Monday, November 02, 2020

Pre-election reading

 Haven’t written much this past month – either fiction or non-fiction. To be honest, I feel like I’m in a holding pattern until the U.S. election is done. Here in New York State, we’re voting not only for President, but also for our Congressional Representative and several local offices. Most of my neighbors don’t agree with my choices, if the signs in their yards are any indication and normally, that wouldn’t bother me one bit. We each have our vote and sometimes it goes my way and sometimes it goes theirs. That’s what democracy looks like.

 This election, however, has a very different feel to it. The stakes are higher, for one, and I’m not entirely sure but that the country I grew up in will still exist in a year or two. Lots of stress right now, and knowing that the results of the election will not be known for days, weeks, months, isn’t helping.

 The characters in my head are just as stressed out as I am and have retreated to their respective rooms, cozying up with cups of hot chocolate – or glasses of whiskey, depending on the book-in-progress – so I’m giving them their time away and have turned to other pursuits in order to cope with my own concerns about the future. Mostly I’m escaping into the past and scrapbooking the several boxes of stuff that have accumulated or I’m escaping into other people’s worlds and reading.

 So what have I been reading? Here goes:

 Eragon, by Christopher Paolini – this one ticked me off. Yes, I realize it was written by a teenager – but it reads like it, too! NOT well-written at all (lots of passive sentences. LOTS of passive sentences). I wanted to shake the editor. It’s a good story and the kid should’ve been taught how to rewrite and make it smoother how to make the language flow rather than just patted on the back and published. Grrr. Started the 2nd in the series (Eldest), but no one had told him any differently, so he was still writing in the same immature style. Stopped reading Eldest after a chapter, so not counting it in my list.

 Grant, by Ron Chernow – am about ½ way through this one, still. Started it at the end of September, then needed something fictional, so set it aside. Will get back to it, though, so I’m counting it here. It’s good – and not a dry biography.

 A Princess by Christmas, by Julia London – a quick one that’s a companion to A Royal Kiss and Tell, which I’d read back in July. I like her writing and will continue to read her books!

 Cryptonomicon, by Neil Stephanson – my son recommended this one and, Oh. My. Glory. I didn’t understand ANY of the crypto stuff and ended up skipping those extremely detailed explanations and it took me a while to realize the time-hopping simply was telling the story of two generations of the same families, but eventually I got it. Not really my kind of story (graphic!) but the overall storyline was compelling enough that I finished it. All of it.

 By this point I needed something far more light-hearted. Found it in Rose Pearson's books. I read three of them in a row: In Search of Love, A Mistaken Rake, and A Broken Betrothal. I’ll read more of her!

 Moved back to fantasy for the next one – Brandon Sanderson’s The Arcaneum. This is a collection of short stories from his various worlds. I’d read most of them before, but I finished off the ones I hadn’t read, so am including the entire book here.

 I also have on hand a book of short stories by various authors all dealing with magic. But since I haven’t finished it, I’ll save it for November’s list.

 So, for those of you keeping count – that’s a total of 63 books for the year. More than one a week, but then, some of them (I’m looking at you, Cryptonomicon!) took a while to get through. And, depending on what tomorrow brings – I may yet hit a record number of books read in a single year.

 Play safe – wear a mask – and cross your fingers the country doesn’t fall apart,

 Diana

 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

 I wrote this a week ago and have been sitting on it, unsure whether I should share it or not. My husband has convinced me I should. Turns out, I'm not the only one feeling this way.


2020: 

A retrospective, although why anyone would want to look back and reflect on this year is…confusing.


A year of extremes. From the wildfires in Australia in January to the wildfires on the west coast of the US in August and September. A hurricane season that ran out of names and had to go to the Greek alphabet. Social uprising long overdue, a virus that defied analysis, a divided political system that then divided the country – if I believed in a vengeful God, I’d think he had it out for the human race.

Except that the human race is stupid enough, self-centered enough, and just plain stubborn enough to make its own set of trouble. No need to blame it on God. We did this to ourselves.

I used to be an optimist. Still am, at the core. We will get through this time of trouble just as we (i.e. the human race) have gotten through tough times before. It might take a few years, but we usually come out having learned something and progressed as a society. I believe we will do the same this time.

But damn, living through the mess is hard. Steven and I have it easy right now. We have money coming in via my pension and our teaching. Going online to teach, while a little stressful, isn’t all that bad, especially because everyone’s thinking this is temporary. Buckle up and teach/take the courses this way for now and in a year we’ll be back to in-person, on-campus classes.

We also have a house that’s paid for, so our bills are low. I have good health insurance (that will change in a year when I have to go on Medicare – one bridge at a time, thank you very much). We are not sick and have begun to carefully open our social circle (not something I’m keen to do, honestly. I kinda like the solitude. A chance to read!).

And still, I find my jaw clenching for no reason. I broke a tooth – probably from grinding my teeth. I’ve gained weight because I tend to eat my anxieties. And every day there’s a new idiocy from the White House or at the Walmart. I look around and wonder, “Is this how it happens? We fall as a nation, as a society, as a people, because people truly just don’t care about each other?”

In the old days (last year – heck, last February), one didn’t know who you met on the street was stupid and who was a brainiac. It didn’t matter. You saw a stranger and smiled politely, nodded, perhaps exchanged a pleasant greeting, and moved on. No judgment, no negativity. Simplicity.

Now, however, there is a visible sign of not only their lack of understanding, but increasingly, of their political affiliation and, by extension, their morality. You see a stranger and he/she/they is not wearing a mask as you approach. I immediately know they don’t care about me – or anyone, really. They care only about their own comfort/beliefs/ideology. The rest of us can die. Literally.

And that’s the heart of 2020. What Mother Nature is throwing at us (murder hornets? Really, Mother?) is to be expected after years of ignoring warnings about the damage we’re doing to the climate. No, Mother Nature is pissed off and I get that.

But I don’t get willful stupidity. And that’s exactly what I see in those who are choosing to say, “Screw you. My rights are more valuable than yours.” I don’t get those who don’t understand there’s a people who have been systematically oppressed for generations and who are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore. I don’t understand those who would rather kill their neighbor than have a conversation that – gasp!- might lead to understanding – on both sides.

So yeah, my optimism has taken a hit this year. I still hold out hope for the future, but if I had a genie and only one wish? I’d wish that I could have a peek at how this all turns out. A little certainty in this uncertain world would set my mind at ease.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

 Here in the Northeast, the weather turned chilly this past week and the fall colors are popping out all over. I've put up the autumnal decorations around the house, changed my drawers from summer to winter clothes...and of course, this weekend the temperatures will be back in the 80's. A last hurrah, as it were.

I don't mind. I love summer. Traditionally, Spring has been my favorite ever since I was a little kid. I love the rain puddles to splash in, the bright colors of the first flowers, and the hope that comes with each new planting. As the years progress, however, I'm finding a new appreciation for the warmth of summer, warmth sometimes so thick you can wrap it around you like a blanket. But my blood runs a little thinner nowadays, so that's not as much of an issue as it used to be.

Autumn is my husband's favorite season, but for years, I associated it with going back to a job I hated. The last few years of teaching were onerous because I was burned out. I'd used up all the energy I had to put into education and ran on fumes the last year. 

