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Archive for November, 2010

Best Writing Exercises, Part IV

November 11, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

As promised, The Divining Wand delivers yet another installment of what inspires or motivates our favorite authors/friends to perfect their natural skills, by asking the question: What have been some of the best writing exercises you’ve used in your writing process?

Also this post welcomes and introduces another new author, Ann Werrtz Garvin!

Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water):

“I wish I could remember what book I read it in, but I once advised to try drawing your story as a way to come at it from a new angle. I was stuck in my story trying to figure out why certain plot points hadn’t jelled. I wrote Lydia McKenzie’s name (my main character) in the middle of a giant piece of paper and then drew lines to all the minor characters names like some kind of flow chart. I then wrote a few words above the line about their relationship. I realized that I wanted her to have multifaceted relationships with the other people in the story, and drawing it out like that helped me see where I could make my story and relationships stronger and more complex.”

Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography, and Best Staged Plans coming May 31, 2011):

“I’m not a big writing exercise person. I just pour all my energy into the book I’m working on. But once, I just couldn’t get the ending of a novel right, so I sat on the floor of my office and just kept pulling books of the shelves. I read the last page of book after book, thinking, “‘Okay, this is what a good ending feels like. And this. And this. And this.'” And finally my ending popped into my head! It was nothing like any of the endings I’d just read, but they definitely led me to it!”

Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“I like to take a phrase that strikes me as interesting or funny–something I’ve seen on a bumper sticker or heard in conversation–and figure out what is funny about it and what it relates to. Often, I can’t put my finger on it right away. So I do a stream of consciousness kind of thing. I’ll work on it like I’m whittling a log or playing cats cradle. I take a bit here, move it over there, make associations, until I figure out what I like about it. I find my subconscious is so much smarter than my conscious mind. Like it’s playing with my awareness, seeing if I can figure out the puzzle. When I do, I get a little cerebral pat and everything shuts down for an afternoon nap.”

Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“The best exercises, hands down, have been working with all the plot tools outlined in BlockBuster Plots by Martha Alderson. I used her tools for my first novel, this included plotting the book, discovering all facets of my characters, and tracking the scene progressions. I am using the tools again for my second novel, which is in progress. I highly recommend her process. It not only helps you focus your plot, but it also helps for when you get stuck.”

Melissa Senate (The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, The Mosts YA, The Secret of Joy, the rest in Bibliography):

“One of my favorite inspirational books says that if you seek clarity about something, some burning question, you should sleep on it for three nights and you’ll wake up on the fourth day with the answer. I know this isn’t really a writing exercise, but it’s my best way of working through plot and characterization problems, rough spots, and corners I’ve backed myself into. My other favorite is to just ask my character what she really wants more than anything else, heart, mind and soul–and what she’s most afraid of.”

To be continued…..

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Announcement: The winner of Chosen by Chandra Hofffman is Mavis. Congratulations!

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

The Revealing of James King

November 10, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

James King has been dreaming of publishing a novel for more than 30 years and, in late August, that dream came true with the debut of Bill Warrington’s Last Chance.

Here’s the book’s one sentence description:

With a new diagnosis that threatens his mind and most cherished memories, Bill Warrington is determined to patch up his differences with his three children before it’s too late.

And Praise for Bill Warrington’s Last Chance:

“Bill Warrington’s Last Chance is full of fascinating things to talk about — like the coming of age of a young girl juxtaposed with an old man’s search for redemption, not to mention the touching but unsentimental way they grow to care for each other… Perhaps one of the best things you can say about a novel is that the story lingers after you finish it. I have gone on thinking about this one without trying.”__Sue Monk Kidd, Author, NY Times Bestseller, The Secret Life of Bees

“This is what reading is about and what a good book is supposed to do.” Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone mystery series

“A moving tale.” People Magazine. Selected as a “Great Read.”

“Part road odyssey, part coming-of-age tale, King’s novel achieves the exact right balance of humor, redemption, and reconciliation.” Deborah Donovan, Booklist

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Bill Warrington’s Last Chance for Monday, November 22, 2010 but, for now, let’s meet the author through his “official” bio:

James King lives in Connecticut with his wife and their two children. “Bill Warrington’s Last Chance” is his first novel.

Alas, since so few words will fit on the back flap of the dust jacket, it’s time to get to know Jim King — upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: It took 30+ years, but finally got published.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Life is a feast; most of us are starving ourselves. (From my father and passed on to my kids… ad naseum, they’d say.)

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Unattainable and almost always lost in the effort.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: That Hell is a shopping mall.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: San Francisco. My favorite city and the setting of my next novel.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: James Michener, who didn’t get published until he was 40. (A kid, really.)

