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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Blog


At long last, I have news to report that doesn’t involve dogs, vacations, or my quirky daughters.

In a slightly different version of this pitch, I can summarize the story this way:

In an alternate U.S. history where ghosts are strictly categorized as Friendly, Unaware, or Vengeful, 13-year-old introvert Eleanor Roosevelt and her flamboyant cousin Alice match wits with a ghost in their aunt’s house, which, although diagnosed as Friendly, demonstrates secret Vengeful behavior that might put their aunt and her baby at risk.

With cameo appearances by Nellie Bly, Nikola Tesla, and Theodore Roosevelt.

I’m really excited for this book, which features several strong female characters from history, as well as a woman who might not have made the history books, but who nevertheless had a strong influence on the people who did: the oldest sister of Teddy Roosevelt, Anna “Bye” Roosevelt Cowles.


Eleanor Roosevelt


Alice Roosevelt


Anna “Bye” Roosevelt Cowles


Elizabeth Cochran Seaman
(Nelly Bly)

Rich in Dog Friends

Charlie, Casper (now adopted!), and Brick

The beginning of 2019 was a hard time for us. Thank you to everyone who extended their condolences on our loss of Sorcia, our beloved GSD of nine years. We still miss her every day. I look for her when I go to bed late at night, thinking I need to let her out to pee, and I still expect her to appear when we pull into the driveway and press the garage door button—wriggling out from underneath the door as soon as she can fit.

But she’s not there.

At some point in late January, with both daughters back at college and my husband away on a business trip, I missed my dog enough to fill out a volunteer application for the local animal shelter. Best decision ever.

Humphrey, Gracie, and Charlie again (because why not?)

Twice a week now, I walk rescue dogs in the park adjacent to the shelter.  I’ve made so many new friends! (Most of whom, I think, like me for more than just my homemade hotdog/liverwurst/cheese treats.) My husband sometimes walks with me, and both daughters were eager to participate when they came home for spring break.

Rocky, Little Rock, and Oliver

We aren’t ready to adopt a new dog yet – or foster one. (Although that is starting to appeal to me.) However, CompAnimals has a program to match up volunteers with a “pen pal” for weekly outings. I’ve been assigned new shelter resident Blake, a 1-year-old purebred Akita. Blake has dislocated kneecaps that require surgery as well as degenerative joint disease, and the shelter is currently accepting donations to go toward his medical care. Despite these problems, Blake is a big, lovable softie who can’t take long walks, but is happy to lean up against his favorite humans and enjoy the sunshine.


Saying Good-Byes

Good-Bye to 2018. An okay year for me. Not a great one. Not the worst. But sadly, it’s ending on a very down note.

After exhibiting weird symptoms over the past few months — such as facial swelling that looked like a reaction to a bee sting or spider bite, but wasn’t — my sweet dog, Sorcia, has been diagnosed with an advanced case of lymphoma. The mysterious swelling, as it turns out, was an auto-immune response related to the cancer. Although blood tests in September showed no signs of an elevated white blood cell count, x-rays taken two days ago indicate a large tumorous mass in her chest and other small masses spread throughout her organs.

Sorcia is 11 years old. The disease is greatly advanced. We have elected not to put her through traumatic surgeries and chemo therapy in the hopes of dragging this out for months. Instead, she’s under sedation, and we’re saying a gentle good-bye.

Until this past week, Sorcia suffered no pain. There was that weird facial swelling, but it bothered us more than it did her.

Until this past week, Sorcia engaged in mischievous romping around the house, chasing the cat — and letting the cat taunt her into the chase.

She romped in the dog park.

She rejoiced in a new ball discovered in her Christmas stocking and squeaked it until it could squeak no more.

She occasionally stole the cat’s food.

She barked at package deliveries. (It’s mind-boggling how much she hates the UPS truck.)

She didn’t know she had cancer. She still doesn’t know.

The sedatives have made her woozy, and she threw up one of her many small meals today. We were heartened that, dog-like, she considered re-eating the vomit. (We intervened.)

She watches the cat rampage, but doesn’t participate.

