You may recall I started off the new year with a broken foot and 3 weeks of immobility. That was followed by 2 weeks walking in a boot — during which I managed to wrench my knee. When the boot finally came off, I discovered that I was not going to bounce right back to my pre-injury level of activity.
But things are almost back to normal now. I’m exercising again. My foot hardly ever hurts, although my knee is not finished complaining yet. Better yet, my schedule is full of Skypes and school visits and book festivals — a far cry from those endless January days with nothing to do.
I’ve also learned that The Eighth Day was nominated for two 2016-2017 state lists — the Virginia Readers Choice Award and Georgia’s Tome Society IT List. Yay!
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:
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 have some good looking calendars up for grabs this month! Check out this gorgeous 16-Month Transitioner’s Calendar for September 2015 thru December 2016.
All the character sketches are done by the talented teen artist Rachel Gillespie. My daughter Gabrielle designed the family crests and the layout of the calendar itself, with a Grunsday conveniently inserted between Wednesday and Thursday to record all your eighth day adventures.
You’ll even get a sneak peek at characters from the forthcoming third book, The Morrigan’s Curse, which releases on January 26, 2016. I’ll autograph the back of the calendar and throw in some temporary tattoos for fun.
If you have a tween/teen reader at home who enjoyed The Eighth Day and/or The Inquisitor’s Mark (or if you just want one for yourself), all you have to do is send me a message through my CONTACT page.
Put “I Want a Calendar” in the Subject Heading — and in the body of the email, tell me your favorite part of the book. (Yup, that’s right, I’m soliciting strokes for my ego. I love it when people tell me their favorite parts.) You can enter up to 3 times, (but you’ll have to tell me 3 different favorite parts). I’ll be accepting entries up until midnight of August 31 (ETA) and notify FIVE winners on September 1.
Heck, if I get a lot of entries, maybe I’ll give away more than five …
In other news, it’s been a very busy summer so far — and it shows no signs of letting up! I’ve been on author visits to Baltimore, Maryland, York County, Pennsylvania, Moorestown, New Jersey, and I have an upcoming visit to Brookville, Pennsylvania. I’m teaching a literary club at a youth community center in Parkesburg, PA, and preparing to teach a Writer’s Workshop Course at the Delaware County Community College. (Or as we like to call it DC3)
We said a fond good-bye to our teen French guest at the end of July. We had a lot of fun and took her on many adventures — including almost drowning her in the Lehigh River:
That’s my husband, me, and Clelie making the acquaintance of a nice family from New Jersey as we desperately cling to the side of their raft. My daughter Gina had already been swept downstream, where she was temporarily adopted by a different family. I guess Clelie forgave us, though, because she had us pose for a good-bye photo holding the sign we’d greeted her with on her arrival 3 weeks prior. She posted this to Facebook and called us “the most adorable family of America.”
I have never been a runner, but I am guessing that as runners near the finish line of a race, they don’t look back to see how far they’ve come. They have their eye on the goal. But as a writer, I often find it instructive to look back at my process. This month, I’ve been working on a second round of revisions for The Morrigan’s Curse with my editor. Yes, there will still be copy-editing and proof-reading to do, but for all intents and purposes, I am approaching the finish line for this book.
Looking back through my files, I saw that I started the first draft of this book (originally titled THE GIRL OF CROWS) in November of 2013. That’s right. 2013 — before the first book in the series, The Eighth Day, was even published and out on the shelves. This is something I posted at Project Middle Grade Mayhem back when I was just about to get started:
Dianne: Hello, team! Glad to have you all back for Book 3 in this series – and to the new characters, welcome. I assume you’ve seen the proposed outline for the next book, and you know I’m not very good with outlines. But after two books, we’re used to working together, so I figure you’ll know where I’m going astray.
Jax: Well, there’s something majorly wrong with the climax. In the first book, we saved the world. I mean, the Villain was “this close” to succeeding. And in the second book, you went for more personal stakes. I mean, there was plenty of exciting stuff … my identity was in question, and Riley and Evangeline’s lives were in danger …
Riley: Yeah, he’s right. Personal stakes were fine for Book 2, but in Book 3, we’ve got to get back to saving the world.
Dianne: But the New Villain has a pretty evil plan …
Evangeline: And, according to this outline, we stop him while he’s still three or four steps away from succeeding at it. That’s not very scary.
Dianne: I see your point.
New Character (Name Withheld): If you let the New Villain take things further, he’s going to have to involve me. I’m going to have to make up my mind which side I’m on. Won’t that solve the problem you’re having with my character arc?
Dianne: You’re right. It will. Great idea!
