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Archive for January, 2011

The Revealing of Linda Gray Sexton

January 12, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Novelist/Memoirist Linda Gray Sexton (Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton, Other works in Bibliography) celebrates the release of her latest memoir, Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide, as she celebrates her triumph of life.

Linda describes the memoir in her own words:

The book is about struggling with the cycle of suicide that ran through my family and how I came to terms with it, understanding at last this mental illness and suicide did not have to be my only inheritance.

And then here a few of the glorious Reviews for HALF IN LOVE:

“A vivid and daring exploration of survival from the author of Searching for Mercy Street,” Linda Sexton’s beautiful book is a cry for health and sanity.” ⎯Erica Jong

“Like her mother, Sexton can create a startling intimacy with her readers. She comes before us emotionally naked, explaining the pull of self-cutting and suicide in a tone that’s unsettling direct…This book looks into the workings of the suicidal mind in a way that isn’t easily forgotten, raising provocative questions about how we approach and treat the severely mentally ill. Sexton paints suicide as a deadly disease mechanism: only the care of other people can save its victims, but those victims become experts at driving other people away. ‘The bare bones fact,’ Sexton writes from her own grueling experience, ‘is that no one wants to deal with a suicide.’”The New York Times Book Review

“In this stark, affecting memoir, Sexton picks up where she left off in her 1994 tell-all Searching for Mercy Street…with a compelling candidness…in the end, we’re rewarded not by Sexton’s inevitable listing toward harm but by her resilience in the face of it.”San Francisco Magazine

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide for Monday, January 24, 2011 but, until then, let’s meet the author through her brief official “bio:”

Linda Gray Sexton is the daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton. She has written four novels, and her first memoir, Searching for Mercy Street, was published to widespread acclaim. She lives in California.

And now the opportunity to get to know Linda, upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Mother, Wife, Friend, Memoirist, Dalmatian Lover, Reader, Shopaholic.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: “Don’t let the bastards win.”

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: My arms around my sons; a loving man by my side; my dog tucked in behind my knees; a book in my hands.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Being in an airplane as it crashes.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Florence, Italy

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Virginia Woolf

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

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “Are you sure?” and the f-word.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: To be a chef the caliber of Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, or Alice Waters.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Raising sons (26 and 28) to adulthood and teaching them to be empathetic men.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Oversensitivity and talking about myself too much.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Sensitivity and the ability to listen.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Three suicide attempts.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: A dog who lives at my house.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Generosity.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Lily Briscoe in Virginia Woolf’s “To The Lighthouse.”

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Iago in Shakespeare’s “Othello.”

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Martina Navratilova; “I admire everything you’ve accomplished, particularly because you were such a strong role model for women my age.”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Parents who don’t control their children in restaurants and airplanes.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Sailing and going to dog shows.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Psychiatrist

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

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Artisan Bread with goat cheese.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”
Bob Dylan’s “ Forever Young”
The theme song from the film “Out of Africa”
Rachmaninoff’s “Variation on a Theme by Paganini”

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: I change my mind about this constantly. Current favorites would be:
Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying
Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse
Flaubert’s Madame Bovary
Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind
Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint

Linda Gray Sexton invites you to join her community of fans and learn more about the author’s writings and life at her official website. It’s an enchanting virtual visit to her world — a place to be explored for hours.

Guest Eleanor Brown on
An Open Letter to My Books

January 11, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[As much as we love to read, visit libraries, and browse bookstores, who knew there would come a day when how to read would cause a moral dilemma? In today’s guest post, Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters coming January 20, 2011) shares a heartfelt confession and offers a compromise to her true love.]

An Open Letter to My Books

Dear Books:

I’ll admit it. I’ve been cheating on you.

No, it’s not with that disturbingly large television we just bought (frankly, it kind of creeps me out, what with the HD making everyone’s pores visible – I just don’t feel I want to be that close to anyone unless we’re kissing).

It’s with e-reader.

I know, I know, when I first met e-reader, I was underwhelmed. The pages took too long to turn, I couldn’t really fall into the story, it just didn’t feel right.

And then I decided to re-read one of my favorite books on it. And I fell in love. It turns out that the device hadn’t been the problem to begin with, it was the content. It wasn’t the medium, but the message.

The thing is, Books, you’re still special to me. We’ve got a history, you know? But I can’t take you everywhere – I always have to factor your size into any purse shopping I do. When i go on vacation, you selfishly take up half my suitcase, and often cost me money in overweight fees at the airport.

