Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Of libraries, great books, and career paths...

I discovered the library when I was in second grade. That was the Big Year we were allowed to visit the Bookmobile and take out books. Somewhere in those early years, I found Harold and the Purple Crayon – and I took it out as one of my two choices as often as I could. I loved that book, although I couldn’t have told you why. At least, not then. Now I suspect it had something to do with creating one’s own reality – much the way I love to do when I write stories.

By fourth or fifth grade, my dad was taking us for weekly visits to our local library branch on Winton Road in Rochester, NY (my hometown). This was a brand-new building with a large children’s room and more books than I’d ever seen in one place. I loved it. My dad would let my brother and I go – and being off the leash, I suspect, was part of the allure. We were free to roam throughout the room and read as many books as we wanted while he sat down and read the newspaper – or chose books of his own from the “Big People” room (as I thought of the main reading room). When he came into the children’s room, it was time to show him the two choices we’d made and take them up to the desk to get them stamped, just like an adult. Heaven!

Somewhere in fifth grade or so, I discovered the Sue Barton books in the children’s section. Sue Barton, if you’ve never heard of her, was a nurse. Throughout the seven books in the series, you followed her all the way from her first moments in training (Sue Barton, Student Nurse), all the way through getting her cap, getting married to the handsome young intern she met at the start (now a doctor, of course), through her adventures as a Visiting Nurse, a Superintendent of Nurses, and eventually, a staff nurse. I read them all. Over and over again, to my mother’s chagrin. “There are other books in the library, you know,” she told me when I restarted the series for the third time.

“I know,” I told her. “But I’m going to be a nurse…and these are good books!”

Well, my dream of being a nurse took a nosedive in 6th grade when we were shown a 16 mm print of a cornea transplant. I stopped re-reading Sue Barton, and by the time I got to 7th grade, the Winton Road Library had a new section: Young Adult. There I discovered Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and the whole new world of science fiction. Sue remained a favorite memory, although I didn’t take her books out anymore.

Time marches on, the newsreels tell us, and I found other parts of the library as well (an entire section dedicated to plays!). New genre, new interests, and eventually, new libraries to explore – all of which left the children’s room at the Winton Road Library in the dust.

Recently I had cause to go through some of the boxes of books in our attic, most of which contain books I had from my childhood. I’d kept them for my own kids, but discovered (as all parents do), that my reading tastes were not theirs. In order to make more room on my study shelves, I’d boxed up all their books as well as all my own. In an effort to streamline (and make more room in the attic), I decided to hoe out some of those books. Time to pass them along.

And who should I discover in the dark recesses of the attic, and my equally cobwebby memories? Sue Barton! I’d found four of the books by Helen Dore Boylston at a library sale before my kids were born and had bought them out of my remembered love of them. But I hadn’t re-read them at that time. For whatever reason, they had simply gone into the boxes for storage.

Now, however, I couldn’t resist. With some (okay, a LOT) of trepidation, I opened Sue Barton, Student Nurse. What if it didn’t stand up to the test of time? Would it be as wonderful as I remembered? How disappointed would I be if I discovered it was terrible?

I read the first few pages, pages that were brown and fragile with age. Then I read a few more. And just one more chapter…I was hooked. The writing is still engaging, still fresh, and still pulls me in after all this time. While dated (it was written in 1936 and medicine has made some advances since then), its still a wonderful story about a red-headed nurse and the adventures she has along the way. While we no longer have hospital wards and nurses no longer have to wrap their own bandages, nurses still wear soft-soled shoes and work harder than anyone realizes. The books still stand as a testament to a profession that deserves our respect – and our thanks.

So thank you, nurses – and thank you Winton Road Library, for allowing me to take those books out over and over and over. You gave me a love of reading – and reading takes me to new worlds and shows me new ideas. I passed by you not too long ago, and wished I had time to stop in. Would you, like Sue Barton, have withstood the test of time? Will you still have that new building/old books smell that I came to love? Will people still be sitting around reading and will the children’s room still hold magic? I no longer live in your neighborhood, but I do believe I may have to visit and see.

