The count of my books lifted from is now five. And the count of writers victimized has gone up.
I’m getting one hell of an education on the sick, greedy, opportunistic culture that games Amazon’s absurdly weak system. And everything I learn enrages me.
There are black hat teams, working together, who routinely hire ghosts on the cheap, have them throw books together, push them out–many and fast–to make money, to smother out competition from those self-pubbed writers who do their own work. Those who do their own work can’t possibly keep up with the volume these teams produce by these fraudulent tactics.
They tutor others how to scam the system.
Some of them pull whole books in the public domain, stick a new image and name on. Sometimes Amazon’s algorithm catches it, sometimes it doesn’t.
And often, when a writer without real clout calls it out, complains, they bury her with ugly social media raids.
If they’re caught, they simply go under, regroup, come back and do it all again.
Some of these grifters and thieves gather together in closed social media group to brag about how many ghosts they have working, how much money they’re making.
I haven’t learned nearly everything about these tactics, but I’ve learned enough to say this:
You’ve got bills to pay? Guess what, so do the writers you’re helping to ruin.
If you’re a ghostwriter who takes a job, cheaply, to hammer out a book this way, if you take a job from someone who sends you a bunch of lines, scenes, chunks and you work that into a book, you’re complicit. If you didn’t do the very minimum of due diligence, check those chunks, lines, scenes on the many available plagiarism search engines, you’re complicit.
You’ve got bills to pay? Guess what, so do the writers you’re helping to ruin. So do the writers who have to deal with the turmoil of having their work stolen. And you’re dragging legitimate ghost writers and the whole damn profession down with you.
You know who you are.
To those publishing ‘books’ using these tactics, whether it’s hiring ghosts then slapping your name on a book, whether it’s stealing work someone else sweated over, you’re thieves and liars. Every one of you. And none of you will ever be a writer.
You know who you are.
To the black hats who exploit, steal, tutor others to do the same, your day of reckoning’s coming.
I’ll use the same to out every one pretending to be a ghost and exploiting the system. The same to every fake writer gaming the pathetic system to make a quick buck.
Writing, real writing, is work, it takes time and talent and effort.
And to readers, those of you who keep pushing for more and cheaper books, just stop it. Writing, real writing, is work, it takes time and talent and effort. By snapping up a book just because it’s ninety-nine cents on line, you’re encouraging this. The creator and the content they work so hard to produce is devalued.
Pay the artist, for God’s sake, or the artist can’t create. What you end up with is rushed from a desperate writer struggling to keep up to pay the bills. Or mass-produced crap thrown together by scammers.
Years ago during the Dailey nightmare, I had another writer at the RWA conference where it broke come up to me. Smirk. She told me I was over-reacting, it wasn’t a big deal. She said whenever she read a book, she had a notebook by her side. She noted down phrases, lines, bits that she liked. Then when she sat down to write, she wove them in, made their her own.
I looked her in the face, and I told her that made her a thief.
If you sit and read with a notebook, use the work and words an actual writer slaved over, you’re not just a thief. You’re lazy, pathetic, and don’t have a creative bone in your body.
And yeah, you know who you are.
Stand up for your work, those of you who are being knocked around, whose work is stolen. Stand the hell up for yourself. Stand up for the craft, and call these fuckers out.
And the next idiot who accuses me of using ghostwriters, you better be prepared.
One More Thing
These bad actors also hire ‘click farms’, where people using multiple devices click through books on KU, to make more money. And to reach award levels to make the scammers big bonuses.
They’re not writing—they don’t care. They’re not reading—they don’t care. They’re just using angle after cheating angle to rack in the dough.
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?
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.
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.
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.
I’m not on Twitter. I’ve said before and will say again, I’d rather be poked in the eye with a burning stick than tweet. I’m only on Instagram and Facebook because the amazing Laura runs the show.
I write. I spend my days working, my evenings either working or with my family. Or zoned in front of the TV, basically brain dead.
I don’t spend much time on social media. I recognize its power, I appreciate its ability to connect writers with readers. And I also understand how easily it can be weaponized to incite flame wars. So I’m very careful with my use of it–and Laura is even more so.
I write. It’s what I do. What I love and what I’ve spent three decades learning how to do well. Or as well as I possibly can.
But there are a lot of authors who spend a great deal of time on social media. Some are absolute geniuses with the tools, and use them beautifully.
Others. Not so much.
I don’t believe, and have never believed in taking personal issues onto public forums. I don’t believe, and have never believed–will never believe–in a writer attacking another writing on a public forum. It’s unprofessional, it’s tacky and the results are, always, just always, ugly.
Recently another writer used her social media forums to baselessly, recklessly accuse me of stealing the title of her book–which is bullshit right off–to attempt to profit from this theft. She had no facts, just her emotions, and threw this out there for her followers.
First, let’s address the particular title which happens to be similar. I titled this particular book, wrote this book, turned this book into my publisher nearly a year before her book–a first novel–was published. So unless I conquered the time/space continuum, my book was actually titled before hers. Regardless, you can’t copyright a title. And titles, like broad ideas, just float around in the creative clouds. It’s what’s inside that counts.
