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Archive for February, 2011

Anna Fields and
Confessions of a Rebel Debutante

February 28, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Successful playwright, television writer, and comedienne, Anna Fields dishes out a Southern-fried memoir about growing up too smart and rebellious for her North Carolina small town in Confessions of a Rebel Debutante.

During childhood the author claimed the “tomboy” label, only then to describe her adolescent self as being “outspoken” and “bookish” rebelling against the strict rules at her private all-girls finishing school. Anna tried to be a proper Deb, even making it through the first Cotillion. Yet, when viewed as too “liberal” and “uppity,” she didn’t make the cut for the ultimate Debutante Ball.

That’s the backstory and this is the synopsis of Confessions of a Rebel Debutante:

A strict regimen of Southern-belle grooming should have prepared Anna Fields for a lifetime of ladylike behavior.

But it didn’t.

As it turned out, Anna—a smart, outspoken, bookish girl—was a dud at debbing. After being kicked out of cotillion classes, the “Rebel Deb” left North Carolina to seek her fortune. Her first stop was Brown University —right in the heart of Yankee-land—and then the crazy world of Hollywood talent agencies and celebrity-packed restaurants. After a disastrous stint as Diana Ross’s personal assistant, Anna headed off to the Big Apple, where she worked for one of Bravo’s Real Housewives. It’s a rollicking, unlikely success story from a natural-born storyteller.

Sharp, sweet, and sassy, Confessions of a Rebel Debutante proves you can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the girl!

Please take a look at the glowing Press.

The South is known for its storytellers and Anna Fields is another talented one as she writes her “rags-to-riches,” almost Cinderella-like story. Of course there isn’t a wicked step-mother or even step-sisters in this tale, but all of Anna’s quirky relatives are much more entertaining and — more importantly — they’re real!

Written in a chronological format, this memoir has a distinct stream-of-conscious feel as the rebel deb’s voice delights with humorous details or becomes serious in relating past problems. For this book applies to every girl — living below or above the Mason-Dixon line — who didn’t quite fit in and was proud of it.

As Anna shares her sweet, bittersweet, and deeply poignant tales, she often refers to her role model of Scarlett O’Hara and frequently asks herself, “what would Scarlett do?” The answer is usually anything that will maintain the rebel deb’s strong confidence in herself. Because, when interviewed by BUST Magazine in May 2010, the author defined a rebel debutante as:

“She’s a woman who will bake a cake, clean a rifle, and drive a stick shift with a smile. She’s a mix of masculine and feminine, strong and soft—like all real women.”

However one strong tenet, revealed in the memoir, is that a rebel deb will not be content to simply stay home and birth babies. Oh no, she’s first destined to be true to herself. And where does that energy and determination come from? Within that same BUST Magazine article, Anna admits:

“I keep my eye on the ball. I stop worrying about what bad things can happen and start taking risks. I consider these to be investments in myself and in my happiness, instead of in fear. I stop competing with others, wondering what others are thinking about me, or what they’re doing. My self-love, my self-confidence, does not depend on others—it comes from God, and it lives within me. With that in mind, I know that I can overcome anything.”

Indeed she can and does, proving herself time after time by coming out on top. And, for the most part, the author accomplishes it all with her polite southern charm intact. For as the book’s description explains:

You can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the girl!

With her homespun tales and smart, experienced wisdom, Anna Fields’ story, though rooted in North Carolina, can resonate with any reader, anywhere. Every region of our country has its own distinct identity passed down by generations of ethnic family traditions. Unique, eccentric, and larger-than-life lovable relatives can be found at almost any holiday gathering. Embarrassing secrets are shared and scorned as younger generations seek to rebel against their past if only to say they can succeed on their own.

Confessions of a Rebel Debutante takes readers on the author’s journey, while nudging out our own personal, growing-up memories along the way. So travel down south with Anna who never took that final deb curtsy but realized that “You can’t bend the rules without learning them first.”

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[Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters not only remains on The New York Times Bestseller List but has moved from #15 to #14 this week. Have you read it yet? If possible, do treat yourself….it’s delicious!]

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Anna Fields’ Confessions of a Rebel Debutante 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, March 2, 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.

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever, II

February 24, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

As every book is opened, a new adventure begins. And sometimes, somewhere among the pages, there is also found those special characters that create an immediate personal bond — the ones, if only real, would be chosen as our BFF.

