Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Taboo subjects

Like everyone else, I have the aches and pains that come with growing older. Just after Thanksgiving I went to get a cortisone shot in my bad knee (it’s been my “bad knee” since I was 20 and banged it on the corner of a concrete wall jumping from one platform to the next. You know, the way one does when one is 20 and invincible.). My doc said he had good news and bad news. Good news? It wasn’t so far gone as to need replacement. Bad news? It was too far gone for a shot of cortisone to have any effect. Only arthroscopy was going to take care of the arthritic buildup.

So, a week before Christmas, in I went for the surgery. I’ve had it done before. Twice. Once on each knee. So I knew what I was in for and wasn’t worried much. He found a small rip in my meniscus while he was in there and took care of that as well. Gave me pain meds and sent me home to heal.

Now, I hate taking pills. Passionately. Not because I’m against modern medicine (I LOVE modern medicine…it’s what makes me grateful to be born now and not a hundred years ago) but because it’s physically difficult for me to swallow them. I never got the hang of it. My husband and I made a pact: when it came time for the kids to learn how to take pills, he’d teach them. I suck at it.

As a result, I got off the pain meds as fast as I could. More because I hate taking pills than because I have some deep-seated need to be a martyr.

That surgery was another reason I worked so hard to finish THE REVOLUTION OF CLARA SIMPSON (formerly known by the working title: Revolution). I wanted a good, clean draft out to my beta readers to work on during the holidays—time I knew I’d be using for recuperation.

And then came the second surgery. I’ve not posted much about it because I was embarrassed. It involves a part of the anatomy no one talks about. Even with all the erotica that’s moved mainstream, this one part of our bodies still remains taboo: the ass. Yes, I had a hemorrhoidectomy.

My doc told me it was the most painful surgery that he knew of. I didn’t bother reading anything about it on the web ‘cause I didn’t want the horror stories. My parents both told me it was going to hurt, based on their knowledge of people who had been through it.

But I have a high pain tolerance. I’d been through two childbirths—one of which was induced (petocin makes for VERY painful contractions). I wasn’t scared.

Okay, I was a little scared.

But determined. Those same childbirths that gave me beautiful children, also gave me hemorrhoids. Lots of them. Told you this was still a taboo subject.

The surgery was January 14th and the first week, I relied heavily on the drugs to keep the pain under control. I have a marvelous husband who has put up with not one but two recoveries back-to-back and he hasn’t gotten impatient with me even once. I’m nominating him for sainthood. The second week was better and I’m down to one pain pill a day, plus a ton of ibuprofen. Even that, I’m starting to wean myself from. Remember, it isn’t the pills I hate, it’s taking them that gives me grief.

So why am I sharing all this now? To explain why I’ve been mostly absent from all social media, from this blog…from everything. Life got in the way of writing for a few weeks. It’s also my excuse for not getting many new words written this month, when my goal is pretty lofty for the year.
 
CLARA is back from the beta readers and I’m getting the mss ready. Still haven’t decided if I want to self-publish it or send it out to other publishers. I’m leaning toward the latter, but am open to suggestions (email or put them in the comments). By the way, Lynn LaFleur came up with the ultimate title for the book and will be getting a free copy of it when it’s published. Thank you, Lynn!
 
I’ve also gone back to my fantasy story—the one I’ve been working on for years. Did some work on it today, weaving together the hero and heroine’s stories. I’d originally planned it to be two books: one for her story and one for his. As I’m going through this, however, I’ve decided to tell both at the same time. I created a timeline back in October and today pulled in the last piece of what I had written for Martin’s story. From here on out for him, it’s all new writing (Kiera has another section finished, so it’ll be a while before I write new for her).

Basically, I told you all this to explain why, at the end of January, I have only 2743 words written so far (that’s blog writing and new/editing combined). That includes two short scenes I wrote as part of a writer’s challenge. I posted one of those scenes; will post the other here soon.

Let the healing and the writing commence for February!

Play safe,

Diana

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Books read, sex and a free book!

Reading a book is entering another world. If the author has done his or her job well, the real world slips away and the words of the book fill one's imagination so completely you feel you're someplace else...living with other people, making new friends (and sometimes enemies!), enjoying new vistas.