Now that I'm retired, however, I'm re-discovering this season. I still don't like the coming of the colder weather (see above, summer's warm blanket), but I am appreciating the color changes for the beauty they hold, even as they warn that winter is on it's way. Where I used to cringe at the first sign of yellow in the leaves, I now simply acknowledge - and then watch for the reds and oranges to appear.

Needless to say, winter and I don't get along. It was kind of nice for COVID to come along in March and force me to stay inside and not go out and drive in that mess. Yuck.

As the seasons change, I've been working on a new story (Not telling much yet. Don't want to jinx it) and doing a little more reading. I know it isn't the end of the month yet, but I'm going to post my list to date now before I forget.

I finished off The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch the first few days of the month, and then read the remaining two books in that series: Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves. Apparently there are to be more in that series, but he hasn't written them yet. What do you think your name is? George RR Martin? Get to it, man!

From there I moved to more lighthearted fare: 16 Ways to Defend a Walled City and How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It  - two books by K. J. Parker. He also writes under the name Tom Holt and I'd read The Outsourcer's Apprentice by him last month. Fun, easy-to-read entertainment!

Moved back into the romance genre for the next few books: Forever Summer (2 novellas) by Nora Roberts, Heiress for Hire by Madeline Hunter, and A Duke to Die For by Amelia Grey. I'm a sucker for a good Regency.

So only seven books so far this month. I'm slacking! And the book I'm currently reading will take a long time: Grant by Ron Chernow. He's the same author who wrote the biography that Lyn-Manuel Miranda turned into the musical, Hamilton. The book is a fascinating look at not just the Civil War general-turned President, but a look at the times as well. Not something that's skimmable, however, so I'm taking my time. :)

Play safe! Wear a mask!

Diana


Monday, August 31, 2020

Summer's bounty - a reading list

 As the nation still struggles with a pandemic, racial issues, and politics that are running amok, I took the summer to do something I haven't done in ages: read.

And I don't mean read a few books here and here, as is my usual M.O. I mean READ like I used to before kids, before marriage, even. Read like I was back in junior high and going to the library every week to get books. Read as in pick one up just after breakfast, remember to stop long enough to make myself a sandwich for lunch and get to the dinner table when my husband's holler pierces through the story I'm encased in. My mom used to say she could set a bomb off next to me and I wouldn't notice if my nose was stuck in a book. This summer, my husband learned the same thing.

Because we couldn't go anywhere physical, I've spent a lot of time down at the cabin, where Internet is spotty at best. While there I puttered around on odd jobs that took less than ten minutes, and then settled in with a good fantasy series - and stayed there.

So what's my list? I already put up part of July's; here is the rest of what I read that month:

By Peter V. Brett: The Skull Throne, The Daylight War, and The Desert Spear (I'd already read The Warded Man, the first in the series and said so in my other post)

In August, I finished off Brett's series with The Core. Overall, good series. Liked most of the characters and the action, although a little too bloody for my tastes. And one entire culture I did not care for At All. Perhaps because he was so good at describing it and it is opposite everything I hold dear. But if you're looking for an immersive world...he certainly achieved that!

I then decided to revisit Pern, so I dug out the Anne McCaffery books I already have and added a few more. Figured I needed something not so bloodthirsty. :) I read:

Dragonflight, Dragonquest, The White Dragon, Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums. I then read one by her daughter, Dragon's Code by Gigi McCaffery. While Anne has said the books should be read in the order in which she wrote them, this one took place immediately after Dragondrums, so I snuck it in.

I continued with Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, Nerilka's Story, Dragonsdawn, The Renegades of Pern and All the Weyrs of Pern. By the time you get to Dragonsdawn, the story has become much less fantasy and much more science fiction. An interesting blend, to be sure. This puts me at halfway through the full set of Pern books (there are 12 to go!), but I needed a bit of a break, so I headed off to Barnes and Noble to find another series.

I'd read The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Finch before - and kept the book, which is a sure sign I liked it (I only keep books I might read again - take a look at those shelves! There isn't room for more!). I found the next two books in the series in the store, so picked those up. Also found some more lighthearted fantasy fare, so bought three of those, of which, I've only read The Outsourcer's Apprentice by Tom Holt so far. I also re-read The Lies of Locke Lamora in prep for the next ones.

If you're keeping track, that's a total of 14 books in July and 15 books for August, with a total of 46 total for the year. Yes, you read that right. I've read 29 of the 46 books in the last two months! Considering this is the last day of the month, the book I start today will go on September's list since I won't finish it today.

Playsafe - (and yes, I've been working on a new story in there as well!), wear a mask,

Diana

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Retreating, Resetting, and Reading - the new 3 R's

Right now, I should be in my third week of my residency at Storyknife in Homer, Alaska. COVID, however, put the kibosh on that - they ended up having to cancel the entire season; we can reschedule for next summer. Disappointing, but I can handle delayed gratification.

So what to do with my July instead? I'd intended the time to be used writing (and finishing? One can hope!) The Companion. Long-time readers know this is the Work Of My Heart and is a fantasy that is HUGE (currently clocking in at 150,000+ words and only halfway through). An entire month's stay in a cabin in Alaska would certainly help me get closer to the finish line.

But wait! I own a cabin in the woods. I can get away and take the time to work on it and be only an hour from home. Let's do this!

Not as easy as one might think, I discovered after spending the last ten days there all by myself. First of all, I had to clean the cabin and remind the mice that, during the summer, they live outside. Second, I have to cook all my own meals. Only problem? I don't cook. Well, I can - I just don't like to. Thankfully I married a man who is wonderful in the kitchen. But he is directing a show right now (more on that in a moment) and couldn't come down with me, so I was on my own. Thanks goodness for take-out!

Third, the cabin is remote. Perfect for privacy and no interruptions. Not so perfect when one comes up for air after a day of writing and there's no one there to talk to. At Storyknife, the authors get together for dinner and conversation. At the cabin I started talking to the chipmunks (Seriously. I even got one to take a peanut out of my hand!). 

Fourth, there are bears - and one took down a hummingbird feeder my third night there. That curtailed my walks as I know better than to wander around the woods when a bear is nearby. So mostly staying in the immediate area around the cabin.

Fifth, and this one is a plus...a BIG plus...it gave me time to read. Before I left, I visited a nearby Barnes and Noble and used up $50.00 in gift cards I'd accumulated over the past two Christmases. Bought six books: the third in a trilogy I'd started and wanted to finish, two books in the start of a six-book trilogy, another single book that started a trilogy -- and yes, these are all fantasies, which are my favorite to read. The fifth and sixth books were a stand-alones but one of them had been on my list for a while. Took them all with me -and what a pleasure it's been. 

As for the amount of writing I did during those ten days? I averaged 1000 words/day, although some days I didn't write (the bear really threw me for a loop and I spent the day in a funk) and other days I wrote lots (breaking the 2000 word barrier at one point). 

So, you might think The Companion has moved forward by 10,000 words, right? 

Nope. Not even by a single word.

Why? 

At the start of June, I came across a story I'd started a year ago. I'd written a few thousand words on it, then set it aside. That day, I realized I knew what happened next, so I wrote it. And then I wrote what happened after that...and now THAT story is 10,000 words to the good.