With this in mind The Divining Wand wondered who the authors felt close to, and asked:

What fictional character would you choose to be your BFF and why?

And this week’s authors replied:

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

“Nancy Drew. She always had the best adventures (and the best car). We could go zooming off and solve mysteries together, and hopefully some of her talent for picking up a skill fast would rub off. I would love to go scuba diving or surfing or skate in a roller derby, but only if I could learn to be an expert in just a few days.”

[On April 2, 2011, Meredith will be speaking at the Nancy Drew Convention while the sleuths are visiting Charlottesville.]

~James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

“Harry “’Rabbit’” Angstrom, because there’s the chance that hanging with him would make me, in comparison, look good.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“You know, I think I still want to be friends with Pippi Longstocking.”

~Jael McHenry (The Kitchen Daughter coming April 12, 2011):

“Oh, I’m a Lizzie Bennet girl from way back. All of Jane Austen’s heroines are wonderful, but she’s my favorite, and just the kind of BFF we all need — smart but not superior (usually), insightful about human behavior, independent but loyal, and funny as all get-out.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“It’s so tempting to take the easy way out with this one and say Marissa, the main character in The Art of Forgetting–if only because I deliberately wrote a character that I like and relate to. But I’m going to go with Rachel from Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed. Yes, she slept with her best friend’s fiancé–but the friend deserved it! Seriously, though, of all the contemporary fiction I’ve read recently, Rachel stands out as a character who’s flawed in a way that makes you root for her, rather than against her. She’s practical and down-to-earth, too, which are great traits for a best friend.”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road coming March 31, 2011):

“I would choose Scout from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Scout embodied a longing to do the right thing, a passion for it. She was an intelligent, hard-headed tomboy who loved and protected her family and friends.”

To be continued….

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Attention: Beginning next Tuesday, March 1, 2011, MaNIC MoMMy is hosting March Madness Book-A-Day Giveaway! You’ll have an opportunity to win a book from one of many TDW authors as well as several other authors who may be new to you. Every day there’s a winner and, at the end of the month, a GRAND PRIZE WINNER. Interested? Please click the link for details.

Announcement: The winners of Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris are Elise and Keetha. Congratulations!

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

The Revealing of Catherine McKenzie

February 23, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

After her success with debut novel Spin in 2010, Canadian author Catherine McKenzie’s second novel Arranged — released in early January 2011 — fulfilled her dream. For ARRANGED hit the Globe & Mail’s Canadian Bestseller list at #10 on January 22, 2011! And how appropriate for a determined, dedicated writer who campaigns and believes I bet we can make these books best sellers — books by other authors, that is. (More about this site next week.)

In a two sentence description, Arranged is: A wonderful romance of bizarre coincidence that tugs at the heart. It’s a refreshingly new take on love far from the conventions of love, where you take leaps and bounds of faith to trust that karma will be kind.

And Praise:

“Catherine McKenzie’s ARRANGED is a satisfying and entertaining romance that puts a very contemporary twist on old-fashioned ideas about marriage. I inhaled it in an afternoon, rooting for its heroine to fine the love she longs for.” – Leah Stewart, author of Body of a Girl and Husband & Wife

“A novel that explores what happens when what you think you want collides with what you really need. Catherine McKenzie’s Arranged is a rare book: smart, funny, honest and absorbing.” – Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Arranged for Monday, March 7, 2011 but, between now and then, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

CATHERINE McKENZIE was born and raised in Montreal where she now works as a litigator. When not serving on many professional associations, she teaches part-time at McGill University’s faculty of law. Her bestselling first novel, Spin, was released to critical acclaim in 2010. Arranged is her second book.

And now it’s time to get to know more about Catherine, up close and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: I only need one: hectic.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Don’t plan your life; live it.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A:Being curled up with a great book.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Snakes. I hate snakes, I hate ’em.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Hard to choose one place, but a cabin on a lake sounds pretty good. Or at the base of a mountain wouldn’t suck either.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I’ve always been partial to Mary Queen of Scots. She got a raw deal.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I don’t generally “admire” people, but can be blown away by people’s actions and deeds.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: It’s funny because; just; that.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut. Or a professional tennis player.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: To be lucky enough to be in a position to have people want to know these types of things about me.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Taking on too much.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Answering this question would change previous answer to “arrogance”.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: The path not chosen.

