Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Conversation prompts

Last week I told you I'd be providing you with a series of writing prompts over the next few weeks. Today is  the second set of those prompts. Remember, the main focus here is practice. So, to that end...

1. Determine how much time each week you wish to set for practice (remember, musicians and athletes practice for several hours A DAY; serious writers should consider following their example).

2. Choose one prompt as a 5-10 minute warm-up write. Use this time to relax and get your head in the writing game, so to speak.

3. Choose a second prompt for a longer writing, 30-45 minutes. Tie the prompt to a work in progress or start fresh. Be cognitive of the choices you're making as you're writing. Note the techniques you use, the sentence structure, the arrangement of words.

4. Reflect. This is the step we most often ignore and yet it's the step where the learning takes place. After you've done both writings, take another 10 minutes and, in writing, record what you did, how you did it, what you learned, what you need to change either in your process or your writing. Don't skip this step!

Remember, every artist needs to hone his/her skills. Use these prompts to hone yours.

This week's prompts are centered around conversation. As you write, let the dialogue take center stage so that we learn the story through what they say. Click here for an example.


  • A couple ready to move to the next stage of their relationship. She's submissive, but can't figure out how to tell him she wants to be tied up during sex, he's dominant, but is worried if he tells her he likes to tie women up and make love to them that she'll run into the night screaming.
  • An older man sees something strange on his daily walk around the neighborhood and tries to tell a local cop what he saw. You determine what he saw (you'll also need to determine the type of neighborhood and let that come out in the dialogue as well).
  • Two construction workers framing a house. Equally competent, yet something doesn't turn out right.  Either it stays as is or they tear the house down and start again. Now they need to figure out how to tell the homeowner.
  • Two runners jogging along a well-used path discover a body. They both know the dead person and neither of them like him/her.
Get writing and feel free to drop a tip in the jar!



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Guest posting

I'm over at The Long and Short Reviews site today with a guest post on genre-hopping, name-juggling and more. I'm also giving away a free copy of A Night to Remember if you post a comment on that post.

So don't wait...head on over to The Long and Short Reviews and say hello!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Writing prompts

I always have stories in my head. My brain is populated with fascinating people I'd love to get to know. Sometimes they're amalgamations of people I've actually met, sometimes they're made up in my imagination out of whole cloth. But they're always there, just waiting for me to tell their stories.

So what use are writing prompts? Why would I spend my time taking a subject and exploring it through writing when there are so many ideas in my head already?


People outside the profession of writing, indeed, even some newbie writers, forget that much of telling a story is a skill. A skill that can be learned, a skill that needs to be honed, a skill that needs practice. The ideas are in my head. The techniques, however, are ingrained only through many years of practice.

You can pick your analogy: musicians and their instruments, athletes and their particular game, artists and their creations. All have a combination of innate talent and developed skill. What's the shortest route to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!

Over the next few weeks I'll be providing writing prompts designed around particular skill sets a writer needs. To use them:

1. Determine how much time each week you wish to set for practice (remember, musicians and athletes practice for several hours A DAY; serious writers should consider following their example).

2. Choose one prompt as a 5-10 minute warm-up write. Use this time to relax and get your head in the writing game, so to speak.

3. Choose a second prompt for a longer writing, 30-45 minutes. Tie the prompt to a work in progress or start fresh. Be cognitive of the choices you're making as you're writing. Note the techniques you use, the sentence structure, the arrangement of words.

4. Reflect. This is the step we most often ignore and yet it's the step where the learning takes place. After you've done both writings, take another 10 minutes and, in writing, record what you did, how you did it, what you learned, what you need to change either in your process or your writing. Don't skip this step!

Remember, every artist needs to hone his/her skills. Use these prompts to hone yours.

This week's prompts are centered around reaction. An event occurs, in your practice, show the character's reactions to that event.

