Wednesday, September 17, 2014

on flogging

I have now started this particular post four times. Five, if this one is successful.

I had great qualms about watching the 6th episode of Outlander on Starz. I knew, because I’ve read the book, that this would be the episode detailing how Jamie’s back came to be so scarred. Gabaldon shows her mastery of storytelling in this. In the books, we are not told all at once. It comes out in pieces, hints here and there...and then the full telling in all its horror.

I first learned about flogging from reading pirate romance novels....where someone (usually the heroine) was always being threatened with it, but it never happened. There’d be a lurid description of the cat-o’nine-tails with the knots tied into the end for maximum damage, but it wasn’t actually used on anyone. The threat alone was enough to maintain order.

And it was always pirates. Or the British Navy. I loved reading about Horatio Hornblower’s adventures. But even there, everything was muted. The horror hinted at, the blood implied. Gabaldon pulls no such punches. She gives it to you right between the eyes and adds a gut punch to the heart for good measure.

So why the unease at watching it play out on the screen? The answer is twofold. First, I was concerned it wouldn’t live up to the images in my head from the reading of it. Alfred Hitchcock made an entire career out of letting our imaginations make the scenes far more terrifying than if he showed us exactly what was going on. He’d give hints...the blood running down the drain...and let our minds fill in the horrible blanks. And my mind has. I have seen Jamie’s flogging in my head. Heard the sound of the skin tearing, seen the pain on his face mixed with determination, felt Jack Randall’s arousal. How could such terribleness be shown without destroying what I “saw’?

And second, what if it did live up to the images in my head? Could I stand to watch what Jamie bore?

I witnessed my first flogging from a Dom who knew what he was about. The thongs were made of soft deerskin, a gentle suede that massaged rather than cut. The sub told me later, the slap of the thongs on the skin warmed it, but didn’t hurt at all. Even as the Dom switched floggers and moved to one with stiffer ends, no damage was done. The endorphins were released without harm to the body.

I've been trying to figure out just why this is so important to me and it finally came after I'd written the rough draft for this post and gone to bed. Flogging is an important part of my books. All of my books have a flogging scene in them. Most of Mystic’s do, too. They are sensual, erotic, arousing. The act is the perfect symbol of the Dominant/submissive relationship. The bottom gives their body, the Top gives his/her restraint. There is a beauty to them, to the journey the two take together.

It's a journey Jack Randall perverts. He, too, is aroused by the power that flows down his arm. But its the power of destruction, even if he calls it (in the TV series) “art created by his arm on the lad’s back.” There is nothing beautiful about it, nothing freeing. It is pain given for punishment, true punishment.

To the general public, say the word "flogging" to them and that is the one they see - the painful, bloody one made sensational by dozens of pirate novels and the British Navy. It was outlawed by the US Navy in 1850, partly because of Herman Melville's description of such an incident. Flogging in the British Navy was pretty much stopped by 1881, although it was still an allowed punishment on the books until 1948.

Why am I moved to make this distinction between flogging for sexual release and flogging for punishment? I don’t know. Maybe because I still feel a need to justify writing stories with BDSM kinks. I’ve met many in that lifestyle who do no harm to one another, in fact, quite the opposite. The love and bond they share is one to be emulated.

But seeing a device called by the same name that brings pleasure bring such destruction...there's a line here that unnerves me and makes my heart hurt.

Play safe, everyone.

Diana

edited (again!) to add this link. The producers, directors and actors of Outlander were equally concerned about filming that scene.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Writing style reflection

It's safe to say my style of writing has definitely been influenced by the authors I've read. Take a look at my earliest published novels (Secret Submission and Table for Four) and you'll see borrowings from JRR Tolkien, from Shakespeare, from Homer. Classic influences. You won't find word-for-word quotes, but definite style nods in the word choices and phrasings.

My middle works were more about finding my own voice, but they still show influences of more modern writers. There's a bit of Nora Roberts in Cabin Fever, some Katherine Kurtz in Frankenstein's Captain (formerly known as Kara's Captain) and some Victoria Holt in Shooting Star. I've read so many books by these authors, its impossible not to be influenced by their talents. Much the same way a painter will take a brush stroke from Rembrandt, a shading technique from Maxfield Parrish or a composition idea from Bob Ross, writers take their techniques from authors they love.

