From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Censorship in America

Although today we tend to think of censorship as a modern problem, it isn't new at all. You might be surprised to discover just how far back the tradition extends. In ancient times, banning books meant burning books. Books were hand-written, with few copies and burning was a very effective method of eradicating all traces of an idea. However, the advent of the printing press in 1450 made it so much easier to produce a book that it has become virtually impossible to destroy any book completely. (In a side note, the first list of censored books was published in 1559 by the Roman Catholic Church - a list that continued to be printed until 1966.)

  In 1650, 125 years before Thomas Jefferson put pen to paper and laid out the Bill of Rights, The Meritorious Price of our Redemption, Justification, & c. by William Pynchon became the first book banned in America. The book opposed the Purtanical teachings of the day and was immediately banned. It was ordered burned and a day of "fasting and humiliation" followed in order for the citizens to contemplate the role Satan had played in these wild ideas. Only 4 copies of the book survived.

  Although this was the first, it wouldn't be the last time a book was banned in America. Modern censorship was pioneered by Anthony Comstock, founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1872. He was responsible for the "Comstock Law," passed a year later by Congress, which banned the mailing of works deemed to be obscene. Over the next 40 years, it is estimated that over 120 tons of printed works were confiscated. The "obscene" works that were so dangerous? Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, Arabian Nights and works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name a few.

It took the specter of Nazi book-burning to show Congress how wrong the law was. It was repealed in 1933.

Of course, we know that the possibility of censorship continues to exist, even today. And although we celebrate our right to read every year with Banned Books Week, the fight continues. When Judith Krug founded BBW, she wasn't only fighting against the public challenges to ban books. Because a public challenge draws attention, and with enough attention a book may not be banned. Ms. Krug was also fighting against the silent banning of books. You know, the teacher, librarian or parent who will quietly remove a book for someone else's "protection." She estimated that for every one publicly challenged book (and there have been over 4,000 challenges in the last decade alone), there are four to five that go unreported. That's four or five books that disappear from the shelf and no one notices.

Although today burning a book is mostly symbolic - or a way to garner free publicity -when the public doesn't have free access to any book, any idea, it's like that book has been burned. And maybe we didn't start the fire, but when we don't stand up and demand the book's return - demand that censorship stop - it's like we didn't put it out.

We should all celebrate our right to read - anything we want, any time we want. And we should exercise these rights often!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Books Week: Judith Krug's Legacy

Banned Books Week is an event that is observed every year during the last week of the month of September. This year, Banned Books Week runs from September 25 to October 2.

In 1982, librarian Judith Krug helped establish the first Banned Books Week. At the time, Ms. Krug was the director of the American Library’s Association Office for Intellectual Freedom. Ms. Krug is quoted as saying, “…libraries serve the information needs of all of the people in the community — not just the loudest, not just the most powerful, not even just the majority. Libraries serve everyone.”

In fact, Ms. Krug argued that books even she herself found offensive should not be banned from the public at large, and that “My personal proclivities have nothing to do with how I react as a librarian.”

In 2002, Krug related this humorous story to The Chicago Tribune, acknowledging her parents as the people who first instilled in her an appreciation for freedom of speech:

At about the age of twelve, young Judith was caught late one night by her mother with a flashlight and a sex education book.

“It was a hot book; I was just panting,” Krug recalled.

When her mother walked in and asked what she was doing, Krug was forced to show her the book.

“She said, ‘For God’s sake, turn on your bedroom light so you don’t hurt your eyes.’ And that was that,” Ms. Krug said.

Judith Krug died of stomach cancer on April 11, 2009 at the age of 69, but she left a lasting legacy – Banned Books Week celebrates our freedom of expression and our right to read whatever we, as individuals, should so choose.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Celebrate Banned Books Week by exercising your right to read.
Check out the list below of the Top 25 Banned/Challenged Books. Which ones have you already read? Which ones do you want to read? This is the perfect opportunity to choose a book from the list and find out what's inside that has everyone in such an uproar.