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Nelson Mandela.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “It’s not easy being me.” (To which my wife replies, “It’s not easy being with you.”)

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I started piano lessons as an adult. Wish I had more of a talent for it. Especially ragtime. And jazz. And classical.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Convincing my wife I was worth the risk.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: It’s a toss-up between stubbornness and impatience.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’ve put the question out to family and friends. Still waiting…

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not learning a foreign language.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Paul McCartney. The cute Beatle.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My increasingly prominent forehead, thanks to my fast-receding hairline.

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

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Fagin.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Alex Rodriguez. I’d ask him how it feels to be the highest-paid player in baseball. Then, I’d ask him to adopt me.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: When lousy, ill-mannered creeps walk through the door you’re holding open for them without so much as a nod, much less a verbal thank-you. But really, it’s a minor peeve. Doesn’t bother me too much. The rude, no-class jerks.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Thinking about writing. I’m much better at this than the actual writing.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: This is it. Always has been.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Integrity, empathy, humor.

Q :If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: The smoothies from one of the kiosks on the lower level of Grand Central Station. I wouldn’t last long, but the Tutti-Fruity is excellent.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Not necessarily in this order:
1. Hey Jude, The Beatles
2. Ants Marching, Dave Matthews Band
3. Rosalita, Bruce Springsteen
4. Sympathy for the Devil, Rolling Stones
5. Baby Beluga, Raffi

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: To sound properly literate, I should include Tolstoy or Dickens or Flaubert, but my favorites are all American. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “The Catcher in the Rye” by JD Salinger had the most impact on me as a young reader and remain books I enjoy re-reading today. “Light in August” by William Faulkner, mainly because I love the name of the main character, Joe Christmas. “In Cold Blood,” by Truman Capote is one of the most absorbing and chilling books I’ve ever read. “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck—I couldn’t move for awhile when I finished it.

Thoughtful, clever, and determined, James King is definitely a new author to follow on Twitter and become his Facebook book fan.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Chandra Hoffman’s Chosen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Chandra Hoffman and Chosen. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Richard Doetsch on
The One Thing a Writer Needs to Do Every Day

November 09, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Internationally bestselling author Richard Doetsch (The Thieves of Darkness, The 13th Hour, The Thieves of Heaven, The Thieves of Faith) writes thrillers filled with action packed storylines, foreign locations, and characters a reader needs to care about about and root for. How does he, as a writer, keep up with this fast-paced need for new ideas? In today’s guest post, Richard explains what he does on a daily basis as well as what he believes every writer needs to do too.]

The One Thing Every Writer Needs to Do Every Day

Every successful author will tell you to be a great writer you must write every day. True. But that doesn’t hone your craft as a story teller. I don’t care how well you write, how good your prose is, how deep your vocabulary is, in this day and age, story is king.

As writers of fiction, we need to distinguish ourselves, make our stories stand apart. How many police procedurals are out there? How many stories of love lost and found; how many tales of the handsome detective/Navy SEAL/Covert Agent are there? What makes the great ones stand out? Great original story.

I have what I call the everyday story file. Every single day I jot down a quick story, I have been doing it for a long time and so I have amassed a large file of stories which I have drawn on to write novels, Vooks, and movies.

Creating compelling stories is an art. So often when someone finishes a novel they take the first or second idea that has been floating in their head for months and run with it. But what if you have a file of ideas to draw on, a file with over 300 ideas in it?

If you want to write a great story you have to create a new story every day.

Every single day, 365 days a year. Nothing big. No more than a page, usually just a quick paragraph or two, maybe the three act approach. Write anything, write something out of your comfort zone, write something no one would believe you would write. Granted most of the ideas will probably stink, you may not want to repeat them to anyone, but think of this: if only five percent of those ideas are good, that’s 18 good ideas! And If 1% are great that’s 3 great ideas.

Of course you may marry some of your ideas together and come up with something completely different. But more importantly, you will open your mind, you will tap that well spring of creativity, the place where your childhood imagination ran wild.

By doing this you will hone your craft as a story teller, because after all, the public wants great stories, new stories, Hollywood and publishing want the next great idea. If you only ponder a story a few times a year you might get lucky once in a while but in this day and age we can’t rely on luck.

By example, The 13th Hour was an idea I had on April 26th 2008 of a story told in reverse, I had another idea from January 14th 2008 that involved a man going back in time in one hour increments to save his wife who had already died. I put them together and wrote The 13th Hour in July 2008.

