So with Kat as our driver and tour guide we head to the big COOP—like chicken coop. There are two—one big, one small—we want the big one as there’s a better chance they’ll have Kayla’s oat milk.

We also score, to our satisfaction, chocolate chips, and to my pleasure, two bottles of Veuve.

Unlike the shops in Barbarino, the COOP is a madhouse. It’s interesting looking for specifics, identifying flour, brown sugar and so on when it’s not in the packaging you’re used to and in another language. Like a hunt, and we become skilled hunters.

Home we go, me to make frozen margaritas, Kat to make cookies.

The reason for margaritas needs no explanation, but the cookies?

Griffin is fond of Chips Ahoy—only the chewy ones, red package. He’s used to being offered a cookie or two daily, so his parents brought along what they thought would last through our Italian adventures. However, there are more of us offering those cookies (often as bribes, of which I am a firm proponent).

He’s running out. We have substituted what he calls cookie cake—some sort of Twinkie looking thing without the filling but with tiny chocolate chips. This was Kayla score, but she shares. Kat’s decided to try to reproduce cookies that meet Griffin’s Chewy Chips Ahoy taste bar.

I’m going to make strawberry margaritas for Kayla and Jason, and for me, a purist, regular. BW can have either. I need cookie-baking Kat’s guidance on the machine to start. But soon I’m juicing and measuring (mostly eyeballing as measuring tools are scarce) slicing and blending. And produce pretty strawberry margs while Kat makes the world’s smallest batch of cookies (it’s a test batch, after all).

Then what I consider a real frozen marg. And I fear I’ll never use margarita mix for anything but marinating chicken and fish again. Fresh is so much better.

Hummus plate for Kayla courtesy of Kat. Photo by BW.

In her cook’s mode, Kat makes hummus for Kayla and presents a lovely tray. BW, Kayla and I sit out, BW and I with our second margaritas and some cheese and crackers, Kayla with her hummus tray, and enjoy the view and the sunshine.

Inside, the kitchen smells like fresh cookies, and a few sit out cooling—bigger than the standard Chips Ahoy. Back in the sitting room we learn Griffin took one from Daddy, had a bite, made a disillusioned face and handed it to his mom.

But then went back, took Daddy’s cookie, had some more. I’m too full of margaritas and cheese for cookies, but BW had one. Kat has another culinary success.

Lovely day. Photo by j a-b.

It’s game time. Kat v Kayla on the ever-popular Mario Cart. Danger Guy is dangering on the sofa below the screen. I take the other sofa and a bat nap.

We plan to try the other restaurant in the village—recommended for its pizza. It doesn’t open until 7:30, so we head out about 7:15. Griffin plays a game with me and Kayla, closes the gate behind us, guards it. We pretend to beg to come in. He opens it a crack, peeks out. This keeps us entertained.

Peeking through. Photo by Kayla.

We also discover the old door across the road sort of built into the wall of the hill isn’t locked. Inside a kind of small cave are big old wine jugs and baskets. I don’t know why.

Door. Photo by Kayla.
Old bottle recepticle. Photo by Kayla.

Shops still closed in the village, and we learn our intended destination is fully booked for Saturday night. We go next door where we had dinner Friday, elect the street patio area.

Kayla and I are going to split a salad to start—what I thought would be a smallish Isalada Mista, that turns out to be huge with tons of roasted veggies. We make a spare plate of tons of roasted veggies to take home for tomorrow’s Sunday morning omelettes (by Kat).

Then there’s pizza, pasta, wine. We don’t lack for conversation. Kayla remembers I can find a song containing almost any word you can throw out. My father could do it. So words are tossed, and Kat says I’m faster than Google. But, I admit, chocolate stumped me. Jason Googles and finds many. None of which I recognized.

Cappuccino, lemoncello—and then they bring us a complimentary dolci, a pretty crepe with many forks.

Dessert with forks. Photo by Kayla.

On the waddle back, we make a reservation at the other place for Tuesday night, so we’ll now compare food and service.

The view of the sky, that thumbnail moon, the red glow at the horizon, from the parking lot is just awesome. Which may be why they have a platform you can go up to to enhance that view.

Home for a last sit out and bask for me, then bed.

Rosy horizon. Photo by BW.
Evening family shot. Photo by BW.
Day is done. Photo by j a-b.
Kayla-approved shot by her Nana.

We plan a Sunday dinner at home tonight. I’m going to make roasted, herbed-up potatoes—a crowd fave. We have salad makings, broccoli, cheese, bread, left-overs.

I may write awhile after my work out, or sit and read—or watch what I assume will be more Mario Cart competition.

