The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Archive for February, 2010

Praise for Our Authors

February 09, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Praise

There’s glowing news to share about two of our recently published authors and two of those yet-to-debut.

To begin, Melanie Benjamin has been lauded for Alice I Have Been by every major national publication including: The Washington Post, People, and Entertainment Weekly which notes:
“Melanie Benjamin works valiantly to conjure up the real girl behind the Wonderland myth, and finds glints of genuine magic.”

Along with her glints of literary magic, Melanie has found glints elsewhere too. Commenting on Facebook she revealed:

“With all the Alice-related fashions & jewelry coming out, I’m wondering how much I can write off as business expenses?? I really love this necklace.

Randy Susan Meyers is both proud and grateful. The pride comes from last Friday’s (February 5, 2010) Los Angeles Times article, Dark Passages: Knockout debuts of the ‘decade’, with the subtitle — “Four new thrillers show that the class of 2010 is already off to a great start.” Of course The Murderer’s Daughters is one of the four!

As for Randy’s gratitude…it was expressed on Facebook with this comment:

“THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS is back up–no longer ‘Banned on Amazon’ Thank you everyone for all your help during this trip-wire during my debut. Facebook rocks!”

Meanwhile, Holly LeCraw is overjoyed with the bold red star next to the Fiction – 2/1/2010 – Library Journal review of her debut novel, The Swimming Pool (coming April 6, 2010). In addition to the starred review, Library Journal proclaims Holly to be: “An author to watch.”

And Alicia Bessette — still waiting for a website and cover (soon) for her debut novel, Simply from Scratch coming in August 2010 — is very happy to receive/add the following praise from Rachel Simon, bestselling author of Riding The Bus With My Sister: “Simply from Scratch is a sweet story of regeneration and hope, delivered by a writer of generous spirit and great heart.”

Congratulations to all!

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 Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST. with the winner announced here in Thursday’s post.

For a Florida Getaway Book Catching Genius

February 08, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith) has been mentioned on this site more than a few times…with good reason. First and foremost — without this very special author’s/friend’s encouragement and belief that my idea of “connecting” readers with authors would work — The Divining Wand probably wouldn’t exist! However as much as Kristy gives to her friends and fellow authors, what she gives to readers is sheer genius.

A born storyteller, this award-winning author has been gifted with writing talent that beckons from her first paragraph. She carries you away (always to her beloved southern Florida) so effortlessly, vividly, and emotionally that in reaching the end of one of her novels it’s bittersweet to close the book. And, while most of TDW authors know the experience, this Fairy Godmother wondered how many TDW readers were familiar with Kristy.

On April 6, 2010, Between Friends by Kristy Kiernan will be released after a two year wait between books. TRUST: Our patience has been rewarded. But for those who have yet to discover this remarkable author, why not get to know her now?

The Great Blizzard of 2010 promises to be followed by yet another one this week and TRUTH: A Florida getaway is as close as your bookstore. Below is my second, all-time book/presentation — Kristy’s debut, Catching Genius, — posted on February 26, 2007 and it still holds up.

Enjoy…the book!



Presenting Debutante Kristy Kiernan with Catching Genius

Reviews for Catching Genius

BookPage: “stunning debut,” “mesmerizing,” and “a must read…”

Publisher’s Weekly: “a moving novel about forgiveness and the fragility of family,”

Harriet Klausner, online book reviewer: “a delightful look at how childhood relationships make the adults…readers will appreciate Kiernan’s poignant look at the changing relationship between two sisters.”

If Kristy Kiernan’s name sounds familiar, you have a good memory. Introduced in the January 8, 2007 post, “An Invitation to the Debutante Ball,” Kristy explained her intention for the grog: “I wanted to bring fresh voices together and present them to readers in a one-stop shop format and let them get to know about us and our novels in a unique way before they had to search for us in a bookstore full of the same authors they’ve seen for years and years.” Until now, she has shared the weekly spotlight with her fellow five Debs, but Kristy will soon garner individual attention when her novel, Catching Genius is released on Tuesday, March 6th.

