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 at 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…

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A Killing Among the Dead is Free August 18 through August 20

The giveaway is ended – thank you for looking!

Free from Satuday, August 18 through Monday, August 20:

History, mystery and a dash of mythology…

You can read some sample chapters here, or go to my website: www.dianawilderauthor.com


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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…


“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.
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First Final Draft Finished….

    I  have just (this morning) finished the First Final Draft of my latest, Mourningtide.  That means I’ve filled in holes, the narrative flows, I’ve found most basic mistakes, and I’m satisfied with it as it stands at this moment.
    It also means that I’ll be doing a beta read (and perhaps inflicting it on associates to do the same) and will be tweaking and deepening and possibly, coming up with another title.
    My earlier works were over ten years in the making.  That is to say, I finished them, copyrighted them, sent them around and then went into a dry spell.  During the time I tried to decide what to do with them I picked at them, re-edited them, deepened them…  They are  in good shape.

But I don’t have ten years to spend on this one.  Actually, it came together more quickly than the others (thank you, plotting-by-the-seat-of-my-pants) and I think it will be a year’s project, since it started November 1.

It will be available in Kindle, but I’m also thinking of Smashwords (and the others), and I’ll have it available in paperback, too.

Whew!  I’ll be missing these characters, but I am finding it easier to move on now.

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This is from a story with the tentative title Lord of the Two Lands. It takes place two hundred years after Pharaoh’s Son.   As I mentioned before, I had a strong idea for a character and started jotting.  The plot is laid out, and while I have not written a lot (another project, Mourningtide, is keeping me busy) I have the characters and a good understanding of the story.

In this scene, Fenuku has come to Memphis with a message for Prince Ranefer (the youngest of his family) summoning him back to court.  Fenuku has seen the royal family and has some notion of who’s who, but he has never seen Ranefer, who left when he reached official adulthood in his early teens.  He is with Nebseni, the Vizier of the North, and the Prince’s wife, Lady Mereret, who has just returned from a journey to the south.  He has heard that Prince Ranefer is approaching. 

-O-          -O-          -O-

Nebseni smiled.  “Ah, here he comes, Count.  We needn’t send a runner after him!”   

Fenuku looked up. 

Two men were approaching, moving easily through the afternoon warmth.  One, wearing fine linen and a striped headcloth bound by a gilded browband was a little in advance.  He tended toward portliness, though it had not yet turned to fat.  Only a matter of time, Fenuku thought, remembering the royal family at Per-Ramesse.   

The Prince saw them and raised a hand, smiling.  Fenuku bowed and rose to watch him draw near. 

The Prince was accompanied by a man who seemed about the same age.  This one was bare-headed, black hair stirred by the rising breeze, dark eyes narrowed in the bright sun.  He wore a plain kilt of good quality linen, shorter to accommodate someone who obviously spent time in the open air.  Strong brown shoulders tapered to a flat stomach and trim flanks.  What appeared to be a discarded tunic was folded and tucked into his plain leather belt.  His only adornment was a carved lapis udjat hung on a gold chain.   

He was speaking to the Prince, smiling affectionately, one hand on the Prince’s shoulder in a familiarity that made Fenuku frown.  The other hand held a well-worn bow with bronze-clad tips.  A strap, crossing his chest, supported a quiver of arrows at his back. 

Fenuku considered him, the frown deepening.  Very familiar; obviously a well-tolerated servant.  He certainly was a handsome fellow.  He looked over at Lady Mereret, who was watching him approach with a sort of measuring, reminiscent smile.  Her eyes swept over his shoulders, dropped to his strong, well-muscled legs, lingered at the swell of his chest,  and then rose to his face.  The smile deepened. 

Fenuku stared and then dropped his eyes.  It would appear that Her Ladyship was not the most discreet of women, though having a nonpareil like this one in her household was probably more temptation than she should have to face with a smooth, plump husband and a quiver full of girls.  She had seemed such a lady, perhaps the temptation had remained in the realm of dreams? 

It is only a matter of time!  Fenuku thought again. 

The Prince was close now; Fenuku rose and began to perform a profound bow.  His eyebrows lifted as the companion fixed Her Ladyship with an open, knowing gaze .  A line appeared at the corner of the man’s mouth, which widened into an intimate, appreciative smile. 

He turned to Her Ladyship in time to catch an answering smile as she stepped forward, her hand outstretched, walking right past her husband– 

Fenuku stared from her to the Prince, who was watching with an indulgent smile as the fellow caught Her Ladyship’s hand, brought it to his lips to plant a kiss on the palm and then imprison it with the other and clasp it at his breast as she stepped forward to touch his cheek and whisper something to him.  They turned together toward Fenuku and the Prince. 

They’re lovers, by Horus! Fenuku thought, horrified.    He turned to look at the Prince, who was beaming happily at the two of them.  Is His Highness blind? The heedless fool might as well have the word ‘Cuckold’ carved upon his forehead!  From what I’ve seen of the daughters, the fellow certainly stamps his get!  They’re all his!