Embassy was an idea from February 2009 that was sparked as I was walking by the Russian Consulate on the upper east side of Manhattan. It was a what if scenario about a hostage crisis within the walls of a foreign Embassy in New York, a place that U.S. law enforcement can’t enter.

And The Thieves of Darkness encompasses six different ideas that ended up fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle.

So when you listen to all the experts out there, all the people that say write everyday, you should listen, but just as important you should create every day, dream every day, formulate a story every single day and file it away.

And think of it this way, you get to free your mind for fifteen minutes from your current writing assignment. How great is it to let the mind wander, to go anywhere it wishes or is taken? If you don’t believe me, try it for a month and see what happens, you will be surprised what you come up with.

Hope all is well with all.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Chandra Hoffman’s Chosen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Chandra Hoffman and Chosen. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Chandra Hoffman and Chosen

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


Having been an orphanage relief worker in Romania, and the director of a US adoption program in Portland, Oregon, Chandra Hoffman writes what she knows in her debut novel, Chosen. However as the author says, “The story is fiction–but the themes are real, from my own life, from the message boards, from those I have been privileged to witness, and, maybe, even from yours….”

With the domestic adoption scene of Portland as a backdrop — and also taking on a character role of its own –, Chosen focuses on the two complex questions of What happens when you get what you thought you wanted and How far would you go if it might not be what you want anymore? Rather than the musings of “what if”s?” these questions can only be answered by actions and, to do this, Chandra introduces the reader to characters with multiple points of view. In fact being able to hear divergent voices is a major part of her writing as she explains:

“It’s critical to be able to tune into your characters’ unique voices and the easiest way for me to do that is to figure out how they sound out loud. Dialogue is the most natural part of writing to me; once I know how someone sounds, I can get inside their heads and hear how they speak to themselves, eavesdrop on the thoughts tumbling around in their mind before they fall asleep.”

As a result the book offers many sides of the adoption story from a green, idealistic social worker, a grieving birth father, one potential adoptive father, and a nervous single mother. What they want, or think they want, evolve and come together to create the Chosen storyline and following synopsis:

In the spirit of Jodi Picoult and Anna Quindlen, CHOSEN features a young caseworker increasingly entangled in the lives of the adoptive and birth parents she represents, and who faces life-altering choices when an extortion attempt goes horribly wrong.

It all begins with a fantasy: the caseworker in her “signing paperwork” charcoal suit, paired with beaming parents cradling their adopted newborn, against a fluorescent-lit delivery room backdrop. It’s this blissful picture that keeps Chloe Pinter, director of The Chosen Child’s domestic adoption program, happy juggling the high demands of her boss and the incessant needs of parents on both sides.



But the job that offers Chloe refuge from her turbulent personal life and Portland’s winter rains soon becomes a battleground itself involving three very different couples: the Novas, college sweethearts who suffered fertility problems but are now expecting their own baby; the McAdoos, a wealthy husband and desperate wife for whom adoption is a last chance; and Jason and Penny, an impoverished couple who have nothing-except the baby everyone wants. When a child goes missing, dreams dissolve into nightmares, and everyone is forced to examine what they really want and where it all went wrong.

Told from alternating points of view, Chosen reveals the desperate nature of desire across social backgrounds and how far people will go to get the one thing they think will be the answer.

Now please take a minute to view the haunting CHOSEN Book Trailer.

From this critical trade review:

“Gripping. . . . A heartfelt story well told.” (Kirkus Reviews)

To a fellow author’s praise:

“Chandra Hoffman’s CHOSEN is a finely tuned page-turner. With unwavering clarity and genuine empathy born of experience, Hoffman turns the spotlight on her so-real characters, exposing the raw edges of their love and longing and fears. There is no perfect happiness here; instead, there is the unexpected grace of discovering that getting what we want is so often less ideal than wanting what we get. This is an outstanding debut.” – Therese Fowler, author of REUNION AND SOUVENIR

The above opinions confirm that Chandra has captured the human, flawed, and sympathetic side of adoption, along with the darker business aspect of it as well. For in truth, with every adoptive birth, there will be someone going home empty-handed. Like the author’s personal goal while working in the adoption field, the novel’s social worker Chloe Pinter works to create families and happy endings. Yet is that realistically possible? Since adoption is not always the perfect or even correct solution for the adults involved, where does this leave the baby?

Reading Chosen was a reminder of how wanting something too much never quite fulfills expectations whenever it comes one’s way. Nor can happiness be bought, and parenthood is anything but a cooing, sweet baby. Although this work is fiction, it’s based on the reality of Chandra’s experiences and that knowledge is discomforting at best even in minor revelations. For example hopeful, potential adoptive parents are attached to their phones 24/7, either waiting for the phone call that a birth mother has chosen to give them her baby or a call to get to the hospital because their baby is being born. Then there’s another possible call — the one that says the birth mother has changed her mind.

