The Divining Wand

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Archive for February, 2010

Good News about and from Our Authors

February 25, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: News

The Diving Wand loves sharing good news about its authors and this post offers quite a collection.

For Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translation) BookPage Reviews’ Friendship and family in a foreign land is a Web exclusive by Sheri Bodoh.

Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA) was thrilled and flattered by this terrific book trailer for Bad Girls Don’t Die made by a reader/fan. Do watch.

Melanie Benjamin watches her foreign rights sales soar for (Alice I Have Been), along with requests for essays, interviews, and op-ed pieces on “Alice.” With the movie of “Alice in Wonderland” coming out next Friday, Melanie is enjoying perfect timing.

Also to be noted: The Audio Book of Alice I Have Been was Audiofile Magazine’s hot pick for the week of February 10th.

Randy Susan Meyers and The Murderer’s Daughters is traveling the world too with the book now to be published in Turkey, Israel, France, Germany, Britain, Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Taiwan, Poland, Portugal, and Holland.

Would you like to hear Randy? Listen to her Author Magazine Interview

And the “hip and current” Daily Candy has chosen The Murderer’s Daughters as one of the Best New Winter Books.

Meredith Cole has received a 2009 Agatha nomination for Best First Novel, Posed for Murder. The Awards will be presented on May 1st with Meredith’s second novel, Dead in the Water, in bookstores May 11th!

Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters) is overjoyed and thanks one and all because, according to BlackVoices Entertainment Newswire, “Sins of the Mother” was “the second highest rated program in key woman demographics in the network’s 12-year history — bested only by the 2009 ‘Natalie Holloway’ movie.”

And Alicia Bessette offers her literary website, her debut novel’s cover, and the opportunity to Pre-order Simply from Scratch coming August 5, 2010.

Congratulations and well done, everyone!

The Revealing of Sarah Pekkanen

February 24, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

SarahresizIn less than two weeks Sarah Pekkanen will become a true Deb at The Debutante Ball when her first novel, The Opposite of Me, is released on Tuesday, March 9, 2010. There’s already great buzz about this thought-provoking story of twins and REDBOOK Magazine, which has picked it as a “Bookmark” selection for its March issue, writes: “With her smart, soulful novel, author Pekkanen explores the place where self and sisterhood intersect.”

The Divining Wand’s full presentation/review of The Opposite of Me is scheduled for Monday, March, 8, 2010, but until then, let’s learn about Sarah from her professional bio:

Sarah Pekkanen’s work has been published in People, The Washington Post, USA Today, The New Republic, The Baltimore Sun, Reader’s Digest, and Washingtonian, among others. She writes a monthly Erma Bombeck type column for Bethesda Magazine, and has been an on-air contributor to NPR and E! Entertainment’s “Gossip Show.” She is the winner of a Dateline award and the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship. Sarah lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and three young sons.

Impressive writing credentials to be sure, yet what could be better than Sarah revealed?

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Chaotic, chocoholic, comedic… messy, madcap… Martha Stewart’s nightmare!

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: A group of girlfriends, a bottle or three of wine, and chocolate can make just about anything easier to bear.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Happiness can’t be perfect – you need lows to appreciate the highs. I just hope I have many more good moments than bad in life, and so far, I’ve been lucky.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Being in a plane crash; I pity the person sitting next to me, because at the first bump, I’m digging my nails into their arm.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Under an umbrella on a sunny beach with a tropical drink in hand and my family by my side. My husband must be made to understand that the cabana boy comes with the private island. We can’t return him!

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: “That’s what she said!”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Singing so well on “American Idol” that Simon is reduced to a stuttering, quivering mess.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Helping my three young kids turn into the funny, loving, quirky people they were meant to be.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I just love the wording of this question. It’s like, “We know there are MANY flaws — probably too many to count — but if you could only choose one (and it must be so hard to narrow it down), think of your greatest flaw, the one that makes people run away from you screaming.”
Um, I get distracted easily? Think impure thoughts about certain movie stars? Scarf down chocolate in front of my children and lie to them, telling them I’m eating fruit?

Wait, there ARE too many to chose from!

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I like most people, and I don’t take offense easily. Unless you mess with my kids. Then I’m like the Mob.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not appreciating my education more when I was in college. Plus certain fashion and grooming choices (that spiral perm was not my friend, and when it grew out, the top half of my hair was stick-straight, and the bottom half was pure frizz).

