The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Archive for January, 2010

Living in a Modern Day Tales of the City

January 28, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Once again, from The Divining Wand’s Q&A page, a reader asks:

Larramie, in yesterday’s interview with Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy), I was very intrigued by this line:

“Shana lives in San Francisco, California, in part of an Edwardian compound that she shares with an informal cooperative of family, friends, and five cats.”

What, pray tell, is an ‘Edwardian (cooperative) compound’ ???

Below, in a lovely post, is Shana’s explanation.


The Pierce Street Compound

“Shana lives in San Francisco, California, in part of an Edwardian compound that she shares with an informal cooperative of family, friends, and five cats.” You bet this sentence gets the gamut of responses ranging from “what is it?” to mutters of “San Francisco” accompanied by knowing nods of the head from the informed.

The Pierce Street Edwardian compound is a “modern day Tales of the City,” the main differences being we’re located on a real street, and we have Mr. McGrath (he’s not transgendered) instead of Mrs. Madrigal. The inhabitants are aging hippies, dot-com dropouts, a couple of musicians, and a school teacher. Overseeing the whole operation is, of course, the five cats.

The compound itself consists of one large Edwardian style building with four apartments in the front and a smaller Edwardian style building with two apartments in the back. It was built around 1900 when this style of home was popular in San Francisco. The Edwardian style home generally has simpler trim than the Victorian homes typically associated with the city. Another fun fact about the Edwardian is the distinguishing feature of this style is the egg-and-dart cornice work; and these homes were constructed of wood, stucco, brick or a combination, while the Victorians built previously were all made of redwood. The two Edwardian style dwellings that make up the Pierce Street Compound are separated by an eclectic garden with a fir tree, a variety of bushes, catnip every five feet, and easily over 100 pots of plants, which are rotated by the season. In spring and summer our garden is a cacophony of color, and fall winter we have mostly green.

My second cousin, Mr. McGrath, who owns the Pierce Street Compound is a card carrying Republican complete with an NRA sticker on his car. Yet, he forged our community (in every sense of the word) by deciding to charge only what is needed to cover the bills—an act that is unheard of in modern rental markets. The result is a group of people who live in the middle of San Francisco with unlocked doors (granted our compound is protected by two very secure gates), who are a community of neighbors, friends, and family related by blood and/or time. And while do we have our own homes where we can close our doors, we’ve taken the time to keep them open enough that we know each other, we take care of each other, we basically coexist quite happily.

Another offshoot of living in a community like this is our militant social consciousness. Admittedly, this could also be considered a by-product of living in San Francisco, nevertheless, we are obsessed with green living. We religiously recycle and compost. We also share cars, ride bikes, and take public transportation as often as possible. In our homes and basement you’ll only find eco friendly products. And, even we know that we take our sharing and sense of fellowship to an extreme when it comes to parking (a perpetual problem in San Francisco). We have a three car garage that is held open for late night arrivals and guests. Keys remain in parked cars and spares are kept in the garage so that anyone vacating a parking spot can move the one in the garage if necessary to ensure availability just in case. You can often hear one of us say, “Should we move the car, or am I obsessing about parking again?” But, guests at our frequent garden parties know if they come early, they’ll get parking; and they’re also accustomed to checking if their discards are recyclable or compostable before haplessly tossing stuff in the garbage bin.

The most unique aspect of the Pierce Street Compound is our infamous Delmar Dinners, held every other month, in honor of the Pierce Street Diplocat whose ashes are scattered throughout our garden. Aside from the camaraderie, green living, frequent parties, and convivial coexistence, the glue that holds the entire compound together is our unwavering reverence for Cats (yes I mean to capitalize). You may laugh, but cats have been associated with humans for at least 9,500 years, and are currently the most popular pet in the world. And at the Pierce Street Compound, we don’t just coexist peacefully with the most popular pet in the world, we understand our role and take seriously our duty to act as staff to the five felines currently occupying the compound. Ancient Egypt has nothing on us.

Now that you’re among the informed, whether you say, “cool!” or shake your head while whispering “San Francisco,” you are always welcome at the Pierce Street Compound. Just remember if you do drop by, you might get parking, you’ll have to recycle and compost, and most important, if you see one of the cats, you must be ready to serve.

[Please remember that Shana’s debut novel, Sounds Like Crazy, is scheduled to be presented here on Monday.]