(in no particular order)

  • Friends sitting in a living room, talking. An indigo bunting appears at the bird feeder outside the window. One of the visiting friends has only ever heard of these birds and never thought he/she would see one and is thrilled by the sight. Write from the point of view of the person who sees the bird.

Alternate prompt: write from the point of view from the person who owns the house and sees indigo buntings all the time.

  • Two friends half-way through dinner at a restaurant. Waiter drops a full tray of dishes beside them. Write from the point of view of the diners.

Alternate prompt: write from the point of view of the waiter.

  • The obligatory break-up scene: two people ending a relationship. Write from the point of view of the person being dumped.

Alternate prompt: write from the point of view of a person nearby who has no ties to either person, but overhears the conversation.

Play safe and drop a tip in the jar on your way out!



Friday, July 20, 2012

changes & a sale!


A few days ago, I wrote of some planned changes to the business side of my writing career and that I'd alert you when I made them. Here's your alert!

My Diana Allandale title Timeless Love has a new cover that isn't much different from the old, but both the title and my name are easier to read on this one. The price has also changed.

The short story formerly known as "I Stay A Little Longer" is now just I Stay. I never did like the longer title, even though it meets some of the criteria for a good one. It has an entirely new cover and a changed price.

A sale!

Smashwords is having a sale from now until July 30th. Three of my titles are on sale there, all for 25% off. So if you don't yet have Hardship and Hardtack, Table for Four or Learning Curve, now's your chance to get them for less!

Play safe and enjoy your weekend,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Not, that's not "titling" as in "titillating" or even "tits" although sometimes it might be! No, today we're talking titles so make that first "i" a long one and read on...

This workshop actually came out of an email exchange I recently had with Ruth Kerce. Ruth and I, along with Ruby Storm, have written two anthologies together. Matched in our first one through serendipity (Diamond Studs), the three of us became such good online friends we joined together to write a second (Winter Studs). The three of us still stay in contact and have great discussions on tons of topics.

Recently Ruth and I got talking about some of our titles and I realized I committed what is probably a cardinal sin in titling: I have not just two or three titles with the same initials, I have FIVE with the same or closely the same: SS, SR, SR, SR, SS. How many can you figure out? Pay attention! There will be a quiz!

No, when I start a story, the file name I use is usually the heroine's name: "Sam's story" for example, or "Tania's story." Rarely will it be the male protagonist's name. Not sure why that is, come to think of it. My current wip is the first time I've ever used the hero's name ("Matt's story" in case you wanted to know). The titles almost always come after the story is written and, to be honest, I'm not very good at coming up with them. My husband named many of my early works. My daughter even titled a book for me!

Yet titles are often the most important tool a writer has in getting the general public to look at the book. Notice I don't say "purchase," only "look." The title and the cover work together to get buyers to go deeper and read the blurb. The cover catches the eye, the title intrigues the reader, the blurb sells the book.

There's an interesting post over at The Blood-Red Pencil on Robert Jordan's titles. He's the author of the Wheel of Time series, a fantasy that, I'm afraid, I couldn't get into. Don't throw things if you're a Jordan fan! The writing was good, the first book pulled me in and I couldn't wait to read the rest. But he lost me part way through the second book and I finally gave up.

Anyway, the post takes a look at the titles of each book in the series and compares it to another, similar, title with a discussion as to which of the two titles is more memorable.

Because, when you come down to it, that's really what you want a title to be: memorable. You want it to stick in the reader's mind so when they go to talk about it with their friends, they remember it. I always liked Mary Stewart's alliteration with The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills. For the third book she went with assonance instead: The Last Enchantment, and it works just as well. It's been years since I've read (re-read) those books, yet their titles still roll off my tongue.

A word of caution: Some people like to do a take-off of a more famous title. They have several reasons for doing so. Among the unprofessional reasons is to trick readers into buying their book instead of the more famous one. Porn movies are known for "riffing" on box office hits (Romancing the Stone becomes Romancing the Bone, for example. Yes, it's a real film.) Remember, titles are not copyright-able so you, too, can write Twilight or The Sorcerer's Stone.