It’s just a title.
By accusing me, in public, of attempting to ‘shamelessly profit’ off of her creativity, she incited her readers into attacking me–on her feed, then on my pages, then on the internet in general. She did nothing to stop this. I have been accused of theft, of trying to use this first time writer–whose book has been well received–for my own profit. To ride her coattails as I have no originality. This after more than thirty years in the business, more than two hundred books.
I was accused of plagiarism–for a title–of stealing her ideas–though I had never heard of her book before this firestorm, have never read her book.
And trust me, I never will now.
This is what happens when a reckless statement is made on social media. It becomes a monstrous lie that spreads and grows and escalates.
I don’t know this woman; she doesn’t know me. She lit the match, foolishly. Perhaps being young and new and so recently successful she doesn’t fully understand the relationship between a writer and her readers, or the power of an ugly insinuation posted on Twitter. But, God, you should know how tools work before you use them.
We should all take a lesson here. Think, then think again, before you post. Be sure of your facts before you take a shot at someone. Be prepared for the vicious fallout once you do.
Could you have dug a little deeper to check facts? Could you have contacted the person in question and had a conversation? In this case–writer to writer–could you have spoken to your publisher, your agent, about the fact that a title can’t be stolen in the first place?
Could you have, perhaps, checked the timeline? If your book came out a few months before the other book (and if you know SQUAT about publishing) you’d certainly realize it was written, titled and in production when yours hit the stands. So how could a damn title be ‘stolen’?
To be accused of plagiarism by some faceless reader on the internet, one who felt entitled to spread that lie gutted me. I’ve been plagiarized, and will always have an open wound from the blow. To me, plagiarism is the most terrible sin a writer can commit.
I have worked my entire career to build a foundation of professionalism, of teamwork with my publisher, to create a community with other writers, and to show readers I value them–not just with communication, but by doing my best to give them good books.
No one who knows me would believe any of these accusations. But that’s the problem. Those making them don’t know me, they simply lash out because they can.
This foolish and false statement has damaged my reputation. Vicious and ugly accusations and names have been tossed at me when I did nothing but write and title a book.
While this writer issued a kind of retraction after I reached out to her, it didn’t stop some of her readers from calling me a liar, and worse. We reached out again, asking her to put out the fire.
We’ve had no response, not from her, not from her agent.
Shame on them.
I had every intention of letting this go, until the flames kept burning, until the attacks kept coming. And nothing was done by the person who lit the match to stop it.
I don’t like taking my issues public. But I will stand up for myself. I will defend my integrity and my reputation and my work.
I’m appalled by this, sickened by it. I’m disgusted that people who don’t know me would feel free to say vicious things about me. I know very well the anonymity of the internet can foster such nastiness, but it still disgusts me.
Words have great power–to harm, to heal, to teach, to entertain. A writer, one who wants to forge a career with words, should understand that. And use them, as well as the tools at her disposal, wisely.
I’ve very deliberately not mentioned the name of the writer who started this, or the title of her book or mine. I don’t want this to escalate any more than it has. I don’t want my readers to go on the attack. It’s not cool. I simply want to set the record straight.
I’m Nora Roberts. I’m a hard-working writer, and an honest one.
I decided to spend a couple hours in NYC, circa 2061, and had a fine time. The lovely morning meant I could start out writing on the porch—so nice to sit in the fresh air, hear the wind surf through the pines. Even if murder is the order of the day.
Finished up inside at the bedroom desk once the sun got strong enough to glare on my screen.
And all done just in time to walk with Jason and BW to lunch—our mama-to-be drove. We detour to visit the horses, and the one drinking, close to the fence, gives the three of us a look.
I’m not in the mood for a ride today, the look says, so bugger off.
He swishes his tail and walks away.
I fall for the grilled cheese again because why not go for comfort food?
It’s a gorgeous day, but going to get close to triple digits, so time, when we get back to close the windows, turn on the AC. A little time to unwind, then Kat and I have a big treat.
Painting under the willow—huge, fabulous willow with lots of spreading shade—near the main resort. There are five of us at long tables with wood canvases, looking out at the pretty spectacular view. This is billed as abstract. Our instructor is Danielle, and sets us up with globs of oil paint on our pallets, and a little cup of oil to thin the paint as we go. We’re working with two brushes, two pallet knives (a new one for me).
My take is we’re to paint what we see, sort of sketching it out—long lines or curves or whatever—then filling it in. Apparently I saw brilliant fall as my colors ended up seriously bold.
I glance at Kat’s now and then, just shake my head. The girl has serious skills, and there’s no abstract there. What she has is a soft, soothing, yet dramatic rendition of the landscape—the hills, fields, sky, clouds—she even adds in a couple horses some clumps of wildflowers.
Danielle claims mine is Van Gogh-esque. Bless her sweet heart. Believe me, I won’t be cutting off an ear any time soon.
It’s great fun, and entertaining to see how everyone’s turns out so different. Danielle works with us, makes suggestions (not so much with Kat, as why bother?) I admire the meadow of flowers in the painting on Kat’s other side, and Danielle gives me some pointers on how and where to make some of my own.
I like it!
