Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Writing Workshop -- So Who is your Muse, Anyway?

So Who is your Muse, anyway?

Muse (capitalized) – Greek goddesses of inspiration; specifically in the arts

Muse (lower case) – n. to think or dream; to ponder or consider

The ancient Greek looked outside themselves and so valued the mystery of inspiration that they deified it. Eventually we ended up with not three, but nine classical muses covering all the artistic processes.

The Nine Muses

Starting out as three, by the Renaissance, nine Muses patronized the arts. They are:

What her name means
What she patronizes
Her symbol in art
the 'beautiful of speech'
Chief of the Muses; Muse of epic or heroic poetry

carries a writing tablet
the 'glorious one'
Muse of history
carries a scroll and/or books

the ‘amorous one’
Muse of love or erotic poetry, lyrics, and marriage songs

has a lyre and/or a crown of roses
the ‘well-pleasing’
Muse of music and lyric poetry

carries a flute
the ‘chanting one’
Muse of tragedy

seen with a tragic mask

Polyhymnia or Polymnia
the '[singer] of many hymns'
Muse of sacred song, oratory, lyric, singing and rhetoric

often has a pensive or thoughtful expression
the '[one who] delights in dance'
Muse of choral song and dance

pictured dancing or carrying a lyre
the 'blossoming one'
Muse of comedy and bucolic poetry

seen with a comic mask
the 'celestial one'
Muse of astronomy
Carries a staff often pointed at a celestial globe

Those are by tradition. However, individual women are often referred to by artists as their “Muse” or their “inspiration.” Only in the past few decades have female artists applied this term to men.

Muse. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muse. Accessed 3.26.08


Today we tend to look less to the heavens and more to the world around us for that special “something” that will spark a story or scene. There are two activities below (do them in any order; they’re numbered to keep them apart) for you to do today.

1) The Reflective Writer: set your timer for ten minutes and try to write the full time: Who/What is your Muse? Where do you get your inspiration?

2) Write a short piece (1500-3000 words) using one of the nine Muses as a jumping off point. Make her a character in the story or write a story about someone who is inspired by her.

If you enjoy the workshops and find them useful, please consider sending a donation my way. When the final product is ready to go, those who have donated each time will get a free copy of the ebook as a gift from me. I won’t dun you twice for the content. :)


Monday, December 26, 2011

Hope your holidays are going well! When my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, I told him to start me on a new fantasy series or give me a film festival as he did several years ago (he'd rounded up every movie he could get his hands on that starred Kurt Russell. Two words...Snake Plissken.).

This year he got me over twenty books by L.E. Modesett, Jr., mostly from the Recluce series. I am VERY psyched to get reading. I've seen his (her?) books in the stores for years but haven't made the leap before. Apparently they're all set in a world but are episodic, not serial, so can be read in any order. Anyone have a suggestion as to which I should read first?

Last year I counted out the number of books I read and posted mini-reviews as I went. This year, to be honest, I didn't read as many books as I did last year. Spent far more time writing than reading. Okay, not entirely true. But most of the reading I did this year was online blogs (I've been watching the entire publishing empire implode) or news sites (yes, I am an admitted news junkie -- one look at my Bloglines account will prove it).

So I don't know exactly how many books I read this year, but I'm sure it's less than last year. More non-fiction reading this year in alternate forms from books. I'll do better next year, but you'd better be ready for a whole bunch of posts on L.E. Modesett, Jr.!

Play safe and enjoy the holidays!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

New title from Mystic Shade

Yours to Command is a short erotic story from Mystic Shade. Her works are not erotic romances, but straight erotica, so beware! She's offering this short story for 99 cents for the first two weeks as an introductory price, so if you know someone who just got a Kindle for Christmas and who likes erotica, this is a fun little title.

Yours to Command blurb:

Set in modern times, Yours to Command explores Dru's need to submit and Malachi's need to push her boundaries. Dru likes her sex on the rougher side of kinky and has come to visit Master Malachi in the hope that he is just the Dom to help her find that ever-elusive sub-space.

Malachi, on the other hand, likes to find and then push his sub's boundaries. But how far is too far? With most subs walking that tightrope stirs his passions, but with Dru, his passions threaten to ignite.

Yours to Command is a short story. It deals with themes of extreme BDSM and is intended for mature readers only.

 So far, the Kindle version is the only live link. Other formats will be announced as they go live.

Want to know more about Mystic and her other books? Here's a link to her blog, Shades of Desire

Happy Holidays to all!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Virtual Choir 3

Eric Whitacre rules!

For those of you who don't know, Eric Whitacre is an incredible composer and choral conductor. Two years ago he created his first virtual choir using video from a hundred and eighty-five people living in twelve different countries. It was a cool experiment in using technology to bring together people from around the globe in a beautiful, musical experience.