Since that date is only a week and a day away, it’s time for you to get to know her better. In the bio posted at The Debutante Ball, you would read:

“Kristy Kiernan was raised in Florida as one of the beach-rats she often writes about and dreaming of writing a novel. But the exciting life of serving Manhattans and pot stickers at a trendy, striped-shirt establishment beckoned, and Kristy answered the siren song, fetchingly bedecked in suspenders with pithy buttons and WOW pins (WOW stood for: we really should give you some money for working the past 72 hours; how ’bout this shiny PIN instead?!), and tres chic hats trailing polka-dot ribbons. She often wore matching polka-dot shoelaces.

“This glamorous life couldn’t last long, and before Kristy knew it she was married to renowned art-dealer hunk, Richard, and working in the construction industry as a purchasing agent. No more WOW pins or hats, but she occasionally tried to sneak out of the house in those polka-dot shoelaces. Luckily, she was stopped by previously mentioned hunk.

“Alas, the construction industry didn’t keep Kristy’s creative side happy (really, who could tame her?!), and Richard, never one to sit idly by while his love was pining for an outlet, encouraged her to follow her dream (actually, he told her to write a book or stop whining about it). The journey has a happy ending. Kristy’s first novel, Catching Genius, will be published by Berkley Books in March of 2007.”

Friendly, a bit glib and ever imaginative, that might be your first impression of this Deb; but check out her website, Kristy Kiernan, and you’ll find more revealing insights [three years ago this appeared]:

“Kristy was born in Tennessee and raised on the beaches of southwest Florida, where she learned to read by watching her mother draw letters in the sand. The day she discovered that the letters formed words she knew she wanted to write. “Though I don’t remember it,”‘ Kiernan says, ‘”my mother told me that when I was five I suddenly stopped building my sandcastle, squinted up at her and declared, ‘When I’m done with all the grown-up stuff, I’m going to be a writer.’ I’m not sure I’m done with all the grown-up stuff, but at least I fulfilled the writing prophecy.””

That debut writing prophecy is fulfilled in Catching Genius and here’s a brief synopsis:

“As children, Connie and Estella were best friends — until Estella was discovered to be a math prodigy, which led to the sisters’ estrangement. Now, years later, they are forced to reunite on the Gulf Coast of Florida as they pack up their childhood home and ready it for sale. The reunion comes at a time when both Connie and Estella must come to terms with painful revelations and devastating consequences in their own lives. And once again, her sister’s genius may alter Connie’s life in ways she cannot control.”

Sound anything like your relatives? Well, maybe not the “genius” part. ;o) But, since many first-time novelists write about what they know best, I asked Kristy if she based the book’s theme of sister/family on personal experience? And she replied:

“No, the sisters theme did not come about from my family. I have an older brother, and so the sibling theme was certainly something that I’d had experience with. But what I was really interested in was the often unspoken reality that family members don’t always understand or even like each other. There seems to be an assumption that because people are related they should automatically be close, and really, how often does that happen? I think it’s both an unrealistic expectation as well as a guilt-inducing fallacy that feeling close to a family member is automatic and easy. For some I suppose it is. Not for most of the people I’ve met. For most it’s as much work, if not more, than having a good relationship with a spouse or friend. And why shouldn’t it be? Especially when you grow up. People change when they become adults, thank goodness, and when you bring the same issues developed as children to the table as adults without changing how you deal with them, well, it’s no wonder holiday dinners are so often portrayed as chaotic, bickering, resentment-fueled events.

“So, I could have written about the relationship that I should know best, that of brother and sister, but I was intrigued with the idea that sisters not only have to contend with the expectation that they understand each other as family members, but also as women. I think that in our society sisters are seen as being lucky and are always told that they are, as if they were born with love and understanding for their sister already instilled. It must be difficult when sisters don’t really understand each other, and I wanted to explore that.”

Ahem…and understanding can be a challenge as Deb Kristy — attempting to identify her protagonist(s) — interviewed both sisters and their mother in Connie? No, Estella. No, Wait, June Of course those are the sisters as adults, but — if you’d like to read more about them as children — visit the website and click on Excerpt at the top of the page. [Now, three years later, click on Catching Genius at the side of the page.]

