Interview with Kevin Rau March 30, 2012


I had the pleasure of being interviewed on Kevin Gerald Rau’s Author page. Kevin is an author of Super Hero novels (H.E.R.O.)   with an engaging website and an enjoyable focus. 


Here’s a link to my interview:


Interview with Kevin Rau March 30, 2012


…and the text of the interview with Kevin’s Comments:

Diana Wilder
Interview Date: 3/30/2012
*When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?

I started writing in fourth grade. I was…let me see…nine years old. It was a poem about a horse (I loved horses). What got me started? We were reading poetry and I thought I could try to write one. I remember it: it was rather fun.

*If you could have one superpower, what would it be? (Assuming said power would be reasonably “powerful.”)
I don’t know if I’d prefer to be invisible or to be invulnerable. If invisible, would I have to run around without clothes? (Donald Westlake had this situation in SMOKE; the hero had to run around without a stitch on – uncomfortable in winter and embarrassing in all situations – and anything he ate could be seen in the course of digestion. Not cool). I think maybe invulnerability is the way to go, though flight runs it a close second.
Kev’s response: I completely agree about the invisibility and lack of clothing, I’d never go for that either.

*Do you have a favorite superhero from novels, comics, or movies?
She-Ra. She got to ride Pegasus.I confess that I also liked Thor, but that’s because I enjoyed Norse mythology and the juxtapositioning of Odin on Sleipnir at a press conference was very amusing.
Kev’s response: I’m a big fan of Thor, myself. The diety, not the Marvel superhero … although I guess I’m a fan of him as well, just in a different way.

*Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?
That’s a hard one. I’m a people-watcher, and I enjoy reading history. A situation will catch my attention and I’ll start thinking, “Gosh, I wonder what would have happened if…” This happened once when I was looking at a photo of a huge statue that had once stood before a temple. The thing had been forty feet tall. I found myself imagining that huge monolith falling, and began to picture what would have happened. As far as motivation goes, there’s a wonderful feeling (‘thrill’, if you like) to creating the world of a novel, no matter what the genre. It isn’t the notion of having unlimited power, because you don’t. The moment you set a fact of your story down it is set in stone and you can’t get around it.It’s the notion of, perhaps, bringing something into being in a form that is true to its bases.

*Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?
I have an idea in my mind – the fall of the statue, for example, and I follow it. If something occurs to me that clarifies things, it gets incorporated. It’s a little like bringing something hazy into focus.

*Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?
I used to write on the train into work.Forty-five minutes each way. It was a great system.I don’t ride the train any more, unfortunately. It’s hard to be disciplined; I’ve learned that you actually have to sit down and write – and NOTHING ELSE. If you want a lesson in jump-starting yourself, try NaNoWriMo.
Kev’s response: I have the same issue, if I turn on the TV, I’ll be too distracted and won’t get much writing done.

*Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?
I write historical fiction, which I also enjoy, provided that it is well-researched. I tend to be a nit-picker. I like to read historical fiction, poetry, humor. I also enjoy cookbooks – the discursive kind. Photos are good.

*What do you enjoy the most about writing?
The act of bringing something into being. putting together the puzzle that is a story. Increasing insights, flexing the writing muscles. But (for me) the absolute best part of writing is learning out that someone read one of my stories and was entertained by it.Novelists are storytellers, pure and simple. We want to entertain with our stories, and it’s the most wonderful thing to find out that we have actually succeeded.

*Is there any part of writing that you don’t enjoy?
It would not trouble me if I found that someone else would do my editing. I have a very dear friend who does just that, and if there were some way I could give that person a sack of rubies, I would do so in a heartbeat.

*Can you tell me something odd about yourself?
I like to get into a car and just drive.As you can understand, this activity is curtailed by current gasoline prices. I also lick the icing out of the middle of my oreos.
Kev’s response: Oreos! 🙂

*Do you write one story at a time, or do you have several novels in the works at one time?
Many. After the first time I finished a novel and had nothing to do afterward, I was lost. It was a sort of grieving. Now I always have several in the works.This also helps the creative process – the ability to step away from a project and catch my breath before returning to it.

