Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Realism and writing

 Is there such a thing as too much realism in fiction writing?

This morning I happened to glance over at my husband’s soap sitting in front of the shampoo bottle (too long to explain why we each have our own soaps, suffice it to say we do). The shampoo, one from the Aussie family, is in a deep purple bottle with a sky blue swath across the front. Steven’s soap of the moment is the exact same shade of blue. The two complement each other beautifully. A rare moment of color-matching in the shower.

Yet if I were to put that into a story, readers would slam the book shut (or close the file on their ereader) saying, “No one color-coordinates their shampoo and soap. That’s just stupid.”

I’ll leave the judgment aside, but the sentiment is honest. We’ve all read books that explain every little detail to the point where the story is bogged down and the characters forgotten. Yet, isn’t that realism?

I would argue no. Think about your daily life. How much detail do you really notice? I don’t know about anyone else, but the cobwebs have to be pretty thick before I even realize they’re hanging from the corners. I can drive past the same house every day for three months before I realize it’s undergone a paint job.

So how much description do you really need to provide that sense of realism in your stories?

It all goes back to character. Sherlock Holmes notices an immense amount of detail, Watson doesn’t. How much would your characters notice?

The companion question to that is, why would they notice? If your character is anal retentive or OCD, they’re going to see the napkin holder’s been moved or that the salt shaker needs filling. Little details like this can very helpfully show character traits.

If, on the other hand, your character spends most of the time with his head somewhere else, his mind wandering or puzzling over a problem, he might not see the stool or would trip over the shoes he (or someone else) kicked off and left in the middle of the room. Again, a way to use detail to show character.

What does the matching shampoo bottle and soap say about my husband? I’d like to say its his painter’s eye coming to bear in small but pretty ways, but I know its an accident. Something that just happened. Are both legitimate character motivations? Absolutely. And if I were to include such a small detail in a story, it would be clear as to which motivation it was.

Activity

Go back through your current work in progress and look for those telling details. Examine the ones you’ve included: what are you telling your readers about your characters by including it? If it’s there primarily to set the scene, again, is it an important detail? One that will come into play later on?

I ask that last question because of a question I got one time during a table read of the first three pages of my (still unpublished) fantasy novel. Vivian Van Velde, a young adult fantasy author, was at my table and made the comment about the flower my protagonist stopped to examine. She said (and I paraphrase), “It must be important later on, for him to have taken the time to notice that particular flower.”

I just smiled and thanked her for her observation. In my head I’m thinking, “Drat. It’s just a flower. It has no significance whatsoever. I’d better re-write that!”

So be careful with reality. Over-describing it can lead the reader into false paths. A useful tool if you’re writing a mystery, but not so much if you want them to focus on your characters’ actions.

Rule of thumb: Give only the details that are important to the people who populate your books. If it’s something they’d notice or that would be important to them, include it. If it’s important to the plot or to understanding the world you’ve created, keep it.

Otherwise, think hard before allowing it to stand.

Enjoy writing!


Diana

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Writing workshops starting up again

Those of you who follow this blog regularly know that I've been doing a series of writing workshops for several years now. They're published every Tuesday at 6:00 am Eastern (except when I forget!). I've had several guest authors this past year who've been gracious enough to lend their expertise as well.

You will also know that this month has been a bit of a mess for me. My parents have moved from their long-time home into a senior citizen apartment building and getting them from point A to point B has been a stress of enormous weight. My daughter (and I) auditioned for the Eric Whitacre/Disneyland World of Color collaboration and we both got in (use the link to see the official video). So of course, we had to go see it! She had her picture taken with Thor while we were there...I, of course, had my picture taken with Pluto. :)



My husband's family was going away for the holidays, so we had Christmas with them early, which meant shopping and wrapping for that side of the family had to be done ten days earlier than usual. My husband and I give an open house Christmas party every year (this was the 30th one), and that takes two days prep time and a day after of recuperation. This year we had 50 people attend, if you count our cat.

And then, there was Christmas itself, singing at Midnight Mass, enjoying a quiet day at home with our kids. It was a wonderful day. Boxing Day (not celebrated here in the US) found me ensconced on the couch all day long with book in hand (Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings. It's good. And it's taking me more than a day to read!).

So while I had a wonderful December, I didn't really get much writing done, either for the blog, the writing workshops or on a new story. That changes today. I've already written Tuesday's writing workshop, I'm writing this post now and will very shortly begin a brand-new Mystic Shade story. It feels good to be back at the keyboard!

One last thing: through the end of the month, the proceeds for Remembered Love will be donated to Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy in the name of Tania and AJ. Vercher. If you haven't gotten your copy yet, please do so. So far we've raised about $250 for this worthy cause. You can read the story here if you don't know what this is about.

Play safe!

Diana

Monday, December 23, 2013

Been quiet of late...

The holidays are always special to me and to my family. This year has been difficult for several reasons, chief among them, my parents' move from an established home to an apartment. They lost nearly 1500 square feet and tons more in storage space. That means paring down, handing down, giving away...and many, many moments of anguish as the decision is made for each piece. Who gets it? Who wants it? Is it worth anything? Does it have any use to anyone? Has it become junk?

As of last Friday, the decisions are made, the "old" house formally sold and a new life begun amid unpacked boxes, misplaced papers and missing silverware (which was, thankfully, found!). Christmas decorations are as buried as the silverware was and my very tired parents declared, "No Christmas this year. We just don't have the energy."

But when it comes to Christmas morning, I'm still a child. I'm often the first one up, still (although both my 20-something children woke my husband and I up at 6:00 am last year with the plea, "Please? Maybe Santa came!" And I love it!).

Because of my total enjoyment of the season of giving, today my husband and I took a (very) small pre-decorated (by me) artificial Christmas tree up to them. My mother's eyes lit right up at the thought of having a tree, even a fake white one with red ribbons and silver garland. She's German and, if they hadn't had one, this would have been the first time in 79 years that the holiday would go unremarked. She still tells the stories of going to bed on Christmas Eve and waking in the morning to a fully-decorated tree with the presents scattered under it. Santa Claus brought it all.

(Btw, my dad was appeased when I told him the tree was a loaner. I was coming back in a week to take it back home and put it in the box. He almost hugged me that he didn't have to find a place to store it.).

So I haven't been writing, I haven't been promoting, I haven't done much but spend time with my family. And I wish all of you the same: time with friends and family. Give them hugs, listen to their stories (again!), share a meal or a telephone call. Tell them you love them with your words and your actions and may peace be yours.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Diana


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

12 Days of Christmas (Bondage) now available!



This is what you've been waiting for! Well, those of you who waited to purchase all the Christmas Bondage stories in one collection. You'll also save nearly $2 compared to purchasing each story separately.

12 Days of Christmas (Bondage) is now available in all Amazon stores as well as through Smashwords for every ereader format. Use the links below to purchase or click on the picture or title above to go to the page with all the stories listed individually.

