Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Free enterprise

reposted with permission from

In my websurfing tonight, I did a quick search for my name. The entire first page of Google's results were for 1) this blog or 2) the book available for sale on several sites. So far, so good.

But then, on the second page of returned results, I saw a copy of Hardship and Hardtack on eBay. This surprised me as I've sold only a handful of the paperback editions and I know almost everyone who bought one (several of them I met this weekend!). Who would be selling their copy already???

Turns out to be an online retailer in Australia. I'm thinking, "How on earth did one of my books get to Australia?" Then I read this little gem in the small print, "Once you have placed your order we will immediately order it from our supplier. We generally receive items from this supplier within 7 to 14 days. Please ADD the extra time it will take to get from Booktopia's Sydney warehouse to you via Australia Post."

In other words, they'd order it from Createspace, get the book in and then resell it to the purchaser for a highly inflated price (currently $27.40)!

Now, I have no trouble with free enterprise. The very fact that I sell my writing should give you a clue that I have capitalistic leanings (Only leanings. If I were a full-fledged capitalist, I'd be in banking or on Wall Street). And I get my cut from the sale at Createspace, so if he/she wants a cut too, who am I to complain?

No, the part that surprises me most of all? That anyone would bother buying from them when, with a simple Internet search, they can buy direct from Createspace and save the middleman and his markup! Heck, I've put three links in this blog post alone to point readers in the right direction!

If you'd like a print copy of Hardship and Hardtack, let me encourage you to save your pennies and purchase direct here. Or save even more and buy an ebook copy from any one of those sites that comes up in search (although my preference is from Smashwords. The owner treats authors well and you can get all formats on the site).

No matter where you purchase your copy, of course, the important part is that you purchase it. If you don't have your copy yet, why not? In this 150th anniversary year commemorating the start of the American Civil War, this is an easy way to learn a little history and live the life of a Union soldier!

Note from Diana:
You know you're going to go out and Google your own name now. Heck, I'm off to do the same! 
Btw, don't forget there's a tab at the top of the blog page to read more about this book. If you're reading this post in a viewer, you'll have to click through to get to the tab.

Play safe,

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Reporter

Continuing our series at looking how non-fiction writing situations can help fiction writers.

“Just the facts, ma’am.”

                                                                                   Joe Friday (Dragnet)
(and if you remember that reference, you’re as old as I am!)

Being a reporter means finding the facts and getting them straight. While a reporter might provide an overview of differing opinions (such as in a political race or detailing the sides on a voter’s referendum), they do not give their own thoughts and feelings about either side.

Reporters do not try to influence, they simply inform. Readers expect to make their own decisions, not be led by the reporter. Take note: this is different from the Observer.

The most obvious way a fiction author can use reporters’ skills is in getting the facts straight. Nothing takes me out of a story quicker than an author making a mistake in historical accuracy or geography (see previous post on 1812). Doing research is part of a reporter’s job – its part of an author’s job as well.

When it comes to subject matter, my biggest weakness is in anything to do with the medical field. I have my first aid certification (now expired) but that’s as far as I go. Yet, my characters are always getting banged up and needing medical care. In my first draft I write what I want the doctors and nurses to do, but then I send the scenes to a person with real experience and she tells me what I can keep and what I need to change. The last thing I need is for a doctor or nurse to read my book and get pulled out of the story saying, “You had me right up until this point and now it’s just stupid.” Knowing the facts is vital to a fiction author.

But there are other ways the Reporter can come to the fore in writing a story; Reporters also ask and answer questions. They anticipate what their readers want to know and provide the answer, often before the reader has even fully formed the question. Asking questions allows them to fully inform their public.

Fiction writers do this in two different ways.

First comes the big question: “what if.” All stories start with that. But authors don’t stop there. We ask questions about what our characters look like, how they move, what they wear. Even if this isn’t a conscious questioning, it occurs every time we start a new story. Who will be the protagonist? What is his/her conflict? Does my story have an overarching theme? For many, the process of questioning is a mental game of Q &A, for others (plotters), it often is the precursor to actually writing the story.

But we also raise questions in the reader. Good stories keep us on the edge of our seat and make us read far longer into the night than we intended. Who is the murderer? Sherlock Holmes will tell us! Can Frodo resist the pull of the One Ring? Will Katniss win the Hunger Games? What will happen to Peeta if she does? What will happen next?

