Sunday, December 30, 2012

Enjoy Your Pretty Fire, But...

 
 
 
I have enough Irish in me to allow me to wear a shamrock on St. Patrick's Day. I don't have enough to allow me to enjoy green beer, but I love Celtic designs, and I enjoy the lilt of poetry.  I also have one Irish trait that can be troublesome: I sometimes get the 'feeling' that I really, really need to do or say something. Not because anyone I know needs to hear it or have it happen, but... but because I need to say or do it. 

So with this post. 

I was setting the morning's fire in my wood stove. It heats things very well, and the window gives me the pleasure of watching the fire. Someone described a burning log as being the result of all the sunshine, stored within the wood over years of growth, uncoiling and returning to the air. Pretty thought. However it comes about, it is warming and beautiful.
 
I scooped out the ashes, set them in their bin, lifted an eyebrow at some glowing embers safely inside the bin - and the thought hit me - You Must Write A Post. And I remembered why. Here is my post, about having a fire. The 'why' will be at the bottom of the post.
 
I have a wood-burning stove inset into my fireplace. I went with this because while I enjoy fires in the winter, it occurred to me that I could cut down fuel bills by burning 'smart' fires. So I bought an insert by a company named Regency. I wish my fireplace looked as nice as this, but this is the model:

 It has worked very well, especially last year when we were without power for a week. The platform at the top gets hot enough to boil water or, if you're patient, heat a frying pan. In fact, when the power came back on last year, I had just put a casserole with chili and hot dogs on to heat. After gasping 'What on earth?' and realizing that we did have power again, I shrugged and continued cooking the hot dogs.

That's my situation with a wood stove. I had an open fireplace before that, with a number of important things. Whether you have a wood stove or an open fireplace, the things I am going to list are very important. This is what you need to have:

Something to screen the fire from the surrounding area. Depending on what you're burning, bits of flaming material can fly out of the fire and onto your floor with some pretty bad consequences. My wood stove has a glass door. Some have metal doors. That's good. Just be careful not to come up against them. They can become very hot.
What of an open fireplace? You need a screen.   Here is one I like: It is mesh, so air can circulate. (The insurance industry has things they call 'friendly fires' and 'unfriendly fires'. I have heard a lot of hilarity and annoyance about those terms, but there is a chilling truth to them.

A fire, controlled and burning where it is supposed to be is a thing of beauty, warming and comforting. Put that pile of flame in the middle of your living room carpet and it is a dreadful danger. Screens will help keep your fire 'friendly'.

 If you look at the photo above, you will see that there is an expanse of what appears to be black stone or tile between the fireplace and the very nice wooden floor. I think a fire inspector in my New England home state would find this one a little too narrow. Wider is better, just make certain it is nob-flammable.  Better still, talk to the Fire Marshal or a reputable store that sells and services wood stoves. 

Fires produce a lot of ashes.  These need to be scooped out regularly.  You will need to have, beside the fireplace a receptacle for the ashes.  You want something that will hold the ashes, as well as any glowing embers you did not happen to notice, and not go up in flames.  Galvanized steel works just fine.  You can get some prettier ones.  Here is a photo of a black ash can and sturdy shovel.  I have the shovel, but a different (uglier) can.  I may get this one.  This is listed on eBay.  Do a search with this:  Wood Stove Ash Bucket & Shovel Set.

Whatever you get, make sure there is a lid that will stay on if, say, your toddler or your dog happens to knock it over.  Ashes on carpet are hard to get out.  Embers are worse.

 I could list tools you need: a lighter (the long-ended ones are good), a poker - get one with a hook, which will allow you to shift logs easily.  A dustpan - of metal - and a brush. 

You also must get your chimney cleaned annually.  

But why am I posting this?

 

Last year, a house in a historic neighborhood burned down on Christmas morning.  Two grandparents and three young children were killed.  The mother of the children was dragged from the house by her boyfriend.  She survived.  The Fire Marshal completed his investigation and issued his report. 