Once you've read the stories, please go back and add a review, either for the entire collection or for individual stories. Let's get this puppy to climb those charts!

Play safe...and may your holidays be happy ones!

Diana

                    MX siteAU site

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

12 Days; The Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me twelve hours of torture...

Beverly Hills, 2025. The presents are bought. What’s left but to enjoy them?



WoooHooo! The wonderful conclusion to the 12 Days of Christmas Bondage stories. Settle in and have some fun reading the last story, it's free at Smashwords.

Play safe,
Diana

Monday, December 09, 2013

12 Days; The Eleventh Day of Christmas

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eleven toys to play with...

New York, 2000. He’d given her all the toys in the toybox. Time to buy some new ones!



The anticipation builds! Eleven new toys? Oh, the things they can do!

This story is available at both the Kindle and the Smashwords stores.

Play safe,
Diana

Sunday, December 08, 2013

12 Days; The Tenth Day of Christmas

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ten luscious lashes...

New York, 1975. No, those aren’t eyelashes he gives her!



No, not eyelashes at all, but a much sexier set of lashes. Mmmm!

This one is free and available for download at Smashwords.

Play safe!
Diana

Saturday, December 07, 2013

12 Days; The Ninth Day of Christmas

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine wax candles...

New York, 1950. More toys handed down, but BJ wants something special for his wife this year – and wax might just deliver....


Don't you just wish someone would give you these gifts? Each day they only get better...

Available at the Kindle and Smashwords stores!

Play safe,
Diana

Friday, December 06, 2013

12 Days; The Eighth Day of Christmas

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight wooden clothespins...

Rochester, 1925. The jazz age is in full swing...so why wouldn’t they have a little fun? Even if the wedding isn’t until tomorrow...



A freebie!
And you gotta love clothespins...they have so many uses!

Available at Smashwords. :)

Play safe,
Diana

Thursday, December 05, 2013

12 Days; The Seventh Day of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven different dildos...

New York, 1900. It’s an understatement to say Robert’s parents do not approve of his choice of a bride. With any luck, his Christmas present to her will make up for the trouble they’ve caused...

Funny how some themes are timeless. Parents' disapproval of one's choice for a spouse is one of them. This short story is available at both the Kindle and the Smashwords stores!

Play safe,
Diana

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

12 Days; The Sixth Day of Christmas


On the sixth  day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six yards of rope…

New York, 1875. The presents have been handed down and these to make some time to play with them. Ah, the joys of being tied and taken...

We're halfway there! All together, these twelve short stories make up a great overview of bondage through the ages. Remember, even numbered stories are free at the Smashwords store!

Play safe, 
Diana

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Another NaNoWriMo bites the dust...

How did you do? Did you hit your target?

I'm afraid I got so caught up in the business side of writing this month with the 12 Days series, that I didn't get much new written. I edited, I formatted, I blogged, I did all sorts of things connected with writing, but I didn't actually write much in the way of new material on a story. Lots of starts, though (which I'll talk about in a future post).

For today though, if you wrote every day, no matter if you hit your target or not, you deserve congratulations because that's what makes you a real writer. Real writers write. Its their job. The creation of stories is what they do. They make up whole worlds out of nothing more than their imagination. And then they write them down.

Good writers, however, don't stop there. Once its down on paper (or a computer screen), then they finesse it. Their wordsmithing skills come to bear and they turn that bare story into a work of art.

You know.

Editing.

For some, this is the "work" of writing. It's the attention to details (is the hero's hair color the same throughout? Did I put the part of her hair on the right or left side? What color are the walls of the hobbit hole?). It's more than just checking for grammar (although that part is important, too). It's looking at word flow, transitions, story and character arcs. And yes, sometimes it means re-writing entire scenes to make them tighter/longer/sharper/better.

So your work is not done, even if you finished your story. Set it aside this week. Congratulate yourself and remind yourself that you have friends and family who care about you. Let the world of your NaNoWriMo novel slip away and enter RL as we say in Second Life (RL =Real Life).

Next week we'll start that editing process with a fresh and rested mind. In the meantime, go read a book (Like 12 Days!).

Enjoy,
Diana

12 Days; The Fifth Day of Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…five locks of gold

New York, 1850. Society dictates a calm and gentle demeanor towards women, they’re so excitable, don’t you know? Matthew, however, loves throwing caution to the wind –and discovers his wife does, too!

Remember, the odd numbers are free. Download the format of your choice from the Kindle and Smashwords stores.

Play safe!
Diana


Monday, December 02, 2013

12 Days; The Fourth Day of Christmas


On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four cuffs of binding…

New York, 1825. Moving an ocean away from home makes Jane homesick. Thankfully, her husband’s present gives her something more pleasant to think about.


Even numbers are $.99, odd one's are free. Only way I could keep the price at $.49 cents each. Okay, 48 and 49 cents. You're saving a few pennies this way. :)

Now available  at Smashwords!

Play safe,
Diana

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Fully Owned is #1!!!





Wheee! Big excitement here. While I'm busy promoting the stories of 12 Days of Christmas (Bondage), Fully Owned, Mystic Shade's latest re-release, has climbed to number one bestseller status over at A1AdultEbooks! Let's here it for this hot number, hot in more ways than one!

Play safe,
Diana

The Third Day of Christmas

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three silk scarves…

London, 1800. Someone needs to learn that silence is golden--and her husband knows exactly how to teach her that lesson...


This installment brings us a little closer in time. But remember, women were still considered property and their husbands had the right to help them improve by any means necessary!

Available at the Kindle and Smashwords stores.

Play safe!
Diana

Saturday, November 30, 2013

12 Days; The Second Day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two leather tawse…

London, 1775. Who knew a spanking could be so...wonderful!!!


The Second Day of Christmas is only available at Smashwords. Don't worry, you can get it there for all platforms. But I wanted this one to be free and Amazon wants me to charge money for it.

So head on over to Smashwords and get this section for free!

Play safe, 
Diana

Friday, November 29, 2013

12 Days; First Day of Christmas

It's here! The First Day of Christmas is now available AND I figured out a solution to my pricing problem.

My intent was to release each day's adventures for $.49 for those who like their erotic romance a little bit at a time. Later (December 10th) the entire book would be available for $4.99 - for those who want the whole meal all at once.

But Amazon and Smashwords won't let me price it that low. My solution?

Every even-numbered book will be free.

Yep, that's right. Buy the first story at $.99, the second one costs nothing. The third story will be $.99 and the fourth - not a penny! You get the picture.

So get 12 Days; The First Day of Christmas on the Kindle or at Smashwords for all other formats. Watch this site for links for each succeeding story over the next twelve days to get the entire collection.

Oh! And please leave a review!!!! Good, bad or indifferent - let the world know your opinion. :)

Play safe! And Happy Holidays!

Diana

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

teaser page


EDIT: Drat! Neither Smashwords nor Amazon will let me set the price at anything below $.99. Rethinking...

