Friday, May 28, 2010

Boneheaded Friday

Stuff I spend more time on than writing and blogging.

Recently, maybe in the past month or so, life has caught up with me, and I haven't kept up with my blogging.  I've been doing the best I can at keeping the features going, but I need a little breather right now.  So this week, I'm not posting a Friday Feature.  One of the reasons why things have gotten a little crazy is because my middle son, you know, Superman--seeker of danger and excitement--has ramped up his level of activity.  Taking care of him and advocating for him in his school has become a full time job.  And it is very difficult to get OT out of a school system.  But, I'm fighting the good fight.  Anyone else parenting a sensory seeking child?  *fist bump* (it looks an awful lot like ADHD, but isn't.)


Superman is doing lots of crazy things right now.  I go to extreme measures to keep him safe.
Safe--behind bars (this was taken a few years back).

The crazy behavior reminds me of a contest that my family holds each year--The Bonehead of the Year Award.

The gist of the award is that smart people can do really dumb things.  My family tallies up all the dumb things everyone does, and somebody wins!  Weirdly, we all covet the award.

Nominated bonehead dumbness:

1. My step-mom once called 911 to report a possible bomb in a suitcase which she could see in the courtyard of her hotel.  She had watched the suitcase from her window, and nobody had been near it for hours.  After police inspected the suitcase, it was discovered that the suitcase was a suitcase statue, to compliment the man statue beside it.  One would think that the bronze man would have been a give-away, but no.  Bonehead.

2. My brother once spent all morning searching for the building complex in which he had a job interview, in Washington D.C.  He hadn't taken note of the last part of the address, and evidently there were four identical addresses in the city, in the North, East, South and West.  After visiting all four addresses, and completely missing his interview, he decided to not make a total waste of the day, so he went to a Staples, copied and collated his resume and cover letter, carefully placed the pages on the top of the car, and drove off, only to see all the fruits of his labor fluttering away behind him.  Bonehead.

3. I once pulled into a gas station to check and see if I had packed my wallet into the car for a trip.  The sun glare so blinded me, that I didn't realize that the gas station was under construction until I was dangling from my seatbelt--my car (and me) perpendicular to the road--in a ditch.  A cop, already at the intersection because of an accident there (due to sun glare), walked to my car, and offered to call my aunt and uncle to nominate me for the award.  You'll be relieved to know that I did, indeed, have my wallet.  I didn't even win the award that year. Bonehead.

4. I once gave up my seat on a tiny plane in the middle of the night in a Spanish speaking airport (I think we were in the Canary Islands) in order to not abandon my very scared, very non-Spanish speaking friend who hadn't made our flight.  I had no idea if they would allow me to take a seat on the next flight--I didn't know what the travel rules were there.  Other dumb stuff I've done abroad?  On Halloween night, in Paris, I picked a fight with a big burly guy who was harassing my friend.  He grabbed my friend by the arm, and I shoved him away. Loyal Bonehead?

So, share!  What dumb stuff have you done?  What incident would win you Bonehead Award?  Make me feel better as I try to keep my son from doing boneheaded, and possibly dangerous stunts!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Meeting--Kitten Frenzy

Multiply this times two.

Since Jon so liked my 'don't kill the fish' metaphor last week, I thought I would open up this Monday meeting by talking about how my manuscripts are similar to our two newest family members.

1. Manuscripts only cuddles when they want to.
2. When they do, you drop everything to cuddle, for as long as that manuscript wants.
3. Sometimes manuscripts claw and bite. Rarely do they mean to actually hurt you.
4. Manuscripts DO NOT LIKE TO BE IN THE BATH. (Seriously.  My son tested this theory out last night.  Me: "Why is Magellan wet?" Superman: "Mom, she got too close to the bath" --read: 'she got too close to my reach while I was in the bath.')
5. Sometimes manuscripts keep you up all night long with their antics.
6. It's always better to have two manuscripts going at once, so they can play and cuddle with each other, when they choose not to play and cuddle with you.
7. Manuscripts oscillate between being really loud and playful and so quiet that you panic, thinking you have lost them.  But there they are, just hiding out and taking a nap.
7. Sometimes the manuscripts' mommy cries at the back door, and you let her in so that she can nurse her manuscripts.  Okay, this was a stretch.  But it just goes to show you how wild and crazy it is around here. :)

Okay, onto business. *banging the gavel*
This week, I am going to use my last morning of freedom to write.  My daughter's school ends this week, and after this, I won't have any free time due to school, since I am homeschooling her for her last year of pre-K. Am I crazy? YES.