It’s a terrific way to spend a couple hours. They’ll ship our paintings when they dry—as oil takes time unlike the acrylics I’ve used in Paint and Sips.
I think mine may dry in a year or two as I had a lot of fun with the pallet knives.
Kat and I agree we’d absolutely do this again, and try to convince the guys to try it with us.
Back we go, a little break before it’s time to head back over for dinner.
And we spy our class paintings inside a room—if you stand well back from mine, it’s not bad!
We have dinner in a cabana—pasta and a salad for me, and it’s great. I don’t have much room for dessert, but ask for the raspberry sorbet, thinking I’ll get one scoop. I get three, so that goes around the table.
We’re a pretty jolly group, and as the evening cools we head back. That sky, that sunset—just as amazing as a painting itself. Dusky blue rising up to strong pink that fades into softer blue, all spreading a gilded light over peaks and fields.
We decide to end our evening with a game of Hearts. Kat’s very canny with this game, and runs them before the rest of us can blink. I got a run in later on, but it’s not enough to catch her. BW and Jason jockey for last place. Then, following our house rules, BW (very quietly) takes four hearts to hit 100 on the nose, and goes back to zero to win.
We’ll be keeping our eye on him next match.
I’m up early to workout as BW, Jason and I all have massages booked for ten. Kat’s getting her pre-natal massage Saturday. Jason and I walk—close to a mile, I guess—on a cool, pretty morning.
I have Natalia—and we actually recognize each other from our visit here three years ago. She gives me a blissful hot stone massage that vanquishes even the thought of a kink.
A damn good way to spend a morning.
I suspect we’ll stay in for lunch as we have leftovers—and it’s hitting up to 104 today. Dry heat it may be, but 104 is freaking hot!
I think I’ll settle down with a book, a glass of wine, and let the afternoon heat roll by.
Some of you may be aware we had a bit of a tangle on the Dark In Death Discussion thread last week. A reader had strong (very) objections to the word skank as used to describe women Eve and Peabody warned about possible danger.
I don’t want to get more specific on the plot itself as some of you may not have read the book.
However, I will say, in this case, one of the women the reader sees in interview is wearing cock and ball earrings. The other has Sexy Bitch tattooed over her well-displayed chest. They are, basically, party girl groupies looking for the next score–sex, drugs, action. Whatever.
Peabody uses the term.
The reader had many objections–terrible to denigrate women (such terms are NEVER used to describe men)–cops would never use such terms (she included skirt and sidepiece in this claim) as they would be ‘raked over the coals’ for doing so. And it was her opinion as I wrote the book, I am therefore sexist and should correct this in the future.
Well, bullshit on all counts.
First, as I pointed out–pretty politely at first–I am not my characters nor are they me. And cop talk is cop talk. I also reminded her that a recurring sub-character is nicknamed Dickhead.
Not good enough–even when a couple of other posters who have some experience working or being around cops explained that yeah, cops talk to other cops in often harsh shorthand.
The reader escalated, got very personal and rude–not only to me at the end, but to other posters–until Laura had to step in, tell her she’d crossed all kinds of lines, and banned her.
First, I’ll say Laura doesn’t take banning a reader lightly. It has to be extreme, and this was.
It occurred to me during this incident, that the particular reader obviously didn’t get one of the main points of the book–from the perspective of the character whose books are being used to plot. murders.
This is fiction. This is a story. We who write try very hard to craft entertaining stories with compelling, interesting characters. We’re not writing about ourselves when we write fiction, and the actions, dialog, internalization, motivations of those characters must fit those characters. Not those of the person writing the story.
Just to take Eve Dallas as an example:
I love to shop; she hates it. She drinks gallons of coffee; I don’t drink it at all. She has a cat; I have dogs. Shoes for her are something you walk in. For me, shoes are . . . pretty much everything. I’ve never been in a physical fight–and hope that continues.
I could go on and on.
Part of the fun of writing is creating people, and the writer may have little in common with those people. Their worldviews may or may not mesh. Their backgrounds are very unlikely to.
Some readers may project the writer into the character, but that doesn’t make it true.
Moreover, it’s always struck me as very strange that certain readers will ask, insist even demand that I write what they want, or stop writing what they don’t.
You must stop using the word fuck! People don’t talk that way.
First do you live in the actual world? Second I’ll use whatever word I like as you’re not the boss of me. And more to the point, if my characters use this very versatile word, it’s because THEY’RE using it.
Your books have too much sex. Your books need more sex.
My books have the amount of sex that I, as the writer, feels suits the story and the characters having sex.
You need to go back to writing nice, sweet romance.
No. I need to write what I’m driven to write.
I’m sending you this religious pamphlet because you use the name of the Lord in vain, and I’m worried about your immortal soul.
Thank you for the thought, and maybe you shouldn’t read my books.
You write about witchcraft so I believe you’ve embraced Satan.
(Yes, all the above are true stories.)
Does a reader honestly believe I’m going to read one of these posts, emails, letters and say: OH! Sue in Tulsa doesn’t want any swearing in my books. No more swearing for my characters!
Or I won’t write about fictional witches because I’m suddenly afraid I’ve invited Satan into my life?