Your better bet, however, is to find a title that's unique. After all, you want readers to remember YOUR title...not someone else's.

Which leads to the second need a title fulfills: it should capture the spirit of the story itself. The Great Gatsby tells us more about the character of Jay Gatsby. Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn. The King's Speech uses a double meaning of the word "speech" to make a point about both meanings. In every case, the title adds to the story. It's not just a handle put on at the end to carry the story around with. It's an integral part of the storytelling.

So, what you want to create in a title is something memorable that captures the spirit of the story. Sounds easy, right? For some yes, for others (me), it's an agonizing process. But here are some tips to consider as you title your next story.

1. Use alliteration or assonance (be careful not to create a tongue-twister, though! You want readers to actually be able to say it.)
2. Examine the story's theme. Allude to it in the title (don't say it outright. Readers don't like to be hit over the head with the main idea).
3. Consider using just the hero's  last name. Frankenstein. The Great Gatsby. Or title it with the setting of the story: Winesburg, Ohio. It can work.
4. Use symbolism. The Crucible works on so many levels. So does To Kill a Mockingbird and Fahrenheit 451 and Mockingjay. What symbol could you use to represent a character or the theme of your story?
5. Be obscure. The Lord of the Rings is a good example. Just who is the "lord" in that title? The creator of the ring? the carrier? the destroyer? Pages have been written about the title of this series.
6. Be unique. Make your title a one-of-a-kind.

Good luck!

SIDE NOTE: Okay, at the top of this post I listed five of my titles by initials only. I listed another two titles by the heroine's first name. Email me the correct titles that match those initials and names (seven titles total). The emails with the correct answers will go into a hat for a free download of one of my books (winner's choice). If the winner has all my books, the next book will be on me.

To enter, send an email with "CONTEST" in the subject line (to get through my spam filter) to diana@dianahunter.net. In the body of the email, write the five titles that go with the initials and the two titles that go with the heroine's names. Entries need to be received by July 24, 2012 to be eligible.

Have fun and play safe!

If you find these workshops useful, please drop a tip in the jar on your way out!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Apparently, I no longer write erotic romance.

I just read A Most Dangerous Profession by Karen Hawkins. It’s a mainstream romance novel published by Pocket Books. Ten years ago, it would've been considered erotic romance. Heck, five years ago it would've fallen into that category.

But this book, published in 2011, is marketed as a Regency romance and the sex is explicit, uses all the terms erotic romances use, and brings the readers right under the sheets with the characters—the same way erotic romances do.

I sat there amazed. There isn’t any kink, it’s all straight vanilla sex, but it’s explicit vanilla sex. I’ve given my definitions of traditional, modern and erotic romance genres before and this book definitely crosses the line.

Or maybe it erases the line entirely. Is it possible? While I’ve been busy writing what I thought were erotic romances, the genre has shifted under my feet?

For the most part, Ms. Hawkins used all the same terms erotic romance writers do: cock, pussy, nipples. The only exception I took was when she described “his turgid cock.” Turgid? Really? That word pulled me right out of the book. It’s an old, purple prose word. She did not use the more modern “hard-on” anywhere.

Because it’s a Regency, I’ll cut her slack, though. “Turgid” is definitely an older word and a case could be made for its use. In dialogue. She used it in description and that’s where I have the issue.

My mom and m-i-l read Nora Roberts and Lisa Kleypas and Debbie MacComber. Writers I consider modern romance novelists (especially since they’re still publishing new novels). Because I’m the mule that passes these books between the two of them, I grab one now and again and read it, which means I haven’t read many of the newer writers. Apparently that was my mistake.