She observes us closely and lifts her ears when we say her name. We hope that the end will be swift and sudden and painless, and I’ve mapped the quickest routes to all the 24-hour veterinary hospitals.

We are saying good-bye to our sweet girl — and good-bye to 2018 — and hoping for joy in the new year.

Best wishes to everyone.

We adopt Sorcia in 2009.


Sorcia watches us miss a great Triple Word Score.


Sorcia prefers her baby pool over the big, scary pool.


Love that Hose!


I think there’s a cat around here somewhere.


Is something pulling on my tail?




Our Sweet Girl

Uncanny Gifts

Earlier this week, I was in Miami for a partly-expected but still surprising Christmas gift. Last fall, when I heard The Killers would be touring in January, I asked my husband to get us tickets. He did, but in a typical Bob-fashion, instead of buying them for our local Philadelphia show, he bought them for the Miami show and planned a mini-vacation around it.

The concert was AMAZING, but that’s not what I’m writing about today. The day after the show, with Change Your Mind and All the Things That I’ve Done still ringing in my mind, we visited Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida.

You may be familiar with Coral Castle, sometimes known as “America’s Stonehenge,” especially if you watch TV shows about unsolved mysteries. This bizarre rock garden, filled with carved stones weighing thousands of pounds each, was built in the 1930s by a single man using only handmade tools. Edward Leedskalnin, a Latvian immigrant who weighed less than 100 pounds and was only 5 feet tall, excavated these stones and assembled the structures by himself, working only at night and in secret. To this day, no one knows how he did it.



The stones aren’t actually made of coral; they’re a form of limestone that resembles coral. Leedskalnin himself called the place Rock Gate Garden, and the name was changed only after his death. The garden contains rocking chairs weighing 1000 pounds each that move with the gentle nudge of a foot. There’s a working, oblong gate weighing 9000 pounds that I, myself, rotated with one hand. And there’s also an 18,000 pound upright gate that used to rotate with the touch of a finger – until it fell out of alignment in the 1980s. A team of university engineers, using modern equipment, was unable to restore it.


I was familiar with pictures of Coral Castle before I went, but upon my arrival, I was struck by the unexpected beauty of the place. There’s no doubt Leedskalnin built his “castle” to impress, and also incorporated many intriguing astronomical and Masonic symbols, but it was first and foremost a garden. Today, it is possible to rent Coral Castle for private parties. Our guide told us there was a wedding there just two weeks prior to our visit, and I thought, What a lovely, other-worldly setting this would be for a small reception!


As for the question of how Leedskalnin built this place, our guide laughed at the various “out-of-this-world” theories regarding levitation, magnetism, and aliens. The staff at Coral Castle doesn’t know exactly how Leedskalnin lifted and moved these stones, but they take him at his word that it merely involved weight, leverage, and balance. Leedskalnin claimed that he could find the balance point of any stone, no matter how large or irregular, and all evidence suggests that he was telling the truth.

Throughout history, there have been individuals widely acknowledged as geniuses, whose talent crosses many disciplines – for example, Leonardo da Vinci and Nikola Tesla. These individuals tend to be well-educated and extend their knowledge through study and experimentation. However, I wonder if we have not given enough attention to people who seem to be born with a very narrow and specific – and often uncanny – ability that defies scientific explanation.


Edward Leedskalnin had a preternatural talent for understanding rocks. When you look at the giant structures he erected by hand, that is abundantly clear. While leaving his garden, I reflected on this and was immediately reminded of another individual with a similarly unexplained – and very narrow – talent.


Annie Oakley, by all accounts, was blessed with a miraculous talent for aim. Eye witness accounts of her feats often remark that her gift was unnerving, as if she simply had a sensory perception other people lacked.

So, help me out, readers. Can you think of anyone else who fits this description? Not a person with a brilliant mind – like Einstein or Hawking – or someone who made discoveries through hard work and trial and error – like Edison. But people who simply have one narrow gift or perception that defies explanation?

You can learn more about Coral Castle here.

Anatomy of a Pitch

Mr Powers author illustratorThis past weekend, I attended the Baltimore Book Festival, a 3-day event located along Baltimore’s scenic Inner Harbor. I happened to share a tent with author/illustrator team, Stephen McGill and Ronald Campbell.

