Yoga

Yoga_lotusI have the great good fortune to be attending yoga classes twice a week. I say good fortune even though I am not at all prone to exercise, although I think about exercising all the time, e.g. “I should take a walk.” “I should join a gym.” “I should do Pilates.” “I should do something.”

Best I ever did at regular exercise was going to my local Curves, but then it closed and I knew I would never make myself go to the one that was two miles farther away.

I’ve always been interested in yoga, though, and took a couple of classes years ago at my workplace, but they were always time-limited.

But then my friend, Darlene Gardner, told me about a twice-a-week yoga class for people in my age group, given in a nearby community center, that is free. It is also first thing in the morning and Darlene would pick me up. Every possible excuse not to do this class was taken away.

Yoga is much more than exercise, of course. According to Wikipedia, Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline which originated in India. Various types exist in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. I am interested in the physical practice, but there is no escaping the mental and spiritual benefits as well. Yoga is definitely calming.

I’ve been attending for almost six months now and I love it. Yoga, even in its gentler forms, is surprisingly strength-building. It also helps with flexibility and balance. The other students are nice people and the instructor is a sweetheart. She and her husband have a fitness studio in nearby Fairfax, Virginia, called Abundantly Fit.

I definitely have developed greater strength and flexibility and the yoga also makes me more conscious of my posture. I still recite the “shoulds”–“I should walk on days I don’t do yoga.” “I should stretch on days I don’t do yoga.” You get the idea.

What exercise do you do?

Kittens!

We have kittens in our house!
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My son and daughter-in-law are pet people. Pre-kittens they had three rescue cats (all with their own dramatic stories) and a rescue dog (I should do a whole blog about Bean someday). So when a feral cat brought her kittens into their front yard, my daughter-in-law ran out and managed to grab three of the four. They were so tiny she had to feed them every two hours with an eye dropper.
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As they grew (cuter and cuter), they turned into the sweetest kittens I’ve ever seen. Thanks to my son, daughter-in-law, daughter, and daughter’s boyfriend, and the CUTEST GRANDSON EVER, they became totally attached to people and did all those yearned for cat behaviors – purring, sitting on your lap, etc.

Then the time came for a decision. To give away all the kittens? Or keep the kittens in the family?

That was a no-brainer. Son and daughter-in-law kept the male (Rocky), my daughter claimed the gray girl, Pepper, and my husband and I kept the black and white girl, who we named Cleo.
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Of course, we already have 3 cats, two of them very old, and, since my daughter and her boyfriend are now staying with us, we also have her kitten. Two of my cats now have their own mini-mes.
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Yes, we are crazy. I fully admit it, but these two kittens have brought us so much joy! When my daughter moves out (soon) we’ll be down to 4 cats. Doesn’t that sound a whole lot more reasonable?

What are you? Cat Person? Dog Person? Both? Other?

Inspirational Quotes

Do you like inspirational quotations? I do. I subscribe to an email service that sends me one every day. Sometimes they are funny; sometimes poignant; sometimes profound.
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Here’s today’s:
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.” — Helen Keller

There are always quotations I come across that I want to save.

I used to have this one above my desk in my office when I worked for the Senior Mental Health program:
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Eliot

Then there is the mantra I repeated to myself at every turn when I was trying to become published:
“Never, never, never give up.” — Winston Churchill

Here are some more favorites:

“Remember, happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have, it depends solely upon what you think.” — Dale Carnegie

“If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” — J. K. Rowling

“One day in retrospect the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” — Sigmund Freud

“Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.” — Victoria Holt

Churchill_portrait_NYP_45063More from Winston Churchill, a gold mine of great quotations:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.” (What writer can’t love this one?)

“Kites rise highest against the wind—not with it.”

“Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never. Never — in anything great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

And because I cannot resist adding a funny quotation from those daily ones I receive in my email:
“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.” — Steve Martin

And a clever one:
“I have six locks on my door all in a row. When I go out, I lock every other one. I figure no matter how long somebody stands there picking the locks, they are always locking three.” — Elayne Boosler

If you are interested in receiving the Inspirational Quote of the Day, go to http://www.famous-quotes-and-quotations.com/ and sign up.

What’s your favorite quotation, inspirational or otherwise?

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?