Writing, for me, is not only a creative outlet, it’s a business. I’ve always considered it that, ever since I first found out Ellora’s Cave had no publicity department dedicated to promoting its authors. It can’t. It’s a small press. EC publicizes EC with the philosophy that all boats rise when the mothership does. I’m okay with that. They’re a business and have to make decisions based on what’s right for them.

But I’m a business, too, and have similar decisions to make. Once I finish a story, do I send it to an agent, send it directly to a publisher, or self-publish it? Besides my blog and Twitter, where else can I let readers know it exists? What do I do about a book that isn’t selling? Change the price, change the cover or change the book? Every day I have business decisions to make along with the creative ones that go with writing a good story.

And now the genre itself is moving under my feet.

Now I have a whole host of new decisions to make. For example, do I change the marketing of Shooting Star to that of a regular romance? Its primary focus is a mystery, but it has scenes of BDSM as well as explicit vanilla sex, so is it still erotic romance if Regencies have nearly the same thing?

It’s enough to drive a person insane. I seriously have considered going back to school and getting an Associates in Small Business Administration except that I’m not so sure it would answer questions like the ones I have. I’m a data junkie already, so I know what’s selling and what’s not. I just don’t know what to do next. How do I move those that aren’t selling into the profit column? What more can I do to get the word out about new releases? Another college degree isn’t going to give me those answers. Or is it?


A writing career is a two-part job: the creation of story plus the marketing of story so please pardon me while I play around with the marketing side for a while. Over the next few months you may see some older titles repackaged and re-covered (as in re-released with new covers that might be more eye-catching). My static website will be undergoing a huge overhaul – or it might be abandoned completely and the addy point here. The marketing of a single book might follow several avenues at once (same book, two covers for two different genre?). Everything's on the table as I deal with this new shift.

As always, I will alert my readers here and subscribers to my newsletter first of any of these business changes. And, as always, I will continue to write good stories, no matter what genre designation they end up with.

I want to give a special shoutout to Kathryn and Dean. I have learned much from your blog series. Thank you!

Play safe,

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Coming up to speed

I spent the past several days at the cabin writing furiously. I have two novels on the docket at the moment, a first for me. But it's kind of fun going from one to the other. My goal is to finish both by September first. Any one want to place bets?

I read several books as well and will record those in their own post sometime this week. One of the books I read has me reconsidering the entire erotic romance vs modern romance genre differences. But then I read an interview like this one on Salon.com with Patty Marks and I feel better.

The new Sizzling Scribes newsletter came out today, too. Find out what we're all up to!

And I just have to share the two new music groups I've just found. Okay, so I'm a little slow in finding them since both have been around a few years. My brother alerted me to Rhapsody of Fire (ignore the video and just listen to the music) and a former student just sent me a link to Dark Chest of Wonders by Nightwish. Yeah, I'm hooked. They're both reminiscent of Rick Wakeman although I love all kinds of music -- which is probably a full post of its own. Someday. Right now I'm off to redeem a few Amazon coupons and buy some new music for my Ipod!

Play safe everyone!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Want me to visit?

I'm in the middle of planning a trip up through Massachusetts, along the coast of Maine and all the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia in August. On the way back, we'll come through New Hampshire and Vermont and back to the Finger Lakes. We plan to stop in several cities and towns along the way. If you have a place we (my husband and I) should visit, drop me a line at diana@dianahunter.net. Put "VACATION" in the subject line so my spam filter lets you through. And if there's a bookstore along the way that would like to host a signing, for sure, get in touch!

Play safe!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Endings aren't the end

"The ending of your movie is very rarely going to be defeating the villain or finding the bomb. It’s going to be the character having achieved something that was difficult throughout the whole course of the movie."

I'm a pantser. I've admitted that before. My creative process starts at the beginning of a story, takes me through the middle and all the way to the final sentence. The craft starts after I've put that final period. What do I keep? What is extra "stuff" that interferes with the storytelling? What plot holes did I leave in my first creative burst?