While the adoption issues alone are compelling, Chandra added an extortion storyline to drive the plot and create what has been described as a thriller. Still she believes that “the heart of Chosen is new parenthood, and how people resolve that disparity between perception and reality.” Whether giving birth to or adopting a baby, there’s unbridled joy mixed with disillusionment when confronting the challenges another life holds. It’s not easy either way and, knowing this, the author brings forth the questions of: How does parenthood change you? What happens when your expectations of parenthood are so far from the reality? What makes a good parent? A good person? And what happens when you get what you thought you wanted (but it’s not what you signed up for)?

Chandra Hoffman’s Chosen is a brilliantly written tale that offers fairness to all parts of this emotional equation and may leave a reader wondering just who is being “chosen?” For adoption is complicated and it takes courage to choose….whatever is best for everyone involved.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Chandra Hoffman’s Chosen 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, November 10, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

AND

Announcement: The winners of a signed copy of Thaisa Frank’s Heidegger’s Glasses are Suzanne and Sue Kaliski. Congratulations!

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

Thaisa Frank and Heidegger’s Glasses

November 04, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

HEIDEGGGER'SGLASSES
[Note: Although this presentation/review was originally posted on May 17, 2010 for Heidegger’s Glasses debut on May 25th, Thaisa Frank’s first novel was delayed until its launch this Monday, November 1, 2010. For those readers/visitors, as yet unfamiliar with the author, please see The Revealing of Thaisa Frank. Also may everyone read about the special Book Giveaway.]

According to The New York Times, the fiction of Thaisa Frank (A Brief History in Camouflage, Sleeping in Velvet) works “by a tantalizing sense of indirection.” The critic Don Skiles has described her stories as being “in the grand tradition of the fairy tale, the legend, the spell,” while the reviewer Rob Hurwitt has called her work “domestic magical realism.” From Thaisa’s guest post, Do I Choose My Material or Does It Choose Me?, however, this acclaimed writer states: “I would say that I don’t work in the tradition of magic realism but in the tradition of surrealism.” And that is clearly what she’s done in her first novel, Heidegger’s Glasses.

Over twenty years ago, even the content of the book chose the unknowing author, as Thaisa explained in in her February 17, 2010 Red Room blog post, “The Promise of First Pages:”

The imagination is the weather of the mind.
Wallace Stevens, Adagia.

“How many of us have started promising beginnings only to have them sputter out, take wrong turns, and just refuse to go on? And how many of us say about ourselves ‘”I just can’t seem to finish things even though I start them?”‘

“Over twenty years ago, when I’d written just one collection of short stories, I heard a woman’s voice from deep below the earth. She lived in Germany during World War II and was helping people answer letters to the dead. I knew her name. I could feel her claustrophobia. I also heard some of the letters. I wrote sixteen pages and stopped because I knew this woman lived in a world with so many strands only a novel could do it justice. I could even hear the length, like a few musical notes surrounded by hours of silence. But I only knew how to write short fiction.

“I wrote other books. But the sixteen pages kept turning up in my studio, as if attached to springs. They turned up on the bookshelf. They turned up in a tax pile. They turned up under my printer. They even turned up inside a flyer from my son’s school–a long flyer, pleading for ecologically-packed lunches. They began to feel like a letter from the woman in the mine, asking me to tell her story. The paper grew more brittle and the typewriter print more antiquated. From time to time I saw her writing in a large room with other people. I always read the sixteen pages. I felt drawn to them. But I always put them away.

“A few years ago, someone at a Christmas party told me that the philosopher Martin Heidegger once had a revelation that was caused by his own eyeglasses. As soon as I heard this, I saw the title Heidegger’s Glasses and knew I was going to write a novel. I had no idea what it would be about; but I was sure it involved World War II. I didn’t think about those sixteen pages until I’d written the novel and received the galleys. Then I found them–again on invisible springs–as if they were determined to remind me that they were the origin of the book. I read them over and realized they were a DNA of almost everything that became Heidegger’s Glasses. I also realized that even though they were about an imaginary world, the world was launched by real events in World War II. I didn’t know about these events when I wrote those pages. I only found out about them afterwards, when I began to write the novel.” Please read more….

Thaisa Frank’s imagination, research and writing evolved into this synopsis:

A love affair larger than a World War.
A fairy tale with atrocities.
And it all begins with one single letter….