Richard Doetsch: What Makes This Author Tick?

January 27, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

After a month in bookstores and — two months since the late November post, Richard Doetsch’s The 13th Hour, appeared here — the thriller is doing well. And the author of The Thieves of Heaven, The Thieves of Faith asked for the opportunity to revisit The Divining Wand to say:

“Thanks to those initial readers of The 13th Hour, to pick up a book and take a chance is not an easy thing. The promise of a cover or inner flap is asking people to commit to spending five or ten hours with someone’s creation. And so it’s a risk, but with the building buzz and reviews, I think it was a risk worth taking.

“When I started writing The 13th Hour, it was really a personal challenge to see if I could write a novel starting at chapter 12 and writing it backwards over a 30 day period of time. I wrote just as people have been reading it, riding the rollercoaster of twists, turns, and excitement, never fully knowing where I was going, boxing myself into impossible corners, and then having to think my way out. I’ve jumped out of planes, off of bridges and cranes, and swam in wrecks 90 feet under water with a shark guarding the door, but nothing compared to the satisfaction and adrenaline rush I had when I finally finished this book.”

Could this novelist be as unique as his latest book? Indeed he could and is!

Every writer has a story and Richard Doetsch’s begins with coming to this career later in life. Despite never having taken a writing class, he discovered that his “voracious appetite for reading served as the ultimate school.” Actually he considers himself a storyteller first and a writer second, believing that his imagination needs to explore original ideas and not repeat what others have done. In fact Richard began writing one day while looking for something new to read, walking away empty-handed, yet with the question of what would he want to see in a book?

“Everyone talks about writing a novel someday which is ridiculous from so many points of view. But I had a story to tell so I just started writing on the train one day and did it every day for almost a year, writing my first novel, The Thieves of Heaven. I never had so much fun and, as it turns, out, I could actually do it.”

Sound a bit too easy? Well Richard does have a drawer full of over sixty agent rejection letters. But then his wife gave the manuscript to a friend/bookstore owner for a critical read. The bookstore owner loved the story and he knew an agent… And, though this flies against what almost all writers are told, Doetsch believes: “In any business be it real estate, manufacturing, or publishing, it is through networking and contacts that we make the most headway.”

Of course landing an agent and a publisher is one thing, holding on to those contracts requires delivering a good book. Doetsch manages this with a seven day work week schedule that includes writing in the morning from 9 to noon and returning at night around 9 until 2:00 a.m. Yes, there are exceptions for family and fun events but — when on deadline — this is how he works.

For The 13th Hour Richard challenged himself, not only to write a unique thriller, but to do so on a self-imposed deadline of 30 days. Having an open window of time, while waiting for edits on The Thieves of Darkness, he dipped into his every-day-new-idea story journal and chose “a time travel tale of a man racing against time to save the woman he loved.”

Richard Doetsch talks about The 13TH Hour:

Listening to the author talk about writing as though reading the novel begged the question, how much was outlined? And Richard answered:

“Writing the thirteenth hours was like playing five games of chess in my head at the same time. I wrote the story backwards in the same way the reader experiences it. In so doing, I had to remember the future and the past. It was difficult but fun as it was like a giant puzzle whose every move reverberated throughout the story. AS to the outline, I wrote a one page outline broken down by 12 chapters (hours) and wrote down how each started and ended. Other than that it was just full steam ahead with whatever popped into my head at the moment. I should note I had a note pad that grew daily with little facts, notes, and time sensitive points so I wouldn’t fall flat on my face in frustration or failure.”

For the record, Doetsch wasn’t under contract for the book and, since no one knew of his plan, there was an exit if he didn’t succeed. But he earned success and his literary agent loved it, his film agent loved it and Hollywood loved it too.

So how did this adventurous thrill-seeker reward himself for achieving his challenge?

“I did not reward myself but that sounds like a good idea! I actually started a new story the following day. I think being given the privilege to write for a living is reward enough. I’m extremely lucky in that I know how hard people work be it writing, their day jobs, or life and so I will never look this gift horse in the mouth.”

The 13TH Hour is a fun, fascinating, change-of-pace read that will be coming to a local theater next year. Yet why wait, when you can escape and be entertained now by Richard Doetsch and his most original ticking clock tale?!

[For those readers who think they know their time travel, please visit The 13TH Hour Contest page.]