The cause of the fire?  A stupid mistake.  Never mind who made it.  When the cold fireplace was swept clear of ashes, the person performing the task placed the cold ashes in a plastic bag in one of the rooms of the house.  As I saw this morning, dumping the cold ashes into the steel bin, glowing embers can survive a long time.  Sure enough there was one. I placed the lid on the bin (smothers the ember) and remembered.
 
If you have a fireplace and are using it and not following my advice, please read this post and take some steps.  At the absolutely very least put in a hearth apron and take your swept-out ashes outside and far from your house.

Do I sound bossy?  It's the Irish in me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Trouble With Characters in Stories that You Write...

...Is that you have endowed them with life, personality, virtues (and vices).  While they move through your imagination and by the reality you have given them shape the course of your stories, you can't sit down with them, talk about your own trials, troubles, hopes and heartaches, and receive a response.

That is the drawback to characters.

You love them, follow them, mold them, and guide them - and they cannot love you back.

To shift away from this profundity, let me remark that I have only twice had characters from my stories appear in my dreams.

The first time, I dreamed that the receptionist where I worked had called me to tell me that I had...visitors...in the lobby.  I hurried out there to find:

an early renaissance mercenary
an ancient Egyptian archer
a Colonel of Cavalry in the Union army
a Norse type fantasy character

They had somehow heard that I was unhappy (not sure where that came from, since I loved the job).  I had to convince them that I was fine.  The Egyptian was still inclined to nock an arrow and patrol the office, his narrowed eyes moving back and forth.

The second dream was darker.  I had to meet someone, and I had to park on a dangerous street.  I was worried - until I saw the main character of my French story standing at a distance, watching...  I felt safe.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Laptop Detonation

My laptop was stolen in January of this year.  It was a nice laptop, and it was my own stupid fault.  I left it on a plane.  Twenty minutes after arriving at my hotel I realized what had happened, phoned the airline and asked that they look for it.  I had my seat number...
 
The thing was never found.  I think someone swiped it on the way out of the plane.  Heaven knows they all searched for it (and were very nice about it).  So, it was gone.

I had a short-lived moment of panic: there was a lot of personal information on that thing, but then I remembered that I had a password that was about as break-proof as can be managed.  After a couple tries the memory banks would have been erased and the machine sold on.  It was still annoying, but, as I said, it was my own stupid fault.

I was out of town.  I commissioned a friend to find me another, gave a price range and a sincere thanks.  She found a laptop that had been marked way down because a newer model was being rolled out.  The markdown was very dramatic.  The laptop had huge memory, incredible RAM.  It was fast, capacious - and it was on sale for just about $30 more than I'd budgeted.  Definitely a fabulous buy.

I have been using it and very happy with it, but it started getting a little cranky.  I backed everything up in duplicate and then took it to 'The Geek Squad'. 

They looked it over, gave some suggestions, and I took it home and followed the suggestions - defrag the thing, do a disk cleanup, upload updates.  It froze.  It would not start.

So I took it back the next day.  It was under warranty, though I had declined the extended warranty.  I left it there, ran my errands - and received a phone call.
 
You have a defective hard drive.  It will need to be replaced.  It is, however, under warranty... (Imagine the voice of the announcer for Superman).
 
What can you say?  Machines fail.  I gave the OK to ship the laptop out and get the hard drive replaced (they didn't have one in stock, since it was an 'older' model).  I had no complaints.  It was under warranty and it would be fixed. I had backed everything up, so I had lost no graphics or manuscripts.  And my friend, who found me the laptop in the first place, has one she isn't using.
 