Stephen and Ron have a book that debuted in April, The Electrifying Adventures of Mr. Powers. I was immediately impressed by the way they pitched their book to readers. They sold out in the last hour of the last day of the festival, which is pretty much the definition of bringing exactly the right amount of stock.

I’ve attended a lot of book festivals in the past seven years, and I’ve heard a lot of pitches. It’s impossible not to hear your neighbors’ pitches over and over and over.

One year, I sat next to a woman who pitched her contemporary YA this way: “It’s about a girl who’s going through some dark stuff.” It felt like she was apologizing for writing the book and warning people away from it.

Another year, another event – I shared a booth with a picture book author who told everyone: “My book teaches an important lesson.” Story first, please! No one buys a book to learn a lesson. They buy a book to read a good story, and if a lesson is learned, it’s incidental.

I’ve also heard many long pitches that ramble on until the listener’s eyes glaze over. This hurts not only that author, but all the authors nearby, because as soon as there’s an opportunity, the listener will flee to a new, less intense location.

On Saturday, I chatted with Stephen McGill about these experiences, and he shared what must be the worst pitch ever. Earlier that day, he asked a neighboring author about her book, and her response was, “It’s a children’s book.”

“But what is it about?” he asked.

“I don’t want to say,” she replied with a coy smile. “You have to read it.”

Um. No. Just no.

Mr Powers coverBut Stephen and Ron had the perfect pitch for their book, which I heard approximately 300 times over the 3 days.

Mr. Powers is a single dad and also a superhero.

By day, he’s an entrepreneur, and by night, while his children are asleep, he’s keeping the world safe from bullies on the bus, monsters under the bed, and creatures in the closet.

Let’s break that down.

Mr. Powers is a single dad and also a superhero.

Ten words to encapsulate the main character and the premise. Come on, you’re hooked, right? Single dad. Superhero. How does he make that work?

The next sentence is an elaboration of the first one.

By day, he’s an entrepreneur, and by night, while his children are asleep, he’s keeping the world safe…

Now we know he’s a hard working business man, probably a role model in his community. We also realize his kids don’t know what he’s up to while they’re sleeping. Then finally, the humorous twist …

from bullies on the bus, monsters under the bed, and creatures in the closet.

I laughed the first time I heard this part and realized what kind of villains Mr. Powers fights: the kind that bother his children.

Stephen and Ron adapted the pitch as needed. The word entrepreneur was for adults. When talking to kids, they substituted personal trainer or fitness guru, depending on the age of the listener.

Tweaking your pitch for the audience is important. My standard pitch for The Eighth Day is two sentences long:

A boy discovers a secret day of the week hidden between Wednesday and Thursday. Then he discovers a girl hiding in the house next door who exists only on that secret day and doesn’t experience the regular seven.

But that’s mostly for kids. I drop the second sentence and elaborate on the first ( … with ties to Arthurian legend and Celtic mythology) when talking to adults, older teens, and – yes, this happened once – if the kid is wearing a King Arthur T-shirt. When I’m talking to a teacher or librarian, I add: The Eighth Day has been on six state reading lists and counting!

The final part of a good pitch, which my tent-mates knew, is to stop talking. After two brief sentences, it’s time to let the listener speak, ask questions, and/or look at the book.

In summary, a good pitch has a hook that catches the audience’s attention in as few words as possible. This is followed by a sentence that elaborates on the main idea – and if you’ve got a humorous twist, use that to wrap up. Then, let the other person respond.

You can find Stephen McGill and Ronald Campbell on Twitter HERE and HERE and on Instagram HERE – and The Electrifying Adventures of Mr. Powers on Amazon HERE.

Summer 2017

Apparently, “not returning to a regular blogging schedule” means “not blogging until people start asking if I’m okay.” Since two people have asked this week why I haven’t updated my blog, I thought I’d make an entry and let you all know I’m not dead. I’ve been devoting more time to writing, which is a good thing, I think.

My husband and I just returned from a week’s vacation in Europe. My youngest daughter, Gina, is still there, enjoying a few more days without us. Don’t worry! She’s not alone, as you will see.

