Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Writing tools -- new toys!

Thanks to the good folks over at Wondermark (a fun webcomic...if you're not following, you should be!), I found Tagxedo, you can make pictures with words. Just paste in the URL, twitter feed or other text and voila! A great new way to look at what you write. To the left is a picture of this blog.

I've used Wordle before and found it to be a great tool for determining which words I use more frequently than others. To the right is the same URL for this blog, but notice it's picked up on different words.

Both tools are fun to use and can be useful to a writer in finding habit words. Or use it to compare two different drafts of the same short story. Just cut and paste your text into the sites and see what happens!

Give it a shot and see what happens!

Play safe, Diana

PS. Remember, I am a writer first. Feel free to donate and keep me out of the attic garret!


Monday, February 27, 2012

I cannot remain silent

I need to send out a public thank you and a round of kudos to Mark Coker of Smashwords. He is doing a tremendous job keeping the censors at bay. If I were an artist, I'd draw him as a knight standing before a pile of books, wielding a sword of words against bankers and investment firms who stand ready with lit matches.

For those of you who don't know, PayPal has revised their Terms of Service stating that, from here on out, Paypal will no longer allows businesses that use their service to sell books containing rape, incest or bestiality. 

On the surface, that sounds justified, yes? Who would want to support any company that promoted such activities, especially since they are illegal?

And yet, on closer look, such a blanket prohibition includes any story that illuminates the plight of women in war-torn countries where rape is the weapon of choice. It prohibits stories that use a pseudo-incestuous relationship (the "Daddy"-type story, for example). And, if you want to get technical, it also prohibits stories like Animal Farm and Watership Down, both of which are told from the animal's points of view.

But Mark Coker said it beautifully in his February 25th email to the authors who host their stories at Smashwords:

Like many writers, censorship of any form greatly concerns me. It is with some reluctance that I have made the decision to prohibit incest-themed erotica at Smashwords. Regardless of your opinion on incest, it is a slippery slope when we allow others to control what we think and write. Fiction is fantasy. It's not real. It unfolds in our imagination. I've always believed fiction writers and readers should have the freedom to explore diverse topics and situations in the privacy of their own mind. From an imagination perspective, erotica is little different from a literary novel that puts us inside the mind of farm animals or a thriller novel that puts us inside the mind of a terrorist or a horror novel that puts us inside the mind of an axe-murderer or their victim. All fiction takes us somewhere. We read fiction to be moved and to feel. Sometimes we want to feel touch, moved or disturbed. A reader should have the right to feel moved however they desire to be moved.

You go, Mark! You make me proud to be an author at Smashwords and I hope all my readers will buy their ebooks from your site instead of any others.

Today he sent an update. Apparently he's undergoing some heat for not just telling PayPal what it can do with itself. Instead, Mark is working with PayPal to find a better option. He admits Paypal isn't the one originating this change, but that they are doing so in order to maintain their own business status:

PayPal is trying to implement the requirements of credit card companies, banks and credit unions. This is where it's all originating. These same requirements will eventually rain down on every other payment processor. Paypal is trying to maintain their relationships with the credit card companies and banks just as we want to maintain our relationship with PayPal.

(Note: both of these letters can be read in their entirety here and here.)

In a time when there are so many people running around with lit matches, it's wonderful to feel like someone's looking out for me and for my interests for a change. Thank you, Mark -- and may my words add to the strength of your sword.

Diana Hunter

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Blog Page

I took some time this morning to put together a page for the blog that lists all the writing workshops I've posted so far. There are nineteen of them! A few are short writing prompts, the others are skills-based lessons. Although I'm a firm believer that no one can teach style (it's so unique, each writer must develop their own), I do believe there are definitely skills and "tricks of the trade" that can be learned.

To see the page, you'll have to click through if you read these posts in a reader.

You'll also note I haven't put up a page for Mystic Shade. There's a link to "her" work in the sidebar, but I decided against giving her a separate page at this point. For the next two and a half years, I have a day job that involves minors. I don't need to make it any easier to find material unsuited to their age (I teach teenagers - I love them, but they are a nosy bunch!). For now, Mystic will remain in the shadows.

Play safe!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Death and storytelling

Posting the new workshop. WARNING: this one isn't easy.  Death never is.

Death and storytelling; using the seven stages of grief

Often the most dramatic scenes come out of some of the most painful emotions. Dealing with the death of a character is just as hard on the author as it is on the reader.

Depending on which model you're using, there are either five or seven stages of grief a person goes through when dealing with death. As you write scenes where a death is discovered, remember the steps and incorporate them into your characters. Below are the steps for both models.