12 Days of Christmas (Bondage) now has it's own page on the website. Remember, each story is being sold separately for $.49. On December 10th, all twelve stories go on sale in one volume for $4.99.

Observant readers may also realize the book has a new (and final!) name. Took me a while to figure it out, but I think this title says it all.

There are no links on the page yet, since none of the stories are yet available. But if you want to see what all the fuss is about, go take a look!

Play safe,
Diana

Sunday, November 24, 2013

reminders, catching up and a celebration!


The celebration first: 

FULLY OWNED, a title by Mystic Shade, is #2 on A1Adultebooks' website and has reached the first sales level. Yippeee! I'd love to see this move even further up the chart. Would be great if it got at least to the Diamond Level - level Under His Spell made it to.

Fully Owned is actually the third in the Jack Kariola's slaves series. It's available on all reader platforms and is a very hot, very sexy read that's getting some good reviews. Double celebration!!! Over My Enslaved Body and Traitor Slave are the first and second books, respectively, in that series.

Catching up:

My NaNoWriMo has been a bust. My parents are moving out of their house of nearly 30 years and trying to pare down 57 years of marriage to fit into a senior citizen apartment. I'm glad they're moving - its the right thing to do. Taking care of a big lawn and extra rooms is not the way I want to spend my elder years, either. Less housework is always a good thing!

But it has cut into my writing time. As a result I've spent most of the month getting my next releases ready.

First up is 12 Days, a look into bondage and D/s through the ages. You know the 12 Days of Christmas, well this is the song with a very kinky twist. Each story is being published starting the day after the American Thanksgiving (November 29th) for $.49. Yes, you read that right. Forty-nine cents. Then, on December 10th, the full novel will be available for $4.99 (so for you looking to save a few pennies, that's getting two of the stories for free - if you can wait). I'm really looking forward to this release because this has been one of my favorite pieces to write!

And Diamond Submission is coming soon from Ellora's Cave. The ten-year anniversary of Secret Submission was in September and, in August, I got curious as to what Phillip and Sarah were up to. So I went to visit and found they're still very much in love, and still having some very erotic sex! Not sure on a release date with this one, but keep an eye here for news. Of course, you can always sign up for my newsletter - subscribers get the news first! :)

Reminder:

All royalties from sales of A Night to Remember, from now through December 31st, are going to Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy in honor of Tania and AJ Vercher. Tania and her tw-year-old son were killed at the end of September in a horrific case of road rage. Heath Vercher, a talented performer and composer, is a friend and chose the charity. This is my way of honoring his wife and son. So far we've raised a little over $200 and I'd love to see that number climb.

Hope the rest of you are writing your fingers off - or reading fast enough to keep us writers going. You keep buying, we'll keep writing!

Play safe!
Diana





Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oh s*&t, it's Tuesday!

Yeah, that's my reaction every time I realize I missed posting a workshop on a Tuesday. Lucky for me, this is NaNoWriMo time and everyone's busy writing their own novels. Workshops will be back in December with some tips on how to edit what you're creating.

Play safe...and watch this space for news of a new release coming at the end of the month!

Diana

Sunday, November 10, 2013

SL workshop

Many thanks to Andrea of Virtual Writers, Inc for the invitation to come do a workshop in-world at their Milkwood studio. I had a great time!

Below is a brief summary of my presentation and the complete list of questions I posed for your consideration. Feel free to come back to these questions as needed - for this or any future stories you write.

Workshop
Genre rules often dictate plot. Coming of age stories have an event that jump starts maturity, science has to play a large part of a science fiction story (otherwise just a ‘western in space’ –also a legitimate genre). I write erotic romance which means my stories have to have a happily-ever-after ending.

 So if the basic plot outline is already known to the reader (Polti’s 36 situations), how can you make your stories different? No two people are alike, and neither should be any two characters.

I’m a pantser, which means I don’t plot a lot of stuff out first, probably because my plot is genre-driven. I do, however, know my characters pretty well by the time I’ve finished the first thousand words. I keep a running record of information about the character as I go so I can stay consistent. This isn’t so important with a short story, but is vital for a longer work.

And that’s what we’re going to do today. You’re going to need a piece of paper and something to write with. Use your writing journal if you have one, or just scrap paper nearby. Alternately, type your answers into your word processing program or into a notecard here in SL for safekeeping.

We’ll focus on just your protagonist for now, so get him/her in your head. Write his/her name at the top of the page, if you know it, to help you focus.

Each of the questions I’m going to ask is designed to give you a fuller understanding of the person you’re creating. Not all of what you answer today will work its way into the story (JK Rowling has entire notebooks dedicated to each of her characters, MOST of which didn’t end up in the novels. But because she had a clear idea of who everyone was, she was able to write the memorable characters we’ve all come to love).

The questions are designed to help you “think outside the box” as it were. To consider parts of your character you might not have considered and that may or may not work into the story itself. Knowing this information, however, might affect how you write the character.

Some of the questions might not pertain to you or your story. Skip those and answer what’s important to your story.

***** 
Financial situation:
What social class does your protagonist belong to? Has he/she always been in this class?

How does your character feel about money? What does he/she do for a living?

Does money (or the lack of it) come into play when it comes to your protagonist’s relationship with other characters?

How does the character’s financial situation affect his/her education?

Voice

Every person has their own set of vocabulary, their own unique way of saying things. What words/phrases are unique to this character? If you don’t have one yet, make something up. What’s something he/she might say, for example, as a response to a simple question like, “How are you?”

What words does he/she use when expressing approval? “Neat-o, cool beans,” are examples.

What about disapproval?

Any pet names for people – or animals, for that matter. I’m thinking the stereotypical waitress who calls everyone “hon” or the street hood wannabe who calls everyone “bro”

Education

Staying with your protagonist, what level of education does he/she have?

How does that level of education impact his/her financial status? What about word choices?

How will that level impact his/her relationship with either the other protagonist or with the antagonist?

Values

What is the most important thing in the entire world for your protagonist?
Does he/she have it? If not, why not? If yes, how would he/she feel if it were lost?

Of the following, which is most important to your character: honesty, love, money, power?
How does knowing that about your character affect the story? Or you as the author?

What is your character’s biggest turn-on? Turn-off? Why? Come up with something from his/her past that makes them feel that way.
  
Hobbies

I’m going to give you some pairs of words. Choose the one that best fits your protagonist.

Watch TV/go to the movies (what genres?)

Watch a sport/play a sport (which ones?)

Read a book/read a magazine (what genres)

Wash dishes/dry dishes/use the dishwasher/

Make dinner/go out to eat?

*****
So what do you know about your protagonist now that you didn’t know before? 

Okay, read over your responses and choose one piece of information to focus on. Take ten minutes to write either a scene for their novel that incorporates the answer or to jot down ideas for your novel from the answers you came up with. Go!

Play safe!
Diana

Frankenstein's Captain is now available

The dead speak to Kara Godwin. A walk through the cemetery fills her head with stories...stories she publishes as fiction for some much-needed cash.
But that's all they are - stories. Until the day one of them follows her home.

