Sunday, July 19, 2020

Retreating, Resetting, and Reading - the new 3 R's

Right now, I should be in my third week of my residency at Storyknife in Homer, Alaska. COVID, however, put the kibosh on that - they ended up having to cancel the entire season; we can reschedule for next summer. Disappointing, but I can handle delayed gratification.

So what to do with my July instead? I'd intended the time to be used writing (and finishing? One can hope!) The Companion. Long-time readers know this is the Work Of My Heart and is a fantasy that is HUGE (currently clocking in at 150,000+ words and only halfway through). An entire month's stay in a cabin in Alaska would certainly help me get closer to the finish line.

But wait! I own a cabin in the woods. I can get away and take the time to work on it and be only an hour from home. Let's do this!

Not as easy as one might think, I discovered after spending the last ten days there all by myself. First of all, I had to clean the cabin and remind the mice that, during the summer, they live outside. Second, I have to cook all my own meals. Only problem? I don't cook. Well, I can - I just don't like to. Thankfully I married a man who is wonderful in the kitchen. But he is directing a show right now (more on that in a moment) and couldn't come down with me, so I was on my own. Thanks goodness for take-out!

Third, the cabin is remote. Perfect for privacy and no interruptions. Not so perfect when one comes up for air after a day of writing and there's no one there to talk to. At Storyknife, the authors get together for dinner and conversation. At the cabin I started talking to the chipmunks (Seriously. I even got one to take a peanut out of my hand!). 

Fourth, there are bears - and one took down a hummingbird feeder my third night there. That curtailed my walks as I know better than to wander around the woods when a bear is nearby. So mostly staying in the immediate area around the cabin.

Fifth, and this one is a plus...a BIG plus...it gave me time to read. Before I left, I visited a nearby Barnes and Noble and used up $50.00 in gift cards I'd accumulated over the past two Christmases. Bought six books: the third in a trilogy I'd started and wanted to finish, two books in the start of a six-book trilogy, another single book that started a trilogy -- and yes, these are all fantasies, which are my favorite to read. The fifth and sixth books were a stand-alones but one of them had been on my list for a while. Took them all with me -and what a pleasure it's been. 

As for the amount of writing I did during those ten days? I averaged 1000 words/day, although some days I didn't write (the bear really threw me for a loop and I spent the day in a funk) and other days I wrote lots (breaking the 2000 word barrier at one point). 

So, you might think The Companion has moved forward by 10,000 words, right? 

Nope. Not even by a single word.

Why? 

At the start of June, I came across a story I'd started a year ago. I'd written a few thousand words on it, then set it aside. That day, I realized I knew what happened next, so I wrote it. And then I wrote what happened after that...and now THAT story is 10,000 words to the good.

Not giving clues as to what it's about - or even to the genre. Don't want to jinx it. But if the characters keep talking (and they haven't stopped even though I came home this weekend because of the heat - and to do laundry), I should be finished by the end of August or early September. Then it will be off for edits and - God willin' and the creek don't rise - there will be a new Diana Hunter book ready by October!

And no, I don't even have a title for it yet. One thing at a time.

Here's the list of books I read since my last Books update:

March: finished Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson (then COVID hit and I was too busy putting my Comp I class online to read anything else)

April: The English Wife, and The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig. Also When I Was Wicked by Julia Quinn (still in COVID mode, so not much reading - too much scrambling)

May: a Nora Roberts novella (can't remember the title); also a Debbie Macomber novella (and the name escapes me. Forgot to write these two down). Also read Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara - which is a very scary book because it details the events leading to the American Revolution but it reads likes today's headlines. Recommended!

June: didn't read a single book. Not one. Retreated, reset, and remodeled a closet (see below).

July: Here's the list so far:

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr by Crouse & Crouse (this was a young adult book I'd had as a kid. After watching the musical, I dug it out and was surprised at how well-written it was)
A Royal Kiss and Tell by Julia London (romance)
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (ostensibly a science fiction, but deals with a pandemic. Written in the 1990's, it also reads as if she's simply reporting today's headlines - and social media posts. Recommended!
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Loved the series - loved the book. :)
A Promise of Fire, A Breath of Fire and Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet. Fantasy erotic romance trilogy. Hot and really good.
The Selection, The Elite, and The One by Kiera Cass. I'd bought only the first and ended up buying ebooks of the remaining two because I wanted to know what happened. Young adult fantasy.
The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett. This is the six-part series where I bought only the first two books. Have now ordered the rest of the series - another good one! Will be starting the second book today.

So, twenty-eight books so far this year. I'm behind!