Life isn't always convenient, of course, but I think I was lucky.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Old-Fashioned Advice

    Years ago, as I was getting ready to go away to college, my father came to me.  I was in the basement doing something or other that a pre-college kid might do.  He looked around, sat down and said, "Diana, I have something to say to you that I think is important.
     I looked up expecting something – I'm not sure what.  A talk about not blowing all my money, being respectful to elders, never to worry about calling him or my mother if there was a problem or I was in trouble – any of those.  Dad was a singular father, and aside from knowing that he called things as he saw it and did administer punishment as needed, and was always fair and to be relied on (my mother was the same way), I never could be sure what he might say.  There was a time, for example, when he told my brother and me that the Mayflower (ship that brought the pilgrims to Plymouth rock in 1620) was made of bricks.  But that is another story and will be told another time.
     But he threw me a curve ball this time.  "You are going to college, and if you're like every other college kid in the United States, you are going to try drinking.  So this is my advice..."
     It was good advice, and I am giving it it's own paragraph:

If you are going to drink, don't drink sweet, sticky drinks like Singapore Slings or Pina Coladas, Mai Tais, or other such things where you don't know what is in them. Drink Scotch on the Rocks, or Gin and Tonic, or an Old Fashioned. The best thing to do is mix it yourself if you're at a party, then you know what's in it. And if you don't know the people around you, get your own drink, or stand there and watch as they're mixing it. Or drink beer. You'll get sick before you get drunk.
 
     I paid attention to that advice – it is very good advice, and while I did enjoy fuzzy navels, I noticed that they packed a wallop out of proportion to their ingredients.  And it was hard to remember what was in them.  My mixed drink of choice became the Old Fashioned.  I can nurse one of them for an entire evening, augmenting it with a glass of seltzer.
     For those who don't remember them – they're making a comeback – they consist of:
     A sugar cube with a dash of bitters muddled with lemon zest in the bottom of an Old Fashioned (what else?) glass.  You fill the glass with cracked ice, pour a (smaller) jigger of Bourbon or Rye over, stir, and then add cold water to fill the glass the rest of the way.  You can add a maraschino cherry, if you want and a slice of orange.  Some people add a small spoonful of cherry juice.  It depends what you want.  I do put the orange slice in.  It helps to stave off scurvy.
     Did I say they were coming back into fashion?  They are, which means that for a while there, they were out of fashion, with servers not knowing what on earth I was ordering.  I remember one time – it was at Downey's in Philadelphia - that I ordered an Old Fashioned.  The table had pina coladas, beer, wine and Long Island Iced tea (why on earth would you pay a lot of money for a drink that 'tastes exactly like iced tea',  and levels you like a bulldozer?).
       The server stared at me.  "And old fashioned WHAT?" she demanded.
       The attitude had come out of left field.  I lifted my eyebrows.  "It's a mixed drink," I said.
       "I've never heard of it!"
       "Just ask your bartender to mix me an Old Fashioned."
     "Yeah.  Right."  She left.   She returned five minutes later, the pleasantness of her demeanor having improved somewhat.  "The bartender wants to know if you want your cherry muddled..."
       It was a good one.
       I was visiting family over Thanksgiving, and my mother said, "I wonder if you would make me an Old Fashioned...  Your father used to.  I remember you did, too."
     Well, I mixed one. Two, actually – one for me and one for her.  And we lifted our glasses to Dad.
     Thanks for the advice, Dad.  And the recipe.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Moving Right Along...

Things are coming together with Mourningtide.  I finished the cover design (with a few reservations - more below) with a mock up of the book itself in the works.

It is copyrighted and registered with the Library of Congress, with an edit scheduled.  I'd say it's five months or less away from publication.  I will miss the characters, especially since I know I won't be dealing with one of my favorites after this.

Here's the cover mock up.  The back needs more of a blurb, and I'm not sure I like the black spine...

I write historical fiction, with or without fantasy or mysticism, and I have realized once again the big sorrow of dealing with people, whether real or fictional: they don't stay around forever.
 
I said farewell to my father this summer - and I find myself thinking of things he would love - and realize anew that he isn't beside me to enjoy them.  In the same way, though not as deep, there are characters who, following my timeline, are making their final appearances in life. 
 
Seti (the main character in Mourningtide) has been dead for five years in the time-setting of Kadesh.  I realized how he died when I was writing backstory about one of the main characters.  Lord Nebamun, who has been one of my favorite non-historical characters in the course of two books, is in his mid-eighties in Kadesh.  Will he be there to welcome the troops home?  I don't know.  I will miss them both.
 