These readers don’t know me, and yet feel perfectly righteous about telling me I’m immoral or sexist or an animal hater (killed a fictional cat in a book once) or whatever their personal values dictate.
Laura gets most of this–and recently got an all-caps rant on my language, which included a slam at Diana Gabledon for using fuck in her books. Which the raging reader claimed hadn’t been invented by the time of Outlander (which she called Highlander in the screed). Well, as Laura said, she supposed the reader had never read Chaucer whose work well precedes the Jacobite Rebellion.
Readers don’t get to dictate. They don’t get a vote. They have tremendous power–to buy or not, to read or not. The reader who provided the springboard for this blog claimed that since she’d read the book, she had the right to critique it, and obviously all I wanted was constant praise.
Well, I’d rather get praised than slammed. Human here. Yet over three decades I’ve somehow managed to shoulder mixed or poor reviews, or handle readers’ individual complaints.
However, reading the book doesn’t give anyone the right to hurl personal insults at the writer of the book. That’s not a critique on the work.
Let me add that the fall back–you just want constant praise–is the often-used blast that usually comes when the person’s losing an argument.
It should be a clue when a reader is alone in an opinion in a group of other readers, when reasonable responses have been given. Instead of buying the clue, this type of person then hurls those insults at everyone.
And honestly, when one claims I’m sexist and need to knock it off because a cop character in a story uses the term to describe women whom I deliberately crafted to earn the designation, I tend to believe that particular reader is a little scary.
I know perfectly well some will read this and be insulted–claim I’m disrespectful to readers. But I don’t push readers into one lump. You are not the Borg. And some individuals who happen to read need to learn to separate reality from fiction. And need to understand my world–personally and professionally–doesn’t revolve around their demands.
To end this on a happier note, I spent yesterday in the kitchen (catch Eve doing that!). I made a couple of rounds of sour dough bread, which I’ll freeze as I made a pretty amazing beef stew with dumplings.
Leftovers tonight! So my afternoon will include reading someone else’s book.
Note from Laura: As Department Head of Answering Letters, I see a lot of fascinating messages. There are the ones that move — loving stories about readers and the people in their live, for example the widower who reads the In Deaths because Eve reminds him of his wife, or the people who share how reading brought them closer to family members, or how just reading one of Nora/JD’s titled helped a reader out of a morass of depression because she saw a woman of strength in that book.
As the Department Head of Reading Complaints, I see all the examples Nora listed above. With a few extra thrown in like “I’ll show you! I’ll borrow your books from the library!!!” As a daughter of a librarian, sales to libraries are golden for an author so I just smile and wish them well. Recently, a woman complained on behalf of herself, her mother, her sister, their hairdresser and other assorted people (many of these come in from the group spokesperson) about Year One and how they just didn’t like it and all agree Nora should write happier books. When I replied that maybe they’ve just outgrown Nora and should stop reading her for a while she came back with “You’re telling me NOT to buy Nora’s books???” Well, yes. Borrow them, give yourself a break. How does it serve anyone’s purpose for you to set yourself up to be miserable?
I’ve taken to charting when the standard complaints come in. Around a full moons I see a rise in language complaints. There are two full moons this month, so I’m extra braced.
Recently there’s been an uptick in emails like this one: “Please stop showing so much of your boobs on morning television. My 12 year old son is in the room and he doesn’t need to see it.”
She meant to write to Norah O’Donnell of CBS The Morning. But I had a good laugh thinking of our Nora flashing the nation on morning TV. And then I sent a correction.
Which is exactly what I don’t want when BW goes on his winter break. What I want is a quiet house, little to no cooking, and hibernation routine.
The first disruption in this planned bliss happened when I had to go back to the dentist because they found a stupid cavity on my regular check up. Still quick and home, get to work and all’s well.
It worked that way for several days. Just me and the dogs. Get up, feed and water dogs. Go to work. Let dogs in because it’s freaking cold, but dogs behave so continue work. Put dogs out at workout time–except for a single digit day where I didn’t have the heart leave them outside for 90 minutes. But they embraced their good fortune and behaved.
Sign books if it’s signing day, and have the wonderful Janeen bring me a salad from Vesta. Feed dogs. Feed self.
And since I have galleys, do galleys in the evening in the quiet.
Put dogs out, let dogs in. Rinse and repeat until bedtime.
This is great!!!
Great for me, and great for BW who’s enjoying the balmy breezes of Hawaii.
Then Tuesday happened. My lane is already an ice rink–which Logan reports on his after-school visit is pretty awful. And he’s pleased because all his teachers said there probably wouldn’t be any school Wednesday. I’m out of the loop–why not? Ice storm coming.
So I check, oh yes indeed. Snow, sleet, freezing rain, starting any minute, and through the morning. With forecasted accumulations of an inch on the ice.
That’s very bad.
I call my weekly housekeeper who comes Wednesday, tell her don’t even try it. It’s already bad, and it’ll be worse. Stay home.
I plan to call my amazing landscaper guy after the storm to have him spread salt or whatever works. No point doing that until after.