I'll just have to be even more creative with my writing time.

I'm actually going to set a solid writing goal this week.  I want to restructure the first 5 chapters around my new beginning.  I need to get this book moving.  I also have a goal of more exercise in my schedule.  For some reason, it's one or the other. I either exercise or write.  But I need to do both to stay balanced. Another goal is to beat Kate at some word counts in The Practice Room.  Who's with me?    C'mon!  Competitive writing isn't just for NANO anymore!!

Plus, Kate Messner is saying a welcome to some new bloggers this week.  She is encouraging you to go and say hi at their blogs.  Show those writers what community looks like.  And, then stop back by KM's blog, and she'll enter you in to win an ARC of her AWESOME NEW BOOK. A prize for being neighborly.  How cool!

And, you haven't yet missed entering Tahereh's awesome contest by playing with kittens all weekend.  You have until tonight to enter.  Check it out!!

And, Congrats, DENA!!!

Woo-hoo, Elana! (Check out her fabulous give-aways this week, too!!)

So, what are your goals for the week?  Do your manuscripts ever hide from you?  How do you carve out time to write?  Are you ready for some competition in The Practice Room?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Kristine C. Asselin

I am excited to welcome all of you to another Friday Feature, where we delve into one writer's journey toward publication.  And, I'm very excited to welcome my guest, Kristine Asselin.  I have loved getting to know Kris in the blogging world, and was thrilled to meet her at last week's NESCBWI conference in Fitchburg.  She is a kind, dedicated, talented writer, and I am so thankful that blogging has brought us together.  Oh, and she kicks butt at Wibij!! She has a beautiful blog, and I love her new feature, highlighting sports books for girls.  Very cool!

Hello, Kris, welcome! Please start today by telling us a bit about yourself.

I graduated from Fitchburg State College (yes, the NESCBWI was in my college town) and the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT.  I worked in higher education (specifically student activities and first-year orientation) at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA for almost ten years and quit when my daughter was 10 months old.  I currently work half-time at a local community college.

I'm currently writing middle-grade nonfiction and young adult and middle-grade fiction. My first book from Capstone Press came out in January 2010. I'm a girl scout leader, a book club member, a golfer, and an avid reader.  I love music, but I can't dance.  I'm a Sagittarius and like fancy frozen strawberry drinks...but that's another story.

So, Kris, what project are you writing right now?

My current WIP is a contemporary YA sports romance.  And because I’m always asked what sport…it’s golf.

Kris, what made you start to write seriously?

In high school, I wrote bad poetry (I’m not telling how long ago!). In college, I majored in film, so I wrote scripts and creative short stories.  In my professional career, I wrote and edited college promotional material.  I’m currently a grant writer. So, I’ve always written.  But, (like most writers I know), my daughter’s birth inspired me to write my first children’s story.  In 2004, I wrote my first picture book manuscript and started subbing it waaaay too early (but didn’t we all?).  I did have some early “personal” rejections which I knew weren’t the norm, so I kept writing.

Along the way, a few of my stories were published in Fandangle Magazine – an online story site no longer in existence, except in archives.  Those early successes fueled my drive to be a better writer.

As far as the current WIP, a conversation with a friend jogged a memory of something that happened on a golf course in 1988.  I wrote it as a short story in the summer of 2007. I had good feedback from critique circle and from readers who wanted to know what happened next. That short story was published in Golfer Girl Magazine in December 2008.

I started writing ‘what happened next’ in 2008, and finished my first draft of the novel on Thanksgiving Day 2009. The current version is about 65K words.

I always feel like script writing hones dialog writing skills.  What an excellent writing background, Kris! What stage are you at, currently, in your journey toward publication? And--how is that going for you?  Has anything surprised you about this stage?

I’m in several of those stages at once!  (Does that make me schizophrenic?) I’m currently about 85% done revising my WIP, but also researching agents.  I’ve had a fair amount of agent interest from a face-to-face workshop and conference critiques and blog contests, but I haven’t yet queried widely.  Nothing like a little positive feedback to get the juices flowing – out of five agents, three either want see more, or see it again after revisions! I’m very antsy to finish revisions and get the ms out there in query land.  (My trigger finger is getting itchy, really.  And it’s not quite ready yet!  Don’t send it too early!)

I’ve also had some success with work-for-hire.  I’ve completed four non-fiction books aimed at grades 3-5 with Capstone Press.  Taurus, Virgo & Capricorn: All About the Earth Signs came out in January 2010.  I have three more titles that will hopefully be out in 2011.  WFH is a very different style of writing – it’s been fun to explore.