What I think was a big gray cat just dashed up and away. At least I hope it was a cat as I only got a glimpse out of the corner of my eye. We’ve seen a little black and white one in the bushes outside the gate, so I’m going with another cat.

Chain Saw Man continues his work, and I think everyone else is still sleeping.

I predict another fine day in Tuscany.

Nora


And in today’s #randomkatness (cooking division):

A boy with his fishing pole in front of the moon. Food art by Kat, photo by j a-b.

Tuscany – Day 15

The cloudy start. Photo by Nora.

A cool, breezy, cloudy start turns into a beautiful day. My new workout spot and water bottles do just fine. As I’m finishing up with stretches, BW comes out with his drone to take some aerial shots. Apparently, in one of them a very tiny me is doing a split-leg forward fold.

The villa from above. BW is at top of the stairs, guiding the drone. Nora’s near the bottom of the stairs in split forward fold.

Everyone’s up and about, the daily cleaning crew’s on the job. I place a few more puzzle pieces before heading up to change.

Jason, BW and Kayla are heading out maybe to see a nearby ghost town, and a dome of some sort. I’m going to work awhile, and Kat wants a day at home. When I join her, there’s a bit more puzzling and hanging out time with the best dil in the history thereof and my youngest grandkid.

Then the gang’s back with stories of skinny, bumpy roads, going off road, amazing views and vineyards. They skipped the ghost town this trip. Lots of lots of pictures to show off—and lunch happens. Kayla makes a very pretty cheese board—just the thing!

The gorgeous day. Photo by j a-b.
A dome. Photo by BW.
Snapping the vineyard views. Photo by j a-b.
Photo shoot. Photo by j a-b.
Change of photographer. Photo by j a-b.
Grapes on the vine. Photo by Kayla.
Kayla’s new charcuterie creation. Photo by Kayla.

More game playing, more puzzling. How about a Bellini—don’t mind if I do.

Maybe a little more work since the puzzle’s reached the point of the all white llama and it’s making my eyes cross.

Getting closer… Photo by Kayla.

When I start to shut down, the screen freezes. It won’t let me save the work, won’t let me back up the work, won’t even let me just exit. SHY-OAT! (Griffin’s work for SHIT!)

But who is right here but my personal IT whiz. And Jason saves the work, my nerves and the day. Whew.

Kat and Jason are taking dinner orders, going to the market, getting take-out. Since Griffin has no interest in going with them, he stays back with us. Kat is his person, so it’s a very good thing she can go off without him.

One view in Barberino. Photo by Kat.
Another view in Barberino. Photo by Kat.

At some point he surfaces from his video and asks: Where’s Mommy?

Kayla says: Oh, she’s at the store. She’ll be back.

He accepts, and also accepts her challenge to a race.

We have many races and chases and jumping and hiding. Kayla becomes his person, and when she says she’s going in for water—and because the bugs are devouring her—he just takes her hand and says: Go back.

This doesn’t mean, in Griffin-speak, go inside. It means go back to what we’re doing, sister. Which is racing.

I get water for both my grandbabies.

She does manage to sneak off after a bit, and I become his person. And that person’s grateful he’s tired of racing so we can play other games. Sit on the grass and pick clover, crumble dry leaves. I catch on to the new Breezeway Game where he stands on one side of the glass, positions me on the other, and we put our faces close, laugh and squeal, then switch places. And do it again. And again.

Jason and Kat are back with food. We’re trying a hot dog for Griffin who is very picky about hot dogs. The first hot dog he ever had happened to be organic, and he very much liked. Jason picked up Oscar Meyer thereafter, and the boy was like: What is this? Are you trying to poison me? I don’t believe this dog was organic—and had cheese inside.

He was just fine with it.

We’re all just fine with our choices, and finish up right before the glory of the sunset. The best one yet. A long slow drop of the sun behind the western hills, a long, long spread of rosy light along the horizon, and such a lovely glow in the sky.

Sunset, Jason edition.
Sunset, Nora edition.
Nora capturing the sunset. Photo by j a-b
Post sunset glow, BW edition.

Even after the sky goes dark, that thin line of rose holds and holds.

This morning I grab a sweater before I come down—good thing as it’s another cool start to the day. There’s a blue, cloudless sky, and hammering down where Chain Saw Man is doing whatever he’s doing. A dove calls, insistently.

I don’t know what plans—if any—there are for today. Well, I plan to do a little laundry after I work out. I need Kat—who’s already done some—to show me how to work the washing machine. Other than that, we’ll see what comes.

Nora


Today’s #randomkatness (or the many skills of #katgyver)

Kat’s whetstone. Photo by Nora.