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

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I talk a lot.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Han Solo.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Darth Vader.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Andre Agassi. “I followed your whole career, and I loved you book.”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Being asked how I have time to write.

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

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Astronaut.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Intelligence. Humor. Good dental hygiene.

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

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Impossible question to answer.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Equally impossible.

Thought-provoking, thoughtful, and always ready for a new challenge, Catherine McKenzie is a fascinating author to follow on Twitter and become a friend on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Kristina McMorris’s Letters from Home in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Kristina McMorris and Letters from Home. 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 Anna Fields on “The Murderer’s Brother”

February 22, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Anna Fields, in her debut memoir, Confessions of a Rebel Debutante, writes of being strong, not following the crowd, and becoming who you really are. In today’s guest post the author shares a fictional piece — based on a novel she’s currently writing — with the hope it might comfort and help those women who have experienced physical/verbal/domestic abuse.]

The Murderer’s Brother
By Anna Fields

Jenny Thompson was murdered in her driveway. Her husband, Eric, had been drinking all afternoon before loading his gun and shooting her more than a dozen times–first in the back, as she tried to run away, then in the head when she wasn’t fast enough. His motive: He thought she was cheating on him. She wasn’t. Jenny, a 29-year-old homemaker living in the suburbs of Bridgewater, Connecticut, and I had become friends over the past year. Her husband was the brother of my boyfriend, Michael. But suddenly, on that April afternoon in 2008, Jenny was dead, lying facedown in her own blood. When I heard the news, I thought: That could’ve been me.

I first met Michael in college at Brown University in 1999. We shared a few classes and quickly became friends. Seven years later, we both wound up in graduate school at New York University, and we started dating. Michael, a stocky, powerfully built guy, seemed chivalrous and sweet. He was also smart and funny, and knew how to make me laugh – even at myself. He’d grown up in a modest blue-collar family, playing football, working alongside his older brother, Eric, in their father’s machine shop. Michael idolized Eric. Born only two years apart, they looked like twins. They shared certain other traits too, like extreme possessiveness. But I didn’t know that then.

Every day, I’d meet Michael between classes for lunch at a local sports bar. I noticed that he drank a lot–usually two cocktails at lunch–but then, everyone in grad school did. After about three months, I moved in with him in his bachelor-pad apartment. Mostly we wanted to save money on rent, but also I felt comfortable with him; we had a real connection and a shared college experience. His stories about people we both knew and professor we both remembered convinced me that we could have a future together.

Things changed quickly after we started living together. Michael became very interested in knowing where I was at all times. Whenever we were apart, he’d call me repeatedly to “check in.” If I didn’t answer my cell phone, even in the middle of class, he would become upset. Yes, I knew his behavior was possessive, but at the same time, part of me enjoyed the attention; I saw it as a sign of his devotion. So I dutifully answered his calls, and apologized when I couldn’t. (more…)

Kristina McMorris and Letters from Home

February 21, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


From the age of nine, Kristina McMorris has been a successful actress, TV show host, entrepreneur, and public relations expert but tomorrow she embraces the role of debut novelist with the launch of her historical fiction, WWII saga, Letters From Home.

Inspired by the discovery of her grandfather’s courtship letters to Grandma Jean during WWII (see Tales of the Past), Kristina soon began to ask “what if?” the couple’s relationship through their correspondence had been based on deceit. And, simply put, that is the backstory for the novel which honors the author’s grandparents as well as all the other brave, unsung heroes of the Greatest Generation.

Here is the synopsis of Letters from Home:

Chicago, 1944. Liz Stephens has little interest in attending a USO club dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn’t need a flirtation with a lonely serviceman when she’s set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz glimpses Morgan McClain. They share only a brief conversation – cut short by the soldier’s evident interest in Betty – but Liz can’t forget him. Thus, when Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, stationed overseas, Liz reluctantly agrees.

Thousands of miles away, Morgan struggles to adjust to the brutality of war. His letters from “Betty” are a comfort, their soul-baring correspondence a revelation to them both. While Liz is torn by her feelings for a man who doesn’t know her true identity, Betty and Julia each become immersed in their own romantic entanglements. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings.

Now watch and listen to Kristina explain and describe her storyline:

In addition to providing an Excerpt from Letters from Home Chapter One, the author also shares a few of her grandfather’s original letters in Mail Call.

