Recap 2: RWA, the start of the week

RWA week is all about work and friends and readers.  Nora and I flew down to San Antonio on the Monday following TTP 19 with Kat and TTP store manager, Janeen Solberg.  It was an easy trip south that put us in the Marriott Rivercenter just after 1 pm.  All of us were prepared for a week of women filling up every available space in the hotel so it was a mild shock to see all those spaces taken up by men in casual business wear.  Mike the Bellman told us there was a fertilizer salesmen conference in town  and from all evidence, they didn’t go to workshops but stood or sat in small groups in the lobby and the bar.

This was disconcerting because WE like to sit or stand in small groups in the lobby or the bar so the mingling of the two groups would bear some watching.

The rooms weren’t ready when we arrived making lunch the next order of the day.  And since we were in San Antonio, margaritas seemed to be a sensible choice (so were delicious salads, fresh chips and guacamole).   A fine start to some excellent eating for the week.

Once the rooms were ready, we headed up to Nora and Ruth Langan’s suite which would serve as Base (next year I’m going to call it that) for the week.  Ruth arrived just after Nora’s bags were delivered so Kat, Janeen and I headed out to get some water, Diet Pepsi and champagne for the week.  Fortunately all were procured fairly near the hotel and off the Riverwalk so we had our first foray along the water.  I’d visited San Antonio in 2005, but Kat and Janeen were fascinated bu the lush greenery, somewhat exotic flowers and the sinuous flow of the pavement and river.

Back in the suite, Nora and Ruth had unpacked and settled into the living area so we joined them with refreshments.   A little while later, Jill Shalvis joined us to say hi and catch up before her dinner.  Finally Sarah Morgan came up to say hello after her 18-hour trip from Heathrow – she’d started out before any of us and was last to get to the hotel.    Since it was travel day, we all decided that room service was the way to go dinner wise (though the fertilizer guys taking up all the seating was a deciding factor).   Ruth and I gently bullied Sarah into eating something before unpacking and collapsing.  She protested but when Ruth has a mind to something it’s just easier to give in.  Sarah ate.

We like to get into town early for RWA in order to take a day to see the city, get used to the time change, keep to a loose schedule before the conference starts.  And, ok, to get out of the hotel for a bit.

galaxy 373
New sandals for the undisputed shopping champion.

I’d been to La Cantera Mall on my last trip to San Antonio so we scooped up Jill and Sarah and took two cabs over.  It’s a nice mall with outdoor spaces shielded by billowing canvas tenting so it was an excellent way to get out of the AC for a time.  Nora — champion shopper she is — found a 65% off rack at the first store we hit then we all looked at makeup before Nora found a pair of sandals that she promptly wore the rest of the day.

Lunch was at the reliably delightful Brio in their outdoor seating under fans and more shade.  Salads and some fresh pasta were the orders of the day, along with Nora’s requisite French fries (Brio’s are pretty fabulous).  I went with a Peach Bellini instead of a margarita and we all had a toast with some Veuve Cliquot. A portion of the group had never been to Anthropologie, our post lunch destination.  I do believe everyone left with a sweater (at least).  Fun store, fun day.

galaxy 370
Sarah Morgan and Jill Shalivs

Back to the hotel where the fertilizer salesmen were beginning to depart and RWA was making its presence known.  Everyone went to register for the conference before heading back to rooms to regroup.   Jill and Sarah had dinner plans (with other people!) so Nora, Ruth, Janeen, Kat and I decided we’d wander the Riverwalk and find dinner at one of the restaurants lining the water.

galaxy 385
galaxy 386
and the margarita.

Since no one else stated a preference, I said we should go to the restaurant with the white tablecloths I’d spied the day before.  We set back out and after a few turns, then just past a bridge we found La Paloma Riverwalk and in short order were seated on the river side of the pavement.  Margaritas all around with chips and salsa fast behind them.  It was then we found out that it was Ruth’s First Margarita.  It was also her Last Margarita.  She changed her order to white wine.