Our Authors’ Journeys

January 26, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Every writer has a story. It’s that personal story of writing, selling, and becoming a successful published author. There is no timeline, no easy way; instead it comes down to facing the challenges and being strong enough to Just Do It!

How long did it take before our authors/friends finally got published? And how did they handle rejection, what kept them going? Read a bit of the following personal stories

Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith and Between Friends coming April 6, 2010):

“I started my first novel in 1999, and my fourth novel, Catching Genius, was published in 2007. I handled rejection in ever way imaginable. I was Zen, I cried, I raved, I ignored, I wailed, I rolled my eyes, I got mad, I sobbed, I cursed the powers that be, I shrugged, I e-mailed friends, I called friends, I drank wine. (You didn’t ask for advice on how YOU should handle it, but I’ve come to believe that you should just let yourself feel however you want to feel. Trying to make yourself not care only makes you feel worse. Just feel badly…then move on.) What kept me going? I hadn’t yet met my goal.”

Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series with Book 5: Marcia’s Madness coming May 3, 2010):

“I left my day job to start writing in November 1994. It was May 2002 when I got the call that a publisher wanted to buy The Thin Pink Line as part of a two-book deal, so it took seven and a half years. Sure, I had no fun getting rejected for so long, but I kept going by writing book after book.”

Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars):

“I started writing seriously as an attempt to be published in March of 2003 shortly after my son was born, and Real Life & Liars sold at auction on Feb. 22, 2008. So, almost five years exactly. It’s not overnight success, but I’ve also known writers to try for much longer. I kept going in part because I felt that giving up would have rendered pointless all my previous efforts. And it was not only my own effort at stake, but my family was sacrificing for this as well. I was spending household money on child care, on books and reference materials, postage. I tried to freelance as much as possible to offset this, but it was a reality that I was spending household money on this dream of mine. I also spent my time on this, time that I could have spent on them. So I felt I had to make all of this worthwhile by carrying on. If I gave up just because it was hard, what a waste!”

Emily Winslow (The Whole World coming May 25, 2010)

‘I decided I wanted to be a writer after I graduated college at age 23. I’m now debuting as a novelist seventeen years later. So that’s a lot of years of heartache over whether I have talent, whether I can make it professionally. But I was writing poetry, plays, personal essays. I was kind of getting everything out, very personally, and using these forms that aren’t the most marketable. It was definitely a leap in maturity when I finally decided to attempt true fiction. (I don’t presume that the personal is inherently immature and the fictional inherently mature–but it was that way for me.)

‘This specific book was very quick. I wrote and polished it in one year; subbed to agents for three months and got great representation; got a book deal in, I think, another four months. There wasn’t a lot of time to feel worried about it.

‘So, in sum: long, struggling apprenticeship of sorts, then a nice quick success. Before professional affirmation, I held onto the personal support of friends who insisted they connected with things I’d written.”

For Your Health and Well-Being

January 25, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Health

Please welcome back Lisa Davis — founder, director, host, etc. — of It’s Your Health, the radio program “dedicated to providing strategies for healthier living.”

To begin the new year, this post features two authors that focus on changing/improving both physical and mental/emotional states with their well-researched yet very practical books. Please note that the first program will air LIVE tomorrow, Tuesday, January 26th, from 9:30 – 9:45 a.m., while the second chosen author interview is scheduled for next Tuesday, February 2nd at 9:45 – 10:00 a.m.

And now here’s to Your Health and Well-Being:


Prime-timehealthPrime-Time Health: A Scientifically Proven Plan for Feeling Young and Living Longer by William Sears M.D., Martha Sears R.N.

Acclaimed pediatrician Dr. William Sears turns his attention to the “baby boomer” generation and offers a plan to improve their long-term health. Not surprisingly this requires taking control of one’s health, much like he had to do twelve years ago when diagnosed with cancer.

From that experience, Dr. Sears created a comprehensive, science based, head-to-toe program for living a long, fit life – and it worked. Now at the peak of health, Dr. Sears shares his program in PRIME-TIME HEALTH. Described as “engaging and deeply informative,” this book will hopefully motivate readers to make crucial behavior and lifestyle changes by exploring how to keep each body system healthy and delay the typical age-related problems.

Although we all know what we should do as well as not do to stay healthy, Dr. Sears explains the why and how these “should” habits and activities can easily become your lifestyle. What’s the secret? Simply put, make health a hobby!