*Where do you see the future as far as paper books versus digital e-books?
I thought e-books were the wave of the future fourteen years ago. I haven’t changed my mind. The fact that you can (almost) fit the library of congress into a e-reader boggles my mind. But I confess that the smell and feel of a new book is intoxicating. I don’t think paper books will go away, but they’ll be scarce.
                                            
*What are your current projects?
I have a Civil War novel, one set in Paris and another Egyptian story in the works.

*Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?
Do your research and be thorough, make an informed decision and then follow it. Don’t do something because you wish you could. I think the most important thing I could tell someone thinking of self-publishing is this: Don’t forget that your writing is the product that you are trying to sell. Your writing – NOT you, even though you are the writer. Put your ego somewhere safe and forget about it. Be courteous. Be pleasant and appreciative. For heaven’s sake, don’t ever argue with someone who has taken the time to purchase a novel of yours (paperback or eBook) and then has reviewed it. In addition to being rude, it is stupid and it is the quickest way to shoot yourself in the foot. And the ricochets hit all the other self-published people who are trying to do the right thing and make their way.

*Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you (and your books)?

I have a blog at http://dianawilder.blogspot.com/. I’m also on Goodreads.I like answering questions, and I try not to be unpleasant.  My website is www.dianawilderauthor.com
 
Kev’s response: I’d like to thank Diana for joining me on the interview, and wish her the best of fortune!

Advice to Anyone who Wants to be a Writer…


I submitted some answers to an online interview by someone who has a very interesting blog relating to superheroes.  Interesting, enjoyable, lively.

One of the questions got me thinking, and I thought I’d post my answer here and expand on it.

The question had to do with advice to people being published.  Here is my answer:

Do your research and be thorough, make an informed decision and then follow it.  Don’t do something because you wish you could.  I think the most important thing I could tell someone is this: Don’t forget that  your writing is the product that you are trying to sell.  Your writing – not you, even though you are the writer. 

Put your ego somewhere safe and forget about it. 

Be courteous.  Be pleasant and appreciative. 

For heaven’s sake, don’t ever argue with someone who has taken the time to purchase a novel of yours (paperback or eBook) and then has reviewed it.  In addition to being rude, it is stupid and it is the quickest way to shoot yourself in the foot.  And the ricochets hit all the other people who are trying to do the right thing and make their way.
 One question had to do with what I found most enjoyable about writing:


My answer:
 

Novelists are storytellers, pure and simple.  We want to entertain with our stories, and it’s the most wonderful thing to find out that we have actually succeeded.


Just a few things to consider…

Mourningtide – Updated


In the time since I first posted about this work, I have made significant adjustments to the story in general, including the love story. I am reposting here.

I wrote the germ of this story in A Killing Among the Dead. One character, Ramses, is described as being the descendant of a king who came to the Valley of the Kings to grieve after his eldest son’s death. The king (Seti) was consoled by a young girl and a baby resulted, I wrote a short story about this a year or so after I wrote A Killing Among the Dead. And there it sat for a number of years. When I was casting about for an idea for the NaNoWriMo competition, I remembered this and decided to write the story. I did make some changes.
He is struggling with the death of his eldest son, the result of a stupid mistake by that son. He has gone to a small village, under a pseudonym – Sa-Ramses (it means ‘son of Ramses) – to grieve.

In this scene, Seti, who has come to a small village of artists to escape his world of power and influence, finds himself near his son’s tomb. It is too sudden, this reminder, and he is devastated for a moment.

She took two quick steps forward, smiling. “We’re in the valley now,” she said. “You can see – there, to either side-“


A crash and clatter behind her. She turned, startled.

Sa-Ramses’ writing kit had fallen to the ground, the box breaking open and scattering cakes of pigment through the small stones of the path. He stood ashen-faced, one hand clenched at his breast, the other stretched before him as his eyes swept upward along the vertical pillars of rock that formed the sides of the valley. The outstretched hand wavered and fell as he stared at the marks on a shaft of stone, halfway up the cliff wall. He took a faltering step backward.

