Technical Writer by Day, Romance Writer by Night — Diane Wylie

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I am a technical writer and an author. Sometimes I get asked, “How can you write manuals for scientific instruments AND romance novels? Don’t they use two different parts of the brain? Aren’t we all either left-brained or right-brained?”

I would imagine these two vastly different types of writing do use different parts of the brain, but you’d have to ask Amy Farrah Fowler (of the Big Bang Theory) to see if she’s done any work on this. All I know is that I am capable of producing both types of documents and have done a pretty good job with both. I’ve won awards from the Society for Technical Communication for three of my technical works, and I’ve won awards from Coffee Time Romance and Fallen Angels reviews for my romance novel, Lila’s Vow. I have known other romance authors who are also technical writers, so we are living proof that it can be done.

What kinds of skills translate to fiction and non-fiction? That’s easy, first off, the knowledge of grammar, punctuation, and sentence construction are common to any type of writing that you can imagine.

Secondly, the ability to do research comes in very handy with both types of writing. I write historical romances that are heavy on the research aspect. I’ve learned all kinds of things about the U.S. Civil War for my novels Secrets and Sacrifices, Jenny’s Passion, Lila’s Vow, and Adam’s Treasure. I’ve also learned about thermal analysis and rheology, which are both material science fields, so that I could write the manuals for analytical instruments that serve those fields.

Third, you need to have the ability to write in an organized fashion for any type of writing, even writing this blog article. Like they taught us in school, every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The same applies to technical writing, you need an introduction, explanation of parts or equipment, instructions on how to operate the system, and wrap it up with any final conclusions or comments.

Of course, I have over-simplified the whole process for writing these documents. As anyone who has confronted a blank page knows, it takes time and real effort to get the words down so that they make sense, flow nicely, and hold the interest of the reader. This is true whether your audience is a PhD chemist or your friend’s retired grandmother (who, by the way, could still be a PhD chemist).

Now to the last issue–left-brained or right-brained. This is actually about which side is more dominant. The left side of our brains are associated with logical, organized thinking, and the right side is associated with expressive and creative thinking. Lots of online tests are available for you to take, but keep in mind, they are usually not very scientific. Here’s one link: https://www.blogthings.com/areyourightorleftbrainedquiz/. So, how have I done on these tests? The results seem to be all over the place, depending on the test, but for the most part, neither side of my brain seems to be dominant. In other words, I use both sides almost equally. So…is that good or bad? Hmmm…

Novels by Diane Wylie:

Secrets and Sacrifices

Jenny’s Passion

Lila’s Vow

Adam’s Treasure

Moonlight and Illusions

Magic of the Pentacle

Outlaw Lover

For more information about Diane and her work: http://www.dianewylie.com

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Upcoming Discussion on Women Writing About Women

Diane's books

Mark your calendars for Sunday, March 15, 2015 to join me at the Aberdeen branch of the Harford County, MD Library for a panel discussion on Women Writing [About] Women. I’ll be there from 2:00 to 3:30 pm. After the discussion, I will have my books on sale. I hope you can make it! I would hate to face a bunch of empty chairs!!!

~Diane

http://programs.hcplonline.org/programs/Event/SessionDetailC.php?SessionID=27624&RowNum=24

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Mayans and Magic

Today I’d like to talk about the Maya and my most recent release, MOONLIGHT AND ILLUSIONS, a paranormal romance.

The Mayan civilization captured the attention of some folks recently with the “end-of-the-world” predictions caused by the ancient Mayan calendar. You can believe the doomsday criers or not, but the fact that the Maya were pretty smart cookies is something that most archaeologists do agree upon. The Maya were interested in mathematics and astronomy and various other disciplines. They closely observed the earth’s seasonal cycles and the phases of the moon, recorded eclipses, and even tracked the plant Venus as it moved across the sky.

Mayan Palace of the Masks

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Yes, the Maya were pretty smart, but what if they knew even more than we can reliably document? What if they also had the power to control events around them? Now, I am not saying they did have that kind of power, but as an author of fictional works, one of the things I ask myself, especially when writing a paranormal, is the question, “What if?”

