Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Inspiration Plus Investigation Leads to Publication

Thought for the day:  A smart person isn't someone who knows all the answers; it's someone who knows where to look for them.


And Dianne Salerni definitely qualifies as one of those smart people. She's the kind of person who, when faced with something that piques her curiosity, loves to crawl down the research rabbit hole to explore every little nook and cranny to see where the information leads her. And then, lucky for us, she utilizes that information to write wonderful books.

In January, 2012, I featured a post about Dianne's first book, We Hear the Dead, a really cool historical novel about the Fox sisters, seances, and the birth of spiritualism. During the Q & A session on that post, she stimulated our appetites by telling us a little something about the plans for her next book.  Guess what? (ta-DA!) That next book is being served TODAY! Yep. It's finally time for lunch  launch.




As much as I enjoyed Dianne's first book, I enjoyed this one even more. A quickie review:

Verity leaves the safety and comfort of life in a modern (by mid-1800 standards, anyway) city to move to a podunk town to live with a father she barely knows and marry a man she's never met. There, she discovers the graves of her mother and aunt, inexplicably covered by metal cages, and placed beyond the boundaries of the church's consecrated burial grounds. She wants answers. 

In a skillfully woven tale, Salerni delivers those answers. Verity encounters ugly rumors, malice, and danger, but she also finds her mother's stash of diaries, unexpected romance, and eventually, the truth. 


 ***


Reeeeeally good. Lots of intrigue, and a VERY good read.



Psssst! Wanta see pictures of the actual Pennsylvania gravesites that inspired Dianne to write this book? 





     Cool, huh? Gives a whole new meaning to don't fence me in. (The book is even cooler!)

No Q & A this time around. This time, the lovely Dianne has written a guest post for us, and her topic?

                                                         Writing Historical. 

Writing a novel is hard, really hard, no matter the genre. But people often ask me about the research involved in writing a historical novel. Where do I get the information?

I have no idea how writers did it before the Internet. Books? How did they find books that contained the exact details they needed? Historical societies? I imagine authors spent a lot of time poring through aged letters and journals, searching for the everyday aspects of life that are essential for bringing a historical novel to life.

For me – Google is my friend. And so, of course, are the historical societies that post documents and photographs online so I can view them without visiting the archives in person. In writing THE CAGED GRAVES, I read accounts of the Wyoming Massacre (1778) that were written less than a hundred years after the event, nineteenth century descriptions of the history and settlement of Catawissa, Pennsylvania, lists of businesses and a census, diary entries written in the early 1800’s, and photographs of the region taken shortly after the Civil War. All without leaving my home.

Some things were still hard to pin down. How long would it take to travel by train from Worcester, Massachusetts to Catawissa? Which neighboring towns were less than a day’s travel away – and in existence at the right time? I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how someone would acquire ornamental plants in a time when florists and nurseries were non-existent. Eventually common sense prevailed. My main character would acquire clippings from a neighbor who already had those plants. (How the neighbor got them – not my problem!)

One of the most interesting internet hunts I’ve ever done was for a different historical fiction manuscript, (not THE CAGED GRAVES – so no spoilers here). I needed to know how someone would handle an accidental poisoning by arsenic in 1885. Try googling that!  I did turn up a newspaper article describing an accidental poisoning of an entire family in the mid-1800’s. From that article I was able to identify symptoms and recovery rates, but not how they were treated.

Eventually, through Google Books, I stumbled across a 1903 cookbook. (I figured 20 years off was close enough.) In the back of the cookbook, there was a section titled: What to do Before the Doctor Arrives. It listed various types of household poisons and recommended treatment for each. In the case of arsenic, in case you’re wondering, the recommendation was to induce vomiting with salt water, have the victim swallow raw egg whites to coat the stomach, and if the doctor didn’t arrive quickly, make the victim eat rust.

Yes, rust. Iron binds with arsenic. The doctor, when he arrived, would be administering a suspension of ferric hydroxide and magnesium oxide, which is basically … um, also rust. Who knew?

