The Divining Wand

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Archive for August, 2010

Guest Tanya Egan Gibson on Unknowable

August 31, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[How well do you know your friends? Do you know them as well as favorite fictional characters? In today’s guest post Tanya Egan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading) reflects on how by reading and knowing characters, we’re motivated to close the human “gap” of getting to know and understand the truth of real-life people. ]


At the beginning of The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway says he wishes for “no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.” He’s had enough of confidences from people he barely knows; he doesn’t want emotional involvement with strangers. But F. Scott Fitzgerald did, I believe. I suppose every writer of fiction does.

I write because other people are a paradox—essentially like me (human), yet essentially unknowable. I stare at strangers on line in the grocery store and want to know their stories. Does that T-shirt with the dancing cat on it mean something to her, or is it something she threw on? Is that last-minute candy bar purchase a happy treat or a guilty pleasure? Is she glancing at her cell-phone to check the time or to wish a call into happening? Her doctor? Her boss? Her child? Her lover?

Does she love someone? What does love feel like for her? We all want to be loved. But loved how? What feels like love to someone else doesn’t necessarily feel like love to me. I want to know what her love feels like. This is where and why the storytelling starts for me, this what if?-ing. To bridge the gap between myself and other people, I make them up in my head.

There’s always distance between people, even those we know well. I imagine a Zeno’s Paradox of Relationships where the space between us and those we care about is halved with every interaction, every effort, every disclosure–a gap that shrinks but never quite disappears. Most of the characters in my novel, How To Buy a Love of Reading, suffer from loneliness because they give up on other people, believing that nobody can ever understand them. (A little gap seems just as daunting to them as a big one.)

It isn’t just other people’s unknowability that plagues them; it is their own fear of being unknown. Hunter Cay, a sixteen-year-old bibliophile and substance abuser, is desperate to be seen for who he is–to be read accurately. He looks like he has everything–he’s handsome, wealthy, and idolized by his friends and his friends’ parents alike. But he makes it impossible for anybody but his overweight, unpopular, book-hating best friend, Carley, to crack open his “cover” to read his true “text” (and accept the unexpected story she discovers therein). He chooses the fiction he reads and the fictions he constructs about himself over real life because in the world of pretend there is no gap. You can be the character.

As much as I adore fiction, and as much as I turn to it to make sense of life, and to be entertained, and not infrequently to be comforted, I don’t think the real-life gap between real-life people is a bad thing. The mystery of other people draws me to them; the slow unveiling of another human being is a beautiful, mesmerizing dance.

In the end, I care about people more than characters–even my own. It’s easy to fall in love with characters, especially those of your own creation–they do what you want them to, they lay their souls bare, and (you can imagine) they understand you completely. The unreal is addictive because bonding with characters requires no emotional risks. (Hunter fantasizes about the authors of the books in which he buries himself, making up scenarios in which they befriend him in bookstores and bars, but when he is confronted with two real authors who want to help him, he is unable to be real.) Characters are easy; real people are hard. And what is easy is rarely most worthwhile.

I can’t imagine a life without stories. But fiction, I think, is a means, not an end; a prescription, not a cure. It suggests that peering closer to people is a good thing. It promises that we are not alone, that the universality of the “gap” can, paradoxically, bring us together. It is a “privileged [glimpse] into the human heart” that inspires us to read real people more closely, more thoughtfully, and–I hope–with more care.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Katharine Davis’s A Slender Thread in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Katharine Davis and A Slender Thread. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Katharine Davis and A Slender Thread

August 30, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Katharine Davis (East Hope, Capturing Paris), a self-described “late bloomer,” postponed her writing career until the age of fifty. And then — after teaching French in the Washington, D.C. area, working at the National Gallery of Art, and raising two children — she decided what she wanted next in life. Writing novels won hands down and with her third book, A Slender Thread, having recently been released on August 3, 2010, there’s no question that Katharine (Winner of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance 2010 Award for Fiction) chose the perfect pursuit.

How did the author succeed? What was her secret? According to Katharine, it was rather straightforward: “The odd thing was I had started to tell people I was writing a novel, and how could I quit after that? I didn’t want to be one of those people who always talk about writing one day and then never do it.”

Also, when deciding on the type of novel to write, Katharine showcased her life experiences by acknowledging most first time novelists, in their twenties or thirties, often write a coming of adulthood story. Instead, her books focus on the challenges one encounters at mid-life.

For example, by reading Guest Katharine Davis on Where Novels Come From, it’s learned that the seed of A Slender Thread was planted by a chance social encounter with a vibrant, seemingly healthy women in her fifties. However, having been diagnosed with Progressive Primary Aphasia, this woman had already lost her ability to speak and this rare brain disease would eventually take away the rest of her physical/mental abilities.

How does one find the strength to cope with such adversity? That was only one of many questions the author wondered as she crafted a story about two sisters, the elder one having Progressive Primary Aphasia.