What if the ancient Mayan symbols (http://www.ancient-symbols.com/mayan_symbols.html) were more than just interesting designs? Each symbol has a name, such as the Way, which also means the Companion Spirit. What if this symbol had the power to direct you to your own companion spirit? You know…the person you were meant to be with. With this came the germ of an idea that led to my book, MOONLIGHT AND ILLUSIONS.

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Taking this a step further, what if a Mayan symbol could give a person power…real power? Well, who would want this type of power? A magician would. If he had the power to move things with his mind, he could become rich and famous. I had the hero for my book! In the 19th century, Stephen Elliott, The Illusionist, is given an ancient Mayan stone carved with the symbol for Companion Spirit and told it would bring luck, but he has to keep it out of the moonlight. But, of course, he doesn’t listen…isn’t that just like a man?

The moment the Companion Spirit is exposed to the moonlight, Stephen is a changed man, a powerful man, a REAL magician. But with this power comes immortality, a never-ending existence called “athanasia.” Riches are his, but so is loneliness. Everyone around him ages and dies, but he lives on. The power belongs to The Illusionist and it is accompanied by an overwhelming, physical need for the moonlight.

As the world gets caught up in World War II, no one wants to be entertained by a magician. Everyone’s mind is on the war. Stephen is no longer in demand. He is broke, alone, and doomed to walk the earth forever dependent on the Companion Spirit and the moonlight until another person, a woman, is accidentally cursed by Stephen’s ancient Mayan stone. Can they find the answers they seek or is an endless existence theirs forever?

Here is an excerpt from MOONLIGHT AND ILLUSIONS.

 ~*~*~*~

 On stage, the magician prepared for his final act. “Ladies and Gentleman, I am sure you have all heard of The Great Harry Houdini and his amazing escape tricks.” He rolled up his shirt sleeves and faced the audience, standing with his feet planted wide. “Tonight I will attempt a trick Mr. Houdini did, with a little wrinkle.”

“I will be placed in a strait jacket, just like Harry Houdini.” Two men came up and began strapping him in and buckling the straps behind his back. “Then hanging from my ankles, I will be lowered into this box.” Several workmen entered from stage right pushing a huge glass box.

“The box will be flooded with water,” he continued. “I will attempt to escape before drowning, and before the rope attached to a blade above the box burns through.”

The crowd tittered with excitement. Ropes were wrapped around the magician’s ankles and the assistants, in full view of the audience, hauled on the ropes and pulleys to pull the tall man upside down. They maneuvered the box under him then lowered the man head first into it.

Anabel’s heart pounded even harder when she saw them secure a second rope holding a two foot-wide curved blade over the box. One of them lit a kerosene lamp near a taut section of the rope supporting the blade. Water from a hose started rumbling into the glass box, covering the magician’s head first.

She held her breath as he began moving. The spotlight shimmered on the wicked blade suspended directly above his feet. The water climbed to his waist.

Anabel watched, fidgeting in her seat. The urge to run on stage, grab the axe from the waiting aide’s hands, and free the man was almost unbearable. Her gaze darted from his calm face to the burning rope and back.

With an audible “pwang” one rope strand broke. The deadly blade vibrated. Anabel wiped her perspiring hands on her skirt. The magician wiggled and squirmed until the strait jacket came off and his arms fell free. Bubbles rose through the water. His long dark hair undulated as he lifted his upper body to work on the ropes securing his feet.

The smell of burning hemp filled the theater. Stephen freed his feet and pushed up to the surface of the water, but before he could climb out another strand of rope gave way. The rope broke. People screamed.

Anabel jumped to her feet.

“Where are you going?” Julie whispered and made a grab for her hand, but she pulled free.

“I-I have to help—” In the back of her mind, some semblance of propriety made her hesitate, but she ignored it, climbing over the people in her row in an effort to reach him.

When she made it to the aisle, she saw him, still in the water, stretching both hands over his head. The blade had stopped in mid-descent, just a foot from the magician’s upturned palms. She froze, open-mouthed in shock. A woman softly wept somewhere and others murmured as they all watched.

