Tuesday, May 22, 2018

She's dead. I killed her.

Apologies to The Wizard of Oz, but yes, I have killed today.

Damn, that was hard.

In my current fantasy work-in-progress, I have set up a system of rules for how nature behaves. It isn't tremendously complicated, but the rules are strict and the turning point will depend on those rules being immutable. Much later in the book, the characters (and hence, the readers) will find out why those rules were put in place and may find themselves in agreement with the need for such rigidity. Or they might not. I don't know, I haven't written that far yet. I'm sure my protagonists will have decided opinions - when we get to that point.

Unfortunately, one of the rules in place meant a character that I'd had a lot of fun developing, a character who will quickly become a favorite among readers (because that character has become a favorite of mine) - well, that character had to die. Please note, I am not using gender pronouns here so as to not give who it is away.

I so much wanted this person to live that, months ago, I wrote a chapter ending that allowed him/her to live. Because of the nature of this particular book structure, I didn't get back to that part until today when I wrote an entire scene rejoicing in the fact that this person had done something and not died! Hooray! Happy ending to that part of the adventure!!!

Except, letting that character live, broke the immutable rules of the world. Letting him/her live would ruin the whole climax of the turning point. He/she had to go.

And so, for the second time in a week's time, I've had to kill my darlings. First was a section that took the story in the wrong direction and today, it was a character I truly loved writing.

Sometimes being a writer sucks.

Play safe,
Diana

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Killing your darlings

Since retiring from teaching full-time, I've been an adjunct instructor at our local community college. I love teaching there - especially at the satellite campuses where the students are (usually) non-traditional in their ages. What's especially exciting is that the college is instituting the Freshman Year Seminar - a class students take either their first or second semester that will help them transition to the more rigorous requirements of higher education. I am honored that I was asked to design and teach one of those seminars.

Each seminar has a different focus. The science seminars, for example, might be based on some of the more controversial aspects of science research or centered on science in today's media. I'm in the Humanities, so our topics/issues can be quite broad. I've chosen "The Memoir as Self-discovery" as the title to mine.

What does that mean? It means I've been reading a lot of memoirs lately! While the students will spend a great deal of time writing their own (topics such as "How I learn best" and "How I got that scar"), they will also read others' memoirs so we can discuss style, form, and content.

To that end, I finally read Stephen King's On Writing. I know, I know - it's taken me long enough. I've only read a few of his books because I don't do well with horror or suspense. Gives me oggeta (I have no idea how to spell that Italian word and neither does the spellchecker). I've enjoyed the few pieces I have read (The Green Mile, Eyes of the Dragon) and now I can add On Writing to the list. He's blunt, concise, and pretty much right on track.

I particularly enjoyed the section on killing your darlings.

In fact, that's twice in two weeks that phrase has popped up - once in class discussion of literature and then again in King's book. In class, I spoke of how hard it can be - and how necessary. It isn't easy, they are, after all, your darlings. You created that character, that scene, that sentence. It is a part of you. It may be the most beautiful piece of writing you've ever created. If it doesn't serve the story, however, it must die.

In class I spoke of a description I'd included in the first few pages of a VERY long fantasy novel (that will probably never leave my computer. This was an early novel that holds just about every mistake a beginning novelist can make). At a workshop, I had the opportunity to read the first three pages to a group where a well-known author of fantasy would give a quick critique of our work. When I finished reading, she really honed in on the description of the flower, praising the imagery and phrasing. She then said, "I know that this flower will be very important later in the story because you spent so much time creating that beautiful image."

I thanked her for her critique, all the while cringing inside because I knew what she did not: that flower? Was just a flower. Nothing more. It never came back. It wasn't important. The protagonist bent down to smell it just because I needed to give him an action to do. Period.

But it had led at least one reader down an erroneous path. And if it could lead one...

I cut it.

Hard as it was to kill something praised as "beautiful imagery" with "excellent phrasing" - I cut it.

And I just did it again.

A different fantasy - the One of My Heart that is the Work of My Life - and I just cut an entire scene that I loved. Why? Because it didn't work. Oh, it was well-written and moved the plot forward, but I can move it forward more quickly and with better character development if I go a different route. The path has moved, in other words, and that scene is on a different branch. Sigh.

I do have to offer a disclaimer, though. Killing my darlings is never easy for me. To counteract the pain, I have a file I label "Extras" for each and every one of my stories. Not kidding. Every novel I have published? Has a file on my computer that contains writing that didn't make it into the final edit.

Why? Because every time I kill a darling, I think, "Well, I might go back and need it" or "I'll just use this later."

Want to know how many times I've put something back in after it's in the "Extras" file?

Zero.

Zilch.

Nada, not happening, never.

And yet, I keep doing it. Did it today when I put that entire chapter into the file in case I change my mind.

I wonder if Stephen King keeps all his dead darlings?

Oooh...I think there might be a story there - about a writer haunted by his dead darlings...