I’m completely surprised and shocked that I wrote 65K words of the same story. 

I try NOT to be surprised by the positive feedback I’m getting.  There are days when I have no idea why someone would want to read my story and I’m sure I totally suck.  I’ve read how hard it is to rise out of the slush and there is so much competition out there.  And everyone else is so great and so much better than I am. 

And then I slap myself.  Hard. Actually one of my crit partners usually slaps me first.

You can’t get better without starting worse (does that make sense?).  I’ve improved so much since the first draft of the story. 

And it is worth reading. 

And it’s not paranormal romance.  (Not that there’s anything wrong w/ that, it’s just that my ms is different at a time when the market is pseudo-saturated.)

Or so I keep telling myself that.  ;)

I love that, about starting worse!  Tell us about your online writing journey--if you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

I love Laura Pauling’s blog.  Laura is one of my critique partners, and she inspired me to step up my own blogging.  She’s insightful, funny, and helpful to new writers.  I also love Casey McCormick’s Literary Rambles blog for agent research.

Yay, two of my favs, too! What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

Oh, for sure the one I did balancing golf balls.  I just wish I could have balanced more…

What online resource have you found most helpful?

I really like Query Tracker right now for keeping track of agents I like.  They maintain a great blog with really useful entries. 

When I first started writing seriously, I spent a lot of time on Harold Underdown’s blog, as well as the Verla Kay “blue board,” just lurking and soaking it all in.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Time. Time. Time. And, oh yeah, time.  Or lack of it, actually.  Also, the feeling that I’m ignoring my daughter on a daily basis in favor of this book.  Guilt. Shame. Remorse.

Oh, I have those days! What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

This is a hard one.  I’m very easily distractible if I’m not “in the mood.” (cliché alert!) 

My critique group has been most responsible for keeping me honest with my writing.  I know I owe them 8-10 pages every other week, and boy, I better get it to them.  Or else. 

At the 2008 NESCBWI conference in Nashua NH, keynoter Laurie Halse Anderson advised writing every day. And I remember gasping out loud.  “No way I could ever write every day.”  I still don’t.  But I’m better at writing almost every day, or blogging, or revising something, or tweaking, or commenting on a blog.  Something related to my writing every day.

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

Like a good writer, I own a lot of craft books that sit on my shelf unread, thank you very much.  I did really like Chris Vogler’s Hero’s Journey. I also like James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure  and Darcy Pattinson’s Novel Metamorphosis.  Not that I actually read them. I mean to, though.

What is your practical goal with your writing?  Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

Practical to keep writing as much as I can.  You can't get better without practice.  Reach for the stars? Absolutely find an agent and publish my novel. Should be easy, right?

So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

I’m grateful to have found my critique group.  They will be life-long friends and I look forward to sharing the writing journey with them.  It was also gratifying to see my name on the cover of my first book w/ Capstone.  The paycheck didn’t hurt either.  Actually, it helped a lot – my husband now finds my “hobby” a lot easier to support.

If you could create the perfect place for you to write in, what would it look like?

An office.  With a door.  And a window (negotiable).  I guess I’d need a computer, too.  I’m not fussy, though, just something besides my dining room table would be lovely.

If you could be a character in a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?

Hermione Granger, without a doubt.

What other distractions are in your life?

I’ve got a great kid – who loves books.  I’m a Girl Scout volunteer.  I have a very supportive husband.  I volunteer for the school.  I work outside the home (and inside it, too).  So, I have lots of distractions, some bigger than others. 

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

Coffee.  Regular. Sometimes, if I’m feeling wild and crazy, with a little chocolate in it. Mocha. Yum.

Thanks Heather for the opportunity to talk about myself.  ;)

You're welcome, Kris, it was absolutely my pleasure!  I loved finding out more about how you got to where you are.  Everyone, remember to leave a question or comment for Kris here, in the comment section, and she'll stop by to answer them.  Check out the WIBIJ clue (#5) which led players to her blog last Wednesday.  And, at her blog she's posted pictures of us all at NESCBWI last Saturday--please stay to peruse her site, check out her page about sports books for girls, and check out her wonderful new feature!  Thanks, Kris for being here today!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

NESCBWI, Or, Laura Is Much Taller In Person.

Okay if this photo looks familiar, it's because I nicked it from Anna's blog. Thanks Anna. (In Anna's version, my eyes are actually open). So, here we are at the NESCBWI. It's Kris, Karen, ME (see, I do exist), and Anna. If you follow those links, they will take you to the posts that those fab women wrote about their experience at the conference.
I have been zapped out of the first picture and replaced with the fantabulous Laura! (so, maybe, I don't exist?)