When it comes to world building, I have to say JRR Tolkien and Diana Gabaldon are the two authors whose stories suck me in the most. Each, however, does it a very different way. Tolkien focuses on plot and action -- the characters are less important than what happens in the story. When you come right down to it, Aragorn could be Any Hero with the Right Bloodline. Frodo is Any Little Guy who has a Big Job to do. While we come to love these guys, the reality is, there isn't much to them. It's the actions they're forced to deal with, the actions that move the plot along, that we focus on.

Tolkien also maintains a focus on imagery throughout his stories. He wants us to see Middle Earth in our imaginations. His descriptions are vivid and detailed, so much so that they've provided livelihoods for many artists (Howe, Naismith, Lee, and the Hildebrandt brothers, among others). These descriptions bring the world to life for us and give us a world to live in.

Diana Gabaldon's focus in creating the many worlds of the Outlander series, is on character. Yes, she employs imagery in her descriptions, but it isn't Lallybroch or Fraser's Ridge that first comes to mind when thinking of these stories -- it's Jamie and Claire. And Frank. And Dougal, Murtaugh and Jenny. We remember the events of Culloden, not because she describes the battle in technicolor gore (well, okay, she does, but that's not why we remember it). We remember the scene because it affected the characters we love. We saw a broken Jamie and our hearts hurt. We saw men we loved defeated and beaten and we cried.

Both approaches work. A focus on plot or a focus on character. Neither ignores the one for the other, mind. Tolkien has characters evolve, Gabaldon gives us plots that interweave, separate, come together again and end.

I am currently at work on an epic fantasy. I can only hope I've learned well from these two!

Activity

Which approach fits your style of creating a world for your story? Which comes first...plot or character? In your journal, take some time to think it though.

Friday, September 12, 2014

First impressions – Outlander

WARNING: If you haven’t read the books or seen the TV series, there are a few spoilers ahead. Not many, but...well, I’ve warned you!

Long-time readers of this blog know I love the book series by Diana Gabaldon. (see here, here and here) The world she creates, both in the 18th century and the 20th are vivid, rich, and filled with characters I’ve come to love. When the rumored TV series came to fruition, however, I was concerned. Would any actor be able to do justice to Jamie and Claire? Especially Jamie. I’m as much in love with him as Claire is. Gabaldon herself admitted she felt the same way about him. Could the director and producer find someone to fit my image of him?

The series found a home on the pay channel STARZ here in the States. First episode was free, the rest you have to pay for. So I watched the free episode and, while it was a little slow in places, I found myself drawn in. The first section, with Claire and Frank, sets up much of what’s to happen, but the pacing plods a little. Mostly in the dialogue. Claire often speaks first and then thinks and I didn’t see that so much in this part. Of course, she and Frank are still feeling their way, so it didn’t bother me a whole lot.

I liked the color choices...the fact that her memory of the war was in brighter colors than Inverness of the late 1940’s, the bright greens of Scotland when she makes the jump to the 1800’s. As if her time with Frank was the memory and everything else was her real life.

Dougal fit my impressions of him exactly. Commanding, rough, demanding. I didn’t realize where I’d seen the actor before until someone pointed it out to me. Graham McTavish also plays Dwalin in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. A credit to his acting that I didn't make the connection right away.

As for Frank...well, he was appropriately milquetoast enough. I did like, however, how the narration brought out the fact that he’d sent men to their deaths in the war and he didn’t speak of it now. It was a point I’d glossed over in the books, but I think it’s one I want to remember. Toby Menzies, the actor who portrays him, also plays Jonathan Randall and I liked him better there.

And then there are Jamie and Claire. Sam Heughan plays Jamie – very well. He’s young, but then, Jamie’s only 22 in the first book. I think I have to agree with Diana Gabaldon, he very well might be my Jamie. My fears are somewhat allayed. I could wish him a little taller, or wish Claire (Caitriona Balfe) a little shorter. I want him to command her height a little more. Picky, picky!

Based on that first impression, I talked my husband into buying the STARZ channel. It isn’t tremendously expensive - $8.99/month. That breaks down to $1.25 an episode during the months it airs. And, if you watch any other the other hundreds of movies that are also offered, the cost becomes negligible. Or so I have justified. :)

Anyway, sat down to watch the first and second episodes with him (my husband) last night. He’s not read the books and I was curious to hear what he had to say about this series that my mother and I have talked about for years (since Outlander first came out in paperback) and that my soon-to-be daughter-in-law have been discussing recently. He’s as much as admitted that the size of the books daunt him. He prefers short, non-fiction books on philosophy. Something he can read in a week and carry in his head for a month.