Oh! And that thing my hubby's directing? Geneva Theatre Guild is producing Almost, Maine - it's a wonderful series of scenes (no more than two people on the stage at any time) that take place in Almost, Maine. They're doing it online, live. The performers are scattered - one's in New York City, several are in Rochester, NY, others are in various locales around the Finger Lakes. But this is NOT a Zoom call production. This is live theatre where you would swear the two actors are in the same room. Come check it out - this is the future!

Play safe, and wear a mask!
Diana

PS. Before and after pics of the closet remodel. This is off my study - probably deserves a post in an of itself, but am proud of what I got done!

Before: Not 1, but 2 layers of
wallpaper
to be scraped off!
After: painted, lit, and NEATLY
 filled
     



Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Taking a stand

I have spoken about the need for masks and social distancing during the time of COVID (here and here).

I have spoken out about the differences between the BDSM lifestyle and abuse.

I have Marched for Science and I've protested at my Congressman's office more than once (although I did not write about them here).

The only reason I haven't spoken about what's happening right now? I've been at the cabin and my Internet is spotty at best. But I don't shy away from taking a stand...so here:

I was once asked by a student why all my protagonists were white - why I didn't write any stories about people that were her color. I told her it was simple: I am white, of Irish and German descent and so those are the people who populate my books. My husband is of French and Italian descent and, after so many years of watching his family, some of those traditions (and characters) also show up in my books.

But I am not Black. I am not Asian. Nor am I Native American, Indian, or any other race. And I would never wish to insult anyone by writing a character whose culture I don't fully understand. At best, I might get some of it right; at worst, I'd fall into a stereotype. I also don't want to relegate any of those races to the role of best friend - that's been done far too often and with deleterious effects. I encouraged my student to write the stories she wanted to read. That's what I had done in exploring the BDSM lifestyle - since I couldn't find any books (at that time) that showed a loving relationship and not an abusive one, I wrote my own. If she wants heroes and heroines that look like her, then write them!

But what about fantasy, you ask? You don't know those cultures - the culture of made-up worlds and peoples. Yet you're comfortable writing those!

Sure - because it's totally made up. I make the rules. I decide how people act, I decide how they greet each other in the morning and if it's different from how they greet each other at night. I decide when someone's crossed a societal line. When things need to change, I change them as I want. My story, my imagination, my will at work.

That is not the case when writing of real cultures. I don't know what it's like to be a Black woman in America. I don't know what it's like to grow up Asian. And I will not insult them by pretending I do. Because using my imagination to put myself in other cultures and passing myself off as knowing and understanding is a form of racism. To pretend otherwise is to foster that racism.

When I was younger and full of self-righteous ideology, I often spouted the mantra, "I don't see color when I look at a person. I only see the person." A very wise woman took me to task when I spouted that in a conversation one day. She said, "You better see my color! My color is a part of who I am. You don't see that I am Black? Then you are denying me who I am."

I have never forgotten that most glorious take-down. She could've dismissed me as just another white girl spouting her ignorance, but she didn't. She educated me. I will always be grateful to her. My students of color should be grateful to her as well, because I learned to stop preaching and start listening.

So no marches this time around, no protesting from me (COVID is still keeping me home). It is time to listen. It is time to learn. Those who are protesting have much to teach.

Black Lives Matter.

Play safe,

Diana 

P.S. I just read Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara. It follows several of the participants in the days before the American Revolution. HIGHLY recommended. In fact, reading the first three pages was like reading the headlines from today's newspapers. If you think we're NOT on the road to revolution? Read this. You'll change your mind.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

One day more!



One day more - that's all that's left to pre-order Diamond Submission at the sale price of $1.99!

Once Friday comes, the price goes up, so order it now and get the reduced price. You can order from:
and Apple 
(although I'm a PC user and still can't figure out how to access their site!)

Play safe -- stay safe!

Diana

Monday, May 18, 2020

Rant


This happened yesterday and I can’t get it out of my head. 

For the past two months I have been staying home, staying safe, and (mostly) not venturing out. Even when we need groceries, I stay in the car while my husband goes inside. We figure we halve our chances of catching anything if only one of us is in the population.

However, on Friday, he had surgery on his heel, so he’s not going anywhere but the front porch for a while. He’s keeping his foot elevated and staying off it. Why? Because the doctors told him to. Just like the doctors are now saying to wear a mask when in public spaces.

To give him a treat, I went to the local ice cream/hamburger stand yesterday because he had a hankering for a burger and onion rings.

We’re doomed.