We were serenaded by a Mariachi band, though Kat was more fascinated by the hardware on their costumes.  Then we fell upon our food as if we’d not eaten in a thousand days.galaxy 384

One of the best parts for me about spending RWA with Ruth and Nora are the stories.  They met at the very first RWA and have roomed together since the 1983.  They’ve seen writers and trends come, go, and sometimes come back again.  But their friendship.  They love each other dearly and it’s an infectious thing.

It was full dark by the time we finished dinner, then wandered back to the hotel.  Conference would start full-swing in the morning, but a day to kick back and spend time with friends had given us back the balance travel rips away.  We were ready.galaxy 387

But not for everything.

More to come.

Recap 1: TTP 19 weekend

I’m not sure anyone — Nora, the staff at Turn the Page, the readers who came out, me — was prepared for TTP’s 19th Anniversary signing.  There were some positive signs it would be a success: A stellar line up of authors including Stephanie Evanovich, Christine Trent, Maya Banks, Linda Lael Miller, Shiloh Walker and Jennifer Armentrout.  The weather was cooler than normal.   The summer event is perfect is part of vacation planning.

So we all thought it would a long afternoon, but the reality was astounding.

Nora and I drove into town around 10:45 (the usual arrival time).  Early enough so Nora could sign pre-sold books and meet the other authors.  Sometimes it’s early enough that we can pop into Gifts Inn BoonsBoro to see what’s new.

Not this signing.

At 10:45, the line of people was still around the corner from the store.

TTP line up
The line to get into Turn the Page.

When we came into the back of the store, Maya was already hard at work signing books. Nora put down her bag and we dove in: I handed her books, she signed then I re-bundled them. We worked fast to make some room on the counter for the other authors. Peeking out from the shipping room you could see the line wound around the annex as customers waited to pay.

The system worked out over the last 19 years for line management is pretty simple: each ticket has a letter and a number.  Each letter of the alphabet represents a group and there are 25 tickets in each group.  For example, the first group in for the signing is A1-25. Doing it this way means people don’t have to stand on line all day (though there was substantially more standing time this signing) and the staff can give customers a fairly good idea of when their group will be called.  The staff gives out tickets from the time the store opens until 2 pm.  Customers usually shop then pay then go off to see other stores or get lunch while they wait.

Word was tickets to the letter K were given out before noon, so we knew we’d see 300 people.

The big concern of the day was Nora’s right wrist.  Typing daily for 35 years will bring on some repetitive motion weaknesses, but then you add in the sheer number of books Nora’s signed for Turn The Page subscribers, customers and signings since last fall (a number that’s pretty much tripled in a year) and her wrist gave out a week before the signing.   Kat, Nora’s amazing daughter-in-law, showed her how to wrap it securely so she did that Saturday morning.  Then Nora added a gorgeous wrist cuff to downplay the wrap but she was worried about it holding up. Just before the signing started,

Jason and I consulted and he fashioned an ice pack that lay on the table, giving Nora a place to rest her wrist during breaks.

A view of the line.
A view of the line inside the store.

The signing started at just about noon.  The first group always includes Inn BoonsBoro guests who receive A tickets as part of their stay. Some stayed on Friday night, some would stay on Saturday night, but all were very happy.  Excellent reports of wonderful breakfasts and leisurely wine and cheese the night before.  Excited explanations of where guests stayed. Not too many reports of ghosts.

The afternoon featured a fun mix of the familiar faces of our regular signing pals and enthusiastic newbies.  We fell into our regular routine:  Jason takes the books, hands them to Nora who signs them while I take photos with cameras or phones and make conversation.

Word filtered up that the letters had gone through M, then through P (a previous record) then through R (unknown territory).  They had to make new tickets!  Finally we learned the letters went to 2 in the T group.

That’s over 490 people. Passing through a tiny bookstore.  All. Afterngalaxy 271oon. Long.

We had two breaks so the authors could stand up and get some feeling in their legs. I couldn’t sit down because I’d never get back up.   Jason had to make a second ice bag for Nora’s wrist.

We had some small dollops of champagne after 4 pm to help everyone get through.

And get through we did.  Six and a half hours of meeting, greeting, writing, snapping.  Nora’s been at this for three decades and it was the longest signing she could ever remember.