While he felt that the pacing of the first episode could be faster (a point I agree on), he was surprised that time travel was involved. He had no idea she went back in time. The whole time she was with Frank, he kept wondering who this “Jamie” was that I spoke of. Now he knows – and was eager to watch the second episode.

I won’t go much further, don’t want to give TOO many spoilers, but suffice it to say, Jamie’s heat is much stronger in the second episode. Readers of the book will know what that means (picture me grinning wickedly and wagging my eyebrows!).

A point about language: much of the scene where Colin McKenzie hears petitions from his tenants is performed in Gaelic. It is a beautiful language to listen to. I cannot speak it, but was thrilled when, at the point where Jamie stands up for Laoghair, in the flurry of Gaelic coming from Colin, I heard the words “Seaumais Ruaid” – and knew they meant “Red Jamie”! I also loved, in the first episode, hearing Jamie shout “Tulach Ard!” (NOTE: in 6th grade we had to choose what language we wanted to learn come 7th grade. There were two choices: Spanish and French, and a space for "other". I wrote "Gaelic" on the line. They gave me Spanish. I have been disappointed ever since.)

To sum up: yes, I subscribed to a pay-to-view channel just to watch one series. Yes, I’m hooked on Outlander as a book series (I’m currently re-reading the entire set before I get to the latest, In My Heart’s Own Blood). Yes,I will watch every episode of Outlander and dissect it with my parents (I didn't mention, my mom got my dad watching...and now he's borrowed my copy of Outlander because he wants to read the series) and my son and his intended (my son listened to the audiobook, his fiance currently has my copy of Drums of Autumn). And yes, I’m in love with Jamie Fraser.

If you want to join the discussion, you can comment below or join me on my new Facebook page! Of course, I’m still Twittering (sometimes) as well. Let's talk books and their translation into TV series!

Play safe,
Diana


Sunday, September 07, 2014

TRAINING TWO now available

Three posts in three days? I know...it's not raining...it's pouring! :)

TRAINING TWO is set in Jake Kariola's world of BDSM, slave auctions, and sex. Mystic Shade, the author, writes "for the shadier sides of our desires" and this book certainly fits that tagline.

Adam needs a job and Jake Kariola makes him an offer he can't resist. Who wouldn't want all the sex he can get? And really, how hard can the training be? 

Barbara knows what she wants - and knows that Master Jake can give it to her. Problem is, can Jake handle two of them at the same time?

The Jake Kariola series came about several years ago when my thoughts turned wickedly naughty and I wanted to push the boundaries of the erotic romance genre. I'd already written STRESS RELIEF, which had gotten some negative reviews because of how close to the line it came between erotic romance and straight erotica, so I decided to use a different name for the stronger stuff. Mystic Shade was born out of that need to explore the taboo.

Ever since Tony died, Jake’s been running Kariola Enterprises with only one man and a slave. Adam might be the right addition to the group, if he can make it through the rigorous training methods Jake employs. Because what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander...and training slaves isn’t for the faint of heart.

Because of my day job, I stayed quiet about being Diana Hunter and maintained two distinct personas, both online and in life. When Mystic came along, I told only my husband and simply added a link here to her page without making a fuss. Of course, such subterfuges are hard to keep up and Diana became so much a part of me that the "secret" became only a polite pretense. Mystic, however, remained in the background, gaining a stronger audience all by herself.

Barbara is a woman who knows what she wants – and she wants to be a sex slave. Who cares if Master Jake is already training someone? She wants to be trained and she wants to be trained NOW. Spoiled brat? Or untapped Domme? Jake decides its his job to find out.

Now that I'm no longer teaching in a public school, however, all the secrets have dissipated and I'm working on a new website where all my personas can have their own page. Diana's books will be listed besides Mystic's - and even C.F. Duprey's lone book will find a home.

In the meantime, however, you'll need to click here to go to Mystic's site. There, you'll find the purchasing links as they go live. Currently, TRAINING TWO is available at Smashwords (where you can purchase it in any ebook format) and Amazon (Kindle or Kindle app only). Shortly it will also be available at Taboo Reading and A1AdultEbookstore.