Tuscany – Day 13

A full house for awhile with the cleaning crew and the gardener. I got an earliest start experimenting with water bottles as free weights. Not bad—but the big still water bottles are a little wide for smallish hands. Have to modify some lifts because I can’t get a solid grip for things like upright rows.

Early start, early view. Photo by Nora.

Next round, the slimmer sparkling water bottles.

I expect the quiet man who came to water the plants wondered what the strange woman was doing playing with big-ass water bottles on the lawn. But he made no comment.

Kayla and BW take off for the village with the many towers. [Ed. note: San Gimignano] Jason, Kat and Griffin will meet them. I opt to stay home, avoid the very real possibility of car sickness due to snaky, windy roads.

Before too long things get pretty quiet around our Italian homestead, so I set up to work.

While I do, the two groups meet up, explore the medieval village—I can see the towers from where I sit. Jason and Kayla climb the many, many, MANY steps to the bell tower. I’m told you’d think you were at the top, but no. More. Then ladders. But they reached the top and got their reward in the view.

La Torre Grossa. Photo by Kat.
A view from the top of La Torra Grossa. Photo by Kayla.
The wide view of the town. Photo by j a-b.
Mind your head. Photo by j a-b.
A girl and her uncle. Photo by j a-b.
The way down. Photo by j a-b.
J & Kayla are up on the right. Photo by BW.
Piazza della Cisterna. Photo by a stranger with Jason’s phone.
He just can’t help himself. Photo by BW’s phone.

Kayla wore shorts—short ones—so had to don a kind of clear plastic skirt provided at the church for entering. Apparently Griffin was disturbed by this. I might have been, too.

They have lunch. I have chips while I work. If I’d had Cheez-It’s it would’ve been just like home.

Non Cheezit lunch. Photo by j a-b.

It’s hot. I like the heat so it doesn’t really bother me, so I’m surprised to learn it hit 101.

Just as I decide enough work a strong wind comes up. Feels like a change is a’coming.

The gang returns with many pictures and stories about steps, a toy store full of toy weapons (!), crystal staffs, armor, steep hills.

Images from inside the Duomo in San Gimignano:

Photo by Kat.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by BW.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by Kat.
Photo by Kat.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by Kat.

A brief respite before all but BW and I head to the near village and the grocery store—which was, it seems, packed and confusing. Now we have fresh Italian bread (for the upcoming Italian Egg Breakfast), and plenty of supplies. This includes rice as Kayla, Kat and Griffin yearn for rice. I am not a fan myself, but know how to make many dishes that include it.

Head in a niche. Photo by Kayla.

For tonight, I’m going to make a pretty simple pasta—oil and herbs. We’ll have a salad and garlic bread. It takes no time to discover the knives are pretty dull, the range top complicated, and we have no garlic press.

But we work it all out.

Boil pasta (reserve a good cup of the water before draining), thin slice some garlic and sauté in olive oil—add a pinch or so of crushed red pepper. I have the rosemary bush, and there’s potted basil in the kitchen. Oregano in the spice drawer. Drain the cooked pasta, dump into skillet with the garlic and oil, add herbs, salt, pepper. Let it sauté a minute or two. Add pasta water and simmer and stir till it absorbs.

For the garlic bread I basically mince and squish the garlic because no press.

And the oven, we discover, has no setting for broil. It has one for grill, Jason tells me, so we try that. Does the job.

Table set by many hands, citronella candles the gang picked up at the store lit. Let’s eat.

Despite the strangeness of the kitchen and tools, we have a good meal.

Finished product. Photo by j a-b.

Gelato to follow. I can’t manage it tonight, but I’ll dig in later.

No racing tonight. Griffin takes to the pool instead with his mom.

When I walk down, I can hear him enjoying it before I see them. And when I do, Kat—who’s a smidge or so shorter than me—says she’s standing on her toes as the pool’s a steady five feet. But it’s fun anyway, and breezy.  It’s not heated, so they may be the only ones to take a dip. Even baking all day, the water feels pretty chilly when I stick my hand in.

Chillaxing in the pool Photo by Nora.

I am seriously not a fan of ‘bracing’ pool water, and can have my fun watching others splash around in it.

And here’s the sunset. We enjoy it tonight from the lower terrace just above the pool.

Day is done. Photo by Nora.

A little puzzle time, then bed.

Chain Saw Man’s busy again today. And it’s much, much cooler.

I think I’ll work out on the grass by that lower terrace today—little change of scene.

Nora

Ghosts again

It’s recently come to my attention that several fraudulent websites offering–for a whopping fee–ghostwriting services have me listed as a client. 