I do love you, Books, I do. You’re easier to use than my cell phone, you’re better-looking than e-reader, and you hold the stories I want to read. And heaven knows I buy enough of you – I don’t think there’s any danger of the bookstore down the street going out of business while I’m around.

But why can’t I search inside you by keyword when I’m trying to write a book review or find a glorious sentence I remember? And why don’t you just appear on my bedside table, waiting for me when I finish the one before you? Why can’t I lie on my side and flip the pages with one hand while I read the way I can with e-reader?

And why, when I’m done with you, don’t you just go away? I’ve got to find something to do with you, and there’s never enough room. And you look kind of messy when there are too many of you, you know?

Listen, Books, I don’t want to break it off entirely. We’ve got a lot in common, you and me. You like to hang out in bookstores, and so do I. We both hate waiting in line, but you definitely make the time go faster. You never run out of batteries, you’re good-looking, you invite conversation when we’re out in public together, and we’ve been together a long, long time. We’ve got good memories, and I can’t just let you go.

So, what do you say, Books? Are you willing to open this relationship up a little? You, me, and e-reader? There’s enough room in my heart for both of you.

I promise, you’ll always be my first love.

Eleanor

* * * * *

Book Giveaway: For those readers who have Kindles, The Divining Wand will honor the first 10 comments — left on this specific post, Dee DeTarsio and The Scent of Jade, until Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST. — with a download of The Scent of Jade.

Dee DeTarsio and The Scent of Jade

January 10, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Without question Dee DeTarsio is a visual writer who has a gift for creating vivid images through her choice of words. In her guest post, she refers to her style of writing as Tell A Vision and Dee’s debut ebook novel, The Scent of Jade [Kindle Edition], showcases her talent in a romantic adventure tale.

Inspired as well as motivated by her husband’s challenge to create women’s fiction that was truly adventurous, the author began with the “what if” scenario of a woman on a resort vacation, what could possibly go wrong? Dee personally hates camping, is afraid of the dark, likes a full stomach, and her coffee hot, so she literally turned the tables on her protagonist Julie, making her as uncomfortable as possible. The result evolved into Romancing the Stone meets Survivor and the following synopsis:

When an ancient jade relic that holds secrets to global warming ends up in the hands of a not-so-perfect heroine, she is thrust in a fish-out-of-water adventure, lost in the Costa Rican rainforest.

“Romancing The Stone” meets “Survivor” for Julie Fraser, who was minding her own business, living her life as snug as a bug in a rut in San Diego, California. As the least adventurous person she knows, Julie finally whooped it up one day to jet off and surprise her husband, who was on a business trip in Costa Rica. Reeling from the discovery that her husband wasn’t who she thought he was, she accidentally steals an ancient artifact and is chased through the wilds of the rainforest, not knowing where to turn, literally, or whom to trust. She knew she should have stayed home.

Can a monkey, a blonde Juan, a foreign scientist, a mysterious ‘love potion’ and the jade stone itself (that may hold secrets to global warming), help Julie on her mission to find and forgive her husband?

The stolen idol catapults her on a quest, as she discovers truths along the way about herself and her place in the universe. The Scent of Jade is creative and unique with surprising twists–in turn suspenseful and heartbreaking, combining humor and romance to reach the payoff ending. Original characters keep the pages turning.

The Scent of Jade spins its story with wit and wisdom, drawing those who love mystery, suspense, romance and adventure. While there are no vampires, readers are invited to enjoy the intrigue…

And now for Dee’s lush video that artfully captures the storyline:

(If the video isn’t visible, please watch it here.)

Kindle’s Amazon Customer Reviews are glowing and the author appears to have found her niche in the romantic adventure genre. Usually, when women’s fiction is described as “fun,” it’s more than likely to be classified as “chicklit.” However The Scent of Jade takes readers outside of their comfort zone just enough to make the novel a plausible fantasy escape rather than “fluff.”

In other words, there’s nothing predictable about Dee DeTarsio’s entertainment of almost non-stop action combined with the detailed description of the rain forest/jungle and the determined, yet haplessly human Julie. Yet how did the author successfully “show” rather than “tell” with her words and what of her research? Dee says:

“I love great big fat juicy adjectives, from the sounds they make to the smells they make me think about. Being a television writer forces me to write to video, and I think that it is an automatic translation to the life around me and right into the stories I tell…matching words to pictures!