The Raves & Reviews have been wonderful and include:

“Ambitious and compelling…[a] sweeping debut.”__Publishers Weekly

Yet the true testament to this book’s advance success can be viewed by its growing sales of global rights, book club rights sold to Doubleday and Reader’s Digest, film rights being shopped by the prestigious Creative Artists Agency of Los Angeles, and the book’s spotlight in the current issue of Woman’s Day magazine.

What is it about this novel that offers a universal appeal? Perhaps the love story depicted through intimate correspondence, the human triumphs and tragedies of a war fought to end all wars, a connection to what most of our grandparents lived through, the consequences of deceit, and the stirrings of women’s independence on the homefront and even close to the frontlines.

Of course more than likely it’s a combination of all these storyline elements bound together by the author’s distinctive and elegant writing style. The word “lovely” has been used often to describe Letters from Home and Kristina’s choice of words/phrasing are quite lovely. Her style lends itself, in its measured tones, to the characters’ voices, emotions, and behavior. After all much more privacy prevailed then than it does now in casual, contemporary times. Also the mere fact that this debut novelist is paying homage to a generation, being lost to attrition and barely mentioned in public school history classes, is a love letter of its own.

Admitting she previously had not been an avid fiction reader, The Divining Wand asked the author how she became a fiction writer? And she explained:

“I’ve learned the most from simply writing and revising. Fellow authors were kind enough to offer critiques, as well as many contest judges. And, of course, I discovered the magic of reading. I also applied a great deal of what I learned from years of acting, including character arcs, scene elements, and plot points. When it comes to developing goals, motivation, and conflict, there is very little difference between a scene on stage and one in a book.”

Interesting how two creative processes are similar, isn’t it? And why it’s not surprising to discover that, since Kristina initially envisioned the story as a movie, the storyline played out in her head and she wrote from there. In fact she details the experience:

“The story came to me like a movie while I was walking on the treadmill one day. Once I hopped off, I jotted down an outline, describing the scenes/chapters in a sentence or two, from beginning to end. Additional story lines for the secondary characters, namely Julia and Betty, evolved in later drafts, but the final scene I first envisioned–even one of the last dialogue lines–remains the same in the finished book.”

While loss of innocence is a major theme of the novel, so too are sacrifice, the search for inner strength, and the journey toward a woman’s ability to make her own choices. The reality of war causes the novel to have less than an “happily ever after” ending for all the characters, however these characters do share the book’s message — appearances can be deceiving. And, from the first page to the last, the reader discovers that every character is not who they first seemed to be.

Of course, as has been noted, this is also a tribute to all the men and women of the World War II generation, and — on a personal level — Kristina’s Grandma Jean. The Divining Wand asked the author if she had achieved “favorite grandchild” status for writing the book and Kristina said:

“Grandma Jean is definitely tickled, but I admit, she tends to be very even keeled about anything you toss her way. She did, after all, survive the rigors of a childhood on the farm, the Great Depression, and a world war. That said, she’s one of the sweetest, strongest, most loving, and most gracious women I’ve ever known. I absolutely adore her, and am honored to call her my grandmother. So I’m especially excited that she’ll be attending my official book launch event at Barnes & Noble to meet attendees and even sign some copies.” 🙂

How lovely! And how generous is the fact that a portion of sales proceeds will benefit United Through Reading®, a nonprofit organization that video records deployed U.S. military personnel reading bedtime stories for their children.

Letters From Home will be available in bookstores and through online retailers tomorrow. A multi-generational read, it’s a remembrance of gratitude owed to the past — a most lovely, entertaining reminder.

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[For the third consecutive week in a row Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) and Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You) are on The New York Times Bestseller List. To meet these authors when they hit the road again in early March and throughout the spring, please check Eleanor’s Events and Caroline’s Appearances (scroll down the page). ]

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Kristina McMorris’s Letters from Home 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, February 23, 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.

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever

February 17, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

One of the most enlightening aspects of reading is being introduced, getting to know, and gaining insight/understanding to a wide variety of individuals. Somewhere among the pages are also those special characters that create an immediate personal bond — the ones, if only real, would be chosen as our BFF.

With this in mind The Divining Wand wondered who the authors felt close to, and asked:

What fictional character would you choose to be your BFF and why?

And this week’s authors replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I’d like to spend time with Holden Caulfield; I’ve always found the dark, moody boys to be endlessly fascinating to have as friends, but never date.”

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

“I think I could be good friends with Davie Jones in 32 Candles because we’re both nerdy weirdos, and we’d make each other laugh.