Last year he repeated the experience with a piece called "Sleep" - only this time, over two thousand people sent in videos. Whitacre and his team blended the voices and videos in a magnificent video that went viral. When I watched it, I vowed that, if he ever did another virtual choir, I was going to be a part of it.

Well, guess what? That's right. He's now announced the formation of his third virtual choir and yes, I'm already practicing the music. I'm an alto and have sung in choirs for years but this will be my first time singing all by myself in my study, making a recording of my performance and uploading it to join with thousands of others in creating something so much larger than myself. I am so psyched I can barely contain myself!

Use the links embedded above to listen to Eric's wonderful work. If you're a singer, consider joining this incredible undertaking. The piece he's chosen is difficult, with --are you ready for this? FOURTEEN-part harmony. How could you NOT be excited???

Off to sing it through again!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Writing with the holidays

It doesn't matter what your personal religious beliefs are when it comes to this season of the year, messages of good cheer, good will and good friendships abound that encompass nearly every one of them.

I know this workshop is a day late (partly because last night I got sidetracked by a wonderful choir rehearsal for this year's Midnight Mass -- bet you didn't know I sing alto, did you?) but I'm keeping it brief with a holiday writing prompt this week.

Spend some time choosing a point of view other than one you personally hold and take a half an hour to write about these last days of December from that person's perspective. Dickens created a classic when he created Ebenezer Scrooge. Who will you create?

Play safe!

PS. For those of you who haven't heard, Eric Whitacre has announced the creation of the Virtual Choir 3. Get your parts and start those recordings! If you want to hear last year's amazing compliation, click here to hear Sleep.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Hiatus?

Like many, I work two jobs.

One, my "day job", pays the big bills like heat and electricity and food. While many people would love to tell you I only work forty, forty-hour weeks a year, I can tell you I know very few teachers who keep those hours. Even after thirty-one years in the classroom, I'm still working many hours after school correcting homework and spending my "vacations" creating curriculum and honing my skills in managing a room full of teenagers.

My other "job" is writing. It's more than my creative outlet, it's my passion and my love. But writers are not born, we are made by long hours of practice and patience. While our willingness to play with words may be innate, our skill with a phrase, our understanding of story structure, our ability to create characters our readers fall in love with, all takes time and training.

What I'm getting at is that, even though I enjoy one of my jobs over the other, they both are work. And like all jobs that require work, that means occasional vacations are necessary.

So why do I feel so guilty when I spend an entire Sunday watching NCIS re-runs instead of writing or promoting my writing or preparing a manuscript for publication? I don't feel guilty when school's out on vacation, yet I feel incredibly unproductive and guilt-ridden when I step away from my writing career even for a single day.

I have a to-do list of all sorts of projects that are in-progress. Every day I try to make a little progress on at least one of the items. Today I did not. Not only did I not make progress, I didn't even attempt to make progress. And now I'm writing about my lack of progress in an attempt to justify why I made no attempt at doing anything other than watch TV. See what I mean by guilt-ridden?


Tomorrow. Tomorrow I promise to do better.
Play safe,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Great "What If?"

Oh, my glory, I totally forgot to post this Tuesday! See what an airhead the holidays make of me? I'm having so much fun shopping and decorating and writing that I completely forgot to blog! Here it is now...have fun with this!

The Great "What if...?"

This really is the question at the heart of all storytelling. What if Hamlet's uncle killed Hamlet's father and what if Hamlet's heart was good, but his mind wasn't strong enough to carry out revenge? Alternately, what if Hamlet had killed his uncle immediately after seeing his father’s ghost the first time? And what if he had a girlfriend but he was so in love with her he didn’t dump her?

You see where this is going?

Asking the great What if? question gets answers you don't always expect. There are several parts to this workshop, so follow through them all and see where you end up at the end. I'm pretty sure it's not where you think you'll be!

Writing Journal Assignment

Answer four of the following in your journal. Throw some spaghetti!

What if the sun shone only three hours each 24-hr period?
What if newborn babies could talk at one-hour old?
What if the airplane had been invented before the Civil War?
What if we had jetpacks and could fly?
What if there were no more gasoline?
What if there were only three colors in the world—red, blue and yellow—and they couldn’t be mixed?
What if people were never allowed to leave their hometowns?

What if? questions can also be big questions:

What if  the rivers of North America flowed from East to West rather than primarily North to South? What would the expansion of the continent by European settlers look like if that were the case?

What would the world look like if China had colonized America before Europe? Would the world have a different political structure?

What would have happened had the European nations not remained neutral during the American Civil War and had sent troops and support to one or both sides?

What if the Axis forces won D-day?