Last time I attended the NESCBWI, I went with my writing partner Robert, who sadly now lives very far away in the beautiful land of make-believe Washington State.  I missed sharing this conference experience with Robert, but I loved meeting all the cool New England bloggers.  Laura is much taller in person!  Seriously.  I felt like everyone I met meshed with how they were in my head, except that Laura was much taller in person than in my head version. :)

I also saw Nandini, and Martha, two writers who live in my town.  Woo-Hoo, Natick Writers Unite!

So, my favorite parts of the conference?

  • Believe it or not, my meeting with Sarah Davies.  Evidently I have officially processed her feedback, and come out the other side.  Go me!  Go her!  Go constructive criticism!
  • When Cynthia Leitich Smith told us to write in all genres, to reinvent ourselves as writers again and again, and that one of her books had 62 DRAFTS!!!  Woo-hoo!
  • When Stacy DeKeyser told us to expose ourselves (to stand naked), to be fearless, in order to find our writing voice.
  • Seeing how passionate Sarah Davies, Edward Necarsulmer, and Ammi-Joan Paquette were at the agent panel.  They really go the extra mile for their writers!  (Anna, you are one lucky, talented duck!)
  • Meeting so many wonderful writers.

I didn't write about NESCBWI until after our WIBIJ game ended today.  Because WIBIJ visited all of these awesome New England writers' blogs.  I didn't want to give anything away.  The game was a blast, btw, I hope you join us sometime!

I'm still nervously watching Goldie #2.  I have not killed it yet.

Things got a little WILD in The Practice Room today, when I got all competitive.  Kate awesomely rose to the bait challenge.  Who's up for another challenge in The Practice Room?

Tomorrow, for the sake of continuity, New Englander Kris will grace me with her presence, here at my Friday Feature.  Come by and leave her an awesome question about her journey toward publication!!

Tahereh has an awesomely creative contest happening at her blog right now!  Go ahead, check it out!

So, what's going on in your neck of the writing world--virtual or otherwise?  How's everyone today?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Game, and A Fish (two, actually)


A Game:
Consider yourself invited!  W.I.B.I.J. starts today at 1:00 PM EST, and lasts ALL NIGHT LONG!!

A Fish:
And, one day later...

A Second Fish (as close in coloring as I could find to that first poor guy):
Seriously???  That tiny goldfish needs THIS much room???

It reminds me of my writing, though.  First off, don't kill the draft!!! Condition the words as you revise.  Give it enough room to grow.  And use a constantly running filter to process all the crap that accumulates.

Next post, NESCBWI inspirations and photos.  I hope to see you at WIBIJ today!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Meeting, Manuscript Critique Backlash

Welcome to the Monday Meeting.  Before we get into goals and whatnot for the week, I'd like to debrief a bit from my manuscript critique on Saturday, at the NESCBWI conference.  Do you mind?  No?  Okay.  Thanks.

Things I learned from my fifteen minutes of intense stress:

1. Agent Sarah Davies is funny, interesting, kind, honest and seems to know what she is looking for in a manuscript.
2. My very-much-in-revision manuscript is not what she is looking for :).
3. It's tough to have someone review a chapter that you have since completely overhauled.  Very tough.
4. Agreeing with someone about the flaws in a manuscript doesn't make it any better that the flaws are there.
5. Resisting the urge to whip out the new version of the chapter is professional, but feels icky in the moment.  Icky, I tell you!!
6. Telling an agent your life story, instead of what other manuscripts you are working on, will make you lie in bed at night, cursing yourself.
7. Focusing on the negatives of a critique instead of the positives will make you lie in bed at night, cursing your MC. (Clearly, it's all his fault, right?  Why doesn't he do what I want him to do??)
8. Understanding what is wrong with your manuscript, and then have an agent back that up is painful, but also reassuring.  Knowing how to fix it?  Well, that's been my problem all along.  I have a feeling that I will know it when I write it.  Will today be the day?  God, let's hope so!

So, that leads us right into the Monday Meeting.  This week, I am going to take another look at my revised chapter, and see if it really, truly addresses all the issues that My British Agent (from this point on, I'm adopting Sarah Davies, and referring to her as M.B.A.) brought up.  Not that I would substitute her judgment for my own, but I had already revised with those issues in mind.  And, you know what?  I don't think that first chapter is there yet. After that, I will write forward.  Spectacularly.  Woo-hoo!  Who's with me?!

So, how do you survive the backlash from a critique?  What are your goals for this week?  Lay it on me, people!