Robert Walton is real. He fell in love with Mary Shelley and she immortalized him as the ship’s captain who rescues Victor Frankenstein. Only she did more than that...

Now Kara Godwin must decide what to do with Frankenstein's Captain....

*****
As promised in my newsletter, I have rewritten, re-edited and republished this novella formerly known as Kara's Captain. While I generally prefer not to rewrite past stories, this one has always tugged at me. The characters wanted more and I wanted to give it to them. More what? Um...I DO write erotic romance, remember? :) Frankenstein's Captain is nearly ten thousand words longer than the original story, so you know Kara and Robert wanted a lot more!

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is a novel I've loved for years. I first read it in college, not for a class, but because I was working my way through the classics just for fun. Moby Dick, Ivanhoe, Jane Eyre...I read them all because, well, they had to make it onto the classic list for some reason!

Frankenstein so stuck with me that I ended up sharing the novel with my students. Because the language can be exalted and the grammar complicated, I read it out loud to several classes, tying it in with current research in artificial intelligence, body part replacement and genetics. Every year I found new articles in these fields. Mary Shelley published her piece of fiction in 1816, but it reads like non-fiction today with all the advancements that have been made.

Still, it works as a cautionary tale against unthinking obsession and begs the question: Just because we can invent something, should we? At what point do ethics and morality step forward and say no, don't go there? Good questions we're still grappling with.

Robert Walton is Victor Frankenstein's foil in Mary Shelley's book. Victor is exhausted, having spent his energy chasing the creature he created. He discovers that Walton has similar passionate feelings about his own desire to find the North Pole. "Do you share my madness?" Victor asks him. "...let me reveal my tale and you will dash the cup from your lips!" The framing provided by Walton now sets up the arena for Victor to take over the story and tell his "tale."

But what if Walton was a real person? What if he truly existed and had something to teach us today? That's the 'what if?' at the center of Frankenstein's Captain. I never liked the original title because it put the emphasis on the wrong character. Kara's important...very important to the story, but ultimately, it isn't her story, it's his. His story of survival, of desire and, eventually, understanding that love for another person is the strongest force of all.

So I am pleased I had the opportunity to refocus this story, adding more than just sex to it (although there's a good deal of that, too!). I hope you enjoy Frankenstein's Captain as much as I did writing it. Click here (or on any of the hyperlinked titles) to purchase. And don't forget to add a review!

Play safe,
Diana

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

How's it going?

In honor of NaNoWriMo, I'm posting only encouragement, not activities. Your only writing activity should be writing your novel. In fact, why are you reading this? Go write!!!!

:)
FULLY OWNED, a Jack Kariola book from Mystic Shade, re-releases today with a new cover and with typos fixed -- and is available in several stores for the first time.

Click here for an excerpt of this very steamy, very naughty novel.

Click here for purchasing options.

Remember, Mystic writes for "the shadier sides of our desires" so be warned! :)

Play safe,
Diana

Sunday, November 03, 2013

I'm at the Scribes today...with new info about 12 Days, my newest release. Head on over and get the skinny!

Also, watch this space for news about a re-release from my "shadier" alter-ego. :)

Play safe,
Diana

Friday, November 01, 2013

NaNoWriMo 1st day

You've spent October preparing...now's the time to write! You need an average of 1266 words per day to hit 50K by the 30th. Go!

:)
Diana

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mastering the Alpha Male

I met Ann Jacobs at my very first Romantic Times Convention back in 2004. Because authors are often seated alphabetically at book signings, we've been next to each other, not only then, but several times since. I'm pleased to welcome Ann today to talk about the wonderful Alpha Male characters we all know and love.

What is it about romance readers that draw them to the Alpha Male, that commanding, sometimes exasperating guy they’d most likely strangle if they had to live with him every day?

I believe it’s the fantasy—the secret dream of every woman to be protected, wrapped in the strong arms of a man who will take on all her problems and make them go away by the sheer force of his will. On an even deeper level, it’s the need to escape a modern world full of responsibilities, decision-making, high pressure demands of bosses and society in general…to relinquish the iron control she must exert on a daily basis to a man strong enough to shoulder all those.

A hero to die for—he is hard to buy in a contemporary setting unless… Unless he’s a desert sheikh to fulfill a modern woman’s harem fantasy, a larger-than-life figure so dominant he can master even the strongest woman… Unless he can reach into a reader’s psyche and make her think, “I want this man to take me—anywhere he chooses to go.” That hero must connect with the reader on every level: physical, emotional, sexual, but mostly emotional. He must control the heroine (and thus, the reader) with care, with love, with an understanding of her needs that transcends her own self-knowledge.

Alpha males—they’re strong men, strong enough to tame stronger lovers. Sometimes unabashed Alphas are easier to sell to readers when their stories are set in worlds apart from the contemporary world where we all live, which I believe is what drives authors whose favorite story worlds are contemporary to detour into fantasy worlds of their own making.

Move basically contemporary Alpha heroes into a fantasy world, and an author’s ingrained inhibitions can take a backseat. I did this in a brave yet often terrifying futuristic world that I created, a world very loosely based on premises George Orwell put forth in his classic, 1984, in which Earthlings’ personal freedoms are first eroded and then destroyed.

The result: ten loosely connected novellas based on heroes who refused to accept strictures placed on their sexual freedom and who built their own societies in which there were no sexual bounds, no societal taboos to threaten and emasculate them.

No Bounds, my newest release from Ellora’s Cave Publishing, is the first, chronologically speaking, in the novellas. It is the story of the strong Alpha Dominant who follows and founds a colony off-planet after being banished from Earth—a resort where his fellow Earthlings may safely pursue their forbidden fantasies. No Bounds and the nine novellas (Note 1) that follow demonstrate what happens when Mankind’s personal freedoms are abridged—and how strong men and their even stronger lovers find not only sexual freedom but also the happily-ever-after endings they could not have achieved back home.      

 Ann Jacobs

Note 1:


  • Quest for Pleasure series: No Bounds, Topaz Dream, Gates of Hell
  • Pleasure Partners series: His Pleasure Mistress, Pleasure Slave, Enslaving the Master, Imperfect Partners, Perfect Master, Her Alien Masters, Training the Master, Alien Pleasures, Alien Masters
Activity

Your turn! If all the rules were off, if no one was there to tell you, you can't....what would the men be like? The women?

Brainstorm on paper (in your journal is a good spot. Napkins work well, too!). Make a list of characteristics for each gender.

Then write a scene of interaction focusing on dialogue. Let the sparks fly!

Diana


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Old pictures

I came across an old photo tonight - a set of photos, actually. Three of them. In each I'm wearing the same costume as my eighteen-year-old self poses with King Arthur in one, with Lancelot in another and with the director in the third. The play is Camelot; I played Guinevere and am in my Act I, scene 1 dress with my hair done up and my bearing, regal.