Not giving clues as to what it's about - or even to the genre. Don't want to jinx it. But if the characters keep talking (and they haven't stopped even though I came home this weekend because of the heat - and to do laundry), I should be finished by the end of August or early September. Then it will be off for edits and - God willin' and the creek don't rise - there will be a new Diana Hunter book ready by October!

And no, I don't even have a title for it yet. One thing at a time.

Here's the list of books I read since my last Books update:

March: finished Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson (then COVID hit and I was too busy putting my Comp I class online to read anything else)

April: The English Wife, and The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig. Also When I Was Wicked by Julia Quinn (still in COVID mode, so not much reading - too much scrambling)

May: a Nora Roberts novella (can't remember the title); also a Debbie Macomber novella (and the name escapes me. Forgot to write these two down). Also read Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara - which is a very scary book because it details the events leading to the American Revolution but it reads likes today's headlines. Recommended!

June: didn't read a single book. Not one. Retreated, reset, and remodeled a closet (see below).

July: Here's the list so far:

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr by Crouse & Crouse (this was a young adult book I'd had as a kid. After watching the musical, I dug it out and was surprised at how well-written it was)
A Royal Kiss and Tell by Julia London (romance)
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (ostensibly a science fiction, but deals with a pandemic. Written in the 1990's, it also reads as if she's simply reporting today's headlines - and social media posts. Recommended!
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Loved the series - loved the book. :)
A Promise of Fire, A Breath of Fire and Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet. Fantasy erotic romance trilogy. Hot and really good.
The Selection, The Elite, and The One by Kiera Cass. I'd bought only the first and ended up buying ebooks of the remaining two because I wanted to know what happened. Young adult fantasy.
The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett. This is the six-part series where I bought only the first two books. Have now ordered the rest of the series - another good one! Will be starting the second book today.

So, twenty-eight books so far this year. I'm behind!

Oh! And that thing my hubby's directing? Geneva Theatre Guild is producing Almost, Maine - it's a wonderful series of scenes (no more than two people on the stage at any time) that take place in Almost, Maine. They're doing it online, live. The performers are scattered - one's in New York City, several are in Rochester, NY, others are in various locales around the Finger Lakes. But this is NOT a Zoom call production. This is live theatre where you would swear the two actors are in the same room. Come check it out - this is the future!

Play safe, and wear a mask!
Diana

PS. Before and after pics of the closet remodel. This is off my study - probably deserves a post in an of itself, but am proud of what I got done!

Before: Not 1, but 2 layers of
wallpaper
to be scraped off!
After: painted, lit, and NEATLY
 filled
     



Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Taking a stand

I have spoken about the need for masks and social distancing during the time of COVID (here and here).

I have spoken out about the differences between the BDSM lifestyle and abuse.

I have Marched for Science and I've protested at my Congressman's office more than once (although I did not write about them here).

The only reason I haven't spoken about what's happening right now? I've been at the cabin and my Internet is spotty at best. But I don't shy away from taking a stand...so here:

I was once asked by a student why all my protagonists were white - why I didn't write any stories about people that were her color. I told her it was simple: I am white, of Irish and German descent and so those are the people who populate my books. My husband is of French and Italian descent and, after so many years of watching his family, some of those traditions (and characters) also show up in my books.

But I am not Black. I am not Asian. Nor am I Native American, Indian, or any other race. And I would never wish to insult anyone by writing a character whose culture I don't fully understand. At best, I might get some of it right; at worst, I'd fall into a stereotype. I also don't want to relegate any of those races to the role of best friend - that's been done far too often and with deleterious effects. I encouraged my student to write the stories she wanted to read. That's what I had done in exploring the BDSM lifestyle - since I couldn't find any books (at that time) that showed a loving relationship and not an abusive one, I wrote my own. If she wants heroes and heroines that look like her, then write them!

But what about fantasy, you ask? You don't know those cultures - the culture of made-up worlds and peoples. Yet you're comfortable writing those!

Sure - because it's totally made up. I make the rules. I decide how people act, I decide how they greet each other in the morning and if it's different from how they greet each other at night. I decide when someone's crossed a societal line. When things need to change, I change them as I want. My story, my imagination, my will at work.

That is not the case when writing of real cultures. I don't know what it's like to be a Black woman in America. I don't know what it's like to grow up Asian. And I will not insult them by pretending I do. Because using my imagination to put myself in other cultures and passing myself off as knowing and understanding is a form of racism. To pretend otherwise is to foster that racism.

When I was younger and full of self-righteous ideology, I often spouted the mantra, "I don't see color when I look at a person. I only see the person." A very wise woman took me to task when I spouted that in a conversation one day. She said, "You better see my color! My color is a part of who I am. You don't see that I am Black? Then you are denying me who I am."

I have never forgotten that most glorious take-down. She could've dismissed me as just another white girl spouting her ignorance, but she didn't. She educated me. I will always be grateful to her. My students of color should be grateful to her as well, because I learned to stop preaching and start listening.

So no marches this time around, no protesting from me (COVID is still keeping me home). It is time to listen. It is time to learn. Those who are protesting have much to teach.

Black Lives Matter.

Play safe,

Diana 

P.S. I just read Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara. It follows several of the participants in the days before the American Revolution. HIGHLY recommended. In fact, reading the first three pages was like reading the headlines from today's newspapers. If you think we're NOT on the road to revolution? Read this. You'll change your mind.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

One day more!



One day more - that's all that's left to pre-order Diamond Submission at the sale price of $1.99!

Once Friday comes, the price goes up, so order it now and get the reduced price. You can order from:
and Apple 
(although I'm a PC user and still can't figure out how to access their site!)

Play safe -- stay safe!

Diana

Monday, May 18, 2020

Rant


This happened yesterday and I can’t get it out of my head. 

For the past two months I have been staying home, staying safe, and (mostly) not venturing out. Even when we need groceries, I stay in the car while my husband goes inside. We figure we halve our chances of catching anything if only one of us is in the population.

However, on Friday, he had surgery on his heel, so he’s not going anywhere but the front porch for a while. He’s keeping his foot elevated and staying off it. Why? Because the doctors told him to. Just like the doctors are now saying to wear a mask when in public spaces.

To give him a treat, I went to the local ice cream/hamburger stand yesterday because he had a hankering for a burger and onion rings.

We’re doomed.

When I pulled up, there were two women in line, both masked, both standing about eight feet apart. The first woman placed her order as I joined the line, keeping a respectful distance. There are no fewer than four signs that say, “Please wear a mask at window” and the high school girls inside all wore them.

As soon as Woman One finished placing her order, she whipped off the mask and turned to Woman Two. “I hate these things.” They then started a conversation about their inconvenience (although Woman Two kept hers on). When Woman One went back to the window to pick up her sundae, she didn’t bother to put her mask back on. Idiocy #1.

Woman Two ordered, kept her mask on as the two of them continued their conversation, picked up her ice cream, then they went and stood by a car, both now with their masks off, to eat their ice cream and socialize about two feet from each other. Idiocy #2. Yes, I understand it’s hard to eat while wearing something over your mouth and nose, but sit in the car! Don’t expose the rest of us.