What helped more than anything was the constant flow of smiling, patient readers who waited alone or in groups.  (Believe me, the solo readers had new pals by the time they were done.)  Their energy was unflagging and brought us all along for the ride. galaxy 278

I didn’t get a chance for a group photo of all the authors when we were done because by 6:30 pm everyone — staff included — needed to get to a place to relax.  But Nora did pose for this great shot with the fabulous Maya Banks.


Oh, did I mentiongalaxy 284 that the day of the signing was also my birthday?  I’m not exactly sure I’d ever envisioned spending a birthday with 492 Nora Roberts readers, but it was a splendid day in many ways. After the signing was finished, Nora and Bruce had arranged for some birthday cake for me — shaped like a bottle of Patron tequila. The limes were marshmallows.  The cork was rice krispies and the cake inside was yellow with butter cream frosting.  And the cake was from Kristi’s Bakery, next door to the Inn.

Sunday morning was the second Fall into a Story Brunch with Nora, this year held at Vesta. After the long haul on Saturday, it was so nice to have a chance to sit down and chat.   Nearly 60 people attended and about two thirds of the attendees had not come to the signing because they knew they’d get the chance to speak to Nora at the brunch.  Jeannie King ran two raffles — one to sit with Nora, the other for the chance to win one of five gift baskets.

In between courses, Nora and I stopped at every table to chat, take photos and for Nora to sign a few books.  Then after the meal was done and the baskets won, I browbeat everyone into sitting down while I took a panoramic photo from the kitchen area. And that, my friends, was TTP weekend.  Up next, RWA.  In several parts.

galaxy 291
The brunch goers.

On Readers, Writers and Ghosts

From Laura:  I’ve been working on a recap of RWA with photos, but a post on Facebook caught our attention and we thought it important to address on the blog.  Photos/recap by tomorrow afternoon.  Promise!

A note from Nora:

Respect isn’t always a two-way street. In a perfect world, it would be. In a perfect world, every book written would satisfy every reader. Also no one would be allergic to chocolate or puppies, and shoes would always be buy a pair, get a pair free.

Since it isn’t a perfect world, we have to pay for that second pair of shoes, not everyone can embrace the joys of chocolate and puppies, and not every reader will be satisfied with every book.

Respect, however, is a different matter because respect is, at the base, a choice. We can all choose to show respect.

I choose to respect my readers, and those who may become my readers by first, writing the best book I can. That’s also a matter of respecting myself, the work and my publisher. Happily, I find most readers also choose respect. I’ve met countless readers over the years of touring, signings and events. Routinely when I toured booksellers would tell me I had the best readers they’d ever dealt with. Happy, enthusiastic, polite, patient. I always loved hearing it, and loved experiencing the truth of it.

 I choose to respect my readers when I meet them, by trying to give them a little time, a little conversation even over a six-hour signing as we just experienced last month at Turn The Page. They’ve come to see me, and I’m incredibly flattered by that, seriously delighted (even after six hours) to have a moment with someone who’s read my books and enjoyed them enough to take their time, make the effort (even after six hours) to meet me.

 I choose to respect my readers on-line. I don’t comment often on Facebook, because I’m writing, but I often skim through the comments, and occasionally respond. The amazing Laura speaks for me there, most often.

 But here, on-line, is where that two-way street often turns into a sudden and surprising one-way path.

 We all know it, we’ve all experienced or read stunningly rude and personal comments posted on-line. Something about the lack of face-to-face can eliminate basic manners and courtesy. I often say nothing or little about this because life’s just too short to have on-line conversations with the rude.

 But sometimes a comment will push my buttons, and I’m compelled to respond. Again, it’s a matter of respect–for myself and my work.

 I honestly don’t give a rat’s tail about Amazon reviews. I don’t read Amazon reviews. Anybody can go on there, anonymously, and praise or defame a book. I’d rather be writing than reading Amazon reviews. However, when readers come on my Facebook page, intimating I use a ghost writer because, hey, they read this rumor on Amazon reviews, I’m not going to let it stand.