The three adult sisters in Ugly Ways by Tina McElroy Andrews because they love books as much as I and I just love them so and can relate to them so.

I’d also like to be friends with Sally Owens from Practical Magic because I’ve always loved witches and I’d love to have a friend who could cook up something to make a bad man disappear.

Oh Myraleen and Lilian in This Side of the Sky because they have the type of lifelong friendship that is very rare these days, and Lilian is smart and Myraleen is funny.

Also, all these women have mother issues and I can relate!”

~Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“I think I can name a few. Love Bridget Jones and Kate Reddy (I Don’t Know How She Does It). Partly because they have a fabulous British accent and I would love to have a friend that said “bullocks” everything I said something ridiculous. I love how flawed and good they are. Nobody knows flawed like I do. Hermione Granger has such a good head on her shoulders, I think she could help me with punctuation and I could consult in ways of the heart. While being her BFF would be very difficult I know, Olive Kitterage speaks to me so strongly. I think she could tell me to get-over-my-self better than any one and I could hug her until she settled down.”

~Sarah Jio (The Violets of March coming April 26, 2011):

“Maybe Louisa May Alcott’s Jo March. I just love her spunk and spirit, but especially her principles and loyalty! Something tells me that if she were living here in the present day, we’d have a ton of fun!”

~Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You, Girls in Trouble, Coming Back to Me, the rest in Bibliography):

“Jay Gatsby. I think we could throw some really wild parties!”

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

“The bff of my dreams has always been my beloved Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. True-blue, smart, and all that imagination.”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World)

“Today? Mog the Forgetful Cat. I’m in the mood for playfulness and feline cuddles.” 🙂

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Announcement: The winners of Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat are Jennifer B and Stacy. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be pre-ordered for next Tuesday’s release date.

The Revealing of Anna Fields

February 16, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

According to Anna Fields’ momma: “Every one of us starts off a debutante, then becomes a rebel, but when we finally grow into our own…we’re a little bit of both.” And this is what the author proves in her debut memoir, Confessions of a Rebel Debutante recently released in Trade paperback.

Here is a one sentence description: A fond, funny Southern-fried memoir about growing up a proper young lady…or not.

And the following praise:

“…Fields takes what should be an oxymoronic state of mind and makes it work for her like some crazy hybrid confection: soft on the outside, hard in the center…. Fields shows how a rebellious southern belle can survive almost anywhere.” – Carol Haggas Booklist

“…all about empowering the hearts and minds and spirits of young women…” – Jennifer Brett The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“…This is by far the best memoir I have ever read. Anna is my kind of chick! This hilariously true tale is better than any reality TV show. I think that this is the type of book that would interest any reader. Four stars!” – Bridget McNeill Barnes & Noble

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Confessions of a Rebel Debutante: A Memoir for Monday, February 28, 2011 but, for now, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Anna Fields was born in Burlington, North Carolina, and attended Brown University. A former scriptwriter for As the World Turns, Guiding Light, and One Life to Live, she is also a successful playwright, screenwriter, and performance artist. Anna lives in New York City.

Now for even more revealing confessions from the “Rebel Deb:”

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: From debutante to rebel and back, my dear.

Q: What is your motto or maxim
A: Eat well, sleep well, dream well, play hard and get along.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: I’m religious, so I tend to think of happiness as closeness with God. The lack of want. Looking inward for happiness instead of outward for ambition. Being kind, for we are all fighting our own, silent battles. Practicing forgiveness in all its forms. Letting go of the past — something I never seem to be able to do, but I know leads to happiness, if not perfection.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Not realizing my potential. Running out of time before I write the eight or nine books that are stuck inside my head. Dying without letting my family and friends know how much I love, need and yet hate them at the same time — a three-part emotion that I often explore in my work.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Right where I am.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Eleanor of Aquitaine

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My mother… and possibly either Erica John or Anne Rice

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “Right?”
“like”
“indeed”

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: To write children’s stories. I have so many ideas for them, and yet whenever I try to write for younger people I end up writing for older people.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Surviving.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Taking life too seriously — and sweating the small stuff, which I believe no one should ever do.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Generosity — I want to adopt every animal I see, and help everyone who needs it. I end up being a guidance counselor to almost everyone I know.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Putting my career over my friendships, back in my early twenties. Then again, where would I be today without my writing?