Heidegger’s Glasses is the startling, surreal debut novel from critically acclaimed author Thaisa Frank. The Third Reich’s obsession with the occult has led them to create the Compound of Scribes. Concealed in a converted mine shaft complete with rose-colored cobblestone streets and a continuously shifting artificial sky, the Scribes’ sole mission is to answer letters written to the dead—thereby preventing the deceased from pestering psychics for answers and inadvertently exposing the Final Solution.

As Germany falls apart at its seams, a letter arrives written by eminent philosopher Martin Heidegger to his optometrist and friend, a man now lost in the dying thralls at Auschwitz. The presence of Heidegger’s words—one simple letter in a place filled with letters—sparks a series of events that will ultimately threaten the safety and wellbeing of the entire Compound.

Part love story and part historical fiction, Heidegger’s Glasses evocatively reconstructs the landscape of Nazi Germany from an entirely original and haunting vantage point.

Much like a Grimm fairy tale, Heideggger’s Glasses has garnered a Starred Review from Publishers Weekly and Advance Praise from fellow authors:


“This is stunning work, full of mystery and strange tenderness. Thaisa Frank has written one of the most compelling stories of the Nazi regime since D.M. Thomas’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It is a book that will haunt you.”
—DAN CHAON, AUTHOR OF AWAIT YOUR REPLY

“Thaisa Frank has composed a mesmeric image of prisoners trapped in the madness of a decaying Nazi regime. Ms. Frank’s skillfully laced prose and riveting imagery combine to create an unforgettably surrealistic portrait of a world gorged on insanity.”
—THOMAS STEINBECK, AUTHOR OF DOWN TO A SOUNDLESS SEA


Also there is an Excerpt from Heidegger’s Glasses.

Although history was one of my college majors, I handled the delivery of Heidegger’s Glasses Uncorrected Proof with wariness. Glowing words for a tale that included the Reich, Auschwitz, Hitler, Mengele, Goebbels, SS leader Henrich Himmler were bound to be hauntingly depressing. But then I remembered anecdotal “stories” of Germany housing fluently linguistic scribes to write letters for the dead. Hitler’s reliance on astrology and the occult were facts, yet the idea of these scribes being saved from death to write for the dead sounded too ironic as well as absurd. Now could it have been true?

Writing brilliantly and mystically, Thaisa Frank has brought the scribes’ story to life and, though fictionalized, it rings true. Honest, sobering, and fairy tale hopeful, this is historical fiction at its best by acknowledging the humanity amidst the insanity of Hitler’s Germany during the end of World War 11.

The woman’s voice — that Thaisa first heard over twenty years ago — is Elie Schacten, considered to be an “angel.” Whether providing for the scribes and/or attempting to save as many innocent lives as possible, Elie is the mystery of the tale. Yet who is she, really?

Thoroughly engrossing Heidegger’s Glasses is mindful of how our present needs to be aware of our past. Thaisa Frank’s debut novel is something special, deserving to be on everyone’s TBR list — hopefully on high school required reading too. Please remember that the release date has been changed…yet your patience will be rewarded once the book becomes available.

Book Giveaway: This week Thaisa Frank has graciously offered The Divining Wand two signed copies of Heidegger’s Glasses to be given away in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Sunday, November 7, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winner to be announced here in Monday’s post. If you enter, please return on Monday to possibly claim your book.

AND

Announcement: The winners of All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa by Kim Stagliano are Tiffany and Wendy C. Congratulations!

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

The Revealing of Richard Doetsch

November 03, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Richard Doetsch, bestselling author of The Thieves of Heaven, The Thieves of Faith, and, of course, The 13th Hour, offers readers/fans a new thriller, The Thieves of Darkness.

In a brief sentence — to avoid any *spoilers* — the author describes the novel as: Filled with history, mystery, and the breakneck pace of The 13th Hour, I think it is my best novel yet.

And Booklist more than agrees:

“*Starred Review* The plot offers an agreeable blend of heist drama and escape story. Knowledge from the previous St. Pierre adventures is not necessary, but readers will scramble to find them after finishing this masterpiece. Doetsch has earned his seat at the table with other A-list thriller writers.”

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Thieves of Darkness for Monday, November 15, 2010. However, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through his “official” bio:

Richard Doetsch is the bestselling author of two thrillers The Thieves of Heaven and The Thieves of Faith, as well as The 13th Hour. He is also the president of a national real estate company based in New York, where he lives with his family.