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’d love to dip into the lives of people who are completely different from me -but only for a day.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I usually have chocolate in hand and a book in front of my nose.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Hannibal Lecter. He’s chilling.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: People who eat a meal without drinking a beverage. I know, I know; it’s bizarre.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: By “fantasy” do you mean… oh, wait, is this a G-rated question? It is? Then I’ve got my fantasy profession. Writing never gets boring, I can do it in my pajamas, and the thought that I’m going to see my book in a store takes my breath away.

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

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Baked sweet potatoes dipped in chocolate. I’d eat the insides on days when I was feeling virtuous, and lick off the chocolate on my decadent days.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
Q: Nooo! Only five? They change all the time, but I love “Superman” by Five for Fighting, “No One” by Alicia Keys, “Romanza” by Andrea Bocelli,”Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen, and “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A:In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner; Little Women by Louisa May Alcott; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand; Whatever I’m currently reading and loving!

For much more of charming, clever, and always friendly Sarah Pekkanen, become a fan on Facebook…she’ll make you smile!

Our Authors’ Favorite Love Stories, II

February 23, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites

Although pre-empted by yesterday’s Olympic post, here is the continuation of our authors’ favorite love stories.

Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA):

“My favorite love story is ‘”Pride & Prejudice.”‘ Nobody can do it like Jane Austen! And one of the great things about loving that book is that there are umpteen movie versions to choose from when you need a girls’ day on the couch with some popcorn and a glass of wine! (The audiobook is also great for sewing along with.)”

Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“Pride and Prejudice; I just swoon over Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I think the very end of that novel is the most romantic ending ever.”

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA ):

“I think it was the summer I was 13, my mom gave me her copy of Gone With the Wind to read when I complained about being bored. I was completely swept up in that story. I still re-read it from time to time.”

Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA, The Truth About Delilah Blue coming June 8, 2010):

“Favorite love story is still Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons — a day in the life of a very real couple. No heaving bosoms, no chiseled jaws. Just a scatty, interfering wife and a gruff, fed-up husband who bicker and sweat and even hate each other at times. This book is a testament to the kind of love that matters–love that endures.”

Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being):

“While most of the love is thwarted in this story, the longing in The Mists of Avalon always bowls me over. Love that they reach and reach for and never get who or what they want–but they still love. This same longing and imagery in The English Patient, at the end.

“The love of a father for his daughters in Animal Dreams. So heartrending. So amazing.”

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

“Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez”

Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“I don’t remember the title, but I do remember the book quite well. It was one of those mass market bodice rippers where you have the eighteenth century Helen of Troy, whose somehow fallen on hard times and is enslaved to some purported evil, albeit devilishly handsome landowner with a the rakish cowboy who has nothing but is ready to whisk Mary off into the sunset on the back of his horse thrown in. I stole it off the pile of books next to my mother’s bed during the summer of my thirteenth year. What makes this book so memorable (forgotten title notwithstanding) is that it’s the first book I stayed up all night to finish. My cousins still talk about getting up around nine in the morning and finding me on the couch where they’d left me the night before, nose still buried in the book. Nothing against Judy Blume, but getting Forever after a Bodice Rippers is akin to my first opera experience: I saw the La Boheme dream team—Pavarotti and Freni—from row F center—nothing else will ever compare.”

Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“God, who doesn’t love a juicy Jane Austen love story! They’re all fantastic.”

Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars):

“I feel like I bang on all the time about BREATHING LESSONS by Anne Tyler, but it is about love and is one of my favorite books. Not only did it influence me as a writer, but I think it was illuminating for me to read as a young woman, demonstrating that a married couple can bicker, chafe, get so infuriated they can barely look at each other, and still be fully in love.

“In order to vary my answer to these questions a bit, I adore THE GREAT GATSBY which I guess is not a love story in the “happy ending” sense, but it is a romantic story in the sense of romanticizing a person, and how dangerous that can be.

“In a more classic “love story” sense, I did very much enjoy DELICIOUS by Sherry Thomas! Yum.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“This is a tough question! Anyone who knows me knows my favorite novel is The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger), but I don’t know that I’d call it my favorite love story. Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale might be my favorite. Kinsale is a masterful storyteller with great voice, and FftS offers unique but authentic characterizations, a riveting plot, and a pitch-perfect resolution. It’s a definite keeper.”