Nefer heard him say something – a name, perhaps? She hurried back toward him. Had he injured himself while she was moving on ahead? Had his heart failed? Or – more prosaically, she thought – had he perhaps turned his ankle on a rock?

She stopped as he raised his head, gazing up along the cliff to one particular spot where the stone seemed somehow lighter. His gaze was frozen, withdrawn. His breath was coming raggedly through parted lips.

“Master Sa-Ramses?” she said.

He started at the sound of her voice and turned, dragging in a shaking breath. His eyes were shuttered for a moment, his hand clenched before him. “Mistress Nefer,” he said. His voice shook.

“What-” she stopped and amended herself. “Are you all right? Were you hurt in any way?”

“Stabbed to the heart…” The words were so low, she wasn’t sure she had heard them correctly. “I never expected to- I hadn’t known-” He collapsed to his knees, his eyes wet, and lowered his head, his shoulders braced. He doubled against the ground after a moment and covered his face.

She bent over him. “Is there any way I can help you?” she asked, her outstretched hand inches from his shoulder. She stopped. He was usually so composed… To overwhelm him with offers of assistance would hurt his pride. She moved away toward some larger rocks and sat down, her hands folded before her.

He was looking up along the cliff again, tears spilling down his cheeks. As she watched he turned and stared down the channel of the Valley. He seemed to be looking along the pathway that led from this back spot to the royal necropolis’ formal entry from the great mortuary temples. His mouth tightened; he shook his head and slumped where he knelt for the space of a long breath, the back of one hand to his eyes.

And then he pushed to his feet and straightened, turning toward her, his expression nearly composed once more. His foot struck the writing box. He looked down at it, knelt and began to gather the brushes, the pigments, his movements slow with exhaustion.

She came forward to help him.

He reassembled the box,in silence closed it, set it in the satchel at his shoulder, and sat back on his heels, his eyes lowered. “I am ashamed…”

“There is no reason to be,” she said.

“I never meant to-to trouble you.”

“You didn’t. I’m glad you aren’t hurt.”

“No,” he said. “Not hurt. Not me. If only it had been me…”

She looked at him.

He dried his eyes with his sleeve and tried to smile. “Old memories,” he said. “Some not so old…”

She located a cake of dried red pigment and offered it to him. “A death?”

“My son.” The words were barely spoken. “My first child. I never knew until late. Now he’s locked away in the dark, in a jumble of grave-goods, and I never even had the chance to-” He closed his eyes, opened them, and rose, the back of his hand to his eyes again. “I was taken unawares just now. I’ll be fine.” His voice shook. “I’m sorry I subjected you to this.”

Her expression eased. “You needn’t apologize,” she said. “I have felt grief, myself… I come this way, sometimes. So quiet and beautiful… It’s peaceful, though so many are buried here. And it is a good place, I can feel it.”

She remembered his words: locked away. “Tombs contain what we, the living, put in them,” she said. “Stored by us. Those who are buried have no need of those things. They have moved beyond this world into the Land of the West.” She looked at him. “Do you know the old saying:

Sa-Ramses’ eyes filled again, but his expression was no longer frozen. He swore silently, struggling to master himself, and looked up at her after a moment with almost his usual calm.

The day was beginning to fade. Looking over her shoulder down the line of the valley to the town, she could catch the smell of cooking fires in the distance. Evening would soon be blooming out of the approaching sunset. But it was still light, and he was still suffering.

She turned back to him. “It’s growing late,” she said. “Are you ready to return to the village, Master Sa-Ramses? Or would you care to walk with me a little longer and enjoy the afternoon? A longer path borders the cliffs. There are some beautiful views of the river and of Thebes beyond it. It is a good way to go and… and collect oneself, as I have discovered.”

He looked down at his hands, loosely clasped on his knees. “Collect,” he repeated almost silently. “Yes. If we may.”

“I’ll show you my favorite views,” she said as he pushed himself to his feet. “It is beautiful. And I have found it to be healing.”

He nodded and offered his arm. “We’ll do that,” he said.

She set her hand in the bend of his elbow and then smiled up at him. “You will enjoy the path.”