In other news:
Have you heard about Anita's awesomeness?  Congrats, Anita! I'm so excited for your success!  I hope this great news will lead to more great new from you, Anita!!  Let's go, domino effect!
Have you checked out Sheri's Graffiti Wall--it's like a Friday Feature on Tuesday!
And, it's a WIBIJ week.  Nothing better than that!  Come by Wednesday to join in the fun.  We have one book left to giveaway (woo-hoo, BOOK GIVEAWAY!!), and all that we will tell you is that we will give it away at the first sign of awesomeness. So, show up, and show us the awesome.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Dianne K. Salerni

Welcome to another Friday Feature interview. I was first introduced to Dianne Salerni when my fellow WIBIJer Tina excitedly chose her as a possible host for a WIBIJ game.  I enjoyed checking out Dianne's  blog, and researching her book, WE HEAR THE DEAD for the WIBIJ clue.  The clue?

19th century america was enthralled with the sisters,
Real foxes and tricksters of mrs. and misters.
Cracking knuckles and joints, they pretended the dead
Were speaking aloud, "We hear them," they said.

Never caught in the lie until love came to call
The guilt of their life catches up with them all
Or at least with the one who stands to lose most
Is it possible to give up your life for fake ghost? 

I can't wait to read this book! Not only was Dianne a fabulous host for the scavenger type game, but she was courteous and kind. And enthusiastic.  I found myself looking her up at inkwell, and other writing forums.  I'm looking forward to getting to know her better, and I think we all will do just that, in a moment.  Everyone please give Dianne a warm welcome, and leave her an insightful question in the comments.

In her own words:   Dianne K. Salerni is an elementary school teacher, author, and online book reviewer.  She has previously published educational materials for teachers, as well as short stories.  We Hear the Dead is her first full-length novel and has been optioned for film.  Salerni, her husband, and two daughters live in Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she is at work on another novel, various short stories, writing lesson plans, and possibly grading some student papers.

Dianne, thanks so much for doing this interview with me!  I'm so glad you could be with us today. It's so exciting that your book WE HEAR THE DEAD is out.  Tell us about it!

WE HEAR THE DEAD is the true story of Maggie Fox, an adolescent girl who, along with her younger sister Kate, accidentally starts the 19th century spiritualist movement with a high-spirited prank.  When the girls pretend they can communicate with the ghost of a murdered man supposedly buried in their basement, they fool their family, their neighbors, and the entire town. The prank snowballs into something much bigger than they intended, and soon it is impossible for them to tell the truth.  Their older, divorced sister sees through the prank and, realizing that people will pay good money to contact dead relatives, she sets the girls up in business as America’s first spirit mediums.  Their fame grows, but when Maggie falls in love with a famous Arctic explorer, her unorthodox profession stands in the way of her happiness. She has to choose between her family and the love of her life.

What was writing the book like--highest high? lowest low?

There were many times when the book seemed to write itself.  The characters spoke to me – they told me their story.  I wanted to write a book that kept closely to the established facts, but since the girls were liars by profession, sometimes things didn’t add up.  I looked at the facts and I tried to figure out what really happened -- why the girls did what they did.  The highest points for me were those moments of clarity when I envisioned what could have happened – what made sense – and what fit the character of Maggie Fox.  When the older sister entered the story, I worried, because I needed to produce a character who was simultaneously overbearing and manipulative and personable and charming!  I needn’t have worried.  Leah Fox Fish burst upon the scene and took over everything.  She wrote her own part! Elisha Kane, Maggie’s love interest, also gave me some trouble.  He caused me to lay aside the manuscript for six months while I figured him out.  But once I’d learned enough about him, he also began to speak to me.  Kane took center stage – battled Leah for control of Maggie’s life – and refused to make his exit!  I think Kane’s stubborn personality doubled the length of the book I’d originally intended to write.

The lowest part of writing the book was when I had to submit to certain events that happened in real life.  Deaths were unpleasant, and yet they happened. I can’t change history.  Since I took these characters from real life, I had to accept what had already happened, and I could not give everyone the happy ending they deserved.

Tell us about how you connected with your agent, and how your writing life changed (or didn't) after that.

I don’t have an agent yet.  I’m one of those rare, un-agented authors who stumbled into a publishing deal on her own.  Sourcebooks has been wonderful – supportive and helpful and encouraging.  However, I am beginning to search for an agent now because I realize I need someone who can point me in the right direction, help me sort out my priorities and set realistic goals. To use a completely nerdy metaphor, I feel like Luke Skywalker and I need an Obi-wan to show me how to use the Force.