But I always, always write with the end in mind. In romances, the hero and heroine MUST have at least an implied happily ever after. In murder-mysteries, the criminal must be caught and justice served. In fantasies, the impossible task must be completed and the world saved for another day. These are the "rules" of genre and so dictate the actions of the plot.

These rules, however, are not what keep a reader's interest. It's character that keeps us coming back to the same 37 plots book after book after book.  We fall in love with certain stories because of the characters inside. We've seen their pain and anguish and sometimes it's the same as our own. We want them to succeed. We need them to succeed. We root for them all throughout the book, get mad when they can't see what's right before their eyes and rejoice when they finally understand what we've been shouting at them all along.

There are two basic types of characters: those that learn and change (dynamic) and those that learn and don't change (static). Take Romeo, for example. By the end of the play he's learned (to borrow a line from one of Will's other plays) "The course of true love never did run smoothly." But he, himself, has not changed. He is a static character. He remains true to his love for Juliet and chooses death over being parted from her.

It isn't his (or her) death that drives the play, that makes it memorable. It's his attempts at getting through the course of love, his discovery that it isn't easy that keeps us interested. In choosing to make it a tragedy, Shakespeare's ending is expected. Once Mercutio and Tybalt die in the third act, we know the genre, we know the ending. It's the getting there that keeps us riveted.

But note the uplift Shakespeare gives us in the very last lines. They're all mourning the loss of the two lovers, and in that grief, what happens? The two families bury their differences and unite. Peace is restored to Verona. The deaths of the hero and heroine aren't the true end of the story. The main characters are dead, but the story goes on.

Good endings imply that the story continues after the last page. The episode of the character's lives that is this particular story is neatly wrapped up and tied with the proverbial bow, yet the reader understands the story goes on. The happily ever after ending  is, by its very nature, a story that continues after the end of the book. In our minds we define what "happily ever after" means to us and we fill in their lives with our own versions of what that means. 

In murder-mysteries, the criminal is caught and readers understand that he/she goes to jail and pays his/her debt to society. There is no stop to the story, only to the storytelling.


This workshop isn't as much about writing as it is about structure. Therefore, the activity I'm leaving you with is geared toward developing your understanding of endings, rather than giving you tricks.

Take a hard look at ten pieces of literature. Genre doesn't matter. Length doesn't matter. Use books you know well or have recently read and consider the following questions:

1. What are the rules of the genre for each book? Specifically, what are the rules that govern the endings of books in this genre? Knowing these can help with the next question.

2. How does the story continue after the end of the book? What is implied? What is specifically told?

3. Are the main characters static or dynamic? Does it make a difference to the story-after-the-story?

If you found this helpful, please consider a donation to keep them coming.


Saturday, July 07, 2012

From Russia with love?

Здравствуйте и добро пожаловать !

Hello to my Russian readers! I've noticed a lot of traffic from Russia lately. In fact, you're surpassing my Canadian readers in terms of visits.

I'm off to my cabin for a few days to write. Last time I went (this past Monday and Tuesday), I wrote over 6000 words in one day, so here's hoping to lots more getting done between this afternoon and Wednesday. I'm actually working on two titles, Proud Bondage, a Sweet Spot erotica, and an as yet untitled Mystic Shade story (so you know it's going to be down and dirty sexy!).

Look for a new writing workshop on Tuesday...it's written and scheduled so it will post even though I'm where Internet access doesn't exist (don'tcha just love technology!).

In the meantime, don't forget to pick up copies of my two newest works: Shooting Star and A Night to Remember (click the titles for blurbs and excerpts and purchasing info!).

Play safe!
действовать наверняка, играть без риска 

PS. I used the Babylon translator. I hope I didn't just swear at anyone!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

New Release!

A night of romance and seduction. A night of passion and lust. A night to remember...

Yes, I've been busy! Announcing today the release of A Night to Remember, a quick short story that's full of spice and steam.