This is where we differ from the Reporter. We don’t anticipate reader’s questions, we create them. And that’s just plain old fun. J


Channel your inner Reporter and take a look at your latest work in progress.

·   Are all your facts in order? What do you need to know in order to reflect reality? What research do you still need to do?
·   What question(s) end each chapter? What is it the reader is so desperate to know that they’ll keep reading and not put the book down?

Analyzing your writing through the lens of the Reporter can add layers of verisimilitude and excitement. Go for it!

 Play safe,

As always, feel free to donate to the cause!


Monday, May 28, 2012


My father and my all my uncles served their country in the Armed Forces. Dad was in the Army, so was his brother. My mom's brothers all joined different branches with one in the Navy, one in the Air Force and another in the SeaBees (Navy mechanics) and all three served during WWII.

The Vietnam War ended my junior year in high school and we all gave a sigh of relief. No wars for us. But a close friend joined the Marines after college and made the Corps his career, retiring a little while ago at the rank of Brigadier General.

So you can see the military has been a part of my life for a long time. I wrote Services Rendered partly as a tribute to those who came home. Because, you see, I'm lucky. Everyone I know who went to war -- came home.

While other towns mark today as a day of commemoration, on May 30th, Waterloo, NY will continue its long tradition to honor those who did not return. The parade is more pomp and circumstance with little in the way of festivities. It's a solemn marking of every war, from the first that brought us independence to the latest with our soldiers overseas. There will be speeches and the laying of wreaths. We will pause to remember those who gave their lives so we can have our political squabbles and our blue and red arguments. What we should not forget, is that those colors exist peacefully along with stripes and stars of white. They didn't forget. Neither should we.

RIP all who have gone before.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day

This weekend I'll be in Waterloo, NY signing copies of Hardship and Hardtack. You can read all about it here.  If you're in the area, stop by and say hello, then take a moment to visit one of several cemeteries in the area and pay your respects to those who gave all.


Addendum: Great to see so many people today! Sold several copies of my historical and saw lots of old friends and made some new ones. Best part? Tomorrow I get to do it all over again!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Observer

Of all the situations, arguably the Observer is the closest of the non-fiction roles to that of the fiction writer. I’ve already written several writing workshops that run a close parallel (Writing journals, the Great “What if?” the Power of Observation)

But this role goes a step further than simple description. Fiction writers should use the role of the Observer to add a reflective component that takes their work deeper, giving it another layer of meaning. For example, I can write a simple description of an apartment flat in the seedier neighborhoods of 1930’s Chicago or I can go further, as Tennessee Williams does with his character Tom in The Glass Menagerie. There, Williams successfully uses the role of the Observer to comment on the setting and the other characters in the play, filtering our experience through the character’s eyes.

As an audience, we see the set. It’s tangible. Right there behind the curtain. The lights come up and we see the drabness, the shabby, second-hand furniture, the fire escape that serves as the exit to the apartment (metaphorically as well as physically).

But Tom begins his soliloquy and suddenly we’re viewing that set in a very different way. Throughout the play our perceptions of the apartment change. It becomes a prison, a cage he has to escape like his father before him. In his role as Observer, he reflects on what he (and we) see and transforms it into a deeper experience.

Observer, take two:

Four people standing on a streetcorner, chatting. An accident occurs in the intersection. They all see it; they’re all witnesses and they all give statements to the police. Yet each of them tells a different story. One focuses on the speed of the two cars, another swears the light was yellow, the person next to him says it was red. The fourth only heard the accident but when he turned around he saw a person of color running away and that must be important.

This is a common phenomenon. The police deal with it every day. None of them are wrong, they all have pieces of the puzzle, yet their stories are different. Their beliefs and values affect their interpretations of what they saw.

Use this. Your characters observe stuff all the time. They see things, they meet people. What does your hero see that your heroine did not (or vice-versa?). What does the villain of your story feel about the event that put another in the role of hero and not him?

This is also a great way to introduce conflict. Let two main characters witness the same event or be in the same physical place, but let their reflections about it be different. In The Glass Menagerie, Tom’s reflections are colored by memory (Williams even calls it a “memory play”) but Amanda’s (Tom’s mother) thoughts reflect the harsh light of reality. As a result, Tom views his sister Laura in a very different way than his mother does. The resulting conflict that uses Laura as the foil for these observations drives the entire play.