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’m pretty happy being myself, but it might be nice to go back and be myself at 17 again. If not that, I’d love to be a man, just for a week or two. Just to see what it felt like on the other side of the glass ceiling.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My extremely blond hair and pale skin.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Tough question! In the literary world, probably Lestat or Lady Chatterly… but mostly, my favorite fictional heroes come from television shows I adore. Dexter, anyone from Absolutely Fabulous or Six Feet Under. And Joan from Mad Men, for sure.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Probably Richard III — then again, he was a real person… but Shakespeare makes him sound so much worse that I imagine he really was.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: “Hi, Michael Vick. Or do you prefer, ‘Heartless, arrogant, self-righteous animal-hater?'”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Entitlement. Enough said.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A Running, drinking coffee or playing with my boyfriend and our dog, Jax.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Hmmm. I’m pretty sure I’m living it. 🙂

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Generosity, kindness and loyalty.

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

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Anything from Mozart’s “Requiem for the Dead’
“All I Want is You” by U2
“Pictures of You” by The Cure
“Heart and Soul” by some 80’s band I loved in high school but now can’t remember its name
“Norwegian Wood” by The Beatles

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: “The Queen of the Damned”
“Confessions of a Shopaholic”
“The Vampire Lestat”
“Silas Marner”
“The Great Gatsby”

Multi-talented, honest, and most thought-provoking, Anna Fields — as a Rebel Deb — will entertain and enlighten if you follow her on Twitter, become a friend on Facebook and visit her blog, Rebel Debutante.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Sarah Pekkanen and Skipping a Beat. 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 Kristina McMorris on Tales of the Past:
What we can learn from listening

February 15, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Wisdom, truth and our personal family history are often as near as our grandparents or other older relatives yet do we take the time to ask and listen to their richly detailed experiences? Several years ago Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home coming February 22, 2011) discovered that her grandmother held treasures and stories that could never be found in any social media content. In today’s guest post, the debut novelist shares how what she learned by listening changed her life.]

TALES OF THE PAST: What we can learn from listening

Indeed, at some point, we’ve all heard about the daily hardships of living many decades ago. In fact, it’s become a common punch line guaranteed to garner chuckles: (spoken in a crotchety, old man voice) “When I was your age, I walked ten miles to school every day. Uphill both ways, in a blizzard, and with no shoes. But I didn’t dare complain, because I was lucky to have a school at all.”

I admit, the “uphill both ways” part always makes me laugh. You’d think after hearing it at least a hundred times, it would inevitably get old. But alas, no. There’s just something humorous about those legendary claims, so outlandish they couldn’t possibly be real.

Or could they?

When I was little, I used to love listening to my grandmother share memories of her childhood spent on her family’s Iowa farm. I still recall tales about my great uncles’ orneriness, of his driving the tractor into a lake and pouring sugar into the gas tank. I remember being shocked by Grandma’s mention of buying only one pair of shoes a year. (Given that my trendy Jelly shoes tended to break apart within a month, this bit of information made a lasting impression.)

As time passed, however, Grandma Jean told fewer and fewer stories, and not because she was running low on anecdotes, rather I suspect, because the grandchildren stopped asking. We became teenagers, then college students. We got jobs to pay for our cars and mortgages and electronic gadgets that are now obsolete. The quick pace of life rather than another’s nostalgic memories took precedence.

Then, several years ago, amid all that craziness, I decided to self-publish a cookbook filled with recipes Grandma Jean had collected and created over decades, a holiday gift for the family. Almost as an afterthought, I added a biographical section. And it was solely for that reason, while lounging in her cabin by the lake—with no cell phone to answer, no Internet to surf—that I spent an afternoon with my grandmother, asking questions.

Fascinating tidbits abounded as she recounted days of working as a soda jerk, a nanny, and even a worker at a battery factory. She told me about hunting for catfish in the muddy banks near the farm, about playing on the girls’ basketball team in high school, and how she milked the cows and gathered eggs every morning before school—which, by the way, did actually require a minimum walk of six miles to attend. (No hills either way, though; she was, after all, in Iowa!)

Finally, came the greatest highlight of all: From a closet she retrieved a collection of courtship letters sent by my late grandfather during World War II, a collection I had no idea existed. A collection that ultimately changed the course of my life.