New Villain: I object to my cartoonish nature. You did everything but give me a cape to swoop and a mustache to twirl. Can’t you provide me with some depth?
Dianne: Not in the outline, buster. You’re going to have to develop your personality on the page, just like everybody else here.
Riley: Yeah. You should have seen how she had me planned in her outline for Book 1. But I set her straight by the end of the first draft.
Secondary Character (Name Withheld, but maybe you can guess): Hey, I have a complaint. I don’t even show up until the middle of the book. I was beginning to think I didn’t have a part!
Dianne: We couldn’t have a story without you! Readers simultaneously love you and want to strangle you.
Secondary Character: But after you bring me in, I’ve got nothing to do. I don’t even see my name mentioned in the climax!
Dianne: I didn’t know how I was going to use you in the climax of Book 1, but I brought you along for the ride – and when the time came, I discovered your purpose. Trust me. You’re my wild card. When it’s time to use you, I’ll know.
Secondary Character 2 (Name Also Withheld): Now it’s my turn to complain. What’s this about me possibly dying?!
Dianne: It’s the third book. There should be casualties. We can’t just kill off bad guys and lose none of our own. What do you think this is, the Twilight series?
Secondary Character 2: But why me? Do you know how many times I’ve saved your heroes or bailed them out of trouble?
Dianne: That’s kind of why you have to go.
Riley: Don’t kill this person off for the sake of our character arcs. None of us want to take the rap for that!
Jax: I don’t think it’s fair for you to kill anyone as a cheap emotional trick.
Secondary Character 2: I don’t want to be the All is Lost Moment!
Dianne: I wouldn’t waste you like that. If you go, it will be a Turning Point – a Courageous Sacrifice for your friends. Otherwise, I won’t do it. Deal?
Secondary Character 2: All right. Either I go out in a Blaze of Glory – or I survive. Deal.
Jax: Hey, the ending scene is perfect. Good job there.
Dianne: That’s what we’re working toward, then. That ending. Okay, folks. Let me mull over the World Stakes Climax, and we’ll meet back here for Chapter 1 in a couple days. We can do this. Right?
Looking back on this is pretty funny to me now. I don’t remember all this uncertainty! I can’t even remember what the original climax was supposed to be — the one that wasn’t very good because the villain never got close to succeeding. I’m really proud of the one I wrote instead. As for the fate of Secondary Character 2 … I’m not going to reveal it here. Everything became clear as I wrote the story. There are casualties. But they may not be the ones I was originally considering.
This is why, for me, outlining is never as useful as actually writing that first draft. Painful as it is, it’s the only way I can figure everything out. And that’s always helpful for me to remember when I’m in the agonizing throes of drafting.
How often do you look back at your process? Do you ever find little gems like this post that remind you how far you’ve come?
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.
Yes, it’s time for another scatter-brained post because I couldn’t pull together a single topic.
I think Netflix should count as a business expense. I know many people would consider binge-watching TV while your open manuscript and a blinking cursor sit ignored on a side table counter-productive. But I recently spent four days revising a single chapter of THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE and when I finally licked it, I couldn’t face the next chapter. Yes, I had a deadline, and yes, as a full time writer I need to work at writing. Instead I watched five episodes of The Fall in a row and felt guilty about it. The next day, however, I jumped back into the manuscript and revised not just the following chapter, but three more. So, from now on, when I feel the call to binge-watch (or binge-read) instead of writing, I’m not going to fight it or feel guilty. If my tank of creativity is empty, I need to fill it back up.
I got an early peek at the cover design for THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE last week, and I am floored! I can’t share it yet, but the artwork really inspired me. You can expect the same eye-popping title and Jax running, of course. But this cover is different from the others. You’re going to love it.
The Eighth Day has started appearing at Scholastic Book Fairs across the country. I’ve been thrilled to receive messages and photos from people who were excited to see it, including my sister and my niece who spotted it at their school in Shawnee, Kansas. (My sister is a teacher there; my niece is a fifth grade student.)
I’ve got a gold ribbon on Amazon for The Inquisitor’s Mark. Which is awesome, at least while it lasts.
I’ve been buried in revisions since Christmas. First, THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE. Then I addressed agent and beta-reader notes on BRANEWORLD. Currently, I’m revising a YA historical paranormal, also based on my agent’s notes. By the time I’ve finished that, I expect THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE will be back for another round. I know I’ve always said how much I love revisions and hate first drafts … but part of me is hankering to work on something new.
Apropos of the point above, my plan – if I can clear my desktop of other projects by then – is to take a blogging hiatus in April and attempt my own NaNoWriMo. How much can I get written in one month? I am notoriously slow at first drafts, so this will be a real challenge for me.