Here’s a brief introduction to A Slender Thread:

As a girl swimming in the waters of Bow Lake, where she and her family spent every summer, Margot Winkler knew her big sister, Lacey, would keep her safe. Decades later, Lacey’s home in a small New Hampshire town is often Margot’s refuge from her less settled situation with her live-in lover, Oliver, in Manhattan. But everything changes just before Thanksgiving, when Lacey meets Margot’s arrival for the holiday with devastating news. . .

Yet the novel never tells the story from Lacey’s point of view. While her actions and words communicate what she might be feeling and thinking, the tale is told by those who love Lacey most — her husband and her sister Margot. They are, or believe they are, as affected by the disease as is Lacey, thereby knowing what’s best for her. And that’s how the theme of communication threads its way through the entire book. As Katharine notes:

“Communication is in our power — by our actions, by what we say, or don’t. Art is another way of communicating and that is why I brought the making of art into the book. The message is that the human spirit is strong and if we open ourselves up to others, we can grow even stronger and survive all kinds of difficulties.”

On the other hand when communication falters, is misunderstood, or completely shuts down, then come the problems. Since any serious and/or life-threatening disease to a family member or close friend changes one’s life, it’s not unexpected to have fear creep into the relationship. Too often the diagnosis labels that person, causing many to either smother or flee. How unfortunate, because that family member or close friend is still likely to be the same person you’ve always loved. The sole difference now is their need to be treated for who they still are, rather than what they now have. So how do Lacey’s husband and her sister choose to treat her? Ah, there are no spoilers here!

Art is another form of communication — as the author mentioned above — and it figures prominently in the lives of the two sisters. Lacey is a talented weaver, while Margot works at regaining her painting skill and passion. Each slender thread woven into a scarf, blanket or tapestry becomes more of Lacey’s physical voice. It’s her true expression, just as each of Margot’s brush strokes reveal her feelings as well.

To be understood, to be accepted, and to share openly with others are vital needs for all the characters in A Slender Thread. It may be fiction but what Katharine Davis has written reminds us that in reality these elements are vital to every human spirit for whatever the future holds….at any age.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Katharine Davis’s A Slender Thread in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Welcoming New Authors, Introducing 2011 Debs

August 26, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, News

With Labor Day only a weekend away, it’s a time for change and new beginnings. During the summer TDW welcomed new authors to the site and, once again, I’m proud to announce the addition of the following four writers soon be seen on these pages:

~Melissa Senate (The Mosts YA, The Secret of Joy, the rest in Bibliography, and The Love Goddess’ Cooking School coming October 26, 2010)

~Stacey Ballis (The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography, and Good Enough to Eat coming September 7, 2010)

~Karen McQuestion (A Scattered Life is the first self-published Kindle book to be optioned for film. Now, in response to reader enthusiasm, the novel has been published in paperback by AmazonEncore, Amazon’s new publishing division.)

~Richard Hine (Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch coming October 12, 2010)

Also in a state of change is The Debutante Ball with their 2011 Season beginning this Monday, August 30, 2010. In a recent post, “bowing out” Debutante Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch that People magazine described as “tasty” in the Great Reads section of 8/14 issue) offered a brief glimpse of the five new Debs:

“Fans of the Debutante Ball are in for a phenomenal treat this upcoming year. Here’s a sneak peek at the awesome books penned by our five new dancin’ queens:

Eleanor Brown is the author of The Weird Sisters, the story of three adult sisters who return home to the small college town where they grew up, partly because their mother is ill, but mostly because their lives are collapsing and they don’t know where to go next.

Elise Allen is the author of a novel for young adults, Populazzi, a coming-of-age comedy of errors about a girl’s quest to become popular.

Kim Stagliano’s memoir, All I Can Handle, takes the reader from her wedding day to the present, chronicling what it was like to have one, then two, then three girls with autism while she and her husband weathered job losses and financial woes.

Sarah Jio’s novel, The Waters of March, takes place in two time periods (present and 1943), and was inspired by her childhood on and near Bainbridge Island, Washington. It’s the story of a disillusioned, divorced writer who discovers a diary that sends her on a journey of healing and discovery.

The first of Tawna Fenske’s three romantic comedies, Making Waves, concerns a revenge-fueled diamond heist in the Caribbean, with a crew more suited to the boardroom than the poop deck, and a quirky blond stowaway who’s got a few big secrets.”

Please join them and take a whirl around the ballroom floor, remember pearls and gloves are not required!

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Announcement: The winners of Kate Ledger’s “signed” copies of Remedies are Jennifer Sharp and Mary Quackenbush. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and Kate will send out your book as soon as possible.

The Revealing of Tanya Egan Gibson

August 25, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Interviews, Profiles

Tanya Egan Gibson debuted with her first novel, How to Buy a Love of Reading, in May, 2009 to the following praise:

“Brimming with literary allusions, commentary on the rich and famous, and the necessary ingredients for a successful novel, Gibson’s ingenious debut succeeds on many levels.” __Booklist

The book was released in paperback late last month and here’s a brief synopsis:

Literary references abound in Tanya Egan Gibson’s debut novel, How to Buy a Love of Reading. Filled with social commentary and dark humor, the book features a young woman, Carley, who has never read a book she liked, so her parents hire a novelist to write a book just for her. This novel-in-a-novel as well as Gibson’s clever depiction of Carley’s own life and social circle brim with wit and intelligence.