Dianne--it's amazing how everyone has a unique road to publication!  Tell us about your journey from manuscript to published book--what was unexpected for you during this stage?

When I finished my manuscript, I chose to self-publish it without submitting it to agents or publishers.  I wanted to see the book in print and find out if I could make a success of it – did I have any talent, or not?  I spent two years marketing the book on my own and trying to overcome the stigma of self-publishing.  The book had excellent reviews and decent sales, but everything eventually tapered off and I figured I’d come to the end of the line.

That’s when the unexpected and unpredictable comes in.  My book had good reviews, and so started recommending it to readers. Somewhere along the line, Amazon recommended my book to Kelly Barrales-Saylor, an editor at Sourcebooks, and Amy Green, a producer and owner of One Eye Open Films. These recommendations resulted in nearly simultaneous offers for the publishing rights and a film option on the book!

And as if this wasn’t enough, Amy Green wanted me to write the screenplay.  I tried to beg off.  I didn’t know how … I wasn’t experienced … I didn’t have the time or the skills … But she was very persuasive, and before I knew it, I was drafting a screenplay.  Ms. Green, of course, provided me with excellent guidance, and six drafts later – I’m a screenwriter!

So cool, Dianne--that's awesome! What type of marketing did you do to get the word out about the book?  What worked best?  What was hardest for you about the marketing aspect?

Most of my marketing is through the internet – social networks, discussion boards, and blogs. This is surprisingly effective, even when I was independently published. Since I am a full time teacher (as well as a mom), this is also the easiest and most convenient form of marketing for me.  Live appearances, by contrast, terrify me!  You’d think that a person who makes her living speaking all day in front of 10-year-olds would be immune to this, but I’m not.  Book signings cause me to break out in a nervous sweat, and I start looking for a place to hide.  It usually takes me the entire event to relax, and I start to enjoy myself just about the time it’s over!

What are you working on now? How have you balanced the writing life with work of getting a book to publication?

I’m collaborating with Amy Green to make some final tweaks to the screenplay for We Hear the Dead before she starts putting together a budget and going out to financiers.  I’ve submitted a paranormal novella to a pulp fiction anthology that has already published two of my short stories, and I’m waiting for feedback from the editor.  I’m also working on a second novel, which is a historical mystery with paranormal elements loosely based on true events, and this summer I hope to begin research on another one.  That’s typical for me – more oars in the water than I have hands to hold them!
Balance has been hard to achieve lately.  Book promotions take up a lot of time, but I’m also trying to survive the regular, frenetic activity that occurs at the end of every school year.  The first couple weeks in May have been particularly hard.  I have my eye on the calendar, though, and come June 19th, I see whole days of writing time dawning!

Dianne, What has blogging meant for your writing journey, and what is a favorite blog post that you have written?

I started blogging in January, and I’ve only been able to commit to posting twice a week. I do more when I can, but twice a week is usual. I like the discipline of having a deadline, even if I set it myself, and I appreciate the necessity of writing in my own voice, rather than that of a character.  I learn from it. As for a favorite blog post, I have a couple.  I have enjoyed writing about some of the strange historical graves I’ve found in Pennsylvania, including the Ticking Tomb of Landenberg, the Caged Graves of Catawissa, the multiple burials of General Anthony Wayne – and of course the precariously placed vault where Elisha Kane now resides. I hope I can find some more to add to the series!

I found that tomb series to be fascinating, Dianne!  If you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

I don’t have a favorite blog; I just wish I had more time to read all the ones I regularly follow.  Again – I have my eye on mid-June!

What online resource have you found most helpful?

I absolutely depend on and – which makes it all the more irritating that their flashy ads are clogging up the site.  Lately I find the site very difficult to load, and sometimes it won’t work at all. I realize they need funding to continue – and I certainly want them to stay in business – but a little less flash would make me A LOT happier!

What has been your biggest trial, or biggest surprise in getting a book to publication?

Waiting.  Oh, the wait!  Getting a book to publication is such a long process, and like many authors, I’m pretty impatient!  There are months and months during the process where the author really has nothing to do.  Of course, these long dry spells are punctuated by weeks of frantic activity, but I actually prefer that to the l-o-n-g intervals when I have nothing to do but wonder and worry.

What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

A long walk outside is good for brainstorming, as well as weeding in the flower bed.  If I’m really stuck, I take a bucket of sudsy water, a scrubbing brush, and tackle one of the tiled floors in my house that could use up-close-and-personal cleaning.  A few minutes of scrubbing grout – and I’ll start talking to myself.  Then I’ll start talking to my characters. Then my characters will start talking to each other.  There’s nothing like the boredom of cleaning to get the creative juices flowing – and I’ll be lucky to get the selected floor clean before I end up back on the computer!