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

“My favorite couple is Sam Vimes and Lady Sybil in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, beginning with the book “Guards! Guards!” “She smiled at him. And then it arose and struck Vimes that, in her own special category, she was quite beautiful; this was the category of all the women, in his entire life, who had ever thought he was worth smiling at. She couldn’t do worse, but then, he couldn’t do better. So maybe it balanced out. She wasn’t getting any younger, but then, who was? And she had style and money and common-sense and self-assurance and all the things that he didn’t, and she had opened her heart, and if you let her she could engulf you; the woman was a city. And eventually, under siege, you did what Ankh-Morpork had always done–unbar the gates, let the conquerors in, and make them your own.”

Eileen Cook, Writer-in-Olympic-Residence

February 22, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA) — born, raised, and schooled in Michigan and Indiana — moved to Vancouver in 1994 with her “devoted husband.” Both love the city and, during the past few years, this author has mentioned the Winter Olympics of 2010 more than a few times in her blog posts.

Now that the Games have begun in beautiful Vancouver, Eileen shares her pride and joy in the Olympic experience.

What if you had a party and the whole world came?

WelcomeThe party has been in the planning stages for a long time. The initial bid to host the games started in 1998. In July 2003 it was official, the Olympics would be here in Vancouver. There have been debates on plans, years of construction, and more than a few curses over delays, costs and traffic. Then there has been the weather issue; we’re having the warmest February in 100 years. Figures.

All that melts away (along with too much snow) when you go into the city. Strangers talk to strangers on the street. There are free concerts, art installations, and many of the countries are hosting parties in various pavilions. I walked the streets on Sunday and passed a group visiting military soldiers, a couple from China, two Russian athletes sightseeing before their event, a Muslim woman with her headscarf decorated with Olympic pins, Americans, Swedes, and everyone else you can imagine. Canadians, normally rather quiet with their patriotism are waving flags,Poster painting their faces, and wearing every sort of Canadian gear they can get their hands on. There is an energy that is difficult to describe. The city is electrified. The torch set everyone on fire.

What’s the appeal of the Olympics? I’m not a sporty person. I tend to fall over while walking on flat ground so I don’t do too many activities that involve speed, ice, or objects hurled at a high rate of speed. I don’t even understand the rules of many of the Olympic sports. Curling? Near as I can tell it’s bowling with ice, rocks and brooms. I have tickets to one of the matches so I’ll let you know if I figure out any more than that. Then there is the biathlon. Who exactly thought skiing and shooting made a good combination? What’s next hockey combined with archery? Snowboarding with spears?

I believe we enjoy watching the games because there is something compelling about the effort. Years of training that come down to a one hundredth of a second difference between winning and losing. Flame We want to see someone win so we can share, even from our sofa, that soaring feeling of achievement. For those that don’t win, we want to see them pull themselves back up and show they may have lost, but they aren’t beaten. We want to see someone reach his or her personal best or have a moment of absolute perfection.

We experience the Olympics, because it reminds us that even though we may never win a gold medal, we do have the opportunity to do our best in our own lives. We’re reminded to work a bit harder, to push ourselves a bit further, to do a bit better than we imagined we could. The Olympics make us wonder, “What could I achieve; how high can I soar?”

Look for me on your TV coverage. I’ll be the one jumping up and down cheering the athletes and you on. Go on. Do your best. Believe in the power of yourself. There’s a gold out there just waiting for you.

Photos courtesy of Eileen Cook

Our Authors’ True Love of the Writing Process, II

February 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles

As promised here is a continuation of authors’ responses to the question of: What do you love most about the writing process?

Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming August 5, 2010):

“For the most part, my writing process is arduous. Often when I’m struggling to find the right words or simply the courage to keep on typing, I hear Matt typing away in the next room, or hear him lean back in his chair and sigh. I’m married to a writer, and no one understands my struggles better. It’s an inspiring reminder of the miracle of our own love story, and it’s what I cherish the most about my writing process.”

Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters)

“What I love most about writing is when I get it right. It’s very satisfying to use just the right word or image to describe something or write a beautiful sentence. Which is why I usually enjoy rewriting more than writing.”