The Illusionist forced the heavy steel blade higher without touching it. Using one hand to control the blade, he climbed out of the tank and down a ladder until he stood on the stage again. Water streamed down his now-transparent white shirt and clinging trousers to pool at his feet. Visible now was the silver pocket watchcase hanging from the chain around his neck. Confirmation! It is Stephen Elliott!

Now, with both hands, he guided the blade down until it floated above a pumpkin placed on the floor.

“Release!” He dropped his arms to his sides. The blade dropped immediately, severed the pumpkin in two, and impaled itself in the wooden floor with an audible thud.

When he faced the audience, their gazes met. A huge, dazzling smile creased his handsome face. Maybe the former soldier recognized her? He made a sweeping bow.

“This concludes the show tonight. I want to thank you all for coming out. A special thank you to the young lady in the aisle who wanted to come to my rescue.”

Oh, Lord! Heat rushed to her face when Anabel realized she still stood alone in the middle of the aisle. Mortified, she scurried back to her seat. Laughter broke out all around then a thunderous round of applause.

Over all the noise, she still heard the magician’s final words before the curtain fell.

“Anabel, please come see me.”

 ~*~*~*~

You can find MOONLIGHT AND ILLUSIONS at the following locations:

Amazon Kindle

http://www.amazon.com/Moonlight-and-Illusions-ebook/dp/B005WZZRBK/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2

Amazon print

http://www.amazon.com/Moonlight-Illusions-Diane-Wylie/dp/0983419876/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

B&Nook and print

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Moonlight-and-Illusions/Diane-Wylie/e/9780983419877

Vinspire

http://www.vinspirepublishing.com/book_pages/moonlightandillusions.html

Have a great day!

~Diane Wylie

http://www.dianewylie.com

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Who are the better writers–men or women?

Grammarly_MenvsWomen_Writers_infographic

Grammarly conducted a study with 3,000+ participants to settle an existential question that has been plaguing mankind for centuries: “Which gender has the better writers?”

Here is their answer to this quesion. Do you agree or disagree?

Go to this link for more information:   http://www.grammarly.com/grammarcheck.

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Summer Boredom for Baby-Boomer Kids

Maybe other Baby-Boomers can relate to this more than the younger folks, but I remember being so bored when I was a kid. Maybe we had more time on our hands because we didn’t have the money to go to summer camp or have a pool membership, but it seems to me I was bored quite a bit.

I loved to read, even as a kid, but again, money was in short supply. (Don’t ask me why we didn’t go to the library, I have no idea why Mom didn’t take us.) Due to a lack of books, I would read the same ones again each summer and would even resort to reading the encyclopedia set we had. If the school gave us a summer reading list, I would be so happy because then Mom had to find us the books to read.

But sadly, after the first few weeks of summer, boredom would return when all the books had been read.

It took some time to learn this, but all of us three sisters learned to NEVER EVER tell our mother, “There’s nothing to do”, or get caught doing nothing.

She would always say, “I’ll find you something to do”, and believe me it wouldn’t be fun.

(1) WEEDS! We had these big gardens in the front and back of our house and every summer we would all have to pull weeds in those gardens. You know the feeling on a hot, sticky day outside pulling weeds. Yuck! No gloves, so the dirt stuck to your hands and got under your fingernails. The bugs! Ick! The flies would buzz around your head and the ants would crawl up your legs. I hated it.

(2) CLEAN OUT THE GIANT CLOSET! In the laundry room of our house was a huge closet where the toys and games were kept. We accumulated these things through years of Christmases and birthdays. Just like most kids, we would play with something and never want to put it away. When we played board games, the loser always had to put it away. We would throw all the pieces in the box and toss the box into the giant closet. Notice, I said “toss”, not stack. The boxes never landed flat and the pieces inevitably fell out. So, cleaning out the giant closet was only fun if you could get away with playing with the toys as you put them away neatly and gathered up all the Monopoly pieces and play money scattered on the bottom of the closet. But beware, if you played more than you cleaned, you would get caught and yelled at.

