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,

Diana

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
walk-up!
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,
Diana

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,
Diana

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!


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

She's dead. I killed her.

Apologies to The Wizard of Oz, but yes, I have killed today.

Damn, that was hard.

In my current fantasy work-in-progress, I have set up a system of rules for how nature behaves. It isn't tremendously complicated, but the rules are strict and the turning point will depend on those rules being immutable. Much later in the book, the characters (and hence, the readers) will find out why those rules were put in place and may find themselves in agreement with the need for such rigidity. Or they might not. I don't know, I haven't written that far yet. I'm sure my protagonists will have decided opinions - when we get to that point.

Unfortunately, one of the rules in place meant a character that I'd had a lot of fun developing, a character who will quickly become a favorite among readers (because that character has become a favorite of mine) - well, that character had to die. Please note, I am not using gender pronouns here so as to not give who it is away.

I so much wanted this person to live that, months ago, I wrote a chapter ending that allowed him/her to live. Because of the nature of this particular book structure, I didn't get back to that part until today when I wrote an entire scene rejoicing in the fact that this person had done something and not died! Hooray! Happy ending to that part of the adventure!!!

Except, letting that character live, broke the immutable rules of the world. Letting him/her live would ruin the whole climax of the turning point. He/she had to go.

And so, for the second time in a week's time, I've had to kill my darlings. First was a section that took the story in the wrong direction and today, it was a character I truly loved writing.

Sometimes being a writer sucks.

Play safe,
Diana

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Killing your darlings

Since retiring from teaching full-time, I've been an adjunct instructor at our local community college. I love teaching there - especially at the satellite campuses where the students are (usually) non-traditional in their ages. What's especially exciting is that the college is instituting the Freshman Year Seminar - a class students take either their first or second semester that will help them transition to the more rigorous requirements of higher education. I am honored that I was asked to design and teach one of those seminars.

Each seminar has a different focus. The science seminars, for example, might be based on some of the more controversial aspects of science research or centered on science in today's media. I'm in the Humanities, so our topics/issues can be quite broad. I've chosen "The Memoir as Self-discovery" as the title to mine.

What does that mean? It means I've been reading a lot of memoirs lately! While the students will spend a great deal of time writing their own (topics such as "How I learn best" and "How I got that scar"), they will also read others' memoirs so we can discuss style, form, and content.

To that end, I finally read Stephen King's On Writing. I know, I know - it's taken me long enough. I've only read a few of his books because I don't do well with horror or suspense. Gives me oggeta (I have no idea how to spell that Italian word and neither does the spellchecker). I've enjoyed the few pieces I have read (The Green Mile, Eyes of the Dragon) and now I can add On Writing to the list. He's blunt, concise, and pretty much right on track.

I particularly enjoyed the section on killing your darlings.

In fact, that's twice in two weeks that phrase has popped up - once in class discussion of literature and then again in King's book. In class, I spoke of how hard it can be - and how necessary. It isn't easy, they are, after all, your darlings. You created that character, that scene, that sentence. It is a part of you. It may be the most beautiful piece of writing you've ever created. If it doesn't serve the story, however, it must die.

In class I spoke of a description I'd included in the first few pages of a VERY long fantasy novel (that will probably never leave my computer. This was an early novel that holds just about every mistake a beginning novelist can make). At a workshop, I had the opportunity to read the first three pages to a group where a well-known author of fantasy would give a quick critique of our work. When I finished reading, she really honed in on the description of the flower, praising the imagery and phrasing. She then said, "I know that this flower will be very important later in the story because you spent so much time creating that beautiful image."

I thanked her for her critique, all the while cringing inside because I knew what she did not: that flower? Was just a flower. Nothing more. It never came back. It wasn't important. The protagonist bent down to smell it just because I needed to give him an action to do. Period.

But it had led at least one reader down an erroneous path. And if it could lead one...

I cut it.

Hard as it was to kill something praised as "beautiful imagery" with "excellent phrasing" - I cut it.

And I just did it again.

A different fantasy - the One of My Heart that is the Work of My Life - and I just cut an entire scene that I loved. Why? Because it didn't work. Oh, it was well-written and moved the plot forward, but I can move it forward more quickly and with better character development if I go a different route. The path has moved, in other words, and that scene is on a different branch. Sigh.

I do have to offer a disclaimer, though. Killing my darlings is never easy for me. To counteract the pain, I have a file I label "Extras" for each and every one of my stories. Not kidding. Every novel I have published? Has a file on my computer that contains writing that didn't make it into the final edit.

Why? Because every time I kill a darling, I think, "Well, I might go back and need it" or "I'll just use this later."

Want to know how many times I've put something back in after it's in the "Extras" file?

Zero.

Zilch.

Nada, not happening, never.

And yet, I keep doing it. Did it today when I put that entire chapter into the file in case I change my mind.

I wonder if Stephen King keeps all his dead darlings?

Oooh...I think there might be a story there - about a writer haunted by his dead darlings...

Play safe!
Diana

(edited to fix some typos)