Currently we can fertilize eggs and create the spark of human life in a test tube. What will happen when we can bring it to term outside a woman’s womb? What will happen to human reproduction?


You see…whole worlds of possibilities open up with those two simple words and a punctuation mark: what if?

Use any of the examples above or create a what if? of your own to write a story or create an outline for a story for later development. Let your imagination roam and throw that spaghetti!

If you’re willing, add some What If? questions in the comments below. J

(Some of the ideas in this workshop were taken from Strategic Learning in the Classroom, Dr. Harvey F. Sliver and Richard W. Strong, SilverStrong & Associates, Inc. and from Writing Smarter! by Keith Manos, The Center for Applied Research in Education (1999) )

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Characterization II

Morning! Back to our regularly-scheduled Tuesday writing workshops....:)

Using Adjectives in all the right places

"It was Miss Murdstone who was arrived, and a gloomy-looking lady she was: dark, like her brother, whom she greatly resembled in face and voice, and with very heavy eyebrows, nearly meeting over her large nose, as if, being disabled by the wrongs of her sex from wearing whiskers, she had carried them to that account. She brought with her two uncompromising hard black boxes, with her initials on the lids in hard brass nails. When she paid the coachman she took her money out of a hard steel purse, and she kept the purse in a very jail of a bag which hung upon her arm by a heavy chain, and shut up like a bite. I had never, at that time, seen such a metallic lady altogether as Miss Murdstone was."

                                                                   ~ from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is a master of description. From just this one paragraph, we readers learn a lot about Miss Murdstone, even though she hasn't spoken a word or even looked at the protagonist.


1. Analysis (If you’re keeping a journal, that’s a good place to do this. Alternately, copy and paste Dickens’ paragraph into your word processor and do your analysis digitally):
First, make two lists of the adjectives Dickens uses: one list describing Miss Murdstone herself and the second describing her possessions.

The protagonist calls her a “metallic” lady. Circle all the adjectives you’ve listed that refer to “metallic".

2) Choose a descriptive word that captures a personality (as Dickens did with "metallic"). Create a list of adjectives you could use in writing about that personality. Then turn the personality into a character and write a short descriptive paragraph showing us that character.

(you knew we’d get to this eventually)

Go back to a previously written work. Choose a random two pages and highlight all the adjectives you used. What kind of adjectives are they (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste)?

Where can you add to the character descriptions to give the reader a clearer idea of the character's personality?

Final note

As you play around with adjectives, it’s important not to fall into the Adjective Trap or you'll end up with sentences like:

The cute-looking, bowlegged, tall, brown-haired, blue-eyed cowboy jauntily jumped onot his roan bandy-legged, long-maned, dark-eyed horse and clip-clopped, jingle-jangled into the purple, pink and blue-hued glorious, gorgeous, beautiful sunset.

 Play safe!

The nitty-gritty

A new workshop will be posted every Tuesday. Eventually we’ll have the contents of a book about writing. At that point, I’ll collect all the workshops in ebook (and maybe print) form for those who would like it all bundled into one nice, neat place and offer it for sale.

You’ll see a new button below. If you enjoy the workshops and find them useful, please consider sending a donation my way. When the final product is ready to go, those who have donated each time will get a free copy of the ebook as a gift from me. I won’t dun you twice for the content.


Monday, December 05, 2011

November is come and gone...

...and another NaNoWriMo bites the dust.

I really tried this year. Fifty thousand words in one month. I could do it...and I didn't. I started out counting the words I wrote on the blog as well as the words I wrote on my current work in progress. Then grades were due and I didn't write much at all. Then Thanksgiving happened and I lived life large rather than writing about it.

It didn't help that, by the time the end of the month came around, I'd started a new short piece that had nothing to do with any other work I have in progress. Inspiration struck and I chased it down and ended up writing a 6K+ short story in two weekends flat.

So the month wasn't a loss even if I didn't reach my word count goal (I haven't actually totaled them up, but I think I'm somewhere around 25K instead of 50K). And I'm okay with that. I moved one story considerably further than it had been and I wrote a short story from start to finish that I will be self-publishing shortly - probably another week since I it currently is with my proofreaders/editors and I'm still finessing the cover.

Reminder that tomorrow the writing workshops start up again, so watch this space for some fun with adjectives. :)

Anyone who wants to post their word counts in the comments, go right ahead. Come on, show me up!

Play safe,

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cyber Monday Sale

In honor of Cyber Monday, all my self-published ebook titles in all ebook formats are on sale for 15% off at Smashwords. Use the codes below to get your discount.

XM57B for Table for Four

QB88U for Timeless Love

RZ37V for Tales from the Ramayana

FK72F for Hardship and Hardtack by my alter-ego, CF Duprey

Place your orders soon -- these coupons are only good for Monday, November 28th and Tuesday, November 29th.