I place my order, then retreat to my car, standing outside it with the pager they’d given me (hamburgers and onion rings take longer than an ice cream cone). I’d parked to the side of the lot, so was about twenty feet from the window – and the family that now arrived.

Three of them: a husband, wife and older teen daughter. Only the husband wore a mask. The daughter, upon seeing me waiting – and masked – pulled up her sweater so it covered her nose and mouth. The wife remained with a naked face the entire time.

As they waited for their order (staying close to the window and unconcerned with social distancing), another family got out of a pickup truck: father, mother, two younger teenage daughters. Only the mother wore a mask. She did the ordering while the other three stood in front of the truck, which was pulled up right in front of the window. After a moment, the two teenagers pulled out their phones and went to sit in the truck to wait. I suspect this choice had nothing to do with staying safe and everything to do with being a teenager.

The wife removed her mask as soon as she’d finished ordering, and gave it to her husband, who went to the convenience store beside the ice cream stand. I cut them some slack here, even though two people sharing a mask isn’t the best idea. But I figured, they’re married and her germs are his germs. Not a choice my husband and I would make – see note above about halving our exposure – but maybe he left his mask home (I keep an extra one in my car because putting it on as I leave the house isn’t a habit yet).

But then he came back, not wearing it, and my sympathy turned to appalled as his wife asked, “Why aren’t you wearing the mask?” and he replied, in a tone sounding very much like a twelve-year-old, “Nobody else was wearing one.”

Okay, so you’re wearing a mask mostly to protect others in case you have the virus but don’t know it yet, but also partly to protect yourself from others. Taking your mask off because they’re not wearing one? Idiocy #3 – BIG time.

I posit that the establishment needs to change it's signs and remove the politeness of the word "Please." People are taking that as a request - it should read "YOU MUST wear a mask when approaching the window." Period. Whether ordering or picking up. Wear the mask. Protect those girls inside from your possible contamination.

And why does anyone think they can pick and choose between and among doctor's orders? Doc says, "Stay off your foot for three days," my husband stays off his foot for three days. Doc says, "Wear a mask in public" - as every doctor has been saying for weeks now - then wear the damn mask in public!

T.S. Eliot stated, in the last lines of his poem, “The Hollow Men”, “This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper.”

He was wrong.

It ends with a whine.

Play safe – stay safe – keep me safe – wear a mask!

Diana
PS. 60% off my titles at Smashwords ends Wednesday. Prices go back up to normal on June 1st (they'll be 30% off for the last week and a half of May).



Sunday, May 17, 2020

Update - and a prediction

Scene: 1979. My senior year in college. Classroom. 

Class: Teaching Techniques (or some such title - it was a long time ago!)

Characters: Teacher (female, but not sure it matters), mid-thirties
                   myself (an energetic dreamer), 21 years old
                 
Assignment: I don't remember the particulars, but I was doing a presentation on using technology in the classroom focusing on the use of the 1) slide projector, 2) filmstrip projector, 3) 16 mm film projector. And if you remember what any of those are, you're not much younger than I am!

ME (finishing my presentation with a flourish!): And the last piece of technology isn't in the classroom here in New York yet, but it is in California. (Holds up the very first Apple magazine.) This is a brand-new technology called a "Personal Computer". They are already being used for teaching basic concepts and I predict that, in the future, every student will have one and I will teach to a room full of students using them. Thank you. (ends presentation)

TEACHER: Well, this was a very good presentation, if we remove the last minute. You were supposed to only deal with reality, not fantasy.

ME: It isn't fantasy. It's already in the classrooms of California. Mark my words: someday these will be in every classroom.

TEACHER: Next presentation, please.

(Note: I got a "C" on my project because I was "too fanciful" and "not realistic")

Flash forward 35 years:

Scene: a classroom in 2014. Class of 20-some students are all busily doing research on their laptops and posting their essays to a wiki to be peer-reviewed by others in the room. A few have logged into the class discussion board where there is a vigorous debate about what happened to the Ents in the Lord of the Rings and where the Entwives might have gone. They add their two cents to the conversation and start a new one on whether Merry and Pippin were braver than Frodo and Sam. The teacher (ME) wanders the room answering questions and generally staying out of the way of students learning on their own.

* * * * *

So yeah, my prediction came true - in spades. My vindication was complete when I looked around the room and realized I was teaching to a room full of computers - and the students running them.

Why is that important? Because I'm going to make another technological prediction, based on what I see happening in my own household. To wit:

* * * * *
Scene: the living room where my husband had raised his laptop with the aid of several boxes, making it eye height so people won't be looking up his nose. There is a pole lamp to his right and his left, a hanging light to his right and a fresnel-type decorative lamp he's positioned right in front of him.

DAUGHTER: What you need is a bounce screen so you don't have that harsh light right on your face. You come in too hot.

HUSBAND: I just can't figure out how to mount one in here. Need to work on that.

* * *
Scene: My husband's studio (he's a painter). He and Daughter are setting up a 3-camera system so he can teach his painting classes online.

ME: Too much in the background here. Maybe hang a sheet? - and that one camera is old, so the picture's a little fuzzy. Maybe use that for the palate rather than the painting.

HUSBAND: And I need better lighting. It's good when the sun is shining, but if it's a cloudy day, there's a glare on the canvas from my overhead lights.

DAUGHTER: You need another bounce board. And will you only teach during the day? What about night classes?

* * *
Scene: Son's room. He's a gamer. Already has most of what he needs. Except bandwidth. We're running out of that.

***
Scene: My study. Conversation between my daughter, my husband, my son, and me.

ME: I didn't need video this past semester because I used a discussion board and a wiki to finish off my classes when we moved online. But we didn't use the wiki well because I couldn't teach them how in such a short time frame. Next fall, if we're still online, I need to do videos. And I don't have a camera.

HUSBAND: We can buy a new one, although I could use another for my painting classes. Maybe we should buy two, just in case. Or three - because one of mine is old and gives a fuzzy picture.

SON: I'm fine. Just up the bandwidth to the house or none of us are doing anything.

DAUGHTER: I can teach you both how to use the programs. Buy bounce boards.

* * * * *
My prediction: 

In the future, every home will have a "broadcasting" station: a place where Zoom calls are made and live videos uploaded. Classes will be taken and taught from this location and conversations will be held with people across the street and across the world. They (both the place from which we broadcast and the quality of the broadcast) will look professional and smooth because we bought packages (or bought the house with the room already created).

The physical space will be comfortable for the user with backgrounds pleasing to the viewer (although the ACTUAL background will  be a green screen so visual effects are easily added). Just as in the 20th century where the phone was the center of the household, the BA (Broadcast Area - although it might end up being the Z - Zoomer. We do have a tendency to name things via a particular brand, even if we don't use it. I'm looking at you, Kleenex and Xerox) will be the heart of communication in the future.

Of course, it won't remain static for long. Static, as in being in one place. Technology will upgrade quickly and that will only be a passing phase. Eventually, we will carry the technology with us on a wristband or a ring and it will project via the air. But, as my 1979 teacher would say, "too fanciful, not realistic."

Mark my words: In the future, every single one of us will be a performer/broadcaster/creator and we'll do our jobs from professional studios in our own homes.

That's my prediction and I'm sticking to it.