Play safe,
Diana, who is feeling nostalgic – and who will proudly admit she read not one, but TWO Sue Barton books that day. Two more to go! J

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Taking stock - and a SALE

Every fall I clean out the closet off my study. It's a nook tucked under the attic stairs and used to be a long, narrow, dark space with a pipe for a clothes rod running along one side, peeling plaster walls covered with wallpaper from the 1920's and older, and a door on both ends so one could get at the contents from both the bedroom that's my current study or from the main hallway (Queen Anne Victorian houses have weird layouts with lots of nooks and crannies). Sometime between 1894 (when the house was built) and 1994 (when we bought it) someone decided the drop-down ladder to the attic was "quaint" (which means "old and hard to use") and replaced it with stairs off the hallway side. Too bad they weren't built by a carpenter.

Not only are the stairs to the attic of different heights, but they don't go the full width of the closet, either. Nor are their depths the same. The first step up from the hallway is nearly 11 inches in rise and around 18 inches in depth. The top two steps are shorter (only about 4 inches high) and deeper (nearly two feet deep for the second from the top). Those first steps are the full width of the doorway, but two steps up, they narrow and there's a "shelf" of sorts that is stuffed with insulation and spiders.

Of course, this oddity of a staircase takes up room out of the closet. From the peeling wallpaper that covers the drywall used to smooth out the surface under the stairs, I suspect this work was done in the 1920's, at the same time other major upgrades were made to other parts of the house (upgrades that were then upgraded in the 1970's. I wonder if the workmanship on those other parts was as...interesting...as that of the attic stairs?

The heavy pipe was left in place, running the full length of the closet, although the last foot and a half run in the six-inch space left by narrowing the stairs (why didn't they take out the rod and widen the stairs? It's a question for the ages...). And the old wallpaper from the latter part of the 19th century was left there as well. Only the "new" section of drywall was covered with new paper - and it ain't new anymore.

This was the condition we found the closet in when we moved in all those years ago. Long, narrow, dark, with a pipe running along the side and a rickety shelf above it. A painted wooden floor and the backside of a staircase cutting a diagonal from just over the bedroom door all the way down to the far end. And guess what?

It still looks that way.

I know, you were expecting me to speak of some major makeover and believe me, thoughts of turning it into a pretty space have run through my head on several occasions over the last 24 years. I've thought of taking off the door and lining it with more shelves for books (because, have you seen my study? I don't have nearly enough shelves). I thought of making it reading nook, an efficient storage space, and a playground for the kids (although their grown now and that one's off the table).

But the reality is, it's a storage closet and the place where Mommy (me) hides all the Christmas presents. Funny thing is, the kids have always known there were presents in there. Sometimes I'd post a note on the door that said so and that they shouldn't peek. I asked them a while ago if they did. Peek, that is. Both of them said the same thing. "No, I didn't want to spoil the surprise." I love my kids.

It holds more than Christmas presents, of course. All the physical copies of my books are there - the copies I sell at booksignings when I bring my own books - as well as all promo items that I give away. It also holds boxes of photos I don't want to put in the attic with its extreme temperature variations, spiral notebooks that are only slightly used, folders, binders and assorted puppets (don't ask!).

My hubby and I went to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island this summer (you can read some and see some pictures here and here) and not only bought souvenirs, we also bought Christmas presents. And then we made a day trip  to Corning, NY and walked Market Street - and bought some more. And I've seen some things online, and I recently bought new copies of some of the newer print books, and...you see where this is heading, right?

My book stock currently stands at:
Title # of copies cover price
Diamond Studs 5 $10.00
Dominance 5 $10.00
Getting What She Wants 4 $10.00
Hardship and Hardtack 6 $10.00
Love and Learn 4 $10.00
Love Unleashed 9 $10.00
Shooting Star 5 $10.00
Stress Relief 5 $10.00
Submission Revealed 5 $10.00
Table for Four 5 $10.00
Tales from the Temple III 6 $10.00
Tied Bundled 5 $10.00
Winter Studs 4 $10.00
Winter's Tales 9 $10.00

Yep. I'm selling them all at ten bucks a piece plus shipping and handling ($3.00/book). I don't have an online store set up, but I do use PayPal. You'll see some older, EC titles on there as well as newer ones. Two more titles will be added to the list before the end of the month.

