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?


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


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


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....

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Make your characters clean!

Cleaning is on my mind lately (to see why, read the end of this blog post) and, like most activities, it's gotten me to thinking about my characters and their plots.

If you read most romance novels, the heroines rarely clean. Personal hygiene, yes. We see them taking showers, washing their hair, their hands, their faces. But clean up the house? Maybe load a dishwasher once in a while, but run a vacuum? Clean out a closet? Heaven forbid...dust??? Never.

Mostly that happens because these stories are, at their heart, fantasies. We both clean up and clean out in real life, who wants to clean in a fantasy? Either make a servant do it or have a house that magically cleans itself. Or, if you're Hermione Granger, give her a wand and her own magical powers to make clean-up as simple as a wave of the wand.

Even in realistic fiction, cleaning an apartment or house rarely happens. As readers, we know it must, but that action isn't shown because most writers deem the activity as mundane. Normal. Boring. When it is mentioned, it's often only in passing. In Secret Submission, Sarah makes reference to washing dishes several times. "Again she helped him with the dishes, folding the towel and hanging it when they were done." But it isn't an action we see until later in the story.

Of course, there are entire plays that become movies that become television shows where the main point of conflict circles around one person who leaves things where they land and another prefers the apartment to be neat and tidy. I'm talking, of course, about Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. Roseanne also used cleaning (or the lack thereof) as a way to portray character.

Notice, however, the clutter in both those shows is played for comedy. We laugh because we see ourselves in these characters. Some of us don't mind dust in the corners and the shoes in the middle of the floor. Some of us prefer neat, clean lines and no clutter of any sort. The subject is mundane enough for the audience to feel comfortable enough to watch and laugh at the juxtapositions of the two extremes.


So here's your challenge this week. Write a scene in which your protagonist - not a side character, not someone minor, but your main character, the most important person in the story - cleans. You define "clean" (my children and I have very different definitions!) and decide what's getting cleaned: a closet, a living room, the dishes. Make it interesting. Make us care about what he/she is doing. Make cleaning important.

Or sexy.

I don't usually use these workshops as promotion for my own books, but I'm making an exception today since I have a scene that fits the assignment that I can use as an example. WARNING: the scene is erotic romance. Read only if you want to see one way of turning a normal, every day task into something sensuous and arousing. Take a look at a Secret Submission excerpt.

Alternately, write a scene in which your protagonist and another character have a disagreement about cleaning up or cleaning out. The trope of the woman wanting to toss out something of the man's is as well-known as the conflict between Felix and Oscar, but both can be given new twists.

Go on! Have some fun letting your characters do the clean-up chores while you watch them work. Beats getting out the dustcloth any day!

If you're finding these workshops useful, please make a donation. If the link below doesn't work, let me know at diana @ (without the spaces).


Monday, August 12, 2013

Secret Submission
by Diana Hunter
published by Ellora's Cave
All Rights Reserved

Dinner done, Phillip helped her clear. “You wash tonight, slave.” Dutifully, she filled the sink with soapy water and began the chore. He dried, but had fallen silent. In quiet peacefulness, the two worked to clean the kitchen and do the dishes.

She was on the second to last pot when he put down his towel. So busy was she in scrubbing a tough spot, she did not notice him take off his shirt. Not until he stepped behind her, his body touching hers, did he get her attention. His hands rested on her shoulders a moment, then followed her arms, all the way down into the soapy water. Her breath caught and her knees weakened a bit as she felt his fingers entwining with hers.

Gently he took each of her hands and, with her holding the scrubber, he guided her hands, slowly cleaning the pot together. Around and around the rim he guided her, then deep into the pot itself; his hands sensuous in the slippery water. The pot clean, he helped her to lift it and rinse it, his hands caressing hers, his head dipping to kiss her neck.

Only the wok was left and she lifted it into the water. Again his hands encircled hers as she washed around and around the pot, her eyes following the movement of their hands, her body unconsciously moving as she became more and more aroused. He set her hands deep in the water and lifted the wok, rinsing it and setting it in the drainer to dry. Reaching into the dirty water, he pulled the plug, letting it go. Then soaping his hands with fresh soap, he lathered them. Full of suds, he took her hands in his again, washing the grease and old soap from them.

Her head fell back on his shoulder as he washed her hands. Never before had washing dishes been erotic to her. Now she would remember this moment every time she so much as rinsed a dish at home. He turned on the tap and rinsed her hands, setting them back in the sink when they were clean.