1 Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2 Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3 The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4 And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5 Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7 Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8 His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9 TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10 The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11 Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12 It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13 Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15 The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16 Forever, by Judy Blume
17 The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18 Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19 Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20 King and King, by Linda de Haan
21 To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22 Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23 The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24 In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25 Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan

List compiled by the ALA.  Want to see more Banned Books?  Check out the ALA website for the Top 100
As you look through the titles, keep in mind that this isn't an "All Time" list - oh no, this list is the most frequently banned or challenged books from 2000-2009!  All of these books have been banned, or attempted to be banned in the last 10 years.
What is your opinion on banning or restricting access to books?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

E-Books: Blessing or Curse?

Admittedly, I live in a two e-reader household.  I bought a Kindle for my husband as a gift, and about six months later I purchased a Barnes and Noble Nook for myself.  I have stacks and stacks of traditional books that I have purchased over the last few years, some read, some not, but they take up so much space.  That's what attracted me to the world of e-readers.  You can download around 1,500 books to your e-reader, and if that's not enough, you can add a memory card so that you can add to your library.

I'll dispense with the Kindle vs. Nook debate.  The main difference is that the Nook has a touch screen menu at the bottom, whereas the Kindle has a little button-like keyboard.  As far as design, I slightly prefer the Nook for its touchscreen, but the usability is similar to the Kindle.  You can adjust the font size on the screen, so you don't have to worry about text being too small.  Additionally, the screen has no glare and really does appear very similar to a printed page.  I've not yet seen an iPad in use, but I understand it's pretty cool. 

A major advantage to purchasing e-books over printed books is price.  Many e-books can be purchased for $9.99 or less compared to $15 to $20 for the print version.  Both Amazon and Barnes and  Noble offer a selection of free books as well, including many of the classics.  Additionally, you can lend and borrow books from your friends who also own e-readers.  Another great feature is that you can usually download the first chapter or two to see if you like the book before you purchase it.  And, you can shop from home and get the book almost instantly.

By the time my daughters are in college, I'm hopeful that most textbooks can be downloaded onto an e-reader, which is a trend that has already begun.   You know how outrageously expensive hard cover text books are.  Plus, with e-textbooks, they won't have to lug all those heavy books around in a backpack!

As a reader, I'm a fan of the e-book.  They do lack a certain tactile quality that you get from a printed book, but for me, the benefits of e-readers outweigh the comfort I get from cracking open a new printed book.

As a writer, however, I'm wondering how I feel about e-books. I haven't published a book...yet. When I do, however, the reduced royalty in e-book sales versus traditional book sales is disturbing.  With e-books, the publisher takes a greater chunk of the profit and the author and the retailer get the shaft.  If the author can make up the difference by selling a larger volume of books in electronic form, that's fine.  But there are no guarantees for increased sales if your book is released in both electronic and traditional forms.

Collectively, authors should certainly be savvy in negotiations with publishers when it comes to e-book royalties.  In this pivotal time in the publishing industry, authors should bare their backbones to try to shape a future industry that will treat authors equitably. Of course, that's easy for me to say, as someone who's never negotiated a publishing deal.

What are your thoughts on e-books?  Do you feel differently about them from a reader's perspective than you do from a writer's perspective?  I'd love to know your thoughts on e-books in general. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Writing Dialogue

You can walk the walk, but can you talk the talk?

You do it every day. Women do it more than men. You probably started doing it in you crib. What is it? Talking! All of us speak, but we probably give the question “what’s for dinner” more consideration than we do to our ability for speech – or at least we spend more time talking about it, anyway! We simply take conversation for granted. So why is it, then, that creating believable dialogue is such a conundrum for so many talented writers? Ever pick up a book, get enchanted by the plot, then completely lose interest the moment the character opens his or her mouth? Sure, it happens all the time. You can imagine the setting in your mind, feel the scene unfolding – then wham – out of nowhere, the character’s tone or style of speech or stilted language jolt you right out of the story.

Here are some ideas for winning dialogue: 

If you have taken the time to really get to know your Main Character (MC) then you should also take the time to listen to how he/she speaks. Does he/she have a dialect? Use a lot of slang? Talk with the Queen’s English or use more street lingo? Make the dialogue match the MC.

Beware of the “information dump.” Sure, it seems easy enough – you’ve got to work that back story in there somewhere; right? Why not just have your MC give a grand soliloquy and fill all that boring stuff in? Because it is boring is why. It’s a chore to read through a big clump of information. If it’s that important for the reader to know, find a more creative way to weave it into your story.

