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?

 

MorrigansCurse_REV coverI 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?

 

Marketing sequelAs I prepare to release my first published sequel in January, I realize that promoting the second book in a series (and the ones thereafter) is completely different from promoting a brand new book. It dawned on me, as I considered what needed to be done, that I am only promoting The Inquisitor’s Mark to people who have already read The Eighth Day.

For everyone else, I need to keep promoting Book 1.

This really skewed the way I looked at my marketing materials — what needed to be designed and ordered. For presentations I made this fall at the annual conferences of the Maryland and New Jersey Association of School Librarians, I went armed with postcards displaying the cover of both books – and review blurbs for each of them. When the book store hosting my launch party in January asked for book cover images to create posters and advertisements, I specifically asked them to include the cover of Book 1 on all materials.

expansion packOh, and there’s an upgrade to the set of tattoos – an expansion pack, as it were – thanks to my eldest daughter and my husband. But they will go out with the first set of five included.

Before the release of The Eighth Day, HarperCollins offered two separate ARC giveaways on Goodreads. They did not do even one for The Inquisitor’s Mark, and I understand why. ARCs are an expense, and they wanted to use them more wisely than mailing them out to random winners who may not have read the first book.

Olivia w TIM

No hiding the ARCs from Livi!

Likewise, I was more cautious about giving away the limited ARCs I had. Well, one was whisked off to Kansas by my 10-year-old niece who was visiting last July. She found my secret stash and snagged one. (That was okay and felt pretty good actually!) For the rest, instead of offering them up in random giveaways, I took them to events where children who’d already read The Eighth Day would be present – like a meeting of the Guys Read Book Club at a local library – and raffled them off there. I felt better putting the books into the hands of kids than mailing them off to people who would toss them in a giant TBR pile.

I don’t have as many blog tour spots booked, either. For anybody who might like to have a guest post, I would be thrilled to write one.  Just let me know! I love talking about this book! Overall though, I think the real marketing of The Inquisitor’s Mark is going to be outside my influence – and in control of the librarians, teachers, and parents who put the book in the hands of children who loved the first one.

 

InquisitorsMark_revised_finalIn a little less than 2 months, The Inquisitor’s Mark comes out. Traditional publishing is strange in that the gap in time between the writing of the book and the release of the book is SO LONG, I can hardly remember what it was like. In fact, when I sat down to write this post, I had to go back and check the beginning date on the first draft to remember when the heck I even wrote it. I was surprised to discover that I started the first draft exactly 2 years ago today. (I wrote this post on 12/4, btw.)

Then I went through all my blog posts from that time period.  These are the things that I recorded in my blog about the process of writing my first sequel (my blog being the closest thing I have to a diary):

  • Writing the second book in a series presents a new set of issues to be insecure about. Your cool premise is no longer original. Readers are familiar with it from the first book, and they want to know: What else have you got?
  • For each of my characters, there is only one way to go. It may seem as if they have choices, but they don’t. Not if the story is to move forward. They (and I) have to keep following the path that’s open until we all get to the bottom of the hill.
  • My WIP has me by the throat and will not let go. Even at work, I walk around muttering to myself in the voices of my characters, drawing little maps on scraps of paper, and choreographing action scenes.
  • Over the 3-day President’s Weekend, I wrote 9,000 words. My feet finally touched the ground around noon on Monday when I typed THE END on the first draft of THE EIGHTH DAY #2.
  • I started the draft on December 4. Seventy-seven days from beginning to end.  I know that might not seem like a feat to anyone who’s succeeded at NaNo – producing 50,000 words in 30 days.  But this is the fastest I’ve ever written a manuscript.
  • I had an outline for this book. But I realized, right before I hit SEND and zapped the manuscript to my editor, that my favorite parts of Book 2 were never in the outline at all.
  • I had a new character sharing POV with my MC, but I didn’t know anything about his personality and motivation when I started writing. I didn’t discover it until halfway through the first draft, and the revelation, when it came, required the addition of a subplot that wasn’t in the outline.  (PS – I didn’t know it then, but that unplanned sub-plot ended up being crucial for Book 3.)
  • One of my very favorite scenes in the book (involving a garbage chute and a fire ladder) is an event that was never planned.
  • The climactic action scene was plotted out right before I needed to write it – at a restaurant in the Pocono Mountains during a ski trip. “Listen everybody,” I said, commandeering all the forks and knives and a few condiments to make a diagram on the table. “I need to know how these people can fight this creature in this confined space. And since there’s an exit right over here, why don’t they just run away instead?” My husband and daughters were nonplussed by this demand. My daughter’s friend looked kind of surprised, but also vindicated – as if she suspected all along that Gabbey’s writer mom was a nutjob.

Overall, I think the writing of The Inquisitor’s Mark was one of my most intense writing experiences yet. It was fun to look back at how I experienced it at the time, to remember all the really neat things that were never in the original plan for that book.

I hope readers enjoy the finished product!

Dorian & Sloane

Two new characters in THE INQUISITOR’S MARK — Dorian Ambrose and Sloane Dulac. (Character sketches by Rachel Gillespie)

Today I’m bringing you an interview with Sherrie Petersen, author of Wish You Weren’t, a middle grade time traveling adventure.

Marten doesn’t believe in the power of wishes. None of his have ever come true. His parents ignore him, his little brother is a pain and his family is talking about moving to Texas. Not cool. So when he makes an impulsive wish during a meteor shower, he doesn’t expect it to make any difference.
Until his annoying brother disappears.

 

With the present uncertain and his brother’s future in limbo, Marten finds himself stuck in his past. And if he runs out of time, even wishes might not be enough to save the ones he loves.
 