When I pulled up, there were two women in line, both masked, both standing about eight feet apart. The first woman placed her order as I joined the line, keeping a respectful distance. There are no fewer than four signs that say, “Please wear a mask at window” and the high school girls inside all wore them.

As soon as Woman One finished placing her order, she whipped off the mask and turned to Woman Two. “I hate these things.” They then started a conversation about their inconvenience (although Woman Two kept hers on). When Woman One went back to the window to pick up her sundae, she didn’t bother to put her mask back on. Idiocy #1.

Woman Two ordered, kept her mask on as the two of them continued their conversation, picked up her ice cream, then they went and stood by a car, both now with their masks off, to eat their ice cream and socialize about two feet from each other. Idiocy #2. Yes, I understand it’s hard to eat while wearing something over your mouth and nose, but sit in the car! Don’t expose the rest of us.

I place my order, then retreat to my car, standing outside it with the pager they’d given me (hamburgers and onion rings take longer than an ice cream cone). I’d parked to the side of the lot, so was about twenty feet from the window – and the family that now arrived.

Three of them: a husband, wife and older teen daughter. Only the husband wore a mask. The daughter, upon seeing me waiting – and masked – pulled up her sweater so it covered her nose and mouth. The wife remained with a naked face the entire time.

As they waited for their order (staying close to the window and unconcerned with social distancing), another family got out of a pickup truck: father, mother, two younger teenage daughters. Only the mother wore a mask. She did the ordering while the other three stood in front of the truck, which was pulled up right in front of the window. After a moment, the two teenagers pulled out their phones and went to sit in the truck to wait. I suspect this choice had nothing to do with staying safe and everything to do with being a teenager.

The wife removed her mask as soon as she’d finished ordering, and gave it to her husband, who went to the convenience store beside the ice cream stand. I cut them some slack here, even though two people sharing a mask isn’t the best idea. But I figured, they’re married and her germs are his germs. Not a choice my husband and I would make – see note above about halving our exposure – but maybe he left his mask home (I keep an extra one in my car because putting it on as I leave the house isn’t a habit yet).

But then he came back, not wearing it, and my sympathy turned to appalled as his wife asked, “Why aren’t you wearing the mask?” and he replied, in a tone sounding very much like a twelve-year-old, “Nobody else was wearing one.”

Okay, so you’re wearing a mask mostly to protect others in case you have the virus but don’t know it yet, but also partly to protect yourself from others. Taking your mask off because they’re not wearing one? Idiocy #3 – BIG time.

I posit that the establishment needs to change it's signs and remove the politeness of the word "Please." People are taking that as a request - it should read "YOU MUST wear a mask when approaching the window." Period. Whether ordering or picking up. Wear the mask. Protect those girls inside from your possible contamination.

And why does anyone think they can pick and choose between and among doctor's orders? Doc says, "Stay off your foot for three days," my husband stays off his foot for three days. Doc says, "Wear a mask in public" - as every doctor has been saying for weeks now - then wear the damn mask in public!

T.S. Eliot stated, in the last lines of his poem, “The Hollow Men”, “This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper.”

He was wrong.

It ends with a whine.

Play safe – stay safe – keep me safe – wear a mask!

Diana
PS. 60% off my titles at Smashwords ends Wednesday. Prices go back up to normal on June 1st (they'll be 30% off for the last week and a half of May).



Sunday, May 17, 2020

Update - and a prediction

Scene: 1979. My senior year in college. Classroom. 

Class: Teaching Techniques (or some such title - it was a long time ago!)

Characters: Teacher (female, but not sure it matters), mid-thirties
                   myself (an energetic dreamer), 21 years old
                 
Assignment: I don't remember the particulars, but I was doing a presentation on using technology in the classroom focusing on the use of the 1) slide projector, 2) filmstrip projector, 3) 16 mm film projector. And if you remember what any of those are, you're not much younger than I am!

ME (finishing my presentation with a flourish!): And the last piece of technology isn't in the classroom here in New York yet, but it is in California. (Holds up the very first Apple magazine.) This is a brand-new technology called a "Personal Computer". They are already being used for teaching basic concepts and I predict that, in the future, every student will have one and I will teach to a room full of students using them. Thank you. (ends presentation)

TEACHER: Well, this was a very good presentation, if we remove the last minute. You were supposed to only deal with reality, not fantasy.

ME: It isn't fantasy. It's already in the classrooms of California. Mark my words: someday these will be in every classroom.

TEACHER: Next presentation, please.