I suppose I could pick up one or another of my own books and read - but it is not the same.  But when it's time to say goodbye...



Sunday, November 18, 2012

I do write fiction that is set in Egypt; and I do read it, as well. I am posting here a review I did of a beautifully done, intriguing book set in the earliest days of dynastic Egypt. It has intrigue, romance, mysticism - and it is engrossing. Do I make it sound like a Penny Dreadful? I promise that it is not. You will simply have to read the book - and then read its sequel, set four thousand years later and cleverly tied in with a notorious art heist of modern times. You will not regret it. And now, my review:








Khamsin The Devil Wind of the Nile by Inge H. Borg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ancient Egypt is thought of, by many, as the dawn of history. This book takes you to a time that is before history, bringing to life names that we only know from fragments, harking to a rhythm and image that is smoothed and darkened by time. And yet the author makes them human.

This is the very earliest period of dynastic Egypt, a time when the border between history and legend is blurred, when the kings and queens of that land seem to be gods that stepped down from the bowl of the sky and trod the land...

The author states:
At the dawn of the great Egyptian dynasties, before any Pyramids were built and the camel was introduced to the Nile regions, certainly long before the royal title of Pharaoh came into use, Aha rules as the second King of the First Dynasty... H i8s triumph and tragedy plays out centuries before the Greek colonization of the Two Lands... To this day our vague answers are drawn only from relics and mummies of much later dynasties, their cities wrenched from the hot red dust driven into the verdant river valley for fifty days by the Khamsin, the dreaded Devil Wind of the Nile. In Khamsin, the reader is immersed in the life of the fertile Valley of the Nile, as flesh and muscle have been molded back onto those brittle bones...

She molds them well. We meet characters that catch the exotic cadences of the faraway times as we follow the fate of a life conceived in the beginning pages. We watch first one character and then another - the general of the Fourth Army of Amun, who is tender to his faraway wife, lusty with a woman of the desert, and crafty. (And I must remember never to go back to that time and agree to carry an important message...)

And we meet Ramose...

This is a story to savor, written lusciously, with care and enjoyment. I grew to love Ramose, to enjoy his dry wit and his wide-eyed mysticism. The writing is lyrical at times, so rare in a time of utilitarianism, and the Khamsin is in the background, lending its tone to the story.

I enjoyed this - and I rejoice to tell you that Ms. Borg has written another, arising from this but far, far in the future from this story. I think you will enjoy it, too.

Okay, What I'm Doing...

I really need to update this blog on a regular basis.  It does tend to be hit or miss, but I don't want to bore everyone with my writing issues and enjoyments (though I find it enjoyable). 

For example, I have the nicest recipe for Thai-style soup that works up quickly, has low fat and sodium, and makes wonderful left-overs for the next day.  In fact, if you can hold off eating it for two days it's really good.  I'll post it if I can find a good photo.

Currently I'm in the middle of NaNoWriMo, which is a contest of sorts where you attempt to write 50,000 words in thirty days.  To reduce that to understandable terms,a printed page - as in, say, a paperback of normal size such as you sneak on mass transit and hope no one notices you reading it - Harlequin Romance, to be precise - has about 275 words per page.  50,000 words translates to  181 pages.  A normal-sized harlequin.

Lots of people seem to think that they must produce a finished, polished, to-be-published-then-and-there manuscript, but that is not the case.  The founder of NaNo, Chris Baty, says that the task is to write 50,000 words.  And he gives some examples of what counts,

I have some Egyptian stories (you have noticed, haven't you?) that feature some Egyptian names.  If I type (with apologies to A. A. Milne):
 Ramesses strode down the hallway, yanked open the door to the Imperial Kitchen s and snapped, "Nobody can call me a fussy man - but I do like a little bit of butter on my bread!"
I score 36 words.  Not bad.  But if, having access to his throne names, I type

User - Maat - Re - Sotep - en - Re - Ramesses II Meriamun strode down the hallway, yanked open the door to the Imperial Kitchen s and snapped, "Nobody can call me a fussy man  -  but I do like a little bit of butter on my bread!"
I score 50.
 