The five stages of grief (Kubler-Ross)
1.    Denial: The initial stage: "It can't be happening."
2.    Anger: "Why me? It's not fair."
3.    Bargaining: "Just let me live to see my children graduate."
4.    Depression: "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"
5.    Acceptance: "It's going to be OK."

The seven stages of grief: (unnamed model)
1) Shock or disbelief (numbness, struggle to understand)
2) Denial
3) Bargaining
4) Guilt (what did I do to cause this? 0r "I feel bad because I didn't like him anyway.")
5) Anger
6) Depression
7) Acceptance/hope.

"In addition to the emotional pain already discussed, symptoms of grief can be physical, social, or religious in nature."

Keep in mind, these stages work with other major changes or shifts in life as well. Understanding the psychology of real-life humans helps to create honest and real characters we can all relate to.


Write (or rewrite) a scene where your protagonist goes through several of the stages of grief (either model). If you’re willing, post your scene in the comments to share.


Monday, February 20, 2012

New release

Mystic Shade's title TRAITOR SLAVE is now available. This is the second in the Jack Kariola series. The first book, OVER MY ENSLAVED BODY, introduces Jack and his operatives who run a slave-training facility that operates on the seamier side of life. Need to get rid of that too-clingy girlfriend? Want to make someone disappear? Jack's your man. For a price.

Remember, Mystic writes books that are dark erotica. These are not for the faint of heart, nor are they for those who like romance in your erotica. She writes, as she says on her blog, "for the darker sides of our desires..."

You've been warned!

Play safe,

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Some updates

Wow. I put Learning Curve for free for Valentine's Day, mostly as an experiment to see what would happen. My hypothesis was that it would climb the Bestselling charts at Amazon, lots of people would find it and it would become a hit. Okay, maybe that was more a hope than a hypothesis. Did it work?

Because it went off sale at midnight on Thursday and I was sleeping at that time and because Amazon gives itself a window of a few hours plus or minus on the end time of a sale, I don't have a specific, hard cut-off number, but I can tell you that yesterday afternoon the number of copies that went out over the three-day period was 960. That's the long way of saying I "sold" 960 free copies of Learning Curve during the promotional period.

Since yesterday afternoon, that number has climbed to 962, which means people paid for at least two copies in the past week. While it might be too early to tell, I'm thinking the freebie period has not lead to increased sales. During the three days Learning Curve was on sale, NONE of my other titles at Amazon sold a single copy. Correction: None of my self-published titles sold. If there was a spike in my EC sales, I won't know for another few months when I get my royalty statement from EC.

As to moving up the Bestseller list? THAT it did. I broke 500 at one point on the Kindle Free bestselling list (getting to #499) and got to #18 on the Kindle Erotica list (as I write, it's slipped to #19 and has been there for several hours). Will THAT lead to more sales? I'm hoping it does!

The book also got an unsolicited review. I love it when people take the time to write a quick review and state whether they liked or disliked the book and why. This reviewer didn't like it - and that's okay. I just hope she doesn't write ME off and will try one of my other books soon. I know I've done that - read a book by someone and not enjoyed it, then read something else by that same author and loved it.

In my writing, I explore various BDSM themes. You know that, I'm not hiding it. But my explorations go from the deep Master/slave relationship in Secret Submission and Submission Revealed to the truly hardcore slave sharing in Stress Relief all the way to gentle guidance and learning how to slow down in Hooked. If you think of BDSM activities as a continuum, I have books all over that line. Exploring the human psyche is what I do. :)

So if a reader doesn't like one of my books, I'm okay with that. Just don't write me off entirely. Another might be more to your taste. Longtime readers are aware that I've begun separating out my general romance stories from the very hardcore under different names to help people know exactly what you're putting your money into when you buy one of my books. Check the tabs at the of the blog for Diana Allandale, Mystic Shade and CF Duprey for those other genres (or use the links. I've embedded them for those of you who read this in a reader).

I'll keep you posted as to how Learning Curve does in this experiment. The sales may pick up since it's in the top 20 on the Erotica Bestselling list. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. And, if'n you wanted to stop by the Amazon page and write a review of your own (positive or negative), I'd not say no!

Play safe everyone and enjoy the holiday here in the US (President's Day on Monday!),

UPDATE: as of this morning (Sunday), LC hasn't sold a single extra copy despite it's moving to the #16 slot for several hours yesterday. It currently resides back at #18. Of course, I'm assuming Amazon is updating it's Month-to-date sales page on a regular basis...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Writing love stories

What could be more appropriate for Valentine's Day than a story of your love FOR the one you love? Today's workshop is more in the way of a prompt than a skill.

It doesn't matter who it is in your life, today is the day to tell him or her, even if you do it on paper (or computer keyboard). Tell the story of how you met, or your favorite day together -- or your favorite evening. Start with an event and be sure to include your passion in your writing.