Endnotes:
The conversations above are condensations of actual conversations we have had in this house over the past few weeks. For dramatic purposes, I've re-assigned some parts of the conversation to others in the room at the time. My daughter is a LOT more helpful than just recommending bounce boards (which she actually did only once. Love you, Sweetie!).

And yes, I still have that Apple Magazine from 1979. 

Play safe - and stay safe! and see you in the future!
Diana



 




Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Diamond Submission now available for pre-order!

Ever start thinking about a favorite book and think to yourself, "I wonder what ever happened to these people after the book ended?"

As an author, I'm lucky. I can go ask them.

Which is precisely what I did with Phillip and Sarah Townshend of Secret Submission and Submission Revealed fame (they also get walk-on roles in Services Rendered). I first "met" them in 2003, when I wrote and EC subsequently published my first book. Ten years later, I realized they'd be celebrating their Diamond Anniversary (10 years!).

So I went to see them - and discovered things weren't going so well.

Oh, they're still married and still love each other very much. But life has become...mundane...which makes neither of them happy.

Diamond Submission was the result of my visit. It's a short novella and was published just before EC's demise (EC stands for Ellora's Cave Publishing for those who are new). It was available only for a couple of months, so for many, this is a brand-new book.

And it will be available again for the first time in nearly six years.

You can pre-order a copy at Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, and at Kobo for $1.99 - that's a dollar cheaper than it will be when it goes live on May 29th.

Theoretically, it is also available on Apple Books, but I have never seen a site with such a poor search engine. I can't find ANY of my books there, yet I know I sell some through that platform because Smashwords says I do!

And speaking of Smashwords - they do not (yet) have a way to do pre-orders directly from their own site. If you want to get one from them directly, you'll have to wait until the 29th. Sorry for that. They're working on it. Soon, we can hope, it'll be an option there.

You may have noticed I've included no cover in this post.  That's because I'm doing a cover reveal via my newsletter on Friday (subscribers have known about the pre-order option for about a week - they always get info first, so if you want to sign up - click below). If you only read here, you'll have to wait until next Wednesday to see it. :)

So use the form below to sign up for my newsletter - and go pre-order Diamond Submission from Amazon

Play safe - and stay safe (wear a mask - they're all the rage, which the BDSM community could've told you years ago!)
Diana







   

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    Sunday, May 03, 2020

    70 degrees!

    So much for Puxatawny Phil - he said a short winter this year and, while it was mild, it has lingered here in the Finger Lakes. Last snow was only a week ago. With any luck, that will truly be the "last snow" of the season, although May is shaping up to be colder than normal.

    Long-time readers know my husband and I bought a cabin over a decade ago and spent a great deal of time fixing and repairing. I've spent many a weekend (and longer in the summer) crafting novels while listening to the birds and basking in the solitude.

    This year, however, I have no such need to get away from the hectic pace of life. No need for the quiet (the park across the street from our house is closed, so no kids screaming!). No need for the solitude (haven't been out of my house much the past six weeks...you?).

    Our front porch (pic taken May 2019 - I forgot to take one
    weekend but it hasn't changed!)
    Still, my husband and I went down yesterday to open it up for the summer. We cleaned up fly wings (not too many yet...give it another week and the spiders will have made short work of all the flies who are just waking up), dusted and swept, and in general, reclaimed the house from the field mice that watch over it during the winter.

    This morning, as we discussed what still needed to be done, my husband said something I found curious. He said, "It doesn't feel any different."

    I had no idea what he was talking about. He clarified: "Out there, the world is different. Here it's the same as it always has been. I thought it would be different; since our lives have changed, this place would've changed. But it hasn't." (For the record, I'm paraphrasing.My husband doesn't speak in semicolons.)

    I got what he meant, then. Our main purpose in both purchasing and visiting the cabin has been to "get away" from "normal" life. But right now, our whole life has gotten away from "normal" (there I go, putting it in quotes again!). We have solitude, we have quiet, we have no busy-ness at home and don't need to go to the cabin to get it. So does the cabin still have a purpose?

    Short answer: yes.

    The lane leading to the cabin (the cabin's on the
    right of where I'm standing to take the pic)
    Longer answer: still yes, but with explanation. We live in a small town and have neighbors we still wave to, still talk to (while maintaining distance), still see. There are people who walk by on our sidewalk (some with masks, some without - but that's a different post for a different day), there are still cars that drive through our 4-way - some who even stop at the stop sign. So even though we are alone, we are not.

    At the cabin, we are. Our nearest neighbor is a quarter-mile away and they weren't down this weekend. Our next nearest neighbor is over a mile in the opposite direction and we never see him - ever. Our only companions were the birds (one very horny woodpecker, an evening grosbeak, and a bluejay), the flowers (my yellow primrose are blossoming, as is the periwinkle), and ourselves.

    So the cabin's original purpose: that of a way to remove ourselves from society for a short time, still holds. It's still a way to visit Mother Nature and to renew. It will remain a place for my husband to paint (which he did this morning) and a place for me to write (which I did not. Read a Nora Robert's novella instead).

    New cover! You like?
    On a totally different note: the Smashwords sale continues through May 20th. Well, actually, it continues through May 30th, but my prices will go up on May 21st. Currently, they are 60% off as part of the Authors Give Back special - and they will go to 30% off on May 21st. If you haven't already done so...head on over and pick up a title or two!

    Watch this space for news coming later this week... (teaser!)...and in the meantime, check out the new cover for Remembered Love - one of the stories you can get for free from Smashwords.

    Play safe - and stay safe - wear a mask!
    Diana

    Sunday, April 19, 2020

    How many weeks?


    I’ve seen several postings referring to the past week as “Week Four,” as if we’ve begun a new calendar. And it’s quite possible we have. Will we think of the future as AC (After Covid)? Seems to me there’s a good science fiction story there somewhere. Only it wouldn’t be fiction.

    By my reckoning, however, last week was Week Five, since the colleges went to remote learning (a fancy way of saying all classes are now online classes) the week of March 9th. My first post on the matter was dated March 13th

    But that’s here in New York. Other parts of the world, heck – other parts of the country – have a different timeline. And are we only referring to when the state went into lockdown or do we go all the way back to the first reported case? Glad the history books are going to fight this battle. For us currently living it, our start times are staggered.

    I visited my Dad two weeks ago. From afar. As in, through a window. I took him some things to help him pass the time and a loaf of bread my husband had just made. Dropped it at the front desk and then went around and we talked on the phone while looking at each other through his window. Thankfully, he has a place on the first floor and we could do that. The upstairs apartments of the assisted living facility all have balconies, but it was too cold for him to stand outside for long. Still, I got to put eyes on him, as it were, and that made both of us feel better.

    My kids are doing well. Didn’t take long for my daughter to find a way to do theatre over the Internet. Wallbyrd Theatre Company, based in Rochester, NY, is doing a live reading of Alice in Wonderland, complete with costume pieces and special effects every Sunday night at 8:00 on Facebook. Shameless plug here – my daughter is production manager and takes everyone’s Skype calls, pulls them together and creates magic we can all watch – and does it live. Look for it tonight – they’re on chapter three (and the narrator tonight is well-known in this household as both a theatre director and stage actor. Tonight he makes his Internet debut!).