Looking at the pictures of Arthur and Lancelot made me smile. I used to call the two of them my two towers because they were both six foot two and I was (and am) five foot four. Standing between them at the end of Act I when we're all decked out in our rented costumes, I felt alternately protected and small.

But it was the one of my director and myself that, for some reason, struck a chord with me tonight. I'm pretty sure it was a secret to no one that I had a tremendous crush on him back then, despite my protestations to the contrary. He was off-limits, though, for several reasons, one of which was that he was a teacher and you just didn't flirt with teachers. The other, the big one, was that he was a Brother - an Irish Christian Brother - and had already dedicated his life to God. Those of you who've read "Love at Third Sight" know I consider going against another woman to be fair game, but going against God? No dice!

Still I kept in contact with him via letters for a few years -- until I met the man of my heart as well as my dreams. It probably isn't coincidence that both my former director and my husband are both tall, dark-haired Italians (my husband's shorter than my director, though. I don't hold it against him) who were holy men. I wrote my director to tell him I'd met Steven and we were going together, but the letter came back. I'd lost the address and had guessed -- and guessed wrong. I never tried again.

But this is my retirement year. I became a teacher, too. And seeing that photo made me wonder if he's still teaching or if he's now retired. I remember his youthful energy and spark, his love of learning, his artistic talents...and find it hard to imagine him old enough to be on the other end of his career. Yet here I am, so therefore, he must be as well.

It's funny how, when people drop out of your life, they cease to age. In your mind they remain the same as they were when they left. I certainly don't look like the girl in those photos. My hair is grayer, childbirth has added pounds to my frame. I found a recent picture of my King Arthur. His hair is shorter now and his lanky-ness has grown into maturity, but I still see my Arthur in his eyes. If I were to see him on the street, I think I'd recognize him, so maybe we haven't changed too much?

I spent some time doing an online search for my director - just to see if I could find him. I couldn't. The Irish Christian Brothers have gone through some hard times and will, I hope, emerge wiser for it. But their website doesn't list placements. If he's even still a brother.

And I find it doesn't matter. I'll paste the photo into the new album and think of those times fondly. I hope he's had a good life, one that has brought him happiness, friendship, and love. Mine has. It makes me wish the same for all.

I'll close tonight with my traditional admonition, but know my thoughts are decades in the past, at a time when I knew I wanted to write but didn't yet have the courage to try, a time where a young, handsome teacher understood the growing pains of a young woman and guided her in a more suitable direction, a time when I was the queen and several bowed to me...

Play safe,
Diana
PS. If you'd like to read "Love at Third Sight", it's in the Timeless Love collection, on sale for a limited time only!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Finding inspiration

Many of my recent posts have been about gearing up for NaNoWriMo (like this one, this one and this one) and, if you don't yet have an idea for your novel, this post might help with that, too.

But today's post isn't just about finding an idea for the upcoming write-a-thon, but about finding inspiration in lots of places. About a year and a half ago I wrote about using art as inspiration, but really, that spark of creativity can be found in just about any object or person. I once wrote a (very) short story about a man's profile. I was eating in McDonald's with my family (we were squeezing dinner in between dance classes and basketball practice. Sue me.) and happened to notice the man in the booth across the aisle from us. I did a double-take because I thought for a moment that I was looking at a full-sized, in-color Roman coin. His profile was classic Roman aristocrat and I wondered if his bloodline included the Caesars. A glance, a look, inspiration and a short story.

But little things....mundane objects....the odd spoon in your silverware drawer, a jagged stone off the ground, a leaf...can also bring inspiration and spark entire stories in our minds. That's the cool part of being a writer. Our minds never lack for stories. Just give us an object and a few minutes of thinking time and we're off.

Activity

1. Close your eyes. WAIT! Read all the directions first and THEN close your eyes.

2. Count to five while turning away from your computer.

3. Not facing your computer, open your eyes and focus on the first thing your gaze lights on.

4. Using that object, no matter how mundane, write a scene in which it plays an integral part. It can become the protagonist (personification) or will, perhaps, be an object used or wanted by the protagonist. Or maybe the antagonist uses it against the protagonist.

5. Okay, now you can close your eyes and follow from #2. :)

Play safe and leave a tip!

Diana 




Thursday, October 17, 2013

A request


Back in the early part of 2012, I wrote a special story for some special friends. Heath Vercher asked me to write a short story detailing a very special Valentine's evening and I was happy to oblige. I don't often write commissioned stories, but this was for a wonderful couple so very much in love, how could I resist? He chose the setting (Houston, Texas) and the hotel (Hotel Zaza) and I supplied the sizzle and steam. His wife loved the story and they gave me permission to publish it as A Night to Remember (for a direct Amazon link, click here)

I wish this story has a happy ending, but it doesn't. At the end of September, Heath's wife, Tania, was killed in a case of road rage. Their son was taken to the hospital in critical condition. No, the anger of the driver wasn't directed at them, but as his own wife and child. In an attempt to run them off the road, the driver ran into Tania instead, killing her instantly. AJ, their two-year-old son, died the following day.

The enormity of such rage, rage so huge it wanted only to hurt, is something I don't understand. But I cannot sit by and simply shake my head and say, "That's awful," or "That's too bad." In the face of hatred, all I know how to do is love.

And so, from now until the end of the year, all proceeds from A Night to Remember will be donated to Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Heath has friends who have a child with SMA and he and Tania used to help at fundraisers for the organization. When I told him I wanted to do this, needed to do this, he suggested donating to this charity in their name.

Let's make this a big donation, folks. The tally starts now, so any copy you purchase between now and December 31st will help out. If you choose to give directly, please be sure to give in the name of Tania and AJ Vercher.

To purchase A Night to Remember in the format of your choice, click here and scroll down the page.

Thank you all,

Diana

edited Friday, Oct. 18th.

WOW! You guys are wonderful! We've raised $100 overnight. Thanks and let's keep it up! :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The holiday made me do it!

This past Monday was Columbus Day in the US and it's got my schedule all goofed up. As a result, I missed posting a workshop yesterday as my brain considered it a Monday. Tonight my daughter said something to me about tomorrow being Thursday already and the truth hit me.

I missed posting a workshop yesterday.

So, for those of you getting ready for NaNoWriMo...getting your pencils sharpened? Your laptops charged? A writer's group near me is preparing by having a party for all participating. Of course, they're having said party the weekend BEFORE the craziness starts so all the writers can be well-rested for November 1st.

It's a good idea, actually, to start clearing your calendar for the thirty days of November, if you haven't already done so. And clearing the writing space you intend to use. I tell myself I write best in a dust-free environment, but that's really just and excuse to put off sitting down and writing sometimes. Vaccuuming, dusting, straightening...all those usually mundane chores suddenly become fun and entertaining when used as a procrastination tool.

So your assignment this week is to clean. Seriously. Clean your apartment, clean your house, clean your birdcages, litter boxes and wastebaskets. Do the cleaning now so you can put off doing it for the entire month of November. Make that window sparkle and blow the dust out of your keyboard. Wash the curtains, mop the floors, change your bedsheets (okay, you might want to do that last one more than once between now and November 1st!).