This is bullshit, and it’s infuriating.

These sites–and I won’t link to them or name them as that could increase their traffic, and that’s their goal–list many books they claim their ghostwriters have written. More bullshit. They’ve simply tossed up thumbnails of published works by legitimate authors to lure in the naive.

One of the sites that includes me also lists Marvel Comics.  

Yeah, I’m sure Marvel hires ghosts. 

I do not use ghosts. I have never used ghosts. I will never use ghosts. I wrote every word of every book ever published under my name. That’s Roberts and Robb.  

It’s infuriating and insulting for some asshole cheats running a con to use my name and my work to advertise it. And a con is what this is, start to finish. 

A legitimate ghostwriter remains a ‘ghost’ unless the person paying for that service agrees to credit them. It’s my personal opinion that ghosts should be credited, but it’s not my business as I don’t use ghostwriters. 

A legitimate ghostwriter doesn’t have their photo and name proudly posted on a website. In point of fact the ones proudly posted on these sites are stock photos, fake names. They don’t exist. 

These sites charge between $25 and $45 THOUSAND dollars for a ghostwritten book–as listed on their very professional-looking websites. Part of me thinks anyone who pays that kind of money to get their name on a book they didn’t write in the first place deserves to be taken. You’re a mark, pal, and that’s the price you pay for your ego.

However, I also realize some people just don’t understand how it all works, and think: I have this terrific idea! I just need somebody to write it for me!

To them I say, sure, I get it. But ideas don’t make a writer. Writing makes you a writer. Taking an idea and doing the hard work of turning it into a story, spending the time and effort, creating characters, refining the language, researching, editing, sweating, struggling–that makes a writer.

It’s just that simple.

I am NOT dissing ghostwriters. I am raging against these fake sites that claim to offer this service and use fraudulent means to rake in the dough.

The lawyers–and I’ve had three working on this–tell me yes, it’s fraud. But . . .

These cyber grifters are off shore–and it’s almost impossible to pin them down. They ignore Cease and Desist notices, ignore legal threats. And if you do manage to find them, they just poof and set up again. 

Because it’s easy pickings.  

We’re exploring some options, but those options are limited, and these cheats know it. Meanwhile, they rake in thousands and thousands from marks, some who might see my name and think: Wow, I KNEW she used ghostwriters! Boy oh boy, I can do that, too, and have a string of best-sellers! 

The idea of that just multiplies my fury. 

So I’ll say again, as clearly and as concisely as possible. I Do Not Use Ghostwriters. If you see my name or my book listed on a site that claims otherwise, it’s a lie. It’s fraud. And those involved are cyber thieves hoping you’ll fall for it.

Don’t. 

And I’m going to add this as it’s connected. 

To those who continue to insist I use ghosts, who claim they know I do, or I simply must because? You busy yourself on Twitter or other social media with this claim because you can’t do what I do. You figure you can’t so I can’t. 

That just makes you petty, jealous and pathetic. 

Now I’m going back to work because that’s what I do. I fucking write.

Nora

Montana – Day 4

Apothecarying’s fun!

We have our class near Spa Town with those incredible views through glass walls.

We start off making little lotion bars—custom as we choose our own scents or blend of scents.

Measure, mix, melt. Sniff, sniff to decide how we want them to smell. I’m in love with the Huckleberry so easy choice for me. Kayla goes for a lavender peach combo, and Kat huckleberry lemon.

Oh, the way everything smells!

We can add bits of rose, lavender or chamomile. Who can resist?

When we’re all done, we pour into little molds. Kayla and I both choose stars, and Kat a star and a couple seashells. So cute!!!!

From l: creations by Kat, Nora, Kayla’s . Photo by Nora

While those are in the fridge to harden we tackle lip balm. For this, it’s lavender peach for mine because it smells so yummy. A similar process of measuring and mixing, and into the little tubes.

Polish it off with bath scrub. I’m all about the huckleberry and lemon—with some dried rose crushed up in it. We get blue jars, mix it all up. It’s so creamy and fragrant.

Happy Kat and Kayla. Photo by Nora.

Back home on a warmer and happily sunny day.

BW’s been out with his drone taking aerial shots. Jason has tried and failed to get Griffin down for a nap.

The view from above. Photo by BW.

Pretty day to walk around outside—then the puzzle calls me for a session.

It’s coming along!

We have dinner—The Big Sky Bash—at the equestrian center. Kayla gets her cowgirl on with her hat—and a jacket and boots from Nana’s closet. It’s just gorgeous when we leave, but I also wear a jacket because I know how it goes here!

