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Welcome to Top Secret Washington

Washington D.C. never seems to sleep. 

It’s overrun by tourists, politicians, and diplomats from around the world. While it has a very public side, I’ve been privileged Diana PR Thumbnail phototo be invited into places the average person never gets to see. 

So whether it’s a private play at the Italian Embassy, dinner at the French Ambassador’s home, or a look at the artwork in the highly restricted halls of the Department of Justice, I’d like to show you what is going on behind closed doors in this amazing city of mine. I’ll also be including you in day trips from West Virginia to New York City and taking you on my travels all over the globe — places that have shaped the plots of my books — and letting you share the everyday experiences of my life. 

Will you take the journey with me?

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Congratulations to the 2016 Golden Heart Romantic Suspense Finalists!

Thank you Sharon Wray for featuring the Golden Heart Suspense finalists — including me!

Kiss and Thrill

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Today is one of my favorite blog post days of the year. It’s the day the Kiss and Thrill authors introduce the 2016 Golden Heart Romantic Suspense finalists. And this year’s RS class includes two previous winners and a double finalist. All of the stories are different with as many twists and turns as a Daphne Du Maurier novel. And they all sound wonderful!

Because I know many of these women personally, the following list is in alphabetical order by author last name.:)

dianaDiana Belchase is celebrating her third Golden Heart nomination. The first book in her Born to Spy series, The Spy in the Mirrorwon the Golden Heart in 2011. Escape from the Harema sequel to The Spy in the Mirror, is a finalist in this year’s Romantic Suspense Category.

Sent on a cruise ship as bait for a ring of kidnappers…

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Gorgeous pink Cherry blooms (c) Diana Belchase

Remembering John Rehm

On June 23rd, 2014, John Rehm passed away. Though it has been two years, I still think of him often. He was a mentor and friend who died much too young and much too painfully. Please join me in remembering him via this post from back then.

Too many people don’t know who John Rehm was and that’s a great pity. Not that he ever sought the limelight — he was a humble, gracious man who preferred to stay in the shadows and support those who knew how to shine best. He was many things: a D.C. insider, an attorney, an author, a husband and father. He was genius bright with a razor wit and self-deprecating humor. Most of all he was a really good man.

I fell into a teeny sliver of his life, but that sliver will stay with me forever.

One day my husband called me from work. “The employees have been invited to go to the Freer Gallery at lunchtime, would you like to come?” I adore art, so my answer was an immediate yes. I wasn’t an employee, so I figured I’d hang back at the edge of the group and try to blend in. That office was huge, surely there’d be a crowd.

The crowd turned out to be just three people: John, my husband, and myself. I remember him turning toward me with a sparkle in his gentle eyes, not caring whether or not I came from the office, just glad I was there.

This was the first of many lunchtime art sojourns we took with John. On that first trip, he brought us into an enormous room filled with books and scrolls. At first glance, it looked as much modern art does — odd, pretentious — is it really art?

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Xu Bing’s Book From the Sky courtesy of Wenchee

John never lectured to us. Instead, he started asking questions. Through his Socratic method of teaching, we learned Xu Bing, the artist, was a victim of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. How, at that time, while still in exile, he’d created over one thousand imitation Chinese characters to get the viewer to understand his point — that all the little red books in the world, even when stacked end to end, would never have real meaning. Continue reading “Remembering John Rehm”

Red-shouldered Hawks Leave the Nest!

In this guest post, naturalist and bird expert Cecily Nabors continues her fascinating series on the wildlife in and around Washington, D.C.

Cecily Nabors

Last weekend when I went to look at the Red-shouldered Hawks’ nest near Bel Pre Elementary School, I saw only one youngster standing in the nest. IMG_1365The second one could have been hunkered down, or dead, or (nicest answer) fledged already. The young hawk I saw then was almost ready to fledge. It looked strong and fully decked out in juvenile plumage.IMG_1366

I apologize for the quality of the photos, as my camera was at full zoom and I had to crop a bit. But as you can see, the young hawk’s chest feathers feature dark streaks on a creamy background. In fact, they’re pretty streaky everywhere. Adult Red-shouldereds have the shoulder patch that gives them their common name, plus a finely barred and streaked reddish chest.

This weekend, the nest was empty, but there was lots of hawk activity . I never saw more than a hurtling body, but…

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How Not to be a Victim: Survival Tips for Women

The theme of this blog is Top Secret Washington because of all the special things I get to do behind the scenes in D.C., but it’s also called this because of my spy series. I love empowered women who can take care of themselves — something I’ve always wanted to be, but don’t always achieve. Part of that takes skills — survival being the dominant skill set we all need, primarily as young women.

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Here are some tips:

  • Don’t walk and talk or text on your cell phone. Pay attention to your surroundings. Same goes for music on earbuds. Don’t get lost in the melody and forget where you are. Paying attention can save your life!
  • Notice if anyone is watching you. Scan the area. Be vigilant.
  • Walk with purpose, carry keys splayed between your fingers as a weapon. Don’t be so overloaded with packages you cannot defend yourself if necessary. If you look like a harder person to deal with, they’ll look elsewhere for an easier target.
  • If someone is near your car, turn around, wait inside the building you just exited until they leave, or ask someone to escort you. This is easier than you think. Most male employees at offices or stores are more than happy to help out.

Continue reading “How Not to be a Victim: Survival Tips for Women”

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Museum Mondays: Woman Eating by Duane Hanson, the Art of Character

This woman is so lifelike, so realistic, it can be debated whether this is art or a mannequin display like you’d see in a shop window. I personally think the work of Duane Hanson (1925-1996) are character studies that could drive a novel.

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This again is the type of work that is easily passed by. Once you get over the fact there is a woman eating in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and realize it’s made of polyester resin and fiberglass, most people laugh and move on.

But take a look at the incredible detail, and the pathos Hanson elicits with his creation. Spend a few minutes with this woman, with her condition, her moment in life, and let her speak to you.  Continue reading “Museum Mondays: Woman Eating by Duane Hanson, the Art of Character”

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Where are we? Fun and Games near Washington, D.C.

Okay, time for a bit of fun. Can you identify where these photos were taken? I’ll give you a hint, we’re near George Mason University in Virginia. I’m not looking for a town — Can you tell me what restaurant I’m at?

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First clue — this architecturally interesting arched seating area that conveys intimacy and elegance with two modern chandeliers. Is this a smart bistro? Continue reading “Where are we? Fun and Games near Washington, D.C.”

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Museum Mondays: Snail Space by David Hockney at the Smithsonian

Washington, D.C. is home to some of the most amazing museums in the world. Even better, most of them are free. This is my first feature on specific works of art that I find interesting and want to share. I love art of all kinds, and if this particular piece isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry, all types of art will be featured here.

First up is Snails Space with Vari-Lites, “Painting as Performance” by David Hockney. It was created between 1995-96. Hockney was born in Bradford, England but adopted California as his home. Many believe that Snail Space summarizes his career and his belief that art should “overcome the sterility of despair.” Hockney used to arrange canvases around his studio, paint the floor, and invite guests to step into the world of his paintings. This installation does much the same.

Below, this is actually just one single painting. The angle of the light, and the hue of the light, changes and transforms the painting. Here are highlights of the changes:

I passed this painting by many times. Continue reading “Museum Mondays: Snail Space by David Hockney at the Smithsonian”