Play safe and enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Posted at the Scribes

My turn to blog at the Sizzling Scribes. So the post you would normally see here? Is there!

Play safe,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Busy writing

How goes your NaNoWriMo? I got sidetracked a little last week by my day job and a little this week by reading (!). I know, I know. How dare I let such things tear me away from my work in progress?

Alas and alack, it is far too easy to be swayed by things like deadlines, books that must be read, and NCIS (which, along with Big Bang Theory, are my two TV weaknesses. Superman had kryptonite, I have Mark Harmon, what can I say?).  While I hit just under 10,000 words that first week, last week's total wasn't even a quarter of that. And this week's not turning out so hot either.

But the week ain't done yet and I'm not throwing in the towel.  C'mon -- say it with me, "I can do this, I can do this, I CAN do this!"

NaNoWriMo -- you no scare me! I'll beat you yet!!!

Play safe,
Diana :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

The best laid plans of mice and men...

Yep, they’re awry all right. Because of my day job, I’ve had precious little time to write this week. But today is a day off and I planned to get a lot of writing done.

Yeah, right. This morning I finished off the scene I’d started and then… they all stopped talking. I’ve two sets of romantic lovers in this one and neither set wants to move the action forward. I’ve got a great villain and several minor characters who are all standing in the wings with their arms folded across their chests and pointing at everyone else in the group.


Last week I wrote just over 9000 words. This week I’m barely over 3000. Never going to hit my mark at this rate!

My header mentions stubborn characters. I can be just as stubborn back. I’m going shopping all day tomorrow with my daughter and won’t be back to the mss till Sunday. That’ll show ‘em!


Play safe!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

To Be or Not to Be a Writing Workshop

I know I said I'd postpone these until after NaNoWriMo, but a fellow writer pointed out a problem many newbies have when drafting their first story and I thought perhaps I should address it now rather than wait till the end of the month when the novel is completed and the mistakes run through the entire manuscript. What problem, you ask?

The problem with the verb "to be."

This is the laziest verb in the English language. It's like the word "thing." We use it to substitute for all sorts of ideas, concepts, and actions and, while it works just fine in dialogue, it has no place in descriptive writing.

Conjugate the verb: "I am, you are, he/she/it is, we are, they are" and in past tense, "I was, you were, he/she/it was, we were, they were" and you begin to see the problem. I have to admit, the past tenses, "was" and "were" are among my favorite words -- and did you notice the "are" that slipped into that sentence? Heck, the word "is" slipped into the first paragraph of this post.

Eprime is a style of language that completely erases all forms of the verb "to be." Journalists know it well and learn to be masters at creating sentences that move rather than just sit there. Writers need to take a lesson from them and abolish all forms of "to be" as much as possible.

Taylor Mali once stated that "English has no equals sign" -- this verb serves as the linguistic equivalent. And yet, in telling a story, we use metaphors and similes to show comparison so we don't need "to be." Sorry, Shakespeare, but for the purposes of modern storytelling? You're out!

TIP for use AFTER NaNoWriMo:

If you use Microsoft Word 2003, a simple use of the "Find" command will help you locate (so you can eliminate) this habit word.

1. Open your manuscript.
2. In the lower right corner, there's a little dot between the arrows. Click it and a menu of icons pops up. Choose the binoculars. Alternately, choose "Edit" from the menu bar, then "Find".
3. Where it says, "Find what," write in the word you want to find (I usually type  was   in that space).
4. There's a box beside "Highlight all items found in" -- put a check mark in it.
5. Click on "Find next"
6. You'll see two things happen.
6A. First, you'll get a number for the total times you used that word (my worst was 1763 uses of the word "was" in a 235 page document. ). Record that somewhere so you can gloat later when you get rid of most of them.
6B. Close the dialogue box by using the "close" button. DO NOT click on your mss or you'll be starting all over!

You'll see the instances of the word are highlighted in your document in black. If you click on any part of your document, they all go away. To keep them, proceed with step 7.

7. On your toolbar, click on the highlight button. It has a small down arrow beside it and you can click that to change your color if you don't like the default.
8. SAVE.
9. Now you have all the instances of that nasty habit word highlighted and you can go through and rewrite your sentences.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

I'm sitting in Medley's Cafe in Prattsburgh, NY listening to Lisa Bigwood singing her songs to an audience of 35-40 people, which is about how many the restaurant will hold. The art on the walls are original pieces by a local artist who has already sold several of the framed acrylic-on-canvas pieces.

What strikes me most about all this is that art, in many forms of expression, is alive and well in small-town America. For every huge rock group selling out stadiums to screaming fans, there are dozens of garage bands playing gigs at local bars and taverns. For every record contract handed out by big-name producers, there are hundreds of musicians making CDs and performing live at festivals and cafes. For every superstar author on the bestseller lists, there are thousands of writers meeting readers and signing books at local, independent bookstores. 