We get a little snow, but mostly it’s that freezing rain, and everything’s covered with ice in the morning. And it’s still spitting down. What do I care? I’m going to work right upstairs.
Morning routine–with a little nervous in taking out recyclables, but I’m careful. Dogs in, dogs out, work, work. Stop work to call landscaper. Go work out. Cold, gloomy, icy, but I don’t care.
I’m a little amazed to hear my guy out there while I’m sweating in the gym. That was fast.
Fast enough Janeen’s able to bring up books. Sign books. Bye, bye.
Feed dogs, consider feeding self.
And the lights flicker, everything beeps, then goes out.
I’m not initially worried. I have a full-house generator. I wait for few seconds to hear that muffled roar. Instead, I hear a roolf–roolf sort of grinding, and no power.
This is not good.
As this has never happened before, I’m baffled. Am forced to call BW to ask who to call. It’s single digits, and we have no heat, no light, no water, no nothing.
Somehow he finds the number for the people who installed the generator years ago. They’ll send someone within the hour.
Meanwhile Logan and I are texting as their power’s out, too. Normally, I’d have them all come up here in the light and warm, but I have no light and warm.
I stick a mini flashlight in my pocket, get out full-sized ones, light candles, light the gas fireplace.
Talk to generator guys. Service guy is finishing up another emergency call and will head out.
That grinding worries me a lot. I’m no mechanic but it sounds like something going to burn up or just can’t get going. What to do if we can’t get it fixed and the power doesn’t come back?
Possibly call the inn, see if there are rooms. But that would mean I leave my dogs out in single digits all night. And I’m not entirely sure now that it’s dark, temps dropping, I can get down the lane.
Pace, mull, worry. I can only use my cell, which I’m busy charging with a portable charger, and cell service is iffy here. But the service guy gets though, is on his way.
Maybe we’ll get lucky. I keep Logan and the gang updated. I could send them to the inn if necessary. Just not sure about leaving the dogs out all night so I may need to tough it out.
Meanwhile the smoke alarm and house alarm are beeping constantly as there’s no AC. I have a raging headache by the time the very nice Robert arrives.
The dogs are thrilled! Another human.
He goes down, gets to work. He works quite some time.
Comes back up after this some time, tells me they’re going to try to get me a portable generator as mine’s going to need more work. Apparently it hasn’t been serviced in a decade, was low on oil, etc, etc.
I feel my head explode. This is BW’s job. He has his jobs, I have mine. Why do we have no maintenance contract on an essential tool? I say to Robert, when my husband gets home from Maui, I’m going to beat him with a hammer.
Robert laughs. He doesn’t know I have a hammer and I know how to use it.
He goes out because it’s easier to get cell service outside. I hear him go down, work some again. Then he comes up. They haven’t been able to find a portable for me. He’d tried another fix, but no luck.
They’ll come back in the morning, he’s so sorry.
Not his fault, and he’s been out there in the cold and dark for over two hours.
As we’re talking, the lights come on, everything stops the stupid beeping. I’m afraid the universe is messing with me. I ask Robert. Is the power really back on?
He grins. Oh yeah, you got power.
Such is my state that I say out loud and with extreme joy: Oh, fucking A.
He laughs again.
Text Logan, and yes, they’re back in business. We exchange virtual high fives.
Somewhere around eight-thirty, I finally feed myself.
And when BW calls we have a very unhappy conversation. He’s genuinely and sincerely sorry — but sorry don’t cut it, pal. LOL.
I probably won’t beat him with a hammer–but I’ve already arranged for semi-annual maintenance. This will never happen again.
I have to say through those four stressful hours I thought about the people in Puerto Rico who’ve been without power for months. It makes me sick and sad. I could’ve camped out in here for a night–did it for longer than that before the generator (which is why we have one). I had places I could go if the outage lasted more than a few hours.
For me, this was an inconvenience–fairly serious as it’s cold and there are grandkids and animals to think of. But basically an inconvenience.
And an adventure I could’ve done without.
But things are back to normal. My lane got a second hit of salt–because it’s bad out there. I scrubbed a couple of floors because my housekeeper couldn’t make it here. I found a bucket of ash to throw over the worst of the ice on the way to the trash and the bird feeder–though it’s still pretty dicey.
I’m getting my work done, my workouts in, and my house is nice and quiet.
It’s another gray and gloomy day, but due to that second hit of salt, the flower delivery guy made it up the lane. And I have such pretty, cheerful flowers sent by my editor. Dark In Death hit number one! Yay!
I also have my monthly flowers–when it’s gloomy, flowers bring the light.
I have the fireplace going, candles lit, happy dogs, and I believe I’ll pour myself a glass of wine when I finish this, maybe settle into the quiet with a book.
And hope my only adventures are inside those pages.
I’ve been working pretty hard since our return from France. I like working hard, so that’s all good. But I like play time with pals, too. I had a great day/evening/night with good girl pals this week on our Try To Make It Annual Girls In Boonsboro trip.
I get into town early enough to take a new class at Fit In Boonsboro with my pal, JoAnne. Grabbed 45 on the elliptical first, then did 45 of boogying cardio after. Got my 90 in, and had fun doing it. That’s some work.