Limit the adverbs. Yes, your MC might say things “softly,” “loudly,” “proudly,” “bravely,” and a whole host of other “-ly” ending ways. Some editors will advise you to remove all such tags. I come from a poetic background and can’t quite help myself when it comes to adding color. Just watch that you don’t abuse the adverbs. 

A lot of authors read their work out loud. To themselves. Okay, that’s great and all, but honestly, you just don’t hear yourself the way others hear you. Have you ever caught yourself on an answering machine or voice mail, for example, and thought, “Geez, who the hell was that? Oh yeah, that’s me!” Well, it’s like that. So have someone else read your work to you. You get an added bonus from this one – stuff that sounds good/makes perfect sense in your head may not translate so great after you hear it from someone else’s lips.

Be careful not to limit your character. You are not your MC. This is probably the most important thing I can say, so I will repeat it:  You are not your Main Character.  Your MC may say things that offend you – or that you (as an author) are afraid may offend others. Stay true to your MC and let their character unfold through their speech. Give your MC freedom of speech and you will be surprised at how much growth your entire work will receive in return from this.

Lastly, have fun writing! Writing anything – dialogue included – should never be something that you fear or worry over. Submerse yourself in your story. Close your eyes. Let the time and place wash over you, and then open your ears. What do you hear? What are they saying? Write it down! You will soon find that Main Characters have quite a unique way of telling you exactly what they want to say!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

World Building

Both in fiction and nonfiction writing alike, your work should – in some form or another – answer the “big six”:


Like a good recipe, you should add a splash of character, a dollop of plot and a dash of descriptive detail. We have discussed a number of these “ingredients” previously here at Fiction Flurry. Today, we are going to focus on the where.

As fiction writers, we have far greater latitude on this particular point than our fellow nonfiction writers who must stick to “just the facts, ma’am.” Rather than simply confining ourselves to the basic relaying of information like a police blotter (the event occurred at 1:00 p.m. on 123 Main Street), we have the license to create entire universes for our characters to play in, for their lives to unfold in.

However, when creating a brand new world, as a writer you must make the rules and norms of this foreign land familiar to your reader. If all the residents of Land Xulu are purple, for example, then you must show your reader this fact and reinforce it often enough so that Xulu soon becomes equated with blueberry-tinted folks in the reader’s mind. Ultimately, the imaginary world that you have created should be very much real in the mind’s eye of your reader. If you cannot achieve this from the outset, you lose credibility – and ultimately, your reader will be less likely to follow you into the land of make believe. The technical term for this is the suspension of disbelief. When you create a new universe with unique facts and laws of nature, a place that would not otherwise exist in reality, then your reader must pause, set down their preconceived notion of what is and what is not possible, then follow you as you guide them on this voyage.

Let’s look at an example from modern literature. If I were to say to you "Hogwarts," then the majority of you would be able to immediately conjure a fantastical place populated by Wizards, Muggles, and Dementors; with lessons on Divination and Occlumency; and where games of Quidditch break up the long days of studying. If any of these foreign words sound familiar to you, then you know I am talking about the world of Harry Potter as brought to life by author J.K. Rowling. Of course, none of these things exist in real life, yet within the pages of Ms. Rowling’s novels, we are immersed in a new and exciting universe that takes us away, and we go happily along for the ride. This is the wonder of the suspension of disbelief, and what is possible when you invest in solid world building.

World building is just one more tool in the writer’s kit. Even if you are not creating an entirely new universe, as an author you should make sure and certain that your characters, plot and storyline are all feasible within the confines of your particular novel, short story or poem. Immerse your reader into this world, and just see where the imagination can take you!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Get to Know the Members of Fiction Flurry

Wow, what a great response we had from BlogFest!  Welcome to everyone new, and welcome back to those of you who have followed Fiction Flurry for a while.  Your comments provided a wealth of ideas for future posts.  I had intended on doing a post on banned books, which some of you suggested.  However, when I was researching, I learned that "Banned Book Week" is less than two weeks away, so I'll reserve that post to coincide with that week.

In the alternative, since we have so many new followers, I thought I'd give you a general introduction to the contributors.  Fiction Flurry is comprised of the members of a local writers group in Marysville, Ohio, spear-headed by yours truly.  We meet for two hours every other week to discuss writing tips, offer each other suggestions for agents and conferences, and most of all, to critique each other's work. 

