Romance (Writing) in Times Square

I love New York City! And when the Romance Writers of America have their conference in the Big Apple, nothing could be better.

My friend, Lisa Dyson, drove Karen Anders/Zoe Dawson, Julie Halperson and me from Virginia straight to the hotel on Times Square. What a treat it was not to have to use a train, bus, or plane.

The first night we had a drink at the revolving rooftop restaurant. Here is the view from The View (name of the restaurant)IMG_0072
I then went to dinner with The Wet Noodle Posse, the Golden Heart finalist of 2003. We’re still together after all these years! 11755672_10153104569107057_2969752660371902023_n
Wednesday was the Beau Monde conference, but more about that on Monday at Risky Regencies.
Wednesday evening was the Literacy Booksigning, which is always so hectic and confusing but exciting and gratifying at the same time.
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Thursday started with breakfast with the Hussies (The Harlequin Historical authors), an RWA tradition. The rest of the day was filled with meetings but I had a break around lunchtime. Lynne Silver and I took a walk to the Diamond district where we salivated over the jewelry and fantasizes over which pieces we would choose for ourselves. Shop owners tried to get us to come in and shop. Couldn’t they tell? We were NOT their customers.

Later on Thursday the Harlequin Historical authors were taken to tea by their editors to the King’s Carriage House on E 82nd Street.
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That night I had dinner with Victoria Hinshaw (of Number One London) and Shari Anton at a Celtic Bar and later at the hotel bar. More fun!
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Friday was the Harlequin book signing
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And lunch with my editor at this Victorian inspired restaurant.
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And the Harlequin Party at the Starlight Room of the Waldorf Astoria.
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Saturday was more relaxed and I actually made it to one workshop, How To Write A Book in 30 Days. We’ll see about that!!

Saturday night was the RITA and Golden Heart ceremony, the last event, the final celebration of excellence in Romance writing.
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The very best part of the conference is seeing friends I only see at conference and hanging out with other friends I see too little of at home. I miss everyone already!!!

It was a wonderful time.

It’s Another Plot

I am nose to grindstone finishing Edmund’s story, Book 2 in the Scandalous Summerfields series. I have only a week to go! That may be why I’ve been missing Thursday blogs. I was determined to put something up this week, though, so I went looking through old posts. I found this one, called It’s A Plot. Seemed perfect for today.

Here is that blog post from May 6, 2010, slightly revised for today:

Madame Guillaumin Writing GuillauminI started writing in 1995 and since that time I’ve attended tons of writing workshops. When I was still working the day job, I used to listen to tapes of Romance Writers of America workshops and Washington Romance Writers ones. Over and over. I truly believe it’s been like getting a graduate school education in writing.

Except I haven’t yet learned enough on plotting. I’m still on a quest for the perfect workshop on plotting, the very workshop that explains to me how to make plotting easy. (this quest, by the way, is very similar to my quest for the perfect haircut and the perfect purse).

Oh, I’ve heard some wonderful workshops on the Three Act Structure, the Writer’s Journey. I’ve been very impressed by what Michael Hauge says about plot. I’ve learned a great deal. I’ve also heard workshops that make me want to tear out my hair and run screaming from the room.

These workshops all have to do with charts and diagrams and figuring out every scene ahead of time. (like Bob Mayer’s spreadsheet) It’s not that I think plotting charts and diagrams and spreadsheets cannot be helpful–Just not for me. To map out my plot in that much detail ahead of time would suck out all the joy of writing for me. (For others, that may be the joy). I also would lose some of the discovery that comes in “making it up as I go along.”

At WRW’s Retreat (in 2010)  one of the workshops resonated perfectly with how I like to write and at the same time taught me something new. Workshop speaker, Roxanne St. Claire, gave a wonderful talk on Breathing Life into A Dying Scene, in which she bravely showed us her first drafts of scenes and how she fixed them. About plotting, Rocky described herself as a “planser;” that is, she has a general idea of the plot, but not of the specific scenes. These she discovers as she writes. She also reviews and polishes a past scene before moving on to the next.

That is my favorite way of writing!!!

Rocky also had great ideas of what went into an effective scene. She said in every scene:  1) Character’s goal is clear; 2) There is tension regarding that goal–and others; 3) An arc is completed–beginning, middle, end; 4)  Story is furthered and complicated; 5) Reader has more than he had before; 6) Reader wants to turn the page

I could understand that! (Far better than I could a complicated workshop on Scene and Sequel.) This gave me a completely easy way to analyze my scenes and to improve them before moving on to the next scene.

If you have a chance to attend Rocky’s workshop on plotting someday, do it. It was very helpful.

When you are reading a book, do you notice these things? Or are you too caught up in the story? If a writer, are you a plotter, a pantser, or…..a planser*? What is the perfect something for which you are on a quest?

I have a new contest started and I’ll announce the winner to the previous contest in a day or so. That winner won my Three Soldiers Trilogy (Chivalrous Captain, Rebel MistressGallant Officer, Forbidden Lady; Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy) in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

*Roxanne totally claims the word planser as her own! I give her full credit.