Play safe!
Diana

(edited to fix some typos)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Shh....its a Secret - in fact, it's TWO Secrets!

After two years of being out of print and unavailable, both SECRET SUBMISSION  and SUBMISSION REVEALED are both re-released into the great, wide world!

Secret Submission began life as a series of short pieces I wrote when I couldn't find any BDSM stories online that showed a loving relationship. All I could find back then (the early 2000's) was porn. Now, don't get me wrong - porn has its place. But it wasn't what I was looking for. When I complained to a friend, he suggested I write my own - and Secret Submission was born.

A few months later, I was looking for a home for an historical I'd written (Hardship and Hardtack) and came across a back page for Ellora's Cave. On it, was the email addy of their new Senior Editor. It got me thinking about that sequential series of stories I'd written that explored a woman's struggles to understand the BDSM lifestyle and why she was so attracted to it.

I sent off an email (which sounds so cavalier - in reality, it took me over an hour to write it as I agonized over every phrase!) - to my surprise, I got an answer about three hours later - on a Sunday night, no less. Response? She wanted to see my manuscript!

Not only was the quick reply unexpected, but I was so used to rejections for my historical, I didn't really expect anyone to want to see anything I'd written. Problem was, the manuscript wasn't organized into chapters, it wasn't even formatted well and it could use a good spellcheck - and it was nearly 10:00 on a Sunday night. What to do?

Call in sick to work on Monday, of course! I took the morning, whipped the first three chapters into shape and wrote a synopsis, and then stared at my responding email for a good twenty minutes before I summoned enough courage to hit "Send." I knew better than to get my hopes up - and the website said there was a 4-6 week period before getting responses, so I promptly attempted to put the whole thing out of my mind. The next day I went off to school, taught all day, came home and opened my email without expectation.

So you can imagine my surprise when there was an email from Ellora's Cave, offering to buy my book. I had pitched it as a two-book series and admitted the second book wasn't written yet, although the outline was. Because it was going to be two books, the first book didn't actually have much of an ending. The editor told me I had to change the end of the first book to a Happily Ever After. And they were only buying the first book. When I wrote the second, they'd consider it.

I was ecstatic! No problem in changing the ending to the first book, since I hadn't written it anyway. Oh, I'd made up an ending for they synopsis, but hadn't actually written it. My husband and I discussed a pen name since he is quite well-known in the community and I was teaching high school English at the time. Neither of us was in a position to let it be widely known I was about to be published as an erotic romance author.

I spent every evening and the weekend finishing the book and putting the rest of the short episodes into chapter form. By the following Sunday night (a week after that first email), it was ready to send to the woman assigned to be my regular editor - Pam Campbell. Pam was wonderful and we worked together on almost every book I wrote for Ellora's Cave. I miss her guidance.

Submission Revealed, which was always planned to be the second book, and for which I'd written the synopsis back in that quick week of May, 2004, didn't actually end up getting written until four years later and was released for the first time in May, 2009. Too many other stories crowded in between, demanding they be told. EC's art department was in transition at the time and I never liked the cover they provided. Secret Submission's cover was striking - and I never could figure out why they didn't do a visual tie-in with the covers so readers would know the two were related.

Hence the new covers for both books. While the design of Secret Submission is much the same as the original, the photo is different (I could've used the original, but the photo quality wasn't sharp anymore, so I replaced it). Submission Revealed's cover now aligns with the first book in the series, so you can tell they're partners.

So here they are, re-covered and re-released - all bright and shiny and new again. Both are available in all ebook formats. Happy reading and, as always -

Play safe!
Diana

PS. Submission Revealed is also available in print. Secret Submission is coming soon in print format.














Monday, March 05, 2018

So, what are you working on now?

I have some friends I don't see very often (maybe once a year) and every time I see them they ask, "So what are you working on now?" The question makes me realize two things: 1) they're not following my posts AND 2) I'm not posting often enough. So here goes:

What am I working on now?

I'm working on staying sane in an insane world. My country is so divided right now I worry about a civil war - and whose finger is on the nuclear button.

I'm working on writing new curriculum for a course that will be brand-new to me come fall semester. The college has asked me to teach a Freshman Year Seminar (FYS) and I said yes. It'll keep my mind young (at this point I'm fleshing out my topic: The Memior as Self-Discovery).

I'm editing and doing some major rewriting to The Revolution of Clara Simpson. It's an historical I wrote a few years back and it was denied by several publishers, one of whom gave me excellent feedback. Takes time to get back into that world - and then time to stay there, which has been in short supply lately.

I WANT to work on a fantasy I started nearly 20 years ago. It gets more timely every day - not something I expected when I first started chasing down the story. Like the historical, however, it requires my entering a world of my own creation - and staying there for a while. Hard when life pulls you out every other day - or oftener (is that a word? The spellchecker isn't marking it wrong!).
And I will work on my communication skills. Posting more often and getting back to that blog...Watch for some new re-releases coming soon - I've been working on those, too.

Play safe!
Diana