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?

Romance Writers Retreat Recap!

I always expect to have a wonderful time at Washington Romance Writers Spring Retreat, but this year was one of the best.

First came the book signing, which everyone agreed was a resounding success. Lisa Dyson and I each had a carton of books to give away, generously provided by Harlequin. We each gave away 35 books! Here we are, accidentally all color-coordinated.
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After the book signing I had an hour’s consultation with Barbara Vey, a romance reader extraordinaire, writer of Publishers Weekly’s Beyond Her Book blog, which continues today on Barbara’s website. Barbara shared some of the wisdom she’s gained from her years of writing the blog, connecting with other readers and authors and industry people. She had all kinds of great ideas to improve my social media presence. Keep tabs on me and let me know how I’m doing, everyone!

IMG_2322.2015-04-18_164542 (1)We had wonderful workshops, especially Kathleen Gilles Seidel‘s setting workshop, inspirational speakers–Bella Andre, Rita Clay Estrada, and Mary Kay Andrews, and precious time talking with others who love writing. (Pictured here is Rita Clay Estrada, but the photo doesn’t do her justice. She is beautiful in person, especially when she smiles! All our speakers were lovely people. I had a chance to chat with Bella Andre who could not have been nicer. Rita made an effort to reach out to the other participants, which I greatly admired.

And then there was Romance Jeopardy, Elvis-style. If I do say so myself, our team had the BEST costumes, if not the highest scores.
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I also made a new friend. Janna MacGregor is shown in the Elvis photo, next to me, second from the left. She is a WHOLE LOT prettier than that (and I am not nearly as heavy as I look!!). Jan came all the way from Kansas City and we bonded over a love of writing Regency Romance.

The Retreat always closes with the Raffle Baskets. Here was one of the most coveted ones.
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I know he looks real, but he was merely a life-sized cardboard figure. If you look closely you can see there was a basket associated with him.

Alas, I did not win him….

I almost forgot….I also won an award! Washington Romance Writers chose me to win the Outstanding Achievement award, given to a member to honor her body of work. It was a total surprise and I was very very moved to have been selected. The crystal has a place of honor in my home.
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As I said, it was a wonderful wonderful weekend.
What plans do you have for this weekend?

Retreat 2015!

Today I’m off to Washington Romance Writers Spring Retreat in Westminster, Maryland. This is one of the highlights of my year, a chance to get together with writing friends and talk writing all day Friday, Saturday and half of Sunday.

I’ll be participating in the Pre-Retreat Multi-Author book signing. This is the first year we will not be at Turn The Page Bookstore, Nora Roberts’s husband’s store, because Nora had a conflict this weekend. Without Nora to bus in (literally) eager readers, we are not certain how successful the signing will be. It will be in a mall so we might get passers by interested.
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Unfortunately, the Books-A-Million cannot get copies of my April book, Bound By Duty, but this may be good luck for readers, because I’m going to give away Mills and Boon copies of my backlist books. And, thanks to my friend, Lisa Dyson (Catching Her Rival, May 2015), who did the legwork, Harlequin might be sending copies of my April book to the signing along with her May book. So if you are in the area, stop by the book signing from 11 to 2 and get free books!

During the Retreat itself there are certain highlights I look forward to every year.

The first is Kathy Seidel’s workshop. In years past, Kathy used to simply do the opening talk, but lately she has moved to a more participatory workshop format. This year her topic is settings. What Regency author doesn’t love settings?

On Saturday night we have Romance Jeopardy, a game that I believe was invented by WRW. The last two years we’ve had a theme and participants dress up accordingly. This year the theme is Elvis Presley.
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Then on Sunday there is the Raffle. Here are two of the baskets my pals Helen, Virginia, Julie, and I have created for the raffle.
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We call this basket “Good To The Last Drop,” and it is stuffed with coffee items.
Our second basket is “The Game Is Afoot,” with items that are all Sherlock Holmes.
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Needless to say, I can’t wait! Next week I’ll let you know how it was!

Oh, I should also tell you that the dh and I did visit the cherry blossoms in Washinton, D.C. last Saturday. They were about a day away from their peak.
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Hope you have a wonderful weekend! What are your plans?

More Spring

I’m obsessed with spring this year. I can’t remember when I’ve been so excited to leave winter behind and welcome all the beauty that is spring.

Yesterday I went to lunch in Old Town Alexandria with my friend Ave Miles and we happened upon this lovely weeping cherry tree.
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My dh is in Wilmington, NC, and he sent me this photo of a tree in the United States Colored Troops cemetery there.
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The trees here in my backyard in Virginia are only now budding (see the one starting to bloom?)
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Last week this plant in my front garden was so small I thought it might be a weed. Look at it now! It’s even starting to flower!
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I just love this time of rebirth. No wonder we celebrate Easter in the spring of the year. If New Year’s Day gives us a chance to start all over again, so does spring. Spring is filled with beauty and hope and there is no reason why we can’t fill ourselves with beauty and hope.

So celebrate Beautiful You and have hope that whatever feels like winter in your life can bloom into spring when the time is right.

And with spring, isn’t it nice that I have a new book, the start of a new series? Bound By Duty, Book 1 in the Scandalous Summerfields series, is still available in paperback and ebook at most online vendors.

And I have a new contest, as well! Congratulations to Karen P of Florida who won my last website contest.

And a special thanks to Judy, who always comments so faithfully here. She wrote a lovely review of Bound By Duty on Amazon!