    My son works in buildings and grounds at a local church. You’d think he’d have gotten laid off by now, since the churches are all closed (well, their physical presence is closed), but you’d be wrong. Because so many places have shut down, the American Red Cross was planning to cancel blood drives, and at a time when the need is critical (and it still is – if you can manage it, find a blood drive and volunteer. You’re needed!). The church where my son works said, “Come on over here. We’ll open the building as you need it.”

    So that’s what he’s doing. He’s not working every day, but when there’s a blood drive (about one a week), he goes in and cleans before they arrive, then disinfects and sterilizes after they leave. He’s one of the front line support workers – and Mama gets a little worry mixed in with her pride sometimes.

    And what am I doing? Yesterday I attended a webinar given by Jim Azevedo of Smashwords on ebook publishing. Yes, I know. I’ve been self-pubbing my books since just before EC’s demise. My first self-published book was a collection of stories from The Ramayana, a Hindu epic, quickly followed by Table for Four, which had gone out of print at Ellora’s Cave. What’s cool about ebook publishing, is that nothing is ever “out of print” because it’s all digital, so always available!

    Anyway, the webinar was in four parts and kudos to Jim for keeping it interesting and informative. Even as an experienced self-pubber I learned a lot. Once I take some time to process it all, watch for some cool, new developments in the months ahead.

    In the meantime, Smashwords has offered authors a chance to extend their Readers Give Back sale. Originally slated to end tomorrow, it now extends all the way to May 20th. I’ve set all my books there for 60% off – including The Ramayana (which the discount makes free!) and Table for Four (which comes in at a whopping $2.00!).

    SIDENOTE: I went to post links to both books mentioned above, only to discover some formatting issues with the Ramayana. Decided to add back matter with links to it while I was fixing and…needless to say, I went down the rabbit hole (to borrow from Alice). Two hours later, I now have a list of stuff to fix on my website, which I have shamefully neglected over the years. Titles that are no longer available, covers that need MAJOR overhauls, links that go nowhere…yeah. I have some work to do. In the meantime, know that all is forthcoming. J

    So watch Alice in Wonderland on Wallbyrd’s Facebook page tonight, check out the sales at Smashwords, and donate blood (if you can). In the meantime, stay safe and know I’m thinking of you all!

    Play safe,
    Diana

    Monday, April 06, 2020

    Check in!


    In the immortal words of Joey Tribbiani:



    In my last post, I spoke of our new normal – and how it wasn’t even worth putting that word in quotes anymore because, well, this is just how life is now. As we come to accept our current circumstances, we adapt our behavior and life moves on. The sun still rises, the earth still turns, and time still continues its forward march.

    The concern, of course, is that we’ll become so acclimated to our social distancing that we won’t go back. Arm-chair psychologists and experts alike have been writing about what life on the other side will look like – and for once those words don’t mean death. Well, they do, but…grrr.

    This is the problem when language is slow to catch up to current situations. It’s why we still call them “floppy disks” when they’re encased in hard plastic, it’s why we still call our portable computers “phones” when they do so much more. Usually, “life on the other side” refers to the existence after death. Now we’re using the same words to refer to coming out from the COVID-19 curve – which we have flattened at least a little bit.

    As for me, I’ve always been one to take life as it comes. I don’t agonize too much about what’s currently happening – don’t get me wrong, I’m very careful about staying home, staying away from people, about social distancing – but I’m not panicked and I’m not out hoarding supplies, although like every mother, I worry some about my kids and hope that they’re behaving themselves.

    So no futuristic predictions from me on what society will look like. Science Fiction is a genre I enjoy reading, but have always been lousy at writing. I love that there are writers who can take a look at the current situation and project it into the future and play the game of “what if?” but it isn’t a talent I have.

    Sidenote: Why is it all Science Fiction authors predict a gloomy future for us? I’ve long suspected they’re writing warnings: “Change your behavior or this will happen.” I need to read a rosy futuristic story – where we have a Happily Ever After ending!

    Here in the Finger Lakes, the daffodils are up, the sun is shining (today, anyway), the yard work is getting done, the basement is nearly cleaned out, and stories are being written – not all of them fictional. Many of those staying safe at home are journaling their experiences, recording for posterity the details of what it’s like to actually live through a pandemic. We don’t have many of those records from past ones, so we hope our words will give comfort, strength, and understanding to those who go through this in the future.

    Because they will. This isn’t the first and it won’t be the last. With any luck, it’ll be the only one in our lifetimes, though. And by recording our precautions, our hopes, our fears, we can tell our descendants that they, too, will adjust to the circumstances and come out on “the other side.”

    Leave a comment - for now, for the future -- How're YOU doing?

    Stay safe, and play safe!
    Diana

    DON’T FORGET! All my books are 60% off at Smashwords for the next few weeks. Books are the one thing  it’s okay to hoard – at least, that’s what I’m telling myself every time I add another one to both my virtual and physical shelves. J

    Thursday, March 26, 2020

    Books for 2020 - part 2


    You would think, will all the stay-at-home warnings that we are observing, I would’ve done a ton of reading by now. We’re two weeks into it and what have I read?

    Nada.
    Nothing.
    Not one book.

    Why?

    Because I’ve spent my time:
    • putting my course online and fretting about whether it’s going to work or not (thankfully, a student has now posted in several of the discussion threads and it does what it’s supposed to!),
    • canceling all appointments and rescheduling them for the end of April, which means there’s probably another go-round of rescheduling to be accomplished then as I don’t think we’ll be out of the woods yet,
    • getting over a cold. Yes, a cold. Not the virus. Called the doc to check. Plain old nasty cold,
    • downloading and going back into Second Life. It’s still up and running. Going virtual with my classes made me homesick for the place. It’s gotten better and it’s been fun to renew friendships and hear Heath Vercher play in-world again,
    • playing Destiny 2. I still play Skyrim and my daughter and I are creating a mod for that, but my son’s gotten me into Destiny 2. The learning curve is impossible without a mentor (thank you, son, for guiding your mother through the icons and lack of directions!).

    ((Speaking of Learning Curve – did you know it’s free at Smashwords? So are each of the individual stories that make up 12 Days of Christmas Bondage, and several other former EC Quickies. Stop by and pick up a story or two – full novels are 60% off until April 20th as part of the Authors Give Back initiative.))

    I have also:
    • gone for several walks,
    • baked brownies,
    • scrapbooked,
    • raked the yard and gathered up all the fallen sticks and branches,
    • helped my daughter pack her life for her move to her own place,
    • glowered at the new snow on the ground after several 60+ degree days.

    But I haven’t taken the time to read. I started Rising Storm, a Derek Storm mystery, but am not liking it very much. Read all the Nikki Heat books and had fun with those, but this one isn’t catching me. Am about 30 pages in – and have been for nearly a month.

    While I won’t hoard toilet paper, I do pile up the books To Be Read. Life will settle into routine soon enough and I’ll get back to curling up with a good book before much longer. For now? Too much to take in, too much to do.

    Play safe – and stay safe!
    Diana

    Monday, March 23, 2020

    Coming up with a new “normal”


    Let’s face it; we all have different opinions on what “normal” life is like. Get to meet a new friend and suddenly you’re watching different family traditions, seeing a different way to do dishes, looking at life through a different filter.