Recommendation: Understanding is the key to good health and Prime-Time Health delivers solid information.

This author will be interviewed Tuesday, January 26th at 9:30 – 9:45 a.m. on It’s Your Health radio.

PattLind-KyleHeal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain: Applying the Exciting New Science of Brain Synchrony for Creativity, Peace and Presence by Patt Lind-Kyle

The author — therapist, trainer, and longtime meditator — writes about the relationship between meditation and the brain. Her book is divided into into two sections, that begins with an in-depth scientific discussion of the anatomy of the brain, its evolution, and how our thought processes work. By using an electroencephalograph, Patt Lind-Kyle has been able to measure and monitor mind states and identify when brain waves are out of balance. And then she presents brain research that shows how meditation can reshape the nature of the mind.

In Part 2 of Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain, readers will find a detailed discussion of how using mind-training techniques can help to bring about change in their mindset and thought patterns. With the use of an accompanying meditation CD, readers are led through several meditation techniques to discover what practical benefits might be applied to them.

Although one doesn’t need to be professionally creative to appreciate the potential of what this book might teach you, the lure is there and based on scientific evidence at that!

Recommendation: Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain is yet another book that explains the how and why…and makes sense.

This author will be interviewed Tuesday, February 2nd at 9:45 – 10:00 a.m. on It’s Your Health radio.

Please also remember that all programs are archived and available for listening at your convenience.

Needed: Professional Advice before the Query?

January 21, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

The Divining Wand’s Q&A page has been active again with another “writing” question. However please remember that all questions, including those about authors and their books, are welcome too.


I am in the middle of a novel in progress, which I put away for 12 months, and which I have dusted off and begun work on. My goal is to finish it by the end of this year (Dec. 2010).

My question: Would it be useful to hire a professional editor to provide editorial advice on my novel once it’s finished and before I begin to query agents?

This Fairy Godmother chose author, teacher, and former student of Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird), Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being), to respond:

“There are few professions in life where we can do the work at home and spring it on the public and have it universally accepted. In my writing career, I’ve never sent a manuscript to an agent or editor without careful reads by my trusted readers, all of whom in my case are writers. Each manuscript goes through careful scrutiny, and then I spend a great deal of time making the thing right before sending it on to agent or editor. And in that way, I end up getting a lot done up front. With my first novel, Her Daughter’s Eyes, my editor commented on how very little there was to do (it was never that easy again).

“So yes. Finish your draft. Make it as best you can. And then hire someone who writes in your field to read it. You should expect to get back notes and textual comments. You should also ask for a follow up after you finish reading through both.

“The truth also is that might not be enough. But it usually is, and you will have the confidence that your work is going out in its party dress, ready for the party.”

But serendipity was in play as our messages crossed paths and Jessica’s OTHER email arrived in my Inbox announcing that;

“Due to unforeseen and universal tiltings, I’ve found myself with some time this quarter to work with folks privately. This could either be a quick hourly consult or a full manuscript read. As I’ve written around in genres, I’m able to work with contemporary, literary, and/or genre fiction–romance and young adult.

“I’ve had a crash course in the past few months on “How to Get an Agent,” and I did just do that, signing with a new agent only two weeks ago. In that time, I have sharpened my query writing skills and have learned a great deal about the process anew–synopsis writing, chapter outlines, and first 50 page edits. Personally, I’m hoping to never have to use these skills again, but I could help guide you through the morass.

“If you are interested in working on a full manuscript or something much smaller or know someone who is, please email me or forward this on and I’d be happy to talk further. Thank you.”

This is an open invitation to all those who might be seeking assistance. If interested, please contact:

Announcement: The winner of Randy Susan Meyers’ The Murderer’s Daughters is Erika. Congratulations to you! Now please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly. Thank you to all who commented.

The Revealing of Shana Mahaffey

January 20, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

ShanaMaShana Mahaffey debuted on October 6, 2009 with Sounds Like Crazy, an original, heartfelt, and healing novel about a woman suffering from dissociative identity disorder. Yes this is a main character limited by her many characters.