Diane, here, back in the present. By this time next week the book should be done!

How Does My Garden Grow, part 2

Not much time for a blog post today. I am busy writing Book 2 in the Scandalous Summerfields series. One of the last tasks I performed before devoting all my spare time to the book was weeding and planting my front garden with my friend Liz. You heard about that on my June 4 blog.

Here’s what it looked like after we planted:
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Here’s what it looked like 2 weeks later:
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Here’s what it looks like today!
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Isn’t it filling in nicely and isn’t that the loveliest flower?

Waterloo, the 200th Anniversary

Bow your heads in honor of the 47,000 brave men who fought and perished June 18, 1815, 200 years ago today at the Battle of Waterloo: 15,000 British, Belgian, Dutch and German soldiers; 7,000 Prussians; 25,000 French. Inconceivable numbers of men lost in a battle that changed history.

My friend Lisa Chaplin and my fellow Risky Regencies, Susannah Fraser, are attending the 200th anniversary reenactment. I’m filled with envy. I wrote about the battle years ago for Risky Regencies. Here is that blog again, a bit updated.

When I first decided to write Regency historicals, I immersed myself in as much of the history as I could. My library had a nice collection of audiobooks, and I used to listen to them driving to and from work. One of those books was Waterloo: Day of Battle by David Howarth (published in Great Britain under the title A Near Run Thing: The Day of Waterloo, 1968).

Waterloo: Day of Battle tells the story of Waterloo through the eyes of the soldiers who fought in it, making it a very personal story, very real and emotional. Howarth says the individual soldier experienced the battle “half-blinded by gunsmoke, half-deadened by noise, and either half-paralyzed by fright or driven to a kind of madness by exaltation and the hope of glory.” It is a wonderful book, available used on sites like Abebooks.com

On YouTube you can watch several excellent documentaries of the battle (Although one gets the date wrong and another gets Wellington’s title wrong. Sigh!)

From BritishBattles.com I’ll show some highlights of the battle memorialized in paintings. You can purchase some of these prints at Art.com

Early in the battle the British cavalry, including the Scots Greys shown here, charged the French, at first overwhelming the French, but intoxicated with their success, they advanced too far and did not hear or heed the bugles to retreat. French Cavalry, fresh in the battle, soon cut them off. The regiments were almost completely destroyed.

On the western side of the Allied line was the chateau and farm of Hougoumont, 3,500 men were charged with the defense of Hougoumont to protect the Allied forces from being outflanked by the French. Hougoumont was one part of the battlefield that Napoleon could see clearly and perhaps it is for that reason he poured many French resources in attempting to take it, unsuccessfully.

French General Ney ordered his cavalry to attack what he thought were retreating Allied troops, but he found instead solid British squares, and though his cavalry attacked again and again, the squares held. The movie Waterloo , starring Rod Steiger as Napoleon; Christopher Plummer as Wellington, shows an wonderful aerial recreation of this cavalry attack.

In spite of the brave, heroic, and stubborn British forces, the day might have gone to Napoleon had not the Prussians under General Blücher arrived in time.

After the battle, two square miles were covered with those 47,000 dead and dying, their shrieks and cries could be heard throughout the night as more horror assaulted them. Looters, primarily from the British and Prussian armies plundered the dead and killed the dying for their loot.

Throughout Howarth’s Waterloo: Day of Battle, he weaves a love story. Colonel Sir William De Lancey, on Wellington’s staff, had married Magdalene Hall three months earlier and she had followed him to Belgium. When word came to her that he was wounded, she searched for him and found him in a cottage near Mont St, Jean, no more than a hovel. She stayed by his side, nursing him for eleven days. At his request she lay next to him one night. The next day he died in her arms.

Read more about Lady de Lancey in Lady de Lancey at Waterloo by David Miller.

If you like, you can purchase live streaming of the Waterloo Reenactment to be broadcast Friday and Saturday.

How Does My Garden Grow — 2015?

In 2011 I blogged about landscaping the front of my house after taking down huge azalea bushes that had covered the windows. Here’s an After Azaleas/Before landscaping picture:
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I enlisted the aid of my gardening-expert friend Liz to help me. Here is that 2011 result:
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In 2012 I updated you on the garden’s progress. Some plants survived; some were victims of my dh’s overzealous use of weed killer:
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This year the garden needed help again. I’d not put mulch down soon enough and the dh didn’t dare touch the area with his weed killer, so I had a bumper crop of weeds!
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I called Liz again to help me. She actually loves gardening so much, she thinks I’m doing her a favor. So Saturday we went to the garden shop, chose our plants and came home to complete the job in one very hot afternoon. We planted a new bush, two purple plants (I don’t remember the name) for color, and herbs: lavender, basil,  and rosemary.
Here’s the result:
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The photos don’t do it justice. It really looks pretty!

What do you think?

Oh, To Be In England…

I’m pining for England, so I thought I’d take an imaginary trip there through photos on Wikimedia. Spring is beautiful there!