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA):

“I love the new idea stage. I haven’t had a chance to ruin anything or realized why certain things won’t work. I’m convinced the idea is brilliant and I can’t wait to get started.”

Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA, The Truth About Delilah Blue coming June 8, 2010):

“What I love most about the writing process is that rare moment when your isolated ideas start to mesh into something more whole. It happens when you least expect it and it is always astonishing as the first time.”

Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“The magical feeling of seeing a scene in my mind and transmitting it into words as if I’m taking dictation from the gods–with the result being characters and events that become absolutely real to me. That’s certainly not an every-day event, but knowing that it can happen and does happen thrills me.”

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

“I’m having my favorite writing moment today actually. There’s a point in the manuscript when my fingers are flying, when I don’t even look at the screen, when there is hard rock on in the background and I hear nothing else. I don’t even realize that I’m breathing, I don’t feel hunger, I’m not cold, I’m not hot, I don’t feel my body at all. The Apocalypse could be raging outside, but all I am is flying fingers and story and music. THAT is a happy Kristy Kiernan.”

Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool coming April 6, 2010):

“Those moments when you go in a completely unexpected, intuitive direction.”

Maud Carol Markson (When We Get Home, Looking After Pigeon):

“I love it when I am at just the editing state– just working on a sentence or a paragraph here and there– finding the beauty in the words and the language, and the truth in my characters.”

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters:

“What don’t I love about my writing process? I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be writing full time. Now, what do I love most? Bringing a story to life—reaching into the ‘what if’ of life and breathing energy into the first imagined bones—is the most exciting (and yet most difficult) part of writing. My second love is revision. It feels great having a finished draft—to have jumped the first hurdle—and be able to dig it and made it as good as I can.”

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me, coming March 9, 2010):

“I love hunkering down on the couch, with my laptop and mug of tea nearby, and re-reading what I’ve written the day before, tweaking and polishing, before I move on to a fresh page. For me, re-writing is the best part of writing!”

Trish Ryan (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Love, and Happily Ever After, A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances coming June 22, 2010):

“What I love most about the writing process is the way it helps me figure out how the different ideas in my head connect in the larger scheme of life. Writing about the things I care about is surprisingly revealing for me. Sometimes I’ll find myself someplace entirely different than where I thought a chapter was going…and it’s almost always better than what I’d planned. I love that there’s an element to writing that we don’t control…that as authors, we get to be surprised, too.”

Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky Ages 9 – 12):

“What I love most about my writing process:
I was going to answer “typing The End” when I’ve finished the first draft. But I don’t really type The End. Although it is true that I’m very very happy to be done with the first draft, which is the most difficult part of writing for me.”


Reminder: This Sunday, February 21st at 8:00 p.m. EST LIFETIME MOVIE NETWORK presents “Sins of the Mother,” based on Carleen Brice’s debut novel, Orange Mint and Honey. The movie has already received glowing reviews which can can be found in the post, Sins of the Mother Party Watch Checklist!

Announcement: The two winners, receiving a signed copy of Judy Merrill Larsen’s debut novel, All the Numbers, are Ellie Ann and Sue. Congratulations! Please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly. And thank you to all who entered.

Our Authors’ True Love of the Writing Process

February 17, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles

If, as often described, the road to publication is a journey, then the writing process must be a well-known path for every author. Yes, it’s a creative path but one that’s also paved with guidelines, outlines, eventual deadlines and everything in between. Sound arduous? Some parts of this path just are, however what about those places where a writer can literally coast? Since these are different for everyone — and in keeping with this site’s theme for the week — our authors were asked: What do you love most about the writing process?

Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA):

“Like most writers, I have a totally bizarre relationship with the actual writing process–I love it enough to want to do it for a living, but I fear it and occasionally do everything in my power to avoid it! But I’ve recently discovered that what I really love is revising. I like taking something that almost works and making it clean and powerful.”

Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA coming May 13, 2010):

“Revising – makes me an odd duck in the writing world, but I love editing and revision.”

Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“Losing myself in a different world, becoming different people. It’s really a very dreamy, sensual feeling.”

Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water coming May 11, 2010):

“I know people rave all the time about those moments when the story flows and you’re in some magical groove. The story seems almost to write itself. I love those moments, too, but I have to admit I have an overwhelming fondness for editing. I resist as long as I can, making myself get through the first draft before I get to revise. And then, when it’s time, I whip out a red pen and prepare to slash and burn, straighten and expand. It’s so wonderful to see something that’s a bit of a mess and know instantly how to fix it. Or even if it’s a challenge, getting it all polished is all the more satisfying.”

Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being):

“My favorite part is the messy, early part where I am just writing and imagining and creating. It’s like mixing batter with too much flour, ideas and words everywhere. Later, of course, things have to calm down and recipe instructions must be followed. But before that! So much fun.”

Maria Garcia Kalb (101 Ways to Torture Your Husband):

“I am quite enamored with the “self-discovery” part of the writing process. You truly get to know yourself and there are many surprising things you learn along the way. I can say I never knew myself until I started writing. Its like meeting a stranger for the first time..but you’re not afraid to tell that stranger that they’ve got something in their teeth!”

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

“The moment I’ve completed a first draft and I get that feeling of relief, knowing I’ve gone the distance and that the chance to improve it still lies ahead.”

Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“As a sufferer of a writer’s block more impenetrable than that Berlin Wall, when I become like Crush the Turtle surfing the tide of the Eastern Australian Current (Finding Nemo), I do want to stand up and yell, “Righteous! Righteous!” I feel possessed. I can’t type fast enough and propelled by my fear that I will lose the thread of whatever happens to be pouring out of me, I write as fast as I can, without judgment, not caring if the words are spelled right or if the sentences make sense; this is all stuff I can fix later. Experiencing this state is what I love most about the writing process. It doesn’t happen often, but I don’t mind because I know the frenzy that contains the best of me is like a cat—it comes and goes as it pleases. But like anyone who lives in thrall to a cat, I still show up and scale writer’s block wall, propelled by the hope that today will be the day.”

Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“I love when I can hear a rhythm to my writing in my head as I type.”

Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars):

“It’s like playing Let’s Pretend! All my favorite games as a girl revolved around playacting and making up stories. I still get to do that, all the time.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“I love it best when my muse surprises me. I’m typing along, minding my own business, and then—wham. Who’s that character? Where did that line come from? The characters did what? These are the moments that make writing the most rewarding occupation in the world.”

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

“I love being ahead of deadline.”

To be continued…

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two signed copies of Judy Merrill Larsen’s debut novel, All the Numbers. Please leave a comment on this post by tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST to be entered into the random drawing. The winners will be announced in tomorrow’s post.

Judy Merrill Larsen’s Love Story

February 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

Have you ever fallen in love with a fictional character, someone who IF only existed…? On the other hand, when writers imagine their characters, do they ever create their “ideal?”

Our guest author for this week, Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers), has experienced both and shares how her romantic dream came true.


Finding Love Among the Pages

In the summer of 1973 I fell in love. Hard. This was no schoolgirl crush, no scribbling his initials and mine on my fabric covered three-ring notebook. In a way that I didn’t fully understand, this was it, was real, was grown up.
I was 13.

That summer I read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD for the very first time, and along with all the other emotions the book elicited in me, on some level, I also realized that Atticus Finch was my dream man. And this was before I’d seen Gregory Peck playing him on screen (that pretty much sealed it for me, though, when I did).

Atticus was a good man. He strove to do right even when everyone around him told him it was wrong. He loved his children. He was smart and funny and believed that most people were good. He wanted to make the world better.
Now, my passion for Atticus didn’t keep me holed up in my room all through high school, pining for a man I could never have. No, I fell for crooked grins and dimples, sweet smiles and piercing blue eyes . . . most of it unrequited. And, I always had my worn hard cover copy of MOCKINGBIRD at the ready to dive into anytime I needed the comfort of what had come to feel like home.

Ten years later I got married (what was I thinking? I was only 23!), had babies and began playing adult. Dreams of writing and of Atticus collected dust while I nursed my boys, did the laundry, cooked the meals and created a home for my family. On rare (very rare when you have two active little boys!) occasions I’d get a few moments to myself and I’d grab a book to read, sometimes reaching for the comforts of Maycomb and Atticus Finch.

Twenty years later, I was a single mom to those same two sweet little boys, feeling a bit stunned and shell-shocked to be an ex-wife. Eventually, I would try dating again, hopeful that I might find Mr. Right, but doubting he really existed, at least for me. My mantra became “hope for the best but expect the worst.” Once, after another bad first date, I was bemoaning my situation to my best friend who looked at me and said, “You’re looking for Atticus Finch, aren’t you?”