Now, that actually is not cheating per Mr. Baty, bless him.   

Way out of date cover
Mourningtide was last year's NaNo project, and it's in final polish, but I was just a trifle burned out and decided to go with Kadesh, which is moving along.  (Check for some chapters on my web page - www.dianawilderauthor.com )

I've been going slowly, and yesterday I took a day off to put Mourningtide into print book format for reasons that I am not allowed to discuss.  It was interesting to see that, printed, it is working out to 332 pages, if I include the List of Characters but not my incomplete Author's Notes.  Considering that Pharaoh's Son, that behemoth, was 421 pages and had a genesis that spanned nearly twenty years, that is not bad.

So, what on earth am I doing?  Writing and cooking and enjoying autumn.  I'll have to post photos.

And that recipe, of course.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The hazard or, if you prefer, the muse of writing -

The name of the Muse of Writing, according to the ancient Greeks, was Calliope.  Actually, she was the muse of heroic and epic poetry.  Since I write historical fiction, I think that's about as close as I come.

I've been going hammer and tongs at a new project, and she has been with me every step of the way.  ...or do I mean that she has obstructed me?  Hm.  Perhaps that is a better choice of words...

The hard thing is that if you do write, you have to have a muse. 

...but do I have to have one that sits on my keyboard? 

Now all I need is Terpsichore (muse of dance) to tap-dance on my keyboard.  I suspect it's only a matter of time.

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012


NaNoWriMo is taking place right now.  I'm participating. 
 
And I am an idiot:  I have a whole lot going on. 
 
I'm polishing Mourningtide, I am doing a once-over on a (Civil War) novel that will be on KDP Select as a freebie later this month, and I signed up to write a minimum of 1700 words a day to produce 50,000 words in 30 days.  (1700 words works out to about six printed pages).  It's do-able if you work steadily, but in this case I am also working at a day job. 
 
I'm giving it my best shot, and I think I can do it, but if one thing or another has to go Kadesh will be the casualty.
 
Which reminds me: Kadesh is a working title.  Fans of Egyptian history will know that it was the battle that Ramesses II touted as his greatest triumph.  The Hittites, whom he fought, were equally emphatic about their 'successs'.  My read is that two superpowers met and mauled each other, though Ramesses probably had the shock of his life in the process.  (There's a strong indication that his father, Seti I, died of a heart condition, and I've used that supposition in my own 'family history' to account for some deaths.  It would appear, though, based on what happened at Kadesh, that Ramesses did not have a weak heart.  He survived the shock of seeing the Hittite army breaking through the palisades of his camp.)
 
I'm telling this story from the point of view of lesser characters.  Hori (Amunhorkhepechef) as a nineteen-year-old Crown Prince is given nominal command of one of the armies.  Others of his brothers (Ramses and Montuhirkhopechef, who died prior to the opening of Pharaoh's Son) are in high command in other armies.  Khaemwaset ('Khay' in Pharaoh's son, and the most well known,  historically, of Ramesses' sons) is with his father, being all of fifteen years old.
 
It's important to understand strategy, but this event shaped Ramesses' reign and world history.  It turned him from being a 'warrior king' (though he tried) to being a true statesman, where his greatness lay.
 
So I'm writing Kadesh.  I truly must redo the temporary cover, but it's a decent placeholder for now.
 
My website has sample chapters that I've whacked out.  Hori seems to be taking center stage just at the moment.  (I know him rather well).  Check them out here:
 
  
 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hurry up!

Ever had a itch between your shoulder-blades? The sort that is driving you nearly mad, but which you know can't be scratched because the act of scratching will only make matters worse and you will end up itching for the rest of your life?
 
Or, perhaps, wanted to treat yourself to some forbidden dainty - and known - just known that you won't be able to stop eating?
 