We've turned what other groups might consider a challenge into one of our strengths.  We all write in different genres.  Though we may not know the particular requirements of each other's genres, we've decided that a good story is a good story, no matter the genre.  There should be conflict, engaging characters, strong dialogue, a descriptive sense of place and time, an ebb and flow to the pacing, and a plot that holds the readers interest from the first to the last page.  Simple!  (Ha)

I don't want to speak for our contributors.  Each of them might choose to do a post, or at least an opening to a post, introducing themselves in detail.  I'll start the introductions with little old me, and then give you a general introduction to our other wonderful contributors.

I'm Rachel Dilley, and I spend most of my time as a wife, mother, full time paralegal, amateur genealogist, wanna-be historian, and slowly developing writer.  I obtained my B.A. degree in English, but ended up in the legal profession.  There is a lot of writing involved in my job as a paralegal...dry, boring pieces with words such as heretofore, therefrom, and adjudication.  That's part of the reason I decided to start a writers group.  I enjoy writing, but my experience was limited to legal briefs.  I needed motivation to write artful things.  (Artful, not awful.  OK, perhaps some of my stories have been awful.)

My writing for the past two years has primarily consisted of short stories and personal essays.  I try, unsuccessfully, to maintain my own blog, which you can see here.  This year, I've had a little bit of publishing success with my personal essays.  You can see my essay published in the Columbus Dispatch here, and my essay in BGSU Magazine here.  Hopefully, there will be more publications to come.

Now, meet the rest of our regular contributors:

Michele Downey writes mainly paranormal romance and is a stickler for proper grammar and punctuation, to our benefit.  She is a great proofreader with a keen attention to detail.  The heroes in her fiction are always dark and handsome, just the way they should be in romance.  Michele is married to a history buff and can recite Ken Burns's miniseries "The Civil War" by memory, if not by choice.  Check out her blog here.

John Kershaw is the newest member of Fiction Flurry.  He is a seasoned character who has spent time in the Ukraine teaching English.  He has published a novel based on his experiences there.  John likes historical fiction of the 20th century variety.  He is married with grown children.  Here is a link to his book:  The Farm at Novestroka

Annie McElfresh is the baby of the group.  She writes in the Young Adult genre specializing in paranormal.  Annie is very active in the YA community and is "in the know" regarding agents and publishing deals in her genre.  Plus, she reads more books than anyone I know.  Check out her blog here.

Colleen Scott is our resident Wonder Woman.  She home schools her four children and still has time to be a prolific writer.  Colleen focuses on Christian/Inspirational fiction specializing in romance/suspense.  She is the queen of pacing in her fictional works, and in life.

Beth Zellner allows her accomplished skill in poetry to spill over into her fiction.  The result is beautifully written prose that can be classified as literary fiction.  She is very close to finishing her first novel, which is set in the mountains of West Virginia in the early 20th century.  Beth's blog can be found here.

Additionally, we have a contributor emeritus, Regency romance author Susan Gee Heino.  Susan has just published her second book, Damsel in Disguise (Berkley Sensation).  Her first book, Mistress by Mistake (Berkley Sensation), was released in late 2009.  Susan's books feature a wit and sense of humor not always seen in romance novels.  Check out her blog here.

That's all, folks.  We're glad you're here.  Stop by our comment section and let us know a little bit about YOU!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Winners of Blog Fest 2010

THANK YOU for your participation in Blog Fest 2010! You made this year’s event a FABULOUS SUCCESS! Also, to everyone who left a comment, we promise to touch on as many of these topics as we can cover! Your suggestions were greatly appreciated! Without further adieu, the 2010 BLOG FEST WINNERS ARE:

EVA SB won The Sisters Mallone by Louisa Ermelino

Iris on Books won The Touch by Colleen McCullough

Atypical Girl won A Blade of Grass by Lewis Desoto

Tribute Books won Swift as Desire by Laura Esquivel

K_Sunshine1977 won The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

Limabean won The Last Juror by John Grisham

Sharon S. (sstogner) won The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer

Tabbylewis won The Appeal by John Grisham

Justpeachy36 won Sunset in St. Tropez by Danielle Steel

Hendy won Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg

If you see yourself on this list – CONGRATS! Please send an email to us at with your street address, and your book will be sent to you via United States Postal Service.