 The latest case of this is a reader who hasn’t read the book itself, only the reviews. And based on them feels the book must be bad, I don’t respect my readers because of this lousy book, and thinks I should come out and be honest about using a ghost.

 That’s crap. Every bit of it, rude and pretty stupid crap.

 Respectfully here, and wherever this post may end up, I write my own books. I always have, always will. I do not, and never will use a ghost writer. I may write a book that doesn’t hit a chord with all my readers–and that’s a shame for me and for the reader who isn’t happy with the story. But I will have written it.

 While it’s difficult to hear a book I’ve worked on and sweated over didn’t hit the mark with some readers, that’s part of living in an imperfect world. It’s part of the job of being a writer, and I accept it.

 Having someone state, allude, question or accuse me of using a ghost writer, particularly after I’ve categorically stated I don’t and won’t repeatedly, is offensive. I don’t accept it, and I will go head-to-head with anyone who insults me and my work by spreading rumors–or in some cases stating they know I use ghost writers.

 I spent all last week in San Antonio at The Romance Writers of America conference. Fun, yes, and work, too. I got home this past Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning I was back at my keyboard, writing. My choice. I chose to write, I chose to write hard. The result of that work, good or bad in any reader’s opinion, is on me and me alone.

 I’ll end by saying I not only respect my readers, but value and appreciate them, tremendously. If I write a book that doesn’t sing for you, I hope the next one does. That’s really the best I can do.


A Garden update

A garden update for all who wonder…

Very happy pots
Very happy pots.
Thriving corner
A thriving corner.
Purple coneflowers
Purple coneflowers.
Pretty trough
A pretty trough.
Nora's mom's snakeplant, repotted countless times
Nora’s mom’s snake plant, repotted countless times.
Longer view of garden wall
Longer view of garden wall.
Kayla's impatiens with pig
Kayla’s impatiens with pig.
Herbs -- the dill has run amok
Herbs — the dill has run amok.
Happy faerie garden
Happy faerie garden.
False sunflowers and purple coneflowers
False sunflowers and purple coneflowers.
Boomerang Lilies, boomeranging
Boomerang Lilies, boomeranging.

The Moth on the Terrace Wall — the sequel

It was like waiting for the end of a trilogy!  What happened with the moth?

Did the silence from Nora’s email account signal that the moth did dastardly deeds in the dark of night???

After a nearly sleepless Friday night, I demanded an answer this morning.  How could we rest easy otherwise???  And the suspense was driving me to using way too many “?” in my writing.  Here’s the reply:

Much to my sorrow, and somewhat to my ick, I’d been observing a dead moth.

We saw it flutter around the evening before my observations, then land on the terrace wall. Wow, big moth, pretty, pretty.

Apparently it came here to die.

My initial response when BW told me of its demise, was like Monty Python’s dead parrot: No, no, it’s only sleeping! And being a guy he plucked it off the wall and brought it inside to show me. Being not a guy I ordered him to get it out. As he’s still a guy he laid it out on this flower-shaped hammock in the parlor (sort of appropriate) where the other guys could admire the dead moth awhile.

I decided it had lived a short but happy life of adventure and romance, produced many pretty moths, then returned here where it met its first and truest love to die peacefully in its sleep.


Though not a guy, I am the sort of nana who suggested to the young boys in our party it might have been a zombie moth who’d come to eat our brains while we slept.

You have to make your own fun.


Wired for stories

I was getting ready to post some more garden photos when an email from Nora arrived in my inbox.  She’s away from her desk on a short family trip — the sort of getaway in which everyone does what they want during the day then gets back together for the evening.

This afternoon’s subject line was “Moth” and starts out:

I’m generally not an insect person, but this moth is sort of spectacular. And it’s been on the wall of the terrace like this time since last evening. What’s it doing? What’s on its mind? Is it just taking a really, really long nap?

All I could think was photo (60)this must be how a writer’s brain is wired — always seeing the potential story behind interesting things.  Aren’t we all lucky Nora’s brain is wired that way?

Three hours later she sent me another one:

Sitting on the terrace. Moth’s still there.