That's a little like my current position with Mourningtide.  The story is nearly finished, it's almost ready to go – but it just is not quite ready.  There are things to do, things that must be done if I don't want to release a book that is not my best effort.
 
Well, as with any itch, if you ignore it, it will go away.  The story will be finished, people will like it, I'll like putting it out to be read, the cover will look good and I'll smile.  It's happened before, but I'm one of those people who likes to show folks their gifts before the proper date. 

In the mean time, I can laugh at myself, plug in my laptop, fire up Scrivener (did I mention that I love it?), and make corrections, and add scenes that occur to me.

And I can commune with my editor.
 
Have I mentioned my editor?  Everyone needs one, especially one like her.  Even if she is a pain in the neck, she's about as charming as they come.  ...and here she is!
 
I call her my 'attractive nuisance'.  (Interesting legal concept: something that can cause a lot of annoyance, rage, damage, you name it, while being simply irresistible.)  Notice the position of her posterior?  Yes, on the pile of manuscript.  That is her clever way of keeping me from hurrying too much.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sydney's Song - Now available!

I am delighted to announce the debut of a wonderful book that will have you smiling, weeping - and then smiling widely through your tears. 

The book?

   
Sydney's Song by Ia Uaro


It is wonderfully written, will hold your interest - a true joy to read.







Watch the trailer, below, enjoy the images and the story - and then consider reading it.  You won't regret it.






...and while you're at it, visit her wonderful website at

http://www.sydneyssong.net/

And her Author's page (this one is Amazon's):

http://www.amazon.com/Ia-Uaro/e/B009ELCYKU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1348706542&sr=8-1





Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Worldwide Distribution



Well!  I have just learned that the citizens of the great nation of Japan can now buy my books and complain about my characters' odd names with the rest of my readers...



Gosh, the world is getting smaller!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Polishing a Draft

So, you have finished your story.  It is complete.  The tale has been told and was done rather well, if you say so yourself.  You 'compile' the manuscript (for, after all, you are using Scrivener) and you then print the thing.  The result is a two-inch thick pile of bright white paper with printing on it.  The manuscript.  Finished!  Hurrah!


Wordsmithing as I do it.  The logic is hidden by the lack of prettiness...
The delight lasts only as long as it takes you to flip to a random page, and read...

"Did I say that?  What a passive construction!  What was I thinking?"

You seize a pencil/pen/whatever, circle the offending phrase, write in what you should have written if you had not been under-caffeinated, and then sit back, scowling, and look at the rest of the manuscript.

...And now you are in 'polish' mode.

It's been a while since I did this, and I had forgotten how enjoyable it is.   Wordsmithing, pure and simple, is a pleasure in itself.  It is, however, annoying when you have been envisioning a finished manuscript and, looking down at it, pen in hand, realized that the thing is anything but.

So you sigh, assemble the things you will need, and go to it.


What do you need?

Just the basics, ma'am, but in all available colors...
Pens.  Lots of them.  They tend to grow legs and walk.  I have one that was made by an artisan using chestnut wood salvaged from an colonial-era house on the seacoast.  Chestnut isn't seen any more since the blight destroyed most of the chestnut trees.  That's a pity because the wood is very rot-resistant and has a wonderful color.  Then there are the gel pens that are a delight to write with and have thick, visible ink.  The problem is that the ink tends to sink into paper and go through the other side.  Not pretty. 
Authentic Marvin
the Martian Pen

I also have a special Marvin the Martian pen I bought years ago at a Warner Brothers store and carried to various meetings over the years.

You need highlighters in various colors.  Why?  Well, what if you highlight something in pink and then think of something else that needs to be done with the highlighted passage, but is different?  Pink won't work, it'll be confusing.  Besides, hot pink is something of which I can only stand so much.  Purple, I think.  Or maybe blue...