A smile warmed his tired face. “Thank you,” he said. “With all my heart.”

A later scene:


“Sometimes the past takes us unaware.” He fell silent, looking out over the Nile. He looked back at her after a moment. “It’s restful to be quiet,” he said. “Away from the noise of life. It give our hearts a chance to…to heal.”


“Your wife?” she guessed.


His smile gentled and faded. “No,” he said. “My wife died last year, just at this time. I miss her…very dearly.”

“I am sorry,” Nefer said.


“We try to prepare for these things… We seldom succeed.” He saw her expression. “She died in childbirth,” he said. “She and the baby both. We had not expected a baby at our ages.”


She was gazing up at him with an arrested expression, her eyes bright in the sunset.


“Tears?” he said. “My dear! We said our farewells as she died.”


She shook her head and smiled up at him after a moment, laughing a little as she brushed at her eyes. “But it does not take away the loss.”


“Nor does it take away the life we had together. I was fortunate to have had her.”


She looked down and away from the shine of tears. “The sunset is beautiful,” she said. “Let us enjoy it.”


He gazed down at her for a moment, caught by a fleeting likeness. His Tuia had had such an expression of courage, compassion and humor. He tucked her hand in his arm. “It is beautiful,” he agreed. “We could walk along the path overlooking the river.”


She looked down. “You are giving me the chance to collect myself,” she said.


“If you wish.” He retrieved his spear and waited for her. “You did as much for me.”


** ** **


They took the ridge path, looking at the night sky, reflected in the river. A light breeze was rippling the water, sending the lights shimmering. There was no need to speak. The constellations rose higher in the sky, the Path of the Crocodile bright against the rich night fabric.


She spoke finally. “Were there jackals outside, then?”


“There were,” he said.


“They would not have attacked me.”


“You seem sure of that. Could you have fought them off if they had ?”


“I would have tried.”


“And so I stayed,” he said. “Besides…”


“Besides..?”


He looked down at her. “Besides,” he said quietly, “You stayed with me that whole afternoon.”


She lowered her eyes. “How could I not? I know that way of feeling, of living. It is hard…”


The moon was beginning to lighten the eastern horizon. They watched it come curving slowly into the sky.


“It is late,” she said. “This place is no longer as safe as it was… Let’s go back.”


They did not speak as they went along the path. He offered his hand to help her over some rough spots in the track; she did not release him. They moved together in silence, pausing to look down over the lights of the town toward the distant shimmer of the Nile. They moved along in silence, the distant beauty of the stars made talk unnecessary.


They paused at the wall of the village.


“It’s quiet now,” he said.


Nefer looked along the dark streets. “They’re asleep,” she said. “We tarried a long time.”


He smiled and shook his head. “Time changes from moment to moment, as I’ve discovered. Swift as a torrent, then an agony of slowness. One moment life stretches before you into eternity – and the next you find that the years have passed, leaving you wondering where they went.” He looked at the dark windows. “But they aren’t likely to look at us and wonder what we’ve been up to.”


“I don’t care what they think,” she said.


“You should,” he countered. “You can’t live a lie – and you don’t want a lie to color your reputation.”


She stopped and faced him. “Do you care?”


“Of course I do.”


She turned to him when she reached her house. “Answer me this,” she said. “Have you settled things in your heart?”


He smiled ruefully. “I hardly know how I feel about many things,” he admitted. “This has been a time for remembering, for me. And the memories have not been easy.”


They were at her doorway. There were so many things to say, and no words with which to say them. She had the breathless feeling that time was running out. She turned, facing him full. Her hands rose to his shoulders, settled there, feeling the reality of strength and, at the same time, the weariness of one who has fought a hard battle. “Stay with me tonight,” she said.


His frown appeared for a moment. “I did not expect to be invited in simply because I escorted you home,” he said.


She lifted her chin and looked at him. “The invitation was not issued because I wished to pay you for keeping nonexistent jackals at bay,” she said. “And I cannot imagine that a man of your quality would expect such a payment, no matter what service was rendered.”