This is in Buckinghamshire, in a patch of woodland called Dockey Wood where bluebells carpet the ground in late May. The photo is by Keith Hulbert and Paul Zarucki.
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Here is St. Peter’s Church on the Chatsworth Estate. The Dukes of Devonshire are buried there, as well as Kathleen Kennedy, sister of President Kennedy, who was killed in a plane crash in WWII. The photograph is by Peter Tarleton.
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Wouldn’t you love to take a walk here? This is Carshalton Ponds in Surrey, the photo taken by Julian Heath.
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I’d settle for taking a walk anywhere in the English countryside! Want to join me?

Lovely Weekend with Lisa Chaplin

9780062379122Lisa Chaplin, author of the upcoming debut historical, The Tide Watchers, has been a long-time friend of mine. We “met” about 15 years ago-online as part of a group of Australian and American aspiring writers. Lisa was the first to break into print, writing a wonderful set of Silhouette Intimate Moments and Harlequin Romances under the pen name Melissa James. She’s visited me several times over the years and we’ve attended conferences together and taken trips to New York.

This past weekend Lisa came to visit again and we, as always, had a great time.

Spy museum Lisa and MikaOn Saturday we met Mia Zachary in Washington, D.C., and visited the Spy Museum. Lisa’s book involves Napoleonic era spies so we were interested in spy stuff.

In our time period they had invisible inks and secret codes with cipher disks to translate them. I learned Casanova was a spy for the King of France, using his charm to befriend British naval officers.

Doesn’t this poster look like Darth Vader?
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On Monday and Tuesday, Lisa and I went to Colonial Williamsburg. I knew she would love the historic town and I was right.

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It was beastly hot though, at least 90 degrees on Monday. We look cool, though, don’t we?
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Having a visit from Lisa is a rare event and one I always treasure. She left for London last night and I miss her already!

Don’t miss Lisa’s The Tide Watchers! It will be released June 30 and there is a giveaway of 20 books on Lisa’s Facebook page.

This Old House

We are in the throes of house renovation–not a huge remodel, but what originally seemed like a small scale project: Expanding our hardwood floors to the living room, dining room, stairs and upstairs hall; Removal of the wall between the kitchen and dining room. It strikes me that the project is a lot like writing a book.

IMG_12621. One must think up the plot.
That is, obviously, we needed a plan and it needed to fit in with the established “line.” Our present hardwood is natural oak in a really pretty pattern of wide plank/narrow plank, so we needed to be certain the floor people could duplicate it.

2. One must prepare.
When I prepare to write a book, I have to be certain that the story can fit in with the history of the time period, which means a lot of research. Sometimes it isn’t very time-consuming, especially when I’m returning to familiar historical events and settings. Preparing for the floors has been massively time-consuming. I have decorative items all over the first floor, nicknacks, china and glassware enough to fill two china cabinets and more. Plus, we have lots of junk stored away. I had to empty a long coat closet and two linen closets, too. Every room that is not having floors done is piled with boxes or…piles.

IMG_12632. One must revise.
The original plan was to put hardwood in the bedrooms, too, but our pockets were not quite deep enough for that. I am soooo glad that I didn’t have to empty the bedrooms, too. Where would I have put everything? How would I have coped with the 700 research books I have in one of those rooms.

3. One must hunker down to do the work.
I’m not installing the floors or taking down the wall, but let’s say I have “ghost writers” doing the work. It still requires my attention, though.

IMG_12664. After the work is done, one must wait for the book to come out.
We have to wait until the polyurethane coating dries before we can walk on the floors so we are confined to our basement for tonight. This is the most tedious part.

5. When the book comes out, there is more work to be done.
For a book, this means promotion. Extra postings on social media, extra blogging, seeking reviews, etc. For the floors it means putting the furniture back and all those nicknacks.

So…What do you think? The floors look pretty, don’t they?

Binge Watching The Arrow

The dh and I have joined the numbers of binge watchers of TV shows.

FamilyWatchingTV1958cropWe’ve always been TV watchers, but, since we can get local stations with an antenna, about a month ago we gave up cable and began watching streaming TV through channels such as Netflix, Hulu, Acorn, and Amazon. We discovered it is a whole new way of watching TV.

On cable we were more likely to watch movies or whatever was playing on certain channels. I would watch almost anything on HGTV , for example, but now we gravitate to series. My dh went through every available episode of Mad Men early on. I watched things like Lost in Austen or North and South. Together we watched Last Tango in Halifax. The dh went through Wallander, both the original Swedish one and the English version and nearly succumbed to a bout of depression. I began working my way through 17 seasons of Midsomer Murders and have nearly hooked the dh on the series, as well.

IMG_2339.2015-04-19_030517But we have become true binge watchers with a series that still is on regular TV. When we had cable, we never watched network TV so we were totally unaware of Arrow. We discovered him because of the Retreat when his full-size cardboard figure was part of one of the raffle baskets.

Last night after watching about four episodes, my dh remarked, “I think we’re watching more TV than ever.”

I guess that is what binge watching will do to you!

Do you binge watch? What series do you recommend? Had you heard of Arrow?