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?
Spy museum Watching

On Monday and Tuesday, Lisa and I went to Colonial Williamsburg. I knew she would love the historic town and I was right.

Williamsburg coach Williamsburg weavers
It was beastly hot though, at least 90 degrees on Monday. We look cool, though, don’t we?
Williamsburg Lisa and Diane
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.

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.

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.
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.

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.
WRW Pre-Retreat Signing_web_v2
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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

My dh is in Wilmington, NC, and he sent me this photo of a tree in the United States Colored Troops cemetery there.
The trees here in my backyard in Virginia are only now budding (see the one starting to bloom?)

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!

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!


We’ve really earned spring this year, at least in the Northeast and Midatlantic when we got snow instead of spring rains. Our daily lows are still hovering near freezing, but today is one beautiful April day. Sunshine. Light breezes. Blue skies.

Everywhere trees are budding. In my front yard the bushes are budding and the jonquils are starting to bloom. Pretty soon we will be seeing the cherry blossoms, followed by the dogwoods and azaleas.

Virginia is spectacularly beautiful in the spring. So is Washington, DC. A few years ago, my dh and I went to see the cherry blossoms in DC. See how beautiful they are!




Don’t forget to enter the Harlequin blog Easter Egg hunt! Just look on my website for my egg. Lots of prizes!

I’m also featured on Happy Ever After blog today!

What is your favorite part of spring?