dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

Saturday was a glorious day for a book launch party at the Hockessin Book Shelf in Hockessin, Delaware! I was thrilled to see so many friends, former teaching colleagues, fellow writers, and young readers come to celebrate the release of The Morrigan’s Curse. I even got to see a friend from high school who I haven’t seen (except on Facebook) since our 5th class reunion. (Which was only a few years ago — HAHAHAHA!)

Here are a few photos:

Books and Crow

Me with Cake

With Nancy and Rebecca

With Beth

signing for Matt

As I was getting ready to write this post, I remembered writing a similar one at the beginning of February 2015 for the launch of The Inquisitor’s Mark. Then I got a little curious about what I was blogging about in previous Februarys … and I took a little time machine tour, via the archives, to find out.

* Engage the machine that makes everything swirly*

2015 — Celebrating the release of The Inquisitor’s Mark.

2014 — Housebound by an ice storm. Using the opportunity to write 9000 words in The Morrigan’s Curse, specifically the first draft of the climax.

2013 — Finishing up the first draft of The Inquisitor’s Mark and getting ready for pre-release promotions of The Caged Graves.

2012 — Thinking about leaving my comfort zone to attempt an urban fantasy about a secret day of the week, even though I considered myself a historical fiction writer. Wasn’t sure I was going to do it. (!!!!)

2011 — Bemoaning the fact that I was feeling my way through the first draft of a WIP like I was playing Blind Man’s Bluff. (Interesting, since I’m doing that again this year …)

2010 — Alternately ranting about standardized testing and posting historical tidbits related to We Hear the Dead that nobody read because my blog was brand new and I didn’t have any followers.

*Let’s swirly ourselves back to the present*

An interesting trip! And a bit scary, since I’d forgotten how close I came to NOT writing The Eighth Day, which, as you can see, consumed my next three years.

I wonder what I’ll be blogging about in 2017?

 

Car headlights

photo credit: Warten via photopin (license)

I’m writing this blog post to comfort myself more than to inform you, although I hope you might find it informative anyway … or maybe comforting. I’ve come to see this blog as the closest thing I have to a diary, and I often look back through old posts for inspiration.

Right now, I’m leaning heavily on E.L. Doctorow’s famous quote:  Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

It’s very dark and very foggy in my WIP right now, and I’m struggling. I keep inching forward, but it feels like my headlights are fading fast.

Here’s where my blog/diary comforts me. Looking back, I remember that:

  • Although I always knew who the villain was in The Caged Graves, I had no idea how to reveal this or what would happen in the climax. The answer came to me in the shower when I was ¾ of the way through the first draft – and it was nothing like I’d even imagined before. A complete change from where I thought I was going.
  • When I sent Jax and Evangeline to Mexico with the bad guys in The Eighth Day, I had no idea how to rescue them. None. The answer struck me while I was swimming laps in my pool, and it tied back to a little thing I’d put in the book for no good reason – except now it had a reason.
  • I knew exactly what I wanted to happen in the climax of The Morrigan’s Curse – for both POV characters – but I couldn’t figure out how to implement those climaxes without them getting in each other’s way and without interference from too many characters in one location. The answer presented itself during a long drive through the Pennsylvania mountains.

So what does this mean for my WIP? It means if I am patient, I’ll get there eventually. And maybe I should take a break from the computer. It’s raining right now – so the pool is out. I don’t have time to drive to the mountains, so I guess I’ll try a long, hot shower.

Inspiration, come and find me!

 

home office

My home office in the basement.

To everyone who weighed in on my “Ending” dilemma last week, thank you! I decided my character had to be herself (and she is certainly not perfect). I think she discovered her own worth over the course of the story, but she also made a crucial mistake that prevented her from getting what she wanted. I found a way to give her the help she needs going forward, without making it seem like they “saved her.” She decides what she has to do. The two people closest to her throw in their support. I hit the dreaded “send” button on that manuscript yesterday.

In other news, the Delaware County Community College invited me back to teach the course I did in the fall, Writing for the Children’s Market. I start tomorrow night! They’ve also contracted me to teach a writing course for 10-12 year olds on Saturdays in April, so it will be fun to work with kids again.

I’ve had a home office space in my basement for months, but I’ve had trouble forcing myself to work down there instead of on the family room sofa or at the kitchen table. This month, I’ve been a little better at disciplining myself to “go to the office.” The only problem is my “office assistant.” Usually, she spends her time upstairs, but when she gets into a super-ornery mood, the family tosses her in the basement with me and shuts the door. Yeah, thanks a bunch, family.