How to Buy a Love of Reading explores the power of books in our lives.

Intrigued? The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of How to Buy a Love of Reading for Tuesday, September 7, 2010, however — as is the custom — let’s first meet the author through her “official” bio:

Tanya Egan Gibson’s debut novel, HOW TO BUY A LOVE OF READING, was published by Dutton in May 2009. An alum of Squaw Valley Community of Writers, she is mother to a five-year-old girl who produces countless construction-paper “books” that she insists Mommy “get published” and a two-year-old boy who thinks books are for throwing (though he also has Goodnight Moon memorized), and wife to the most patient man in the universe.

Now it’s time for Tanya to speak for herself by revealing:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Love-filled tangle of children, husband, and stories.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: “Don’t think, just do.”

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Seeing the love in my children’s eyes when they do something sweet and random, like stroke my cheek with a chubby little hand.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Anything bad happening to my husband or children.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Any warm beach, watching waves crash.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Despite my best efforts, I can’t come up with an answer for this one. Best I can do is tell you who fascinates me: F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’ve read so many biographies about him, Zoe, and their contemporaries.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Joss Whedon (creator of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, DOLLHOUSE, et. al.)

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “Actually,” and “Welcome to my world”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’d love to know how to sew and design clothing.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Motherhood. It’s by the far the hardest but most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. That my children are kind, gentle little people makes me unbelievably happy.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I’m inclined to want to question/change rules.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m passionate about everything important to me–my family, my friends, my writing, everyone else’s writing.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I can’t ignore mean people.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’d think it could be fun to be The Statue of Liberty for a while. The things she must see! (I figure her giant eyes give her the ability to see everything in lower Manhattan, not to mention all those folks on the ferries.)

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’m physically demonstrative and don’t like to “blend.” I hug. I talk with my hands. I wear clothing that can verge on costume-y: leather trench coats, shiny things, etc. I own a skirt trimmed with feathers.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Are you going to think I’m a total sap if I say Mr. Darcy? Oh, I don’t care. Mr. Darcy it is.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Spike, from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Wait, did I need to pick someone from a book? I hope not.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Johnny Weir, a U.S. figure skater known for his big personality and sometimes eccentric behavior and costumes. I’d tell him how much I respect his being true to himself.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Bad manners. I don’t mean using the wrong fork or putting your elbows on the table. I mean people being pushy, inconsiderate, or rude.

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

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I’d love to be an Imagineer (a person who design rides and attractions for theme parks).

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Kindness, independent thinking, humor.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Cheese! CheddarSwissHavartiiMuensterBrieManchegoHumboltFogMozzarellaFetaBleuSt.AndreJack! I love all cheese!

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: As of today: “Stepping Out” (Joe Jackson), “Lifetime Piling Up” (Talking Heads), “Every Breath You Take” (Sting), “Don’t You Forget About Me” (Simple Minds), “Bring Me To Life” (Evanescence)

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: After trying and trying, I really can’t winnow it down to fewer than six! Please forgive my inability to comply with directions. (This particular weakness is related to my answer to the “Greatest Flaw” question above.)

Here are the 6: Bel Canto (Ann Patchett), The Confessions of Max Tivoli (Andrew Sean Greer), The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut), Waterland (Graham Swift), The Keep (Jennifer Egan).

Embodying the three personal qualities most important to her — kindness, independent thinking, humor –, Tanya Egan Gibson also possesses a passionate nature that’s difficult to resist. Discover that for yourself by becoming a follower on Twitter and her friend on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: This week Kate Ledger has graciously offered two “signed” copies of Remedies to the winners of a random drawing from comments left on this specific post, Kate Ledger and Remedies. A comment left on any other post during the week will not be eligible. The deadline for this contest is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT and the winners will be announced here in tomorrow’s post. IF you do enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

Guest Katharine Davis on
Where Novels Come From

August 24, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Katharine Davis (East Hope, Capturing Paris) — like all authors — gets ideas for her writing from everywhere at any time. In today’s guest post, however, she explains how a chance encounter evolved into her latest novel, A Slender Thread.]

Where Novels Come From

I’m often asked where I get the ideas for my novels. Capturing Paris, my first book, came from a dream I had about a woman glimpsed in the Paris subway. My second novel, East Hope, came from a short story I had written years before. But, from time to time, I wondered about the main character in that story. What if Caroline had succumbed to Pete’s advances in the story, instead of coming to her senses at the last moment? That fateful act would change everything.

Often stories or novels evolve from asking the “what if” question. What if the husband leaves his wife? What if the single woman wants to adopt a child? What if the boss falls in love with his assistant? The possibilities are endless.

Now try to imagine eight women around a table in a museum restaurant talking about a photography exhibit. The women, most of them in their fifties, well dressed and accomplished, are enjoying themselves. They comment enthusiastically on art, current events, books, movies, and their own families.