Alternately, today's a good day for love letters. Choose a character you've already created and have that character write to the person he/she loves in the story (or in real life. You're the author, let the character write a love letter to YOU!). You might be surprised at what he/she writes.

Have some fun with this! After all, today's the day of passion and love. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Play safe,

PS. Don't forget that Learning Curve is available for free for today, tomorrow and the day after in the Kindle store!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day special

For the next three days, February 14th, 15th and 16th, Learning Curve will be available FREE in the Kindle store. This story, originally a Quickie published by Ellora's Cave, tells the tale of Samantha, Sam to her friends, who is a young grad student almost finished with her studies. When she meets a fellow student named Peter, however, she discovers another field of study she'd never even considered. Sparks fly as Peter takes Sam under his wing and teaches her the incredible freedoms of BDSM.

Not in America? Click here for more purchasing options.

By the way, I'm in the process of closing out the old Yahoo!Group. It served its purpose and now its time to move on. I'm using MailChimp for my newsletter (which I'm hoping to do monthly at the most, quarterly at the least). If you'd like to subscribe, scroll to the bottom of the page and sign up. If you're reading this through a reader, you'll have to click through and visit the blog for the sign-up.

Okay! Stop reading! If you don't yet have a copy of Learning Curve, go get your copy free starting at midnight tonight!

Play safe,

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Stay a Little Longer - backstory

I wrote the short story I Stay a Little Longer in only two days. Well, that might not be entirely true. I have a habit of starting stories ("throwing spaghetti" for those of you following the writing workshops) and then letting them sit there. I must have four or five dozen of them started in various folder on my computer.

I Stay a Little Longer began as one of those pieces of spaghetti that I threw back in September of 2011. Obviously it wasn't done 'cause I got about 200 words in and the story just stopped. I had no idea where it wanted to go, so I left it for a while.

Two weeks ago, in going through the folder, I happened across it and my fingers started flying. I finished it the next day, spending a total of about six hours writing this short story. It's what's called a "slice of life" story; a story that centers around moment in a character's life. The events of this story take place over the course of about an hour or so.

To be honest, it took me longer to come up with a good title than it did to write the story!

I searched Shakespeare first for a good quote about death, dying or grief and, while he wrote some great lines, they were all too long for a title. I knew I wanted a quote, though, something that would sum up the premise of the story and I found it in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Three Friends of Mine. The link takes you to the entire poem; my title comes from the last stanza.

Because the story is short (just over 2000 words), I'm posting the blurb but not an excerpt below. I've published this under the Diana Allandale name because the genre is more literary than romance. Click on the title to get the links for purchasing in all ebook formats.

I Stay a Little Longer
by Diana Allandale
All Rights Reserved

Thou hast but taken up thy lamp and gone to bed;
I stay a little longer, as one stays
To cover up the embers that still burn.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
from Three Friends of Mine

Everyone expects Maisie to leave the cemetery before the coffin is lowered, but she just can’t bring herself to do it. Her husband is in that coffin, he has “taken up his lamp and gone to bed” and left her here to continue on. Only by staying does Maisie think she will find peace in this “slice of life” short story.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

News from Diana

There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years about “branding” an author. It’s a practice that’s actually been going on for decades and actually has a purpose: to inform readers so they know exactly what they’re getting. The most famous case is arguably Nora Roberts. She wasn’t allowed to write her detective novels under her own name because publishers didn’t want readers to get confused about what they were buying. Hence, JD Robb was born. Same author, two different genres of writing.

Kristine Grayson is another. Or should I say Kris Nelscott? Or maybe Kristine Dexter? How about Kristine Kathryn Rusch? All the same person but publishing in different genre, often with different publishers.

And so today, I’d like to introduce you to a few authors you might not have met yet. If you’re a reader of this blog, you already know Diana Hunter, writer of erotic romances. And chances are you’ve met CF Duprey who writes historical fiction. Some of you might even have met Mystic Shade, who writes very naughty books. Yes, they’re all me and I’ve been “branding” my works for a while.

But something occurred to me today. I’ve released two works under the Diana Hunter name that aren’t erotic romance. They’re more in the line of sweet romances or what some call “slice of life” short stories. I just wrote another one this week and it’s when I went to release it that I realized I should have a different name for this type of book. I don’t want readers to buy it thinking they’re getting a BDSM/erotic romance when they’re not. That’s misleading and I hate when people do that.

That’s why I’m introducing you all to Diana Allendale. Some of you from Second Life already know me (it’s my SL handle). Tales from the Ramayana and Timeless Love are in the process of being re-released under Diana Allendale’s name (actually, Timeless Love went live today!) and a new story, I Stay a Little Longer, will be released in time for Valentine’s Day.