“Our planned research trip to Costa Rica was actually derailed–so I had to rely on details from travels to Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean for my tropical sensations. I had done a lot of preparation for our trip, and just continued my research. I love the history and mystique of Costa Rica and didn’t really feel like I had a choice setting it anyplace else, because of the story I wanted to incorporate with the jade stone.”

About the jade stone….Dee confirms that there’s actually one that has been in her husband’s family for years. Although the stone doesn’t have a carved face, it’s a beautiful, heavy piece that appears in the video. She also admits that it served as another inspiration for her storyline and helped prompt her extensive research.

“I love ancient civilizations and history and have always been fascinated imagining myself living back then (although I’m sure I wouldn’t have survived.). I watched several documentaries and read all I could get my hands on about Costa Rica, South America, Mesoamerica and Mayans. Imagine the first person who picked up a stick and scratched out symbols to communicate. The bonus of having a carved jade god worshipped by early civilizations kind of began to feel real!

“I wrote THE SCENT OF JADE in about 8 months. I lived and breathed it, researching probably every day I wrote, to feel the full flavor. The universe did seem to provide clues along the way to help enrich the story.”

And “real” — in regards to environmental description and historical legend — is very close to the way one feels about The Scent of Jade. Also to be fair, yet not critical, there were definitely passages where I felt as though I was reading a screenplay. The novel simply reels off in your mind with its quirky characters, exotic location, a legendary idol, and more.

Indeed Dee is working on the screenplay, paring down the novel to 120 pages or approximately half of the book’s page count. Talented and ambitious, this self-published author appears destined to do it all and that’s why, if you have a Kindle, it is highly recommended that you purchase The Scent of Jade [Kindle Edition]. For less than a dollar, the ebook is a ticket to escape to a tropical locale, enjoy a feel good romantic adventure, and become part of what is certain to be a “happily ever after” story — that being Dee DeTarsio’s success!

Book Giveaway: For those readers who have Kindles, The Divining Wand will honor the first 10 comments — left on this post until Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST. — with a download of The Scent of Jade.

Guest Thaisa Frank on
Fact and Fiction in Heidegger’s Glasses

January 06, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts, Q&A

[During the holiday break a new comment and question was left on the November 4, 2010 post, Thaisa Frank and Heidegger’s Glasses. Martha S. wrote:

I am in the middle of the book and it is great! But, I have to know. Did the Compound of Scribes really exist? How can I find out how much is fiction and how much is history?

The Divining Wand contacted Thaisa Frank (Heidegger’s Glasses, A Brief History in Camouflage, Sleeping in Velvet) and she replied with the following guest post. For those who have read the presentation/review of the novel, the beginning of the author’s explanation may sound familiar since it was originally part of the Red Room blog post, The Promise of the First Pages. However do read on to learn what is historical fact and what is fiction.

And thank you, Martha, for both the comment and the question.]

Fact and Fiction in Heidegger’s Glasses

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

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 I’d written so long ago until I’d finished writing the novel and received the galley proofs from my publisher. Then I found the sixteen pages–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, that world was launched by real events in World War II. I hadn’t known about these events when I wrote those sixteen pages. I only found out about them afterwards, when I began to write the novel.

So what is fact and what is fiction?

Perhaps most importantly, the Reich never answered letters from the dead and there are no records of a converted mine in Northern Germany. But they did make people write letters–often just before they died. This procedure, called Briefaktion or Operation Mail, forced prisoners to write to their relatives, extolling conditions in the camps and urging them to come join them voluntarily. The letters, misaddressed or otherwise undeliverable, were usually returned to Berlin, from where they’d been mailed. This resulted in thousands of unanswered letters, most from people who had died. (Innumerable prisoners had to write letters as soon as they arrived and then were led to the gas chambers. The result is that they weren’t given numbers and there aren’t any records of their arrival or extermination.)