Yet, one woman says nothing at all. She is visiting from the West Coast, and she is the college roommate of one of the guests. She looks no different from the women around her. She has a loving husband, has raised two children, and has had a successful career in real estate.

Except unlike the other women at the luncheon, this woman has a rare brain disease. Her name is Anna and she can no longer speak. When it is time to order lunch the woman next to Anna asks her if she would like the chicken salad. Anna nods in agreement. She still understands language, but eventually, as her disease progresses, she will lose her ability to comprehend anything at all.

Two years ago I was a guest at that luncheon. I met Anna, a woman very much like me, but a woman whose life had begun to unravel in a way she never expected. I was writing another novel at the time, but every day when I sat at my computer to work, I kept thinking of Anna. I tried to imagine what this tragedy was like for her husband, for her children, and for the many friends who loved her. Here was a vibrant woman in her prime who could not utter a word.

I didn’t want to tell Anna’s personal story. I don’t know her family, or even her last name. Instead, I began writing a new novel and A Slender Thread was born. It is the story of two sisters, the elder of whom is diagnosed with the same disease, Primary Progressive Aphasia.

How do we find the strength to cope in the face of adversity? How do we start over at mid-life? Are we capable of change? Do we ever truly leave the past behind? How do we communicate? Are words enough? Is love enough? These were the questions I asked myself while writing A Slender Thread. Over the next year that chance meeting became a novel.

One warm afternoon last spring, I found myself thinking about a summer I had spent in Florence, Italy when I was twenty-one years old. I had stayed at a small hotel, more of a bed and breakfast, and I remembered the Italian woman who cooked and served the lunch. I also had the vague recollection of a very old English woman who lived in a shabby room on the top floor with her ancient husband. I knew immediately I had the germ of a novel. I began to picture three women in Florence, three different nationalities, three different ages, but all living together in the same little inn. Why were they there? What did they fear? What did they hope for? The questions keep coming and the scenes are already forming in my head. So yes, I’ve started another novel. Best of all, I think I need to travel to Florence for some necessary research!

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Book Giveaway: This week Kate Ledger has graciously offered two “signed” copies of Remedies to the winners of a random drawing from comments left on this specific post, Kate Ledger and Remedies. A comment left on any other post during the week will not be eligible. The deadline for this contest is Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT and the winners will be announced here in Thursday’s post. IF you do enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Kate Ledger and Remedies

August 23, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the front cover

“Remedies is an immediately gripping, expertly woven tale of pain and healing.
Ledger is a brilliant writer; the book is dazzling, but more importantly, it is moving.”
– Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author of Barefoot

What Kate Ledger has elegantly and eloquently written in her debut novel, Remedies, is a “witty,” “complex,” “humane,” and “intense” story of a marriage/family in crisis. And those are a few reasons why Remedies garnered:

*A Starred Review from Publishhers Weekly
*Being named an Indie Next List Notable Book for August 2010
*Selection as an Ingram Premier Pick recommendation to libraries across the country.

Although more praise can be found on the author’s Press page, a most telling description comes from the novel’s Facebook page where a reader commented on the paperback’s cover: “I love the knot in her hair . . . so symbolic of the character and the story.”

Yes the novel can be rendered almost that simply as long as the “knots” also describe the husband and teenage daughter. For this is a character-driven storyline. Its idea came from Kate’s interest in a doctor who would believe he’s come up with a treatment to relieve, eradicate physical pain from his patients and she explained his character — and his wife’s character — development in Guest Kate Ledger on REMEDIES: A Novel/The Journey of Writing.

And from those characters came this Synopsis:

Simon and Emily Bear look like a couple that has it all. Simon is a respected doctor. His wife, Emily, shines as a partner in a premier public relations firm. But their marriage is scarred by hidden wounds. Even as Simon tends his patients’ ills, and Emily spins away her clients’ mistakes, they can’t seem to do the same for themselves or their relationship.

Simon becomes convinced he’s discovered a cure for chronic pain, a finding that could become a medical breakthrough, yet he is oblivious to the pain that he causes at home. Emily, struggling to move beyond the devastating loss she and Simon suffered fifteen years earlier, realizes she hasn’t felt anything for a long time–that is, until a lover from her past resurfaces and forces her to examine her marriage anew.

In a debut novel on par with today’s top women writers, Remedies explores the complicated facets of pain, in the nerves of the body and the longings of the heart. Depicting modern-day marriage with a razor-sharp eye, Remedies is about what it takes, as an individual and as a couple, to recover from profound loss.

That profound loss was the death of their six-week old infant son and, once Kate identified and addressed this tragedy, her story focused on the crumbling of a marriage. As she says:

“I found the Bear’s marriage exquisitely complex. As I wrote their interactions, I thought a lot about the ways that people communicate, particularly when they don’t address a real problem: The core issue remains present in every interaction. Simon and Emily aren’t simply two people who can’t talk to each other or who’ve moved apart from one another. In fact, they’re constantly straining to have the terrible conversation they’ve never been able to have. Their terrors are simmering under the surface. Simon can’t help but provoke Emily in ways he knows will frustrate her, hoping that they’ll wind up in a confrontation. (He has grandiose plans to surprise her with winemaking in the basement, for instance, a plan that will surely annoy her.) He must know on some level, that in one of those confrontations, she might blame him in the way he’s most afraid of being blamed. Emily retreats from his antagonistic actions, accepting his signs of outward kindness, as she holds onto the story she’s believed all along: Simon isn’t responsible for their loss since every one of the doctors missed the signs that their son was desperately sick. But, of course, as in all relationships, what’s under the surface always eventually emerges.”