Reward came with lunch and champagne at Vesta with Jo, Laura, Pat, Mary Kay, Mary and Elaine. Good food, good pals, good wine.
Then it’s shopping–lots of opportunities for that in B’Boro. Josie’s On Main first stop geographically.
I found myself a fun Witch Please tank that amused me–and has already been worn for a later workout. Among other things I picked up a few Christmas gifts, then we wandered down Main to Gifts In Boonsboro. Earrings! A gorgeous vase I’ve had my eye on–and a gift for my pal Ruth in Michigan. A just because as the black/white/gray soft as a cloud hand-made afghan said I Am Ruth’s.
Onto TTP for more, and whee, they’ve put Stephen King’s new book written with his son Owen aside for me. Can’t wait to dig in.
Then on this perfectly gorgeous October afternoon, it’s time to check into the inn, hang out in The Courtyard. More bubbly, yummy snacks, those good pals–and a couple of fun guests.
And presents for me as my birthday’s coming. Cake, too. That’s a good deal.
Before the evening ends, the webmaster for our businesses stops by on his way home from a Boy Scout meeting. He has his amazingly adorable son–also Owen. Owen is one of the top popcorn salesmen for the Scouts–and it’s easy to see why when he starts his pitch. My fave is when his dad said he could get the key for the storage place, break in and get the forms. Dad, says Owen, how do you break in with a key?
I bought the 22 pack of microwave Movie Theater (extra butter!). It’s delicious.
A fun day, a quiet night, another morning workout, then mmmm breakfast. I’m not a breakfast eater but it’s hard to resist the offerings at the inn.
All in all a lovely reward.
Then back to work.
Thursday my perfection of a hairdresser comes to do my cut and color, give BW a trim, get Logan’s hair cut before he catches the bus for school. This time Logan has a picture of the cut he wants. Harold makes it so. The result is a seriously happy teenage boy. Handsome, too.
And back to work. Sticking hard with it to get it off to my agent and editor before I pack for a week in NYC. Another reward.
Flowers come–calla lilies. Every year I give myself the gift of flowers every month. It makes me happy, especially in the winter.
Friday I make red sauce for pasta for Kayla our running girl. She has a meet on Saturday. Logan, however, is done with pasta every Friday and gets to pick the main meal. He wants Grandda’s flank steak, my roasted rosemary potatoes.
We make this so. And I get more cake!!
Saturday I pack, or mostly. Workout first, then figuring out what I need for a fall week in the city. And then–reward–I take the DVD of Wonder Woman BW gave me and gorge on it and Owen’s popcorn.
Today, Jason and Kat will be here for a foundation meeting and dinner. BW made extra flank steak with this in mind. I have to make more potatoes, and they went over pretty big on Friday night.
Tomorrow, finish packing–not much there–and start refreshing myself on the Chronicles Of The One trilogy before I start writing the final book.
Work and reward. It’s a nice balance. Reward yourself!
Only two insistent ant fitness buffs for the morning. I was a little lonely.
On this gorgeous day Jason and Kat take off in a quest for yarn. I had a lovely, lovely swim, a round in the hot tub in reward for the workout.
Then, thanks to my promptly arriving charger, settled down to work for a couple hours. How about some cheese and bread with that? Don’t mind if I do.
For a couple of hours, my body sits in the woodsy shade of Provence and my brain goes to New York in 2061. It’s a very fine deal for me.
Stretch it out, have a bellini. Seems fair.
Then BW and I stroll (climb) stroll to Le Spa. This is BW’s second trip, my first. It’s gorgeous.
Airy and fragrant and wonderfully calm. Up a few stairs a glass window presents the beautiful indoor pool and its lounging area. We sit in reception a few minutes before we’re led to our respective locker rooms. More quiet, more pretty, more fragrant. I’m into the plush robe and slippers, then go into the relaxation room.
Several lounges–adjustable for your comfort. Glossy magazines. I test my very poor French reading and admire the photographs. My masseuse fetches me, guides me into my pretty massage room. In minutes I’m down, she’s back and it begins.
My choice of oil scented with lemongrass. Hot stones seeping into bones and muscles tested by climbs, workouts and horses. Good. competent, soothing hands. I drift in and out–my favorite state during a good massage. Not out so you wake up, think: What? Not fully awake so the brain doesn’t rest. The floating stage, and it’s perfect.
I tell her so when it’s finished.
Still in the dreamy state, I meet BW back at reception, and back home we go.
I decide to continue to relax there, which requires another bellini.
Jason and Kat return just about five o’clock. An adventure!
The yarn store Kat earmarked was closed for August–the traditional holiday month. Not to be discouraged, she found another in Nice, so on they drove. But that one, closed as well. She figures they figure who wants to buy yarn in August any way. Since they’re in Nice, they go to the beach, have lunch. And Kat gets to dip her feet in the Med. Jason regrets ordering a salad, which proved to be huge–after he sees someone served a hot fudge sundae. An enormous sundae.
Kat drives to Nice, Jason drives back. I remain the only holdout. But really, think of the humanity.