For, when I left my grandmother’s house, the sailor’s written messages lingering in my mind, I began to imagine what could be a wonderful premise for a movie: What if a soldier, in the midst of WWII, fell deeply in love through a yearlong letter exchange, unaware that the girl he’s writing to isn’t the one replying?

Before I knew it, I was at my keyboard, attempting to compose my very first novel, LETTERS FROM HOME. Now, as a published and full-time author, I remain utterly grateful for that afternoon at the cabin, and, most all, for Grandma Jean’s stories. Each one comes from a place of wisdom and experience, from a way of life many today know too little about.

So, once in a while, set down your cell phones, hit pause on the daily chaos—and simply listen to tales of the past. It’s amazing how their storytellers can touch your heart, even change your life, if only you take time to ask.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Sarah Pekkanen and Skipping a Beat. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, February 16, 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.

Sarah Pekkanen and Skipping a Beat

February 14, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the book’s front cover:

“Original, engaging, and soulful.” –EMILY GIFFIN, New York Times Bestselling author of Heart of the Matter

When Sarah Pekkanen debuted with The Opposite of Me last March, she did so by telling a story of twins — undoubtedly the most intense of sibling relationships. For her second novel, Skipping a Beat in bookstores next Tuesday, February 22, 2011, the author chose to examine an even more complicated relationship — marriage.

Of course the storyline is not about just any marriage. Sarah’s idea for the book began with her desire to write about a married couple forced to reexamine their relationship after the husband’s near-death experience. Change is a constant in life, yet in this urgent crisis mode the couple must decide to accept almost immediate changes if their marriage is to survive. That means before moving forward they must look back at the big and small decisions that turned a marriage of love into somewhat of a business partnership. As already mentioned, it’s complicated. However, for a bit of clarification, here’s the synopsis for Skipping a Beat:

What would you do if your husband wanted to rewrite the rules of your relationship?

Julia Dunhill, a thirty-something party planner, seems to have it all: Married to her high school sweetheart and living in a gorgeous home in Washington D.C., she imagines her future unfolding very much as it has for the past few years, since she and her husband Michael successfully launched their companies. There will be dinner parties to attend, operas to dress up for, and weddings and benefits to organize for her growing list of clients. There will be shopping sprees with her best friend, Isabelle, and inevitably those last five pounds to shed. In her darker moments, she worries that her marriage has dissolved from a true partnership into a façade, but she convinces herself it’s due to the intensity of their careers and fast-paced lifestyle.

So as she arranges the molten chocolate cupcakes for the annual Opera benefit, how can she know that her carefully-constructed world is about to fall apart? That her husband will stand up from the head of the table in his company’s boardroom, open his mouth to speak, and crash to the carpeted floor… all in the amount of time it will take her to walk across a ballroom floor just a few miles away. Four minutes and eight seconds after his cardiac arrest, a portable defibrillator jump-starts Michael’s heart. But in those lost minutes he becomes a different man, with an altered perspective on the rarified life they’ve been living and a determination to regain the true intimacy they once shared. Now it is up to Julia to decide — is it worth upending her comfortable world to try to find her way back to the husband she once adored, or should she walk away from this new Michael, who truthfully became a stranger to her long before his change of heart?

The early Praise (see left sidebar) for this novel is wonderful and Emily Giffin’s “Original, engaging, and soulful,” description is spot-on.

Also there is an immediacy, an intimacy to Skipping a Beat that offers a universal appeal to everyone no matter what their relationship status. In fact experience this for yourself by reading an Excerpt of Chapter 1.

That sneak preview alone indicates that Sarah Pekkanen has taken the traditional storyline of a protagonist struggling to grab the brass ring of great job, great love, great home and literally flipped the premise over to a read about someone who already has it all and wonders about now what? Not only is this refreshing but as the author says, “I do like the sense of coming full circle, and of looking at the issue of what we want versus what we need from different perspectives.”

That sentence could well account for the truth that this is much more than Julia’s story, it is also Michael’s. Attracted to and firmly intertwined by their dysfunctional family backgrounds, the young couple dream big and leave home after high school to achieve success. Although only in their mid-30’s at the beginning of the book, their young love appears to have been replaced by the demands of excess and success. Sarah confirms this shift by explaining:

“I definitely wanted to convey that Julia and Michael’s love had been bulldozed by their ambition. Their reasons for craving success and security were understandable, but they took it to an extreme – and their relationship couldn’t survive in the face of their skewed priorities.”