Running his wet hands up her arms, he watched the goose bumps rise on her skin all the way to her shoulders. “Spread your legs for me, slave.”

She shivered at his words and moved her legs apart for him.

“Lean into the sink and present yourself to me.”

Trembling, she leaned forward until her elbows were almost touching the bottom of the sink. Her ass was high and she knew how open she was for him.

“Looks like my slave likes this position,” he remarked. “Your pussy lips are already open, inviting me in.”

Her breath quickened as he stepped up to her again and bent down to whisper in her ear. “I am going to take you here, slave. I am going to use you right here at the sink.”

You can purchase this book here (and read another excerpt, too!)

quick post

Very shortly an excerpt from Secret Submission will show up on this blog. That's only because I'm referencing it in tomorrow's writing workshop and need the page to be already live in order to link to it.

In other words, take no notice of the author behind the computer. Read the excerpt today or tomorrow as you will.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled activities.

Diana, trying to be efficient and not entirely succeeding...

Friday, August 09, 2013

New cover and catching up

New Cover

In case you haven't seen it yet, Cabin Fever has a new cover. Ellora's Cave is getting rid of their old Poser covers (finally!). While I liked the layout of the original, this cover has a much sexier look, don't you think?

This story was a challenge to write because it only had the two main characters and, for the most part, a single setting. In order to keep everything straight in the cabin itself (where all the furnishings were, where the doors were), I drew myself a map of the interior layout.

I also had to do a day-by-day plotting as I wrote, in order to keep my timeline believable. Because the internals didn't change (the characters or the setting), it was easy to become lost in time and think only a day had gone by when it had been over a week. I'm a pantster when writing the first draft, but for this book I found I needed to keep a running record in order to keep their stories straight.

A few reviewers have taken exception to the ghost couple that make several appearances in the book. Their complaint was that they weren't needed; they distracted from the main story.

I don't know about that.  I kinda liked the idea of lovers separated by distance and tradition who finally get together through their grandchildren. What do you think? Should I have just bagged that part of the story and concentrated only on Daniel and Isabella?

Feel free to write a review that agrees with or disagrees with the others. And leave comments on EC's site about the cover, too! Let them know what you like.

Catching up

I've finished the still-unnamed Christmas story. It lacks only a title and a cover and will be released just after Thanksgiving. This is a self-published work that's unlike anything else I've ever written. Still erotic romance, still with a BDSM kink...just a very different type of storytelling. Look for it in November.

I'm also writing what I suspect will be a long short story or a short novella revisiting Phillip and Sarah Townshend from Secret Submission and Submission Revealed. This September marks the ten-year anniversary of Secret Submission's release and I thought it would be fun to take a look at those two ten years later. SPOILER ALERT: They got married at the end of Sub. Revealed...are they still married ten years out? I'm writing the story to find out!

On a personal note:

My parents have made the decision to sell the house and move into an apartment. They moved out of the house I grew up in nearly twenty years ago, so I have no attachment to the structure, but it's still hard watching them make tough decisions as to what they can take with them and what has to go. Some things will be passed to us kids (there are three of us; I have a brother and a sister). Other things will go to a charity. Still others will be sold off in a tag sale.

Why am I telling you this? Because sometimes real life gets in the way of one's writing. I'll be spending a lot of time with them, helping them pack, helping them make decisions, helping them move. I'm glad I finished the Christmas story early because my late-summer, early-autumn will be taken up by all this.

This is a good move for them. They're moving to an apartment complex designed for senior citizens. There will be people there to check up on them and there's a pull-cord in every room for emergencies. There isn't a yard to deal with or maintenance of a large house to tire them out. It's the right thing for them to do.

It's also a hard thing for them to do.

Play safe, everyone!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Summertime prompts

We all like to kick back and relax during the summer months up here in the northern hemisphere. The days are long and the temperatures are hot - perfect for relaxing.

Today's prompts take advantage of that mood. Choose one, find a piece of shade and write the afternoon away.

Prompt A
The day is hot, hot, hot and your protagonist is a child at the beach. Who is he/she with? Why are they there? How does he/she feel about the heat? Is your character tired and cranky or does he/she want to stay in the sun longer than is wise? Write in first person from the child's perspective.

Prompt B
A beautiful glen stretches before you on this warm summer day. Describe it so that anyone reading your piece can see what you see and feel what you feel.

Prompt C
The sun is shining and it's a beautiful day outside. Just a hint of breeze blows the leaves. Your protagonist is working inside an air conditioned building with no windows. Write a conversation he/she has with his boss.

Have fun -- and enjoy the weather!