Kayla and her Nana. Photo by BW
Kayla and her Grandda. Photo by Nora.

We shuttle off to the bash, and it’s gorgeous there, too. There’s a pretty pond, and people out in canoes. That wide, wide spread of sky, the mountains and hills rising and rolling under it, cattle in the fields, lots of picnic table set and another live band.

Fun stuff. Along with a pony ride for kids.

Griffin makes a bee-line for the lake. That kid loves water. He has some running around time, and his Mom suggests a pony ride. But when she takes him over, sets him in the saddle, the answer is: Absolutely not!

A shame (though pretty funny) as Cookie the pony is pretty and sweet and patient. Kayla makes friends with her.

Kayla and her new friend. Photo by Nora.

Lots of food—and the roasted corn on the cob’s a big hit. Also fresh tortillas—mmmm.

Then the sun disappears behind clouds, the wind kicks up. Cold!!!! I hold out hope the sun will find its way back, but no. Just no. Still we had a fun time, good eats, and sunny and pleasant for most of our adventure.

Before the sun disappeared. Photo by Nora.

Back home for us. A Daddy Bedtime Dance. Not even halfway through that ritual, Griffin’s asleep on Jason’s shoulder. And still, mouth slack, eyes closed, he sings blearily: Wobba Wobba.

The videographer dances too!

Up to bed for our sleepy boy.

Day is done. Photo by Kat.

More puzzle time! Hang and puzzle with Kat and Kayla for awhile after Griffin’s settled (and Daddy with him). By ten we’re all tired, so an early night in the west.

I get eight straight, always a happy. Work out—good morning, Griffin. This is Daddy’s shift, their routine, and it goes along well. Some warmer, so parts of that routine means Griffin goes to the door. Time to go outside!

Finish my workout shortly before the shift change and BW, Kayla and Jason head out for breakfast.

I need to rewrite the bulk of a chapter. I’ve worked out in my head the how and the why but because it’s more intense work than editing, I take myself up to the quiet of the bedroom.

It takes a couple hours—and will need at least a couple more to make it all smooth. But it’s done. I think, while I’m up there how some idiot posted on the internet just yesterday or today—forget—how I don’t write all my own books because. There’s always a because in this type’s mind. And I think bite me, asshole, as I finally shut down after a couple of sweaty hours during my damn vacation!

Because I do write all my own books.

Come down to learn Griffin’s not feeling altogether well. When a toddler wants a nap and doesn’t want a cookie, he’s feeling off. But he has The Daddy Shoulder Of Comfort—doesn’t want Mom who is—unquestionably—his most favorite person of all people.

From yesterday when the mad scientist felt better and kept busy. Photo by Kat.

Seems a little better now, and is outside with Mom while Daddy’s getting a well-earned massage at spa town.

BW’s just back from taking pictures of our neighbors just up the road. Buffalo!

BW and his new pals. Photo by BW.
A closer look. Photo by BW.

I’m going to get some outside time myself.

We have—hope it’s not too cold—The Chuck Wagon Dinner tonight. Always a good, fun time.


Note from Travelogue Central Editorial Desk:

Because one download staring at me wasn’t enough, Kat decided to get a fuller photo of the eyes, thus earning the first #RandomKatness since 2019. To top that off, she took a snap of Griffin communing with the eyes. ~Laura

My Work

Is my work. My process, my time, my effort, my skill, my creativity. It is not, as I was told by a reader on the Robb Facebook page, a collaboration with the reader. The story is mine, and is not as this reader claims, owned by the reader once they read it.

I spent this Monday in April as I spend most Mondays, and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, working on a story, often fighting for the words, trying to see the characters, feel what they feel so I can know what they’ll do, what they’ll say.

Writing’s my job, and I love my job—fortunately. But it’s still work, often hard, often tedious, often painstaking.

I own my work, in every way, on every level. Just me. Only me. Because it’s just and only me writing the story.

This reader also claims a book isn’t finished until the reader filters it through her own life experiences.

Seriously?

No, it’s finished when I—and my editor—deem it finished. Then the reader can read this finished, polished, edited and produced work and form opinions, have feelings, visualize it as she chooses. But the reader has no input on the actual work. The reader has her or his individual take on that work. And that opinion, those feelings, that reader interpretation is valid, it’s personal and it’s real for that individual reader.

I would never question the right of a reader to hold those opinions. (I don’t have to agree with them!) But I will stomp down hard on the opinion the reader, through the act of reading, somehow forms a creative partnership with me—or any writer, ever.