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

Although I’ve been interested in séances and ghost stories all my life, it was the book Inamorata by Joseph Gangemi that sparked my interest in writing a story for teens about spiritualism.  Gangemi’s book is an adult historical novel focusing on the investigation of Margery, a famous Boston medium, in the 1920’s. After reading Inamorata, I started researching séances and spiritualism, trying to find an angle that might interest YA readers.  And of course, I stumbled upon the Fox sisters, who were just adolescent girls themselves when they accidentally started the entire movement.

What is your practical goal with your writing?  Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

I would like to publish more books, of course.  Who wouldn’t?  Although I will continue to write for a Teen/YA audience, I might also like to try Middle Grade fiction – just because my students are always asking me to read my book to them, but fifth graders are a little young for We Hear the Dead.  As for a “reach-for-the-stars” goal, I still can’t believe I wrote a screenplay! Hearing my own words spoken on the big screen seems like a pipe dream, but as it gets closer and closer to actually happening, I start pinching myself to see if I’m really awake.

Dianne--that is really remarkable, about writing the screenplay!  So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

The best part of my writing experience has been receiving random, unexpected emails from people who read my book and wanted to tell me what they got out of it.  To know that I caught the imagination of another person, or taught someone a bit of history, or made a reader laugh or cry – that’s the pinnacle of writing.  It can’t be beat.

If you could create your perfect writing space, what would it look like?

Writing space?  You’re funny!  Thank heavens I have a laptop, because I am forced to flee from room to room around my house.  My starting point is the family room, but I am often chased out by Disney Channel re-runs and Zelda games played by my daughters on the Wii.  My next stop is the front room of the house (we grandly call it the library) but I may very well encounter my husband there, doing business on the phone.  Forced to retreat, I will go down to the finished basement, which is usually quiet, but kind of cold and uncomfortable.  Now, if the weather is good, I might head outside to sit next to the goldfish pond.  Beautiful, bright, inspiring – this place is perfect for writing. 
Perfect, that is, until the neighbor’s boy decides to ride his 4-wheeler – and until our dog Sorcia discovers me and drops a slobbery ball on my laptop, wanting to play.  What was the question?  Perfect writing space?  Doesn’t exist.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Work your craft.  Read and learn from the books you love.  Take a few risks; break a few rules.  Don’t stop dreaming, and listen to your characters when they tell you what they want to do.

And, just because I'm curious, coffee, or tea?

Coffee after breakfast.  And I don’t mean Starbucks, which I really can’t stand.  I just want my Eight O’Clock brand, Mr. Coffee-brewed cup of joe with a packet of Splenda and a little half-n-half.

And, Dianne, please tell us about upcoming events so that we might get out and see you and your book in action!

I’ll be appearing in Haverford, PA with Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown – authors of Picture the Dead – on Saturday, May 22 at Children’s Book World @ 2pm.  I also will be visiting two Barnes and Noble stores in the first week of June – the Concord Pike, Delaware store on Wednesday, June 2 @ 7 pm and the Exton, PA store on Friday, June 4 @ 7 pm.  I’ll be in West Chester, PA on Saturday, June 12 at the Chester County Book and Music Company.  And skipping ahead to fall, I’ll have a booth at the Collingwoods Book Festival in Collingswood, NJ on Saturday, October 2.

I'm appearing at The Big Blue Marble in Philadelphia tonight at 7 pm.

Oh, I wish I were in the area, so I could go tonight--I hope you have fun!  Dianne, some of those places are old haunts (no pun... okay it was intended... so lame!) for me--I love the Chester County Book and Music Company!! Everyone, remember to leave some fantastic questions in the comments. And, check out Dianne's blog, and book, WE HEAR THE DEAD

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday Meeting

Welcome all, to the Monday Meeting.

Last week, I proclaimed that I was in a funk. I am happy to say after a few days of dedicated reading without writing, and following your other great suggestions, that I am over that funk. Yay to recharging batteries!

This week, my goals are to write each day. To UNPLUG for at least an hour. To find my MUSE, that tricky gal! To make forward motion. Each day. To have some FUN!

(for all you non-clickers out there, please click through to those three posts. You won't be disappointed!)

Some business. YAY!!

I loved revisiting some of the classic Friday Features on my blog last Friday. All the quotes were fantastic. And, it was great to have an excuse to read through all the interviews. Such wisdom in there! The WINNER of the Friday Feature giveaway, is...