    Rarely, however, is everyone’s definition of “normal” challenged at the same time. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening around the globe. First one country, then the next; first one state, then the next; first one town, then yours. Like a wave that sweeps in at high tide, we can see it coming, yet want one more day at the beach (for some, literally) before we change our “normal.”

    For me, that’s already happened. The change, that is. It began the week of March 8th with daily updates and changes to behavior here in New York State. Our college extended Spring Break by a week in order to give everyone time to let the dust settle.

    Yet the dust swirled into a tempest in those two weeks and, while classes are not cancelled, we’ve all gone online. Took me the better part of a week to rewrite my curriculum (I’m teaching Freshmen Comp II this semester) and get it uploaded to Blackboard, our school’s online classroom. I’ve dropped some assignments in favor of others, kept all the Big Papers, and figured out a way to do peer review. I think.

    What I’ve kept in mind is something that was passed along when the decision was made that we wouldn’t meet face-to-face with our students for the rest of the semester: don’t worry about creating masterful, engaging, online lessons. You don’t have the training, you don’t have the expertise, you don’t have the time. This is triage learning. What are the essentials? Stick to those and everyone will get through this.

    And that’s a good way of looking at the new “normal,” too. This isn’t permanent. It happened fast and humans are notorious for preferring the status quo even to their own detriment. We’ve been forced into a change (I don’t always agree with Governor Cuomo, but I gotta admit, he’s doing a great job right now). Change is hard (I did my Master’s thesis on Change Theory – yeah, hard is too mild a word). But it’s triage. It’s determining what is most important Right Now and leaving the rest to figure out tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month.

    My current workspace. You can't see my computer in this pic
    (It's in the other half of the room) but can you tell
    this space belongs to a writer?
    I was thrilled that I was selected as a Writer in Residence at Storyknife this summer. I’m still thrilled, even if I end up not being able to go (they’ve closed for the April residencies – those writers will have those same slots for April 2021). I’m not canceling my travel plans yet (what did I say about humans preferring the status quo?) but I’m aware that not going is definitely a possibility. There’s always my front porch.

    My cruise-employed daughter has been home for over a half a year, and has now decided not  to take a new cruise contract (yay!), but has gotten her own place and moved out this past weekend. My son does maintenance and grounds work at a local church and, as of last Friday, still had a job (we’ll see what this week brings). My husband, always a freelancer, has had to cancel all his painting parties and art shows, but is still painting. He’s had a bit harder time of getting his college classes online – part of his courses involve public speaking, so he needs to deal with videos.

    So, my new normal takes the word out of the quotations and into reality. I’m mostly retired from teaching (only have the one aforementioned course), so my routine hasn’t been disrupted a whole lot. With my husband no longer going out to teach his classes (he teaches four), he’s around a lot more so we’re figuring out how to do the tasks we want to do (I’m still writing, btw!) without getting in each other’s way.

    Some people write up strict schedules and use those to plan and guide their day. Others create day-by-day meal plans and follow them almost religiously. Since I teach, I’m used to creating lesson plans that I stick to (Mostly. One always must take into account the Teachable Moment).

    The workspace of an artist.
    If you like his work, check out Steve Duprey or DupreyArt
    on Facebook!
    Except, at home my hubby and I are more free-wheelers. Always have been and we’ve decided that’s still a part of our normal that isn’t changing. I write when I want, he paints when he wants. We have separate work spaces in the house and that allows room for our individual creativity. We eat when we’re hungry, skip meals when we’re not and we manage just fine.

    Yet normal is changing even for us. With my daughter gone and just the two of us in the house again, that’s one adjustment. Being over 60 (not by much, thank you very much CDC – I am NOT elderly!) means grocery shopping during “senior hours” – that’s another shift. Not being able to see my Dad or my brother (they’re both in assisted living) is a harder change, but that’s why we invented the phone.

    As the saying goes, life goes on….until it doesn’t. And until it doesn’t, change is a part of life (if you noticed, one of the changes I’ve mentioned would’ve happened with or without the virus. Daughters have a tendency to grow up and leave the house).

    So curl up with a good book, a good movie, or a good view. Accept the changes, make them the new normal, and, if you’re lucky (like I am – I understand that retirees have the easier part of this), just keep swimming!

    Stay and play safe,
    Diana

    P.S. If you haven’t taken a look at the Authors Give Back sale at Smashwords, be sure to take a peek. ALL my titles are 60% off from now until April 20th. And yes, that makes about a half dozen or so FREE!

    Updated to fix typos. Thanks, Kim W.!


    Friday, March 13, 2020

    I'm not panicked...


    To say the last few days have been a whirlwind is to discredit the life-upending capability of a whirlwind. You know that ancient curse? The one that goes, “May you live in interesting times?” Guess what…these days are certainly interesting!

    I’m not one to panic. When reports of toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortages hit the airwaves, I was more puzzled than concerned. Until we were down to our last few rolls of toilet paper and I went to the store to buy more. There were fewer than a dozen packages on the shelves. I bought one 12-roll package, knowing it would do us for a few weeks and hoping there will be more when these run out.

    The hand sanitizer also puzzles me. Doesn’t that kill bacteria? And COVID-19 is viral. How is that going to help? Seems to me the Clorox wipes are more useful there. And soap. Thankfully, my husband decided to try his hand at making his own soap this past fall, just because he wanted to learn the process. We’re well-stocked as a result.

    But the changes have been coming fast and furious. This is my favorite of the memes and feels like my current mode of operation.

    To date:
    On Wednesday, classes were moved online at Finger Lakes Community College, where I teach. I spent most of the day getting one class discussion up and ready to go when the students return from spring break – which has been stretched to two weeks instead of one. So one less three-hour session in which to get everything across.

    Also on Wednesday, I went to do my normal grocery shopping (see “toilet paper” above). Again, not panicked, but because it was my shopping day. Decided it might be wise to get a package of cold medicine, just because we’re out. Bought both the kind I like and the one my husband prefers. One of each. Stocking up, not hoarding.

    My husband, who has spent much of his adult life as a theatre director, took some time to tread the boards in a local production for the first time in several years. The play: Metamorphoses (a dramatization of Ovid’s work of the same name), the part: Midas. It’s been cancelled. The cast met together last night (Thursday) for the last time – on the set that had been built yesterday.

    My daughter lost her job this afternoon (Friday) She is an assistant stage manager at Geva Theatre in Rochester, NY – and they just cancelled all performances of both stages. She’d already lost a job she was to start in a few weeks because the University of Rochester has shut down. Unemployment, anyone?

    Both my Dad and my brother live in assisted living facilities. They’ve shut down and are allowing no visitors other than the one appointed caregiver (me, in both cases). I’ve made sure they have what they need, but won’t be going to visit unless needed as I don’t want to carry anything to them.
    Because that’s the kicker. I could be carrying the virus right now and have no idea. THAT’S the real reason for all the cancellations and postponements. The virus may already be here…and may not. There is no way to tell. By the time you have the chills and fever, you’ve already given it to a hundred others.