An hour after that:

Back on the terrace. Moth hasn’t budged. How does it just cling to the wall for like 16 hours straight. What’s it waiting for?

It’s starting to creep me out.

While I may never think — Hmmm a trilogy about moths would be great! — I’m pretty certain Nora would make it entertaining (and probably a little scary).  And I’d be first in line to read it.




Nora, Ireland, Ashford and you?

Nora’s going back to Ireland for vacation this year so we’ll all have a chance to live vicariously through her travelogues.

This year, though, there’s a twist!

Nora’s UK publisher, Little Brown Group, will host a once-in-a-lifetime event on Sunday, August 17: An Audience and Afternoon Tea with Nora Roberts at Ashford Castle.  For all the details, please visit:

When I posted that news on Facebook this morning, the comments included a chorus of “will you come to (fill in the blank)?”   Let’s face it, if Nora visited every city —  or even just various central hubs — of readers, she’d never get home again.  It’s just not possible.

She asked me to post this on her behalf and I’m copying it here:

I wish I could go everywhere and meet readers, but mostly I stay home and write.

Several times a year I participate at events at Turn The Page Bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland — and that offers opportunities for readers east of the Mississippi.  The next event is Saturday July 19 from noon – 2 pm.   For more details please

This year I’ll be in San Antonio for the Romance Writers of American conference–and am delighted to participate again in the Readers For Literacy signing– on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter Hotel in the 3rd floor ballroom. For more details, please visit

That might make it easier for those of you west of the Mississippi to attend an event.

Then, in August my husband and I, along with our younger son and his wife, will travel to Ireland. The August 17 event at the gorgeous Ashford Castle should be just wonderful — and may make it easier for those of you in Ireland, the UK, and western Europe to attend an event.

Only one of me, and thankfully, lots and lots of you. It’s just not possible to visit all the fabulous places where you live, and continue to write the books you enjoy. NR



Let’s All Take A Deep Breath

Yesterday we announced on the JD Robb Facebook page that Amber Entertainment has optioned the In Death books. And the comment section exploded. Reactions ranged from excitement and delight to abject despair and even anger–with every possible emotion that falls between. Casting suggestions (and demands) flew like grapeshot.

I’m going to take this opportunity to address some of those concerns, suggestions, demands.

 First the option is for a feature film, and is in the very early stages of development. I’ve met face-to-face with the producer, twice. She has not only read the books, she gets them–and the characters. I’ve turned down option offers before, for this series and for my other work because I didn’t feel it was a good fit. This feels like one.

Will it be? No absolute guarantee, but I have to trust my instincts.

No, no and again no, I will not write the screenplay. I have no idea how to write a screenplay, and have no desire to learn. I like writing books. I will, however, have input. I’ve already seen a very rough outline of the script, and when I saw something that felt off-character, I pointed it out–and my input was respected.

Will the movie be an exact reproduction of the book? Again, no. It can’t possibly be. It’s based on the novel, translated from the novel to the screen, interpreted by a director, a cinematographer, a screenwriter, and far from least of all, by actors. Both the producer and I agree the film must, absolutely must, remain true to the core of the book and the characters. But yes, some things will be left out, some things will change in order to make the shift from page to screen. Those who demand any movie be a pure copy of the book are going to be disappointed.

Movies are a different form of storytelling, but adaptations can and do work, and often beautifully. Yesterday, I answered a comment, one (of several) that claimed all adaptations fail, with two examples of excellent ones–and did this straight off the top of my head and after a glass of wine. I could name more, dozens more, but then this post would go on forever.

I could also name dozens that failed–at least for me.

Did those failed adaptations ruin the book for me? Absolutely not. The book remained exactly the same, and I only had to pick it up, read it again to be pulled back into a story I loved.

I value so much the investment readers have in this series. The depth of that investment often staggers me. And I understand some concern. Believe me, I have a pretty big investment in the series myself, and want it done right, want it done well. I’m realistic enough to know not every scene will make it to the screen. It can’t.