Which is why I can't read a book when I'm writing one. Guess I can only keep one world in my head at a time!

While my NaNoWriMo book is off with beta readers (who also edit and make suggestions to strengthen the story), I find myself at loose ends. Don't want to start writing a new book when I know I'm going to have to set it aside when The Book That Needs a Title comes back. Have done everything else that needs doing - including taking down the Christmas decorations - and I'm at loose ends.

And that's the perfect time for me to curl up with a book I didn't write. First up this year? Karen Hawkins Scandal in Scotland. Yes, an historical romance, a sexy, steamy story filled with rogues, bad girls, and did I say sex?

The book also points out how erotic romance has become mainstream. Ten years ago, this book would've been classified under the more taboo genre. Traditional romances kept the reader at the foot of the bed, not right in the bed with the characters. One of the reasons I've enjoyed writing erotic romance is for that more immediate feel.

But you can get that from pretty much most general romances today. Which makes me a little worried for No Name. It's straight, traditional romance - no sex, just some very sexy kissing. It's the 1700's for crying out loud...and she's a good girl and he respects convention. There is romance, lots and lots of romance, but no sex. Does that mean the book is doomed?

Okay, I can't keep calling this manuscript by generic names. It needs a title. I'm open for suggestions. Here's the current blurb:

The gorgeous Baronet Christopher St. James provides the perfect cover for Clara to slip a note through enemy lines and to her brother in the Continental Army. The man is such a fop, with his lace sleeves and fancy bows, he'll never realize how he's been used. If only she didn't like him so much...

But the Baronet has problems of his own, and using the lovely Clara Simpson to worm his way into the elite echelon that is New York society, gives him the perfect way to spy on the Loyalist enemy, right within their very own parlors....

Put title suggestions in the comments, my Facebook page or email them to me. If I choose a title you suggested, you'll get a copy of the finished book for free!

Play safe,
Diana

Monday, January 05, 2015

A bit of fun

Wendi Zwaduk recently posted a writing challenge on her Facebook page. Each day she posts a black and white picture of a gorgeous hunk. Writers then write a scene inspired by that picture. She wrote one to a picture of Chris Evans that I very much enjoyed. Yesterday she had a great pic of Tom Hiddleston, but it was today's that struck a chord in me and I took about a half an hour to accept her challenge.

I posted this on my FB page, but since not everyone here has a Facebook account, I thought I'd go ahead and put it on the blog, too. If you ARE on FB, friend me! Without further ado:

(Al)most Missed Opportunity

“How ‘bout that one?”

Anna looked where Beth pointed. The food court, crowded with Saturday shoppers, at first did not divulge the object of her friend’s attention. But then he moved and Anna’s eye drew to him like a compass pointing north.

His gait wasn’t particularly graceful as he sauntered past the restaurants, his gaze eyeing each choice. More an I-played-soccer-in-high-school kind of walk guys got who carried their weight around their hips rather than their chests. And not tall. Average height with hair just a little long, like he needed a haircut last week and skipped it because he had something far more interesting to do.

“What about that one?” Anna pretended indifference to hide the heat that swelled from a very deep place inside her psyche.

“Bet you an ice cream you can’t get him to come sit with us.”

“For crying out loud, we haven’t played that game since high school.”

“Chicken?”

Anna rolled her eyes and glanced at the target again. He’d moved on, passing by the fast food to stand in line at the salad place. That raised his possibilities.

“You’re on.” She stood and crossed through the noisy crowds, willing the warmth away with a little righteous peevedness at her best friend. Yes, she’d accepted the dare, but really? Weren’t they older than this?

She approached the line, eyeing the back of his head. Taller than she thought. Nearly six inches on her. Good height. A woman more in need of eating salads than she slipped into the line behind him and Anna was stuck two back. Damn.

“What can I get for you today?”

“I’ll take the garden salad with mushrooms, creamy Italian on the side.”

My God. British. The warmth turned to heat. He stepped aside to await his order, the line moved forward and she stood beside him. All set to make her move, he glanced in her direction. Their eyes met and the words died on her lips.