The future of our artists lies in these small venues. It's in places like this where we can get up close and personal and where we can look into the singer's eyes as she sings, where we can hold a conversation with the artist or the author, where we can purchase their CDs or artwork or books and know the money goes directly to the artist. It is here where stardom takes a backseat to artistry and where talent can be given the freedom to share their artistic visions. It is here where the magic between artist and audience happens on a daily basis.

Do I have a point to all this tonight? Not really. More musings and observations than points to be made. I do think the artistic community would be better served there were more smaller venues and fewer arena-type Superdomes. For one thing, audiences would have a wider variety of artists to experience rather than just a few who start to sound/look the same after a while. And if there were more venues, artists would benefit by having more places to play/show their work/sell their books. A win for audiences and artists alike!

Okay, done musing for the night. Wrote 2287 words total today (1904 on my novel. Would've written more, but went to Medley's for inspiration instead!). Remember to turn your clocks back if you're in the States.

Play safe -- and support your local artists!

Friday, November 04, 2011

How are you doing?

I've been writing at odd times over the past four days and now have 5196 words written towards my goal of 50,000 by the end of the month. I know the spirit of NaNoWriMo is that you write all those words on ONE novel but I started the month with nearly 30K of a novel already done. Getting that first draft done by the end of the month would be VERY good for me. I could then edit in December and have it ready for my proofreaders by the first of the year. Yes, this is one I'm planning to self-publish. I'm having a lot of fun with it -- hope you will, too!

So my "extra" words are going to this blog and to the writing workshops I'm lining up. There are a LOT of workshops -- 37 at last count. What can I say? I've been presenting these for a very long time! I'll resume posting them at the end of the month with some geared specifically towards editing. Getting several prepared ahead of time gives me a nice "distraction" when I need to walk away from the work-in-progress and assures us all that there will be workshops available over the busy holiday season. ;)

Keep writing, my fellow NaNoWriMo writers!
Play safe,

PS. the 252 words of this post bring my total to 5448 after four days of November. I should be at 6664. A little over 1200 short. Will have to make it up in novel-writing tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Sorry, just love the date today. Had a class end at 11:11 today and the kids wanted to wait till 11 seconds after the time to leave just to say they had. What can I say? We're easily amused.

My husband wanted to take me out to dinner (who am I to say no?) and as we're sitting in the restaurant he starts rattling off all the other errands he needs to do and places he needs to stop. I just rolled my eyes and told him if he wanted to do all that he should've told me and I'd have brought my laptop. This IS NaNoWriMo, you know!

First place we stopped was Staples and I went in and bought a pad of paper for the car and a pen (my car has both, his car has neither). Figured I'd stay in the car while he went into the various places he needed to go and get some writing done. Ended up writing a post for the blog...and here it is: :)

November 1, 2011
11-1-11 :)

So "quad ruled" means graph paper. Who knew?

NaNoWriMo starts today and so far I haven't written a single word on my story. I blogged and I re-wrote an old lesson plan in workshop form for the writing workshops that pick up again in December. Now I'm writing this (how many words per square inch? Can one determine that with a graph-paper steno pad? And since when is a steno pad graph paper? Doesn't it usually have regular lines with a red line down the center? And while we're on the subject, why "steno pads" at all anymore? No one takes dictation using those undecipherable squiggly lines in today's offices. There are no stenographers. It's a dead profession.

So why call these pads "steno pads" if there are no stenographers? Why not just call it a 6x9 pad? I'm betting my kids don't understand the reference and they're in college. It's just a left over term from a time and a job that no longer exist).

Okay, after that somewhat long digression, returning to NaNoWriMo. Fifty-thousand words is the goal. I need approximately 37,000 to finish the novel I've already started. If I write the additional 13K here and in preparing the writing workshops, can I add the two totals together to make my 50 thousand? Why not? It's my writing and I think I should get to make the rules.

So, 50 K. By November 309th. 37K on my story, 13 K on or for the blog.

I can do that. Piece of cake, right?

Now to figure out how many words fit in a square inch...

PS. I bought two new pens at the same time I bought this 6-pack of Quad-ruled Steno Pads (hey, my husband is shopping and I'm stuck tagging along. I have to have something to write with!). I'm usually a strict black-ink kinda gal but the pens at the counter caught me in a whimsical mood. I writing with a very comfortable Bic 537RT clicky pen -- in purple. And because they had a special and I could get them cheaper if I bought two, I got a second one in teal. I'm such a sucker!

But the purple pen against the blue lines of my quad-ruled pad does look quite stunning...wish you could see it!