So, two ways you can use the non-fiction role of the Observer in your fiction writing: 1) using a character’s reflections and perceptions to influence the reader’s views and/or 2) letting characters observations be in opposition with one another to create conflict. Both are excellent methods for adding deeper levels of meaning to your stories.


Go through an existing manuscript. Find a scene that is simply described. Either as an exercise or as an edit, filter that description through the eyes of one of your characters. Let us share in that person's perceptions and observations about the place.

Play safe!

As always, if you find these workshops helpful, please consider a donation. Writing is my livelihood, after all!


What role are you taking?

In academic writing, much attention is paid to the writing situation. What is the purpose of the piece? Are you trying to persuade? To inform? Are you sounding the call to action? What, exactly, do you want your reader to know, understand or do after they’ve finished reading your piece?

According to Mike Palmquist in his book Joining the Conversation, Writing in Collegeand Beyond, there are six basic roles the non-fiction writer plays: the Observer, the Reporter, the Interpreter, the Evaluator, the Problem Solver, and the Advocate.

In fiction, however, these writing situations are often ignored. We think we have a single purpose: to entertain; that we have no other reason for writing a good story than to write a good story.

When it comes to character, though, we shouldn’t ignore these roles. Think about the books you’ve read. How often have you been moved to consider a deeper philosophical question brought up in a fiction work because a character played the role of the Advocate? Viewed a problem in a new light when a character became the Observer? Thrown a book across the room because the unthinking masses adopted the villain’s role as Problem Solver as the correct path?

Over the next few weeks we’re going to take each of these writing situations and look at them in depth from a fiction point of view. How can you use all that academic writing you learned in college and put it to use inside your own stories? It’s easier than you think.

Today we’ll start with the Observer, then next week take on the part of the Reporter, and so on. Ready?


Saturday, May 19, 2012


Oh, my glory. How on earth did our ancestors ever survive? We're putting in six raised garden beds (for vegetables) down at the cabin. They're not large, only 4 feet by 8 feet with three foot paths between them. The fence we're putting in around them is a little over 30' x 26' in area. Big enough, but not huge when you compare the clearing that had to be done for our nation's farmland.

So how did they do it? I'm sore, tired and cranky after two days of chopping roots (we'd cleared the poplar stand earlier, but those roots are everywhere!), and hauling soil and compost. Mostly, though it's the roots that have me appreciating the intensive labor both native Americans and European settlers had to go through in order to farm.

Hats off to them!

Play safe,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Time to take stock...

Do you realize I've published twenty-four writing workshops already? Just a little over six months worth of writing prompts, choices and ideas to consider. The question now begs to be answered...

My readers are a silent bunch, that much I realized a while back. I get a steady stream of visitors every day, but rarely does anyone post, even when asked a direct question . As a result, I sometimes feel as if I'm dropping these posts down a very long well and have no idea if they hit bottom or if they resonate with anyone.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy writing them and will continue offering workshops on what I've learned along the way. I tend to be a reflective learner, so going through the process of writing it down for others is a way for me to understand my own inner workings (for an example, see After the First Draft).

But working in a vacuum isn't easy and I really need some feedback. Email me at if you don't want to leave a comment: Are you finding the workshops helpful? If so, which ones are best? If not, what would you prefer?

Thanks for your comments (both positive and negative allowed!)


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Vote on the cover!

Okay, got to playing last night. Which of the three covers below do you like best? Here's a blurb for the story (remember, murder-mystery erotic romance with BDSM and vanilla sex):

When a Hollywood film company comes to town, everyone gets caught up in the excitement. Callie O'Malley sees a way to add realism to her newest crime novel and her best friend, Laura Woodburn, sees her ticket out of town. 

Hal London, heartthrob of stage and screen, figures this is his last Earth Captain movie. The franchise made him rich and now he can be choosy about the parts he takes and indulge in some real acting. His screen sidekick, Alex Hirsh, however, would die to get the leading role. It's no secret he's tired of playing second fiddle and wants his turn as the leading man.

But when an explosion rocks the set and people start dying, secrets come out and fingers point in all directions. Who is the real killer...and will he -- or she-- kill again?

Here are your choices:

Choice A
Choice B

Choice C

Please note: At this point the watermarks for the various elements are still on the mock-ups. Once a final decision is made, I'll purchase the appropriate photos and those marks will be gone.

So here's your opportunity to influence a book cover. Make your choice and put it in the comments below!