Use the "Purchasing Info" link in the upper right hand corner of Mystic's site to find her other books. TRAINING TWO is the fourth Jake Kariola novel, although they don't need to be read in order. UNDER HIS SPELL is set in the same universe with a different training organization and YOURS TO COMMAND is a short story that is a bite of erotica. As you can see, Mystic has been a very busy writer!

You can also read the Prologue at Mystic's site and get a taste of what's inside. :)

Play safe, everyone...and I hope you enjoy Mystic's newest release!


PS. Just in case you weren't sure what this book is about...here's the Wordle for it. Plain enough? :)

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Thoughts

I wasn’t sure what this was going to be like...this being retired business. From what others have said, I knew I’d have to order my own days, lest they slip away into the past without anything being accomplished. And I’m too young for that. I still get enjoyment from creating. Writing, scrapbooking, yes, even teaching all give me an opportunity to leave my mark on the world.

This summer, like previous retirees warned, hasn’t felt any different from any other summer. School ended, I went into summer vacation mode...everything was normal. They told me I wouldn’t notice a difference until September. Once everyone else went back to school...and I didn’t.

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d notice, really. Because I’m still working – just at a different job. Writing full-time would still be keeping me occupied and I’d not notice the time passing. Then FLCC called and I almost chafed at the thought of not being able to settle into the routine I’ve longed for all these years.

This week, however, has shown me exactly what it means to be retired. I spent most of Sunday and Monday preparing for classes, then taught on Tuesday and Thursday morning. I ran errands on Wednesday, when others were in school and got the first inkling then. These tasks wouldn’t have gotten done had I still been working full time. Felt a little odd, a little freeing, a little like something I could get used to.

And then today. Steven’s at the Clothesline Art Festival, Kate’s at rehearsal and I’m home reading the Outlander series. I’ve been reading it all week and am on book 4 (Drums of Autumn). Yes, I’ve prepared a manuscript for publication...uploaded it to all the sites this morning and am waiting on them for it to go live...but mostly, I’m not working. I’m reading.

I’m reading. Engrossed in a book. Letting the real world slip away and sinking into the world created for me by another. I’m not ordering my time, I’m not doing chores, I’m not doing anything but reading.


And I think I’m getting a glimmer of what it means to be retired...

Friday, September 05, 2014

I've been quiet of late...

Haven't said much here recently...partly because I got out of the habit. Writing each week is something I enjoy doing, but when life got in the way and I stopped, it was hard to start up again. I've composed several posts in my head, but when I sit down at the computer, poof! They're gone and I can't remember what I wanted to share.

August was a relaxing month for me after the harried six months that preceded it. My husband and I took a wonderful four-day trip to Lancaster, PA, which is only a six hour drive for us (well, five and a half, but we stopped a few times. One needs ice cream on a sunny afternoon, after all!). We stayed at the After Eight Bed and Breakfast, which I heartily recommend. Luxury and incredible breakfasts! Robert is a gracious host and an entertaining storyteller. We feel we made a friend. :)

And then we took two weeks at our cabin after not being there the entire summer. That alone, should make you realize just how stressful these past months have been. Before this year, we'd spend twenty days out of thirty at the cabin from May through October. This year, I think we spent four days TOTAL from May through the middle of August. It was wonderful to go and get away from everything. To recharge...to "sharpen the saw" as Steven Covey put it.

Of course, not having been there most of a year, everything that was going to break, did. The rider mower (a second-hand one) threw a rod. The shower, which hadn't been used since last year, apparently had some water left in the hose over the winter and the ice cracked it open. We had a propane leak that needed finding and fixing. The back door needed replacing. The mice think they own the cabin (we caught three of the little buggers but there are still more who are too clever by far!).

But we didn't mind. Repairs are a part of home ownership and it was actually kind of fun to do them. Felt more like caretaking than chores.

I also finished TRAINING TWO while I was there. Just needed time to do it and I was writing between 4-6 thousand words a day. This is a Mystic Shade title and will be released soon, so watch for it! It's a Jack Kariola Slaves book - so you know it's going to be hot, hot, hot!