PPS. 1180 words for the day on the blog. Only 11,820 to go!

NaNoWriMo Day One

Yes, this is usually a workshop day but I'm taking a hiatus during the month of November to finish a novel. I'm already at 29,000+ words and my thought is to join the rest of the writing world in a writing frenzy for the next thirty days. If I hit the 50K mark, this'll be one done puppy!

No, not giving hints as to what its about, but I will give encouragement to all of you who are writing this month. Take some time and post in the comments whether you're participating or not and what your goal is. Mine? To finish this novel at around 65,000 words. That's "only" 36,000 words to go...

Need some convincing or a push to get started? Here's a link to the Official NaNoWriMo site. And check here for writing prompts to get you on your way.

Forget playing safe for the month...forget playing! Now's the time to write about it :)


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The writing journal

        With NaNoWriMo starting next Tuesday, today's topic is timely. I'm planning to participate (unofficially) this year and I hope you will consider joining me. If you do, most of your time will be spent getting words on paper, but I think you'll find the journal described below to be a useful place to store ideas that pop into your head that have nothing to do with your NaNoWriMo manuscript. Record them in your journal for December :).

       Because so many writers, both beginning and experienced, will be taking November as their "get it all down on paper and edit later" month, the writing workshops will be suspended for the next five weeks as we all write our fingers into cramps. I will, however, post thoughts throughout the month designed to keep your (and my!) spirits from flagging. I will use Twitter to post my daily word counts using the hashtags #NaNoWriMo and#dhunterwdct. I encourage you to do the same and if you use those tags we call all see how we're doing.

All right, with no more ado: this week's writing workshop!

The Writing Journal

       Recently behavioral scientists have examined the thought processes that are engaged when we sit down to write. They have concluded what many of us have instinctively known: we think differently with a pen or pencil in our hand than we do when using a keyboard.
We also edit differently when using paper rather than a computer screen. Our eyes see the printed word in a different light (literally) and this can be useful in the editing process.
While we write more words when using a computer, writing in longhand on old-fashioned paper slows us down—makes us think more carefully about the words we use.
That tactile trigger can be a useful way to get your mindset ready for writing and is a useful tool to keep in mind...especially when you're stuck. The key is to not get locked into using just one method or technique. This workshop is about adding to your toolbox of writing skills through the many uses of a writing journal.

There are many reasons for keeping a writing journal. Among them are:

·         A place to record character sketches.
·         A place to write down snippets of conversations overheard that might lead to something.
·         A place to explore an idea you have; to chase it down before it’s gone.
·         Allow a place for “stream of consciousness” writing; the unedited throwing up on paper of what’s in your head.
·         To increase your powers of observation.
·         To help you develop your own writing style.
·         To “get the juices flowing.”
·         To get those haunting phrases out of your system.
·         To provide raw material for future writing.
·         To provide an alternative to napkins, backs of bank statements, etc.

Writing in your journal allows the ideas to “settle”. What you write and think is brilliant one day may, after time, prove to be little more than an ill-worded rant. That’s okay. It’s in your writing journal and no one’s going to see it but you.

Using a journal has the advantage of collecting all your writing ideas in one place. No more scraps of paper or half-torn napkins. Of course, the drawback is that you have to have it with you in order for it to be of use.

Activities: the reflective writer
Being reflective is another use of the writing journal. If you already have a journal, consider answering these questions there. If you do not, any scrap of paper will do .

1.      Set the timer for ten minutes and try to write for the full time as you answer: Does it sound like a writing journal would be a useful tool for you?

Use the questions below if you get stuck.

How would you use it? (Or how do you use it if you already have one)
Where would you keep it?
Will you allow anyone to read it?

2. Get thyself a writing journal.

That’s easier said than done, I know. Is this a case where style dictates style? Should your journal be a hardcover blank book with lined pages inside? Or unlined so you can write whatever way your mood strikes? Should it be leather-bound with fancy tooling or plain so nothing distracts you? Would a spiral bound notebook be better because you can easily rip out pages and organize them in folders later on? What about a composition notebook, or something small enough to fit in your coat pocket or purse? Or heck! Will your journal be digital and kept on the computer or your mobile?

Told you it was easier said than done.

Here’s your activity for this part: Set the timer for ten minutes and write for the full time: For YOU, does style dictate style? Does your writing style change depending on what you’re writing in (or on)?

I hope you're enjoying the writing workshops each week. If you find them helpful, please use the following button to donate to the cause. Play safe!

Monday, October 24, 2011

BDSM and abuse

I’ve been trying to write this post for almost three weeks. Every time I start, I stumble, trying to find the right words to express my concerns and frustrations regarding the comparison of the subject matter in my books to real life.