If you'd like to place an order for a signed print copy, email me at diana@dianahunter.net with BOOK SALE in the subject line. Include the titles you want to purchase, the number of copies you want, and the address you want them sent to and we'll go from there.

And I promise, I'll look into setting up a decent, easy-to-use, online store. If you know of any, drop a comment below!

So I've taken stock - and put it all up for sale. Merry Christmas!

Play safe,

Monday, August 06, 2018

What I did on my summer vacation...

I am officially in love with Peggy's Cove. Steven had a painting festival there and we managed to get a room right in the village. I HIGHLY recommend staying at the Peggy's Cove B&B (we had the teal room with the chairs with the circles) - Mark was a wonderful host. He didn't mind me sitting at the breakfast bar (use that link and you can see the bar - and the views!) with the big picture window overlooking the cove while I wrote. Talk about an inspiring setting!

The view from our balcony at Peggy's Cove B & B
But truly, of all the places we visited, Peggy's Cove is a spot I could call home. The village is on one side of the cove and the touristy area is on the other. I can't afford it, but if I could - that's where I'd be living. When you want peace and quiet, you have it. When you want people, a short walk around the bottom of the cove brings you to the shops and restaurants.

Leaving was hard, but we had reservations for the Admiral Digby Inn up in Digby (probably could've figured that out), so we left the best place we'd been and ended up in the worst. The "inn" is actually a motel. Yes, it has a beautiful view of the bay, but after leaving such an incredible experience, this was a crash and burn. Visited Annapolis Royal (named by the same guy who named Annapolis, MD. He was trying to butter up to Queen Anne) and while the fort was a good exercise climbing up and down the fortifications, we enjoyed the gardens far more. The girl at the gate said it was about a 45 minute walk - we were there over two hours, so you know how much we liked it.

Also went on a whale watch with the guy who started whale watching in the Bay of Fundy. He's a lobsterman who took some scientists out who were doing whale studies in the 1970's, then got to thinking maybe others would like to see them. In the winter, they take the seats out of the boat and he still goes lobster fishing. I was a little worried about getting seasick in such a small vessel, but the bay was calm and we saw whales! Four pairs of humpbacks - one of whom kept diving and showing his tail. Incredibly graceful and beautiful creatures.

Keeping this short, but had a bunch of other adventures before heading down to Lunenburg for his final festival, the Paint Sea on Sight Art Festival. Had to contend with some rain (the first real rain we'd had), but he managed to paint several in the days allotted. I wrote some here as well, but not as much as the car was getting cramped and I was running out of steam. Three and a half weeks is a long time to be away from family and friends - and my cat.

We headed home by way of another ferry - this one might as well have been a cruise ship. The crossing took three hours - and we sat in comfortable seats and watched a movie for part of it. There were two restaurants on board, so we ate lunch, too. Fogged in most of the way over, though, so didn't get to see New Brunswick until we suddenly were pulling into the dock.

All in all, I added one more state to my list of states visited (hadn't ever been to Maine before) and added three Canadian provinces. Made friends and now want to go back and visit them. I wrote over 10,000 words on The Companion and moved the story along quite a ways. Took over 1000 pictures - of which about half will end up in my scrapbook.

And so, I was there - and back again. Love going away - and love coming home. Now to get to work re-releasing the rest of my old EC books!

Play safe - and hope you're having a great summer,


Sunday, August 05, 2018

I'm baaack!

What a glorious place are the Maritimes! Twenty-four days my hubby and I spent exploring Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. He painted, I wrote, we sightseed (sightsaw?) ...went sightseeing, and lived in the moment.