Hmm, now it’s definitely time to get to know Richard upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Creative, adventurer, passionate, athletic, focused, optimist, loyal, happy

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Nothing is impossible.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: I call it Perfection of Moment, when all your senses are firing, you want for nothing, and everyone around you is happy.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Living, being, and dying alone.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Standing on the bow of a moving boat at sea.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Ben Franklin, his imagination fed his writing, his inventions, his politics.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Sounds corny, but without hesitation, my wife. She accomplishes more in the morning than most do in a week.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: According to mY kids: Doetsch’s never quit, don’t tell me it can’t be done.

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

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: My kids.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: My optimism.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My optimism.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I have no regrets, I have learned from my failures and mistakes, without them I wouldn’t be the person I am now.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Superman.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’m always positive.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Indiana Jones

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: The Joker – He encompasses so many traits

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Pat Tillman who left the AZ Cardinals to go to war and was killed. I’d ask him what gave him such strength of character and conviction and how we could instill that in others.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: I have two: People who talk about what they are going to do instead of doing it & I wish people would educate themselves beyond a newspaper headline before talking like an expert.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Playing and listening to music & adrenaline sports.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Explorer of New Worlds.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Loyalty, persistence, passion.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Peanut butter and bacon on white toast

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Layla-Clapton
Saturday Nights Alright for Fighting – Elton John
Misty MT Hop – Zepplin
Hotel California – Eagles
Unforgiven – Metallica
My ipod has over 10,000 songs from rock, to country, to classical, to soundtracks, I love it all.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Count of Monte Cristo
A Christmas Carol
The List of Seven
The James Bond Books
To Kill a Mockingbird

Interesting, intriguing and as adventurous as his thrillers, Richard Doetsch is an author to follow on Twitter and friend on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: This week Skyhorse Publishing has generously provided The Divining Wand with two Hardcover copies of Kim Stagliano’s All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa to be given away in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Kim Stagliano and All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa. 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 see if you’re a winner.

Guest Chandra Hoffman on Dawn Chorus

November 02, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Given that Chandra Hoffman’s debut novel Chosen is about family, her guest post could not be more appropriate. Every writer needs someone to believe in them and, here, Chandra shares “a tribute to my mother-in-law who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2008, but who taught me much about balancing the art of balancing motherhood and the writing life.”]

Dawn Chorus

My mother-in-law died in the early hours of August first, while the East Coast birds sang their dawn chorus. It was her favorite time of day, and as we drank tea and watched the sunrise, my family took a teaspoon of comfort in that, that her spirit might be soaring and dipping with the swallows, calling out with the wrens and the finches.

Cheryl and I had planned to write a children’s opera based on this birdsong phenomenon; she brought her flute whenever she visited, because she had to practice for her concert schedule, but also so we might get serious about this opera project. She would do the music, but, “You’re the writer,” she told me.

She always rose with the sun. When she was at our house, it was to make recordings of the birds and chicory coffee and memories with her grandchildren. When we took our annual winter vacation to the Cayman Islands, she was the first up, reading an entire novel on the screen porch, waiting for me to lumber out of bed and join her on the next part of her morning ritual, a walk of the entire Seven Mile Beach, collecting sea glass. At her home in Buffalo, she spent her winter-dark morning hours in the bathtub on the phone, talking shoes and thrift and art with her sister, an even earlier bird on the West Coast.

My mother-in-law and I were well-matched from the moment her son introduced us—high energy, creatively hungry, lovers of vegetables and words and walking. At that point, she had already endured breast cancer for two years, diagnosed at an untimely thirty-seven. Her cancer was a third person in our relationship, someone hunkered down in the backseat behind us, lurking predatorily. We were good at addressing it when it reared up, but even better at ignoring it.

It was a happy day for us all when five years after meeting, her son and I married, when I started affectionately calling her Cherry, when she gave me a heart-shaped antique silver necklace because I was “the daughter of her heart.”

When we were together, we took occasional breaks from Scrabble and walking marathons. She was a big believer in collaborative competition and losing never bothered either of us. If we weren’t cruising thrift or shoe stores, we were crunching rice crackers and carrot sticks, composing children’s stories and contest winning poetry, scribbling them on index cards we kept tucked in her Scrabble dictionary. If she was in Buffalo, where she was the director of UB’s flute program or preparing for concert perfomances from Southern France to Carnegie Hall, we spoke on the phone daily. She talked with my husband on his hour-long commute to work, to me as I washed dishes and folded laundry, and then the capper, several hours doing knock-knock jokes and stories with our young sons in the evening.

When she visited, she welcomed my boys’ early morning companionship–tidepooling on the beach washed in sunrise, stories in the kitchen, breakfast picnics on the porch with the birds serenading, while my husband and I slept in and counted our blessings.