 Diana, waiting with baited breath...                                                                              

Saturday, May 12, 2012

catching up

I feel like I've just emerged from a long sleep. Or maybe surfaced from a deep underwater dive is a better metaphor. Why? Because I just finished writing a new, as-yet-unnamed, novel. Whee!

I started writing this story back in July, 2011. I had lots of time in the summer, so the first 40,000 words went down pretty fast. But then my day job kicked in and my writing time was relegated to the weekends. I've also found that I don't write well from Thanksgiving till about mid-January. I can write short, slice-of-life stories then, but I just can't stay focused on a large work with all the festivities. "Callie's story" (as it is named on my computer) got set aside and the most I did was pick at it now and again.

That's the problem when people ask me, "How long does it take for you to write a novel?" If I were to actually log my time in front of the keyboard over the past ten months, I'd have to say two to three weeks of 24/7 days. Break it out into 40-hr weeks and the time grows to 8-12 weeks. But because I write on the weekends or at night, or when I'm waiting in the doctor's office, only grabbing a half an hour here or a four-hour stint there, that means I spend 10 months from the start to the end of the first draft.

It didn't help that I tried a new genre with this story. Don't worry, it's still erotic romance with a BDSM twist. I have too much fun with those scenes to stop writing them!

No, what's different is that this erotic romance is couched inside a murder-mystery - and that's new for me. I loved reading Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt when I was a teenager and their mysteries always kept me enthralled. I  tried before to write one and got halfway through before wrote myself into a corner I still haven't gotten out of. One of these days I'll get back to it and find the way out for the hero and heroine.

Now this manuscript is off for editing...and I'm coming up for air. The last of the trees are *just* starting to bud here and I'm thinking tomorrow will be a good day to get myself into the garden and plant a few things -- now that I've remembered the world has kept spinning while I was otherwise engaged.

Play safe,
PS. I'm playing around with covers. Once I get a few I like, I'll post them here and you-all can vote on your favorite. Yes, this one will be self-pubbed. :)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

After the First Draft

I just finished writing my next novel.

Those are wonderful words. And true ones. Over the weekend I finished the first draft of my next release.

The first draft.

Now begins the real work of being a writer.

Remember how I said I am a pantser? I write as the story comes to me, as the characters reveal their peccadilloes and peculiarities, and I like it like that. While I have a general outline in my head (I write romances, so you know the hero and heroine will eventually see what we readers have already figured out), I don’t know the details.

And because I don’t know the details, I often drop little pieces of information that I later forget to pick up. Or I write in an action later in the book that I never set up in earlier chapters.

And this is the hard part. Going back through the manuscript and pulling together the details, tying together the threads that are broken, picking up the ends of those that need to be rewoven into the fabric of the story, and being ruthless in trimming away the extra pieces that don’t fit the pattern.

At this stage, I wait between several days and two weeks before I start again at the top of the story and read with a critical eye, finding each of those details that need dealing with. The easy ones I take care of on this pass through. The harder ones (like cutting entire scenes, which happens!), I often make a comment in the margin to put off the pain and keep going. I will cut what needs to be cut – but sometimes I need to get used to the idea before I actually highlight and remove the offending passage to my “extras” folder.

(Sidenote: I keep an extras folder for every single story I’ve ever written. It contains sometimes only a phrase or sentence that I liked but it didn’t fit [and I might use later in some other story], sometimes it contains entire scenes that didn’t work. These scenes on occasion become short stories of their own [Secret Signs in Timeless Love, for example]).

That’s draft two.

The next go is my eye on continuity. Does my hero keep the same hair color throughout? If they were sitting at the start of the scene and standing at the end of it, did I actually tell the reader that they stood? This is the hardest pass for me since I can see the scenes in my head and I think I’ve got everything covered. Then someone else will read it and invariably, find something I missed.

And then, and only then, is it ready for an editor. Not for readers, for general consumption, but for an editor (see above for one of several reasons why I need one!).

You may notice I don’t do any passes for grammar, spelling or punctuation. That’s because I’m really good at those. Really. Not tooting my own horn here, but my teachers in school made sure I knew how to write good sentences and where the punctuation marks go. Spelling was always easy for me and the words I have trouble with? Well, that’s why we have spellcheckers.

So how is all this a workshop today? I’m leaving you an activity below, but you have to have a first draft of a story (any length) already finished to do it.


Make sure some time has passed between the time you finished writing the story and the time you start this activity. Two weeks is reasonable. See why below.