A full presentation/review of Sounds Like Crazy is scheduled here for Monday, February 1, 2010, but today let’s meet this first-time author from her “official” bio:

Shana Mahaffey lives in San Francisco, California, in part of an Edwardian compound that she shares with an informal cooperative of family, friends, and five cats. She’s a survivor of catechism and cat scratch fever, and is a member of the Sanchez Grotto Annex, a writers’

And now here’s Shana revealed:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: I know I can I know I can.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth, and you get neither.” By CS Lewis

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: I quote: “Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Alzheimer’s.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: With friends.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: The ancient Spartans.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My Godmother.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: Per my readers, “Proverbial.”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Polyglotism.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Living.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: My inability to say “No I am not at your beck and call,” to cats.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Perseverance.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not recognizing the value of people in my life until it was too late—i.e., they were gone.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I would love to be a philanthropist with an unlimited bank account.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My irreverent sense of humor.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Corwin from The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazney

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Darth Vader.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Can I buy you a beer?

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Inequality.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Outdoor activities such as snow skiing, biking, hiking, city walking preferably with family and/or friends.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Author (the kind where I am earning enough to live comfortably)

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Honesty, kindness, compassion.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Chocolate cake with lots of chocolate frosting.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Badlands by Bruce Springsteen, Bad by U2, The Unforgettable Fire by U2, Danny Boy by various artists,Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Chronicles of Amber, Chronicles of Narnia, The Belgariad, The Mallorean, What’s Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies. Okay, the first four are series…

Would you like to learn more about this genuine, caring, and clever writer? Please follow Shana on Twitter and become a friend on Facebook.


Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Murderer’s Daughters to anyone who leaves a comment on this post and is selected in a random drawing. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST. with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post.

Words from and about Our Authors

January 19, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: News

There’s news that you need to know, can use, and look forward to, regarding the following Authors:

Alert! If you haven’t heard yet, Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters) has announced, “The universe heard your cries of not wanting to miss the Super Bowl. ‘”Sins of the Mother”‘ will now air on Sunday, February 21st.”

Remember that’s on the LIFETIME MOVIE NETWORK!


January Magazine, December 31, 2009, listed Best Books of Fiction: 2009 and among the chosen was The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh. Here’s the review:

“One of the really delicious things about Therese Walsh’s debut novel is that it pushes through to new ground. And even while you are swept away in Walsh’s carefully crafted and constructed story of magic and acceptance and loss, you are aware that you’ve never traveled this way before. I hadn’t realized how rare that feeling could be in fiction until I read The Last Will of Moira Leahy. Are there conventions in fiction? A path you must take in order for people to say: this is this sort of book, shelve it over here. If so, Walsh has forged ahead with no regard for these whatsoever. The result is an intelligent, thoughtful, moving — and again — magical, book. Moira was the less bold of a set of twins. Less daring, less spirited, less of the world. When she died in their 16th year, Moira’s twin, Maeve, must come to terms both with the part she played in her sister’s death and with her own path through the world, alone. In adulthood, now a professor of languages, Maeve comes across an antique dagger that reminds her of her childhood. The dagger will open a new chapter in Maeve’s life and lead her to a place of acceptance and understanding. None of that brief description does justice to Walsh’s wonderful creation. It is difficult — impossible — to capture that magic in these few words. Nor is it possible to compare it to anything else: Walsh has found her way here alone. The Last Will of Moira Leahy is a wonderful book. Well crafted, beautifully told. A star is born.” — Linda L. Richards

[As many know I believe in this book…for good reasons.]


Jenny Gardiner (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver) offers a funny video, Graycie Goes Hollywood (the upgraded version), starring the bird of her upcoming memoir —Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me coming March 16, 2010). Be sure to take a look.


Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming in August 2010) has earned coveted praise from Marisa de los Santos (bestselling author of Love Walked In and Belong to Me: “This story of a young widow edging warily back into the world is full of vivid characters and grace. Imbued with hope but blessedly lacking in sentimentality, it is a fresh, stirring take on the devastation of grief and the holiness of friendship.”


And Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been) was featured in the Sunday, January 17, 2010 article, Glen Ellyn writer rescues Alice from Wonderland by Julia Keller.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Murderer’s Daughters to anyone who leaves a comment on this post and is selected in a random drawing. The deadline is Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST. with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post.

Randy Susan Meyers’ The Murderer’s Daughters

January 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Murderers Daughters
Randy Susan Meyers debuts tomorrow — Tuesday, January, 19, 2010 — with her highly anticipated and widely acclaimed novel, The Murderer’s Daughters. And, while a poignantly bittersweet cover depicts the title’s characters running alone across a boardwalk, please know that their steps are only the beginning of a 30 year journey of accepting the past and moving on to the future.