If you did not see your name, don’t despair! We run great contests, so visit often for another chance to win!

Here’s to Blog Fest 2010 and a special note of gratitude to A Journey of Books for making all of this possible!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Welcome to Blog Fest 2010!

We’d like to welcome you to Fiction Flurry! First, who are we? Well, the Fiction Flurry blog grew out of the Marysville (Ohio) Writers Group. We are a gathering of writers from every single genre: literary fiction, romance, YA, paranormal, Christian, essayists, self-published and then some! We chose the name because it sounds like a yummy treat! We post on books and writing. If you like to talk literary arts, this is the place for you! After Blog Fest is over, we hope you will come back to visit often.

To celebrate Blog Fest, we are giving away *TEN* great books to *TEN* lucky winners. It is SO EASY to win. Every single BLOG FOLLOWER gets one entry into our contest. If you leave us a comment answering this question, you will get THREE ENTRIES to win.

Here’s the question: what would you like to see discussed here at the Fiction Flurry blog? Do you have an idea for a topic or a posting? Is there a particular genre that you’d like to learn more about?

That’s it – all you have to do is leave us some feedback, and you could win one of these books:

A Blade of Grass: A Novel (P.S.)Standing in the RainbowSwift as Desire
The Tenth Circle: A NovelSunset in St. Tropez
The Appeal
The Tenth JusticeThe Sisters Mallone: Una Storia Di Famiglia
The Touch: A Novel
Last Juror

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Preparing For Writing Conference

It's that time of year again...writing conferences are taking place all over the country. RWA had their conference in the summer, Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers conference had a fantastic turnout in August.

As I am writing this, I am desperately preparing for the ACFW conference that is taking place in Indianapolis next week. I'll be updating this blog regularly from the conference with information on classes, editor and agent meetings and of course the awards!

What is your favorite writers conference to attend? What do you do to prepare?

Until next week...Happy Writing!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Contest Winner

Congratulations to Janine on winning a copy of A Timely Vision by Joyce and Jim Lavene!

Check out Janine's blog here:

Thanks for following, Janine, and please see the contest rules to collect your booty:)

A Timely Vision (A Missing Pieces Mystery)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Interview with Diann Ducharme, Author of The Outer Banks House

The Outer Banks House: A Novel  Get ready for a special guest, Fiction Flurriers!  Today we have an interview with Diann Ducharme, whose debut novel, The Outer Banks House, was released by Crown this spring.  I first noticed the book when it was featured in Writers Digest as a notable debut.  You can read my review of the book here.

So here we go!  Thanks to Diann Ducharme for taking the time to hang out with us here on Fiction Flurry.

Your novel, The Outer Banks House, takes place in 1868 on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, barrier islands rich in history. Tell us about your research process.
I first read about 75 nonfiction books about the Outer Banks and the country, especially North Carolina, during and immediately after the Civil War. After I’d digested all of that information, a lot of my research involved actually visiting places that I’d read about in those books, mostly on the Outer Banks but also in Edenton, NC, where my characters are from.
As much as I liked calling myself a lover of the Outer Banks, I found that I didn’t know half as much as I thought I did. Everyone has heard of the large dune system called Jockey’s Ridge, located in Nags Head. But a much smaller dune system exists to the north of a unique maritime forest called Nags Head Woods. The dune system, called Run Hill, is pretty much a secret to most visitors of the Banks—eerily quiet in the dead of summer. This is where I found the trees—the northernmost beginnings of Nags Head Woods—whose trunks were buried in sand. I also drove through Nags Head Woods, which was another ecosystem I didn’t know existed on the Banks. The unique trees and flowers grow there in the shelter of the Jockey’s Ridge dunes. It was all so beautiful and special that I just had to put my characters there.
During my research, I also learned about the Freedmen’s Colony on Roanoke Island, of which I’d heard nothing about either. I read a terrific book called Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony by Patricia Click, which taught me everything there was to know about the Freedmen’s Colony. I knew that my characters would have to go there to further their development.
I also learned during my research that many residents of the Banks were pro-Union during the Civil War. As much as North Carolina is considered a southern state, it was interesting for me to know that the people of the islands didn’t necessarily hold the beliefs that were championed by people of the mainland. This fact helped me to form Ben’s character, as well as create a picture of the independent-mindedness of the people of the Banks.

