dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

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

deja_vu-2016

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. read more…

The Year in Numbers

One of my favorite recent tweets …

2016

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

read more…

First Impressions: CURIOSITY KILLS

sketchbookThis is the last First Impressions post for 2016! Our author is Jasmine, a middle school student, and this is the first page of her science fiction novel, CURIOSITY KILLS.

***

The air was light and crisp, the wind lightly flowing through the trees, gently shaking the leaves which slowly moved their way down to the soft dirt ground. The mood slowly departed to let the sun take over the sky. Purples, pinks, oranges and reds all painted the sky like a brand new canvas waiting to be framed. Axel sat patiently on his smooth wooden windowsill seat. He waited for the perfect time for the sky to set in its place.

“Bingo.” With his notebook in hand, he very gently and gracefully colored a picture of the sky in all its beauty. He grabbed all different kinds of colors form the new pencil set he bought from the store. He had finally saved up enough to buy the best pencils in town. Many of the townspeople would tell him that it was a waste to buy pencils when he could spend his money on something more useful and important. He was very talented, though many people did not approve. He didn’t listen, though. He made quite a good profit by selling all of his artwork, proving to people that it wasn’t a waste. Despite always being busy helping his mother around the house, he usually found time to relax and draw. read more…

WriteOnCon is Returning February 2-4, 2017

 

good-news-everyone

“From 2010 to 2014, the popular online kidlit conference WriteOnCon offered writers a unique opportunity to learn and grow their craft, all from the comfort of their own homes. Over 13,000 people attended during the last year! Unfortunately, increasing time commitments meant the organizers were unable to continue the event in subsequent years. But now WriteOnCon is returning, with a new organizing team but the same purpose: to provide an affordable and fun conference experience that’s accessible to everyone.” ~ The 2017 WriteOnCon Team

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read more…

Writing a Trilogy: Interview with Crystal Collier

Welcome Crystal Collier here today! She’s going to be talking about her new book, Timeless, and the adventure of writing a trilogy.

In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?

read more…

First Impressions: UNTITLED

fortune-cookieThis month we have a First Impressions submission from a seventh grade writer. This story was written for a class assignment, and she’s seeking feedback from a wider audience.

***

Tightly clutching a twenty dollar bill in her hand, 23 year old Maya approached the counter at an Asian takeout restaurant.

“Uhm, could I have an order of spring rolls?” she uttered.

“Is that all?” The woman at the counter inquired.

Maya nodded. 

“That will be 11 dollars.” The woman added. read more…

The Evolution of a Story: Interview with S.A. Larsen

Happy Halloween! Today, Sheri Larsen is visiting us to talk about her new release, Motley Education, and how it evolved over time.

motleyedhighresForget having a lively after school social life, Ebony Charmed is fighting to keep the entire afterlife alive.

Ebony’s less-than-average spirit tracking abilities are ruining more than sixth grade at Motley Junior High: School for the Psychically and Celestially Gifted. Her parents argue so much her dad’s moved out. And, even though he’s scared of his own shadow and insists on bringing his slimy, legless lizard everywhere they go, Ebony wouldn’t survive without her best friend, Fleishman.

When Ebony’s Deadly Creatures & Relics’ project goes missing she learns her missing project is one of the keys to saving the spirit world. Now Ebony and Fleishman must battle beasts from Norse mythology to retrieve her project before spirits are lost, the Well of Urd dries up, and Ebony loses all hope of reuniting her family. But someone lies in wait, and he has other plans…including creating a new world of spirits without them in it. read more…

Heading into the Climax without (Much of) a Plan

sorca-head-tilt

Say what now? No plan for the climax?

Yup. That’s me. Facing the climax of my WIP and wondering, “What’s going to happen?”

I know it makes me seem like the worst sort of pantster, progressing 5 months and 56k words into a story and still not knowing what’s supposed to happen in the climax. Believe me, I’ve been beating myself up over it for weeks. How can this story have any sort of cohesiveness if I don’t even know how the conflict will be resolved – or what form that resolution will take?

Luckily, I have the history of my other, published works to remind me that this is all part of the process and if I give myself the head space and time, I will work it out.

The climactic scenes of The Caged Graves came to me all at once in the shower one day, just as I was about to launch into a completely different climax that was, by comparison, lackluster and unsatisfying.

Entering the climax of The Eighth Day, I had no idea how the good guys were going to defeat the bad guys. They were out-manned, out-gunned, and about to be sacrificed at the top of a pyramid, for pity’s sake.

I expected the climax of The Inquisitor’s Mark to be an all-out, guns-blaring battle between Riley’s clan and the Dulacs. Instead, it turned into a battle of wits for the custody of Jax.

In The Morrigan’s Curse, I knew going into the climax that Jax, Dorian, and one of the bad guys would perform certain actions. But where this would happen, how to get them to that point, and what everyone else would be doing remained a mystery to me right up until I was writing it.

So, I guess it’s not so bad if the current plan for my WIP’s climax is: The Big Bad appears and wreaks havoc (of what kind, unknown). The protagonist learns something startling (this part, at least, I do know), and this ends up (somehow) being the key to defeating Big Bad.

I can work with that. Right?

Reverse Outlining

So many people commented on Yvonne Ventresca’s strategy of reverse outlining last week that I decided to share my techniques for “post draft outlining.”

By the time I type THE END on a first draft, I know all the things that are wrong with it, which may include:

  • Important information I never found a place to insert
  • Important information I inserted in several places, not sure which place would be best
  • Plot holes
  • Unnecessary side plots, characters, or clues I never ended up needing
  • Inconsistent details in setting or world building
  • Wavering character motivation
  • Pacing
  • Character changes (In the first draft of The Caged Graves, the character of Beulah Poole started out as a teenage girl. I realized about two thirds of the way through the first draft that I needed her to be an old woman!)