If it truly takes a village to raise a child, she was our village sage. As the years went on, the majority of our beach walk and phone conversations became about ‘our boys’, her son and grandsons, analyzing their behaviors, development and child psychology and gender theories. She sent me beautiful journals, ads for writing contests and articles on motherhood. I have one from her on the concept of ‘thumos’—male energy in young boys that I have worn thin, copied for all my friends with sons.

Once, faced with a crossroads in our lives, the house my husband and I rented going on the market, deep holes in our resumés that reflected our early wanderlust, I asked Cherry’s advice.

“You’re a writer,” she told me again, and I laughed. Our first son was a full time job, born with challenges that required several hours of expensive specialists a week, my constant devotion.

“No, no,” I told her, “I need to do something that makes money.”

She insisted I send out the stories we’d been playing with, things I’d dashed off and sent to her for her keen editing, her economic and whimsical way with words.

“Where would I find time?”

“Get up in the early morning, put on the kettle, put in a load of laundry, and write.”

Instead, I started an event planning company, despite her constant affirmation that I was a writer, despite the fact that her very existence proved a woman could be both a successful mother and artist.

Her cancer moved, breast to lymph to lung and finally, to brain. At her encouragement, I applied to a school in California for my masters in creative writing. The same day I was accepted, I learned I was pregnant, this time with a daughter.

“How can I do this?” I sobbed to her, meaning get my masters three thousand miles away with three kids under the age of five; meaning, be a mother to a little girl?

“Early mornings,” she told me. “Get up before they do.”

I resisted. She had told me for years that she had no sympathy for her college students who came in whining that they didn’t get enough sleep.

“Get over yourself!’ This was one of her favorite sayings, delivered with emphatic affection. “I haven’t slept through the night since I had Jonathan at nineteen!”

“What about the other, being a mother to a little girl?” I whispered, because my relationship with my own mother was often turbulent.
“Think of our relationship as a model,” she told me frankly. “Love her like I love you.”

I finished graduate school, my novel manuscript as my thesis. I had a daughter I named Piper, which means ‘flute player’, because though we all denied it, we were losing our Cherry. In June, she went in for a treatment that injected chemotherapy directly into her tumor-riddled brain and suffered a massive seizure, the beginning of the end.

I finished my novel that summer as she died slowly, still resisting rising in the early mornings. I watched my sons struggle to comprehend their loss, too early an introduction to death. I sobbed for the daughter, her namesake, who would never remember her, and I ached for my husband as he lost the woman who was as much his best friend as she was mine.

In the hospital, Cherry had promised me she would haunt us afterwards, and she did. That summer, we were constantly visited by dragonflies, alighting on the shoulder of my oldest son while he canoed on our pond, sitting on my knee at the beach and buzzing about us as we planted three cherry trees in her memorial garden. On the morning after my novel sold, I stepped outside at dawn to see not one but dozens of dragonflies swirling overhead.

How did I finish that first novel and start my second?

I set my alarm for 5 am, sometimes 4. It’s not pretty. In the winter, it is worse. My house is cold and dark and my bed is warm and full of people I adore. But I tug on the knee-high baby blue fluff momma furry Ugg boots Cherry bought us both on her last Christmas and I put on the kettle, put in a load of laundry and I get started.

Spring and summer, it’s better. I sleep with the windows open so I can hear the birds, often waking ahead of the alarm to turn it off, slipping out of the bed that by morning is a tangle of children’s limbs and lovey blankets and cats and snoring. I sit down with my tea, and my computer, serenaded by the hum of the washer and the beautiful chorus of the birds that my mother-in-law loved.

And then I write, because Cherry taught me you can be a mother and an artist, but you have to get over yourself, and you have to rise with the dawn chorus.

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Book Giveaway: This week Skyhorse Publishing has generously provided The Divining Wand with two Hardcover copies of Kim Stagliano’s All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa to be given away in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Kim Stagliano and All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, November 3, 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.

Presenting Debutante Kim Stagliano and
All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa

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


Debutante Kim Stagliano has the honor of being the first Class Member of the 2011 Debutante Ball to waltz across the ballroom floor and into bookstores with her memoir, All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism, officially launching today. And ironically the author may be the most reluctant Deb, never imagining her life as it is or that — in a September 1, 2010 post, Wenesday’s with Deb Kim — she would write:

“My book is a “’Kimoir’” (memoir makes me feel O-L-D) and sure to make you laugh, even if you have to grab a tissue once or twice while you read. I started writing in 2003 when my husband Mark was out of work. It was cheaper than therapy and healthier than overdoing the cocktail hour, if you know what I mean. Mark and I live in Fairfield County, Connecticut and have three beautiful daughters – who have an autism diagnosis. Mia is 15, Gianna is 14 and Bella is 9. Our lives are anything but typical, never boring (how I long for boredom!) and often upside down and inside out.”