The Outer Banks has changed a lot in the past 30 years, since I started vacationing there as a kid. What do you like best about the Outer Banks, and what changes, good or bad, strike you the most?

The Outer Banks is a long, skinny chain of barrier islands that run along a good portion of the coast of North Carolina. One the one side, the ocean crashes against the naked sand, all drama. On the other side, the sounds caress the maritime thickets and marshland, more forgiving. Just as I like my friends with inner peace and natural kindness, yet sprinkled with a wicked sense of humor—an edge if you will—so do I respect the duality on the Banks—the split personalities. Nothing there stays the same—everything is dynamic, fleeting—yet the tiny strip of land still hangs on, facing the wild weather year after year. When I am there, I feel more alive, more in touch with the natural world; it is my favorite place on earth.
Despite its enduring natural beauty, most of the Outer Banks are commercially developed now. There are little strip malls and houses everywhere you look, especially on the middle part of the upper Banks. It was challenging and kind of enjoyable to imagine what the Banks must have looked like before the rather recent boom in construction.
Even though the crowds and traffic and fast food joints bother me at times, I don’t blame people for wanting a piece of this island for themselves (and thus for wanting to build vacation homes there). I myself have vacationed in Nags Head since I was three years old. Going to the beach in August with my family was something that I looked forward to all year. About 20 years ago, friends of my parents sold us some land, and my parents built a house in Kill Devil Hills, a village just north of Nags Head. I spent three summers at the house during college and graduate school, earning my way with tips from waiting tables. Now my own children look forward to time at the beach house, and are learning to enjoy all that the Outer Banks has to offer. The Outer Banks is, for me and many, many others, both a stimulating refuge and a golden memory.

How long did it take you to write the book, and what is your self-editing process?

It took me about three years to research and write the book. In the beginning, I re-read every sentence after I wrote it to see if sounded alright. It usually didn’t! So there was a whole lot of re-writing going on. But as I got more used to the writing process, I wrote full paragraphs and sections without self-editing, and then I would re-read it all the next day, and of course re-write most of it. The novel was a series of two steps forward, three steps back! I am much faster and less discriminating now.

The characters in your book have very distinctive voices, and you alternate points of view between the two main characters, Abigail and Ben. Was it difficult to jump from Abigail’s head into Ben’s and back again while writing the book? Had you considered only using only one character’s point of view or telling the story in third person?

It wasn’t as difficult to change points of view as I thought it would be. Ben’s voice actually came very easily to me (no, I don’t talk like a southern “Banker”! He always seemed like a good friend to me—I have no idea where he came from). Abigail’s voice was a bit harder for me, using the first-person point of view, because I didn’t want her to sound too much like me—a boring, twenty-first century wife and mother. See, a lot of Abigail’s bookish, teacher-minded, stuffy character traits are also mine! She needed to also have a raging inner fire, which I only have on certain days of the month.
I originally wrote from Abigail, Ben, Uncle Jack, and Winnie’s perspectives, but when editing the manuscript for my agent, I removed Winnie’s chapters, mostly in an effort to shorten and streamline the novel. The “Uncle Jack” chapter started off the novel (my agent loved this chapter), but this chapter was removed when editing the novel for my editor—she didn’t understand why I started the novel with a character who immediately dies! But the chapter isn’t completely gone; I am going to put this chapter on my website so that everyone can read it!

Tell us about how you found your agent and about your overall publishing experience.

