Wednesday, April 16, 2014


That's pretty much what I'm doing right now, flailing helplessly.  I'm cooked. The last couple weeks have been real killers at work. Plus, I've got a book releasing and another book due.

So far, the only creative thing I've produced all week was this (after Sunday's Game of Thrones episode):

So no real blog post today.

However, in an effort to recharge my batteries, I have been reading.

Have you read The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen?


If you haven't, I suggest you leave this blog and acquire the book immediately. There is so much to be learned from Nielsen's The False Prince. The last time I met a narrator as tricky and deceptive as Sage was in Code Name Verity.

Go read it now.

Why are you still here?

Monday, April 14, 2014

10 Random Monday Updates

1. It's only a week and a day until The Eighth Day releases, and some book stores have already received their stock and put the books out on the shelves. If you see one, send me a picture by Tweet or FB! If you actually buy one and want the temporary tattoos that go with it, I'll be happy to mail you a set!

2. I received my author copies, which is always a thrill. In this case, they were a bright spot in an otherwise stressful week.

3. I experienced several "LASTS" in my teaching career last week: The last time I will do parent-teacher conferences on the teacher side of the table.  The last time I ever have to administer the state standardized tests.

4. I hated the tests more than ever this year. I really need to wait until I am officially retired before I start venting. I don't want anything I say to be linked to my current students. But on behalf of all my colleagues who will still be in the trenches next year, I need to state LOUDLY AND CLEARLY why test scores are NOT a measure of teacher effectiveness.

5. I'm almost ready to send my manuscript of Book 3 to my editor for her first look. Last week, I read the manuscript on my Kindle, took notes, and made changes in the document. I need to let it rest a couple days -- read somebody else's books, kind of like cleansing the palate -- and then repeat that process one more time. Then it will be time to send it to the person who will help me take it to the next level.

6. I am not entirely thrilled with my Kindle Paperwhite. I needed a new Kindle, because my 2nd generation model was dying, and I thought the Paperwhite was going to be a good choice. But although the visual look of the page is superior to my old model, I'm not crazy about the way the home screen is organized. The highlighting function is awkward. (A dictionary screen keeps popping up instead of the highlighting function.) The method for viewing your notes -- and deleting them when you're through with them -- is also very clunky.

7. The weather is finally pleasant in Pennsylvania. The crocuses have come and gone, the daffodils are in full bloom, tulips and hyacinths are not far behind.I enjoyed my first bike ride of the season this past weekend.

8. Gabbey got invited to both the Junior and Senior prom. When I mentioned she was going to need two dresses, Gina suggested we get her a reversible dress. The husband Googled "reversible prom dress", and would you believe he not only found one, Gabbey fell in love with it and my husband managed to buy it on clearance! You can see pics HERE and HERE.

9. This is the week formerly known as Spring Break, but I will be teaching until Wednesday. We had our "spring break" back in February when the ice storm closed school for several days. (Lucky for me, I actually got my first draft written on those days.)

10. After I turn in Book 3 -- and given time for a Brain Break -- I am going to play with my Shiny New Idea. Step 1 is learning a little more about string theory. (I do worry it's too hard for me to understand, if even Dr. Sheldon Cooper recently gave up on it!!)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Charlie's Scribes Answer My Call for Help with ... Well, Grab a Fan, Ladies ...

Knowing I would be ridiculously busy this week, I put out a call for help to Charlie's Scribes. I didn't specify a topic, so I knew I would be at the mercy of their whimsical nature. 

And I wasn't wrong ... nor can I say that I'm disappointed. Take a lookee below ~

I journeyed far and wide looking for a certain...impeccable topic to do for Dianne. I mean have you been here often? It's always full of wise and awesome tales, topics, and to-do's for writing!
How could I top that?
Until I slammed the brakes on my Chevro-legs. I asked a few questions, drooled quite a bit, then discovered...FARMERS CAN WRITE!

They have a wonderful writer's vocabulary that they just HAD to show me.
And show me they did!!
Come...gather my FARMING WRITERS!

So what did we learn today that's writerly? Always carry a fan!
I mean, never think because someone DOESN'T SEEM like a writer, that someone CAN'T BE a writer. Everyone is just different...and sometimes shirtless...and buff...and tan... oh my, where's my industrial fan!!!???
Post by Charlie's Scribes Angel: Tammy Theriault

Need help with a post? Want to take a much needed break?? 
Contact Bosley at
You snooze...we muse!!!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

A couple weeks ago, J.E. Oneil at Still Writing tagged me for the Writing Process Blog Hop.

1) What am I working on?

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the 4th draft of the third book in the Eighth Day series so I can send it to my editor later this month. It won’t be the final draft, of course. I expect to go through at least 3 more drafts with my editor.