1. Sherrie, thank you for joining us here today. Tell us, what was the original inspiration for Wish You Weren’t?
Real life inspires so much of what I write. I’ve been known to drag my kids out of bed to watch the stars, I listen to them bicker, I have a younger brother that I’ve probably wished away on more than one occasion. JI still make wishes when I go through a tunnel or find an eyelash on my cheek. More than once when I’ve made a wish, I’ve had to stop and think, “Is that really what I want to waste my wish on?” I loved the idea of having the one wish that comes true be the one that you threw out there thinking it would never happen.
2. What is your writing process like?
My process has evolved over the years. I always have a general idea of how the story is going to end before I start. But when I first started writing, I was a total pantser. I completely rejected the very concept of an outline. I saw it as too forced, too restrictive. But as I worked on Wish You Weren’t and realized parts of the middle weren’t working, I found it really helpful to at least sketch out where I thought each chapter should go in order to get me to the end. The last novel I wrote I outlined about halfway before I started. Things changed along the way, but I kind of liked having a map to follow. It helped me write a lot faster.
3. Were there any characters who surprised you during the writing of the book – maybe turned out different than you expected?
Paul was definitely a surprise. In the first version he only played a small part in the last third of the book. But an editor who read and loved the story thought he brought so much to the narrative that he should be along from the beginning. At first I resisted because it meant a complete rewrite, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. He was such a complete opposite to Marten, but still a great kid. I kind of fell in love with him. He added a lot of humor to the scenes.
4. Writers today are presented with many routes to publication – seeking representation, submitting to small publishers un-agented, self-publishing in both ebook and paper book formats. How did you go about your decision-making process?
I had an agent for a while and I tried the small publisher route with another story. But I spent many years as a freelance writer and graphic designer so the idea of being an entrepreneur and taking complete control of my book wasn’t foreign to me. It can be overwhelming to see all the opportunities out there, but with pioneers like Susan Kaye Quinn and Hugh Howey out there paving the way and sharing everything they learn, it’s a lot easier for people like me to find their way.
5. What are you working on now?
Outlining a companion novel for Wish You Weren’t.

Sherrie is giving away e-copies of Wish You Weren’t. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

SHERRIE PETERSEN still believes in magic and she loves to write (and read!) stories that take her on fantastic adventures. In addition to writing middle grade novels, Sherrie moonlights as a graphic designer, substitute teacher, freelance writer, school newspaper advisor, yearbook advisor and mother of two children. She spends her free time watching movies, driving kids around and baking cookies. Or eating them. Wish You Weren’t is her debut novel.
Find her on:
Daughter #2: A classic portrait of “WAH!”
I’ve been fretting a lot because the first draft of Book 3 in the EIGHTH DAY series is not coming as easily as I’d like or as fast as I want. I know I’ve complained a little about it here on the blog, but that’s NOTHING compared to all the whining my family has had to put up with!
Rationally, I know there are very good reasons for the trouble I’m having. It’s difficult to stop beating myself up, though. After all, I wrote the first draft of Book 2, THE INQUISITOR’S MARK in six weeks. Six weeks! I started working on Book 3 at the end of July. It’s going on six months now, and I haven’t completed a full draft.
Here are some reasons why this book is evolving slower:
1. I wrote THE INQUISITOR’S MARK after the acquiring editor for THE EIGHTH DAY had retired but before I was assigned a new editor. THE CAGED GRAVES was finished, but pre-release promotions hadn’t started. It was literally the only project on the table for me, and nothing else happened while I was working on it.
2. Since I started writing Book 3, I’ve been interrupted to proof-read THE EIGHTH DAY and make editorial revisions on THE INQUISITOR’S MARK twice.
3. Additionally, every couple weeks there’s a new shiny thing cropping up to distract me: ARCs for THE EIGHTH DAY, cover flap blurbs for THE INQUISITOR’S MARK, a new paperback cover for CAGED GRAVES, and would you believe the cover blurb for the paperback version of EIGHTH DAY, which hasn’t even released in hardback yet!
4. When writing Book 2, I had to blend a new cast with the characters from the previous book.  When writing Book 3, however, I have to blend another new cast with the characters from twoprevious books. That’s a lot of characters needing parts – or reasons for being absent from the story. (Maybe I should have killed more of them off?!?)
5. TED established rules for this fantasy. TIM established even more rules. I now have to live with all those rules in Book 3, even when they are inconvenient.
Daughter #1: A classic portrait of “STUCK!”
6. When I wrote TIM, it was full of inconsistencies, plot holes, and unsatisfactory explanations. But I didn’t notice most of them until I was finished. Then I fixed them. Then my editor saw lots more. And I fixed them, too. But I can’t seem to muster that essential blindness for the first draft of Book 3. I fixate over every plot hole, and I can already hear my editor’s questions in my head – even though she will never see this terrible version of the story!
7. This is the third book in the series, and possibly the end. The climax (which is where I’m at) needs to be BIG – bigger than the other two. And the falling action needs to wrap almost everything up, while still leaving enough wiggle room for the series to continue if it’s successful. My first editor asked me to plan a 5-book story arc, and it’s hard to un-see that vision and think of it as a 3-book arc now, but that’s really what I need to do in order to get it right.
So, that’s it – all my excuses why it’s taking so long to write this book. And while I can’t do much about the distractions (as if I’m going to ignore cover designs when they come in?) or the complications inherent in writing the third book of any series, what I can do is remind myself over and over that THE FIRST DRAFT IS ALLOWED TO STINK.