Diana Renn

Mysteries that Matter

Author

I’m so, so excited to announce a new book deal — and my first foray into Middle Grade! Fitzroy Books, an imprint of Regal House Publishing, acquired my new mystery, TROUBLE AT TURTLE POND, for publication in Spring 2022. It’s a friendship-centered eco-mystery, about a team of self-appointed young wildlife rangers who try to stop a series of crimes against local endangered turtles – think HOOT meets HELLO, UNIVERSE.

Regal House is a traditional independent publisher putting out a wide range of books for kids, teens, and adults. I’ve been snatching up some of their recent and past titles, reading avidly, and am honored to be in the company of such a talented team of authors and editors. (And they have beautiful covers!) This is an exciting new chapter in my writing career, with a new age group and a new publisher, so I’ll be sharing plenty of news and updates here along the way. Meanwhile, here’s the official deal announcement in Publisher’s Marketplace!

Screenshot from Publisher's Marketplace deal announcement

Wow – BLUE VOYAGE was selected as a 2016 “Must-Read” for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts! I’m so honored to be in the company of these amazing authors. Congratulations to all Massachusetts Book Awards winners and honorees! Do check out all the great reads across categories on their poster, which will be distributed to libraries throughout the state. (Blue Voyage is listed on the right sidebar, second from the bottom).

 

As of this morning, I’m the parent of a Kindergartner! My son had a successful launch into the next phase of his education, thanks to shiny red “power shoes,” superhero underwear (a must!), a friendly welcome letter from the Kindergarten teacher, and weeks of parental coaching. (We must have read all the “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” books ten times each in August!) Equal parts nervous, excited, and proud, my little scholar walked into the building today and did not look back.

The start of school for my son means a return to regular working hours for me. (Cheers! Applause! Confetti! Balloons!) Don’t get me wrong. I love spending time with him. He won’t have another summer of being five. But I do get antsy and cranky when I’m pulled away from a project for too long. It’s been a loooong August, and some of my carefully laid childcare plans unexpectedly fell through. I had to ease up on my ambitious production goals and be grateful for pages I could produce, or snatches of writing time I could grab. Not easy. I’m the kind of person who sets daily word count goals and often exceeds them. When I can’t actually get to my computer some days, I start twitching. I scrawl stuff on napkins and mutter to myself.

While hanging out on numerous playgrounds and water parks last month, I found I could occasionally read short articles and blog posts on my phone. I came across some that kept the embers of inspiration burning.

Here are four gems. I hope you’ll enjoy them too!

1. Midge Raymond’s blog, Remembering English. This is a treasure trove of weekly writing prompts. Even if you can’t get to a computer or paper, you can think them through in your head. It is also a companion to her
new book Everyday Writing, a slim volume packed with advice for carving out a writing life even when you’re incredibly busy with other demands on your time.

2. An article in the Hunger Mountain Review: “The Landscape Unseen,” by Lynne Kelly. I absolutely loved this article. Lynne Kelly is the author of the middle grade novel CHAINED, a fantastic, moving story about an elephant and a boy in India. A country she has never visited in person. In this article, she writes about how she researched her setting, and offers many insights into how you can write about a place from afar with accuracy and conviction.

3. Over at my group blog, Sleuths Spies & Alibis, there’s a great interview: Kristen Kittscher interviews debut author W.H. Beck about her new middle grade novel MALCOLM AT MIDNIGHT (which just launched yesterday!) This meaty discussion has a lot of great writing tips, and Beck’s lengthy journey to publication, across many, many drafts is inspiring. (The book is a madcap mystery/adventure about a rat in a middle school, and it’s illustrated by Brian Lies — how cool is that! Even if you don’t find rodents particularly inspiring, do check out the interview!)

4. A fabulous article by Keith Ridgway in The New Yorker: “Everything is Fiction.” I love the argument that just by living and narrating our days, we are creating fiction. Also, I’m a compulsive researcher, and this author’s attitude toward research gave me a startlingly new perspective. He claims that he does no research! (“Research is its own slow fiction, a process of reassurance for the author. I don’t want reassurance. I like writing out of confusion, panic, a sense of everything being perilously close to collapse.”) Yikes! Read it. Eye-opening. I’m not sure I’d ever give up research — I’m a stickler for accuracy — but it did make me wonder, when I get bogged down in researching details, am I doing this for the reader and the story? Or to reassure myself? What if I just made stuff up, and researched for accuracy later?

So there you go. A little productive web-surfing.

What blogs, articles, or websites have inspired you or shifted your thinking lately? 

How do you stir the creative embers when you can’t get to your desk?

Shaking up my writing life in a Crazy Barn!

Where do writers go on vacation? To Storyland, of course!

It sounds like a lame joke, but in my case it’s true. I just returned from a mini-trip to New Hampshire with my husband and son. And we did indeed go to Storyland, a children’s theme park.

Storyland is less overwhelming (and way less expensive) than Disneyland. It’s also perfect for a five-year-old book lover and his book-loving parents. It has a retro feel — parts of the park, and some rides, are decades old — and its old-timey sweetness is a nice counterbalance to the mass marketing of childhood on TV and in the aisles of Target. You can ride to a Cinderella’s castle in a big orange pumpkin. Enter the house of the Three Bears and lie down in Baby Bear’s bed. Crawl into a shoe, formerly occupied by the Little Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe. Soar in a Dutch clog, whirl through a cuckoo clock, glide in a flying fish, or levitate and rotate in a crazy barn.

Humpty Dumpty, cracking me up

I’ve never been big on amusement parks, but having a child forces you to leave your preferences and your quiet routines and ride the occasional roller coaster. This is not a bad thing, I’ve decided. Anything that takes you a little off your beaten path and gives you some new perspective is good for your writing life. If twirling in a fiberglass turtle, at high speeds, won’t shake loose a few new ideas, I don’t know what will!

What do you do to shake up your writing life, or your life in general? What vacations have taken you out of your comfort zones?

The YAmazing Race is officially over! Winners of the race will be announced tomorrow on the Apocalypsies blog. The winner of my bonus contest for TOKYO HEIST will be announced tomorrow on this blog. (That contest runs until midnight EST, due to a Rafflecopter quirk, so there’s still a little time to enter!)

I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for stopping by on the YAmazing Race, and for participating in my bonus contest. I’m awed by the amount of people who left thoughtful comments, who went over to my  Facebook page, who tweeted or retweeted, and who also checked out the Sleuths Spies and Alibis blog and followed us on Twitter. It takes time, energy, and effort to do all this. Many other things were demanding your time — work, classes, family, friends, sleep, other books to read — but you chose to spend some of your time following an elaborate blog hop. You got acquainted with many debut authors (over 60 if you did the whole thing!) and added to your already lengthy TBR lists. How wonderful!

As debut authors, we notice and greatly appreciate your support of our books. I was speaking at a writing conference this past weekend with two fellow Apocalypsies, and at one point all our phones were vibrating with notifications of Facebook “likes” and comments left on our blogs by race participants. We love knowing readers are out there, and that the passion for books is alive and well, even with so many other things competing for people’s attention.

I read every comment that was left on this blog, and have added to my own lengthy lists of new books to check out. Starting tomorrow, I’ll post some of the highlights from the comments people left: intriguing Japanese-related books and manga, plus the top favorite artists you shared.

Thanks so much for participating!

I’m playing hooky from my blog today, and guest posting at YA author Stasia Kehoe’s YEAR OF AUDITIONS. What happened when a movie company descended up on my high school? Come journey with me back to 1988, big hair, and a little rock n roll musical that dared to dream!