I’m also doing preliminary research and brainstorming for a new project I hope to start this summer. I don’t want to give away the premise at this point, but let’s just say it will be another MG adventure, with science instead of magic at its heart. Okay, one more hint: String theory for kids!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I know the editor who acquired the Eighth Day series researched the “secret day of the week” idea before she offered for my work. She told me later that she didn’t find much on that topic, although Scott Westerfield wrote a series called The Midnighters in which there is a secret hour. (I had never heard of it until she mentioned it, and I don’t plan on reading it until I am finished the Eighth Day series.)

School Library Journal said that The Eighth Daymelds Arthurian legend into present day in much the same way that Rick Riordan uses Greek and Egyptian mythology, with characters being descendants of heroes long thought to be folklore.”

Some readers have commented on the uniqueness of my weaving YA characters so prominently into an MG story. (See the post below.)

As for the Shiny New Idea, I hold my breath every time I scan the Rights Report in PW Children’s Bookshelf, hoping I don’t see anything similar to my new project.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write the kinds of books I like to read, whether that be historical, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, or adventure.

4) How does your writing process usually work?

First comes the premise, followed by the characters, and then a few basic plot points that create a sketchy dot-to-dot outline of the story.

Then comes the torturous first draft, in which I lose my way, doubt my sanity, complain, tear my hair out, and whine a lot on this blog.

Around the time I type THE END on the first draft, I realize what the whole story was supposed to be about in the first place, and I dive immediately into a series of successive drafts, revising until I have the real story polished enough to share with my agent.

Then I hold my breath, waiting to hear what she thinks.

Thanks, J.E., for inviting me to participate. I’m supposed to tag other writers, but I’m pretty shy about doing that, and most people I know are caught up in alphabetical blogging. So, I’m going to cheat and tag Christine Danek, because I know she’s already participating in this hop on April 11!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Non MG Characters in MG Books

Recently, I was asked whether it was difficult to write non-MG characters into a major role in The Eighth Day without fear of losing my audience. The answer was NO, although before the book sold, I was worried about losing potential publishers.

If you write MG or have even considered it, you’ve probably heard that the story must revolve around characters under the age of 14, adult characters are to be kept in the background, and you should never, ever, ever have an adult POV.

Art by high school student Rachel Gillespie
The thing is … this seems to be a publishing industry rule that a) is ignored when the story is good enough and b) gives no credit to MG readers. Kids know when the story is good. They are completely unaware of industry standards, and they couldn't care less about them!

There are three main characters in The Eighth Day:
  • Jax, the protagonist and primary POV, age 13
  • Riley, his guardian, age 18
  • Evangeline, the alternate POV character, age 16 

That’s right. Two important YA characters in a MG novel. Luckily, the editor who acquired my novel saw no need for me to change their ages. She called them aspirational characters, and I think that’s the perfect name for them. I’ve read this book out loud to two reading classes for two years in a row now, and all four groups of MG students LOVED Evangeline and Riley. In fact, the #1 question they all had about Book 2 in the series was: Will Riley and Evangeline be in it?

The fact is, MG readers are not as narrow-minded as some publishers/agents might think. Take Brandon Mull’s wildly popular fantasy series, Fablehaven, and oh yeah, his other wildly popular series, The Beyonders. In each case, there are only 2 MG characters in the books – one boy and one girl. The rest of the cast is composed of adults.

But oh, what adults! Fablehaven has a crossbow-wielding Grandma, and The Beyonders features the displacer Ferrin, who can disassemble his body parts, send them on errands, and then call them back together.

Consider also the Hero’s Guide series by Christopher Healy, where ALL the main characters are adults. There are four adult Princes Charming, not to mention their four corresponding Princesses. Prince Duncan and Snow White are actually married! (Gasp!) But the reason this works in MG is that all these characters have childlike qualities. MG readers relate to their endearing playfulness.

Perhaps that’s the key – whether its playfulness, outlandishness, or aspirational-ness – all characters must bring something to the story that appeals to young readers. Age doesn’t really matter as much as you think.

My CP Krystalyn Drown worried a lot about including an adult POV in her MG book, Tracy Tam: Santa Command (Month9Books, Oct 2014) Tracy is a child and the protagonist, but Phil, an adult, provides an alternate POV. In fact, Phil’s POV opens the book. Krystalyn wondered if she should change that, and I encouraged her to leave it. Her opening is brilliant. Phil works at Santa Command, and he has a crisis with Santa. Who cares how old Phil is?! He has to save Santa!

Luckily, Month9Books felt the same way. They had no problem with Phil, his point of view, or opening the book with him. They told Krystalyn that readers will “love and cheer” when Tracy proves Phil wrong during the climax of the story.

So, I think, when industry professionals tell MG writers to stay away from adult characters, what they really mean is stay away from characters who make adulthood look boring and stodgy. Awesome adults (and young adults) are welcome!

Monday, March 31, 2014

My MG Reader Switches to YA!

How did it happen? My voracious little MG reader has suddenly gone completely YA! Gina has reviewed many a book here on my blog, but today I'm interviewing her as a newly converted YA reader.

1. Gina, thanks for visiting my blog today! Can you list the YA books you’ve read in the last month?

The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, The Twilight saga, Champion by Marie Lu, The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Kootz, Countdown by Michelle Rowen, and Mind Games by Kiersten White.