As my mother used to say, "A clean house makes for a clean mind." I think she was talking about dirty thoughts, but I prefer to think of clean as meaning centered and ready to work. :)

So go clean. Write notes to yourself about stories as you clean. Maybe stories about cleaning? Cleaners? Housekeepers? Maids?

See!?! ANY activity can lead to writing ideas!

Play safe and get ready!
Diana

Saturday, October 12, 2013

If you didn't get your copy of the newsletter, try this link. Lots of information about not one, not two, not even three new releases...but FOUR books that are in the pipeline and should be available over the next few months. Click to read the newsletter, then subscribe so you don't miss out!

Diana




Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Limited Time Only!

For a limited time, Timeless Love is available on the Kindle platform. This collection of short stories is being re-released only from now through the holiday season. Because they're romantic in nature, but not erotic, I've released them under the name Diana Allandale. These four short stories make a perfect gift - or great to curl up with on a chilly fall day.

Visit your favorite Amazon to get your copy today!

Play safe,
Diana


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Gearing up Part II

NaNoWriMo begins in less than short four weeks. Are you getting ready? Clearing the calendar for November so you can spend every spare minute writing? Telling your spouse, kids, family, friends to leave you alone for thirty days? Obsessively rearranging your writing space to make maximum use of your creativity?

Yeah, me neither. I've got four more week, for cryin' out loud! I'm not pushing the panic button for at least another  twenty-two days!

Of course, I do get my ideas lined up and ready and have one picked before then so I can just start flying on Day One. Although I have yet to make it all the way through the month (I'm not good at getting rid of outside influences), I'm an optimistic sort of person and start out with the best of intentions. So we're keeping positive thoughts on this site!

Activity

Below are several one-word prompts to prime your creativity. Grab your journal and spend a few minutes with each one, writing down ideas, fragments of ideas, phrases, character sketches of whatever comes to mind. This is a brainstorming session, so first impressions only. The fleshing out comes later.

And, before you ask, no, this is not plotting. It's idea-generating. For those of you who do plot ahead, this would be the first step in that process. For you pantsers, same thing. You're not writing the story, you're just seeing if there's a story there.

I've deliberately spaced the words out so you can focus on one at a time. Copy the word into your journal, jot stuff down for 3-5 minutes, then move on to the next word. There are five, so this activity should take between 15-30 minutes. If all you have is five minutes now, do one, then come back as time allots.

Above all....have fun! :)

PROMPTS

1)       oven








2)        autumn








3)          subway grate








4)         stethoscope







5)         physics













Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Not today

Sorry, folks. Life gets in the way sometimes and this week it came barreling through in the form of bad news. Very bad news. You can read about it here.

So no writing today. Surround yourself with the people you love instead. Hug them and give them kisses and tell them how much they mean to you. Don't wait. Do it now. The writing will still be there tomorrow.

Play safe,
Diana

update: AJ died as well. He was two.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Finding Significance

In my day job I teach students how to write nearly every sort of paper they'll need for college. We cover six different writing situations throughout the year, the first one being a reflective essay from the point of view of the observer. Today in class the importance of finding significance for your writing came up and on my way home, I thought over what we discussed in class and realized it applies to writing fiction as well as non-fiction.

Purpose

Each time you create a scene or a bit of business between your characters, it pretty much is assumed that scene or bit of business has a purpose. That it's important in one way or another. That purpose might not show up until much later in the novel, but it has to show up. For example, crime novels drop little crumbs of information throughout the entire story. Only at the end does the lead detective put them all together and give them meaning when he/she identifies the criminal.

I'm currently working on a fantasy novel, one I've been writing off and on for decades. Early on there's a scene where my young protagonist has spent his first night away from everything he's ever known and gets himself into a small bit of trouble. Very small. So insignificant I almost cut the scene.

But in discussing  this scene with my husband, I discovered he had a very different take on what was happening. What, to me, seemed to be just a little fun piece of my story, provided important character information to him. With that short, one-page scene, he understood right away the enormity of what the character was about to undertake -- and just how unprepared the character was for what was to come.*

In other words, determining a scene's purpose not only helps the reader, but helps the writer to a deeper understanding of where the character is coming from and where they need to grow.

The "So what?" factor

This was the sticking point with my students' today. So you're going to write about a particular event in your life. So what? Why should I care? Why should I spend my time reading whatever it is you end up writing about?

Good questions for fiction writers, too.

Readers should never shrug their shoulders and say, "So what? Who cares what happens to these characters?" As the creator/author/writer of the story, it's your job to MAKE them care. Write scenes that are significant, not only to the characters, but to the reader as well.

And that leads to:

Identifying with the character

Have you ever read a book and said of a character, "That's me! That's my life!" or "That happened to me. I know exactly how he/she feels!"

That's an author who not only found purpose for her characters and given you what you need to not even think the so-what question, but who has also imbued that character with enough believe-ability, enough plausibility, that you totally identify with him or her. The characters have significance and so do their actions.

Significance. Meaning. Weight. Worth. Importance. All synonyms with good characters and good scenes.

Over the next few weeks we'll take each of these in depth but for now, take a look at the activity below and see how you can start putting this to work for you right away.

Activity

Pull out your current work-in-progress and identify the significance of every scene. Break it down. What should readers learn from that scene: Is the plot moved forward or are important character traits established? Both of these are important and can give the reader significant information. Make a chart like the one below (optional: include another column and put P for plot and C for character significance)

Chapter
Scene
significance

2


B. wakes up under a wasp’s nest*
Shows how unprepared he is for life on his own

If you can't find ANY significance for the scene, ask yourself: does this scene really belong in the story? Why is it here if it has no purpose?

Why do this? Because if you don't, some college kid is going to do it for you...or worse, some reviewer. The LAST thing you want people writing about your work is, "This story has no point"!!!

For NaNoWriMo writers:

If you're a plotter and getting your ducks in a row for November, start plotting your scenes and finding the significance now. That way, come those thirty days, you won't waste time on scenes that aren't important.

If you're a pantser (like me), this will be an activity you'll want to come back to in December when you edit. Ideally you're doing it as you go, at least in your head (using those metacognitive** skills). For now, take a look at your current wip to better understand your own processes.

(Sidenote: use the links if you're not sure what those terms mean. They link to previous workshops on those approaches)

*Same scene in both examples
** Writers tend to call metacognition by a different name: the internal editor

Take care and let me know what you're working on in the comments!

Diana








Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Gearing up

NaNoWriMo begins in seven weeks. Are you ready?

November has become where writers of every level from beginner to well-published throw caution to the wind and attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a single month. Most of these writers have day jobs and can't afford to take the time off so they cram as much writing as they can into every available minute during the four weeks of November - and many succeed in hitting that arbitrary mark.