We talk our day on the terrace, talk about where to have dinner as we’ve decided to explore off-campus. In their efficient way, they’ve taken photos of menus of a couple of our choices.
We choose one, casual, and clean ourselves up.
Beautiful, balmy evening after another hot day. We run into–I believe it’s Phillipe, head concierge and chat while I car’s brought around. He doesn’t know the restaurant we’ve chosen, but we promise to report back. (Jason tells me I misspelled Eladia’s name in a previous blog.)
Jason’s taken himself off on foot as it’s just a bit over a mile and he wants to hit his step goal for the day (I have sufficiently crushed all comers in our Work Week Hustle). Kat, faithful navigator, directs us. Wind and wind and wind, and . . . there.
It’s in or really by a kind of shopping center, and some flats. Wide, open air, lots of tables. A cheerful waitress with a little English. I choose some wine, and that goes smooth and easy. Vin rouge always works.
She brings out a little chalkboard with the daily specials on it–and BW spots paella. That’s a favorite. It has a further description in French Jason and I puzzle over then decide is at any time over the weekend.
They have spaghetti arrabiata, which is a favorite of mine. Salade verte. Perfect.
BW inquires about what’s in the paella, as this often depends. The waitress only has French here, explains–and uses mime–it’s adorable. We got the shrimp, the mussles, the chicken (we’ve got that much French), but we’re all stuck on another ingredient until she draws a picture. An octopus (or squid). All five us are pleased with each other, and since all the ingredients suit BW, we order.
There’s a cafe across the way closing for the night. One of the residents of the flats is standing on her tiny balcony brushing her teeth. People begin wandering in to take tables. I have a view of the hills throughout.
The food’s really, really good. The service fun and bright. This is obviously a neighborhood place, and we hear only French. We all agree we’d certainly come back, and that’s before dessert.
Hey, hot fudge sundaes–and oh God profiteroles. Jason and Kat will split the sundae, BW and I the profiteroles. Meanwhile, a family with a young boy–three or four–and a very new baby are dining. The boy is entertaining himself creatively with action figures. Another big table is full of women so we figure a girls night out. Families and groups all around us, and the little boy’s in his own heroic battlefield. He’s really cute. We hear music from a nearby restaurant, and after a bit realize it’s karaoke!
Dessert comes, and oh my. I may not be able to fully finish my share, but I make a strong attempt. The long, lazy and satisfying meal has taken us deep into the evening. But we feel obliged to walk over and check out the karaoke.
It’s a pizzeria with a generous outdoor area. Lots of tables of people eating while others take the mike. We watch two girls bravely attempt a song. Not one I’m familiar with, and in French, but vastly entertaining.
Back home we go, and to bed as we hope to leave earlier this morning for the Saturday market in Fayence. No time to workout! Jason, Kat and I will start head-to-head on our Weekend Warrior Challenge.
I think I’ll try out my fun new shoes.
Note from Laura: Here in the real world, I’m at a family wedding this weekend. Sunday’s post could be a little later due to long party tonight and somewhat cranky wifi. Will do what I can!
Before and after shots of BW’s Cize experience in yesterday’s blog. He worked it for 40 minutes! He joined me for that session after I did 50 minutes Bootcamp Boogieing with Petra Kolber. *
Back to normal for me and my system.
Jason and Kat head out, for their walk, a trip to the market and the bakery. On return we discuss vital matters such as: is pizza a kind of open-faced sandwich (as well as a pie) as it’s cheese on baked dough with toppings. Maybe.
This discussion launches from the fact Kat and Jason have picked up some lunch meat and what’s billed as sandwich bread. And I had a little conversation with the housekeeper regarding leftover pizza, wherein I remembered the word for lunch, in explaining why we’re keeping it rather than having her take it away.
Oui, bien. Pour le dejeuner!
I work in my shady spot, going back to NYC in my state of mind for a couple hours. And now and again surface enough to hear golfers through the trees.
Our men prepare to leave for their glider experience. And are back in ten minutes or so. Short flight?
Wrong day. LOL. Gliders booked for Friday.
So we settle down to our various pursuits. Some reading, some work, some conversation. Some planning for the last days of our holiday.
Jason’s discovered our foundation has its 17th anniversary on Friday–I think it’s Friday. We’ll have a little celebration, maybe here, maybe back at the open-air restaurant we call The Scrublands as the French name (which I can’t remember) translates to just that. Maybe there’ll be karaoke again!
We clean up, dress up for dinner here at the main restaurant. I leave a little plate of torn up lunch meat for the mama-to-be cat in case she comes by while we’re gone.
BW and I head up first for a drink at the bar. He orders some kind of fancy gin drink, and I go for what’s called a Sparkling Jasmine. Champagne, peach juice and jasmine syrup.
It’s fascinating to watch a good bartender build a drink–and this one is very good. My favorite part of BW’s build is the graceful swirling of a long thin slice of cucumber onto the top, then dashing just a bit of what the bartender explains is barbecue bitters (from Memphis!) and a carefully placed grind of black pepper.
BW is pleased with the results.
My drink is absolutely lovely. A blend of gorgeous flavors and so very smooth.