Laura found some incredible quotes from Kelly, Shannon, Paul, and even quoted me!!! Laura--that's the kind of enthusiasm that I can get behind. And those were wonderful quotes. Laura, please email me about your prize! I have to say it was tough for me to choose a winner--I loved the nuggets that everyone found within the interviews. Thank you all for looking back with me! And, Ann Marie made me laugh hysterically with her story about the eyes in the back of her head!!

Okay, back to the Monday Meeting. I want to hear about your goals this week--what do you have on the burners (front or back???). What are you planning to accomplish this week, and how are you going to go about it? What schedules are you implementing? How do you find the time?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Feature: Book Giveaway

So, we've had a party over at WIBIJ this week. It's been amazing. And it got me thinking. Sure, those people who have the guts to follow our crazy clues to debut author blogs, and leave witty comments deserve a book. Sure, they do.

But you know who else deserves a book?

You guys. My Faithful Friday Feature Followers. Every week you come and leave thoughtful questions and comments and make my guests feel right at home. You deserve a prize. And, anybody who is new to this blog, or who has been lurking out there reading these posts and not commenting, but going and following new writing friends--you deserve one too. You've got potential! We're building community. Supporting each other. That's a worthwhile endeavor. One that deserves a prize.

So, here is how this is going to work:

1. Go to your favorite friday feature interview, and read through. Look, the list of friday feature interviews are all right there, over at the right hand side of my blog.  You know, under the title, Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond, Writer Interviews. --->

2. Choose a quote from somebody.

You can go for the funny. For example, if I take a quote of Margaret's out of context, it can look like this:

Q: Margaret, your pole dancing days really led to your proficiency with a pen. What did you take away from that experience?

Margaret's A: It was a great place to hang—love the smell of horses, leather and sweat.

Or you can go for the meaningful, and just highlight a quote. Like this one.

Jon said: I like to write, I hate working retail, and sometimes the thing you fear the most (change, in my case) ends up saving you.

Got it?? Let's see who gets the craziest, or most profound. (But let's keep it above the belt, people.) Leave your quotes in the comments, and make sure that you attribute the words to someone, so we can all go check out their interview. Oh, and the winners will get to choose from these amazing books:

(Don't worry, I'm not ripping Magickeepers from the hands of my son--we have two copies so that we can both read it. And one will go to a wonderful follower!)

The contest will run all weekend, and, okay, twist my arm, you can try a few times, if you like. I'll choose the winners on Monday morning in my Monday Meeting. Let the quoting begin!!
Oh, and check out Laura's cool mystery contest, starting Monday!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Hopefully that got your attention.  And made you think of this.  (Sadly I couldn't embed.)


Love to. How about global thermonuclear...oops, I mean...where in the blogosphere is jon?


Later. Let's play where in the blogosphere is jon.

Yay!  Game starts at 1PM EST.  Head over now and sign in.  Don't you want to win one of these great books???

And, I love the Red Sox.  And I love that drunk girl sitting next to us who kept my kids in peanuts all night last night. (She had friends in the concession stands.) A shout out to you, drunk girl!!


Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday Meeting

Guess what??  I do exist?  And you know who else does?  Anna and Nandini.  We all met up at Leah's book launching of  Mistwood!  Check out the pictures that Anna and Nandini posted. See, I'm there, IN THE FLESH!! I love meeting virtual writers and finding out that yes, indeed, they do exist.  And finding out that some live in my town!!  Wow, crazy.  Thanks, Anna and Nandini for a fun day!!

I spent some of the weekend trying to track down a few new releases.  Specifically, this one:

And this one:

Unfortunately, and sadly, no local stores (even big chains) had either book in stock, so I had to order them.  Boo-hoo.  But since I went to the book launch of this one on Sunday, it's in my hot hands right now:

I am sooo excited to dig in.

But, I'm also having a funky kind of Monday, and not really inspired to do much.  Bogged down with laundry, and the left over endorphins of an emergency room run late Friday night (everyone is fine, thank goodness), I'm finding it hard to buckle down and get to work.  I'm planning on going to the library with my daughter, and then unplugging with Tina at 12:00 EST (I may still be at the library, but I will be unplugged and working).

So, what do you do when you get funky?

My goals for the week are to solidify the new first chapter, and work forward, changing out what has to be changed.  I'm very excited about the new beginning of the book, and I'll see if I can continue.  I need to keep the tension high.  So, that's my goal for this week.

What goals do you have?

Oh, and check out the funk-lifting chain of posts starting at Elana's this morning:  Spreading the Awesome.  Everyone is showcasing, and giving away their favorite books--so awesome!!