I was, of course, but had never admitted it to anyone, even to myself. And it occurred to me that perhaps I’d set the bar a tad too high.
I had a full life and I knew I was lucky. But, as I wrote about my main character in ALL THE NUMBERS, “Fortunately for Ellen, her life was full of family and friends and work. But sometimes her bed seemed too big for just one person. And sometimes she wished for a welcome home hug and kiss from an adult.” This was true for me, too.

I found time to chase the dream of becoming a novelist, and I poured many of my hopes and dreams and frustrations into Ellen. And, through the magic of fiction, I created her (and my) in the character of Bob Hansen, a lawyer who helps her after the death of her son. He’s patient and kind and good-looking. He’s smart and funny. He’s Ellen’s Atticus.

And I wanted him, too. But, like Atticus, he existed only between the covers of a book, and in my case, a book that hadn’t yet been published.

Flash forward another eight years, to 2001. Almost thirty years after I’d met Atticus; two years after I’d created the character of Bob Hansen.

My own Atticus Finch/Bob Hansen walked into my life, my REAL life, a life that existed not in the pages of a book I loved or a manuscript I hoped would someday be published.

A funny, smart, kind man who adored his children and mine, was respected as a lawyer, and wore glasses just like Atticus and Bob. A man who made me laugh, kept me on my toes, and had those great crinkles around his eyes when he smiled.

When my book was published five years later. Our friends (by then, we’d been married for a year) teased us that he was Bob Hansen. The character in my book. They didn’t believe me when I explained I’d written him, described him in the pages a full year before we met. The dark hair, the eye crinkles, the intelligence and kindness. All of it was John . . . but I hadn’t met him yet. In my toast to him at our wedding, I said he was my Atticus, and my best friend, my matron of honor, the one who all those years ago had said that’s what I was looking for, smiled through her tears as did I and as did John.

Who knew I could write the man of my dreams in my book and less than a year later he’d be standing on my doorstep, taking me out for dinner?

So, when I say that writing my book and having it published was the fulfillment of a dream, it’s true on so many levels.


Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two signed copies of Judy Merrill Larsen’s debut novel, All the Numbers. Please leave a comment on this post before tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m. EST to be entered into the random drawing. The winners will be announced in Thursday’s post.

Our Authors Favorite Love Stories

February 15, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites

Although February celebrates Black History Month, Heart Month and Valentine’s Day, it also offers a quiet time in book releases. Now, of course new books are appearing on bookstore shelves, but the real flurry of spring/summer titles begins next month and almost overwhelms in April, May, June…

To take advantage of this quiet, cozy, snowbound time as well as to extend the warmth of Valentine’s Day, what would be better than a good love story? Our authors agreed and have chosen to share their favorites with you.


Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA coming May 13, 2010):

“Pride and Prejudice…I know, not very original, but it’s the one book I can honestly say that when I read the last word, I just wanted to start all over again.”

Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming in August 2010):

“My favorite love story is Roland Merullo’s A LITTLE LOVE STORY. Here’s what The New York Times wrote about it; I couldn’t agree more, and I couldn’t say it better myself: “Thoughtful, restrained (yet very sexy) … Merullo captures what it feels like when you meet ‘the one’–and what you’re willing to do to hold onto that person.” If you’re looking for an utterly romantic, highly readable, bittersweet page-turner, with a beautiful, redemptive ending, do yourself a favor and buy this book.”

Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters):

“My favorite love story is the one in What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage. It’s between a woman who has recently learned she’s HIV-positive and a man who was formerly in prison when he was a drug addict. They are both good people, clean and sober now, and very sweet. The guy has beautiful dreadlocks and drinks green tea and does yoga, so, of course, he’s my kinda guy!”

Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“Forgive me, this will sound like a shameless plug, but my honest answer is the story I’ve just finished writing, THE REMEDY (due out in early ’11). I am absolutely in love with my lovers, and so sympathetic toward their plight…

“One of the reasons I write love stories is because I’ve found few in contemporary literature that suit my desires as a reader–and I l-o-v-e a love story. It’s easier for me to name favorite love stories on film: SOMMERSBY, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, and THE THORN BIRDS come to mind. And yes, I know the latter two are books as well–and I love the books–but the stories are even better-realized on film.”