Reading, imagining how characters look, sound, falling into a story—so to speak—doesn’t make a collaboration—which is, by definition the process of working with someone to produce or create something. I created, my publisher and I produced. The reader reads the result of the work, and is entitled, of course, to see as he or she sees.

But.

Did this reader—or any—sit with me at the keyboard hour after hour, day after day, week after work sweating out the story, creating the characters and the world they inhabit?

Of course not. A reader doesn’t share in the workload or the creativity and effort. A reader reads, enjoys—or doesn’t—inhabits the world the writer created—or doesn’t because that particular story didn’t pull her in.

The reader is absolutely, entitled to an opinion—positive, negative or mixed on a book. There are all sorts of venues for the readers to express those opinions, and the wise writers stays away from those venues.

I find it incredibly arrogant to consider yourself in collaboration with a writer because you read the book. That’s not an opinion on the work, that’s a claim of ownership gained through the act of reading.

I call bullshit. And I find this stand wildly insulting.

What I worked months on, chained to that keyboard, often struggling to find the right words, the right direction, the reader curls up and reads in a matter of hours. Often—if that reader is me reading something someone else sweated over, with a glass of wine at my elbow.

That’s not collaboration. That doesn’t entitle me to say that story belongs to me. My FEELINGS on that story belong to me, and that’s all.

I’ve been a reader all my life—a voracious one. I grew up, lucky for me, in a family of readers. I’ve certainly read countless books and stopped and thought: Man, I wish I’d written that!

Or, alternately: I wouldn’t have done it that way. I’d have done this.

That’s opinion.

Never, in all my years as a reader have I considered myself a collaborator in a story I read. Never in all my years as a writer have I considered readers—and again, valued, appreciated readers—collaborators, or indeed any part of my writing process.

I’m grateful to readers for taking the time to read my books, for spending hard earned cash to buy the books, for libraries for stocking them so readers can access them.

I spend time doing this blog when I can to show some of that appreciation. Laura spends even more time on social media to give readers a way to interact and find out the latest news because we value readers.

But there are limits to my appreciation. And it comes to a hard stop when one of those readers feels entitled enough to devalue my work by laying claim to it, simply because she reads it.

Where the hell does this lofty, arrogant claim come from? I’ve got some advice for anyone who makes it—spend a few months slaving over a story, researching the minutia thereof, editing, revising, second guessing, manage to get it published, then see how you feel when someone who had nothing whatsoever to do with all that work claims to be your collaborator because she read it and has opinions.

So Gentle Reader, in closing, thanks for reading, whatever opinion you form on the story. But if you decide that reading, that opinion, give you any sort of ownership over the story, think again.

Nora

Zombie Ghosts

I’m assuming anyone reading this knows how to dispatch a zombie. It’s all about the head. I’m a big believer in confronting things head on.

Every few months, the walking dead of intimating or outright stating I use ghostwriters shambles onto social media. And like a zombie it shuffles on, spreading. I’ve confronted this before—head on—but have never successfully eradicated the infection.

So, try, try again.

Laura will link the other times I’ve written about this issue, so readers of this blog will, hopefully, understand why I continue to do so. And how often it all crops up again. [See below]

This is very personal for me.

I write my own books. All of them. Writing is my job, and I love my job. I consider it the best job in the world, and one I’m very lucky to have. I work hard at my job—I want to, and because I love it, because I want to work hard at it, because of my individual process, pace and rhythm, I’ve been able to produce a lot of books over the course of my career.

It hits me, very personally, when people who don’t know me, don’t know my process, my life, decide to imply or come right out and say I use ghosts.

Are they in my house, my office, standing over my shoulder every day? They’re certainly not in the shower, in my gym, in my kitchen or anywhere else where I do other things while thinking about the story, working out angles, playing what if that I’ll turn into words at the keyboard.

I do not use ghosts. I have never used ghosts. I never will use ghosts. I’ve said that all before, will no doubt say it again.

So those who say I do are calling me a liar, and impinging my work. That’s personal.

Years ago a journalist with some shaky math skills and faulty information wrote that I produce a book every 45 days. That’s crazy and wrong, but it’s stuck over the years. The journalist didn’t consider that I had written several books (55k word category romances) before I sold the first one, and I was able to fix and fiddle and sell those previously rejected books rather quickly in those first couple years.

But who cares? What does it matter? The only people concerned about when I turn in a ms and how long that particular book took me to write are my editor and my agent. And the editor and agent—both of whom I’ve worked with for decades—know the work I turn in is mine alone.

I write how I write, and I write alone. I don’t collaborate or brainstorm or partner. I write solo because that’s my process. I don’t have staff, researchers, assistants, because I don’t want them. I work alone, which I find one of the great beauties of my craft.