His expression was an odd mixture of regret and assent. “I can promise nothing,” he said.


“I am not asking for promises,” she said. “I only want your company through this night.”


“For kindness’ sake?” he asked.


She smiled more deeply. “No,” she said. “Because I love you.’


“Nefer – ” He looked down and away from her. “Please understand: I can’t make any promises, ever.”


“I need no promise,” she returned. “No keepsake to treasure. Only your company this night. I know it can’t be for long. Our lives are moving apart. What drew you here is losing its strength, and I think you will soon be gone from my life. But during this time that we have been together I have come to love you.”


He raised his eyes to hers; she caught a lurking smile and returned it.


“No promise,” he said. “Why?”


“I love you, that is all,” she said. “How could I not?”


He looked down at her, at the curve of her mouth, the smiling eyes that were so like Tuia’s, gone now for a year. Shadows, but so sadly mourned and missed. And this woman – so calm and kind, so gallant – And, he realized, dear to him now…


He kissed her.

He comes to terms with his grief…


He closed his eyes for a moment, willing himself to face the image and consider it.


What was in there? Furniture, food, equipment, a statue, a coffin…a…body, no longer used.


No longer used.


Then why were they there?


Because we need to put them there, he thought to himself. Because we need to be able to say, ‘I did this for him because I loved him so much. I wanted him to have the best that I could bring, even though I know… Though I know that the Blest are happy in the land of the Blest’.


Gazing up the cliff face with the eyes of his heart he seemed to see the interior of the tomb blaze into light, and through the rock he could see his son – in the living, blessed flesh of the West – rising up through the boundaries of the tomb, more solid than the stone, brighter than the starlight… And he seemed to see him fade, as though he had stepped into another room.


Gone from that space, but not departed from being… Could it be? It was hard to grasp, hard to imagine, but he stared, dazzled, at the star-filled sky, working it through. Not departed from being, but nevertheless gone, never again to be met, smiled at, embraced, in this life. It was a farewell, and painful for all its reassuring nature. He closed his eyes upon tears.


Warmth beside him, the scent of lotus. Nefer.


“Sa-Ramses?”


“Nefer,” he said, his eyes still full of stars. “You came.”


He could feel her hesitation. “I saw you leave,” she said. “I was concerned.”


He looked at her, remembering. “About me?” he asked. “But why?”


“I told you,” she said. “I love you…” She paused, her hand almost touching his face, but pausing just short of the contact. “Has the path reached its end, then?” she asked.


He smiled at the cliffs. “It has,” he said. He looked at her profile, silver in the starlight that flashed from her eyes as she turned toward him. A slight, indrawn breath… The gentle touch of her hand against his face.


“Oh, my dear,” she said.


His hand rose to cover hers. “He isn’t here,” he said. “He isn’t locked away in the darkness. That thought had…troubled me.” He looked down again. “But he isn’t near me any more.”


She said carefully, “Is it another death, then?”


He considered. “No,” he said at last. “In this life loved ones leave, never to be seen again. Or not in years… It isn’t the same.” He looked over at her. “Can you understand me?”


“I believe I can,” she said.


“It’s sad for those of us left behind,” he said. “The black-eyed little boy who ran along the river and wanted to drive my horses is no more even though the man that boy grew into is still walking the earth.”


“There are compensations for that,” Nefer said.


“So I have seen,” he said. “And yet, much though I love the man that little boy became, I miss the little boy, and wish I could hold him on my lap and listen with my knowledge that the precious moments will soon be gone forever.”


A wind rose, feathering cold and crisp along his cheekbones. He rose and held out his hand to her. “It is late,” he said. “And there may well be things to fear along this path if we linger.”


She took his hand and let him pull her to her feet. Facing him, she looked up at him. “Is your heart whole now?” she said.


“Not yet,” he said. “But it will be. Soon. It is nearly time for me to leave.” He took her hand between his. “Nefer,” he said.


She looked up at him, her hand at his cheek again.


“You gave me love and comfort when I was lost,” he said. “I accepted it and returned it wholeheartedly. We must part soon, I know. But if there is a child-“


She met his gaze.