She knew him. Knew of him, anyway. He was famous. A heartthrob. Right here in the food court. Eating a salad. Or about to eat.

“Number 285?”

“That’s me.” He turned, picked up his tray and walked away.

“What can I get for you today?”

Anna gave the server a blank look. He repeated the question and she shook her head.

“I have to...that is, that was...Nothing. I’m set.” She stopped waffling and turned on her heel. He hadn’t gone far, standing at the edge of the array of tables, looking for an empty place. She swallowed hard, discarded every pick-up line she’d considered on her walk across the food court, and stepped up beside him.

“There’s an empty seat over there.” She pointed toward Beth. “My friend and I are just finishing. You can have that table.”

He turned toward her, one eyebrow raised as if he suspected her of some underhanded action designed to lure him into a fangirl dream. She almost melted.

But then he spoke. Only two words and she managed to get her heart out of her throat.

“Thank you.”

Yeah, Beth owed her more than an ice cream.

(Al)most Missed Opportunity
by Diana Hunter
Copyright January 2015
All Rights Reserved

Play safe!
Diana


Friday, January 02, 2015

Time for Resolutions - or at least one resolution...

A new year rolls around and resolutions abound. Last year I resolved to write more...a lot more. Life, as long-time readers know, got in the way in the first half of the year, but retirement from the day job allowed for the luxury of time in the last quarter of the year.

Still, it was a good year, with the completion of one Mystic Shade novel, the publication of a Diana Hunter novella and the nearly-finished state of an as-yet-unnamed historical romance. Determining the total word count, however, is not as easy as one might think. Mostly because the fiction writing number is approximate, since I stopped writing down daily word counts somewhere around the beginning of March. I know how long the finished novel of Training Two is (53,479) so that’s as a chunk of it. And I know how many words were in the historical novel at the end of December (75,760).

I also worked on a fantasy story over the summer, writing over 6,000 words on that, but because I didn’t keep the records I should have, I’ll use the round number.

I’m also counting my blog posts in my final number, since non-fiction writing is still writing. The non-fiction blog-writing total came to 23,134 words.

Which means I wrote a total of 182,497 words for the year. Give or take a few hundred.

Now while that’s better than last year’s number (165,135) by 17,362 words (a short novella!), its still a far cry from my lofty goal of 250,000 (by 67,503 words). I’d need to write another full novel to reach that goal.

Two years now, I’ve had 250K as my goal and two years I have not made it. Does that mean I should change my goal? Heck, no! If it ain’t hard to reach, it ain’t worth reaching for.

And so, in the bright, shining start of the new year, I make my resolution as I have for the past two years: to reach 250,000 new words written by December 31st. I can do it! I know I can. :)

Play safe, 
Diana

PS. I’m on Facebook now and post short updates there, not always pertaining to writing. You shouldn’t be surprised. This blog isn’t always about writing, either. Squirrel!

Come join me there if you haven’t already. It’s fun!


Monday, December 29, 2014

I'm not very good at this

I tried to wait two weeks, I really did.

I lasted eleven days.

The first draft was finished on the 14th of December, which means I should not have looked at it again until yesterday. Yeah, that didn't work. I started the first read-through this Saturday past (the 27th) and finished it this morning. Although, if you want to be picky, I did the comment read on the 22nd, so perhaps it wasn't even twelve days?

The first time I go back to a manuscript (mss), I take a look at all the comments I've left myself and deal with those first. For this mss, that meant finding street names for some of the locations as well as double checking some information. Concerning the street names, there's a wonderful map of the city that's recently been released and I used it often for reference. Not only has the shape of Manhattan changed as the city has been constantly re-invented over the centuries, but most of the street names were dropped after the Revolutionary War, replaced with more patriotic ones (Queen's Street, for example is now Pearl Street). I used the original names, so if you, like me, like to reference a map as you read, you'll have to use the above link, not a modern-day map of the city.

So that first pass, back on the 22nd, just involved finding information and taking care of those margin notes. Not really an edit, more of a "filling in".

But on Christmas Day, after all the presents were unwrapped, the dinner enjoyed, the merriment shared, the house quieted and I came upstairs with the intention of putting away boxes and wrapping paper.