The tender shows us the various bitters they have to work with–and some home-made. Saffron bitters, vanilla bitters, I think caramel. What drink wonders embrace these?
Kat and Jason join us, so it’s out (past the sinful dessert display) to our table.
It’s a gorgeous night for eating outdoors, with a bottle of smooth, local red. I should take pictures of the wine bottles, but too late now.
A family group celebrating–we think–a birthday has a table nearby.
The service here is unilaterally friendly and as smooth as the wine. When you add fabulous food, it adds up to a very happy dining experience. Blue skies, warm air, good food, good wine, good company. It doesn’t get better.
Until you add that dessert.
They have what will always be pie-cream-pie for us. It’s very large, so Jason and I split it. Kat feels obliged to order the macaroon dessert (it’s France, after all). It’s pink and pretty–and delicious. BW got some creamy, glossy thing I can’t identify–but again, delicious.
I cannot express the fabulousness of the pie-cream-pie. Which is actually cake-cream-cake with pretty berries. Jason points out that when halved it looks like a crazy, toothy smiling face. When eaten, it brings a tear of joy and gratitude to the eye. Whoever baked this magnificence should rule the world. There would be no war, no sadness, no strife if every meal ended with pie-cream-pie.
We wander around after, find a little lounge area and start to take a selfie. The bartender cheerfully comes back, and takes a photo for us. Our night is commemorated.
We walk back–I might have rolled.
I check, and the little plate I left for the cat is licked clean. So she, too, had a nice little meal.
Hang out a bit, read a bit, then lights out.
To answer a question from yesterday, I don’t know how long it takes to write the blog every morning. Depends. Some days we’ve done more than other days. I just start, then end when it’s done. And that’s pretty much how I write everything!
Today we’ve all got appointments at the spa. Massages for the gang, and a facial for me. But those are hours away yet. Workout’s coming up. My mood after will determine whether I work on my book or read one. I think a swim should work itself into the day.
Right now it’s cool enough for a light hoodie on the terrace, but that will change as the sun gains strength.
*Note from Laura — there’s that time/space continuum thing again!
Just not much going on around here because it’s hibernation time.
Delighted to report that Logan–who’s grown another inch according to the Nana Hug-O-Meter and verified by measuring tape–scored a three-pointer to help his team win his basketball game. And Kayla–running the 3200 and the 4×800 relay–helped the Boonsboro Girls Indoor Track Team win the State Championship.
Pretty sweet all around.
Meanwhile after work and workouts, I played (a little obsessively) with a Christmas gift from Jason and Kat. When we vacation together, we do fun panorama photos, with staging and considerable choreography. So for Christmas, they got me a jigsaw puzzle comprised of four of those panos. Fun, challenging and unique. And accomplished! Even if a piece appears to have gone missing from Sorento.
I’m also thrilled my newly reupholstered living room furniture is now in place. And relieved it received potentially future interior designer Kayla’s approval. I like the cheerful, bright and warm look of it, and that I successfully played off the bird pillows I’m so fond of, and the gorgeous throw my agent brought me back from a trip to India.
Otherwise I’m deep into the book, socked in and happy to be so.
Since I’m here, I’m going to (once again) address a few points, as apparently there’s been a revival of chatter, misinformation and odd assertions on the internet.
Roarke is Roarke. Period. No, no, a thousand times no, he was not named Patrick after his despicable father. He is not, has never been a junior. He is very simply, now and forever–before and after and always–Roarke.
Readers dissatisfied with that are just going to have to accept it.
And just because Roarke rhymes with stork doesn’t equal baby. There will be no baby, biological, adopted, fostered, in dreams or conceived by Eve and Roarke in an alternate universe. (Also no to pregnancy scares which is just silly.) This is simply not going to happen for reasons I’ve explained many times. And no, Eve and Roarke will not babysit for Bella. Why in God’s name–seriously–would they? I really think Mavis and Leonardo can handle finding their own child care when necessary.
Eve will not find long-lost relations. This will not happen. Period. Done. Please??? And her father is DEAD. Really most sincerely dead. Doornail dead. Dead as Moses.
Supporting characters will not take the spotlight as Eve and/or Roarke are sidelined by injury, kidnapping, amnesia or alien abduction. They are, and will remain supporting characters.
I’m never, ever going to ask for reader input into storylines. I do not, as some believe, take reader suggestions and work them into a story, or adjust future stories, character traits, dialog or actions due to reader chatter (be it positive or negative). I write in my own little bubble, and that’s never going to change. If a reader feels ‘it’s time’ I shake things up, freshen things up, it may be that reader needs a break from my work. Nothing at all wrong with that.
In very practical terms, in logistical terms, by the time the chatter starts on a new book, the next is already written and with my publisher–and often the next two as the books are published every six months, and my personal process is to work about a year ahead of publication.
So the chatter doesn’t apply for me from a practical or a creative standpoint. Especially from the creative side.
As a writer, as a creator of a long-running series with recurring characters, I have to think both of the long view and each individual book. It all has to make sense within the world created, for the characters drawn, for the interpersonal relationships of those characters.
Trust me, I know the world and the characters.
Now, I’m going to drop myself into a different work with different characters. I like it in my bubble.