For as the back of the Advanced Readers’ Edition proclaims:


The Praise for The Murderer’s Daughters includes:

“Randy Susan Meyers’s sensitive story about the legacy of domestic violence is painful to read at times, but unforgettable. Meyers delivers a clear-eyed, insightful story about domestic violence and survivor’s guilt in “The Murderer’s Daughters.” It’s an impressively executed novel, disturbing and convincing.”—Boston Globe

“Meyers’ empathetic, socially conscious debut considers the burdens carried and eventually shed by two sisters, survivors of domestic violence. Ten-year-old Lulu and eight-year-old Merry are caught up in adult turmoil when their father murders their mother in July 1971. Over the subsequent three decades, Lulu feels ineradicable guilt for letting him into the apartment that day and takes on the responsibility of protecting her sister. Eminently readable . . . with affecting moments and insights.”—Kirkus Review

“Mesmerizing…empathetic…Meyers explores the bond between two sisters…and how their bond is tested by the reappearance of the past.”—Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us.”

In The 7 Question Interview with Randy Susan Meyers, the author — when asked if there is something she would like to say to her readers — states:

“Yes, more than anything, I hope The Murderer’s Daughters provides a page turning and
thoughtful read. I hope the “what ifs’ in the story engage readers. I believe that I have
a covenant with them, to provide a story that is honestly and deeply written and which
is meant to touch, and to entertain, and inform them.”

And very personal “what if’s” are why Randy wrote the book:

“When my sister was eight, my mother warned her against letting my father into our Brooklyn apartment. Perhaps she also cautioned me, but I was barely five and can’t remember. Years later, as adults, when my sister and I began exploring our childhood in the way siblings do-comparing scars and recollections, piling up wrongs and shining up the funny stories-my sister said:

‘”Remember when I let our father in the house and he tried to kill Mom?”‘

“She swears I was there (where else would I be at that age?) but I didn’t remember any of it. As the years went by, and my sister fed me more details, the scene rooted in my mind and became my memory also. I heard my father sweet-talking his way in. My mother’s screams echoed.”

Please read the entire Backstory.

That backstory evolved into this synopsis:

Lulu and Merry’s childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu’s tenth birthday their father drives them into a nightmare. He’s always hungered for the love of the girl’s self-obsessed mother; after she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly.

Lulu’s mother warned her to never let him in, but when he shows up, he’s impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past ten-year-old Lulu, who obeys her father’s instructions to open the door, then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help and discovers upon her return that he’s murdered her mother, stabbed her sister, and tried to kill himself. 

For thirty years, the sisters try to make sense of what happened. Their imprisoned father is a specter in both their lives, shadowing every choice they make. Though one spends her life pretending he’s dead, while the other feels compelled to help him, both fear that someday their imprisoned father’s attempts to win parole may meet success.

The Murderer’s Daughters is narrated in turn by Merry and Lulu. The book follows the sisters as children, as young women, and as adults, always asking how far forgiveness can stretch, while exploring sibling loyalty, the aftermath of family violence, and the reality of redemption.

You may also read Chapter 1.

Minor *spoiler alert*: For those hesitant that this novel may prove too dark and/or violent, please be assured that all the physical violence is contained in Chapter 1. In a sense that first chapter acts as the novel’s backstory — the unthinkable has been committed and now it’s the daughters’ story of surviving the consequences.

This is a gorgeous novel — with breathtaking writing — about one of the most vile of all crimes. Often described as an “act of passion,” the killing of a spouse/partner ironically is in deed a love lost.

Consider how often newscasts or newspaper report such murders. How commonplace they have become, leaving us to sigh, shake our heads at “how sad,” and then to forget. Yet do your thoughts linger a bit longer when learning “the children have been taken in by family”, or are “in foster care?” That information is given to comfort, to let us know that the children are being taken care of…they’re safe, they’re fine.

What Randy Susan Meyers reminds us is nothing could be further from the truth. The guilt, shame and painful loss of both parents will last — in some degree — forever, affecting not only childhood but adulthood too. Lulu and Merry try to heal and hide from their emotional scars by coping in different ways, but neither can outrun the past. Only accepting what is as it is can ease their burden of being a murderer’s daughter.