If a book has my name on it, I wrote it—every damn word. That’s the Alpha and Omega.

Some say: She’s written over 200 books! Impossible.

No, it’s not. Not when I write six to eight hours a day, five to six days a week. That’s my choice, it’s how I work, and what works for me. It’s my process and process is individual to every writer. What’s right for one isn’t for another. We’re not the Borg.

My pace is MY pace, not anyone else’s.

I don’t do a lot of social media—my choice, my particular wiring. So I have the amazing Laura—who has her own space in her own house—to take care of the bulk of that.

I don’t do a lot of socializing (even pre-COVID). My choice, my wiring. I don’t take long breaks between books because I don’t want to. The next story is tugging at me.

I do what I do, and I like it—and it’s no one’s business but mine.

I don’t diss other writers on social media. I think it’s tacky and graceless. But if another writer wants to claim my books suck, okay. That’s opinion. Certainly if a reader wants to say so, or express disappointment in any of my books, they’re entitled. I stay off reader boards because they should be free to express those opinions without a writer wading in to snap at them or argue or attempt to intimidate.

That’s my opinion.

But no one’s entitled to call me a liar or a cheat. No one’s entitled to lie about me and imply or say I use ghosts. I will stand up for myself and my work.

And when a ghostwriter takes to social media to whine, that’s also a choice. But not when they whine about me. They don’t know me, and I have nothing to do with their choices—and ghosting is a choice.

To a statement like: If Nora Roberts and I wrote the exact same book hers would sell a lot more, first I say: Duh.

I say Duh because I’ve spend four freaking decades building a career, a following, a reputation, connections with publishers and readers. So duh.

But over and above, this is a stupid, foolish and ignorant statement because NO two writers would ever write the same book. Doesn’t work like that. We aren’t in each other’s heads, we all have our own creative path, our own style, our own voice.

No one creative would make such an asinine comparison, which only smacks of jealousy and a lack of understanding of how publishing actually works.

And, sister, you made a choice to take a ghostwriting job. Your reasons are your own, and I don’t question or criticize them—because that’s your personal business. However.

 Did you take a payment for the ghosting? Did you agree to terms and cash a check for the work you did?

Now if the person who hired you didn’t pay you, or agreed to give you credit and didn’t follow through, you’ve got a legitimate complaint. But if you took the money and agreed—as the term ghost implies—to forfeit any credit—quit your bitching.

And leave me the hell out of it.

Do the work, invest the time, take the risks every writer takes, deal with the rejections and disappointments and push on. That’s how it’s done.

Write. Spend more time writing and a lot less whining on social media—and trying to take shots at another writer or the realities of the industry itself.

A couple weeks ago I had another bout of vertigo—which sucks beyond the telling of it. The first day, after a few hours flat out, I could sit up. I thought: Hmmm, and asked BW to bring down my Surface and flash drive because maybe I could work in bed.

Found out quickly that was a big no.

Day Two, better, try again. And I found I could write a couple hours. Couldn’t stand up without everything spinning, but sitting was okay.

Day Three, a little better yet, so a full day of work—in bed because walking felt like walking on the deck of a ship in high seas.

I worked because I wanted to work, because I have a deadline, because it’s my job. And then somebody who know nothing about me but my name implies I don’t do my own work.

So it’s very personal for me.

Every time a zombie like this pops up, I will aim for the head.

I’d like to ask you to join the army. If you see anyone on social media claiming I use ghosts, insisting I must, please let us know.

I’m not going to be shy about swinging my metaphorical axe at their head.

I’ll try to write a more cheerful and chatty blog next time out, but to catch you up with my world….

Logan is now a licensed driver (!!!!)

Kayla continues to do very well in college.

On-line school has in no way defeated Colt—Mr. Straight As.

And Griffin, as always, is adorable and full of fun.

BW and I get our second vaccine shot in about a week—what a big relief.

Lots of snow here, and we’re going nowhere. Which means plenty of writing time for me.

Alone.

Nora


On Readers, Writers and Ghosts (August 2014)

How it all Works (for Nora) (November 2014)

The Cranky Publicist answers another question (Feb. 2016)

Price Points, Discounts, Sales! (Feb 2016)

Writers are People Too (December 2017)

Mob Rule by Social Media (December 2018)

The process after the writing (October 2018)

Here’s how I Work (March 2019)

Thankful

I intended to write a blog this weekend about our little Thanksgiving. Well, not little when it came to food—LOTS—but people. Just our little bubble, taking care to be safe, taking care of each other.

And it was lovely.