We started out in Munich, Germany.

One of the most amazing sights in Munich for us were these surfers. They are surfing across the width of a man-made channel under the bridge where the Englischer Garten meets the streets of Old Town Munich.

Surfer 1


Surfer 2

If it looks dangerous, that’s because it is. In typical German fashion, the dangers are bluntly and prominently displayed, but the activity is not forbidden by law. Do it at your own risk.

Surfer Sign

From Munich, we took the train to Prague in the Czech Republic. You might think it goes without saying not to throw bottles from the train window. You’d be wrong. It does need to be said, apparently.

Train Sign

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. These pictures don’t come close to doing it justice. I loved the ubiquitous archways and winding, cobblestones streets.

Prague 1


Prague 2


Prague Bubbles

From Prague, we took another train (remembering not to throw bottles out the windows) to Lubeck, Germany. Lubeck is located in northern Germany on the Baltic Sea and is the home of Marie, the German student who lived with us for 10 months this past year. Bob and I spent a couple days there as guests of Marie’s family and left Gina to spend a few extra days with her German sister.

Gina and Marie


Lubeck 1


Lubeck 2

While Bob and Gina and I were exploring Europe, my older daughter, Gabbey, was holding down the fort at home and starring in a community theater production of Fiddler on the Roof. Gabbey played Hodel, the daughter who falls in love with a revolutionary. I got to see her in two of the shows before we left on her trip, and I was so very proud of her. She reduced the audience to blubbering piles of goo with her heartbreaking solo, Far From the Home I Love, when she follows her fiance to Siberia, where he is imprisoned.






And that pretty much brings me up to date! I hope all my blogging friends are enjoying a summer that is relaxing or exciting, as suits your preference!


Catching Up

DSaudHello, all! It’s been awhile since I posted here, and I feel a little guilty about that. Not a lot, though. You see, since I’ve been here last I have:

  • Driven 1800 miles and flown 1550 miles for book events
  • Given 11 large group presentations
  • Conducted 3 writing workshops
  • Delivered 1 keynote address
  • Virtually visited 3 classrooms via Skype

That was all pretty exciting, and more driving than I’ve ever done in my life. Thank heavens for Waze, my new favorite app! I’ve been all over the state of Pennsylvania – southeast, northeast, central, and southwest. The only area of PA I haven’t visited is the northwest. Anybody out in Erie want to invite me your way?

I also went to Georgia to participate in the Tome Student Literary Society’s spring conference as a featured author. It was my first time giving a keynote address, and I loved every minute of it in spite of the fact that I nearly froze to death. Georgia was not as warm as advertised, and I had not packed appropriately! Still, I missed the big snowstorm in Pennsylvania while I was gone. My only worry was how the teenagers back home were handling it. Worriedly, I texted all three girls: How much snow have you gotten?

My answers:

Gabbey: I don’t know. I haven’t measured it.

Gina: Somewhere between 0 and 90 inches.

Marie: I haven’t seen it. I’m still in bed.

If that doesn’t give you the flavor of all three girls’ personalities, I don’t know what will.

All this traveling and presenting was pretty exciting, but what I’m most proud of accomplishing during my blogging hiatus is 56,000 words on a new WIP. I’m within two chapters of completing the manuscript. I hope to wrap up the first draft before the end of this week, and start making a list of needed revisions. My last completed WIP was a terrible mess, and I haven’t been able to force myself to look at since typing THE END back in December. This one, I think, is more successful, and it’s a big relief to have written something I actually like after struggling so much on the last one.

I won’t be returning to my once-a-week blogging schedule, but I hope to be around more often. Good luck to everyone participating in A to Z! AND check out this amazing clock I spotted in the library of Garnet Valley Middle School. Don’t you want one just like it? (Note whose book is at the 8 position! I screamed out loud when I saw it.)

Book Clock

Happy New Year

Wishing a very happy new year to all my wonderful blogging friends!

I’m taking a hiatus from blogging for a couple months. I hope to be back and visiting you all later this year!