Lovely and poignant, Kristy Kiernan’s writing is heartfelt. And that comes out naturally when reflecting on her own childhood in Bookstores and Beach Rats.

Sigh…so why not PRE-ORDER Catching Genius now? Experience the magic of this talented writer who began by writing letters in the sand, then caught and honed her own genius!

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 Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST. with the winner announced here in Thursday’s post.

Our Authors’ Best Advice

February 04, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

While experience is often the ultimate teacher, there are usually words of wisdom that guide an author through the process of writing. What words might those be? This Fairy Godmother asked:

What is the best advice about writing that you’ve received/read AND put to use?

What follows are several of our authors’ responses:

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

“Write what you write, and don’t compare your writing to others’.”

Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Wow, lots of advice. Don’t give up. There’s no such thing as writer’s block (I mean, do plumber’s have plumber’s block? Lawyers have lawyer’s block? No. I’m a writer, so I write.). You can’t fix a blank page. Give yourself permission to write crap. It’ll get better upon revision. Write from the heart. And, Of course it’s not always easy. If it was, everyone would do it. And few things that really matter are easy. But it’s who I am, so I write.”

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

“The best advice I ever received was to keep writing, and to write the kind of work that I myself would want to read. So I continue to write for the reader who is like me.”

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

“Keep on writing, no matter what. Don’t stop. Aim for 1,000 words a day, at least. Never give up!”

Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing)

“Write fearlessly. Avoid adverbs.”

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):

“Stephen King: ‘“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”’ One of the last things I do before submitting to my editor is run a search for all words ending in LY. Typically cuts my word count WAY down, and I don’t miss the deleted words.”

Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translation):

“Read your work aloud. This is so helpful in figuring out what works and what doesn’t in terms of word selection, dialogue, the rhythm of the prose, etc.”


Announcements: The two winners of Shana Mahaffey’s debut novel, Sounds Like Crazy, are Rebecca and Steve. Congratulations!


The winner of Carleen Brice’s two novels, Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters, is Wendy. Congratulations to you too!

Now, if you will all please send your mailing addresses to: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com, I’ll get these books out to you as promptly as possible. And my thanks to everyone who entered.

News from and about Our Authors

February 03, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: News

It’s time to take a look at authors making news beyond their pages…

Melanie Benjamin is very proud that Alice I Have Been was reviewed on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” You can read and listen to that review here. Bravva, Melanie!

Think of Mia King (Good Things, Sweet Life, Table Manners) and what comes to mind? Novels, Hawaii and FOOD?!

It’s true that recently, when not writing, Mia’s been spending more and more time in her actual and virtual kitchen. You can join her online at the Friendship Bread Kitchen on Facebook where she has gorgeous images, recipes and tips relating to Amish Friendship Bread. She even has a contest going on right now — once the page hits 500 fans, she’s giving away a beautiful Emile Henry ceramic loaf pan from William-Sonoma! As of this writing, Mia’s fans number 493, so hurry…

Also expect a major announcement from this author in the next month or two.

On Monday, February 1st, Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want coming June 1, 2010) announced Contest Time!. She’s giving away at least two galleys of The One That I Want (coming June 1, 2010) and all you need do is tell her: Where would you like to see yourself five years from now?

Allison shares her five years in the future: “Hmmm, I think I’d like to be living in California (I’ve had enough of NYC and we’re considering a move), still writing a book or so a year, add another dog (not child!) to our family, having more time to relax and focus on ME once my kids are a bit older. I think my five-year goal was probably a bit more lofty five years ago – now, in my 30s, I feel like I’ve been able to take the reins of my life and steer it more or less where I want it to go, but then again, who knows what the future brings (well, Tilly does!), so we’ll just see what happens from here. :)”

The deadline is tomorrow night with the winner announced on Friday. Since Monday’s post is weighed down with comments, visit Go Big or Go Home and share.

Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water coming May 11, 2010) invites you to check out a sneak peek of Dead in the Water which is featured this month on “From the Masters.”


Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Shana Mahaffey’s Sounds Like Crazy in a random drawing of comments left on this post. Everyone — readers and writers alike — is welcome to participate before the deadline of tonight at 7:00 pm EST. The winners will be announced here in tomorrow’s post.


To celebrate “Sins of the Mother” –based on Carleen’s debut novel, Orange Mint and Honey, which premieres on The Lifetime Movie Network Sunday, February 21st at 8:00 p.m. EST — The Divining Wand will give away both Orange Mint and Honey and Carleen’s latest book, Children of the Waters, as a duo. Anyone leaving a comment on this post will be entered in the random drawing. The deadline is this evening at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winner to also be announced in tomorrow’s post.

Celebrating Black History Month

February 02, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters) is a successful author who — like many successful authors — is quick to recognize and recommend fellow writers. And last year, with a wonderful idea to call attention to black authors, she created the blog White Readers Meet Black Authors that offers all of us the opportunity to know and read more good writers. Today The Divining Wand welcomes Carleen to celebrate novelists who you may not know yet, but could well enjoy soon.


In honor of Black History Month here are a few of my favorite recent releases and some upcoming books I’m very excited about!

girlfellskyThe Girl Who Fell From the Sky, by Heidi Durrow. A haunting story about a Danish woman, her black American husband, their children and the life they attempt together. Check out this lovely story of what Heidi did to honor writer Nella Larsen, who wrote Passing in 1929.

The Air Between Us by Deborah Johnson. For all of those who enjoyed The Help, this is a must-read. Funny, true and beautifully written. One of my favorites.

Going Down South by Bonnie Glover. As someone who’s written a mother-daughter story and loves to read them, I highly recommend this novel about three generations of smart, strong and feisty women. You will love getting to know Olivia Jean, Daisy and Birdie!

Searching for Tina Turner by Jacqueline Luckett is a fun read that middle-aged women will definitely relate to. It’s a good one for those of us waiting for Terry McMillan to finish the sequel to Waiting to Exhale.

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. This book takes on some of the most complicated facts of American history-the relationships between slave owners and their slaves- and puts a face on them. Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu, four slave mistresses, as well as Fran a white wife of one of the slaveholders and Glory, a Quaker in the north will stay with you long after you turn the last page of this book.

FeministaFeminista by Erica Kennedy. Save this one to read after Wench. You’ll want something funny and upbeat, and the snarky heroine in this modern love story is just what the doctor ordered!

Please consider preordering the following books today:

WhatmotherWhat Mother Never Told Me by Donna Hill. Another mother-daughter story about a woman who discovers the mother she thought was dead is alive. Donna has been publishing for 20 years and has written more than 60 romances and women’s fiction novels! Definitely a writer I admire.

Take Your Pleasure Where You Find It by J.D. Mason. Three best friends from high school attend their 30th reunion and big-time secrets are revealed! Publisher’s Weekly just gave this a glowing review.

Uptown by Donna Grant and Virginia Deberry. Can’t wait to read! This one makes me think of Dallas and Dynasty. Publisher’s Weekly calls it “a smart and compelling tale of how selfishness and avarice can destroy a family’s work and reputation.”

Glorious by Bernice McFadden. McFadden’s novels have been praised by everybody from Toni Morrison to Terry McMillan. Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of The Scenic Route, says of Glorious “This very American story is fascinating; it is also heartbreaking, thought-provoking, and beautifully written.”

Substitute Me by Lori Tharps. An intriguing look at a relationship between a career woman and her nanny. Sure to be another one that fans of The Help will gobble up.

For more recommendations, please visit White Readers Meet Black Authors.


To celebrate “Sins of the Mother” –based on Carleen’s debut novel, Orange Mint and Honey, which premieres on The Lifetime Movie Network Sunday, February 21st at 8:00 p.m. EST — The Divining Wand will give away both Orange Mint and Honey and Carleen’s latest book, Children of the Waters, as a duo. Anyone leaving a comment on this post will be entered in the random drawing. The deadline is tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winner to be announced in Thursday’s post.