And then it called out to me from the depths of my computer. "Look at me," it called. "Come, see what you have wrought."

I caved.

This read is primarily for continuity. For example, I have a minor character who comes in about halfway through the book and has some small action in several scenes. First he was Tommy, then Bobby, then Billy. Mostly in that order, although I did go back and forth between the two B names for a while. Reading it through this time, I decided on Tommy - and made all the appropriate changes.

I'm really not good with character name continuity. When I started, I wasn't sure of the proper address for a Baronet, so I often had people call him "Baronet St. James." Nope. Should be "Sir Christopher." I think I could even get away with the occasional "my lord," although I chose not to. Despite their loyalty to England, these are Americans after all, and it seemed some of the formality might have started to wear off. So those got changed.

Mrs. Galloway (a busybody who has lots of news to bring) was Jane to begin with, then Grace when I learned she really existed. The book is a mixture of real and fictional people, so making sure I stayed true to their names was important. Elizabeth Floyd, our heroine's best friend, for example, is a real person. Her story is partly told in this book (I'm thinking the rest of her story might be my next book - there is a fascinating tidbit about her in the footnotes of history. Don't look it up if you don't want spoilers, though!). But those historical footnotes alternately call her "Elizabeth" and "Eliza". So I made it so our heroine call her by her nickname and everyone else by her more formal name. Or by "Miss Floyd" if they don't know her well at all.

So you can see, the naming conventions alone were enough to warrant a separate read-through just to make sure I got them all. And that's not even including the military ranks of several characters who come and go toward the end!

In the process of this read, I also found places where more action or description was needed. I'm not a linear writer, so now that the story is done, I found the places where a reference could be made that set up something later in the book. Likewise, I found places that needed setting up, and wrote lines or, in one case, an entire new scene that did just that.

The first draft came in a 75,760 words. This second draft (finished this morning) stands at 76,750 words - which is 990 words longer. I took out words, sentences, sometimes entire paragraphs, and added others but the result is a slightly longer novel. At this point. We'll see what happens during the next several passes.

And what's in store for those? Habit words, I think. You can see the original counts in my last post. I'll do a second pass at them for comparison's sake before I start, but I doubt there will be any significant changes.

Off to edit!
Play safe,
Diana

Monday, December 22, 2014

Okay, I looked!

No excuses except: I have the time, so I peeked.

I know I said I wasn't going to look at REVOLUTION until next week, but I find myself this morning with time on my hands. I don't want to start a new story until I've put this one to bed, my Christmas presents are all wrapped, the house is clean...what else is there to do but edit?

First step was to go through all the comments I'd made myself and deal with them. This morning I spent looking up small details I wanted to include but needed historical references. In other words, I spent about a half an hour looking up things like, "What did young women read for pleasure in 1777 New York?" and "What is a good dock for a smuggler to use?" Fun stuff!

I had already created my Wordle, but I have other habit words I know I'm overly fond of using. So my next step today was to go through and do a quick word count of each one so I know if I actually succeed in getting rid of any instances of these words.* The counts are somewhat alarming:

was - 729 instances (includes "wasn't" but not "Washington" - which would make it 10x worse!)
back - 183
just - 191
hand - 141 (my char. are always using those darn appendages!)
one - 353
know - 149
man - 259
way - 110
thought - 151
see - 133

LOTS of editing needed here. Nothing like seeing the words in a visual format to alert you to your laziness!

I haven't highlighted the words in my mss yet. I'll do that later, after I've done a read-through for continuity and plot holes.Might as well fix those first, then go back - these word counts could get a lot worse before they get better. :(

But I like having a baseline. I'm all about the data, so, for me, this is part of the picture of the story in it's first iteration. Painters use brushes, knives, paints to create art, For me, comments, Wordles, word counts, even the story outline are all tools I use to work on my art (the manuscript).

Not going to do too much more. I'm sure there's something around the house that needs cleaning...

Play safe!
Diana

* If you want a quick tutorial on how to use Microsoft Word's feature that lets you do this, click here - the directions are in the second part of the post.

Sunday, December 21, 2014