Unless, of course, something enormously overwhelming would shake up their world, forcing them both to reconsider those priorities. Obviously this is the main theme of the book, though not the only one. Understanding one’s own background and how it shapes our decisions and behavior; the powerful influence of friendship, and the healing effects of forgiving someone — all three are relevant and necessary in the telling of Skipping a Beat.

Even more thought-provoking though is that as dramatic and intense as the novel might feel, these themes apply to us all as does the author’s message: “…that love is the most important thing in this world. At a time when there are so many competing demands for our attention, and so many external stressors in life, it’s easy to lose sight of that.”

Sarah Pekkanen had great expectations to live up to after her popular debut. And so she put her heart into effortless, flowing writing and created something very personal. Not that this is Sarah’s story, but all the emotions — sprinkled with wit and humor — resonate with her and she hopes with readers. TRUTH: Skipping a Beat is a Valentine from and about the heart….a book that you’ll love!

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[The Divining Wand sends out heartfelt congratulations to Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) and Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You) who made the New York Times Bestseller List for the second consecutive week in a row as of February 13, 2011. Brava, ladies!!!]

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat 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, February 16, 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.

Writing Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, V

February 10, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Yes or no? For every writer there are intangible elements — personal habits — that allow the mind to roam and find its comfort zone when the words aren’t flowing. To take a look at what some of these practices include, The Divining Wand asked its authors:

Do you have any unusual writing rituals, secrets or superstitions that always work when all else fails?

This week provides the final responses, including one from new TDW author Catherine McKenzie:

~Stacey Ballis (Good Enough to Eat, The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography):

“Never underestimate the power of a nap, particularly with the television on. The weird midday dreams that sneak in can be very inspiring. And if nothing comes, at least you are well rested.”

~Dee DeTarsio (The Scent of Jade [Kindle Edition]):

It’s “show and tell” on video.

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves debuting August 2011, Believe It or Not in January 2012, and Let It Breathe August 2012):

“Chianti. Sangiovese. Sometimes Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“I go for a walk in the woods.”

~ Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“I have all three. First, because I am inspired by my grandfather, Joseph McGrath, especially since on his deathbed I promised if he’d help me from the “’other side,’” I would dedicate everything I write to him. He was a writer and a coach. At the start of each day, I touch his old IBM Selectric for good writing when I begin. When I begin, I always close my eyes, imagine him there, and then start. For when I am really stuck, I keep his old sweater in my office. I will wrap it around my neck on those occasions where slogging through mud in cement shoes is easier than writing.”

~Catherine McKenzie (Arranged, Spin):

“Nope. I use many things depending on the day. A certain song. A certain place. And to crib from James Frey: When all else fails, I turn to Dylan. And when Dylan fails, I call it a day.”

~Keetha DePriest Mosley [formerly Reed] (Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern:

“At one time I would have found this infuriating advice but the one thing that always, no matter what, always works, is writing. Sometimes I take a break from the project I’m working on to do something different, such as write a letter to a favorite teacher or an ode to caramel. I remind myself that playing with words is fun, that writing is fun. Writing something – anything! – helps jolt anything loose that has me hung up: doubts, that evil internal editor, or just a thorny plot snafu.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“I stare at my bookshelves.”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined, and The Things We Didn’t Say coming June 28, 2011):

“I’m not the least bit superstitious about my writing, but I have been known to switch from the keyboard to writing longhand on paper when I’m really stuck. Not so much a secret or a ritual, but it’s a little trick that jumpstarts a sluggish brain somehow.”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road coming March 31, 2011):

“I have no secrets or superstitions, but I do drink green tea whenever I write, and I generally write with my feet propped up on my desk.”

~Kim Stagliano (All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism):

“I prefer to write on an old laptop while propped up on pillows on my bed.”

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

“I change my surroundings–go from my office to a coffee shop, say–and switch from the computer to pen and paper.”

~Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“Yes, to never, ever talk about my secret rituals. Just kidding. I don’t really have any—unless lucky pencils count. For The Last Will of Moira Leahy, I used a whole box of natural pencils by Focus (#2s, of course). For my current project, I’ve been using angular soft-to-the-touch pencils by Dixon . When I feel stuck in my manuscript, I almost always transition to pencil and paper to work through the problem.”

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Announcement: The winners of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Twin’s Daughter are EJ Knapp and Heather. And the winner of the Sisters 8 Series, including Petal’s Problems is Megan. Congratulations!

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