I originally wrote this story as a present for two very special people who share an incredible love. Set in Houston, Texas, it centers around an anniversary dinner - and the special evening that follows. Below is a little taste from the story to whet your own appetites...

And the excerpt:

They ate several moments in silence, each thinking ahead to what the night held. The first few notes of another slow song drifted across the room. “Eros” –a piece he’d put together for a much different purpose many years earlier. Very appropriate for this evening.
He felt Maria’s foot slide next to his under the table as the piano’s music lulled the diners. His face gave no clue that her foot was there, not even when she kicked off her shoe and the tops of her bare toes caressed his calf. Deliberately putting another bite into his mouth, he remained determined to show no reaction to her advances, yet when her foot moved to slip along the inside of his knee to his thigh, his eyes widened. Quickly swallowing his bite of dinner, he sat upright when her toes came in contact with his semi-rigid cock.
Her head was tilted downward and she looked up at him with false concern. “Something the matter, honey?”
“Nothing.” He tried to reply but his voice came out sounding strangled. After clearing his throat, he tried again. “Nothing, my dear one.”
But then her toes closed over his cock and he coughed to cover the yelp that sprang unbidden from the depths of his surprise. With a chuckle, she removed her foot as the song ended.
“Perhaps we’d best change the subject. Otherwise it seems my husband might have a physical impairment that would keep him from our walk in the park.”
Not trusting his voice, Edward only nodded and gave this round to his wife. He might have started the game, but she was certainly a worthy opponent.

Whew! A Night to Remember is available in all ebook formats. Get your copy today and remember,

Play safe!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Advocate, part two

(Note: This is a continuation of last week's role of the advocate in fiction writing.)


The word has a noble sound. When you advocate for someone or something, there’s an implication that you’re helping out someone who can’t help themselves. For years, writers depended on others for their own advocacy. We looked to agents, to editors, to businesspeople, all of whom worked to sell our books for us. We couldn't do it ourselves, we didn't have the knowledge, so we entrusted all that to others who toiled on our behalf.

But, if you’ve been paying attention to the publishing world lately, you know these times, they are a changin’ (with apologies to BobDylan). With the fall of the economy and the publishing houses laying people off, many of our advocates are now out of a job. More and more of the promotional duties have become the author’s job. We must publicize our own books if we want to make a sale (or two, or three).

The rise of self-publishing pushes us even further into self-advocacy as well. If we don’t fight for our books, who will?

All of which leads me to the genre in-fighting that’s been going on lately. As a writer of romance, I’m used to being sidelined by big publishers and literary authors alike. We’re considered “throwaway” authors because the books we write are often consumed by the reader then tossed aside and never picked up again.

And of course, within the romance genre there are divisions as well. My first Romantic Times Convention back in March of 2004 was my first. It was held in New York City and I remember how excited I was to be part of the huge book fair at the end, only to find out all the erotic romance authors were assigned a very small room with little space for readers to maneuver between and among the fifty or so authors squeezed in like the proverbial sardines.

The father comes home and yells at the wife, the wife scolds the kids, the kids kick the dog. I felt like the dog.

Over the years, that’s changed. RT now puts all romance genres together in one, huge room. We’ve been accepted by several organizations and many review sites. And then the media gets hold of a book like 50 Shades of Gray and we start all over again. “Mommy porn,” they’re calling it. Books read in secret as if the readers are ashamed of being seen reading something not “literary.”


Advocates. We must always advocate for our own work, our own genre. No one is going to do it for you. Don’t expect the big publishers to stand up for you, although several smaller presses will at least get you a turn at bat. You must write the blog posts, comment on Facebook and Twitter and in face-to-face conversations. When people are excited to find out you're an author, don't then hang your head when you admit your genre of choice. Raise your chin and let the world know you're proud of what you create!

Write your stories as they come from your art and from your skill. Don’t apologize for them. Ever. You are a writer. Be proud.

Play safe,

Drop a tip in the jar on your way out. I'm proud of what I write!