If you’re reading this through a reader, take a moment to visit the blog and see the new pages I’ve put at the top. One says, “Purchasing Info” and is for all my self-published works. Don’t worry, Diana Hunter is still publishing at Ellora’s Cave as well. :) CF Duprey and Diana Allandale each have their own pages as well. Mystic's is coming soon.

So, Diana Hunter for erotic romance, Mystic Shade for naughty stories. CF Duprey for historical fiction and Diana Allandale for everything else. Got it? Get reading, then!

Play safe!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A Fable in...

Several years ago I found a yellowed piece of paper in the files of a former teacher. On it, in very small print, was a piece called "A Fable in F" and what followed was a fairy tale retold using as many words that started with the letter "F" as possible. The piece was fun to read and I immediately put it in my creative writing classes as a way to teach the use of the Thesaurus.

Unfortunately, I never found a source for that short story, or an author. A quick search on the web turned up nothing. But my own "Princess and the P" came out of that inspiration.

And that's today's writing challenge for you. Have some fun with words! Choose a fairy tale or fable and choose a letter of the alphabet - and write! Keep the Thesaurus nearby (a dictionary is also helpful. Just keep it open to your particular letter and work in as many words using that letter as you can) and enjoy the mental  and linguistic gymnastics you're about to put yourself through. If you're very brave, share your fable/fairy tale in the comments below.

If you're enjoying these workshops, feel free to make a contribution. Those who do will get a free copy of the book these will become. :)


Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Princess and the "P"

I wrote this a few years back as an exercise in fun. I know today's not a writing workshop day, but I just came across it and thought I'd post it for giggles. If you want to try your hand at it, pick a letter of the alphabet and have a good time. Writing with an old-fashioned dictionary at your side helps :)

The Princess and the “P”
The poor, pretty princess pranced toward the porch, the pouring rain pelting her pouf. Pounding on the portico, she patiently pondered her predicament.

“Perry!” proclaimed a pompous plebian. “Prop open the portal, a princess approaches!”

“Poppycock!” pronounced Priscilla the Ponderous. “Present the peasant promptly!”

Princess Penelope processed past the palace proscenium and presented herself to Priscilla, all pooped out. “Please,” she pleaded. “I am Princess Penelope. Present me a place to plop prior to passing out!”

Priscilla the Ponderous professed a pretense. “Portraying a Princess will procure a punishment! To the penitentiary!”

Peter Piper, the Prince of Perriwinkle, paused by the palace portcullis, peering puzzled at Penelope and Priscilla. “Papa! A princess!”

“Priscilla!” pattered Percival the Portly, Peter’s pater. “Prevent a political panoply! Primogeniture procedure is clear. Implement the policy!” Peter’s pater patted Peter’s pate.

Pouting, Priscilla pondered. “Problem solved! Procure a pea!” she proclaimed. “Pile the puffy mattresses parallel and Penelope the Pretender can prove her princess-ness.”

Princess Penelope prostrated herself atop the puffy pile, pulling the purple quilt to her palsied chin. Her prone position prickled, however. “This patch has a painful poiniard pointed,” she pouted.

“Pampered pansy,” muttered Priscilla. “Panics too precipitously.”

“Pardon, Queen Priscilla, but this parallel pile of parasitical pads punishes my pelvis.”

“Do you intend to perpetuate this impersonation?” persisted Priscilla.

“Princesses shouldn’t be persecuted,” pleaded Penelope, “this pernicious pile is perilous!”

“Papa,” petitioned Prince Peter, “My princess perspires. Persuade mama to put a stop to her punishing pursuit!”

“Priscilla!” proclaimed Percival the Portly. “Prepare! This princess passes! This pastime proves her percentage of imperial blood.”

Persuaded, Queen Priscilla pleasantly picked the purloined pea from between the puffy pads, presenting it to Princess Penelope.

“No wonder my posterior purpled!” the Princess pronounced.

Her perfect proportions captivated Prince Peter. “My pater, please marry us presently!”

“Pause!” panted Penelope. “Perhaps Prince Peter is not my preference! Picking a partner is a profound and thought-provoking proceeding.”

“Penelope,” persuaded Peter, stooping to propose. “Please permit me to place a ring on your finger.”

Penelope complied and provided her permission, presenting her hand to Peter. He produced a ring, placing it on her finger in the presence of the palace porters, his mater and pater and a powerful pontiff.

Peter and Penelope postponed the pre-nup and post-nuptially presently populated the palace with puny princesses and princes.

Plot finis.

Play safe!

If you enjoyed this and would like to support more free stories, please consider donating. Eating makes me write more :)