(Note: I got a "C" on my project because I was "too fanciful" and "not realistic")

Flash forward 35 years:

Scene: a classroom in 2014. Class of 20-some students are all busily doing research on their laptops and posting their essays to a wiki to be peer-reviewed by others in the room. A few have logged into the class discussion board where there is a vigorous debate about what happened to the Ents in the Lord of the Rings and where the Entwives might have gone. They add their two cents to the conversation and start a new one on whether Merry and Pippin were braver than Frodo and Sam. The teacher (ME) wanders the room answering questions and generally staying out of the way of students learning on their own.

* * * * *

So yeah, my prediction came true - in spades. My vindication was complete when I looked around the room and realized I was teaching to a room full of computers - and the students running them.

Why is that important? Because I'm going to make another technological prediction, based on what I see happening in my own household. To wit:

* * * * *
Scene: the living room where my husband had raised his laptop with the aid of several boxes, making it eye height so people won't be looking up his nose. There is a pole lamp to his right and his left, a hanging light to his right and a fresnel-type decorative lamp he's positioned right in front of him.

DAUGHTER: What you need is a bounce screen so you don't have that harsh light right on your face. You come in too hot.

HUSBAND: I just can't figure out how to mount one in here. Need to work on that.

* * *
Scene: My husband's studio (he's a painter). He and Daughter are setting up a 3-camera system so he can teach his painting classes online.

ME: Too much in the background here. Maybe hang a sheet? - and that one camera is old, so the picture's a little fuzzy. Maybe use that for the palate rather than the painting.

HUSBAND: And I need better lighting. It's good when the sun is shining, but if it's a cloudy day, there's a glare on the canvas from my overhead lights.

DAUGHTER: You need another bounce board. And will you only teach during the day? What about night classes?

* * *
Scene: Son's room. He's a gamer. Already has most of what he needs. Except bandwidth. We're running out of that.

***
Scene: My study. Conversation between my daughter, my husband, my son, and me.

ME: I didn't need video this past semester because I used a discussion board and a wiki to finish off my classes when we moved online. But we didn't use the wiki well because I couldn't teach them how in such a short time frame. Next fall, if we're still online, I need to do videos. And I don't have a camera.

HUSBAND: We can buy a new one, although I could use another for my painting classes. Maybe we should buy two, just in case. Or three - because one of mine is old and gives a fuzzy picture.

SON: I'm fine. Just up the bandwidth to the house or none of us are doing anything.

DAUGHTER: I can teach you both how to use the programs. Buy bounce boards.

* * * * *
My prediction: 

In the future, every home will have a "broadcasting" station: a place where Zoom calls are made and live videos uploaded. Classes will be taken and taught from this location and conversations will be held with people across the street and across the world. They (both the place from which we broadcast and the quality of the broadcast) will look professional and smooth because we bought packages (or bought the house with the room already created).

The physical space will be comfortable for the user with backgrounds pleasing to the viewer (although the ACTUAL background will  be a green screen so visual effects are easily added). Just as in the 20th century where the phone was the center of the household, the BA (Broadcast Area - although it might end up being the Z - Zoomer. We do have a tendency to name things via a particular brand, even if we don't use it. I'm looking at you, Kleenex and Xerox) will be the heart of communication in the future.

Of course, it won't remain static for long. Static, as in being in one place. Technology will upgrade quickly and that will only be a passing phase. Eventually, we will carry the technology with us on a wristband or a ring and it will project via the air. But, as my 1979 teacher would say, "too fanciful, not realistic."

Mark my words: In the future, every single one of us will be a performer/broadcaster/creator and we'll do our jobs from professional studios in our own homes.

That's my prediction and I'm sticking to it.

Endnotes:
The conversations above are condensations of actual conversations we have had in this house over the past few weeks. For dramatic purposes, I've re-assigned some parts of the conversation to others in the room at the time. My daughter is a LOT more helpful than just recommending bounce boards (which she actually did only once. Love you, Sweetie!).

And yes, I still have that Apple Magazine from 1979. 

Play safe - and stay safe! and see you in the future!
Diana



 




Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Diamond Submission now available for pre-order!

Ever start thinking about a favorite book and think to yourself, "I wonder what ever happened to these people after the book ended?"

As an author, I'm lucky. I can go ask them.

Which is precisely what I did with Phillip and Sarah Townshend of Secret Submission and Submission Revealed fame (they also get walk-on roles in Services Rendered). I first "met" them in 2003, when I wrote and EC subsequently published my first book. Ten years later, I realized they'd be celebrating their Diamond Anniversary (10 years!).

So I went to see them - and discovered things weren't going so well.

Oh, they're still married and still love each other very much. But life has become...mundane...which makes neither of them happy.