(3) PAINT THE FENCE! We had a very attractive white picket fence around our backyard. It was great for keeping our basset hounds from running away. But it seems like almost every summer we got the job of painting that thing. It was a big job to paint each one of the boards and posts. Bugs would fly into the paint and stick there.

I vowed never to do this to my kids and I didn’t. But I’ll tell you, after doing those jobs, reading an encyclopedia didn’t seem quite so boring, and I learned a lot.

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Conflict Resolution

girl and boy

I recently sat through a presentation on conflict resolution at work. A short skit was performed to show the different ways that people talk to each other when trying to solve a problem. The key is communication; without it, the conflict just festers and grows. That got me to thinking about how romance novels revolve around the conflict between the hero and the heroine.

Some authors are good at making and sustaining the conflict throughout the whole story. Unfortunately, I have also read full novels based on a conflict so weak that I just want to shout at the characters, “Just talk to each other already!”
As an author myself, I had to take a good look at the conflict I was writing into my stories too. I didn’t want any of my readers to be yelling at my characters to just sit down and talk!

So, what makes a believable and sustainable, yet solvable conflict between two people? Well, in the case of my latest paranormal romance, MAGIC OF THE PENTACLE, the conflict occurs and lasts because Richard and Juliana need to get things straight between the two of them, but before that can happen, they need to resolve their own issues.

Richard is an immortal magician, and he likes his long life just fine, thank you very much. He’s seen and done a lot since he stole the Pentacle in 14xx and found out about its powers…and he’s lost his entire family along the way. He has no desire to change his playboy ways now; the lifestyle is perfect for someone who can’t forget his past love.

Juliana is a new psychiatrist, just starting out and doing some work with the police when she meets Richard. Under the influence of a drug someone slipped to the magician, he reacts strangely and wants to fight people with his sword. Juliana is unsure of this man’s sanity. Was Richard just having a reaction to the drug or does he really think he used to be a knight of the Order of King Edward?

When Juliana, who has mental illness in her family, watches a trashcan lid become a shield and a knife become a fly swatter in Richard’s presence, she starts to doubt her own sanity.

And so begins the MAGIC OF THE PENTACLE, where the conflict revolves around each person’s ability to trust in themselves and ultimately, in each other.

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Story Props

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I never thought about this topic much when I read books, but now that I’m writing them, it is a BIG deal. I write historicals, paranormals, and romantic suspense. I’d have to say that I never have a problem with story props in my historicals. During the Civil War period, people didn’t drive cars, they rode horses. There were no cell phones, microwaves, or televisions to worry about.

However, in my most recent paranormal romance, MAGIC OF THE PENTACLE, my characters used a typewriter and a pay phone. It seemed to really bother my editor and proofreader! They kept trying to convince me to change the time period and get rid of those devices. But I stuck to my guns and kept them in the story. My reason? I try to keep my stories as authentic as possible, and this particular story includes the San Francisco earthquake of 1989.

I know this is fiction, but if I wanted my characters to go through the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, I couldn’t really change the year to say, 2014, now could I?

My love of research says no.

So, the point of all this is…should authors worry about “dating” their books through the use of old-fashioned props? What reads like a contemporary story can actually take place in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, or later. It all depends on what the characters are doing in the story. They can all drive a car, no problem, but they can’t drive a hybrid car in the 70s. They can all talk on a phone, but they can’t send a text in the 80s. You see the conundrum? How specific should an author get? Should we be as generic as possible so our stories don’t end up pigeon-holed into a specific year? Or should we go ahead and embrace the technology in place at the time?

Does it really even matter? I think it is the story that counts. The props are there to move the story along. People are people and they have the same desire for love and acceptance, no matter what time period you read. So, any Romeo will still love his fair Juliet, even if the story is modernized into a newer one. Can’t you just see Romeo and Juliet texting each other? Instead of uttering those famous words, “O Romeo. Romeo. Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” Juliet would just see if he checked in on Facebook.

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