1) Using a separate piece of paper, scroll through your story and mark down the timeline. If it’s a longer story, go day-by-day and chapter-by-chapter. Note what days take up how many chapters. Double check: do you have any scenes that start at one time of day but end in an unrealistic time for the action depicted? (example: I had a scene that started in midafternoon, lasted about an hour and ended with the sun setting. Obvious rewrite needed there!). NOTE: it is not necessary to read your manuscript carefully at this time. You’re looking only at the timeline of events.

2) Start at the beginning of your story and read through with a red pen in hand (if printed out) or the comment button readily available (if using a wordprocessor). Mark it up. Be ruthless. Find the details that don’t matter and cross them out (or delete them entirely). Put a star where you need to add more detail to make the scene come alive. Use that fine-tooth-comb!

3) Set your manuscript away again for a few days. This allows you to gain perspective and “forget” the story’s details. When you pick it up, you’ll do so with fresh eyes.

4) Continuity check. You may have already noted some of things that don’t add up when you went through it for step 2. That’s okay. Give it another go-through and fix all those problems (if you didn’t already).

5) Check for spelling, punctuation and grammar. If you know you have a problem area, this is the time to make sure you didn’t fall into the trap. This is also the time, if you have a problem area, you hand the mss over to someone else with the specific direction to check for spelling (or commas, or split infinitives, etc.).

6) Think it’s ready? Find thyself an editor and release your story to the world!


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

SWTWC releases!

That's the short title for Something Wicked This Way Comes, volume II. Inside you'll find my short story, Sahara Heat, a spicy tale of a blind date that goes very, very right.

An excerpt? You want an excerpt? Oh, okay. :)

From Sahara Heat
Diana Hunter
All Rights Reserved

Carla nodded and stepped back as he slid his keycard into the lock. Briefly she had a very dirty thought about that action, but he slipped inside the room and shut the door behind him before she could give it voice. Which was probably a good thing. Her sense of humor had gotten her into trouble with Doms in the past. Sometimes it was hard to remain submissive when an opportunity arose for a particularly good zinger. And she was a sucker for a good punch line.

The hallway remained empty, for which she was grateful. She needed this. She wasn’t into one-night stands, and it had been a while since she’d last played. Then she chuckled to herself. What was this, if not a one-night layover? He’d be on a plane for Egypt in the morning and back to his sandy princess.

And herself? She’d be back at her computer, rejuvenated and ready to write some very sexy stories, if all went well. Tonight was a win-win if Dr. Josef Anderson could perform as well as she thought he could.

The door opened—and Carla stifled a gasp.

He’d taken off his shoes and stood barefoot on the hotel’s plush carpet. His long blond hair hung loose, framing his Nordic face, a face now filled with power and desire. Where before that power had expressed itself in arrogance, it now took the form of authority and pure male sexuality.

His shirt hung open, revealing a smooth chest and tight muscles, muscles that had turned her knees weak this morning when she first ran into him and he’d caught her so easily. He’d set her on her feet as if she weighed nothing. He could so easily crush her and yet he’d held her as delicately as a rose.

Carla locked her knees lest she melt right there in the hallway.

Behind him, the room glowed with the light of over a dozen candles. Josef held out his hand in invitation. Without hesitation, she took it.

Play safe...and enjoy the new release!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Writing advice

So far, there are twenty-six workshops in this series. From writing prompts to playing around with genre and over to examining plot devices and character motivations, we've covered a lot of territory. Don't worry, there's more to come! Today, however, we're going to spend some time with the masters of the craft.

The quotes below all come from authors who have achieved a certain amount of fame or accolade from the world at large. Whether playwrights or screenwriters or novelists, we look to them for advice, to find the truth behind their creative processes because, in their words, we find our lessons.

So for today, I offer you advice from those who came before...

"Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material."  - John Steinbeck 
(more of his tips here)

"Don't tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass." - Anton Checkov

"A story should have a beginning, a middle and and end...but not necessarily in that order." - Jean Luc Godard

"The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies." - Ray Bradbury

"Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip when reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. - Elmore Leonard
(his 10 rules are here and worth memorizing!)

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." -Maya Angelou

"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." -Toni Morrison

And my favorite:

"You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness or even despair; the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it anyway but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page." - Stephen King

Now go write!

And if you're enjoying the writing workshops, please drop a coin in the box!