Ironically both Simon and Emily professionally deal with helping patients/clients handle physical pain and successfully communicate. In fact Simon enjoys introducing themselves to others as “the doctor and the spin doctor,” yet — in truth — their skills appear to be left at the office.

Still losing a child is devastating and too many couples who experience such grief, guilt, and emptiness do divorce. They simply can’t forget and find a way back to “normal” because their family life isn’t “normal” any longer. The fortunate ones find strength in each other and from family, friends, religion, and counseling. However Simon and Emily had none of these for support and their individual backgrounds allow this to ring true. Why? Because Kate Ledger created her characters with the perfect flaws that would prevent them from asking for help.

These are fascinating characters, outwardly strong while internally too weak to face and then try to find a remedy for fifteen years of pain. But since — according to the author — “the book is very much about the fear of how people will receive you” — it’s only natural that they would create a facade rather than display their true feelings. As a result, neither Simon or Emily are likable yet they are understandable. In fact if Remedies was a theatrical movie it would most likely win the Oscar for “Best Picture of the Year” for the realistic and exquisite depiction of a lost couple.

As a book it is lyrically gorgeous, created with so much care that the reader doesn’t need actors to make the storyline come alive. Kate’s words do that, aiming directly to the heart. And although the novel focuses on sorrow and pain, the author feels: “It’s a hopeful book. The great journey of the novel is for each of these individuals to come to terms with the past—acknowledge it, examine it, maybe even cry about it— in order to set sights on building a new future.”

Remedies, filled with the potential for insightful discussions, would be an excellent book club selection. If you’d like Kate to visit your book group by speakerphone or Skype, please email Or take pleasure in this debut by reading and reveling in it on your own!

Book Giveaway: This week Kate Ledger has graciously offered two “signed” copies of Remedies to the winners of a random drawing from comments left on this specific post. A comment left on any other post during the week will not be eligible. The deadline for this contest is Wednesday, August 25, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT and the winners will be announced here in Thursday’s post. IF you do enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

What’s Next for Our Authors?

August 19, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Books

Throughout this past year The Divining Wand has presented and, perhaps, introduced you to new favorite authors. Yet, after reading and enjoying their novels, how many wonder what’s the next book and when?

Here’s a sneak peek into the future from several TDW authors:

~Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“EXPOSURE, set for a late-April release, preceded by REUNION in trade paperback, probably mid-March. There is an EXPOSURE excerpt posted on my website. Cover art for both titles is in the works but not finalized yet…”

~ Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt releasing in Trade Paperback October 26, 2010):

“I’m working on a new novel titled Looking For Me.”

~ CJ Lyons (Lifelines, Warning Signs, Urgent Care):

“I have two books coming up in the near future:
CRITICAL CONDITION is the finale of my Angels of Mercy series from Berkley/Jove and will be out 11/30/10. Here’s the skinny:”

This New Year’s resolution? Stay alive….
“Harrowing…irresistible.”—New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs on Lifelines

Critics praised the national bestseller Lifelines as “breathtakingly fast-paced” (Publishers Weekly), Warning Signs as “exhilarating” (Genre Go Round), and Urgent Care as “riveting” (Pittsburgh Magazine). Now CJ Lyons returns to an ER under attack as the lives of four very special women hang in the balance…
With Pittsburgh snarled by a New Year’s Eve blizzard and Angels of Mercy Hospital cut off from the outside world, staff and patients are at the mercy of armed gunmen. Their target is Dr. Gina Freeman, who is holding vigil over her wounded fiancé, Detective Jerry Boyle.

Trapped inside with her are ER charge nurse Nora Halloran and fourth-year medical student Amanda Mason, on the last night of her ICU rotation—if not her life. Stranded outside the hospital walls is ER physician Lydia Fiore, whose past holds the secret the hitmen are willing to kill for.

With patients, staff, and loved ones held as hostages, the power out, and cold-blooded killers in control, no one may live to see the New Year…

“And coming March 1, 2011 from Vanguard/Perseus is ROCK BOTTOM co-authored with Erin Brockovich (yes, THE Erin Brockovich, how cool is that!!!)”

Ten years ago, Angela Joy Palladino left home as a pregnant seventeen year old in trouble. Now, after winning and losing a career as an environmental activist, dubbed by the media as “The People’s Champion,” she hopes to start over by taking a new job with a lawyer who is fighting to stop a mining company’s mountain top removal in an effort to save the only place she’s ever called home.