I have attended the James River Writers conferences in Richmond for the past six years. The many insightful sessions at the conference helped my writing immensely and perhaps more importantly, gave me the courage to keep writing in a sometimes difficult profession. I met my agent Byrd Leavell at the conference after sending in the first five pages of my manuscript for a conference session that involved an actor reading the pages and a panel of editors and agents critiquing them. Byrd liked the writing (the “Uncle Jack” chapter) and said that he’d like to see more, so I introduced myself after the session and I eventually (eight months later!) sent my completed manuscript to him in New York. I edited the manuscript for him (shortening it by about 25,000 words), and he sent it to about 10 publishing houses around six months later.
It struck a chord with editor Lindsay Orman at Three Rivers Press (an imprint of Crown and Random House), and Three Rivers Press quickly made me an offer. The book was also chosen to be published by Crown, which prints hardbacks (I’m not sure how or why this happened). Lindsay loved the book almost as much as I did, so the editing process was full of positive vibes. However, a year after taking the book on, Lindsay decided to go to law school, so I was transferred to a new editor, Heather Proulx Lazare. Of course, she is also lovely and very professional, so the transition was easy. It took two years for the novel to be published, due to the fact that it was an early summer release.
Full circle, four years later, I will be on a James River Writers conference panel myself (October 9, 2010), sharing my story (from manuscript to agent to editor and publishing) and hopefully inspiring others. My editor Heather Lazare is planning to attend the conference as well.

Are you working on another novel?

This past spring I completed my second novel, tentatively titled Chasing Eternity. It’s about Ryan Abernathy, an uptight geneticist and longevity researcher who travels to an island off the western coast of Ireland to meet with and collect DNA samples from two elderly twin sisters, whose genes hold potential for his research. He meets with a local woman—the great-granddaughter of one of the twins-- who captivates him with old stories and myths and family lore. One story describes a clan of the oldest people the world has ever heard of, and Ryan must separate truth from reality in his ultimate quest for lifespan extension. My agent recently sent the manuscript to 12 houses, so stay tuned!

I am also working on a sequel to The Outer Banks House.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have a long list that is always changing! Currently at the top of the list: Sena Jeter Naslund, Anita Shreve, Ian McEwan, Elizabeth Berg, Jane Austen, Anne Tyler, Sarah Blake

What advice do you have for writers just starting out?
Write a little bit every day, but think about your writing (I call it marinating) when you aren’t writing. The best ideas usually occur to me when I’m not sitting at the computer. I only had small amounts of time during the day during which I could write (my daughter was only a baby), but I made it a point to sit down at my desk almost every day and stare at what I thought was my terribly crappy novel. The staring eventually turned into tinkering with words and phrases, and sometimes, if I was lucky, good ideas for moving my novel forward. Have patience. When I’m on a roll, writing is the most joyful thing I’ve ever done.

Thanks again, Diann!  We wish you much success with your book!

Please check out Diann's website at

Thursday, September 2, 2010

BookMarks: What (and HOW!) Our Writers are Reading

Like Fiction Flurry contributor Colleen Scott says, “One of the best parts of being a writer is that you get to read!” Absolutely true! In order to improve your craft and also just for the sheer joy of it, all writers should be readers, too. That is why every couple of weeks we like to TALK BOOKS. We like to share what we are reading – from the inane to the profound – and hear what you are reading. I have found many of my favorite books simply by word of mouth from friends and colleagues. (And the flip side to that is plenty of the titles I haven’t enjoyed quite so well have been lifted straight from “best of” lists.)

When I sent out my “what are you reading” email to everyone this week, I got a very interesting reply from Rachel. She wrote she would have to get back to me, as she was in the process of reading three books simultaneously: one in the traditional written form; one as an audio book; and one on her Nook! It’s not that unusual to be reading more than one item at a time, but her answer really resonated with me, and how different our industry is today than even a scant ten years ago. (Rachel even blogged a little about it, and you can read that post here.)

So in addition to sharing what we are reading with you, I’d like to pose this question to everyone: how do you read? Do have an e-reader? Do you “read” in your car using audio books? Are you not ready (or willing) to put down your ink and paper copy quite yet? Let us know your thoughts! In the meantime, here are some books you might want to consider (no matter how you choose to read them):

Michele Downey: Eight Days To Live by Iris Johansen

Why I choose this book: I have read a few Iris Johansen books in the past - she used to write straight romance, then veered into romantic suspense - this book is straight mystery, part of a series about a forensic sculptor who reminds me of the character from Bones. It wasn't what I was expecting, but it is a good read.

Rachel Dilley: I'm currently reading Crafting The Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction by Dinty W. Moore. Besides the fact that the author's name reminds me of canned stew, I chose this book for pretty obvious reasons -- I want to learn to write better essays. My only publishing success thus far has been in the personal essay market, so I'm going with what works!