Every year I (unofficially) participate in the fun although I have yet to reach the target goal. At least, reach it during the month of November. I start out with great intentions and two weeks in, grades are due and I've spent the last five days reading senior papers. Then Thanksgiving comes and my time is not my own. Too many commitments and too little time :).

But let's make that promise together. This year we will devote every waking moment not otherwise assigned to writing a novel. To getting 50K new words down on paper (or at least onto the computer). We will post our numbers and encourage each other and get darn close if not over our goal! This is OUR year and we are going to do it!

So today's workshop is really preparing for that month-long event. Get out your calendars and clear them now. Write NaNoWriMo in big letters over the word "November." Start letting your friends and family know that, while you might be in the house, you're really going "away" for the month and that you'll have a great big surprise for them on the 30th.

Go on now, go get your ducks in a row so that you're ready. Drop a tip in the jar and shoo!

Diana
:)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Writing workshops starting up again

I know, I know. I took a week longer than I said I would. I forgot that my day job started up again last Tuesday (I'm a teacher and that was the first day of school). Should've turned the calendar to see that.

So it's a new school year, the calendar that's run my life for the past fifty-two years (both before the desk and behind it*). Other people run on a fiscal calendar that extends from July 1st to June 31st. Still others rule their lives by other calendars - religious or cultural calendars come to mind.

Our calendars dictate our days to a great extent. In early times, most people simply lived by the seasons, not having any numbering system in place to keep track of the passing of time. As scientific knowledge grew to be a part of civilizations, the days of our lives became more and more important. With the dawn of the Industrial Age and the rise of Big Business, keeping track of hours worked and days on task became even more rigid.

Today most people wouldn't think of leaving home without first consulting a calendar, either a paper one hanging by a desk or a digital one on one's smartphone. In our house, We live and die by the calendar on the fridge. Everyone's work schedules go there, doctor's appointments, book signings, art show openings, birthdays, holidays, special occasions. You will often hear me say, "If it isn't on the calendar, it doesn't exist."

And it's true. In 21st century America we schedule, re-schedule and over-schedule our days, and have for a long time.

Sidestory: I took today off because of a dentist appointment. As I was driving home, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful late summer day. But the light looked different than it had just two weeks ago. Over the summer I'm out and about during the day all the time. I know what a summer day looks like.

But I don't know what a late summer day looks like. Well, I do, but only on the weekends. So, as I drove, I thought to myself, "It looks like a Saturday out here."

The reality, however, is that it looks like an ordinary late summer day. But I work inside during the week. For seventeen years I worked in a room with no windows. Then I moved to a room with a few, but there was an old Quonset-style greenhouse just outside, so I couldn't see much. For the past few years I've taught in a room with a beautiful bank of windows--that overlook a courtyard. So I don't see how the light plays differently at the end of summer except on the weekends. Hence, today "looked" like a Saturday to me.

And that, of course, got me to thinking about my writing and how my characters might think about their days. If I've given them a job where they work inside, how would the light affect them on the weekends? What about their calendars? Do they live and die by an electronic one? a paper one? Are their days their own or do they have to march to a dictated schedule?

And that, my dear writers, is today's assignment. Take a look at your current work-in-progress or the notes for the story you're about to write. Ask those same questions of your characters. How are they influenced by the passing of time? Do they count days? Even though this is my last year of teaching, I'm not yet counting down the days. Ask me again in April, though, and you'll probably get a different answer.

Keep that in mind. A character's answer might change throughout the story. What was important at the start might no longer be important at the end (which is an entirely different workshop!), but it also applies to how they track time. Are they ruled by their calendars? Do they "build in" spontaneity? Or do they just let things happen?

Grab your writing journal and make notes about your characters and their approach to time. Above all, have fun with this!

Diana
Yes, I'm retiring in a year and soon this blog will need to be self-sufficient. Drop a tip to help it keep going!

* I wrote poems about those days here, among other topics. :)





Saturday, August 24, 2013

How I spend my Saturday nights...

I tell myself I’m not going back. That it’s time to move on and explore other worlds, learn other stories.

It’s no good.

I go back again and again and again. Sucked right back into the paths I’ve traveled so many times I could walk them in my sleep. From the desert landing and into the Cleft with a short stop to listen to Zandi’s advice.

You think I’m talking about a book, don’t you? I might as well be. The storytelling is so tight, the worlds so beautifully depicted that I feel as if I’ve stepped into a book each time I visit. A book where I get to write some of the story. Or at least be a part of it.

No, I’m talking about Uru. The lost civilization of the D’ni. Rand and Arthur Miller started it off back when computers were young. Myst, the first in the series, was re-released as RealMyst when graphics got better as technology improved. Riven came next, then Exile, Revelations and End of Ages. But people clamored for more and Uru was conceived. A place for explorers to gather, in D’ni, and solve puzzles together, talk, write more chapters of the D’ni universe. The Path of the Shell was the original expansion pack for Uru, although the plug was pulled far too early and the two pieces never got put together quite the way they were envisioned (although now, if you play Uru: The Complete Chronicles, you have both the trip to D’ni and PotS in one).

Now, however, Uru lives again. A live game with real people to talk to and explore with. Except I’ve solved all the puzzles (many times over). There are no surprises and very little that I haven’t done.

And yet, I go back to visit every so often as if its a favorite vacation spot. I walk around, relive the adventure and see the gorgeous settings...just because they’re beautiful. Its just so relaxing, even walking over the humongous drop off in Kadish or listening to Yeesha in the Bahro cave. The Gallery in D’ni, however, is my favorite spot. The music is haunting and I could listen to it for hours on end.

Which is, in fact, what makes me think it’s time to visit again. As I write this, I’m listening to the soundtrack by Tim Larkin and as the music plays, I can see all the scenes in my head and I want to see them again with my eyes.

Yep. It’s time for another visit to D’ni. Anyone care to join me in-world?

Diana

NOTE: Several of the games are also available as apps for your Iphone and Android mobile devices. Personally, I not only have all of them on DVD (or CD for some of the older ones), but I also bought the bundle on Steam and play them there. Uru Online, however, has it’s own site.


SECOND NOTE: If you choose to enter these worlds, do so with a pencil and paper beside you. The puzzles require pieces of information to be put together – and those pieces are not always near each other. Taking notes and puzzling them out is half the fun!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Drat

I just got home from helping pack my parents (it's an on-going process that's liable to take the next two months) and realized I never wrote a post for today's workshop so I think I'm just going to make it official: I'm taking the rest of the month off.

That means no new workshop for this week or next. I'm currently spending all the time I have (that means, when I'm not cleaning out 57 years of stuff my parents have collected in their marriage) writing a new story. It will probably end up around 15-20,000 words...just a short piece for a special occasion I'll tell you about in September.

Now, just because I'm not posting a new workshop doesn't mean you get the time off. Go back through and review previous workshops, work on your own new work-in-progress, read and analyze a good book. Keep the mind sharp and the fingers nimble!