Luna in the bookshelves

Luna rearranges the books on my shelf.

In final news that’s kind of cool, I was contacted via Pinterest by a woman from the Netherlands whose research on Ancestry.com revealed that Asenath Thomas – one of the women buried in the caged graves – was her husband’s great-great-aunt. We exchanged some information, and then she posted about it on Facebook and linked me. One of her FB friends then chimed in to say, “Hey, that author was the teacher of two of my kids!” That’s right. A parent of some former students is friends with someone who lives in the Netherlands who is married to someone related to someone whose grave I wrote about. I’m pretty sure Kevin Bacon is in there, too.

Asenath

Asenath Thomas grave

 

HBT14 - banner

 

Welcome! You are following the Cemetery Path, and if you’ve never visited me before, feel free to look around. I’m the author of two YA historical novels, We Hear the Dead and The Caged Graves, and a MG fantasy series about a boy who discovers a secret day of the week hidden between Wednesday and Thursday.

HBT14-The-CemeteryIf you’re one of my regular blog visitors wondering what the heck the Cemetery Path is, you can check out the Halloween Book Trail (and its multiple paths) HERE.

And now, for the Cemetery Path questions:

1. If your MC went trick or treating, what would they dress up as and why?

The main characters of We Hear the Dead (Maggie) and The Caged Graves (Verity) lived in the mid-1800’s, before the era of trick-or-treating. So, I’ll pick Jax, the main character of The Eighth Day.

Jax has recently discovered that his ability to experience the secret day of the week comes from his lineage. He’s a descendant of one of the Knights of the Round Table. Clearly, Jax would dress up as a knight for Halloween! Jax might even choose King Arthur himself – which would annoy Jax’s 18-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare. (A plus for Jax! Annoying Riley is one of his favorite things to do.)

2. What is the most haunted place you’ve ever been to?

I don’t know if it’s haunted or not, but the creepiest place I’ve ever been is the abandoned cemetery in Catawissa, Pennsylvania where the caged graves of Sarah Ann Boone and Asenath Thomas are located. I’ll let the photographs speak for themselves.

 Asenath Thomas grave

 Sarah Ann medium size

I knew as soon as I set foot in this cemetery that I would write a novel about these graves. You can find more pictures of these graves on my Pinterest Board.

3. Please share a photo of your favorite Halloween costume you’ve worn.

This is my husband and I dressed in steampunk attire, at Dorian’s Parlor in Philadelphia, a semi-regular steampunk ball held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Center City.

 ready for Dorians

4. If the zombie apocalypse happened (and it will), what would be your weapon of choice?

A long distance weapon, please – to keep them as far away from me as possible! Daryl Dixon’s crossbow is pretty cool, but probably too heavy for me to lift. So I would like a high-powered rifle that fires lots and lots of rounds!

5. What is your favorite sentence/paragraph from your novel?

I’m going to choose the passage from The Eighth Day where Jax discovers the secret day for the first time. He’s riding his bike through a deserted town, wondering what happened to all the people …

He thought about zombies.

He thought about alien abduction.

He thought about Spongebob Squarepants and the episode where everybody took a bus out of town to get away from Spongebob for a day.

He thought about the old movie where Will Smith and his dog were the last creatures left on earth.

“Oh, crap!” Jax yelled, braking.

Will Smith and his dog had not been alone in that movie. There’d been other creatures that lurked in dark places and came out at night to kill …

***

I hope you enjoyed this stop on the Cemetery Path of the Halloween Book Trail. Please continue your journey at the blog site of Sarvenaz Tash, author of The Mapmaker and the Ghost, by clicking HERE.

 

Ransloe,Annie Eliza, Sarah Frances Boone (ca1860

Ransloe, Annie Eliza, and Sarah Frances Boone (ca1860)

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I was recently contacted by a gentleman named Charles Rodenbough from North Carolina who told me he was the great-grandson of Ransloe Boone.

That would be the same Ransloe Boone whose name is on the headstone outside one of the caged graves in Catawissa, Pennsylvania. Ransloe is not the one in the grave. That would be his wife, Sarah Ann. The caged graves of Sarah Ann Boone and her sister-in-law, Asenath Thomas, are the subject of my historical novel, The Caged Graves. My story is fictional, but I kept the real names listed on the headstones, the name of the town, and some of the town’s history.