I write erotic romance that contain elements of the BDSM kink. I primarily tell my stories from the female point of view although, through research and interviews over the years with many in the lifestyle, I think I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on the male side of the story as well. All of my stories have male Doms and female subs although a few books also have appearances by Dommes and their male submissives.

I’ve written in the past (scroll down the page to read it) about the line between a BDSM D/s relationship and an abusive one, but I think it bears repeating (I know I wrote another post, but I can’t find the link at the moment). I’ve recently been reminded that not all men (or women) who claim to be Doms really are; some people are emotional or physical abusers. Likewise, not all who claim to be submissive really are; some people are just broken.

Submissiveness MUST come from a place of strength. The woman (or man) MUST understand her own sense of self-worth BEFORE entering into any sort of power exchange. To do so without that rock to anchor to, is to set oneself adrift and open oneself to abuse.

Likewise, a Dom(me) must also have a realistic sense of self-worth and not one that’s overly-inflated. A power-exchange scene is heady enough without an uncontrolled ego getting in the way.

I’m including this link concerning abusive relationships specifically for the Basic Rights in a Relationship section partway down the page. It’s absolutely wonderful and applies to ALL relationships, vanilla or BDSM included. It is a must-read for all couples of any persuasion.

If you think you are in an abusive relationship, GET OUT NOW. Don’t wait. Leave and go to a friend’s house, a relative’s or the nearest shelter. You don’t have to wait for permission from anyone, you don’t have to wait for anything. Just GO.

I know that sounds like a drastic step, but distance helps the abused gain perspective. Right now it seems like the world is small and there is no one to help you. But remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are lots of people who are willing to help you. You, however, have to take the first step. It’s the hardest step to take, but once you reach out, there are lots of people who’s arms are ready to catch you.

And if you know someone in an abusive situation, be there for him or her. You cannot force them to recognize the abuse but you can give them hugs and hold them when they need it.

Serious post tonight – but it needed to be said. Tomorrow look for the next writing workshop and above all...

Play safe!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Ready to try something new? Get out your pen and paper and read on...

Put your timer on ten minutes and jot down your answer to the following questions. Try to write for the full time.

Who is your favorite character in any movie, play or work of literature? Why? How has the filmmaker/playwright/author made you care?

(background information you need for the rest of this to make sense)

Readers find out about character in five ways:

  • The author tells us directly what we need to know or think
  • Listening to what the character says or doesn’t say.
  • Watching what the character does or doesn’t do.
  • Listening to what the other characters say about him/her.
  • Watching how the other characters treat him/her.


1. Choose any work in progress you already have (if you don’t have one, go to this workshop for prompts).

2. Determine your protagonist (the main character).

3. The challenge: Write a scene where the reader learns about the protagonist, but he/she never appears. Use the last two methods for finding out about a character only. This could be a scene that’s used to introduce the reader to the main character or a scene where we learn more information about him or her.

Want an example? Read the dialogue below to see how Charles Dickens did it in this abridged excerpt from A Christmas Carol. Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Future are eavesdropping on a rather unsavory group of people:

Scrooge and the Phantom came into the presence of this man, just as a woman with a heavy bundle slunk into the shop. But she had scarcely entered, when another woman, similarly laden, came in too, and she was closely followed by a man in faded black, who was no less startled by the sight of them than they had been upon the recognition of each other. After a short period of blank astonishment, in which the old man with the pipe had joined them, they all three burst into a laugh.

"You couldn't have met in a better place," said old Joe, removing his pipe from his mouth. "Come into the parlour. You were made free of it long ago, you know; and the other two an't strangers. Stop till I shut the door of the shop. Ah! How it skreeks! There an't such a rusty bit of metal in the place as its own hinges, I believe; and I'm sure there's no such old bones here as mine. Ha! ha! We're all suitable to our calling, we're well matched. Come into the parlour. Come into the parlour."

The parlour was the space behind the screen of rags. The old man raked the fire together with an old stair-rod, and, having trimmed his smoky lamp (for it was night) with the stem of his pipe, put it into his mouth again.

While he did this, the woman who had already spoken threw her bundle on the floor, and sat down in a flaunting manner on a stool; crossing her elbows on her knees, and looking with a bold defiance at the other two.

"What odds, then? What odds, Mrs. Dilber?" said the woman. "Every person has a right to take care of themselves. He always did!"

"That's true, indeed!" said the laundress. "No man more so."

"Why, then, don't stand staring as if you was afraid, woman! Who's the wiser? We're not going to pick holes in each other's coats, I suppose?"

"No, indeed!" said Mrs. Dilber and the man together. "We should hope not."

"Very well, then!" cried the woman. "That's enough. Who's the worse for the loss of a few things like these? Not a dead man, I suppose?"