Annie McElfresh:   The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller:  Haven Moore can’t control her visions of a past with a boy called Ethan, and a life in New York that ended in fiery tragedy. In our present, she designs beautiful dresses for her classmates with her best friend Beau. Dressmaking keeps her sane, since she lives with her widowed and heartbroken mother in her tyrannical grandmother’s house in Snope City, a tiny town in Tennessee. Then an impossible group of coincidences conspire to force her to flee to New York, to discover who she is, and who she was.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Self Publishing: A First-Hand Account

The Farm at Novestroka
We have a new member in our writers group!  John Kershaw joined us a few weeks ago, and he's decided to write a post about his experience with self-publishing his book, The Farm at Novestroka.  It's a novel inspired by John's time in the Ukraine as an English teacher. 

John's not set up yet on Fiction Flurry as a contributor, so he e-mailed his post to me and I'm posting on his behalf.  Here it is:

A generation ago, self publishing was much more expensive then it is today. Method of printing required that thousands of copies be printed in order that the price of a single copy could be low enough for the average reader. The usual vanity publishing company required the author to come up with the thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars needed to produce thousands of books. Most vanity publishers had little or no method for selling books so the author received at best a pickup load of books and a sudden need to become a book seller.

Electronic means of printing has eliminated the need to stock large quantities of books. Print on demand publishers can, in fact, print and sell a single copy at acceptable price. Today an author can self publish a book for less than a thousand dollars. There are some “Print on Demand” (POD) publishers that will publish books at no charge. Many of these are “not for profit” publishers organized for the purpose of encouraging local authors. Their only income is from the sale of the books they publish. A high percentage of these sales are to the authors.

In the year 2002, I decided to publish a book with the self publishing company, XLIBRIS. XLIBRIS mailed me a catalog that described two levels of service, BASIC ($500) and PROFESSIONAL ($800). I selected PROFESSIONAL because it allowed greater freedom with cover design, and it included Library of Congress and Copyright registration for which BASIC required additional charge.

I mailed them a check and a diskette containing the 85,000 word manuscript. Within a few weeks I received an email instructing me on how to obtain an Adobe Acrobat reader at no charge. Shortly thereafter the proof copy arrived in a PDF file. I was to examine it and make any needed changes. For changes correcting my goofs, there was a charge. I forget the amount, but it didn’t seem excessive at the time. For changes correcting their goofs there was no charge. While gathering information for the story I encountered two different spellings for the capitol of Ukraine , “Kyiv” or “ Kiev ”. I used both, thinking I would at some point decide which was the most common and use that spelling. The newspapers in that city used “Kyiv” so I decided to make it that, but I forgot to make the change before sending the manuscript. It cost me.

Xlibris used en dashes at every place the manuscript called for a hyphen. There were so many that I asked them to change them the modern way by using the word processor command “search and change.” They changed one of them. The others are still in the book.
For various reasons, I used a fictitious name for the village, “Novestroka.” While in Ukraine I searched for a village that was nearly like the one I described in the book. I found one that I could photograph from the top of a cliff.
A significant portion of the story involves a desperate effort to harvest a large field of winter wheat in spite of the fact that the Germans had destroyed all the modern harvesting equipment. The POV characters went to their junk yard and hauled out the old reaper-binders eventually producing fields full of sheaves. To get a picture of a field full of sheaves, I waited for the right time and went to Amish country and there they were. The subtitle in Ukrainian gave the designers more grief than anything else about the cover, but all told I am happy with the job they did.
I sent Xlibris the manuscript on February 15, 2002. Their memo congratulating me on completion of the book is dated August 9, 2002. It took less than six months and part of that was time I took examining the proofs.

The soft cover copies I received seemed as good as any found in book stores. I am particularly proud of my hard copy version. However, I discovered that XLIBRIS does not involve itself in the production of large orders of books. It contracts to other printing houses. On my order for 100 copies, the books came from a printer in Winchester , VA. Had this printer shipped me books of defective quality, as XLIBRIS put it, they would stand by my side in negotiations with the printer.
Now comes the key element needed for the financial success of the book, the means for selling it. Sad to say, the self publishing company of today is no better equipped than the self publishing company of a generation ago. Xlibris has slowly been developing the services for selling books, but they are at the author’s expense, and there is no guarantee of success.

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