Today I'm pleased to welcome Diane Ryan to the blog!
How exciting this is, being invited to guest blog! Thank you, DelSheree, for the opportunity. I’m thrilled that you’ve given me the chance to talk about my debut novel, and rescue dogs, and how the novel and rescue dogs are connected.
In 2004, I moved from rural Georgia to Southwest Virginia, packing a trunk full of old manuscripts from as far back as the early nineties. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write, but the literary landscape was quite different back then. The Big Six still dominated, Amazon wouldn’t introduce Kindle for three more years, and self-publishing was still considered vanity press. I always felt I would have a novel in print some day; I just couldn’t see a clear path to it at that time.
What I found in Southwest Virginia caused all my priorities to shift. How could I think about personal issues or writing a book when my new county of residence (population less than 45,000) killed more animals in one year than Richmond, Roanoke, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and Virginia Beach combined? I formed a small rescue organization, applied for and received 501c3 nonprofit status, and bought property to house a large number of animals. I felt sure the community would support this effort.
I was wrong.
Attitudes toward rescue are hostile in Appalachia. Animal welfare ideals step on too many toes. Between backyard breeders, a dearth of local low cost spay/neuter options, and a local government that wants no attention called to their problems, a small, home-based rescue can forget finding the support it needs to operate. Especially a rescue with a Director who doesn’t hesitate to push community buttons over issues like dogs on chains, dogs locked in hot cars, sterilization, and vaccines.
Earlier this year, after my rescue received no donations for more than a month, I faced a bleak evening without a scrap to feed thirty hungry dogs. It was a turning point for me. I realized I’d have to be more resourceful. Time to drag out those dusty old manuscripts and maybe sell a few books here and there. I picked the manuscript I felt was closest to being publication-ready, called on some old friends from my workshopping days, and after some grueling, late night revision marathons, sent out a handful of advance review copies to a select group of people.
Critical reception to the novel “Talking To Luke,” surpassed all my expectations. An Amazon Vine Voice reviewer rated it “five stars,” called it “groundbreaking,” and used words like “polished,” and “high impact.” One of my favorite indie authors posted a picture of himself on Facebook while he was reading the Kindle version and said, “It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. And I read A LOT.”
What do you do with this kind of feedback? I’ll tell you what you do—you get serious in a hurry and start figuring out ways to increase discoverability on a much larger scale! Even so, looking back over the last few weeks, I think I did as much as I could on a nonexistent budget. Formulas exist for meteoric book launches, but for an unknown author with a debut novel and no major publishing house behind it, perhaps the best one can hope for is a slow, steady climb in sales as more people discover the book.
I don’t regret being an indie author. It truly is by choice. At one time, I did have agent interest in the manuscript for “Talking To Luke.” It’s possible that had I sent any query letters this year, I might have additional interest. Who knows. I just couldn’t stomach the process. Print On Demand is no longer considered vanity press, and both CreateSpace and KDP offer quality products and service. Would I ever consider traditional publishing? Sure I would—but it isn’t the brass ring for me, and I just don’t have time to chase it right now. Too many Appalachian dogs need help.
For at least the entire year of 2016, one hundred percent of proceeds from this novel will go toward Appalachian animal rescue. This will fund transport of animals from oversaturated, high kill regions like Southwest Virginia to no-kill areas of New England (like the entire state of New Hampshire.) I also hope we can fund some “save in place” rescue efforts, which would provide funding for owners to keep their pets when they otherwise might have to surrender them to a shelter. This might involve sterilization and other vetting, the building of fences and buying of dog houses, and paying pet deposits for rental property so that people can take their animals with them when they move.
“Talking To Luke” is the first book in a series, but it can also stand alone. I’m told it’s considered “paranormal romance,” but I’m uncomfortable with that label. Is it paranormal? You bet it is! Is it a romance? Well—it’s a relationship story…and there’s a whole lot of sizzle. The sequel will involve the same character ensemble, but will be more of a paranormal thriller. Is there such a genre? I never set out to write crossover fiction or flip any tropes. These things just happened as the story unfolded organically.
Nothing else I’ve ever written has contained even the slightest hint of paranormal. Even this novel has themes that are more realistic than fantastical—with a couple of glaring exceptions. I can’t guarantee I’ll write anything else in the genre once this series is finished, but then again, I might!
Grab a copy of "Talking to Luke" HERE
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Diane Ryan is a pseudonym for a very real person living and writing in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. She is married with two grown children and more pets than good sense dictates. Her heartfelt passion is saving animals. In the past, she has rescued horses and wildlife, but currently focuses on dogs imperiled by cultural indifference toward animals in Appalachian communities. She is the Executive Director of a 501c3 rescue that regularly transports unwanted dogs from areas of shelter overcrowding to regions of high demand, where No Kill methods are firmly established. Her organization is a member of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies and a Best Friends Network Partner.