Post-it notes, or reasonable facsimiles thereof, are very useful for marking places ('Oh - that's right!  I edited to here!'), marking thoughts (make sure you don't get cheap imitations because they'll fall off, and you will face your greatest fear: that your inspired edit will be lost forever and your powerful intellect, having decayed rather badly, will not be able to retrieve the perfect word in the perfect location.)

But you go cooking along, making corrections - until it suddenly occurs to you that the reason that the beginning of the novel seems to plod just a wee bit, with lots of information being made available rather quickly is that you have been going about it the wrong way, and it would work out better if you start in with the third chapter, scrap the first and second chapters, and then adjust as necessary.  You greet this revelation with a cry torn from your very entrails as you realize that the entire beginning of the @#$%! story has to be reworked.

Is it a disaster if it makes the whole story better but drives the writer mad?
You brew another cup of tea (did you read my post about tea?), get out the materials, and go to work, muttering under your breath even as you see that it truly will do better.  You bid farewell to the end of year release, the editor's feedback, the new story that has been nudging at your elbow and presenting lusciously tempting scenes...  You buckle down -

Will pester for catnip...
And pray that your work is not interrupted by the dreaded 'attractive nuisance' that likes to grab your hand as you mouse...


Friday, August 31, 2012

Dad

I'm not sure when I realized how lucky I was.  I think maybe I just assumed that everyone had parents like mine - stern when they had to be, always kind, straight-shooters  when it came to right and wrong, but who liked to laugh.  Maybe it was when I entered my early teens and saw other parents that were not like mine, that got me started thinking.

Dad was in the United States Navy.  He entered the (very new) Radar program in World War II and was a radar officer in the Pacific theater of that war.  He left the Navy after the war and attended law school on the GI Bill before he was called up for the Korean War in 1950 (right after marrying my mother).  He went back to war and stayed in the Navy for nearly thirty years, retiring as a Captain and the Judge Advocate General of the Fourth Naval District. 

Dad went into civilian law practice and finally retired for good around 1996.

We lived all over the place, from Newport (RI) to Aiea Heights (Hawaii) and a few places in between.  We were always piling into the car and going for drives, to museums ('You have to understand, Diana - admission on Sunday mornings was generally free...)

Health care is free to Military dependants - or it was when I was growing up - but while Mom and Dad had their children to the the local military dispensary for their inoculations, the first thing they did when they went to a new location was to look up the finest pediatrician in the area and take us kids there.

Children grow up, and so did I.  My Dad (and Mom) somehow made the cross-over from Respected Parent to Greatly Enjoyed Friend. 

Dad lived to be 88 years old and he died this past Monday.  His family was close by.  I will miss him.

 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On hold...

So... Manuscript is at nearly 90K words. Filling in and expanding where necessary will bring it in target. I'm sold on the story, like the characterization - In other words, I seem(ed) to be clicking along on all cylinders, allowing for flexibility in polishing.

But still, while the projected release date of November 1 is gone by the way (I decided to retain a cover artist whose credentials and work I really love, and to hire a line editor for this one, so that pushes things back...) I thought a 2012 release was not out of the question. Just in time for Christmas.

And the story was heartwarming (I thought, at least).

But then...

I was pushing on with the initial polished (draft=> first finished draft=> polished draft=> final MS => OMIGOSH ICAN'TBELIEVE IFOULEDITUP SOBADLY!!!
=> final polished manuscript [friends and relatives having tied the author to a chair and taken matters into their own hands. "It's FINISHED, Diana! You CAN'T edit any more!!!"] )

I was, as I said, pushing things along, but I wasn't happy with the setting of the first chapter. Father leaving for a protracted journey, leaving eldest son in charge. Eldest son voices dissatisfaction with this state of affairs. Father gives good speech. and leaves.

The story is about the eldest son's decision to get out of there and leave his brother to run the family business. He gets killed, and his family and loved ones pick up the pieces... It actually is a bright story.

I was scowling at the first chapter, which seemed lifeless -  I sat back with a mingled groan and wail.

Start the story with the son out of the country progressing toward his death, which happens within the first chapter - second at most. Backstory can be put in there easily. THEN switch back to the threads of the younger son and the father.