The servant looked up from Lady Mereret’s face, caught Fenuku’s astonished expression, and lifted one black eyebrow.  He slid the quiver’s strap from his shoulder with practiced ease, offering it and the bow to the Prince, who took them with an indulgent smile. 

“I’ll see these disposed, Highness,” the Prince said with another bow.  “As you have guests – as I see – I’ll send word to the kitchens that supper will be delayed.” He turmed to Lady Meret and the servant and added, “I am certain that Lord Nebseni is welcome to share the meal.”

Her Ladyship turned from the servant, his hands still in hers.  “Of course, Imyptah,” she said.  “And thank you.”  She released the servant’s hand.  “Rai, here is Count Fenuku, come from Per-Ramesse with a message for you from your lord brother.  He arrived just as my ship docked.” 

 Rai? thought Fenuku in vexed confusion.  So this is Ranefer? 

 The servant – the Prince!  Fenuku thought dizzily, held out his hand. 

“You are welcome here, Lord Fenuku,” Prince Ranefer said quietly, but with the edge of an amused smile.  “I regret that I was not here to greet you personally, but  I see that my lady has done the honors more gracefully than I could.”

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        …We all get them.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad.  Always helpful, whether good or bad.
        Reviews are what you get when a reader is nice enough to give feedback and a rating on something he or she purchased and took the time to read.  They are difficult to formulate, since the reviewer is trying to distill his impressions and reactions into word that express clearly just what they are.
        A good review is very nice.  But I’ve found that the critical reviews are a lot more helpful, highlighting what might be ‘off’ to the reader, what might need to be changed, what might be perceived as a weakness.
The way to deal with a review is to look it over, think about it carefully, and draw conclusions.
        If it’s a good review, is it a genuinely good one?  If someone gushes over something that you think doesn’t deserve the gush, you can shrug, smile and move on.  (Why you would publish something that isn’t perfect in your eyes is a little troublesome, I must say…) 
        Critical reviews are handled differently.  What is the reviewer saying?  Pacing is off for him or her?  Description?  Weakness in development?  Just didn’t like?
        Once you understand what has been said and have thought things through, you have a few options:
1.  Conclude that the criticism is objectively valid and highlights something that needs to be addressed in future work.  (This can be hard to do properly: most people have to take a deep breath before they take criticism.) It is a good idea to check other reactions: if a number of critics point to the same issue, then it is necessary to address the problem.
2.  Conclude that the criticism is subjective and does not pertain to an actual weakness in the work.  Wishful thinking is very dangerous here.  No one writes a perfect story; you need to keep an open mind.
3.  Take the criticism under advisement and solicit feedback from others whose judgment you trust.
4.  Conclude that the reviewer would not or could not give any basis for the unfavorable review.  At this point, all you can do is shrug, move on, and dismiss the whole thing from your mind, even if you found the review insulting or hurtful. 
        One thing that an author absolutely must not do is to argue with the reviewer or whine about the review online.   Most authors, myself included, follow the steps above and move on. 
When you write a review, it is important to express clearly what it was that you liked or did not like, and make certain that those items actually have some bearing on the writing. 
        As an example, the fact that a printed book with the standard format of full-justified margins has some extra spaces between the words is not really an issue pertaining to the writing and probably should not be in the review. Specific pros and cons are appropriate: ‘I just couldn’t get into it’ is valid, but it is a good idea to expand on why you could not ‘get into it’.   ‘It just did not seem to be about anything’ is another nebulous comment that needs clarification to be valid. If the story supposedly concerns organized crime, ghosts, and the death of the main character, it would seem that a lot should be going on. Why does the reader have a sense of nothing?  Was it a flaw in the writing?  Or simply a case of indigestion?
        If a book is described as being in one category – erotica, let us say – and you read it and decide that it fits more properly into the cozy mystery category, is that a basis to downgrade the story?  It may be poor erotica (“None of the characters so much as winked at the others!”) but is it a poor Cozy Mystery?  And what if the book claims more than one category?  One of my books has  the following tags in an online listing: historical fiction, adventure, mystery, good vs evil, mystical, supernatural.  It fits all of them, being set in an extensively researched era, involving some mysticism, with supernatural overtones, with the hero fighting evil.  Should it be marked down for having one or another of these features?  It is something to think through when you are reviewing.
        Finally, honesty demands that the rating accurately reflect the reviewer’s assessment of the work being reviewed. Giving a very poor verbal review a higher star rating (and telling the author privately that this is being done, as though it is some sort of favor), and finishing the review with the statement that the reader should not pay attention to the review, but give the work a try since they just might end up loving it, is simply sloppy work.
        For those who have reviewed my books honestly: thank you very much!   Bad or good, I promise I won’t gush or attack.  I never do.
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Interview on Jenna Johnson’s blog today!

Writer and illustrator Jenna Johnson has honored me with an interview on her blog today.  You can find it HERE

The interview concerns

..And while you’re there, do check out her work!

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