*****

Thanks, Dianne. Guess what, y'all? Dianne is offering a FREE copy of The Caged Graves... yes, that's right, I said absolutely FREE---FREE---FREE Kindle version of her book to one of you fine folks who comments here. With the help of our cats, (They insist on helping with EVERYTHING.) I'll be drawing one of your names out of a hat at 11 PM EST this coming Thursday. (If you'd like to opt out of the drawing, please let me know in your comment, okay?) GOOD LUCK!


                                                                    Thanks, Dianne!

                                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.




Pssst! Every comment left here this month will also earn you a chance to win a free copy of my book. Mention it on your blog, and earn another two chances. (What's a little blatant bribery between friends?)

87 comments:

  1. I've never heard of caged graves, Diane, that's a first for me, although some iron fencing was used to surround some of the gravesites in Pere Lachaise in Paris.

    A great idea for a story. I am intrigued. Thanks for info about the book and the author, Susan.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I'm glad you're intrigued. Until Dianne told us about the caged graves last year, I'd never heard of them, either, but I'll tell ya what... she put some very satisfying meat on the bones of that great idea.

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  2. "The Caged Graves" truly does sound fascinating. Thanks for letting us know about it.

    Anyone who ventures into the realms of creating a novel should know as much as possible about their subject matter. This is even more imperative for writers of historical novels. I've known a few of these writers and the amount of research involved is incredible. Readers are very perceptive and quickly notice inaccuracies.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. It IS fascinating, cowboy!

      I agree. People who write a book allegedly based on history (or science... even MORE of an imperative to me) have got to do their homework first, because inaccuracies are definite turn-offs.

      Delete
  3. Oh my gosh! How intriguing! I've never seen caged graves before. Now I want to read the book to find out more!

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  4. Hi Susan .. your book is on my wish list - I tried to buy it already ... I have to wait I now note!

    Dianne's Caged Graves certainly intrigues .. and it's on my list to read ...

    I'm going to enjoy both books .. cheers Hilary

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    Replies
    1. Be patient, luv. It'll be released soon.

      And I hope you DO enjoy both. Cheers!

      Delete
  5. Oooh. The marvels of the internet. And of the talented people I have found here. And sadly I am finding far too many talented writers who fill my greedy eyes and heart with avarice. And yes, both women featured today fall firmly into that category. I have no more room for books. I have no will power. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. HA! I know what you mean. I'm pretty sure I was born with a book in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, and it's been a lifelong pursuit to keep reading every book I can. But it's impossible to read 'em all, doggone it.

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  6. Writing a novel is hard, really hard...

    I have to stillborn novels on my hard drive right now.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Maybe it's time to hone your resuscitation skills?

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  7. Wow, I never knew that about rust. The things you learn.

    congrats on your book. It sounds fascinating.

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    1. That rust tidbit is pretty cool, huh? (Her book IS fascinating!)

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  8. Thanks so much for hosting me here today, Sue! I'm so glad you're celebrating the book launch with me!

    As for arsenic poisoning, I forgot to mention that it was a very common occurrence because arsenic was used in many household products -- not just rat poison, but even wallpaper glue. So, if a baby ripped off a piece of loose wallpaper and ate it, you needed that remedy in the back of the cookbook.

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    1. My pleasure! (I hope you sell a bazillion copies!)

      Interesting additional info about arsenic being a common ingredient in household products once upon a time. (As if lead weren't bad enough!)

      Delete
  9. Oh my gosh what a small world I am actually a member of Dianne's blog and we are even Facebook friends LOL.

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    1. Now ya know what a talented lady she is, too!

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  10. Found it, bought it...now everyone ...shhh.... I'm reading.

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    1. Great! Oh, sorry... I hope that wasn't too loud. Go back to reading, and I'll shut up.

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  11. Wow! Caged graves. Not only is that intriguing but it's also quite scary. Why put a cage OVER a grave?? Cannot wait to read this. :)

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  12. Caged graves are weird creepy scary! I'll opt out of the drawing. No kindle for me.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Yeah, caged graves are all that, but Dianne offered a great explanation. Sorry ya have to miss out on the drawing.