As a single mom of a special needs nine-year-old boy, Angela is happy for any work she can get, even if it means returning to the West Virginia hometown she left in disgrace. But when her new boss turns up dead and his daughter’s life is threatened, Angela discovers that her own secrets aren’t the only ones her mountain hometown has kept buried.

Hitting rock bottom, Angela must face the betrayal of those once closest to her and confront the harrowing past she thought she had left behind. The question remains, will she be able to outwit the killer and save the town she once cherished, all the while keeping her family, her sanity, and her new life in one piece?

~Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters):

“The paperback edition for THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTERS will be coming out in February 2011. In the meantime, I just finished my next book, a story of infidelity and how it spills far wider in it’s damage then we ever imagine.”

~Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me, and Skipping a Beat coming February 22, 2010):

“SKIPPING A BEAT will be published by Atria Books/Washington Square Press on Feb. 22, 2011. Skipping a Beat is similar in tone and genre to my debut novel, The Opposite of Me, but the story is totally new. It’s about a woman named Julia Dunhill who discovers that her husband has turned into a completely different man after a sudden, shocking medical trauma – and now he wants to rewrite all of the rules of their marriage. Julia, who sees pieces of her life in scenes from the world’s great operas, has three weeks to decide if she should stay with Michael or leave him.”

~Leah Stewart (Husband and Wife, The Myth of You and Me, Body of a Girl):

“I’m working on a book about adult siblings. It started out being about location and identity (I was going to call it ELSEWHERE) but it’s gotten further and further away from that theme to become about all the complex emotions of siblinghood. Which, alas, probably means I have to think of a new title.”

~Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy chosen as a TARGET Breakout Book):

“What’s coming up, what’s happening: I’m currently writing my second book
in a two-book deal with Random House. I don’t want to say much about it yet,
but I can tell you that it’s about a legally blind woman trekking across 
West Virginia to find the end of her dead mother’s story. It’s been a
challenging book, in part because of the legendary scary factor associated
with writing the Second Book, but also because one of the leads is a
sense-deprived character. But I’m happy to report it’s coming along nicely.
I may have an entirely different report tomorrow!”

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Announcement: The winners of Kristina Riggle’s The Life You’ve Imagined are Amy Goodrow and Janel. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

Thank you ALL for entering the contest and your overwhelming support!

The Revealing of Katharine Davis

August 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Interviews, Q&A

Katharine Davis (East Hope, Capturing Paris) — Winner of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance 2010 Award for Fiction — celebrated the release of her third novel, A Slender Thread, two weeks ago.

The book described as A gripping novel of two sisters who must reimagine the future-before they’re ready to let go of the past., has also earned the following praise:

“Luminous and deeply affecting . . . In this novel of the complex bonds of sisters and the pernicious effects of a rare illness, Katharine Davis memorably captures the language of family. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and it was a pleasure to watch it take shape.”
–Susan Coll, author of Beach Week and Acceptance

“With a sure, light touch and a shrewd eye for telling details, Katharine Davis expertly weaves a resonant story about the bonds of family, the tug of geography, and the regenerative power of art. A Slender Thread is an emotionally rich and penetrating novel.”
–Christina Baker Kline, author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be

“The multiple viewpoints of Katharine Davis’s A Slender Thread weave in and out of chapters like threads in a tapestry, illustrating the intricate, complicated ties that bind us as family. While this compelling story shows just how fragile –and therefore precious –are our connections to each other, Davis also shows that even the slenderest of threads can have the surprising strength and resilience to hold it (and us) together.”
–Katrina Kittle, author of The Blessings of the Animals

The Divining Wand has scheduled a full presentation/review of A Slender Thread for Monday, August 30, 2010 but, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Katharine Davis began writing fiction in 1999. Capturing Paris (St. Martin’s Press, 2006) was her first novel. Recommended in Real Simple Spring Travel 2007, the novel was also included in the New York Times suggestions for fiction set in Paris. Her second novel, East Hope, published by New American Library in 2009, won the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance 2010 Award for Fiction. A Slender Thread, New American Library 2010, is her third novel.

Katharine Davis lives with her husband in New York City and spends summers writing in southern Maine. She is now working on a novel set in Florence, Italy during the summer of 1969.

And now here is Katharine as her revealing self:

Q: How would you describe your life in eight words?
A: Blessed, full, rewarding, happy –I’m afraid to go on for fear of jinxing myself!

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Invent your own life. No one will do it for you.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Sitting at the table on our porch in Maine enjoying a delicious dinner on a summer evening with the people I love.

Q: What is your greatest fear?
A: Losing the people I love.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A;At home! I’m a homebody at heart. Though, sitting on the terrace of the Café Marly in Paris overlooking the Louvre while sipping Champagne would not be a bad second choice!

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A; Jane Austin – I love the way she lived a full domestic life alongside her writing life.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Right now, Hillary Clinton. Imagine trying to bring about world peace at the same time as putting on a perfect wedding for your only daughter.

Q: What are your most used words or phrases?
A:I think you should ask my family that one!

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I would love to be able to sing. The only time I even dare is in church and I try not to stand too close to anyone.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: I raised two absolutely great children and I published my first novel at 57.