“I will acknowledge it,” he said. “And I will provide for it and for you and your family.”


She frowned and looked away for a moment. “I have not asked for that.”


He released her hand. “I must, Nefer,” he said. “No man should do otherwise.” His gaze sharpened as she hesitated. “I promise: I can support my children.”


Her eyes met his, and she nodded. “I will accept that,” she said. “If there is a child I will love it and raise it well and teach it to honor its father.”


“Will it know that it came about through love and kindness, not through a moment’s passion?” he asked quietly.


She met his gaze for a long moment and then moved into his arms. “I will tell the child when it is time,” she said. “I promise you.”


He unknotted the cord of the necklace and drew it from inside his tunic. He offered it to her, warm from the touch of his heart. “This is the first Necklace of Honor that I won when I was younger. Please: take it and keep it as a token of my promise.”


She stared at it, feeling its weight, the warmth of the gold. “The first?” she said. “Was there more?”


“There was,” he said. “Horemheb was a fighting king, and I served under him. Listen to me: I’m giving this to you. It will speak for you if I am somehow not able to. And if you or those you love are ever in need it can be broken apart and sold. Will you take it?”


She lifted the necklace in her hands. It was heavy, the five cylindrical strands draping over her fingers. She then raised her head to look straight into his eyes. “Who are you?” she asked. She saw the shift in his expression. “No. What you tell me won’t change the way I feel about you. But – who are you?”


He smiled ruefully at her. “I was named Seti for my grandfather,” he said. “My father’s name was Ramesses.”


“Sa-Ramses,” she said, half to herself.


He continued quietly, “I was a soldier for many years. And I am a scribe.”


She raised her eyes to his. “And you are Pharaoh,” she said.


He lowered his head. “I’m sorry, Nefer,” he said. “I couldn’t -” He paused. “I never meant – “


She frowned at the necklace and then at him. “‘Never meant’ – what?” she asked. “Never meant to behave like the man that you are and make me love you because of your kindness and courage? Never meant to be a friend to me – and a friend and protector to this town?”


She touched his face, smiling as his hand rose to cover hers. “There has never been any shame attached to you,” she said. “Or to the love I’ve felt for you. Never.”


He looked away.


“My dear! I do believe I’ve embarrassed you.”


“I have known worse embarrassment than hearing a beautiful woman tell me that she loves me.”


“Were there other women?”


“Before my wife? Perhaps one. I was very young… Only you, afterward. Will you take the necklace?”


She raised her eyes from the Necklace of Honor and smiled up at him. “I will take it,” she said. “And I tell you now that I will always love you, whatever the future brings. And I will think of you with contentment over the years.” Her eyes were wide in the night. “I’ll miss you.”


“I will miss you, too, ‘Beautiful one’,” he said.


She raised her hand to stroke through his hair as the setting sun seemed to paint the old hills and valleys rose and gold below the stars. “But you are not leaving yet,” she said as she drew his face down to hers.


“No,” he said with an answering smile. “Not just yet.” 

At the end he returns to his younger son, who would become Ramesses II:

The doors opened just then, and a man stepped inside. The children stopped for the time it took to draw long breaths-
“Grandsire!” Hori dropped the ball and ran to his grandfather, who dropped to his knees and opened his arms. “Grandsire! You’re back! I missed you!”
Seti gathered the boy and held him long enough to bury his face against his hair. His eyes were bright as he drew away. “Yes, I’m back,” he said.
“Where were you?” Hori demanded, opening his black eyes wide and snuggling closer for a moment. “You were gone forever!”
“I was traveling.” Seti pushed to his feet with Hori in his arms as his second son hurried down the aisle toward him. “It was a long journey.”
Ramesses stopped before his father, scanning him, tallying the changes.
Seti’s smile dimmed a little. “I had to go, Sesse,” he said as he kissed Hori and set him on the ground. “Your brother…”
“I know,” Ramesses said.
Seti’s hands rose to to grip his son’s shoulders. “I believe you do,” he said before pulling his son to him for a long embrace.