Diamond Submission was the result of my visit. It's a short novella and was published just before EC's demise (EC stands for Ellora's Cave Publishing for those who are new). It was available only for a couple of months, so for many, this is a brand-new book.

And it will be available again for the first time in nearly six years.

You can pre-order a copy at Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, and at Kobo for $1.99 - that's a dollar cheaper than it will be when it goes live on May 29th.

Theoretically, it is also available on Apple Books, but I have never seen a site with such a poor search engine. I can't find ANY of my books there, yet I know I sell some through that platform because Smashwords says I do!

And speaking of Smashwords - they do not (yet) have a way to do pre-orders directly from their own site. If you want to get one from them directly, you'll have to wait until the 29th. Sorry for that. They're working on it. Soon, we can hope, it'll be an option there.

You may have noticed I've included no cover in this post.  That's because I'm doing a cover reveal via my newsletter on Friday (subscribers have known about the pre-order option for about a week - they always get info first, so if you want to sign up - click below). If you only read here, you'll have to wait until next Wednesday to see it. :)

So use the form below to sign up for my newsletter - and go pre-order Diamond Submission from Amazon

Play safe - and stay safe (wear a mask - they're all the rage, which the BDSM community could've told you years ago!)
Diana







   

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    Sunday, May 03, 2020

    70 degrees!

    So much for Puxatawny Phil - he said a short winter this year and, while it was mild, it has lingered here in the Finger Lakes. Last snow was only a week ago. With any luck, that will truly be the "last snow" of the season, although May is shaping up to be colder than normal.

    Long-time readers know my husband and I bought a cabin over a decade ago and spent a great deal of time fixing and repairing. I've spent many a weekend (and longer in the summer) crafting novels while listening to the birds and basking in the solitude.

    This year, however, I have no such need to get away from the hectic pace of life. No need for the quiet (the park across the street from our house is closed, so no kids screaming!). No need for the solitude (haven't been out of my house much the past six weeks...you?).

    Our front porch (pic taken May 2019 - I forgot to take one
    weekend but it hasn't changed!)
    Still, my husband and I went down yesterday to open it up for the summer. We cleaned up fly wings (not too many yet...give it another week and the spiders will have made short work of all the flies who are just waking up), dusted and swept, and in general, reclaimed the house from the field mice that watch over it during the winter.

    This morning, as we discussed what still needed to be done, my husband said something I found curious. He said, "It doesn't feel any different."

    I had no idea what he was talking about. He clarified: "Out there, the world is different. Here it's the same as it always has been. I thought it would be different; since our lives have changed, this place would've changed. But it hasn't." (For the record, I'm paraphrasing.My husband doesn't speak in semicolons.)

    I got what he meant, then. Our main purpose in both purchasing and visiting the cabin has been to "get away" from "normal" life. But right now, our whole life has gotten away from "normal" (there I go, putting it in quotes again!). We have solitude, we have quiet, we have no busy-ness at home and don't need to go to the cabin to get it. So does the cabin still have a purpose?

    Short answer: yes.

    The lane leading to the cabin (the cabin's on the
    right of where I'm standing to take the pic)
    Longer answer: still yes, but with explanation. We live in a small town and have neighbors we still wave to, still talk to (while maintaining distance), still see. There are people who walk by on our sidewalk (some with masks, some without - but that's a different post for a different day), there are still cars that drive through our 4-way - some who even stop at the stop sign. So even though we are alone, we are not.

    At the cabin, we are. Our nearest neighbor is a quarter-mile away and they weren't down this weekend. Our next nearest neighbor is over a mile in the opposite direction and we never see him - ever. Our only companions were the birds (one very horny woodpecker, an evening grosbeak, and a bluejay), the flowers (my yellow primrose are blossoming, as is the periwinkle), and ourselves.

    So the cabin's original purpose: that of a way to remove ourselves from society for a short time, still holds. It's still a way to visit Mother Nature and to renew. It will remain a place for my husband to paint (which he did this morning) and a place for me to write (which I did not. Read a Nora Robert's novella instead).

    New cover! You like?
    On a totally different note: the Smashwords sale continues through May 20th. Well, actually, it continues through May 30th, but my prices will go up on May 21st. Currently, they are 60% off as part of the Authors Give Back special - and they will go to 30% off on May 21st. If you haven't already done so...head on over and pick up a title or two!

    Watch this space for news coming later this week... (teaser!)...and in the meantime, check out the new cover for Remembered Love - one of the stories you can get for free from Smashwords.

    Play safe - and stay safe - wear a mask!
    Diana