We've been trying to make this trip for several years now, but family matters kept getting in the way. This time, in order to assure our actually making the trip, Steven signed up for not one, not two, but THREE plein air events. "I've put money down," he told me. "Now we have to go." Have I said lately how much I love my husband? 

Steven being more
daring than I! On
Cadillac Mtn.
The first festival was the Points East Plein Air Festival on Prince Edward Island - and since it would take two full days of car travel to get there, we decided to break it up with a stop in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. I have recently made it my goal to visit all 58 National Parks, so this made sense. 

For the record, Acadia is a beautiful park, but if you're just sightseeing and not hiking? Get there early. Cadillac Mountain fills up fast! We stopped at a couple of other spots but by noon, there was no parking in ANY lot. And Bar Harbor is totally skippable - very touristy and kitschy. Good meals, but really crowded.

PEI is red! First impression, coming over the Confederation Bridge - there are some cliffs you can see as you cross, and they're bright, brick red. Red limestone is the rock underneath the island and is everywhere. Even the beaches have red sand. Picked up some nice shells and spent a great deal of time writing in the car while Steven painted. We got into Charlottetown one night to see Jesus Christ Superstar at the professional theatre there - Judas stole the show. Built like a linebacker, I had my doubts, but then he started to sing...holy moly, mackeral, cow! Highly recommended.

Because of his need to have the car, I didn't go anywhere he wasn't. That was fine. Laptops travel. I had brought both my old laptop (the monster) and my smaller tablet. When the monster ran out of battery (about 2 hrs), I switched to the smaller one and hit more keys than I wanted until I got the hang of it. The battery on that one lasts almost 5 hours, and I never ran it out.

At the final show in PEI, Steven sold a painting (watch the video; his paintings start at the 5:28 mark) - Yay! We had wonderful hosts (Rose and Frank) at the Blue Jay's Nest B&B in Montague, PEI - if you go, tell them we say hey! We felt like we were leaving family when we pulled out and took the ferry to Nova Scotia.You're not allowed to stay in your car, so we headed for the top deck and sat in the sun and breeze for the hour, 10 minute trip.

The Louisbourg Inn - and the
Since we had a few days before we needed to be to the next festival, we went to Louisbourg and stayed at an inn there. Top floor (which meant 32 steps up every time - but the views were terrific!) in a house that looked exactly like what you expect when you think of a sea captain's home. Big Victorian with lots of nooks and crannies - and did I mention the views? :)

Cape Breton has a drive similar to the Ring of Kerry - a route you can follow and stop off at various coves and small towns. We didn't take it. If you have followed any of our other adventures, you know we prefer the less-traveled path. So we did the historical thing instead - visiting both the Fortress of Louisbourg and the Highland Village Museum. Both had one thing in common: English wasn't the only language spoken by the costumed re-enactors.

In fact, almost everywhere we went in Cape Breton greeted us in two languages. "Bonjour, Good morning!" or "Bienvenue, Welcome!" Depending on your answer, that was the language they continued the conversation in. At the Highland Village, Scots Gaelic is the language of choice, and we were often greeted with words I don't dare try to spell. Too many consonants what where they don't belong!

There's lots more to tell, but I'll save it for tomorrow. Have fun - and buy my books! I have to support this traveling habit. :)

Play safe,

edited to fix the number of National Parks. There are 58, not 48. 

Sunday, July 01, 2018

50% off sale!

All my books for the month of July will be on sale at Smashwords for 50% off. 

Every. Single. One.

Use this link to find a list of books (including those by CF Duprey and Mystic Shade - if you dare!).

Sale goes until the end of the month, so start shopping!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

No deaths this week

Nope, in fact, I've SAVED two people. Children, actually. Might be a knee-jerk response to the awful things my country is doing at the moment, but that's a post for a different time. I will go on record and state to the rest of the world: We're working on it. Protesting, getting out the vote, and voting. Still trying to work within the system, but wondering how long we can before holding a referendum and becoming part of Canada. You guys want New York Province, right?