How did her life story evolve? Here’s a synopsis:

How one woman raises three autistic daughters, loses one at Disneyworld, stays married, Has sex, bakes gluten-free, goes broke, and keeps her sense of humor.

“Dr. Spock? Check. Penelope Ann Leach (Remember her?)? Check. What to Expect When You’re Expecting? Check. I had a seven-hundred–dollar Bellini crib for God’s sake!” So begins Kim Stagliano’s electrifying, hilarious tale of her family’s journey raising three daughters with autism. With her funny, startling, and illuminating first book, Stagliano joins the ranks of bestselling memoirists like David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs. With her willingness to lay everything on the table—family, friends, and enemies to basement floods to birth days to (possible) heroin addictions—she eviscerates and celebrates the absurd.

Whether she’s going commando to rescue a daughter from a potentially embarrassing situation or accidentally stealing electric fans, she and her family are seemingly always on the edge of a Stagtastrophe. From her love of Howard Stern to her increasing activism in the autism community and exhaustive search for treatments that will help her daughters, she explores her life with vigor and humor. Always outspoken, often touching, and sometimes heart breaking, Kim Stagliano is a powerful new voice in comedic writing—her “Kimoir” (as she calls it) will be a must-read for everyone within the autism community. More than that, it’s the debut of a new voice that will entertain everyone who reads it.

Unlike other books on autism, Kim promises hers is different because “it’s very funny.” And it is, despite these two sobering statistics: In 2010 there will be 1 in 110 children diagnosed with some form of autism, and couples with an autistic child(ren) have an 80% divorce rate. Yes, it’s a bit overwhelming and yet it makes for the best of reality reading. In fact think of the “Kimoir” as better than anything reality TV has to offer since the Stagliano’s experiences are unscripted, unedited, and Kim is not Mother Teresa. As she explains:

“The first and biggest difference between my book and many of the others out there is that it’s very funny. My style and voice lend themselves to writing humor, even when the topic isn’t all that funny. Also, mine combines our family life outside of autism – meaning our financial trials, including when my husband lost his job twice in one year. That was fun….”

Now here’s an example of a “fun” Stagastrophe from an Excerpt of All I Can Handle.

And be sure to read the heartfelt Reviews.

There is no cure for autism — which has been under the field of psychiatry since it was first seen and defined by Leo Kanner in the 1930s. However Kim, in her role of Mom/advocate/activist, believes parents should explore every option for their child, even when it’s difficult (like radically changing their diet.) While all this author wants is the best for those with autism, there are those who condemn her efforts towards hope. Still the “Kimoir” is not meant to be controversial, rather it was written for readers to understand autism and thus be more accepting of those who have it. In fact the author’s message can be applied to everyone with differences and challenges, particularly in these days of “bullying.” Simply put, Kim’s hope is that the book will promote the following:

“Just follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others…. If you see a behavior that’s funky, like gorgeous Mia sucking her thumb, which she does sometimes, take a second to wonder if Mia might have “’something’” (you don’t have to know it’s autism) instead of staring and making a face in her or my direction. It’s OK to be startled or even aghast at a meltdown or inappropriate behavior, just pause for a moment before reacting. If you’re horrified, I’m horrified times a million and I really appreciate when people are kind. So do my girls, even if they cannot tell you so. They are people – do not refer to them autistic or autistics – any more than I would call someone with cancer, cancerous. Autism is not who they are – it’s what they have.”

Respect is what Kim wants for her girls and the 1 in 110 other children and adults diagnosed with varying degrees of autism. No financial contributions, no sympathy or praise for being a “good Mom.” Instead she faces reality head on and deals with whatever arises with humor, faith, and the knowledge that her daily life will be filled with the unexpected.

Enlightening and entertaining, All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism is a “must read” and even a “feel good” read as Kim and her husband care for their three stunning daughters — yes, there are 24 color pictures — with love and commitment for the long haul.

And, when you do read, consider Kim’s simple wish from a September 15, 2010 post, I’ve Never Given Up Imaginary Friends:

“You’re never alone if you can read.

That’s why every year, when I sit at my children’s IEP meetings (those are planning meetings for special ed, my three girls have autism) I say, “’I just want my girls to read.’” I know that if they can develop some level of reading skill, even if it’s “’just’” a 4th grade level, they will never be alone and will always have friends too.”

Book Giveaway: This week Skyhorse Publishing has generously provided The Divining Wand with two Hardcover copies of Kim Stagliano’s All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa to be given away 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, November 3, 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.