2. What do you think all these books have in common that draws you to them? (Except for the John Green books, it seems to me that most of them are speculative fiction. Am I right?)

I do enjoy dystopian novels the best, which makes up a good portion of the list above. I really love seeing a whole new world and form of society crafted into a story. I like books that have enough action, not necessarily fights or anything like that, and romance.

3. I was surprised to see you recently reading Kiera Cass’s Selection trilogy, because I thought that was primarily YA romance. (The girls are competing for the prince, right?) So, are you into romance now, or is there something else that drew you to those books?

I don’t have anything against romance related novels, in fact I quite enjoy them, but The Selection wasn’t entirely romance. I once saw a review that said it was like The Hunger Games without all the killing. Which is pretty accurate. It’s just a good book.

4. You saved your money and bought your own Kindle at age 10. Then you proceeded to devour MG books as fast as you could buy them and download them. Now, you’ve upgraded from a second generation Kindle to a Kindle Fire, and suddenly, I notice you only read physical books. What happened? Is the Kindle Fire not as good for reading? Or is there something about YA books that makes you want to hold them (and their gorgeous covers) in your hands?

I don’t particularly enjoy reading on a kindle for several reasons. For one, you don’t get the feel of the book. I enjoy physically having them. Also, it’s much harder to take notes for school or find a scene you are looking for. And in my school, if I try to read on my kindle, I get so many people saying that I’m not allowed to have a kindle in school. Even though I am, in fact, allowed. And even if I tell them that, they bug me endlessly and accuse me of playing games. It’s just much simpler to have the physical books. I only usually buy something on kindle if I want it so badly that waiting a few days just won’t do.

5. I don't think you completely answered my question there, because you used to read TONS of books on your old Kindle.  (Gina shrugs at me.) O-kay, moving on ... What’s the biggest turn-off to you in a YA book?

Well, in the case of the Selection series, the MC’s name was almost enough to make me not buy it. America Singer? Why? And guess what -- she sings. It took me a really long time to get over that. Don’t name characters such cheesy things. PLEASE!

6. What book or series do you wish there had been more of?

This is a hard question. For most of the books I’m thinking of, it simply would not work for more things to happen after it is over. It would have to be in the middle. My two favorite series were The Legend Series and Divergent. I would have loved to see more from those series. Although not just retelling of scenes I’ve already read from another character’s point of view, which is what the author of Divergent is doing.

7. Now it’s time for a shameless plug. Do you recommend THE EIGHTH DAY – and why?

Hmm, I think it’s a good book, but I’ve heard the author is a real pain. (Oh, very funny.) But I mean in all seriousness, I was unable to put The Eighth Day down for almost half the book, while in most YA books only a few chapters are usually that way. I thought it was extremely well written and filled with enough action to keep the story moving on, and makes you want to keep reading.

Gina, thanks for being here today! You've heard it folks: Don't give your characters cheesy names. Don't retell your novels from another character's POV and call it a new book. And write more dystopian despite agents and editors telling you that genre is dead!

And now, my other daughter Gabrielle will reprise her role as the Cue Card Girl from this weekend's high school production of Hairspray to announce the winner of a copy of Marcy Hatch's debut novel, WEST OF PARADISE.

Amy Makechnie, you are the winner! Yay! I will be in touch!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What's Cool, What's Not

First of all, what's NOT cool is that the designers of Wii Fit Plus programmed the darn thing to nag and taunt me. I feel pretty good about trying to exercise after I come home from school, alternating between the Bowflex and the Wii. Considering how many other things I have competing for my attention, I feel downright virtuous just trying to fit it in.

It's not cool for the Wii to criticize my commitment, no matter how small a commitment it is.

Wii: Hello, Dianne. I hope you've been staying away from those afternoon snacks.

Dianne: (glances at snack bowl formerly filled with pretzels) That's none of your business.

Wii: Want to hear a fitness tip?

Dianne: No.

Wii: It's been two days since your last visit. Too busy to work out yesterday, huh? 

Dianne: (flips the bird at the Wii)

It pretty much goes downhill from there. What's MUCH cooler than being nagged by your Wii is getting a box like this on Friday:

Having already been dissed by the Wii, I wasn't going to let a BOX tell me what to do, so I opened it, even though it wasn't Grunsday yet, and found these!

The real, finished, beautiful hardback copies of The Eighth Day!

Then, also very exciting and very cool, yesterday PW Children's Bookshelf carried a trade ad for my book. It's really, really cool to see your book advertised in the PW newsletter!

HarperCollins is giving away more ARCs, so if you can't wait until April 22 -- or if you want your eighth day FREE -- you can enter the giveaway HERE.

So, what's cool and uncool in your life lately?

(I was tempted to discuss the PA state standardized test as another really uncool thing going on right now ... but then we'd be here all day. My rant on the test is going to have to wait for another day ... either a secret eighth day, or a day after I am safely retired.)