Q: What is your greatest flaw?
A: I’m a worrier!

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m a good listener and I try to be kind!

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I wish I’d started writing sooner.

Q: If you could be any person or thing in the world, who or what would you be?
A: I would be fresh air! We all need it to survive.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’m quite tall. I’m friendly and I try to see the good in things.

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

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Dr. No in the Ian Fleming James Bond series. I read every one of Fleming’s novels when I was a teenager, and loved them.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I am totally non-sports oriented. I guess I would have to say thank you to Billy Jean King for what she did for women’s tennis. Saying this kind of dates me! I’m clueless as to who’s important these days.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: People who are late.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Like most writers, it would have to be reading.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I would be a famous country music star and sing for thousands outdoors on a starlit night!

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Kindness, honesty, loyalty

Q: If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Fresh corn on the cob in August with field grown tomatoes with mozzarella and basil. Oh dear, I’m greedy –that’s more than one!

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: My husband loads my Ipod with all kinds of music and I never remember titles. I’d have to say I love all early Beatles like “Yesterday,” but also “Stand by your Man” by Tammy Wynette.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A:This is something I ponder when I can’t sleep at night, and the list changes constantly as things come to mind. In the spirit of cooperation, as of today, I would say: Madame Bovary, The Great Gatsby, Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier), Howards End (E. M. Forster), and Crossing to Safety (Wallace Stegner). These are books I never tire of reading. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll have 5 more!

Katharine Davis is charming, delightful, and talented, do become a friend on Facebook and visit her Thursday Thoughts Blog.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Kristina Riggle’s The Life You’ve Imagined in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Kristina Riggle and The Life You’ve Imagined. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

Guest Kate Ledger on
REMEDIES: A Novel/The Journey of Writing

August 17, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Kate Ledger, in her debut novel Remedies, tells a brilliantly complex story of physical and emotional pain. In today’s guest post, she explains how an initial fascination with medical knowledge led her on a ten year writing journey to an even richer, deeper, more painful subject requiring a remedy. ]

REMEDIES: A NOVEL/The Journey of Writing

I’d always wanted to be a fiction writer, even as far back as my childhood. But in my mid-20s, after a graduate program in creative writing, and with no livelihood in sight, I did a little freelance magazine writing and then began a fulltime job at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, writing for publications about medicine and research. It was a fascinating job. I sat in on all kinds of surgeries, visited the labs of world famous scientists, and had the chance to talk with people who were making great advances and new discoveries.

The truth was, I enjoyed the job, but I missed writing fiction. After a few years, I left to become a fulltime freelance writer, which I imagined would make time for the novel I’d always wanted to write. I had new and very rich material to draw on from my experiences writing about the medical world. Over the years, I’d met many doctors and researchers who’d developed astounding and helpful treatments for patients. Some of those treatments even defied the scientific thinking of the time. As I pondered the core of a novel, I wondered: what about a doctor who believes he’s discovered a cure for pain?

That was the launching point. I began to read about pain. I interviewed several people who suffered daily from chronic pain, whose lives had been completely undermined by mysterious ailments. I interviewed pain specialists about the treatments that exist. But the burning question, and what really intrigued me, was about character. What kind of person would believe he’d discovered a cure. even if he had no proof, beyond what his patients told him, that it was helping them? What would that person be like? I began writing about a doctor, Simon Bear—a passionate man full of ideas and ambitious plans—who believes he’s stumbled across a cure for pain. I imagined he would be confident, even to the point of being overbearing, but that he would be devoted to healing his patients. But as Simon’s character began to evolve, I wondered why he was so committed to his patients’ pain. I realized he was focused on curing others because he wasn’t able to address his own pain. At that moment, I realized that, in fact, I was writing about a marriage. The miraculous cure for pain wasn’t a thing in and of itself, but an onerous stumbling block to Simon’s most intimate relationship.

Choosing to write from the point of view of a forty-seven year old man was incredibly liberating to me as a writer. It meant imagining a world wrenched from my own anxieties and concerns—and I was free to make Simon both overbearing and insecure, wistfully in love and incapable of making the right decisions without feeling inhibited. I wasn’t sure about some things—for instance, I didn’t know: Are forty-seven-year-old men with established careers still concerned what their parents think of them? (I began reading books with middle-aged male protagonists, and also asking around, and it turns out, yes, they are.) But I also made the decision to tell the story of this painful marriage simultaneously from Emily’s point of view. I felt the two perspectives would give real insight about what’s going on in this house. And I have to admit, as different as I am personally from Emily—she’s proper, super-confident and very defended—telling a woman’s point of view created a familiar zone for me within the book.