Using her informed working background with batterers, domestic violence victims, and at-risk youth impacted by family violence, this debut novelist tells a sensitive and very genuine tale of intense pain, anger, and the challenge to lead a normal life.

Randy Susan Meyers writes with her heart about hope of the human soul. You’ll find that and more in The Murderer’s Daughters. Please take them home with you…

Book Giveaway: Yes The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Murderer’s Daughters to anyone who leaves a comment on this post and is selected in a random drawing. The deadline is Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST. with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post.

Practical Advice from Our Authors

January 14, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Were you aware that The Divining Wand has a Q&A page where you can ask questions and/or make comments about any author you wish? Interestingly enough exactly six months after the site’s launch, the first question was posted:

I have the beginnings of a fabulous nonfiction book but I don’t have the time to finish writing it because I need to work- what I really need is to stop working and finish writing it. I am an educator of 12 years and am confused as to what to do. Do I risk my job and take time off?? What do you recommend?? I received some pretty good feedback from a “so called” publisher but there was no offer of money involved and it didn’t really go anywhere. Do you have any recommendations?

Of course this Fairy Godmother does not have the knowledge to recommend anything, but I certainly have authors/friends who do and put this question to the following:

Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want coming June 1, 2010).

Allison is also well-known for her popular 4-year old blog, Ask Allison, and responded:

“My advice would be that for a non-fiction book, she doesn’t need to finish it anyway. To sell a non-fiction book, you need only a proposal, an outline and the first few chapters – it sounds like she’s written many of those already. That said, I wouldn’t quit her job. The market is too risky, and it simply is too big of a gamble. Even if it sells, she might sell it for peanuts, as is often the case. She just needs to keep chipping away at it at night and get the proposal into really strong shape, and then take it out to agents.”

THE Founder of The Debutante Ball and legendary “giver of assistance to countless writers” Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith and Between Friends coming April 6, 2010) said:

“No, don’t take time off from your job to write a non-fiction book. First: Finding the time to write is a choice. I wrote my first novel working full-time, and my second working part-time. It was slow going, yes, but I fit writing in around the many responsibilities in my life, and I personally know many authors who have much busier lives than I and work full-time. Second: Non-fiction requires a proposal, not a finished manuscript. Get online and learn how to put together a non-fiction book proposal<----surround that phrase with quotes and put it in Google. Third: Once you've learned everything you can about how to put a proposal together, research literary agents who handle your type of book. Again, Google is your friend. The "'so called'' publisher"' comment in your question concerns me, because it indicates that you haven't spent much time doing research on how to find a legitimate agent. The information is out there, it's easy to find, it's easy to sift through. Go get 'em, and good luck!” And Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA), who transitioned easily from author to her counseling background, offered:

“I have a few pieces of advice:

“I never suggest anyone leave their “day job” for writing. Once you finish the book it will take at least a year, maybe longer, for it to hit shelves (assuming that you are lucky enough to sell.) Writing is not a good get rich (or even making money) scheme. Even as a full time writer people struggle to fit the “job” demands of being a writer (the marketing, interviews etc) in with the creative aspects. Holding down a day job while you write is good practice for when you may be doing both aspects. Look to carve out time either at the beginning or the end of the day to write.

“If you really feel you need some uninterrupted time off to write, consider using your vacation time as a working holiday. Take two weeks and have firm goals about what you want to accomplish. As an educator you may be able to use your summer breaks. Your employer may also have an option for you to take an unpaid leave of absence. I would encourage you to look to find a way to hold onto your job unless you have another stable source of income. The truth is most writers either hold down other jobs or have other means of financial support.

“Non fiction is different than fiction, in that you may not have to finish the whole book before selling. There are lots of great books on preparing a non-fiction proposal which will include an outline, sample chapters and a proposal on how your book will fit into the market. The proposal should take you less time than writing the full book. Armed with your proposal you can approach agents etc. If you’re lucky you may sell on proposal and be provided an advance which will cover some costs while you write.

“Hope that helps!”

My hope is that all three answers will help and thank you for asking.

Announcement: The winner of Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been is Marrgay. Congratulations to you! Now please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly. Thank you to all who commented and do read Alice’s story…you’ll enjoy.