    So I’m staying home, writing, reading, getting a few of my quickies put into a print book format, playing games on my computer, and teaching from my study. Am I a carrier? Probably not. Do I want to risk infecting others? Absolutely not. Staying home helps “flatten the curve” so our health care system doesn’t get overworked and I’m good with that, too.

    Here’s hoping our times get just a little less interesting soon!

    Play safe, and buy a good book!
    Diana





    Sunday, March 01, 2020

    25% OFF ALL TITLES

    Smashwords is celebrating "Read an Ebook Week" with a sale and all my books are 25% off. Head on over to my page to fill in your collections!

    Yes, EVERY SINGLE BOOK is on sale, even Mystic Shade's and CF. Duprey's (two other names I write under).

    This doesn't happen often, so CLICK HERE and get 25% off ebooks in every file type (have a Kindle? No problem! Download the epub file. Read online? There's an HTML file. Pdf, mobi...they're all there and they're ALL on sale!

    Play safe!
    Diana (who is lovin' the exclamation points today!)


    Friday, February 28, 2020

    Writer's Block

    It happens to all of us. We're going along just fine on a story -- the characters are talking, doing, reacting -- and then, BAM! They shut up. They freeze in position like a photograph in time. Everything screeches to a halt. Including you.

    Writer's Block.

    It happens so often, we've given it a name.

    I don't get it often, but when I do -- I can sit on a story for years. Yes, you read that right. Years before I can get it to move again. The order in which books are released has nothing to do with the order in which they were begun.

    I'm just coming off a several-year hiatus on my current work-in-progress (wip - an apt name for how I feel about it sometimes). The Companion is a book I started back in the '90's. I wrote several parts of it, changing the name of the main character, changing the setting, changing her attitude - but it wouldn't get off the ground. If I didn't like the story so much, I probably would've abandoned it all together, but the concept really had a hold of me.

    But then I got published in the genre of erotic romance and I figured, "You don't want to cooperate? Fine, I'll go write something else."

    So I did. Oh, I returned to it several times. Found a new place to start the story and wrote thousands of words on that draft. Even pitched it at a conference to an editor from Avon. She liked the concept enough to ask for the first three chapters (which I had) and a synopsis (which I didn't). I wrote the second and sent it off and she. quite rightfully, rejected it. It wasn't ready. I was still stuck on those early pieces I'd written, trying to work them in so I wouldn't have wasted my time.

    Of course, that time wasn't wasted. I know the main character's backstory now and that informs much of what she's planning to do in the rest of the book. Perhaps someday those scenes will get published in a "deleted scenes" type book. That means, however, that I have to finish the main story.

    Except that the characters of The Companion had stopped talking. I'd switched points of view (there are three main characters and switching between and among them helped move the story forward when I got stuck in the past. I'd ask myself, "Well, what does Kiera think about all this?" or I'd move to Martin's story and let him take the lead for a while.

    That worked for a long time. For 145,000 words, in fact (about 450 pages). I played with format, I played with story arcs, I played with other parts of the story and each time I did, I managed to avoid getting stuck for too long a time. I'd leave one set of characters in their photograph and visit those who wanted to show me what was happening in their lives. Then, when they got tired and froze, I'd go back to the others and (usually) they'd be ready to talk.

    And, to be honest, some of the writer's block is BIC problems. BIC = Butt In Chair. Having time dedicated to writing is part of it, but then again, the pressure is on to create. Creativity doesn't always come when you say, "Okay, I'm here. The computer file is open and I'm ready to go. Let's write!" So procrastination kicks in and I clean the house (see this post for more on that), I go grocery shopping, I scrapbook -- I have lots of procrastination tools. The key is not using them and forcing myself to stick my rump in the chair and write. Even if what I write is terrible. It can be fixed later. Just get words on paper.

    Neil Gaiman, in his Masterclass, said, "You cannot fix a blank piece of paper," and that has become my mantra. Get the words down and fix them in the next draft. Taking several of the Masterclasses has helped me with the BIC and with the mental challenge of writing such a large story (this is an epic fantasy - and I'm about halfway through the first of what I suspect will be two books).

    Yesterday, I went back to a tried-and-true method. I'd been stuck for several days. I knew what had to happen, but I couldn't figure out how to get to that point. I had snippets in my head but no string to hang them on.

    So, I printed out the last two pages, pulled out a spiral notebook, made sure I had plenty of sharpened pencils, and got myself comfy in my overstuffed recliner and worked the old-fashioned way - in longhand. I teach my composition students that the brain works differently when holding a pen or pencil than it does when typing. Yesterday, I put that into practice - and wrote over a thousand good words before I was done for the day. Sometimes you just have to go old school.

    So, have writer's block? Here are several ways to work around it:


    •    Set the story aside and work on something else. If it isn't working, stop beating your head against it. You'll only get a headache.
    •    Believe in your concept. That will prevent you from abandoning altogether.
    •    Try starting the story (or scene) in a different place or time. Take the character(s) someplace else and see what happens.
    •    Change the point of view. Either choose a different character or a different voice (switch from first to third person or vice-versa to get them talking again).
    •    Stick your Butt in Chair.. Get the words down, no matter how bad they are. That's what the next draft is for. Keep writing.
    •    Know your procrastination tools and don't give into them. They will lead you astray!
    •    Go old-fashioned and get out the paper and pen (or pencil). Use a different part of your brain.


    So, go write!
    Diana


    Thursday, February 27, 2020

    Storyknife

    Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were a place a writer could go where all her needs were tended to and all she had to do was write? Where her time would be uninterrupted by phone calls, doctor appointments, the need to buy groceries or to fill the gas tank? Where food magically appeared and she didn't have to prepare it?

    What if I told you not only does such a place exist, but that I am lucky enough to be visiting it this summer?

    Yep. Storyknife, a writer's retreat in Homer, Alaska, is opening this year for it's first year of in-house authors - and I'm going to be one of them. Six cabins, six authors at a time. I go in July and I am excited, thrilled...and just a wee bit nervous. Okay, a lot bit nervous, and I'll tell you why.

    Because now the pressure is on to produce. Every single one of my excuses is gone. There are no rooms that need cleaning, no errands to run. I get my own breakfast, but lunch is delivered to my cabin and dinner is provided in the main house, prepared by a chef hired specifically to feed us. Internet service is spotty, so no games or emails, no Facebook or world news. My procrastination tools will all be stripped away.

    I'm also a little nervous because this is the farthest away from home I've ever been by myself. I've flown to Alaska before, but was with family. This time I'm making all my connections myself with no extra set of eyes to help me navigate. Not terrifying, but a bit scary. And exciting. If I can do this, I can do anything!

    Of course, Homer is in the Ring of Fire and there are several volcanoes in the vicinity. In fact, our welcome packet includes information on what to do when an earthquake hits, so I'm pretty sure those pretty snow-covered mountains are quite active. But those of you who know me, know that volcanoes and I have a history. This does not make me nervous, however, because I am resolute!!!! No broken bones this time!

    I have to say, I love the name of this place. Storyknife. Stories both cut away at the human condition, exposing truths non-fiction cannot express, and we, as authors, cut away at our writing, crafting sentences that sing, and stories that soar. Excellent metaphor for a place where writers gather and work.

    Expect to hear more as we get closer to July,

    Play safe,
    Diana