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

“I have so many, but two that spring to mind right now are THE GOOD HUSBAND by Gail Godwin and EVIDENCE OF THINGS UNSEEN by Marianne Wiggins, both novels of long-term love and devotion.”

Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool coming April 6, 2010):

“Very very difficult to pick…one of many is Love in the Time of Cholera.”

Maud Carol Markson (When We Get Home, Looking After Pigeon):

“Any novel by Anne Tyler — she deals with love and relationships so beautifully and so truthfully.”

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters):

“In Before and After, author Rosellen Brown writes about the depth of family love and the love between a husband and wife, offering spectacular prose, a page-turning plot, and non-stop insight into the character’s hearts. This story of a family caught in the most awful of circumstances—with a teenage son accused of an appalling crime—Brown manages to let the reader see every side of the story, feel sympathy for all, and most impressive, she presents a family at terrible odds with each other’s views, still fighting to stay together. At it’s heart, this is a love story, and it is my favorite.”

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me, coming March 9, 2010):

“I can’t pick just one… there are so many great love stories out there!”

Trish Ryan (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Love, and Happily Ever After, A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances coming June 22, 2010):

“My favorite love story is pretty much any tale where we get to watch someone learn who they are and how to love better than they thought they could. My favorite novels in this category are too numerous to narrow down…the best example I can think of is the movie “How To Lose A Guy In 10 Dates or Less.” Kate Hudson’s character thinks she wants one thing in life (to write “real” articles about serious subjects) but discovers that life is bigger than she expected when love is added into the mix. By the end of the film, she wants more from life than she would have asked for in the beginning. (Also, I’m a sucker for a happy ending involving a chase scene!)”

Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky Ages 9 – 12):

“My favorite love story: Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Mars Freedman”

Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much a heart can hold.
~Zelda Fitzgerald

To be continued…next week.

Our Authors Take on Book Covers

February 11, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Although wisdom warns not to judge a book by its cover, both authors and readers would likely agree that a cover can make a favorable first impression. How much more of an impression, though?

To discover the truth our authors were asked, what book have you bought based on the lure of its cover? And then, many readers assume the author chooses a book’s cover and — while not exactly true — how much input have you had over your cover(s)?

The following novelists replied:

Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA):

“Interesting question. It’s so easy to find out more about books now that I think it’s very rare to purchase a book just based on the cover. I was drawn to a book called “Turtle Feet” (by Nikolai Grozni) by its cover, but I bought it because of the jacketflap copy. Books whose covers I love actually include a lot of my fellow Debutantes’ books–Mia King’s “Good Things” is one of my favorites, as is Eve Brown-Waite’s “First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria” and Tiffany Baker’s “Little Giant of Aberdeen County.”

”I didn’t have any input into my cover, except to see it and fall in love immediately.”

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA ):

“I know I’ve bought quite a few books based on the cover. Two that stick out, in part because they’re so different was Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.

“With my YA publisher, Simon Pulse, I’ve been fortunate to be included in the cover art planning and designs. It is a huge stress reliever to know what to expect. When I saw the cover of Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood I wanted to kiss the designer Cara.”

Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool coming April 6, 2010):

“I can’t remember the last time I bought a book based on its cover. Usually I pick up books based on the authors. But I’m sure covers have more influence on me than I know–maybe bad covers (leading me to NOT pick up a book) more than good.

“I did not have a lot of input on my cover design, although my editor kept me in the loop along the way. She did ask me at the very beginning of the design process if there was anything in particular I really hated, which I thought was nice. (I said covers that were busy and flowery.) We had one cover that was lovely but was eventually killed because it was too “quiet”…then went to this image, but with entirely different type treatment. I really didn’t like it, but then they changed the type placement and design,which made a world of difference–and now I think it is fabulous.”

Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars):

“I don’t buy books based on their covers, but a cover can make me grab a book off the pile, or draw my eye when posted on a blog, for example. One of my favorite covers was for Joshua Ferris’s THEN WE CAME TO THE END which showed the title rendered in red Sharpie marker on yellow sticky notes. For an office novel, this was perfect. I also adored the cover for Tiffany Baker’s LITTLE GIANT OF ABERDEEN COUNTY.