The Reich also relied on séances and information from the astral plane. Erik Hanussen, Hitler’s most important clairvoyant, predicted his rise to power and had a Palace of the Occult where he held séances until the Reich murdered him in 1933. The Reich was also fascinated by Lanz von Liebenfels’ concept of Ultima Thule, a place of extreme cold where a race of supermen lived. During the war a group called Die Thule-Gesellschaft (The Thule Society) met regularly to channel advice about war strategies from the astral plane

The contents of my novel were drawn unconsciously from those sixteen pages. Eventually the contents of my novel locked me into research where I found out about Operation Mail and the Nazi belief in the occult. And even though I had begun a novel (forgetting those 16 pages) in which people answered letters to the dead, the existence of Operation Mail (which made the improbable activity believable) was a surprise to me. So was the extensive interest and belief in the occults.

If indeed the imagination is the weather of the mind, then we all contend with the storms and rain and sun of our imaginations. And because the imagination is part of the world, we contend with the imaginations of people and groups who are distinct and sometimes far away. The imagination has uncanny instincts that allow it to leap beyond the limits of the mind. It can find doors to other centuries, read forbidden books, and meet improbable people. Writing Heidegger’s Glasses has been an adventure in discovering the fluid boundaries between the life of the imagination and the facts of recorded history.

* * * * *

Attention: Catherine McKenzie (Arranged currently only available from Canada, and Spin) sends this message from her Facebook page, I bet we can make these books best sellers:

A NEW YEAR, NEW BOOKS & A NEW GIVEAWAY
Happy new year. As promised, we’ve added some books to the reading list, the excellent The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan, and The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh. You can read all about them in the discussions section. And to celebrate, we are having a 30 BOOK giveaway – when we reach 3000 members, or on January 31st, whichever happens first, we’ll give away 10 copies of each of the two new books and 5 copies each of the original books. Just comment on the CONTEST POST on the main group page to enter. And invite your friends to join the group – the faster we get to 3000, the faster we give away more books!

[By all means, enter to win!]

AND

Announcement: The winners of The Education of Hailey Kendrick by Eileen Cook are Gingermommy and Amy R. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly. Or, if you would rather have the Kindle Edition, please send the email address you use for downloading.

The Revealing of Eleanor Brown

January 05, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

The actual debut of Eleanor Brown’s first novel, The Weird Sisters, may still be two weeks away on January 20, 2011, but it’s already received tremendous praise and attention.

Yet how could it not when both author and book are described as:

A major new talent tackles the complicated terrain of sisters. A winsome novel that explores sibling rivalry, the power of books, and the places we decide to call home.

Then the trade praise:

“…bright, literate debut…a punchy delight…” Publishers Weekly

“…lovely debut…creative and original…” Library Journal

Followed by the announcement that The Weird Sisters has been chosen as part of Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program!

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Weird Sisters on Monday, January 17, 2011 however, between now and then, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Eleanor Brown has lived in St. Paul, San Francisco, Philadelphia, South Florida, and Oxford, London, and Brighton, England. She lives in Colorado with her partner, writer and new media superstar, J.C. Hutchins.

Eleanor’s writing has appeared in anthologies, journals, magazines, and newspapers. The Weird Sisters, her first novel, will be published by Amy Einhorn Books on January 20, 2011.

Now knowing the facts about the author, it’s time to get to know the real Eleanor as she reveals:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Better than I ever expected it to be.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: A good book, J.C., my cat, and a nice, comfy chair.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Living without J.C. and my cat.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Right here is pretty darn good, but I wouldn’t mind a being on a beach in Hawaii with a great book.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Julia Child. Except I hate to cook. Otherwise, we’re exactly the same.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Any great teacher working to make a difference.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: In life? OMG, “I heard about that on NPR!”
In writing? Perhaps, just, seems.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’m in such awe of people who can dance – I wish I were graceful like that.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Having the courage to build a life I want to live.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Complacency.

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

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Hurting other people.

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

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I am very, very tall, and very, very loud.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Atticus Finch – if only we all had that much honor and compassion.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Iago, from Othello.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’d like to meet a professional football player and ask why what they do is worth so much darn money – I’m genuinely curious.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Gum-chewing. UGH.

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

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Nail technician – I’d love to have that much patience for detail.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: A good sense of humor, intelligence, and thoughtfulness.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Watermelon.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Taking the Long Way – Dixie Chicks
Angels – Robbie Williams
Rock with You – Michael Jackson
Silent Night
Oklahoma – Oklahoma!

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Evening Class, Maeve Binchy
The Lords of Discipline, Pat Conroy
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
The Stand, Steven King
The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

Thoughtful, clever, and oh so talented, Eleanor Brown is likely to soon become your new favorite author. To share in her company become a follower on Twitter, a friend on Facebook, a regular reader of her Blog, and a visitor to the The Debutante Ball where she posts every Tuesday.