      Delete
    2. I'm not a kindle person. I'm a book lady.

      Delete
  13. Very cool. I'm mightily intrigued by these stories. And I can so relate to the odd research. The things Google knows about me...

    And, Susan, please let us know when your novel is actually available for purchase. No buy links are active yet. Also, I did maybe give your book a little shout out yesterday. Couldn't help it. :)

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    1. HA! Yeah, I sincerely hope nobody at Google pays any attention to the weird things I tend to research.

      I will definitely let you know what my book is "out there" in the big wide world. And oh boy! Thank you so much... here I come to check it out!!!

      Delete
  14. Wow...I've never even heard of a caged grave before. I guess some were of the mind that even death couldn't hold some people??

    Very interesting and congrats to Dianne on her new book! :)

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    1. The concept of a caged grave is pretty mind-boggling, isn't it?

      Delete
  15. Wow sure wastes no time
    Popping in a research dime
    And away she does go
    Jut don't get lost own the rabbit hole at your show
    Or in the creepy caged grave
    Then one may rant and rave

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    1. Caged graves hidden on
      The shadowy side of town?
      Is that to make sure
      The bad bodies stay down?

      Delete
    2. Great poetry, ladies!
      Sue -- I might have to use yours as a blurb!!!

      Delete
    3. Help yourself! (P.S. Pat isn't a lady.) (Come to think of it, I can be a tad unladylike at times, too...)

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    4. Oops. It did occur to me that Pat could also be a gentleman. I should have known better than to assume, considering I had a crush on a Pat in middle school.

      Delete
    5. Well, I dunno if he's a "gentleman"... but he's definitely no lady! (And he has a great sense of humor.)

      Delete
  16. The caged graves — what a fantastically weird thing. And what a great idea-generator for a book! Will definitely check that one out.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yes, it is fantastically weird. I hope you DO check it out.

      Delete
  17. Super idea for a novel, caged graves. It's it interesting how one item can spark the imagination.
    I have no kindle so I will opt out too.

    cheers, parsip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lots of things can spark the imagination, but it takes somebody special to fan the flames into a full-fledged book.

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  18. I've been waiting for this one. Congrats, Dianne! :D

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  19. oh dear! I live in Pennsylvania!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. HA! Don't worry... the cages are made of steel...

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  20. I have never ever seen cages over graves, and I've been to many cemeteries!! How cool is that idea?!

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  21. As someone who got to read the before version version of The Caged Graves I can attest that I loved it just as much in its final form and still stayed up late to finish even though I already knew how it ended! I'm so happy for Dianne :)

    And Susan...send me a link to where folks can buy your book and I'll put it up on my sidebar.

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    1. I'm happy for her, too. I think she's got another winner on her hands.

      Yes ma'am, I will as soon as it launches.

      Delete
  22. Susan, your intro to The Caged Graves drew me in, but Dianne's account of how and what she researched convinced me that I want to read this book.

    Please tell your kitties I really am very fond of cats, love, kisses, belly rubs, fishy treats, etc. to them! Oh...wait. That doesn't work with cats. They are above that.

    :-)

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    1. SOME cats are above all that, but OURS aren't. They're especially susceptible to tuna and cuddling.

      Delete
  23. This has set me to reading about mortsafes and Watcher Societies and why they were needed. Human history is sure strange.

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    1. Ah, venturing down a rabbit hole of information yourself, eh? (It's addictive!)

      Yep, human history is strange, probably because we humans are kinda strange. Dude.

      Delete
  24. You had me at Caged Graves. If I don't win a copy, I'll be over at Amazon buying one. I love this kind of read.

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    1. Super! Then you're sure to love this book.

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  25. Oh, so cool.

    I really admire people and their ability to act and promote.

    Also, what a fantastic premise for a story...

    Pearl

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    1. Definitely cool.