And play safe!
Diana :)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bookshelves

To browse my bookshelves is to browse my history.

Our history, actually. The books my husband and I choose to keep reflect our lives both before our marriage and during. Walk into the study (as we call it) and you could tell the story of our lives by reading the titles on the bookshelves.

We have always had a study. Even in our first apartment we turned the extra bedroom into a room of books. Of course, back then we couldn’t afford shelves, so most of the books remained in boxes.

But that was okay. The ones we really wanted were out (The Lord of the Rings, for example) and we knew we weren’t going to rent forever. Might as well leave them boxed for the next move – which was into our first house.

That house was about 1400 square feet, but it had three bedrooms upstairs. We took the back bedroom as our own, the tiny bedroom as storage (no attic) and the front room as our study. I never had the privilege of meeting my husband’s grandfather, but the one and only bookshelf we owned was one he’d built and my husband had inherited. Steven built all the bookshelves for the study based on his grandfather’s design.

When my daughter was born, the storage room became the baby’s bedroom. Then my son came into the world and we round-robined the rooms: ours became my daughter’s, we moved into the study and all the bookshelves moved into the hall. Notice we did not box up the books and put them into storage. We overcrowded the house rather than not have them available.

When we outgrew the house, we deliberately chose a new house with extra bedrooms. There are four of us, so naturally we chose a five bedroom Queen Anne. A bedroom each for my son and daughter, one for my husband and I to share, a tiny room for my loom and one beautiful bedroom with a balcony that overlooks the park for the study. Yes, the books got the best bedroom of the house.

So how many books are we talking? I actually counted at one point and stopped at a thousand. Some are small – scripts for plays don’t take up much room – until you have over a hundred; we quickly outgrew the shelves my husband had made. I found a picture in a magazine that showed a set of shelves that took up an entire wall and went around a door. My husband, bless his soul, said, “Sure. I can build that!”

That's our cat, Aspen, in the corner.
 He thinks HE owns the house.



 And he did. The door to the study originally had just the center section as clear glass. In the room’s makeover, he took the door down and stripped the seven (seven!) layers of paint off it and found a beautiful red maple underneath. We both do stained glass work (him more than me lately) and he designed a set of windows that depict the four seasons.

When we found molding that matched the window, we bought it and used watercolor paint, thinned to make a stain, to color in the leaves and vines. He built cupboards down below with a wide shelf for oversized books. Why cupboards? Because I wanted a place to hide the messy stuff like papers and maps.



The turned corner. And some books I'm still trying
to find room for. The books over the doorway are
 all over a hundred years old. Play scripts are the first
section beside the door.


But my hubby isn’t one to do things by halves. We realized that we’d have some wasted space on the eastern wall so our solution was to “turn” the bookshelf so it would wrap around that corner and give a little more shelf space. However, I went to my day job on the day he was framing things up and when I got home, he’d done the same to the western wall, even though it meant a six-foot extension. He said it just made sense to him.

I’m glad it did. When we unboxed the books to put them on the new shelves, we thought we’d have lots of space left over.
Obviously we didn’t.

We filled nearly every inch of every shelf.

And it’s only gotten worse. We’ve gotten to the point that, in order for a book to be added, a book has to go. Talk about dilemmas!

Shakespeare starts on the right. Next section is science
 fiction. First section facing you is fantasy and
the section near the door is biography, philosophy
comedy and gardening. Eclectic!
Because that’s where the history of our lives comes in. My husband originally planned to be a Roman Catholic priest, but left the seminary when he fell in love with me (blush). He still has two full shelves of philosophy books and isn’t willing to part with any of them. They are an interest of his (he’s still more likely to pick up and finish a book on belief systems than any other type of book) and an important part of his life.

Then there’s the entire six-shelf section of play scripts. We were both theatre majors and he is a  theatre director. My daughter is a stage manager (and currently in-between jobs – if you have one, she also does scenic painting and lighting design). Just yesterday my husband was looking for a play to direct this autumn and came to that set of shelves to browse. Books on theatre have spilled over to a seventh shelf of oversized ones.

Let’s not forget the six shelves of Shakespeare editions and commentaries. A group of us, just out of college and unemployed, decided not to wait for opportunity. We created our own theatre troupe and talked Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua into letting us perform. They paid for the dry cleaning of our costumes (which I made) and allowed us to pass the hat after each performance for our money. Three of us, a good friend, Larry Woodhouse, my husband and I owned the company and we performed at Sonnenberg for eight years. That set of shelves represents not only our love of Shakespeare, but some fun memories as well.

Science fiction and fantasy. Two separate genre that often get shelved together in libraries and bookstores. Each gets its own space in our study. Both are among my favorite genre to read, although I confess to a preference for fantasy. As a result, the fantasies have started to encroach on the science fiction. In a normal house where the shelves didn’t tell stories, this might be all that was on the shelves.

Biographies. I enjoy reading bios as well – people’s stories have always fascinated me. Probably why I first tried to become an actress and now write stories. This section has seen the most culling out. I finally decided I could only keep the stories of actors and actresses and a few historical figures (sorry, John Adams is one of my favorites. I have several biographies of him and they stay and that’s final!). I also kept the first biographies I ever got – one of George Washington and one of Alexander Hamilton – because they’re a part of who I am. They’re my history.

What’s left? Everything else. Although I prefer fantasy, I read everything. Classics and mysteries (Poe and I share a birthday. Is it any wonder I went literary with my life?), pulp novels and non-fiction. A small collection of poetry, some anthologies. Emily Post for when I need a point of etiquette. What are the criteria for shelving in this section? Whatever flops my mop. It has to be good enough for me to say, “yeah, I want to keep this.”

You’ll notice there’s very little in the way of romance on my shelves. Most of those I read and pass on. I’ve kept a few, but mostly, no. There’s no erotic romance because I buy those as ebooks. At first that was a conscious decision because I had small children, then growing, curious children. Now it’s a matter of habit. So nothing on the shelves I couldn’t share with my mother.

You will also notice the knickknacks. Each of these also tell a story and each is placed where it is for a reason.

I started by saying that, to browse our bookshelves is to browse our history. You want to know me and my family? Come visit and we will spend an hour or two in this room. My husband is reflected in it. My daughter has added to the collection, my son is currently reading through all the science fiction (although he prefers audiobooks. He’s so excited when he discovers the book he’s currently listening to is one we have on the shelves and that I’ve read it.) This room is our collective heart.

What we choose to keep and what we choose to pass on or throw away is part of what makes us who we are. These books are me. Each of them has changed me in some way and I keep them to remind me of those changes.

If you want to know some of the stories, +1 this if you’re reading it through Google, re-tweet the post if you’re on Twitter, send me an email or leave a comment below and I’ll write some short stories.

In the meantime, take a look at your own bookshelves. What stories about you do they tell? What is your criteria for keeping a book vs. passing it along? Tell us a story!

Play safe!
Diana, who plans to spend this rainy day curled up in that wing-backed chair reading a book....