I was happy to hear that Mr. Rodenbough enjoyed my novel. He, like my fictional protagonist Verity Boone, came across the caged graves of Sarah Ann and Asenath Thomas by accident. He was on a family research expedition with his brother twenty years ago, and after visiting the graves of his Boone ancestors in a Quaker cemetery in Catawissa, they stopped at a farmer’s market outside town (Rohrbach’s) and then spotted a strange sight in a nearby, abandoned cemetery. When the Rodenbough brothers got out of the car to investigate the two caged graves, they were just as surprised as Verity to see their great-grandfather’s name on one of the headstones. (Although perhaps not as upset as Verity …)

Mr. Rodenbough knew his great-grandfather had a first wife who died shortly after giving birth to a daughter. He did not know her grave had been caged. With a little research, he eventually reached the same conclusion as the local historians regarding the purpose of the cages. I will not give the explanation here, although I will say I partly used this explanation in my book – with several fictional twists.

Boone Store-St. Clair

Boone Store, St. Clair, PA

I had already noticed that Ransloe Boone’s own grave did not appear to be located near his wife’s, and so I asked Mr. Rodenbough what became of his great-grandfather. He very kindly shared with me the true story of Ransloe Boone…

Two years after the death of his wife, Sarah Ann, Ransloe remarried a woman from Catawissa named Annie Eliza Hughes. They had two sons before moving to St. Clair, Pennsylvania along with Ransloe’s daughter by Sarah Ann, whose name was Sarah Frances. In St. Clair, he and Annie had three daughters, followed by three more sons. (Wow.) At first, Ransloe worked as a clerk, but eventually he established his own dry goods store, which was very successful. Along with his eldest sons, he helped charter the St. Clair Power and Light and build the St. Clair Grain Elevator. He died in 1896 after being thrown from his carriage when his horse spooked and ran down an embankment.

Ransloe

George Lippard (my model for Ransloe)

When writing historical fiction, I like to pick out old photographs of people and places to inspire me. For my fictional Ransloe Boone, I used this picture. (It’s really the 19th century author George Lippard.) Did I come close to the real man? Ehhh, not a lot.

But I’m grateful to Charles Rodenbough for sharing these precious Boone family photographs with me and allowing me to share them with you!

***

EngravingAs a side note … Since the publication of We Hear the Dead, I have heard from one reader who can trace her ancestry back to a sister of Maggie and Kate Fox and another who is the descendant of Elisha Kane’s brother. So, this isn’t the first time I’ve been contacted by relatives of my “characters.” It’s startling to be reminded that my novels are based on truth.

***

I’m not expecting anyone related to Jax Aubrey to contact me, but I do think somebody lives in my house on the eighth day.

 

 

 

Gabbey drivers license

Yes, my daughter Gabrielle now has a driver’s license. How did that happen? Wasn’t it only last year that she was THIS big?

Gabbey in Alice dress

The driver’s license thing happened during my last full week of teaching, so on top of the stress of ending both the school year and my teaching career, I had to worry about her driving to and from finals while I was at work. She made out fine (although once or twice she forgot to text me upon her arrival).

Luckily, my younger daughter, Gina, who rode with her on the way to school was very consistent about notifying me every time they reached their destination with a text that said:

We’re not dead.

Yeah, Gina. You’re hysterical.

From other parents out there who have survived a new driver in the house, any tips on how to stop worrying? So far, I’ve been letting her run small errands for me, just for the practice. But every time she heads out, I think: Why did I let her go out on that errand when I could have done it myself? What is wrong with me?

Other things that happened recently:

1. If you missed last week’s post describing the evolution of The Inquisitor’s Mark cover from sketch to final design, you can still find it HERE AT PROJECT MAYHEM.

2. And today I’m HERE AT THE CROWE’S NEST, my agent Sara Crowe’s blog, talking about all the things I didn’t know about writing a series when I signed the contract.

3. And I’d also like to mention that Joshua David Bellin interviewed his son about The Eighth Day HERE AT THE YA GUY. If you don’t know Josh from #YALitchat and #KidLitchat, I suggest you head on over, check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter!

4. Something else pretty awesome that happened in the last couple weeks is this … How many of you have read The Caged Graves? Raise your hands. Okay, would you guys believe I was recently contacted by the great-grandson of Ransloe Boone? The real Ransloe Boone, husband of of Sarah Ann Thomas Boone, one of the women buried in the real caged graves?!

That’s too good a story to tack on to the end of this blog post, so I’ll be telling you more about our correspondence next month, after my First Impressions posts for July.

Good-bye, June. You lasted way too long, and I saw you mostly through a classroom window. Looking forward to July!