      Whatcha talking about? You're got a whole herd of cats who'd be happy to help promote your stuff.

      Delete
  26. Great post on research, and that was an interesting bit of trivia about the arsenic poisoning. The book sounds wonderful, and I love the cover.

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    1. And before Google, we did go to the library and read and search microfilm and get help from the research librarian. (smile) I also love the fact that we can now get answers much quicker via the Internet. That helps with all kinds of research, not just historical.

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    2. I wonder if today's students ever go to the library to do research for term papers. Or for that matter, if they even write term papers anymore.

      No doubt, the Internet has revolutionized research, but I kinda liked the old way, too.

      Delete
  27. What an interesting article! I loved the bit about the cookbook and what to do before the doctor arrived. Google is great for finding info. I use it frequently.

    Nice review Susan. Makes me curious--as does the cover.

    Sia McKye OVER COFFEE

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    1. Yeah, who'd a thunk to eat rust as an arsenic antidote? (Not that I'm planning to nibble on any arsenic.)

      Thanks. Curious is good.

      Delete
  28. I added Diane's book to my HUGE Amazon list. I hope I win so I can take it off. I love research, too, so I can totally relate to wondering how writers managed before the internet.

    Your book is on my list, too, Susan :)

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    1. All I can say is, "Good luck!" My cats are very impartial.

      Thanks.

      Delete
  29. Very interesting review. Congratulations to Dianne and much success with this intriguing book. I found the medical tid-bit extremely interesting, too, as I only do natural medicine and didn't now about the rust. Perhaps I have it in a book as I own many books on "what to do before the doctor arrives."

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    1. Maybe you should do a post based on some of the other interesting tidbits in those "before the doc shows up" books you have. It'd be news to most of us. I sure never heard of a remedy that involved eating rust before.

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  30. Sounds like a really cool book! I love the pics you included here. The ones of the grave with the fencing around it--wasn't that for superstitious people who were afraid the person might come back as a vampire or something?? Or maybe just to prevent grave robbers?

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    1. It IS a really cool book, As for your questions about the fencing around the graves? A definite maybe... or maybe not.

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  31. Sounds like a great book. I like the quote at the top of the post. It's so true!

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    1. It is! I'm glad you like that quote; it's very similar to what my father-in-law used to say.

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  32. What a fascinating interview (and book)

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    1. Aye, it's a fascinating topic... and book.

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  33. ...this bookworm's interest is piqued ;)

    Sounds like an intriguing read!

    El

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    1. Glad to hear it! Bookworms should always satisfy that interest, ya know...

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  34. I am intrigued by the name of the main character, Verity, as well as the title of the book, Caged Graves. I wish the author a lot of success.

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    1. Cool. Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with the drawing.

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  35. I am intrigued by the name of the main character, Verity, as well as the title of the book, Caged Graves. I wish the author a lot of success.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Well, hello again. Seems like we just spoke... (We always were double trouble when we were kids...)

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  36. Good luck with your book Susan and congrats to Dianne for her historical project....I am so much into Regency romance...I am writing one myself...Kisses.

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    1. Thanks, and good luck with your romance. (Both on and off the pages of your book...)

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  37. Wow this sounds so good and right up my alley. Thanks for introducing me to Dianne's work, I'm putting both books on my TBR list.
    And I get excited every time I see your book cover! Can't wait to read the book. :)

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    1. I think you'd really enjoy Dianne's books, Julie.

      And I'm stoked that you're excited about my book! Thanks.

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  38. It does sound good. And Rust??? Yep, that's a 'who knew?' :) Happy Thursday.

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    1. We'll never look at rust in quite the same way again...

      And a happy Thursday to you, too.

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  39. A very cool title and quite a gripping premise. Well done, Dianne.

    Sus! I just noticed you have a new pic. Gonna take a peek at your profile for a better look.

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  40. I like it, girl. Yer a doll. A DAWL!! :D

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    1. HA! You nut. (So when are you gonna show yourself, young lady?)

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