Immediately after the first draft, I create a side-by-side outline to guide my second draft revisions. In one column, I list the important events in each chapter. In the other column, I note what changes I’ll need to make. These include all the things I listed above, as well as events to delete or re-order and chapters that need to be combined or split apart.

side-by-side-outline

In the case of The Caged Graves, a historical murder mystery, I also created an even briefer outline of the events in each chapter and color coded them: purple for the mystery of the graves, yellow for Verity’s romance, blue for the mystery of the Revolutionary War treasure. This helped me adjust the pacing and make sure that the main mystery remained in the forefront of the story, with the romance providing a counter-point and the secondary mystery appearing often enough to not be forgotten. If I found that one color took over an entire section of the story, or if one color disappeared for too long, I made notes on how to fix it.

caged-graves-color-outline

 

 

 

Anyone else have an outlining (pre- or post-) to share?

 

Black Flowers, White Lies: Interview

Today I’m hosting Yvonne Ventresca, author of Crystal Kite Award-winning Pandemic and the newly released Black Flowers, White Lies. Yvonne is a writer friend I actually know in real life. We’ve hung out together at tons of book events: NJASL Fall Conferences, Collingswood Book Festival, B&N Events, and plenty more — sitting behind our little tables, chatting with each other while trying to make eye contact with potential book buyers without scaring them away.

blackflowerswhitelies-cover-finalBlack Flowers, White Lies Synopsis:

Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a special connection. Now, evidence points to his death in a psychiatric hospital, not a car accident as Mom claimed. When strange, supernatural signs appear, Ella wonders if Dad’s trying to tell her something, or if someone’s playing unsettling tricks. As the unexplained events become sinister, she finds herself terrified about who—or what—might harm her. Then the evidence points to Ella herself. What if, like Dad, she’s suffering a mental breakdown? Ella desperately needs to find answers, no matter how disturbing the truth might be.

1. I’m really looking forward to reading this book! Black Flowers, White Lies seems like a cross between a gothic mystery and psychological suspense. Would you say this is an accurate description?

One of my favorite classes in college was Gothic Literature! Black Flowers, White Lies does have the mystery and psychological suspense, but because it’s set in contemporary Hoboken, New Jersey, it’s not quite gothic. I briefly thought about setting the story in an abandoned castle or a creepy old boarding school, but since Ella (the main character) feels safe at home, I felt that if bizarre things happened there, it would create a scarier effect.

2. When were sitting behind our respective tables at NJASL last year, you described this book to me as a YA version of Gaslight. What was the inspiration for the story (besides Gaslight, that is)?

This novel has evolved over the years, so it has a few inspirations. My early versions were about a teen girl who needs to rescue her kidnapped mother. In the final version, Ella, doesn’t need to rescue her mother–she needs to save herself. This shift in focus really brought the story together for me, because it clarified her journey as a strong heroine.

yvonne-ventresca-author-photo3. Based on the synopsis, it seems like Ella might be an unreliable narrator. I’ve been fascinated with unreliable narrators since I read Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle when I was a young teen. Do you have any favorite books where the protagonist’s view of the world is skewed, muddled, or not to be counted on?

I loved Liar by Justine Larbalestier, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, and Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.

4. Tell us about your creative process. Are you an outliner, a pantster, or something in between?

I’m a ducks-in-a-row kind of person in general, but surprisingly, I don’t outline. I usually have a sense of the main character and some of the key events when I start a story. After I finish a draft, I create a reverse outline to get a handle on what I’ve written. Making the outline after I’ve drafted the story allows me to see flaws in sequence, pacing, etc. It’s definitely my favorite technique.

5. I also outline after the first draft is written! Great minds think alike! Were there any surprises for you in the writing of this novel? Plot twists you didn’t expect? Characters who didn’t behave as planned?

One of my favorite characters started as a female but worked better as a male. This meant a major rewrite, but once I started the revision, I could tell that it was taking me to a better creative place.

FUN FACT: During the writing of Black Flowers, White Lies, Yvonne asked her Facebook friends for their cat names, and was able to incorporate many of them into the story. Except for Petals, all of the animal shelter cats are named after real animals.

To buy Black Flowers, White Lies: Indiebound | Amazon | B&N | AmazonUK | BAM

Bio: Yvonne Ventresca’s latest young adult novel, Black Flowers, White Lies was recently published by Sky Pony Press (October, 2016). BuzzFeed included it at the top of their new “must read” books: 23 YA Books That, Without a Doubt, You’ll Want to Read This Fall. Her debut YA novel, Pandemic, won a 2015 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for the Atlantic region.

To connect with Yvonne: Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

 

I Wasn’t …

I wasn’t …

luna-wainscoting

hanging from the artwork

drinking milk out of Bob’s cereal bowl

climbing the curtains

knocking  books off the shelf

rubbing my butt on Gina’s homework

licking the plates in the sink.

 

I didn’t …luna-in-the-bookshelves

walk across Dianne’s laptop and delete a page of her manuscript

stick my whole head in Marie’s glass of soda water (the bubbles were startling, but then I kind of liked them)

unlock the front door

steal Bob’s sunglasses

take the drain stopper out of the sink and carry it down the hall

photobomb Dianne’s Skype visit with a classroom

sneak into Sorcia’s Cone of Shame while she was sleeping and terrorize her.

luna-water-glass

*

*

*

Yes, she did.

Yes, she did.

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