"No, indeed," said Mrs. Dilber, laughing.

"If he wanted to keep 'em after he was dead, a wicked old screw," pursued the woman, "why wasn't he natural in his lifetime? If he had been, he'd have had somebody to look after him when he was struck with Death, instead of lying gasping out his last there, alone by himself."

"It's the truest word that ever was spoke," said Mrs. Dilber, "It's a judgment on him."

"I wish it was a little heavier judgment," replied the woman; "and it should have been, you may depend upon it, if I could have laid my hands on anything else. Open that bundle, old Joe, and let me know the value of it. Speak out plain. I'm not afraid to be the first, nor afraid for them to see it. We knew pretty well that we were helping ourselves before we met here, I believe. It's no sin. Open the bundle, Joe."

But the gallantry of her friends would not allow of this; and the man in faded black, mounting the breach first, produced _his_ plunder. It was not extensive. A seal or two, a pencil-case, a pair of sleeve-buttons, and a brooch of no great value, were all. They were severally examined and appraised by old Joe, who chalked the sums he was disposed to give for each upon the wall, and added them up into a total when he found that there was nothing more to come.

"That's your account," said Joe, "and I wouldn't give another sixpence, if I was to be boiled for not doing it. Who's next?"

Mrs. Dilber was next. Sheets and towels, a little wearing apparel, two old-fashioned silver tea-spoons, a pair of sugar-tongs, and a few boots. Her account was stated on the wall in the same manner.

"I always give too much to ladies. It's a weakness of mine, and that's the way I ruin myself," said old Joe. "That's your account. If you asked me for another penny, and made it an open question, I'd repent of being so liberal, and knock off half-a-crown."

"And now undo my bundle, Joe," said the first woman.

Joe went down on his knees for the greater convenience of opening it, and, having unfastened a great many knots, dragged out a large heavy roll of some dark stuff.

"What do you call this?" said Joe. "Bed-curtains?"

"Ah!" returned the woman, laughing and leaning forward on her crossed arms. "Bed-curtains!"

"You don't mean to say you took 'em down, rings and all, with him lying there?" said Joe.

"Yes, I do," replied the woman. "Why not?"

"You were born to make your fortune," said Joe, "and you'll certainly do it."

"I certainly shan't hold my hand, when I can get anything in it by reaching it out, for the sake of such a man as He was, I promise you, Joe," returned the woman coolly. "Don't drop that oil upon the blankets, now."

"His blankets?" asked Joe.

"Whose else's do you think?" replied the woman. "He isn't likely to take cold without 'em, I dare say."

"I hope he didn't die of anything catching? Eh?" said old Joe, stopping in his work, and looking up.

"Don't you be afraid of that," returned the woman. "I ain’t so fond of his company that I'd loiter about him for such things, if he did. Ah! You may look through that shirt till your eyes ache; but you won't find a hole in it, nor a threadbare place. It's the best he had, and a fine one too. They'd have wasted it, if it hadn't been for me."

"What do you call wasting of it?" asked old Joe.

"Putting it on him to be buried in, to be sure," replied the woman with a laugh. "Somebody was fool enough to do it, but I took it off again. If calico ain’t good enough for such a purpose, it isn't good enough for anything. It's quite as becoming to the body. He can't look uglier than he did in that one."

Scrooge listened to this dialogue in horror. As they sat grouped about their spoil, in the scanty light afforded by the old man's lamp, he viewed them with a detestation and disgust which could hardly have been greater, though they had been obscene demons, marketing the corpse itself.

See how Dickens used the other characters to give us information about Ebenezer Scrooge? They never mentioned him by name, yet we know from the context who they disparaged. All done without Scrooge saying a word.

Okay, go back up to #3 above and write your own scene. Show us a character through other people’s words and actions. To check for validity, ask yourself the question:: how would an actor portray the character you’ve created? What clues have you given him/her to use?

Use the comments sections to post questions or to brag about your success!

My qualifications
The contents of these workshops are actually my accumulation of several years’ experience teaching creative writing in real-life classroom settings. Each workshop has been tried and tested several times. Additional workshops came from my work in Second Life where I gave many of these workshops in the virtual world (as Diana Allandale). This is, however, the first time all the various workshops I’ve offered in both worlds are gathered and published in one place.

The nitty-gritty
 A new workshop will be posted every Tuesday. Eventually we’ll have the contents of a book about writing. At that point, I’ll collect all the workshops in ebook (and maybe print) form for those who would like it all bundled into one nice, neat place and offer it for sale.
 You’ll see a new button below. If you enjoy the workshops and find them useful, please consider sending a donation my way. When the final product is ready to go, those who have donated each time will get a free copy of the ebook as a gift from me. I won’t dun you twice for the content.