Normally I start school at this time of the year - and I have. Finger Lakes Community College called and offered me a position as an adjunct, teaching two classes. I said yes, figuring it would help, not only financially, but would also help me transition out of a full-time job. I'm only 57 - I'm not ready for the rocking chair yet! So I'm teaching ENG 101 - Freshman Composition I and ENG 102 - Introduction to Literature. And I'm having fun doing it.

Looking ahead...life is a little calmer this autumn than it has been for the past year (the waters were already roiling by this time last year, but didn't come to full swells until April - and then took their time settling back down). I'll be starting up the writing workshops soon...revising some of the older ones and adding a whole bunch of new ones. I'm chomping at the bit to get going again on my fantasy novel...but am currently re-reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series - gearing up to read her latest one. And I'm thinking of getting Starz so I can see the series. I've watched the freebie and Dougal is exactly as I pictured him. Jamie seems a little young, but then, he was early on. And Claire is growing on me. I was amazed at how much dialogue was taken directly from the book...but that's a post for later. :)

We'll all have to get in the habit of posting again...me writing them and you reading them! For now,

Play safe!
Diana

Thursday, July 17, 2014

On Why Putting My House in Order is not Procrastinating

For years, nay decades, I’ve said that I can’t wait to retire because then I write full time. I’ll stop working two jobs (writing and teaching) and go to just one. I’ve planned my future daily schedule in my head so many times, I know it by heart. Get up between 6:30 and 7:00 A.M., check my emails, play my online games (4 each day – takes between 5 and 20 minutes), go brush my teeth, get dressed and write for the next hour. Have breakfast, write more. Take a mid-morning break to do something mindless (dust, laundry, etc.), write more. Lunch. Edit in the afternoons. Or do promo, write a blog post, read the loops...something business related but not actual writing, since I’m not usually at my creative best in the afternoons.

I officially retired as of seventeen days ago. So why, after spending years planning for this, have I spent only four of them actually writing?

Because I’m putting my house in order.

Tony Morrison once said, “I don’t wait to be struck by lightning and don’t need certain slants of light to write.” And I don’t either.

But I do need a clean house.

I started with the upstairs, since that’s where my study is. I’ve dusted shelves, culled through our book collection to make way for new books I’ve gotten from the closing out of three households, vacuumed, straightened and rearranged. I have also created a guest room out of my son’s old room (he now has his own apartment), washed the woodwork in all the upstairs rooms and found the floor in our bedroom. The upstairs bathroom is sparkling and the clutter is gone.

And it feels good.

So good that I’ve started on the attic. It’s been a niggling thought in my head for the past few years. When we started bringing things home from my Mom and Dad’s place in December, I declared a zero-sum policy. If something went into the attic, something had to come out.

That worked for a while. My son had only a few bins stored up there, so when he left, a little more space became available. Then the weather turned hot and the three window air conditioners stored in the attic came down as well. Of course, it was too hot to work up there, but we’ve had a run of lower temperatures yesterday and today, so....

How much junk is up there? Well, there is so much junk up there – that, between yesterday and today, I’ve brought down six boxes, four of which are going to the recycling center on Saturday. What was in them? Receipts, NYSEG bills, telephone bills, bank statements, old paystubs...from the 1980’s.

Yep. Thirty-year-old statements when they only need to be kept for seven.

Going through them, however, has been a kick. Remember long-distance charges? My husband found a paystub from a night watchman job he held for several months...for which he was paid $3.60 an hour. Good money, since minimum wage was $3.35/hr. I also found notes and business plans for theatre companies we started (or tried to start – one was successful, the other two attempts, not so much).

But some not-so-pleasant memories as well. Reminder notices of bills not paid, bank balances alarmingly low, and paystubs from a job I hated. Shredding all those, however, has made my load lighter. In a way, its destroying the evidence and now, if I don’t want to remember that job (selling furniture on commission. I was – am – a lousy salesman. Closing the deal just isn’t in my nature), I don’t have to remember it.

That’s why cleaning house isn’t procrastinating. It’s a mental state. I am literally putting my house in order in order to allow my mind the room it needs for creativity. I will no longer have that annoying thought in the back of my head, “You know, that room needs cleaning...those boxes need to be sorted...that junk needs to be thrown away.” And because that voice will be silent, I can settle into a good story and write my heart out.

Now if I could just ignore the basement...

Play safe!

Diana