Writing Historical Novels


I have four novels that qualify as ‘historical fiction’ (is there such a thing as ‘historical mystery’?  I think so…)

I love history because it’s about people – and I can’t understand teachers who make history boring – it is, after all, about people.  There’s humor, horror, pathos – I tend to concentrate on the humor, pathos and heroism.  Try looking up ‘The Defenestration of Prague’, which signaled the start of the Hundred Years’ War – and use your imagination.  Try not to burst out laughing: no one was hurt!  Except in the war.

One of the most enjoyable things, for me, in reading history is to catch, from the distant past, an echo of something that is up to date for these times. A sentiment in a letter; the account of someone’s actions – and you can imagine saying or doing it, yourself.


We tend to be isolated in our own minds. No one else has faced the troubles we have. No one understands how we people in the ‘post-modern’ times feel and what challenges we face.

It’s interesting to feel a connection with people who lived centuries ago and suddenly realize that they felt as we did, and while their lives, to us, seem odd, romantic, exotic, it was to them the same day-to-day reality that we feel now.  What would someone from the golden age of Athens think of New York City?  Would he think it as exotic as we do his world?  Perhaps.

I’ve seen a number of stories involving people from the past who somehow came to this time period.  They generally stand around, bug-eyed, and exclaim over all the things that we have and do.  I was thinking this over the other day and it occurred to me that, people being people, they wouldn’t stand around and goggle at what we have and do, but would probably adapt fairly quickly.

One of Henry V’s Heavy Cavalry Heading to Agincourt

Can you see William the Conqueror quickly envisioning the usefulness of tanks in the Norman Conquest?  Or Alexander the Great using railroads to move  his troops?  The armies of the early middle east would be quick to appreciate the usefulness of polarized sunglasses (Crown Prince Hori of Pharaoh’s Son would probably wear mirrored aviators by Ray-Ban)

I write all over the timeline.  I have three books in a cycle of five that take place in New Kingdom Egypt; I have one Civil War novel published and another being polished.  Paris in the 1830’s has always fascinated me and I’m finishing up a two-part story that is set in that time. (Finding maps pre-Haussman era are rather hard…) And I have an alternative history series that isn’t fantasy because there’s no magic, but is alternative history because I couldn’t resist placing Imperial Rome, Middle Kingdom Egypt, Tang Dynasty China and the height of the Norse period in the same book.

There’s nothing particularly erudite about historical fiction.  If you think about it, anything set in modern times will ultimately be historical.

On my laptop, currently…


March 26, 2012



Busy, busy, busy…

I’m finishing up the first draft of Mourningtide – fillling in the transitions (between chapters), fleshing out the love story – must mention that in a moment – adding some details to the character of Seti, the father.

His first appearance in the story is his departure for far southern Nubia, where he will be traveling beyond the big fortresses of Buhen and Semna, following the trade routes.  He says goodbye to his two sons and his chief advisors and leaves.  His second appearance is his return to Memphis some months later.  He learns of his son’s death and reacts – and the story proceeds from there.


I realized I needed to flesh out his character (he is one of three main characters, and the one that has been the most challenging to handle).  I hit upon an idea for a nightmare scene where he witnesses his son’s death in his dream and awakens, his mind full of the worst fears a parent can have.


Seti’s been challenging, as I’ve said.  He’s late middle age – in his 50’s.  He is from a military family, nobility in the Egyptian delta, but not royalty.  He held high office for fourteen years (governor, or Vizier, of Northern Egypt as well as a general in the Royal Army) and became Crown Prince upon his father’s accession to the throne by appointment.  He has been king for three years.  I picture him as a man with a good deal of subtlety, but a direct way of thinking.  He is reserved, and while he might open up to those he loves and respects, he has considerable self-control.  His grief turns his world sideways.

The love story develops quietly.  Seti is widowed, and he’s a little lost, settling things in his mind, adjusting, waiting to heal.  The woman comes into his life, understands him, and gives him a chance to find his balance again.

It’s late.  I should write more tomorrow.  We’ll see…  Tiring work, but good.