* * * * *

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Eileen Cook’s The Education of Hailey Kendrick in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Eileen Cook and The Education of Hailey Kendrick. 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 Dee DeTarsio on Tell A Vision

January 04, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Dee DeTarsio (The Scent of Jade [Kindle Edition]), a television writer and formerly a news producer, grew up loving the visual home entertainment medium. In today’s guest post she explains how what she watches/sees on TV influences her novel storytelling.]

Tell A Vision

Though some in my family would place me on Team Eeyore, I believe in magic, happily-ever-after and the 7th sense: hope. My favorite TV shows used to be reruns of Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, up to and including Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, and, if you haven’t discovered The Wizards of Waverly Place yet, two wands up.

I also love the magic known as HGTV–a new kitchen in 30 minutes? Voila! And as for the fairy-tale ending possibilities of House Hunters, International…A Votre Sante! (The enchantment just doesn’t get much better than watching someone with a $1.2 million budget discover a crumbling 17th century 500-square-foot three-story-house with room for only a single-sized bed, kitschy rooster fabric curtained kitchen cupboards, that does include a wee washing machine in the bathroom, with nary a dryer in site.)

I love TV and it loves me! While I concede that I will probably never fulfill my childhood dream of writing for a soap opera, (I ended up as a news producer instead… ‘If it’s news to you, it’s news to us’…) I am eternally inspired by what I watch.

Don’t get me wrong–books offer way more satisfaction than television–isn’t reading the 8th sense? (If you’ve noticed, I’ve not mentioned the 6th sense–that’s because, spoiler alert, try as I might, and I do, everyone else on the planet has more ESP than me.)

My debut eNovel, THE SCENT OF JADE, grew out of a suggestion by my husband who said “women sure do think a lot.” I may not have spoken to him for a day or so after that, but the result was a hybrid chick-lit action/adventure novel that follows a woman lost in the Costa Rican rainforest with an ancient idol that may hold secrets to global warming. There are no car chases, explosions or dead guys, however, the protagonist does get shot at, there are no strappy sandals, and there is SEX. I issue an invitation to all the XYs out there to come on over to the pink side–you don’t know what you’re missing.

“It ain’t art unless it makes the air,” was a favorite quote of an executive producer I worked with. His underlying message was that while we have the responsibility to polish our “art” and make it the best it can be, does it exist without being viewed…or in writers’ cases, read? That challenge helped focus my efforts.

From One Live To Live to the Amazing Race, brilliant cliffhangers keep us intrigued and entertained…just like fiction. Even in reality shows like Survivor, producers are the authors of suspense: amping up the conflict and drama. Storytelling a vision invites the audience, through whatever medium, to stay tuned for the good stuff…coming up. I don’t always succeed but I try to keep that in mind during scenes and chapter endings. Living through my character’s quest, I really don’t want to give readers a place to stop. Stieg Larsson can pull off the ‘ol ‘He made a cup of coffee and went to bed.’ chapter endings, but I can’t! I’m a Virgo–it’s against my nature to plow right through a scene and stop at an awkward spot, but sometimes, that’s just what the story needs.

“Oh, yeah, I surprised him alright…” which I’m pretty sure I stole right off of One Life to Live, hopefully reads as a better page turner than “I’ll think about it in the morning.”

Watching eye-spinning amounts of TV is just another venue for receiving hints from the universe. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

* * * * *

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Eileen Cook’s The Education of Hailey Kendrick in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Eileen Cook and The Education of Hailey Kendrick. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, January 5, 2011 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.

Eileen Cook and
The Education of Hailey Kendrick

January 03, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


If one subscribes to the adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then the cover of Eileen Cook’s (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 – 11 coming April 19, 2011) latest YA novel, The Education of Hailey Kendrick, releasing tomorrow January 4, 2010, says it all. Cover girl Hailey’s bubble is about to burst!

In a most engaging and relevant storyline, the author found inspiration in the classic novel The Scarlet Letter and its question of what happens when ostracized from your community you are forced to stand alone to discover who you really are? Of course there would be widespread repercussions as Eileen noted, “…how common it is for us to describe ourselves in relationship to other people. “‘I’m so-and-so’s daughter/sister/wife/friend'” and how our view of self can go through huge change when the people in our lives change.