“I loved my cover for Real Life & Liars unreservedly, the first time I saw it. And though I’m not totally in charge of my cover for The Life You’ve Imagined, I am, right now, in discussions with my publisher about various designs. They are taking my input very seriously, and for that I’m so grateful (and all the choices are gorgeous. I can’t wait to share it when I can!)”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“Two books come to mind: Mr. Thundermug by Cornelius Medvei and Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier.

“I was asked for input on my cover—to provide ideas relating to themes, provide jpgs, anything I thought might help the cover artist. Looking back, about 95% of the pictures I provided related in some way to a woman in water. So when I saw the final cover, I was thrilled with it.”


Announcement: The winner of Kristy Kiernan’s two novels — Catching Genius and Matters of Faith — is Keetha. Congratulations! Please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your books will be sent as quickly as possible. And, as always, thank you to all who commented.

Next week all the posts’ topics will be about love…of some type. Be sure to visit.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Revealing of Judy Merrill Larsen

February 10, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

JudytmbWhen Judy Merrill Larsen, a former high school English teacher, wrote her debut novel, All the Numbers, she brilliantly told the heartbreaking story of losing a child. And, although it was purely fiction, the book resonated with so many who had lived through that tragic nightmare. In fact Judy was overwhelmed with “thank you” mail for giving voice and respect to their grief.

With her talent and literary skill grounded in the core values of middle America, it’s not surprising that this author simply says: “I live in St. Louis, MO with my husband, our five kids, a really sweet (but very dumb) golden retriever and a diabetic cat.”

Now let’s g;et to know Judy much better through what she reveals:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Really happy, very lucky, always grateful, needs coffee.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: It is what it is and it’s all good. (Or Go Packers!)

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Recognizing and appreciating how good I have it when I have it. Not to be all preachy or anything, but I sometimes have to catch myself to enjoy the moment without wishing for more. Most days, I choose to be happy.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Something really bad happening to one of my kids or my husband. That and being in a snake pit.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Somewhere warm (I’m pretty sick of winter these days). More specifically, I’d love to be in the South of France or in Tuscany, enjoying the view, the wine, and my husband.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: This is hard because mostly I look at people who have struggled/made a difference/survived and I’m in awe, thinking, how did they do that? Where’d they find the strength to do what they did? And I wonder how I’d hold up under such pressure. I like to think I’d stand up for right, that I’d be strong, but I haven’t been tested in the ways so many people throughout history have been, so it seems wrong to compare myself to anyone like that.
And just regular folks like me don’t really stand out in history.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Barack Obama.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: Okay okay okay. Just a minute. I’ll be right there. Is the wine open?

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’d love to be able to understand how to write music. Or draw and paint. That would rock.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Raising my sons who’ve turned out to be really fun, kind, happy young men.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Hmm. I’m impatient. And cluttered. I’m a bit of a hypchondriac. (I just asked my husband and he said, “Not having any flaws.” Ha!)

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Understanding the importance of family and friends and learning from experience.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not having a third (or fourth? Eeek!) baby.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A:I’d love to be a roadie for a Bruce Springsteen tour–you know, the person who tosses him the guitar.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: According to my husband, I’m pretty much without pretense (which isn’t always a good thing).

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Atticus Finch.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Quentin Compson from The Sound and the Fury. He’s just so wonderful to hate. And it all comes back to bite him in the end.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Brett Favre. I’d thank him for all the fun and excitement of watching him over the years. And then I’d ask him to please apologize to my son for going to the Vikings.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A:Probably rudeness and intolerance– they both seem so pervasive these days.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading or cooking or planning my next trip.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I think I’d love to be a chef or a singer in a band.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Honesty/integrity, a sense of humor, kindness

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Really good pizza or my mom’s chocolate chip cookies. Oh, or homemade chex-mix.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Fly Me to the Moon, Thunder Road, Sweet Baby James, Little Darlin’/Here Comes the Sun, Brown-Eyed Girl

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: To Kill a Mockingbird, Crossing to Safety, The Things They Carried, The Sound and the Fury, and Grapes of Wrath

Would you like to know even more? Become Judy’s friend on Facebook and welcome her next Wednesday when she guest blogs during a special week at The Divining Wand.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away both of Kristy Kiernan’s novels, Catching Genius and Matters of Faith, as a duo. Please leave a comment on this post to be entered into the random drawing. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST. with the winner announced here in tomorrow’s post.