But the most profound leap for me came the day I realized the source of their terrible pain. In this sense, the book evolved from a cerebral place—thinking about characters and their circumstances—to a place of deep emotion. The process surprised me, but I think this is typical in writing a novel. You have a story, and you write and you write, until you realize what, exactly, you’re writing about. At this point, I’d written about Simon and Emily for several years; he was finding the miracle treatment, defending his decision to give it to his patients, and in each iteration, his character and Emily’s were growing more and more layered. When I’d begun writing the novel, I was still dating the man who would become my husband. A few years later, we’d married and had children. As I pondered Simon and Emily’s pain, I asked myself a question that felt daring: what was I most afraid to put on the page? What words was I most afraid to see? The answer came to me immediately. As a new mom, I was most afraid of losing a child. Once I’d thought the words, the feeling they evoked was so overpowering, I felt I had no choice but to write about it.

I teach novel-writing these days. I tell my students that a good place to begin is with something that absolutely fascinates them, something that’s always gripped them, or that they keep wondering about. That’s your toehold on the mountain. But you’re on a journey as you write, and you keep asking questions, and keep feeling your way forward. You try to be ready for what you encounter.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Kristina Riggle’s The Life You’ve Imagined in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Kristina Riggle and The Life You’ve Imagined. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Kristina Riggle and The Life You’ve Imagined

August 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

In the follow up to her successful debut of Real Life & Liars, Kristina Riggle presents us with another thoughtful, touching, bittersweet read — The Life You’ve Imagined, releasing tomorrow, August 17, 2010. This second book also proves that the author’s natural gift is her talent to write a quiet little novel that whispers, nudges, and reminds how much of life is filled with hope.

However the irony is that the idea for this storyline came out of Kristina’s seemingly lack of hope, as she explains:

“Really the story was inspired by my eroding naivete about how the world works. I used to believe — as I think many young National Honor Society types do — that the world is a meritocracy and if I just work hard enough, rewards and happiness will automatically come to me. This is definitely true for the Anna character, who can’t quite believe that she’s at the cusp of achieving everything she’s ever wanted, yet the envisioned happiness is not there.”

As for the title, it’s a line taken from the following quote:

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the live you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler. __Henry David Thoreau

Yet, according to the author, “the quote was almost an afterthought, just a piece of scenery. As the novel evolved, the notion of an imagined life being sharply different from reality came into focus and I realized that was the perfect title.”

The quote and its dream for future happiness also provides the link to three childhood friends unexpectedly reunited one summer, all still searching for their dream of happiness.

Here’s the novel’s Synopsis:

Are you living the life you imagined? Is there anything you’d have done differently if you could? Those are the questions asked in Kristina Riggle’s unforgettable new novel.

In high school, Cami and Anna were as close as they could be…now, years later, both have returned to their hometown to face the people they had once left behind. Anna must confront her mother, still distraught over the abandonment of her husband, and come to terms with choices she had made years before. While Cami returns home to stay with her alcoholic father, she uncovers a secret he sought to keep which could change her life and salvage her future. They reconnect with their classmate, Amy, who can’t understand why achieving the thin body and handsome man of her dreams hasn’t given her the happily-ever-after she desired. This is a novel that digs deep and touches the heart of the issues so many women face-the quest for perfection, the hope of love, the value of family and importance of always striving for your dream.

Selected by independent booksellers as an IndieNext “Notable” Pick for September 2010 The Life You’ve Imagined has also earned Praise from the author’s notable peers.

And HarperCollins offers a special bonus to those readers who Browse Inside the book. There are 54 pages available for your reading pleasure….certainly much more than one would imagine!

Kristina writes in the same format she used in Real Life & Liars, rotating first person narrators to place the reader into the mindset and physical space of her four main characters. Bound by their small town background of growing up in fictional Haven, Michigan, the personal issues that each must resolve in order to achieve her dreams are universal problems for anyone, anywhere.

These women have dreams that they’ve tried to achieve, but their efforts have not necessarily lead to happiness. Instead such personal control has created more stress and disappointment, blurring the truth of what they really desire. After all wishes made during adolescence usually change with maturity, opportunity, and the confidence to let go, allowing life to happen.

Perhaps it’s that confidence these characters seek from their hometown reunion. The author’s description/depiction of fictional Haven, Michigan is truly stunning. And the Nee Nance Store, the dying family business that connects them all (see Guest Kristina Riggle on All in the Family), could not be a better example of the confidence needed to know when to let go of a dying dream and then move on.

But what about the author, is she living the life she imagined?

Kristina says, “No! And I’m glad. I imagined myself by this point sailing along in my career as a newspaper reporter, well on my way to becoming editor of a large urban daily. Novel writing was a vague aspiration for some undefined “‘someday.'” I always envisioned myself a hardcore career woman who would “‘do it all.'” I’m still a career woman, but the career is different, and my definition of success more fluid and flexible. I no longer try to predict my life many years ahead, and when I do imagine the future, it’s more in terms of family and home rather than jobs and money. Also, the older I get the more aware I am that it’s all so fragile. I’m happy that my family and I are healthy right now, today. And I’m awfully glad that my “‘someday novel'” came sooner rather than later, because who knows what later will bring?”

Readers/fans of Kristina Riggle are also glad her life didn’t turn out as imagined since The Life You’ve Imagined — the second “someday novel” — is available now, tomorrow, rather than later. Enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Kristina Riggle’s The Life You’ve Imagined in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.