My hubby and I are actually getting ready to visit the Land Up North. We leave in a little over a week for Prince Edward Island by way of Acadia National Park in Maine. I'm going to get to add another state to my list (and another National Park), as well as not one, not two, but THREE Canadian Provinces (and some Canadian National Parks, too!).

Lately my husband has taken up plein air painting. For the past several years, he's painted in several local competitions and sold a number of his paintings that way. Since I've wanted to visit Nova Scotia for years (we've actually planned it twice before and had to cancel because of illnesses/deaths in the family), he decided to check out some plein air festivals there. Making it a working vacation for him means it becomes more affordable for us, since some of the expenses are for his business.

Mine, too, for that matter. While he's busy on painting days, I plan to write. I'm bringing along several projects (The Companion, for one and some curriculum work for a new course I'm teaching in the fall), but will remain open to "painting" the beauty of the two islands in words.

So, a working vacation for both of us, with days in between to sightsee - and eat seafood. I am SO looking forward to that part!

Unfortunately, we're just passing through New Brunswick this time around. He's there right now at a festival in King's Landing but I'll just see what I can from the highway as we drive through. Montague, Prince Edward Island is our first festival, Peggy's Cove is the second, and Lunenburg is the third. We'll be gone nearly the entire month of July.

So, my Canadian readers....what places are must-see in the Maritimes?

Play safe,

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Another one bites the dust!

My apologies to Queen... but I just killed another character.

This is getting to be a habit. Either that or my protagonists are going to get a complex.

Funny thing is, it was easier this time.

Granted, I didn't know this character as well as I knew the other, although this character is equally pivotal. Without his/her death, the plot stalls and the protagonists remain comfortably where they are. So not a gratuitous death but a necessary one.

Spending time away from my "normal" life has helped to jump-start this story again. The Companion (AKA The Work of My Heart) requires me to go in-world -- and stay there. When I wrote my erotic romances, I could write anywhere - and did. Mostly in the privacy of my car while my kids were at dance classes and basketball practices, but in winter that car got cold so I'd head across the street to the local pizza parlor and blissfully write while sipping Pepsi and enjoying a slice.

Because The Companion is a fantasy, however, it requires more concentration to "live" in the world. I have a binder (purple, of course) filled with notes. There are tabs for "Characters", "World Details," the "Timeline" - which is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT TAB! - and "Maps" - which are crudely-drawn approximations where the various towns are so I don't forget where I put them.

So why is "Timeline" the MOST IMPORTANT? Because without it, I'd lose track of who is doing what. There are two direct plot lines and at least two that are referenced but we only see when the direct plots intersect with them. Not only is it important to keep the two main plots on track, but I have to make sure I don't have Event D in one of the referenced plots happening AFTER I referenced it in one of the main plots.

I also have a file box with tabs for the two different countries (Splithome and Renthome). Because color-coding always worked for me in school, the people are on white cards, the named animals on white with pink borders, the places are on orange cards and the greetings on green ones (the divider cards are purple :) ).

These two, the binder and the file box, work together as my Story Bible (SB) and enable me to pick up the threads and continue my weaving after I've been away for a while. It is far easier, however, to simply stay in the world and update the SB as I go. I get far more words written that way.

To wit: I've spent ten days at my cabin in two five-day stints in the last few weeks and have written over 12,000 new words on The Companion.

12K words? That's as much as some of my novellas (This one and this one and these)!

I moved the plot forward by leaps and bounds - and I killed two characters along the way. I've added description and figured out What Happens Next (because I'm a pantser, I don't always know this. I have a big, general synopsis that I wrote years ago, so I know the BIG pieces, but how these guys get from piece to piece? Yeah, they're telling me that as I go). Did I know both these characters were going to "bite the dust?" The first one, yes, the second, no. But it happened and now the protagonists have to deal with it.

BTW, if you want to read two brief excerpts, you can go here. The painting on that page is one I have hanging next to my desk and believe me, I look at it often in my descriptions of the Stone Mountains.

I'll leave you with this earworm... Play safe!