But some of the comments and responses on The Awakening discussion thread changed things.

I understand, even appreciate the enthusiasm and the impatience for the subsequent books in a series or trilogy. I’ve often felt it myself. There are certainly books I wait anxiously and impatiently for. But as a writer and someone who’s worked with publishers for many years, I understand the process, and the time it takes.

I don’t expect readers to understand that process. Though I’ve felt obliged to explain it as best I can, a number of times because some become angry and accusatory when they don’t get what they want when they want it.

I also don’t expect readers to tell me how to write, how quickly to write (not talking about the ‘Can’t you write faster’ comments which I understand are just enthusiasm) or to pontificate on how publishers need to publish so they, again, get what they want when they want it.

That’s arrogance, that’s misplaced entitlement.

I’m not going to go into all the steps and stages of what goes into turning a manuscript into a published novel again. I’ll simply say this is a process that takes months, even up to a year. In the case of a trilogy, the publisher must, contractually, pay the writer for the manuscript when it’s turned in—the writer needs to be paid for the work completed. And the publisher can hardly pay the writer, the editor, the production staff, etc then sit on the book for a couple of years.

It’s a business, with expenses. It’s a business with a number of authors and manuscripts, and editors and so on.

Over and above the simple practicalities, it’s astonishing to me when a reader dictates my business or my publisher’s—or any writer’s, any publisher’s.

In this particular case, it may have triggered me harder because I’m working so hard to finish the second book in this trilogy right now, stressed that I’ll do so in order for my editor, my publisher to have the time they need to produce it so it meets its current schedule. I’m stressed—as always—that I’ll write a good book that satisfies readers when it does come out.

We do the best we can, we writers. Publishers are filled with people doing the best they can. I am not the only writer my publisher works with, not the only writer whose books needs to be edited, produced, printed, scheduled, marketed, distributed. The covers for my books are not the only ones the art department has to create.

I’m currently writing four books a year, but for some, that’s not enough. Or they blame the time between books on my publisher when they have absolutely no idea how publishing works.

These comments tied a knot in my stomach—I know better, but they did. They piled on more stress and aggravation.

And no—the customer is not always right. Sometimes the customer is rude and wrong.

At a time we’re hoping to remember things to be thankful for, as we head into the holiday season, maybe we could choose to be thankful for books instead of complaining we can’t have more fast enough.

Things are difficult and stressful enough, so a story that takes us away from that hard reality should be a plus.

Nora

Really nothing much

Winter queen Nora as fashioned by the fabulous Turn the Page Staff. The real Nora is staying home.

I haven’t blogged in awhile mostly because I’ve had my nose to the grindstone both professionally and domestically. So it’s pretty much boring, as in:

Get up, go to work. Check the news on the world maybe. Realize the news in the world sucks a lot. Go back to work. Finish work, go work out. Sweat is good!

Talk to BW. Perhaps have a drink with BW because I’ve had a righteous day. Eat. Sign books or do galleys if necessary. Watch something on TV as brain is very tired. So is body. Go to bed.

Get up, repeat.

On weekends, continue the full house purge–no excuses!–until it’s finally, finally, FINALLY complete. Bake bread, make soup or whatever. Shovel out the rest of the house.

Oh, a couple of dentist appointments in there. My teeth are my bane.
A couple of family dinners–with at least some on the menu geared toward our vegetarian.

Oh, a nice visit from same over a weekend when she stayed with us. Movies, on-line shopping for (gulp!) a graduation dress. And it’s so pretty on her, too! Help with purging is always welcome. Much happy conversation about college. When Kayla leaves the end of August, I’ll miss that girl like a limb.

Kayla visited her college a couple of weeks ago. She’ll be able to visit Nana in the library!

A delightful family Sunday including the constantly happy Griffin. He definitely likes Nana’s spaghetti. I don’t know if Laura can grab the shot of him off FB–I have no clue how to–but it’s classic.

Guess what? Laura knew how. Classic.

Work, more work–my favorite routine is sticking well over this period. I love getting solid, uninterrupted writing days, then sweating it off, getting my house in order and spending time in the kitchen on weekends. It’s my perfect balance.

Tomorrow I plan to go out into the world (or at least Boonsboro) for the first time–excluding the dentist–since . . . jeez, I think the February signing. I believe that’s correct.

The inn’s having an art show with one of my very favorite artists, Claire Hardy. Since I’ve just redone our bedroom I believe I have a spot for a new painting.

Flowers by Claire Hardy.

Then, my hope is to continue to basic and boring right up to the girl spa in April.

Then spring happens. I’ll be ready for it!

Nora