Groan! A rewrite. Admittedly, it doesn't alter the true meat of the story, which kicks in around chapter three, but still...

Well... I could still retain the cover artist, I suppose...

*sigh* And I said I LIKE writing...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Historical Romance


I have been giving a lot of thought lately to what some people scornfully call 'Bodice Rippers'.  You know the sort of story I mean.  Sometimes they are called 'Historical Fiction', to the dismay of people like me who actually write historical fiction.     

I do not like to use the term 'bodice ripper' because while there are two types of stories that fit that slot, the word for, or title of, the second type of 'bodice ripper' does not exist, and the first term is a little too sexual.  I will be using the term 'Historical Romance' for both in this post because I think it fits the guidelines given by Webster Dictionary for the noun 'Romance': 
prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious    























The books are always set against a backdrop of a period of history.  The period is not important; it fluctuates from year to year depending on what is in fashion.  Medieval history is a perennial favorite, though the Scottish Wars for Independence are in the ascendant.  Dark ages Europe is also gaining popularity.  Another dependable standby is the 'Napoleonic era' - from about 1790 through about 1816.  The American Civil War also makes an appearance.


The background research varies from nearly nonexistent to substantial.  And there may be a story line found inside the pages.  (In my opinion) what makes these stories 'bodice rippers' - or, rather, Historical Romances - is their focus, which is to titillate, to satisfy a hunger or a fancy, with the story line taking second place to that purpose.  To avoid a trip into semantics, here is Webster's list of synonyms: 

charge, electrify, excite, exhilarate, galvanize, intoxicate, pump up, thrill, turn on

These stories' descriptions are fairly similar.  The protagonists/antagonists are set forth and the basis for the story.  The dangers that lie along the path are hinted at.  You can choose to read or to pass:



The (band of heroes)  have itchy feet. Battle-hungry and tired of keeping the homestead fires burning, they are restless for action. And... action is what they get. When their homestead is attacked ... the (band of heroes) promise bloody revenge. ... Packed with epic adventure and bloody action...
and:



“A rollicking, dangerous and often very gory gallop through the largest land empire the world has ever known.”
Contrast that with:




For Gunnar, vengeance is all that matters. He seeks the ultimate price from his enemy’s beautiful young daughter, claiming Raina as his hostage. But the proud beauty defies him at every turn, tempting him like no other. Setting out to break Raina’s glorious spirit, Gunnar instead finds himself bewitched by her goodness, her strength. Can he seize the justice he is due without losing Raina forever. 
 It is obvious that they are different sides of the same coin.

The covers of Historical Romances tend to hint at the items of attraction that will be delivered by the book:















 

There is no black and white in this life.  Some of the Historical Romances   of either type are close to excellent fiction - The ones whose covers I have shown have been written by people described as 'award-winning authors' and have received good reviews from a good many people averaging 4.5 stars.  I remember one series of romances, set in the time of the conflict between Stephen and Matilda (England) that had wonderful plot and excellent research.  The stories did involve men and women and their relationships, but they were secondary to the plot. 
Someone, speaking against his/her notion of 'Historical 'Romance' of one sort expressed it in an interesting fashion.  This is a paraphrase:  


There is the man who loves his woman and longs to see her once more before he is killed on the field of battle.  Or there is the fighter who lives for war, whose love is battle and whose mistress is his sword, who satisfies his physical urges by patronizing the whores that follow in the tail of every army. 
I think both types share a distortion of history or, more accurately, the 'historical norm' of the period that they concern.  Human nature and inclination has not changed appreciably over the millennia.  Most people lived at home and interacted with their families.  They had their tiresome tasks, their moments of delight, their festivals and their tragedies.  Not everyone in the Northlands  went i-Viking.  They knew about sex - that is why we are here today - and loving relationships existed as did attachments based solely on monetary payment for physical need.  A love affair between two people or a rousing fight scene does not necessarily make a novel an 'Historical Romance'.  It all depends on the purpose and focus of the book.