“I wanted to write about a character who believed in playing it safe and felt she knew her place in the world and then suddenly finds that world turned upside down. How far would she go to get that life back and would she even want it back?”

In other words, as the tagline on the front cover states: Sometimes what you don’t know is everything.

This becomes Hailey Kendrick’s education and personal journey as the novel’s synopsis explains:

Hailey Kendrick always does exactly what’s expected of her. She has the right friends, dates the perfect boy, gets good grades, and follows all the rules. But one night, Hailey risks everything by breaking a very big rule in a very public way…and with a very unexpected partner in crime. Hailey gets caught, but her accomplice does not, and Hailey takes the fall for both of them.

Suddenly, Hailey’s perfect life — and her reputation–are blowing up in her face. Her friends are all avoiding her. Her teachers don’t trust her. Her boyfriend won’t even speak to her for long enough to tell her that she’s been dumped.

They say honesty is the best policy–but some secrets are worth keeping, no matter the cost. Or are they?

Hailey is the “perfect” character to root for, just read how the literary trade reviews sing her praises:

“.. enormously appealing and great company throughout this breezy read…..the highest quality—like a gourmet truffle. Cook has whipped up a real treat.” Kirkus Starred Review

“Cook coaxes considerable empathy for the otherwise privileged Hailey as she abandons the achievement treadmill to explore her independence.” Publishers Weekly

Now here’s your opportunity to meet Hailey through an Excerpt of Chapter 1.

Without question Eileen is loved by many (see My Christmas Greeting to Eileen Cook) and respected by even more because of her warmth, generosity and basic, universal values. While the latter may not sound exciting or alluring, the author’s talent makes it so. For example The Education of Hailey Kendrick offers up themes and messages galore, including accepting responsibility for mistakes. That’s a life lesson for anyone, at any age, to learn and The Divining Wand asked the author how important it was to showcase that in Hailey’s education? And Eileen said:

“Character and integrity were a big issues in my family growing up. There were few things you could do that were worse than giving your word to someone and then breaking it. I wanted to write about a character who had a clearly defined sense of right and wrong. Hailey does something wrong in the beginning of the novel, regrets it and spends a good portion of the rest of the book trying to figure out how to make things right- versus making the situation worse.

“There are no easy answers to difficult questions. Like most of us Hailey wants to do the right thing, but isn’t always sure what that would be. Doing the right thing isn’t a one time choice- it is a lifetime of choosing and when you fail, choosing better the next time.”

Adults would naturally agree with this, but what about YA readers?

Well here is part of a November 23, 2010 Review posted by YA Book Nuts, Lori and Melissa:

“It also seemed that every time that Hailey tried to do the right thing somehow it always backfired on her and she would add to her problems instead of solving them. (I think I identified with this so much because I do it all of the time.)

“Needless to say, I really liked this book! It is the perfect choice for a quick read that makes you laugh and think at the same time. I can’t wait to see when Eileen Cook’s next book comes out…”

Aha, what lovely words and even better insight into teens who do indeed identify with Hailey’s predicament. Also there’s the acknowledgement of laughing and thinking at the same time. It’s a wining combination yet one I puzzled over, questioning how Eileen managed to raise major issues, successfully deal with them, and move the storyline forward while keeping “Hailey” fun as well as profound. And, may it be noted, there is not a whiff of preachy involved.

So what is this author’s secret, how does she write about serious matters and still entertain? According to Eileen, most writers have a gift in a particular area by either writing amazing description, dialogue, pacing and action, or bringing out emotions. However her personal gift is, “being the class clown.” As she further explains:

“I’ve always been “‘the funny one.'” (And I mean funny as in ha-ha versus funny weird.) When I write I have a hard time keeping the funny out. What I want to do as a writer is to meld the funny with serious and make a book that can both make someone laugh and think at the same time. I believe that many difficult issues are easier to consider if they are served up with a sense of humour. Humour can take the edge off and allow you to get closer. I think with each book I write I’m getting better at blending the funny with the serious. Writing really is a craft, I feel there is still so much for me to learn.

Yet within the pages of The Education of Hailey Kendrick, the author — in her very best book yet — provides wisdom for fans of all ages. Please join Hailey in her life’s education, share the book with a teen, and together you’re likely to discover/remember how delightful and good each day can be!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Eileen Cook’s The Education of Hailey Kendrick 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, January 5, 2011 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.