I hope to have the first ‘final’ draft ready within two months…

Oriental Poetry






I just received two anthologies of Japanese Poetry that I ordered a week ago.  One is From The Country of Eight Islands.  This one is a large book, published by Doubleday.  A link to the book on Amazon is HERE.  The other is Traditional Japanese Poetry, published by Stanford University.  AND HERE is the link on Amazon.


Japanese poetry can be long or short.  The haiku and Tanka, to me, are quick flashes of words:


Yamato has clusters of mountains
But closest to the city is heavenly Mount Kagu.
I climb, I stand, I survey the land:
Smoke rises in the countryside,
Gulls rise over the lake.
A good land, this island of the dragonfly,
This Yamato.
  (Emperor Jomei 593-641; translated by Hiroaki Sato)


Description of the wind:


Echoing high
   in the tops of the pine trees,
it comes tumbling down
   until in the grass its voice dies–
the wind below the mountain slope.
   (Retired Emperor Fushimi – translated by Steven D. Carter)


There can be epic writings, but my impression of Japanese poetry is that it is quick, vivid, almost a verbal snapsot.  The repartee is very enjoyable, too.


Lady Murasaki, who wrote The Tale of Genji in the eleventh century (Heian period of Japan), told of receiving a poem from the emperor that said, essentially:


Silent and still as a water pipe
I stood outside your window
But you did not open it.


She responded:


So still and silent did you stand outside my window
I thought you were the water pipe.


game and match, I think.


Then there is the haiku:


Torches!  Come and see
The burglar I have captured!
Ah–!  My eldest son?!?


Must go and indulge in the luscious reading.


…or do I wish to open my Chinese anthology and read Tu Fu?  Hm…

The Ghosts of Older Editions


Once upon a time, a long time ago (like, over a decade), an aspiring writer who was heartsick from her dealings with a dishonest agent, who is now featured in ‘Preditors & Editors’ (no, that is not a misspelling) read about a (self) publishing company that was stepping into the very new world of electronic publishing.


She thought it might be something to explore, so she sent her novel there, and it was placed online.  Later, she was contacted about publishing a paperback version of the book.  Although sales weren’t stellar (sales?) she went ahead and paid for the process.
The book was published with this cover (left), and remained in circulation for over ten years.  The edition had all sorts of typesetting errors; it was a mess. 

The author sat up after ten years, looked at it, and now that things had changed in various ways, opened her manuscript, edited it, tightened it, changed it and, now that the publishing industry was in a state of change, decided to put it on Kindle.  She also examined the paperback possibilities and issued an ‘Updated and Revised’ edition through another publisher, with a far better cover (right).

  She contacted the first publisher and terminated their relationship, and she received confirmation of their actions.  It was quite a relief to be rid of the older, terribly done edition.  The book was made available on Kindle and in paperback, and was listed on various online sites.  Sales were fairly good.

This author had also written another book, published with the same group.  This book was put out with this cover (left).  Typesetting was equally atrocious.  She reviewed, revised, updated, and improved the text.  She also had another cover designed (she is a graphic designer) and, satisfied with it, placed it in the market both in Kindle/Nook and in paperback.

     As with the first book, she contacted the original publisher, directed that all publishing by them be stopped, and terminated their relationship.  After all those years, and after learning of the sort of operation that they were, she was very happy to have the relationship end.  Things were going well, she was now satisfied (as much as a writer can be) that what was available to her readers was the best that she could produce with those books.
And then, going through an online library site, she was astonished to see that the older editions were being listed as the primary ones, and that people were putting them on their ‘to read’ lists.

It was nice to see that people were interested in those books, but the thought of those poor people, expecting a good tale (and, dare I say it?, getting one but an earlier, rougher, poorly typeset version) made her cringe. 

I suppose it’s something we learn to live with, but if anyone has one of those earlier copies, the author hopes that he or she will contact her.  She proposes to sell a paperback at cost.  Or lower the Kindle price as low as it will go.  Or something.

Paving My Author's Road

...one writing step at a time

Only for the Brave - Diana Stout, MFA, PhD

Musings of an author, screenwriter & blogger.

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