The investment, the concerns, I understand. The anger from some is a little astonishing. Let me reassure all. No one will drag you from your homes or places of business and force you to watch the movie, if indeed it happens. Watching a movie, like reading a book is a choice. It may very well be, as a reader, you prefer your own image of the books and characters, and don’t want another vision to mix with that. No problem at all.

To those who demand: Why, oh why, is she doing this! She doesn’t need the money! I ask: Why, oh why, do I write the books? They matter to me, and I’m thrilled the characters and stories I created have this chance to appear on screen, in theaters, to reach an audience who already loves them, or has never read a single book in the series. I write for money–it’s my job. But if money was the driving force for me, I’d never have put the first word on a page.

On to casting–which is far down the road as I haven’t yet seen a finished script. The contrast in readers’ wishes and hopes and visions (and the brisk dismissal from other readers of those visions) illustrate just how diverse those readers’ images of the characters are. Some of the suggestions leap to actors a decade–often more–too old. A wonderful actor can certainly shave some years off, but a decade or more? I don’t think so.

However, the popular insistence that any actors cast be, basically, physical clones of Eve, Roarke and the gang isn’t going to make top of my priority list. Do I want, and hope for, a cast that reflects and embodies those characters? I really, really do. But you know, I’m not going to turn thumbs down on an incredible actor for Eve because the actor doesn’t have a dent in her chin, or one for Roarke if he isn’t quite as tall as I’ve written. My priority will be, again, that good fit–and talent. I want the characters interpreted well, I want them respected, and my fondest hope is that they just rock it out.

I’m not in charge of casting–I wouldn’t know where to begin. But again, I’ll have input. Actors act, and a really good actor becomes the role. Gregory Peck became Atticus Finch, Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lector. For me Tom Cruise became Lestat, Michelle Williams Marilyn Monroe, Jennifer Lawrence became Katniss (and Mystique!) That’s what I’m looking for when the time comes–actors who can make me believe–as their creator–they’re the characters.

And even with what I consider gorgeous performances, when I pick up the book the movie was based on, I’m back into it, and into my own vision of the characters. The movie is a movie. The book is a book. Two ways of telling a story.

Whatever happens–if indeed it happens–I can promise you everyone involved wants this to work and work well, everyone involved understands the readers’ investment and emotional attachment and will do everything possible to respect the work itself, and that investment.

I love books. I love movies. It will be an incredible thrill for me, as a writer, to see characters I love, pulled from books I’ve written given a chance to kick some butt on the big screen.


Nora and I do most of our work together virtually.  I drive up to Boonsboro for events but on the whole, I work in Raleigh while Nora works in her Fortress of Solitude.  So we do many things by email — conveying information, ironing out details, discussing all things Justified, gardening tips.  She lets me know when she’s finished a book (just did).  I occasionally offer stellar advice like naming every heroine Laura (she’s yet to agree).

And then there are emails like yesterday’s (she said I could share):

Came down from my office, preparing to go down to the gym to work out. I hear something bang into the front window.

See a bird. As this happens often enough, my mind immediately went to: Bird outside.

No, bird inside.

Creep over, see the bird on the back of the chair looking dazed. Ease in, gently capture bird who just sits there. Take bird outside, put her up on the garden wall so she’s safe.bird on a wall

Two minutes later, the damn bird, feeling feisty, flies right in the back door I didn’t think to shut all the way.

She’s now in my dining room, and not at all dazed.

Not sure what comes next.


Four minutes later this comes next:

I finally herded her, if you can herd a bird, out the dining room door leading to the deck and outside.

Doors are closed now!

See?  Writers are real people who have bird problems too!  And here’s an album of garden updates:

Thriving pots
  Thriving pots 
Sunflowers getting bigger!
Sunflowers getting bigger!
Snapdragons with delphinium
Snapdragons with delphinium
Pretty pots
Pretty pots
More basil and lots of herbs
More basil and lots of herbs
Lavender with nasturtiums coming along
Lavender with nasturtiums coming along
Knockout roses first bloom
Knockout roses first bloom
Kayla's impatiens with roses
Kayla’s impatiens with roses
Faerie garden
Faerie garden
Cute boots and wild lush ferns
Cute boots and wild lush ferns

The official blog for Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb readers