In addition:

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Shana Mahaffey’s Sounds Like Crazy in a random drawing of comments left on this post. Everyone — readers and writers alike — is welcome to participate before the deadline of this Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm EST. The winners will be announced here in Thursday’s post.

Shana Mahaffey’s Sounds Like Crazy

February 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


From the Front Book Cover:

“Tender, fresh, and darkly comic.”
–Tish Cohen, Author of Inside Out Girl

Since Shana Mahaffey has always been fascinated by how the mind works, it should not be surprising that she chose this ambitious topic for the idea of her debut novel, Sounds Like Crazy. Or, at least, her own mind pondered the mental ability of creatively coping for survival when faced with the trauma of loss, guilt, and anguish.

Pondering is this author’s “what if?” process and, in pondering how someone — crushed by a painful childhood — unconsciously has allowed five distinct personalities to mentally cope for her, Holly Miller appeared. Rather than referring to Holly as the protagonist or even main character, Shana claims her as the flawed narrator of the novel for there are those five other bodies and voices rattling around in Holly’s head.

Does this sound much more like confusing than just plain crazy?

It’s true that when the reader first meets about-to-turn thirty year old Holly her own personality is elusive, if not simply beaten down by the other five, aka the Committee. However Holly is not Sybil who lost track of time and was unaware that multiple personas existed within her. Instead the narrator of Sounds Like Crazy lives with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and is well aware when another personality takes control, but lacks the ability (and often the desire) to stop them.

To understand and accurately create a character with DID, Shana read and researched the subject, discovering her most telling information written in online blogs and comments from individuals suffering from a splintered psyche. In fact the novelist admits that this is where she realized true compassion for Holly and for anyone suffering from DID.

Concerned that a crash course in psychiatry may be required to enjoy Sounds Like Crazy?

Discover there’s no need to worry by reading the synopsis:

Though she doesn’t remember the trauma that caused it, Holly Miller has Dissociative Identity Disorder. Her personality has fractured into five different identities, together known as The Committee. And as much as they make Holly’s life hell, she can’t live without them.

Then one of those identities, the flirtatious, southern Betty Jane, lands Holly a voiceover job. Betty Jane wants nothing more than to be in the spotlight. The rest of The Committee wants Betty Jane to shut up. Holly’s therapist wants to get to the bottom of her broken psyche. And Holly? She’s just along for the ride…

In this Book Trailer for Sounds Like Crazy, view “the darkly comic” side of the story.

An Interview with Holly Miller

You’ve just met Holly as well as her five other personalities. And now a word from the author who was interviewed on KPIX Channel 5 Bay Sunday.

Without question Sounds Like Crazy is complicated…in a good way. The many layers, challenges, and mysterious demons of Holly Miller chronicle the journey of a young woman in search — at times — for her true identity as well as purpose in life. Ah, then, does this novel fall into the genre of chick lit/women’s fiction? It certainly does, albeit with the inclusion of a serious mental health disorder.

Yes Holly — alone, scrambling for work, acceptance, and love in New York City — may have more obvious and serious challenges to conquer than other thirty year old characters recently encountered in fiction. However that’s what makes her story compelling. She yearns to be normal, free to be in control of her life and its choices…except that giving in and having a Committee of five be responsible for your actions can be welcome and much too easy. Besides, since they began moving into her head during childhood, they all have reasons for being there.

Those reasons, their real identities, and whether Holly is strong enough to live without them prove to be both fascinating and frustrating. Just as the author found compassion for Holly, so also does she pass it on to the reader. A well-written, well-told tale that turns out to be heartbreakingly plausible, Sounds Like Crazy also provides just enough real life humor to offer recognition of universal human nature. After all don’t we all hear at least one voice in our head?

To read more about what others are saying about Shana Mahaffey’s debut novel, please visit her website’s News page. To get to know Holly and share a uniquely insightful journey for her true identity, indulge in and enjoy Sounds Like Crazy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Shana Mahaffey’s Sounds Like Crazy in a random drawing of comments left on this post. Everyone — readers and writers alike — is welcome to participate before the deadline of this Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm EST. The winners will be announced here in Thursday’s post.