The Revealing of Randy Susan Meyers

January 13, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

RSMlikeRandy Susan Meyers debuts next Tuesday, January 19, 2010 with The Murderer’s Daughters, a compelling, brutally honest, yet sensitive story about all the victims of domestic violence. A full presentation of the novel is scheduled to appear here on Monday, January 18, 2010 but, in the meantime, meet Randy in her official, two-sentence bio:

I’ve published short stories in the Fog City Review, Perigee: Publication for the
Arts, and the Grub Street Free Press. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and now live
with my husband in Boston, where I teach writing seminars at the Grub Street Writers’

And now here is Randy revealed:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Writing, reading, husband, children, granddaughter, sister, friends: happy.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: At my grandmother’s 98th birthday, we asked her what she thought the most important thing is life was. Her answer: “Be nice to people.” I can’t improve on that and live by her belief.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: My perfect happiness is having healthy and happy friends and family. Extra-perfect is having writing as my work. That is blessed.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: My greatest fear in life is anything happening to my children or granddaughter. Even writing it, I want to spit three times to keep away the evil eye!

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I am very lucky, because I want to stay right where I am; this is a wonderful time in my life.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: That would be Anne Frank. She always believed life would get better, she worked to see the best in people—while also having and admitting to her dark thoughts—and she had a rich inner life.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I have to say Hilary Clinton, because she rose from a battle she lost, showed grace, and is working under her former opponent with dignity, and doing a difficult job splendidly. Though it was a hard choice between her and President Obama—a man carrying the world on his capable shoulders.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: When speaking it has to be ‘nice’—my daughters are always making fun of how I describe the ‘nice’ pie I made, and the ‘nice’ spaghetti casserole we’re going to have. When writing, I always highlight the word ‘was’ to weed out passive construction. My writing ‘tic’ is using the word ‘leaned,’ as in ‘she leaned forward’ – I have to watch out that my characters don’t becoming leaning machines.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Singing! I have a brutally awful singing voice. I can get my husband to do something just by threatening to sing to him. Oh, can I have one more? I’d love to be able to fix things—mechanically or otherwise. I have no talent for tasks requiring spatial and three-dimensional judgment.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Raising two wonderful daughters with admirable moral compasses.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Taking action without meditating on what I am about to do.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My best quality may be the flip side of my greatest flaw: I can accomplish tasks very quickly. Although, hmm, I hope that perhaps kindness to people may surpass speediness being my top quality.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I very much regret that I never truly knew my father. He died when I was nine.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Can I say that I’d like to continue being me, but minus 15 pounds? As much as I rummage around my brain, I can’t imagine leaving who I am at this moment. I love everyone in my life too much to imagine them away. I know that sounds corny, but it’s where I am at this moment in time. Had you asked me this question at another time in my life, I could have listed a bazillion people I’d rather be.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Listening very hard to what folks are saying and trying to connect to the people I meet.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: The protagonist of MOSQUITO COAST by Paul Theroux, a young boy becoming a man, who has to face down his father and rescue his family.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Ah, it’s the father of MOSQUITO COAST. He is so deeply entrenched in his own rightness—I think that can be the most enraging of traits.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I am rather sports-impaired, so I draw from a shallow pool here. Perhaps it would be Michael Phelps, because he must reach into a deep place it seems to go that extra mile. My question would be: “what do you think of during those hours of practice?”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Easy question! People feeling that rules do not apply to them (especially driving, and especially driving while on the phone.)

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I would love to imagine myself as a police officer or a surgeon. (It seems I never can pick just one.) I don’t think I’m suited to either one, but I’d love to walk in those shoes.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Being kind. Having a true moral barometer. Showing grace under pressure.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: It’s funny that this is the question stumping me. At first thought, it would be my family Thanksgiving stuffing. It even has vegetables in it. Then I tried to think of a more rounded out dish. Chicken soup? No, it has to be the Meyers Family Stuffing.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Lean on Me, Fly Me to the Moon, We Are Family, Aint No Stopping Us Now, Come Rain or Come Shine.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty.

Randy Susan Meyers is truly Nice, kind, and full of grace. To get to learn even more of this giving, gifted writer, please follow her on Twitter and become a friend on Facebook.


Book Giveaway: Book Giveaway: For a chance to win a copy of Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been, please leave a comment on this post by 7:00 p.m. EST tonight. (Everyone — i.e. readers as well as authors — is welcome to participate.) The winner — chosen from a random drawing — will be announced here in tomorrow’s post.