All the best ~~~ Dianne

Deja Vu Blogfest: The Day of the Do-Over


I’m ending the year of 2016 on my blog by participating in DL Hammons’s inspired Deja Vu Blogfest, in which we replay a post from the year that we are particularly proud of.

I’ve chosen to share my January post on Celtic Mythology in The Morrigan’s Curse. I had to wait a long time to share this information, so I’m gonna go ahead and share it TWICE.


morriganscurse-finalI had a lot of fun researching this book. A LOT. And since I started the first draft all the way back in 2013 — before the first book in the series, The Eighth Day, was even released, I’ve been sitting on all this cool stuff for a long time. With the book finally coming out next week, I’d like to talk about the myths and legends that produced some of the characters – and magical objects – in The Morrigan’s Curse.

As with the first two books, I drew on Arthurian legends for my Transitioner characters. In The Morrigan’s Curse you’ll meet Calvin Bedivere and Ash Pellinore. The Sir Bedivere of legend had only one hand, so I assigned my Bedivere “the hand of power” as his family talent. Sir Pellinore was known best for his pursuit of a great Beast. Therefore, I gave Ash Pellinore … no, wait. I’m going to keep that one a secret.

Because some of the major characters in Morrigan are Kin – loosely based on the Tuatha de Danann  – I also had the opportunity to delve into Celtic mythology. Each Kin character is linked to some god or goddess out of Celtic lore: Corra is an oracle, Aeron is the god of war and strife, Ratis is the god of boundaries and fortification.

Lloyd Alexander drew on this same mythology in his Prydain Chronicles, and I found myself needing to use some of the same names: Llyr, Mathonwy, Arawn. I did my best to make my characters as different as possible from his, even using the alternate spelling of Arawen so as not to draw a parallel with Alexander’s ultimate villain, Arawn.


One of the best and most fun people to write about was the titular character, The Morrigan – a three-in-one deity who embodies chaos and destruction. She appears as either an old crone, a middle-aged woman, or a young girl (named by me as Girl of Crows). When I first stumbled across the Morrigan in my preliminary research, I knew at once that she needed a place in my third book. And when I was hit by THE IDEA, THE DELICIOUSLY SHOCKING IDEA about how to use the Morrigan, I had to go back into the second book, The Inquisitor’s Mark, and revise major sections to set up for her arrival.

Finally, what’s a fantasy story without a few magic items? Especially ones that might be trickier than they first appear! Here I called upon the Treasures of the Tuatha de Danaan: The Cauldron of Dagda, The Spear of Lugh, the Sword of Nuadu, and the Stone of Fal. In the legends, each one had a very specific magical use, but when I stumbled upon a website describing the symbolic purpose of each item … well, then I had the backbone of this story.

I hope that readers will enjoy how I put this all together! One of the best compliments I received from my editor was, “I kept having to Google the names in your manuscript because I couldn’t tell what you were getting from legend and what you were making up!”

Isn’t that what we aspire to?


The paperback version of The Morrigan’s Curse releases next year, on January 24, 2017.

Continue the flashback with more Deja Vu posts:

WAH! I’m unable to successfully post the Linky Tool, but you can find the list on D.L. Hammons’s site HERE!

Wishing everyone a holiday season filled with laughter, cheer, and books!


The Year in Numbers

One of my favorite recent tweets …


2016 — Good-bye and good riddance.

Although it hasn’t been a bad year for me personally. Granted, it started off kind of rough, but if you discount the world and national news, it wasn’t all bad. Here’s the accounting of my year:

  • 1 broken foot and 3 weeks of immobility
  • 1 new release, The Morrigan’s Curse, and 1 paperback release, The Inquisitor’s Mark


  • 2 awesome vacations, Key West and St. Croix
  • 13 school visits
  • 17 Skype visits
  • 6 book festivals
  • 10 other book events (libraries, stores, etc)


  • 1 1/2 new manuscripts written (if I meet my end-of-year goal to finish this WIP)
  • 1 older manuscript revised
  • 3 awesome teenage girls in the house


This is my penultimate post for the year. I’ll be back on the weekend as part of D.L. Hammons’s annual Deja Vu Blogfest — you can join HERE — and then signing off for the year.